Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

A Break in the Action

In Uncategorized on November 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Hello Boababs and Boabettes.  I thought you might appreciate a break in the action.  I know following Fatz and I in our trek along the west coast is as suspenseful as counting presidential ballots in Florida.  I also realize that I have essentially been writing a travelogue regarding sights I could more succinctly pose as:  sea, cliffs, sand, golfers, redwoods, sea lions, cliffs, vines, desert, Crater Lake, more desert, river, waterfalls, beer, Space Needle, Chihully, clams, mussels, monorail, Olympics, Portland, roses.  If this is as deep as you care to go, take a break for a while.  If you remain intrigued, then by all means read the next installment when I post it in a few days.

Meanwhile, I had another of my fun visits with the radiology/oncology folks and an MRI last Friday at Baptist.  My cerebellum and occipital lobes are like rain or manna.  They’re like the water in Crater Lake.  In other words, they are free and clear.   What’s left of my brain is healthy at the moment.

Also, I visited with my hematology/oncologist.  The latest PET Scan, read in connection with the battery of tests they performed on me in connection with my pneumonia episode, indicates that what might have been a trouble spot in my lung was more likely latent infection.  In other words, my lung ain’t troubled by the big one at the moment.

The healthy, happy and newly invigorated (in a manner of speaking) Beno visited the Sigma Chi house in Chapel Hill last Saturday for some tail-gating before the debacle with Georgia Tech.  Normally, I’d not darken the door of a Sigmachi house, but my lad happens to be a brother in the Tar Heel version of this subversive organization, which is a cut or two above the norm.  The pre-game sky was clear as Amendment II of the Constitution.  The air was unseasonably warm.  The weather forecast for the afternoon promised an Edenic day.  Which is to say that I soon found myself surrounded by comely young lasses.  Some wore jeans that must have been spray-painted on.  The rest wore short skirts and knee high boots.  They all smiled.  They smelled good.   At one point, Harry asked me, “Living vicariously, Pops?”  Called out, I could only ask the way to the refreshment center.

Rather than risk arrest by describing the thoughts that winged in the cage of my brain that morning, I will content myself with saying that I did a little reflecting on to the past – on parties in little fraternity court of days gone by.  Distilling those thoughts, I have come up with a Foxworthy style variation on the theme, “You know you had a good time last night when….”

You Know You Had A Good Time Last Night When:

– you wake up in the shrubbery;

– you wake up jailed under a friend’s name and his parents have posted bail;

– it turns out the friend actually did what you’ve been jailed for;

– a women’s dorm starts wearing t-shirts with your picture on the front

– the heart attack and fatal dry-mouth you’re experiencing turns out to be the frat’s pet cat, which has fallen asleep on your chest with its paw in your mouth;

– you wake up with a dollar in you wallet, an unopened beer and a thank you note in your pocket from Sandye.

If ya’ll have any additions to the list, please send them in.  Otherwise, and in the meantime, before I catch you on the flip side, live large!!



How the West Was Wan, 3

In Uncategorized on November 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm


After the magnificent morning at Bandon, we dashed down the coast,slowing only for Fatz to admire a few cranberry bogs (!!?!), and arrived in Crescent City, CA, a few minutes before the Redwoods National Park rangers headquarters closed. The harried and hurried rangers, including a surfer guy with golden locks spilling over his collar, dealt with us and a couple of other elderly tourists with equanimity. Blondie let slip two fateful bits of information. The best drive for experiencing redwoods was not through the National Park, but through the Jedediah Smith state park east of town. And, amber or turquoise or azure or whatever color of whales had been sighted that day from the Klamath River overlook on down the beach. Thus was our early itinerary set for the next day.

That night, we stayed in the Curly Redwood Lodge, which had been built out of a single redwood tree. I attempted a blog posting there, as you may know, but wi-fi reception in the room was iffy, so I carried my i Pad to the lobby. There, unbeknownst to me, awaited 15 minutes of extreme discomfort. I chatted with the owner. A pleasant widder woman. Her husband had died a few years ago of “the cancer,” and she was keeping the motel in hopes her grandkids might take an interest. At this point, a woman whom I’d not noticed joined the chat. She had her lap top in her lap in a shadowy corner. She wore a bandana on her head. She turned out to be one of those aggressive and proud cancer survivors who wanted all details, who viewed cancer as her own belated wake-up call to change the world’s behavior. The two of them wanted to know all about me and then commenced to commiserating on account of how the bandana lady had lost three close friends to cancer and the widder lady had two still births and had lost another child to cancer but had survived it all thanks to the Lord. When they augured in on an intense discussion whether the world was more likely to be saved by Jesus or macrobiotics and green tea drinks, I managed to slip away, grateful for my escape. It had been like spending15 minutes in the dentist’s chair, while having a root canal, with Kenny G playing on the stereo in the ceiling.

Rosy fingered Dawn stroked our eyelids the next morning, and we quickly shooed her out of our room. We showered, packed, ate, and ambled on a roadway east. The sky was clear, the temperature was friendly. Nothing about the start of the day really prepared us for the morning.

Howland Hill Road through Jedediah Smith State Park happens to one of the semi-great roads in the universe. As soon as you cross the park boundaries, the pavement ends. The road narrows and grows dark. It begins curling and zig-zagging among and around trees, almost twitching with the vehemence of a New Orleans wino suffering the DT’s a day after Mardi Gras. And the trees are a tad bit bigger than your average tree. These are redwoods. They are tall. They scratch the butts of clouds drifting overhead. They are huge. If you rammed one with a Mack truck doing 90, you’d collect scrap metal instead of splinters. I mean to say, these suckers are big!

The Beno Is Stumped

It took about 12 minutes before we suddenly looked up with the mutual and simultaneous realization that there is, indeed, a useful function for a sun roof in a car. Driving through a redwood forest, you can open it and gaze upward in wonder, if you’re not behind the wheel. Although the road tossed us around in the car like the ice in James Bond’s martini shaker, we enjoyed the drive more than Georgia crackers love duck calls.

Once out in the sun again, we keep a beady eye out for Requa Road, which was the cut-off for the whale watching overlook. We had to wait awhile for yet another road crew repaving a stretch of road. Of at least a little interest is that the flag man turned out to be a flag woman, and a babe as such folks go. By “babe” I mean that she had: no facial tattoos, no visible underarm hair, a feminine shape under her road crew clothing and orange vest, and a face that would not stop the Impala’s digital clock.

We passed through the quaint little cross-roads of Requa and according to our map we driven past the turn off. After a few dead ends, we decided that we must have passed the road we wanted amidst the construction frenzy, we headed back on account of Fatz had a Jones for sea life. We was gonna see us some whales or bust!

So we turn the car around. We run up against construction traffic. We wait. We get dusty. We move in spurts. Finally, incurring the wrath of anxious drivers behind us, we drive slowly along the mile or so of repaving, eyeballing every little path through the woods we saw. Nada. There was no Requa Road, no promised Klamath overlook.

Clearing traffic, we turned the car around and, as luck would have it, after a couple of schools of cars had been let through before us, we found ourselves stopped at the Carhartt work-booted toes of the flag babe. We waved her over. Amazingly, she spoke American without a toothpick in her mouth. Though she wasn’t from the area, she reckoned the turn we wanted was a few miles beyond where we had turned around. In any event, if we just drove on a little further than we had, we’d run into an “Indian attraction,” and they’d be able to tell us for sure. We thanked her. She resumed her station. It was only when we saw her spit that we noticed she had a pinch of snuff between the tooth and the gum.

When we finally reached the Native American tourist attraction, it turned out to be “Trees of Wonder,” where for a modest fee, you can ride a chair lift through the redwoods. We declined. We did get directions, and it turned out our maps were wrong! The turn-off was a few miles ahead. We thanked the kind folks, bought cokes and proceeded on our merry way. For some reason, the establishment was marked by large statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe, the blue ox. The connection between white American folk takes and red American culture still eludes me.

Paul and his faithful cow

So we finally made it to the overlook. The view was lovely. We were 1,500 feet over the ocean. Sunlight lapped the waves. Fresh blackberries grew on the brambles. A gull called nearby. A healthy breeze ruffled our collars. We looked. Fatz scanned the water with his binoculars. But there weren’t no whales. Either they had left or, upon hearing us arrive, they decided to hold their breaths under water for 30 minutes. And Fatz and I realized that we were so high up, even had there been whales, they’d have been so far below us they’d have looked like minnows in a bait shop tank. We had spent an hour and a half traversing the same miserable stretch of road under construction to achieve utter inconsequentiality. I, for one of two, had not spent such a waste of time since I voted for Gore for president.

“Well,” said Fatz, in an attempt to put things in perspective, “had we never tried, we’d never have been disappointed.”  

How the West Was Wan, 2

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2012 at 4:25 pm


We spent our second night of the trip in a Best Western in Newport, Oregon. Newport is Oregon’s Myrtle Beach – hell, it even has a Ripley’s and a Tanger Outlet Mall. There are differences, however, and they ain’t exactly subtle. The Tanger, for instance, would fit in the end zone at Keenan Stadium and still leave room for all the broken hearts of the NC State football team. We actually had to search awhile before we found the Ripley’s. It occupies a modest house and a couple of built-on rooms along the historic, four block long waterfront of the town.

The motel had a great view of the beach from our balcony. The shore was the sort of rippled sand you find at the ends of islands when the tide goes out,, which hurts your feet to walk across. But I looked at the the view and figured my eyes had gone wacky. Things were miss-sized and out of focus. Something wasn’t right. Then I saw some folks walking toward the motel from the surf. They were climbing up and down ridges of sand! It turned out that though tidal wrinkling in the sand might be half an inch deep at Sunset Beach, NC, at this beach in Oregon, the ridges were four or five feet high and ten feet apart. I was so grateful for this realization that I celebrated with a locally brewed ale.

The southern half of the Oregon coast has fewer rocky crags and cliffs and more dunes. And when I say dunes, I do not mean the quaint little sea oats topped rumplings of sand we walk through at Ocean Drive. There are wide stretches of links land where Jockey’s Ridge would wake up to find itself surrounded by brothers and sisters – some of them older and bigger. My imagination was as staggered as my step.


Down near Bandon, we got lost in pine and spruce woods while searching for a beach view. The road had wandered away from the coast for a while, and we needed a fix. We wound up looping through the same intersection a few times without making any discernible progress seaward.

This is as good a point as any to confess that, every day, we suffered a shut-down of our internal GPS’s (Fatz’s doesn’t work, any way) and had to back-track. We’d make a wrong turn searching for yet another lighthouse or a quaint Victorian village and find ourselves in Upfunk, where old cannery machines reeking of cod and salmon had been dumped. Or our local maps were wrong. Sometimes, the Oregon roads department was at fault, for every ten miles or so they were repaving a section of 101. Not until the very last day of the trip did we realize that the State of Oregon really was at fault for some of our difficulties: after posting roadsigns normally, at the intersections where we really did need to turn, significant signs were placed not only on the other side of the intersection, but also on the left side of the road! I am still amazed that we did not kill ourselves by turning into traffic in Portland. But it wasn’t entirely Oregon’s fault. We managed to do the same thing in Washington and California, for daily delays and detours lasting from 15 minutes to 2 hours.

Any way, lost in the woods, we took a turn and found ourselves on the grounds of Bandon Dunes, one of the few sure destinations on our trip. Fatz booked a tee time for 7:50 on Pacific Dunes, celebrated by all the golf magazine pundits as one of the greatest courses in the world. We had to see for ourselves. We found……you guessed it, a Best Western!… in the pleasant little seaside town of Bandon and retired to feed and fortify ourselves for the golf the next day.

Now, I have an instinctive aversion to the ostentatious pairing of money and golf. One of the best things about golf on the great courses of the British Isles is that most of the courses belong to the public. A local mechanic or postman can be a member of Ballybunion without having sworn himself to a life of penury and celibacy just to play the game. In America, the great course playable to the real public is as rare as a camel at the North Pole. The greens fees at Bandon (for an out-lier: if you had cashed in your 401K to stay at the resort, the fees were slightly more reasonable) would, if earned in a week, disqualify the normal bricklayer for food stamp assistance. Of course, I did not plan to play. I can’t see a golf ball very well. I am not in marathon shape, and Bandon is a walking only course. But I had bought a little three-legged stool so I could walk with Fatz as long as I could without wearing myself out. So, we set out the next morning bright, early and windy with a guy named Mike from Surrey, England, who was our age and a computer software magnate in another life.

And…….I almost hate to say it, but Pacific Dunes is everything they say and more. It might be the most natural course I have ever seen. Beyond the flattened and turfed tee boxes, the course does not betray the hand of an architect or designer. The traps appear opened and carved by wind at random. The uncrowned greens are where nature dropped them on or at the fringe of dunes, and are demarcated from the fairways only by being mowed a little more closely. I would walk on by the greens, perch on my stool and watch the two Mikes finish out a hole, then walk with them to the next tee, and I was grinning the whole time. Just to walk the course was an exhilarating experience!

I had checked with the starter before hand, who pondered the question and finally allowed as how he thought it would be okay if I did hit a tee shot off No 4. No 4 happens to be spread out over bluffs overlooking the ocean and is as near as perfect as a golf hole could be. So I teed up a ball. I took a few practice swings. I could have swung and launched a high slice into the Pacific Ocean. I could have hit a low screaming hook that would have cannoned into dunes and gorse. I could have popped it up and at least had the satisfaction of having a ball drop somewhere in front of me. But, no! I clunked it into a shrub about 30 yards off the tee. But what the hey, I have played at Pacific Dunes!

I ventured back out into the increasingly brisk winds around the time the two Mikes (Fatz’s real name, in case you are curious) should have been reaching the 18th tee in order to see them finish. There was a drop-dead gorgeous brunette nearby holding a $10,000 Nikon with a zoom lens crafted by Ansel Adam’s grandson. I slipped my point and shoot Canon into my pocket, then introduced myself. It was Mrs Mike, who chatted very politely and briefly with me in a very crisp English accent. I say briefly because it became quickly evident that, despite her impeccable manners, she wanted to put as much ground – the clubhouse, if necessary – between me and her as she could with all due dispatch. It’s nice to see that I still have the same effect on women as I always have!

And…..Fatz did break 100.