Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

Going big

Big Bend ... finally

Our second attempt at our first honeymoon. (Photo by Charles)

“Welcome to Big Bend National Park,” said the ranger at the north gate.

“Thanks. We’ve been 40 years getting here,” I replied, not having had any intention of going there.

“You sure do drive slow,” he said.

What I said was true and it’s a story few outside family are likely to know.

Lone bluebonnet

Bluebonnets (the state flower) are found all along the park’s roads this time of year. Surely, they have been seeded there. However, miles from a paved road, we found this one lonely little bluebonnet next to our trail.

Months before Leah and I married in August 1977, I made reservations at the lodge in Big Bend for our honeymoon.

However, three weeks before the wedding, I was offered the sports editor job in Brenham. Since football practice would already be under way for the season, the publisher wanted me on site as soon as possible. Plus, we had to relocate the trailer we would live in from Longview.

Bottom line, we didn’t have time to travel to Big Bend. I made new plans for Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Arkansas – much closer and a shorter stay.

Big Bend would wait for another day.

If you really know Texas, you’re aware one doesn’t just happen to swing by Big Bend. It pretty much requires deliberate planning.

Through the years, many friends have related stories of their visits and we’ve continued to say, “We’ll get there one day.”

That came yesterday.

With our 10-year-old grandson in tow, we made a one-day assault on the park Wednesday. The highlight was a 2.2-mile hike on the Grapevine Hills Trail to see the balanced rock … Charles’ first real hike!

After that, we found access to the Rio Grande and peered across at Mexico, an opportunity I pray will not be denied future visitors by a political party anxious to ruin lives.

Wildlife sightings included mule deer, javelina, various birds (including numerous roadrunners) and lizards.

You’re right, one cannot really *do* Big Bend in one day, but it was right for our situation. Perhaps, Leah and I will get back out here for an extended stay. Leah always wants to explore more trails. Personally, I would like to set out across the open, unmarked desert to see what we can find.

And, yes, I understand we probably cannot wait another 40 years.

The Rio Grande

Leah and Charles get in touch with the Rio Grande. The canoes seen here were in the process of being loaded by two employees of an outfitter which makes a living plying the waters of the boundary river escorting tourists.

Those Hollywood speeches

We’re mere hours away from the 2017 Oscars and you know what that means.

Yep, prepare to listen to a bunch of overpaid court jesters take turns telling a global audience what’s wrong with the entertainment industry, society, politics and the world in general.

Does that concern you? Are you among the crowd wishing entertainers would leave their politics at home?

Here’s a suggestion. You might want to steer clear of the 89th Academy Awards Sunday night.

Oh, oh, one more question.

Do you like to refer to liberal entertainers as snowflakes? Yes? That’s hilarious; I hope you see the humor in that.

Moving on.

Yes, awards shows have become a sounding board for performers to share their minds about just about anything.

The treatment of Native Americans in the film industry, Palestinian statehood, deaf awareness, abortion, roles for black women in Hollywood, war, gay rights, corporate fraud, women-centered movies, AIDS awareness, Russian military oppression, open government, equal pay for women, treatment of immigrants, voting rights, mass incarcerations, Alzheimer’s awareness and climate change have all been topics over the years.

I mean, who do these people think they are?

We don’t pay them to think, to have opinions, to give a flying flip about oppressed people. Really, they’re not important; it’s not like we would choose the star of a reality TV series to run the country or anything.

They just need to do their little song and dance, then thank us vociferously when we toss them a coin, and then scurry on their way. Be seen and not heard.

Right?

Who cares?

As you should be able to tell, I don’t have any problem with entertainers – particularly during an awards show by them and about them and before an audience of mostly their peers – using this platform to talk about whatever they want. Seriously, it’s not required listening, there will be no test on Monday. Anyone who doesn’t like it should turn it off, especially if you have heart problems.

If you do not want to hear them, but you want to know who wins, follow along on Twitter or on the Oscar’s site or IMDB or dozens of other places that will list each award as it’s presented.

As for me, I seldom watch awards shows, mostly because I’m not up on current music and don’t watch an awful lot of television and contemporary theater. But this year, I will watch the Oscars. I am hoping they are all in fine form.

And I’m tickled to know Meryl Streep is presenting an award, just in case she doesn’t win one this year.

Play me

Gulf sunrise

(c) 2015 by Steve Martaindale

“When the album that is life finally reaches the end, wouldn’t it be nice to keep that record spinning for eternity?”

No, that’s not my question. It’s the lead sentence on the Website of the UK-based company And Vinyly. And, once you get past the heavy imagery, you find it means exactly what it says.

Succinctly, have your ashes shipped to these folks and they will press them into a vinyl record.

Listen, one could go on for quite a while digging up a sarcophagus filled with clever wordplay, but let’s cut straight to the meat of this topic.

What would you have recorded on your remains?

I suspect a popular answer would be the voice of the deceased. This might be done by survivors who use some favorite audio memories or the yet-to-be deceased might make his or her own special recording.

Again, we could go off on all broad list of possibilities there. Here’s one that sounds like fun: a wealthy man records his last will and testament, pointedly explaining why he cut out his niece or why his May-December bride deserves it all.

(Speaking of wealth, while the cost is not cheap, it’s not prohibitive when considered in line with traditional funeral costs these days. The Website gives a base price of £3,000, currently $3,750 U.S.)

What would you have recorded on your permanent record? Rather than delving into the personal issues of what you would like to say from beyond the grave and to whom, I’m thinking of music. I mean, that’s why vinyl records were invented, right?

So, where do your tastes run?

Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”

Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind.”

Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Maybe something more upbeat?

“Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks.

“I’ll Fly Away” by Hank Williams.

“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen.

Perhaps something with which you’ve identified, such as your college fight song, the service song from your branch of the military or “America the Beautiful.”

Classical music? Salsa? A German polka band? The soundtrack from the movie “Drumline”?

As for me, I’ve been telling my wife for years now I think she should play Jimmy Buffett’s “He Went to Paris” at my service.

She might … possibly … maybe … could be coming around on that, but when I mentioned the records, let’s just say that’s not likely to happen.

What’s going on your record?

‘You lost’

“You lost. Time to move on with your life.”

This advice was left by a person who follows my Facebook account. (You can, too, and I bet you can leave much more perceptive views.) His deeply insightful comment was to a link I shared to a New York Times article headlined “Our Articles on the Attacks Trump Says the Media Didn’t Cover.”

Perhaps the “you lost” part of his comment was because the usual set of trolls had already lined up. You know, those who bring up arguments as germane as, “This is crazy liberal dreaming because today is a day that ends in the letter Y.”

In his world, the fact that more people attacked it than supported it meant they won. Ah, if only right and wrong could be determined by a show of hands.

Then again, maybe he was saying I lost the election and should move on, as if that’s an original thought. We’ve already had that discussion.

But it’s the “time to move on with your life” portion of his input that really caught my eye.

He just doesn’t get it.

This is me moving on with my life.

Moving on

It’s not something that has come easily. I have sweated it out – with no small amount of prayer and counseling – and wavered between whether I should resist what appears to be a forthcoming assault on all that is dear to me or withdraw into a dark space and spin my own stories of fiction.

It’s tempting to choose the latter. It would be easy to ignore the news online and on TV, to delete my news apps, to quit following the AP, CNN, Al Jazeera and others, and just let the country take care of itself. I could get up in the morning, re-enter the make-believe world of my books and write away.

But my heart and soul will not allow that.

Not while I see our nation taking the textbook steps into fascism.

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I have resisted until this very moment making a public comparison of our situation to the early days of Adolph Hitler’s ascent to power and all the ravages related to it.

Why? Because I kept wanting to believe such was an overreach. Surely, I thought, we will not allow such things to happen in this country. Hitler’s rise was documented well enough that we should recognize it if something similar begins occurring, right?

We can trust that someone will speak up and alert us … right?

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But you know what convinced me that I must speak up?

My Facebook friends.

Not those who believe like me, not those who “like” and support my comments, not those who themselves post in support of human rights and equality and protecting the environment.

No, it’s those who are dear to me who have called me names, who have blindly (I believe) fallen in line behind the march to an oppressive government, and who triumphantly trumpet their support for the current administration by repeating its lies and underscoring hatred.

Those saying things such as, “You lost. Time to move on with your life.”

bertrand-russell-quote

I must soften Bertrand Russell’s assertion here just a bit. I do not believe only fools fall for a false, “energetic leader.”

Many have simply been fooled, deceived. They have locked onto an image of a country that they feel he has promised to deliver. With that image clouding their perception, they tend to overlook things, to forgive some of the things they do see. They fall victim to lies.

I do not believe my friends who disagree with me are fools. We just disagree.

However, if my fears of a rising despot prove to have any validity at all, I am honor bound to voice my concerns.

What to do

Since the election, I have visited a few times with a minister friend who, like me, is deeply troubled with the direction we’re headed. (By the way, at least three minister friends fit this description. They are also anxious to show that the Christian church is not entirely made up of what is being portrayed by the radical right.)

This minister is obviously better informed than I and considers events and implications at a deeper level, quoting the likes of theologians Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the latter of whom was executed by the Nazis for his resistance to Hitler.

Even so, my friend is also struggling with what we can do besides contact representatives who have shown a deaf ear and the growing option of peaceful protest.

“And protest is OK,” I was told. “Our church was born out of protest. That’s why we’re called Protestants.”

I have another choice.

I write. It’s what I do. If indeed I have been called by God to speak my heart (Wouldn’t it be nice if He just sent an e-mail notification instead of us working to discern His wishes?), then I must write about it.

There you have it. I’m “moving on” with my life.

But what if …

Finally, humility and common sense dictate I must consider the possibility I’ll be proven wrong. Of course, that’s probably part of what causes my hesitation, though certainly not as much as the unpleasant treatment I get from friends.

But should I be wrong, then hallelujah. I will gladly admit it and the lessons learned will better inform my future decisions and analyses. Possibly, other resisters and I might feel our campaigns helped steer the course of the current administration, but we’ll all be happy if everything is right in the world.

Along those lines, allow me to recommend an article I came across this morning by Nate Silver. Employing what he called “scenario planning,” he laid out 14 potential versions of how the Trump administration will play out. Certainly, there are more options, but anything else will likely resemble one or two of these, which range from plunging America into outright authoritarianism to making the nation great again.

Reading through them, I find a role in each for some type of resistance, such as my small contributions, whether it be to sound a warning or to influence a new direction.

So, don’t hate me for my part. I would also appreciate it if you don’t call me names, but that might be too difficult for some. Feel free to ignore me, but do hesitate to unfriend me if we’re really friends because I still have a life outside politics and enjoy sharing clever photos and stories.

And if you’re wishing I was doing more, then you need to follow me on Twitter. I share a lot of information there.

Any requests?

loading-the-boat

Loading up alongside the river flowing through Ao Nang.

After a week of settling back into home, battling jet lag like I’ve never seen before and “organizing,” I am getting started on putting together an Expedition page for our visit in Thailand.

I will arrange this by sections, each looking at one aspect of our experience. With that in mind, I have a question for you.

What would you like to know about our trip?

Either comment here or send me a message by some other means.

Now, back to work.

In the drink

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I may have mentioned the fact our friends and hosts in Thailand are dive instructors. Well, you know what that means.

In the photo above, Leah is making the big step to enter the water.

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This is a photo she took while diving.

What? You want more? The full story and more photos are promised when the Expedition posts goes up next month.

This may be my last posting from here. We’re less than 48 hours from starting the long trip home, where I will get to work on the full story.

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Here’s one more parting shot. One of several topics I’ll cover is transportation and traffic.

Catching up

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Time – or past time – to catch you folks up with a few more photos.

As you can tell, I’m not writing much about our stay in Thailand. Rest assured, I will put together a full report with more photos and post it in the Expedition section after we get home. Follow this page and you will know when it happens.

Our big outing the past few days was a kayak tour of Ao Thalane Bay on Monday. After paddling for a while, we stopped on a sandbar exposed by the low tide. Around the edges of the bar were hundreds of starfish, as seen in the top photo.

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And this is Leah, looking cool in the front of the kayak, while we paddled from the starfish to a canyon into the karst island.

tsunami-sign

I snapped this photo while we were walking toward town.

You all remember the great Sumatra–Andaman earthquake and tsunami that occurred Dec. 26, 2004, resulting in one of the greatest natural disasters in history.

More than 230,000 people died, more than half of them in Indonesia. Thailand experienced more than 8,000 deaths. In the province of Krabi, where we are, there were 476 confirmed deaths but another 890 were missing.

So, it’s something we’re aware of. You’ll notice this sign designates 500 meters. That’s the emergency gathering place. It’s probably 50 yards from our friends’ house where we’re staying and at the same elevation.

swallowed-by-the-cave

Remember us climbing to the top of the Tiger Temple last week? We returned to the temple to explore the caves area. This photo shows Leah dwarfed by the entry into one of the caves. It rained on us much of the way, but we had a ball.

We met a couple of young men from London who passed us on the trail. In a few minutes, they returned and asked if they could take a photo with me. It seems I resemble the father of one of them. We took a goofy photo and they promised to send me a copy. We’ll see.

even-monks-have-chores

My favorite image, though the photo quality is poor, is of a monk who was laundering saffron-colored robes. Even monks have chores to do.

aggie-capAnd we’ll finish with this shot for my Texas Aggie friends.

We were walking in front of a series of shops on the beach road and this cap caught my eye. I wonder how many people who live here even know what it stands for.

More later.

Street views

side-street

We took a city hike Thursday.

After riding into the central touristy area of Ao Nang with Catherine, Leah and I had breakfast and then slowly walked back to the house, taking many detours and making numerous stops.

The photo above looks down a short side street lined with shops. It is a tourist spot, so shops are everywhere. Most of them are small and obviously family owned. However, I’ve seen two McDonald’s, a Burger King and a Subway in town.

invasion

As for 7-Eleven, they seem to be on every block. I’ve seen two on a block at least twice.

curbside-offering

I cannot offer any insight into this curbside offering that was placed in front of a business. In addition to the incense, there’s a bottle of water and some sort of food.

quiet-moment

Here is an incredibly uncommon view of the main street. There is hardly anyone driving on it at this time. Traffic is a topic I will talk more about later, probably on the Expedition page.

dive-shop

We stopped in at the dive shop to visit with Catherine, our hostess here in Thailand.

beach

And, of course, there was plenty of time to walk along the beach.

To the island

good-morning

Our friends who are hosting us during our visit to Thailand both work at a scuba shop in Ao Nang. This being high season for them, we’ve squeezed in visits between the end their work day and bedtime.

Tuesday, however, brought a bit of a treat.

Catherine was hired to take a couple of Canadians diving off the coast of Koh Lanta, an island down the coast. This involved hiring a van and driver for the day and it means the driver sits around a long time while they’re out on the water.

She approached the transportation company and they agreed, for a reasonable amount, to carry the two of us along and allow Mano, the driver, to tour us around the island a bit.

It is so cool to have influential friends.

It meant leaving the house at 4:10 a.m. to make an early morning sailing. The timing was perfect in that we were on the ferry and out of the van as daylight first broke, as seen in the photo above (hand-held, by the way).

Once the divers were off, Mano found a place where we could grab a Thai breakfast in a small open-air market. After we picked out what we wanted, he waved us over to a table and said he would pay for it.

“If you pay them, it will be too expensive,” he said.

We then headed to Mu Ko Lanta National Park on the southern tip of the island. This photo shows the lighthouse on the point.

lighthouse

We left Mano near the lighthouse and took a trail that ran through the rain forest, climbing some distance uphill and ending at the gate where we found the van waiting for us. The walk was said to be only 1.75 kilometers, but it felt like more.

While we saw plenty of monkeys hanging around the center of the park, wildlife on the trail consisted of a few butterflies and swarms of ants.

Vegetation, of course, was remarkably thick, featuring some huge trees and miles of intertwining vines.

Next stop was Old Town, where Leah checked out a few shops and we got something to eat. The young lady in the next photo was absolutely charming as she pressed out dough to make what are called pancakes.

old-town-pancake

The dough is stretched thin and then fried in a large skillet while being folded over a few times to finalize the product. A variety of toppings are provided. It was tasty.

We eventually made our way back to the north end of the island to await the divers. There was a lot of traffic with incoming ferries bringing travelers, as well as the usual charter diving and fishing trips.

The next photo is of a typical member of the transportation industry here. You see converted pickups of varying degrees of charm with seats built into the beds and canopies on top. A lot of people move around that way.

taxi

Top of the temple

tiger-cave

It’s late Monday afternoon and clouds have rolled in to block out the sun and cool things a bit here on the Krabi coast of Thailand. Temperatures have been around 90 with “feels like” temps reaching even over 100.

Today has been our first full-fledged relaxing day. We made four short walking trips – to get breakfast, to buy a jug of drinking water, to visit the grocery store and to simply look around. It was also helpful to stretch our legs because we’re still sore from Sunday’s trek.

dragon-entranceI mentioned earlier about James’ uncle, Thomas, and his wife Tuckatoo, a Thai native whose name I probably butchered. The four of us ventured to the other side of Krabi Town to visit the popular Tiger Cave Temple, Wat Tham Suea.

Wikipedia calls it one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the province. This link will give you background if you’re interested. I do know Tuckatoo was very excited to visit.

img_1671A notable attribute of the temple is that it has a “top” temple – very small and all outdoors – located more than 900 feet above the main temple. It is accessed by a single stairway consisting of 1,237 steps. The challenge of ascending them is intensified by the steepness of the risers, some exceeding 12 inches.

the-beginningSomeone suggested we go ahead and make the climb and none of us was smart enough to say no. On the way up, we kept meeting people coming down, telling us it was worth the trip and advising us to stop often to rest. We chatted most extensively with a young couple from Holland. Even though he was wearing a T-shirt that boasted about touring the USA, they had never been there, so we offered each other advice on how to visit or respective countries.

Enjoy the photos.

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monkeys

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Welcome to Thailand

harborWe’ve been in Thailand some 40 hours and I’m already behind on posting about our trip, so I’ve decided to try a rapid-fire effort and post short, quick items. It will all come together later on an Expedition page.

The lead photo is a view of the harbor that is less than a mile walk from our friends’ house and it was our first objective on Day 1, Saturday. (Reminder to those in the States, we’re some 12 hours ahead of you. To avoid my confusion, I’ll write from our perspective.)

To get to the harbor, we passed through a busy little market peddling a variety of foods – most noticeably a broad selection of grilled meats – as well as some tourist items. However, it was obvious their primary clientele was locals. We had not yet been able to acquire any local money (the nearby exchange office was closed when we passed by and the ATM and I had a falling out), so we have not yet tried their wares.

modelingFrom the harbor, we walked up the beach a way, terminating at one of the many limestone rocks that populate this area. It’s interesting to look at but not inviting to crawl up through the jungle growth. Leah’s modeling in front of the rock in the above photo.

rising-tideWe eventually headed back toward the mainland and found we were cut off. The rising tide had overtaken part of the beach, requiring us to wade across. It was literally rising as we crossed.

We walked about three hours, covering at least 2.5 miles with a lot of stopping and looking. We stopped at a convenience store near the house and picked up something to eat. We got two cartons of yogurt, two bottles of water, a ham and cheese sandwich and a package of cheese crackers for a total of 82 baht, which converts to $2.32 U.S.

The heat (and dehydration) got the best of us and we pretty much crashed during the afternoon.

real-thai-foodWe ended the day with our first Thai dinner. Our host’s uncle’s wife is Thai and owns a restaurant north of Bangkok. I believe she intends to cook us a genuine Thai meal but wanted us to first experience what is passed off as Thai food in the tourist area.

She was pleasantly surprised and gave two thumbs up to our meal. Don’t ask me what it is. I just remember there was a chicken dish, a pork dish and lemon grass soup, among other things.

Day 1 was a big success.

Dear Deplorables

open-road

The morning after the election, I had to get out on the open road to gather my thoughts.

It’s all been said about the election … right?

No way.

I’ve been stewing for two months, depressed to see what our country looks like right now, fearful for friends and strangers who are likely to face challenging times, dreading a clear and present threat to progresses made for people living on the edge.

After hearing so many Trump supporters telling people like me to deal with it, I finally have, as I best know how.

Let me warn you, it’s not my typical, easy-going style. One might call it raw. The situation, I believe, calls for complete honesty, so I’m saying what I think.

It is too long to place here amongst others, so it’s on a dedicated page in the Special Topics section. Click here to read it.

First steps

casablanca-picOvernight successes are an anomaly; they hardly ever happen. We know that, but it’s still surprising – and a fun bonus – when you catch a big-name actor in a minor role in an old movie.

With that in mind, I roamed around one of my favorite Websites, Internet Movie Database (imdb.com, and yes, I realize this is two movie articles in a row) digging up some early roles.

I started with one of America’s most iconic actors, John Wayne, who is said to have played leading roles in 142 films, but he had to start somewhere.

Read more of this post

Lights. Action. Christmas!

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James Stewart and Henry Travers as George Bailey and Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Had it not felt like Christmas already, the 20- to 30-mph north winds and temperatures dropping steadily all day Thursday and hovering this morning certainly bring awareness of the Yuletide season.

One thing that dependably underscores the season – regardless whether the weather outside is frightful – is the television lineup of Christmas movies.

Read more of this post

Christmas movies, anyone?

skuaed_tree

Christmas season is in full swing now and that means … Christmas movies!

Tell me what movies make the season for you. Be they religious, funny, heart-warming – or “Die Hard” – please share your list with me. And I would appreciate a quick comment about why you like it.

Warning: What you say just might end up in a blog post very soon. And might I encourage you to think of something that might not be on everyone else’s list?

Either leave a comment to this post or message me through social media.

Thanks and Merry Christmas.

Black, Small, Cyber Sale

 

 

Still thankful this morning following a great couple of days with the family at Disney World and with two more days remaining.

I’m also thankful I’m not caught up in Black Friday traffic (which sounds strange considering the crowds we’re dealing with) and made a spur-of-the-moment decision to join in.

So, from now until the time I crawl out of bed next Thursday, Dec. 1, I’m offering all five of my books on sale. These are paperbacks and each will be inscribed (To So-and-So) and signed by the author, me.

I’m pricing them at $6 each with a shipping charge of $4, regardless how many books you order (to be shipped to the same address, of course).

To simplify: 1 book for $10, 2 books for $16, 3 books for $22, etc.

To order, email me at steve@stevemartaindale.com or private message me through social media. We’ll then work out which books made out to whom and how to handle the money.

Like I said, this was spur-of-the-moment.

Oh, and you can review all of the books on this page.

That’s my dad

alva-martaindale

Alva Martaindale

My earliest memories of my father are of a firefighter.

Any lucky young boy can take a lot of pride in his dad, but exceedingly fortunate is the lad whose father is a hero not only to him but to the community as well.

I’m not speaking of any particular act of heroism but the status we assign those who make it their job to protect others. I loved it when he came to my elementary school during Fire Prevention Week.

My dad, Alva Martaindale, had a special role when he first became a firefighter. He was one of only two paid members of the otherwise volunteer department. Except for one day off every other week, he literally spent half of his time at the station, eating half of his meals there and sleeping there half of the nights.

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Go the extra mile

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Happy Go the Extra Mile Day!

Yes, yet another “Special Day” designed by some organization to promote some product or idea. However, this is neater than, say, National Sandwich Day, which comes up Thursday.

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Instagram? Why not?

Dockside artwork in Horta

One of my debut photos on Instagram. This is from Horta, Portugal.

I’ve been told I should be on Instagram and, finally, I looked into it a few days ago.

I looked deeply into it because I just couldn’t believe you cannot run an Instagram account from a computer. Well, actually, you can do most things … except post photos!

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Sand and surf in Asia

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People have been asking what Leah and I have planned next and now, a year in the making, we’re set to travel to Thailand.

In January, we’ll spend 16 days in Ao Nang on the coast of the Andaman Sea in southern Thailand, some 400 miles south of Bangkok and less than 200 miles north of Malaysia.

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Hail to the Chief

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Who will take center stage on Jan. 20, 2017? It’s an important question, but more crucial is our determination to work within the system and not overreact because we do not favor our next president.

Some 350 hours from this posting, people across the United States will complete the process of casting ballots in thousands of different political races. Thousands … but there’s only one we’ve all been talking about and focusing on.

It is important who we choose as president, but probably not quite as crucial as we seem to want it to be.

Read more of this post

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Get evaluating

Steve walking the Labyrinth at the St. Therese Shrine

Me pondering the Merciful Love Labyrinth at the Shrine of St. Therese outside Juneau, Alaska, in the summer of 2010.

It’s not like me to plan in advance what to post on this page, but, for some reason, I noticed tomorrow, Oct. 19, is Evaluate Your Life Day.

Whoa! Evaluate your life? That’s a bit more intense than today’s National Chocolate Cupcake Day. It might require a head start to get prepared.

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Trolling memories

margiekovar-and-mikegibson

Leah came across something that caused her to reminisce about troll dolls, the wee marvels of marketing that go back to the 1960s. You know them, they’re usually just a couple of inches tall, made of plastic and have long, colorful hair that sticks straight up.

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More emperor of Earth

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Here are some additional items on my to-do list once I’ve been affirmed as emperor of Earth.

I’ve also added them to the original post of March 13, 2016, so instead of reading these here, you can read all of them by clicking this link.

And if anyone questions your reading this at work, tell them your future emperor requested it.

Empty, then load

If I were emperor of Earth, everyone will be drilled on the proper way to use an elevator. That is, you press the button and step to the side to wait. When the door opens, instead of rushing in, you wait for anyone already inside to depart first. There may also be some instruction on proper eye contact.

No cutting

If I were emperor of Earth, cutting in line would be grounds for ejection from the planet without a refund.

Common courtesy

If I were emperor of Earth, when driving on a two-lane road with a good shoulder, slower traffic would be required to pull onto the shoulder to allow faster traffic to pass. Additionally, passing drivers would be required to give a friendly hand wave or to flash hazard lights to say “thank you.”

Learn what it is

If I were emperor of Earth, one must have medical orders to request gluten-free foods.

Drop it

If I were emperor of Earth, there would be a hefty tax every time someone writes the plural of his or her family name by adding an apostrophe before or after the S. That’s not what the apostrophe is for.

Bloodline

If I were emperor of Earth, one may refer to pets as children and to herself as Mommy to the pets, but I will require the acquisition of adoption papers.

Hygiene

If I were emperor of Earth, I would require public rest rooms be equipped with alarms. In the event someone uses the rest room and leaves without washing his or her hands, an embarrassing alert will sound.

Trump won’t quit

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Donald Trump has his campaign right where he wants it.

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Pick an expedition

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Here’s a special notice of something happening off the feed.

I’ve set up a new tab above labeled Expeditions. Here, I intend to gather information about some of the amazing trips and experiences we’ve been able to enjoy. More importantly, it will serve as a central site for future adventures.

Three are posted so far. Just today, to mark the 10th anniversary of my arrival in Antarctica, I put up my journal and a collection of photos from my four months on the Ice.

As always, I covet your comments and encourage you to share that which you think your friends will enjoy.

Daily special

burger-graphicToday’s feature is one of those stream of consciousness events that flowed from a restaurant going out of business through bean sprouts to what you’re about to experience.

I saw an article that the Carnegie Deli in New York City is closing at the end of the year. I maybe have heard of the restaurant, maybe not, but the article mentioned that it’s known for its pastrami-and-corned beef “Woody Allen” sandwich.

That got me thinking about the sandwiches we hear of that are named after people. That got me to thinking about a sandwich that would bear your name. Hmm, what would it be like?

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Party time!

pocket-watch

Running out of time.

We’re partying because I’ve already hit my first goal, but, all of a sudden, you’re facing your first deadline. So, it’s a quick celebration.

Yea!

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Do the math

seconds-in-a-yearPick something that’s a commonly accepted part of everyday life today that did not exist at some point in your memory.

Got it? An easy one would be the Internet. Even my daughter can claim that. Personal computers go back a little further. Refinements in medicine. Communication. You get the idea.

I’m going with calculators.

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Take a break

interstate-highway-mapWe’ve almost completed our drive back to our winter home in central Texas after working this summer in western New York and we are so thankful for the Interstate Highway System.

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Pssst, hey there, buddy

Wet money 8-27-16“You, yeah, you. Wanna get in on the ground floor of something new? Oh, yeah, it’s perfectly legal. Of course I’m sure.

“Yep, it takes a little money, but there’s no risk. I guarantee it because you’re giving it away. What’s there to understand? You’re not betting on a scheme; you’re giving away money to support an artist.

“Sure, you get something back. You get more art. And a warm, fuzzy feeling. What’s not to like?”

Yes, I just used a make-believe character to make a major announcement. Why? Because the real me cannot believe that real people like you would actually contribute hard-earned money to subsidize the writing I do online and in my books.

But I’ve been assured such people exist. Therefore, my shady friend would like to announce that there now exists an online site where fans of my writing can become a patron.

You will find details at https://www.patreon.com/stevemartaindale, along with a video where I explain what’s going on. Yes, a video. Yes, with me in it. Shocking, I know.

In an extremely small nutshell, patrons can contribute anything from $1 a month on up. Also, being a patron earns one special privileges. If you’re interested, check out the page.

See you down the road

125We’re about halfway done pulling our RV back to our winter home in Central Texas and, at times, that reality gives me pause. It happened today at an Interstate rest stop in Illinois.

Upon returning to the truck, I let Leah into her seat and then circled back to eyeball the RV as I headed to my side. As I walked by the RV – all folded in and compact-looking – I thought, “This is our home, all of it, right in this little box.”

We’re in our fifth year of living fulltime in a 31-foot fifth-wheel RV. Earlier today, Leah commented that she’s continually seeing that we need even less “stuff” in our lives. It’s something we spent years working toward.

But I’m not really talking so much about minimalism here as life on the road.

Toward the end of our drive today, we encountered a traffic backup of more than a mile. After gradually working our way to the source of the problem, we found one of those nice, big motor homes with a blown out front tire. A massive tow truck was hooking up to it because the front end was rather torn up.

We can imagine the feeling. Most everything you own is riding in that RV and now it’s being towed to a shop. Your food is going to the storage yard. Your bed is being locked up. All because of a blown tire.

That being said … we still love it and don’t see an end to it anytime soon.

However, it’s certainly not for everybody. What we do would drive a lot of people crazy. Some folks think we’re crazy.

And maybe that has some little something to do with why we like it.

Turning pages

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It was as if the park was bidding us farewell as we walked away Sunday night.

We completed our fourth summer of seasonal work yesterday.

As we were walking through Darien Lake Theme Park, the western sky put on a glorious show for us. Thanks for the memories.

At the end of any such temporary endeavor, the most common question is, “You coming back next year?” Almost everyone understands our answer.

“That’s not the plan, but never say never. The idea is for us to experience someplace new.”

Leaving is always a mixture of feelings, but we each time find positive things as we move forward.

See you down the road.

Misty watercolor …

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Sometimes, memories seem so difficult to reach.

I told you yesterday how much I’ve enjoyed pulling together a couple of random quotes to post each day, but there’s something about it that’s a little troubling.

I want to know if you experience the same thing.

To find the movie and television quotes, I use imdb.com – the Internet Movie Database. For years, I’ve enjoyed this amazing Website. I have been faithful about rating movies when I see them and have even spent time to find old movies I’d previously seen and rate them. One reason for doing that, to be completely honest, is to help me remember if I’ve seen it or not.

For example, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Leah will watch a bunch of what I call Hallmark movies. It happens again around Valentine’s. And, at any point in the year, she may turn on a cheap sci-fi movie – definitely non-Hallmark.

My degree of watching these movies varies. If one catches my attention, I’ll try to keep up with it while I’m on the computer. Regardless of my level of interest, I’ll rate it, even if I have to ask Leah to help determine what to give it. Then, next year, she’ll mention a movie, I’ll look it up and say, “Nope, we’ve seen it.”

But back to what troubles me.

Going through the movies I’ve rated, I’ve been picking out some and looking through the quotes section on IMDb. And it’s like I don’t remember any of it.

That’s not quite accurate. Take “Iron Man 3,” from which I pulled a quote to post today. I knew I had seen it, but couldn’t recall anything specific. Reading through the quotes, I think, “Oh, yeah, I remember that scene.”

Or do I?

At least “Iron Man 3” was three years ago. We watched “Deadpool” earlier this summer. I gave it eight stars, so I liked it. But all I can remember right now is that the central character dropped a lot of clever one-liners.

I think.

Please tell me you have the same problem. Sometimes, at least.

May I quote you?

casablanca-picThe past few weeks, I’ve taken to tossing out a random quote a couple of times a day on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

I’ve got to tell you, it’s been fun.

It’s been an assortment of movie and TV quotes with song lyrics and another odd thing or two thrown in there.

Without further ado, here are several of them.

“Who are those guys?” Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”

“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz.”

“You’re soaking in it.” Jan Miner as Madge in 27 years of Colgate Palmolive commercials.

“We are the federales … you know … the mounted police.” Alfonso Bedoya as Gold Hat in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”

“And when you finish doing that, bring in the dog and put out the cat.” The Coasters in “Yakety Yak”

“Do you think she woke up one morning and said ‘I think I’ll go to law school today’?”  Victor Garber as Professor Callahan in “Legally Blonde”

“I’m in a hurry to get things done; Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun.” Alabama in “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)”

“You think, DiNozzo?” Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs in “NCIS”

“Well doggies!” Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett in “The Beverly Hillbillies”

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”  Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption”

“Actually, it’s perfect. I just never realized John Wayne walked like that.” Robin Williams as Armand Goldman in “The Birdcage”

“Whenever I despair, I remember that the way of truth and love has always won.”  Ben Kingsley as Mahatma Gandhi in “Gandhi”

“Hemingway said, ‘Every true story ends in death.’ Well, this is a true story.” Jack Warden as George Halas in “Brian’s Song”

“Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!”  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Roger Murdock in “Airplane!”

“Everything will be all right in the end … if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.”  Dev Patel as Sonny Kapoor in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook to join the fun.

Dust bunnies

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One has to take care of housekeeping every once in a while, though this place might be an exception. This (former?) comfort station is on a seldom-accessed portion of a trail around Lake Georgetown, Texas.

Pick up your feet, please, so I can sweep under here. Yeah, every now and then I have to do a little housekeeping.

 

There are two things on my to-do list today and I’ll keep them short.

1. Sign up

I’m closing out startup details on something a little different that should be enjoyable for many of you. Before airing it out to the general public, I’ll ask those on my email list to look at it to help make sure it’s as close to perfect as possible.

That can happen as early as Saturday morning but as late as next week.

So, if you’d like to get involved and get in on the ground floor, make sure you’re on my email list. Click here to sign up. I do not send out many letters and each one has a link where you can drop out at any time.

2. Reviews

Bluntly, if you’ve read any of my books, I would really appreciate it if you would leave even a brief review online.

If you bought it through Amazon, that would be a great place to review it because they will verify you purchased the book and that looks more credible. However, you can leave a review there even if that’s not where you bought it.

You can find links to all of my books on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2cDGlAG. Click on the correct book, click on a link that says “customer reviews” and then “write a customer review.”

Another place to leave reviews is on Goodreads. I’ve not done much to cultivate a presence there, but all my books are listed at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7472257.Steve_Martaindale. Click on a book title to go to its page. Underneath the picture of the cover, there’s a tab you can click to change to “Read” and it opens a page where you can leave your comments.

Do you know of any other place where reviews are (and I’ve not seen them) and/or where you feel they should be left?

In particular, the later books lack reviews, so you might start with Marmot, Sloth or Rose if you’ve read multiple books. I have copied the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and placed them on each book’s page on my Website. This page will take you to all of them.

Thank you so much for helping spread the word. While you’re doing that, I’m going to get that spider web in the corner.

A-B-C

tik-tok-of-ozWhen the topic came up about learning to read and first book memories, I found myself with little to talk about.

One is supposed to have fond recollections of cuddling in a parent’s lap or being read to sleep, but there was no learning to read at home for me. Well, I don’t remember anything about it, but I do recall working through the alphabet and learning to read in first grade. (Note that there was no kindergarten when and where I grew up.)

So, no, I don’t recall having books read to me. I do remember a few Little Golden Books being around, but I’m not sure when that was. It’s possible my brother and I were read to regularly and I don’t remember, but it’s just as likely the books I picture were for my much younger sister.

Whatever the case, I took to reading rather easily in the classroom of Mrs. Follis, but all I remember was Dick, Jane and Sally.

The first real book I can remember reading was “Tik-Tok of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. In the second grade at the time, I’m pretty sure I had not yet seen “The Wizard of Oz” because we watched little television, if we even had one. Therefore, it was much later that I realized the two were connected stories.

Additionally, I really doubt there was much understanding of the book going on. I was more caught up with the challenge of reading this big book from cover to cover than I was about understanding it. No, I do not remember a single thing about it.

By the third grade, I discovered the biography section in the school library. I distinctly remember reading about Israel Putnam, a hero of the American Revolution, and automobile executive Walter Chrysler.

Of course, I’m now writing mystery books, but even those were discovered late in life.

Some 20 years ago, my wife introduced me to Lilian Jackson Braun’s series of “The Cat Who …” stories. I’ve read quite a few of them and they had a direct effect on my series.

Her style and mine are considerably different, but I took from her the idea of writing my stories around a journalist (she, too, had worked in newspapers), and of establishing them in a fictional town in a not-too-specific location (hers were generally set in and around Pickax, located “400 miles north of everywhere,” while mine are in Oldport, somewhere on the Gulf of Mexico).

My appreciation for her inspiration led me to name a city park in Oldport after Braun’s central character, James Qwilleran.

That’s mine; what are your earliest reading memories?

Carpe diem

living-life

Regina Brett crossed my mind yesterday and I’m glad she did.

Regina is a metro columnist for the The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland. I discovered her several years ago when we both belonged to the same organization. At some point, I slipped from following her columns until yesterday.

It looks as if she’s not writing as regularly as she used to, maybe because she has several other irons in the fire, but maybe because the paper’s cleveland.com Web site is atrociously organized. However, I stumbled across one particular column, said to be her most popular, that was written several years ago.

As she was turning 50 years of age, she published a list of 50 lessons she’d learned from life. Read the entire column here.

Like me, many of you are also reaching those points in our lives where we feel empowered to offer a little advice. Also, we’re probably a little more receptive to good guidance. Two of Regina’s lessons jumped out at me:

  1. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
  2. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

Who among you is nodding his or her head in agreement? Who issued a sigh of regret over lost opportunities?

She also reminds me of a quote my wife likes to spread around. It comes from another columnist, one you’re more likely to have heard of, Erma Bombeck:

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

Moments are so fleeting that seizing one is such an apt verb. Should you “consider” seizing it, the opportunity is likely lost.

It’s hardly new advice. More than 2,000 years ago, Horace wrote in “Odes” the advice “carpe diem,” usually translated as “seize the day.”

Continuing beyond those two words, Horace wrote, “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero,” which I’ve read translated as, “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow (the future).”

He is not promoting the frivolous lifestyle mentioned in the book of Isaiah and that Paul warned against in his letter to the church at Corinth, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

No, rather than calling for a frat party, Horace is saying that instead of putting trust in tomorrow to take care of itself, one should do all he or she can now … in this moment … to make the future better.

But, wait. Are Regina and Erma urging abandonment of responsibilities? Burn the candles! Order dessert!

I think not.

Today *is* special. From the 118th Psalm: “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

One is not being responsible if he or she does nothing but hoard up nice sheets and fancy lingerie. Too many of us die with an abundance of things and wasted opportunities because we were saving them for a special day when, in reality, we missed occasions to make special the days we had.

Leah and I have taken some chances by choosing to wear purple at an earlier age than most. We continue to do so, but they are well calculated risks we’re willing to take. We have admitted to ourselves that it’s possible we outlive our means of support and spend our final years with diminishing options.

However, we’ll be able to look back on good times without being burdened by regrets about what we might have done.

An image I’ve shared several times in social media (posted above, I cannot remember its origin; advise me whom I should credit) uses a quote from Randy Komisar: “And then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”

A Facebook friend I’ve never met (a friend-of-a-friend and a kindred spirit) continually urges people to “Get out there.”

So, I say: “Seize the day. Get out there. Be eccentric now. And have a second look at that dessert cart.”

Nice people

nice-peopleI recently came across a comment to a post somewhere: “Some of the nicest people are tow truck drivers.”

While I believe you can find “some of the nicest people” in just about any profession, I do have a wonderful story about a tow truck driver.

It was the August after I graduated high school. I quit my summer job a week early to visit an uncle in Idaho.

This was a big deal for me. My family did not travel much; my father just didn’t care to. So I was certainly spreading my wings by driving solo more than 1,400 miles from home, seeing real mountains for the first time, being entirely on my own in the big, wide world.

I drove my dad’s 1960 Ford Ranchero and part of the logic behind that was its inability to move much faster than 55 mph would help keep me from violating the newly adopted national speed limit. Another “benefit” was the gas gauge didn’t work, so I watched the odometer and refilled about every 100 miles or so, thereby guaranteeing I would stop often.

Now, this vehicle – a three-speed on the column – had a habit of the transmission hanging up. To fix it, we just popped the hood and forced the rods (proper term? I don’t know) loose. Never had been a big deal.

My second day on the road found me in Colorado and my mother was expecting a call this evening. I was running a little late, so I stopped somewhere in Colorado City and called collect to report everything was going great. My aim that night was Colorado Springs, just a way up the interstate.

I easily found the Motel 6 and started up the steep driveway when I saw the “No Vacancy” sign illuminated. I stopped, slammed the transmission in reverse … and it locked up. So, here I was, stuck in a (thankfully wide) driveway and unable to move.

I set the brake really well to keep the car from rolling down the hill once I pounded it out of gear and proceeded to yank on the rods. I grabbed the hammer from behind the seat and banged on them. This went on for several minutes until I decided it was hopeless.

The man behind the glass at the Motel 6 recommended a tow truck driver and let me use his phone. I remember the driver was having dinner and watching a ball game and he told me he would be there soon.

He hooked up to my car and we started a seemingly long drive across town to a transmission shop that worked late. Along the way, I told him my story about where I was headed.

“After this, though, I may have to turn around and head back home,” I said. I wasn’t carrying much money and, of course, no credit card.

When we reached the shop, he dropped the car and talked to a guy he knew. He checked it out and reported it was fine. We decided that it was the force put on the transmission while it sat on the hill that kept me from fixing it myself. Had I gotten someone to match bumpers and push just a little, I could have knocked it out.

As you may imagine, I was elated. My new friend the tow truck driver then tried to settle business with me.

“Is $15 too much?” he asked. “I’ll take a check if you don’t have the cash to spare.”

Wow. Can you imagine? He left home and a ball game, used his expensive equipment to pull me around town, and he’s asking me if it’s too much. Granted, I had no idea what a proper fee would be, but I only saw that my trip could continue.

“No, no, I can spare $15. And thanks. Thank you very much.”

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