I was in the band at Hinds Junior College (now Hinds Community College) in the fall of 1973. On Oct. 6 we had an away football, I think at Northeast Junior College – anyway, it was a long bus ride away. Since we had a game, I had stayed on campus that weekend, and with no access to TV or radio, didn’t know anything about the onset of the Arab attacks on Israel. The news first began getting to us shortly before we got on the bus mid-afternoon, but I don’t recall hearing much in the way of details. In fact, I don’t think we realized there was much going on beyond some border attacks. By the time we got off the bus at Northeast, it was obvious from reports that there were serious battles going on, but we all remembered the Six Day’s War and assumed the Israelis would rout the Arab forces. But by the time the game was over, and we were preparing to board the buses for the trip home, things were looking very different. Someone had a portable radio, and the reports were sounding grim. One of the band members had a brother in the army – maybe in the 101st Airborne – and he had called him right after the game – his brother told him the Soviets were mobilizing some forces, that his unit was being told to get ready, and that President Nixon had told the Soviets we would not allow them to intervene. I don’t think any of that was really happening, but at the time we didn’t know, and all during that 3 hour bus ride back we expected to get off the bus and find out that World War III had just started. By the next day we all knew better, but in the middle of the night on October 6, things seemed really on the brink. In these days of 24-hour news cycles and social networking, where you can know anything in a matter of minutes, it can be hard to realize just how difficult it could be to find out what was happening before CNN and the internet came along. This is maybe my most vivid experience of that.
A couple of months ago, I bought a shiny new Nook HD+ for myself. It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision – I’d been thinking about getting a tablet for quite a while. In fact, I bought an iPad last year, but only kept it a few days before returning it. The iPad price was just too high for my
needs wants (let’s face it, very, very few people really need an iPad, or any tablet for that matter). I’d always liked the Nook Color/Tablet/HD/HD+ as a piece of hardware, but the way Barnes and Noble constrained the Nook universe significantly reduced its appeal. Until this spring, when B&N suddenly realized that there was just huge other part of the tablet world, and many of their potential customers were going there instead of stopping in Nookland. So in early May, they flung open the gates (and cut the price of the HD and HD+ significantly), and suddenly the Nook HD was a contender. And together with a collection of B&N gift cards I was given for finally agreeing to go away and never come back retiring, I made my way to my local Barnes and Noble and bought an HD+. And I love it. I’ve bought a few books, checked out some from my local library (although they really need to beef up their collection), and subscribed to National Geographic magazine (the photos are gorgeous on this thing!). It’s fast becoming my primary lunchtime companion.
But this isn’t about the Nook per se. You know those little protective screens we’re told we need to get for our smartphones and tablets? They’re sort of like the prince’s whipping boy of fairy tales – they take the abuse in the form of fingerprints and smudges) so the glass screen doesn’t have to. I’m not sure why – cleaning the screen isn’t that difficult – but they sell them, and we’re told we should buy them, and so we do. And so I did. The first thing you realize is that it’s impossible to put the protective film on the screen without having little air bubbles trapped underneath. Impossible. Which is why I stopped using them on my iPhone. But, for whatever reason, I bought some for my Nook, and yes, the air bubbles have returned. The other thing that gets trapped is specks of dust, tiny little hairs, and anything else in the vicinity when you try to apply the film. And those little trapped bits are amazingly visible and distracting. I would remove one, and another would leap in from the side. They are determined little specks of irritation. And here’s the Thing I Learned Today: never, no matter how irritated you are by those little specks, do not take a Kleenex or similar tissue and try to rub something off the underside of the film. What you’re left with is a blizzard of even tinier bits of tissue paper that have bonded with the sticky underside of the protective film. And it’s far too late to say “YOU MORON” at this point. The one little speck you were trying to remove is laughing hysterically at you as it points at the myriad tiny bitlets that will never, ever come off.
And THAT is what I learned today.
A few months ago, I had some trees in my neighbor’s yard cut down (with her permission!). They were trash trees that had grown up right along the fence line, and were throwing shade and dropping leaves into my pool. The area on my side of the fence (the north side) was very shady, and had a couple of rarely-used old swings but not much more. No plants, not much grass (because of the shade). Then two things happened: I built a new deck, between the existing deck and the pool, to give us one big area for entertaining or whatnot. And when I started laying out the deck, I realized that if I built a corner arbor, there was a perfect place for those swings:
and also that I had this new sunny area for a long flowerbed. There was a grouping of hydrangeas at what would be the east end, and I decided to take off from those and let the bed run along the fence. Because of several other priorities that always seem to come up, I wasn’t able to start working on the bed until mid-June. I knew that was too late in the season for planting many of the things I would prefer, but I could still get the idea in motion. So I began clearing the weeds and other trash stuff that was there, and laying out the borders of the bed (which have already expanded twice!), and then started looking at things like daylilies and asters that I could transplant. A few annuals, a Vitex tree, and some obligatory garden art sufficed to give me the first draft of the new area (this fall and winter I’ll be adding lots of perennials, which will eventually be most of whats in the bed). And here’s what I’ve gotten to this far:
I planted some sunflower and zinnia seeds against the fence, because I just like sunflowers and tall zinnias:
While I was out yesterday taking these pictures, I had a visitor that seemed to be posing for the camera:
And last but not least, here’s what a 17-18 year-old dog looks like, when he’s ready to go back inside:
St. Simon’s Island is one of those lesser-known gems of the southeast United States. It sits about an hour north of Jacksonville, beside Brunswick, Georgia. It’s a beautiful little island community that has somehow escaped the overbuilding and commercialism that has afflicted places like Gulf Shores, Alabama. It has a nice white beach, although much of it gets submerged during high tide, and hundreds of live oaks that cover the island. And on some of these live oaks, you can find faces carved into knots on the trunk. Local sculptor Keith Jennings is the responsible party, carving his first spirit in 1982 when, as he says, he had “too much time and too little money”. This was his first spirit:
It doesn’t look like anything now, because the tree has, as Jennings puts it, “reclaimed” the spirit. This and his second spirit were in the yard of the house where he lived then. Here’s the second spirit, now being reclaimed by the tree:
Memorial Day has, for many, become a reason for a family or group picnic, or maybe an extended time on the water, or one of a myriad of activities with family and friends. But there are still many places where the original reason for the day is still revered. One of those places is St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. We happened to be there this evening for their 22nd annual Taps Ceremony. It was small town American patriotism at its best, with a band playing Sousa marches and other patriotic music, a speech by a retired Marine Corps general, a multitude of local officials, the singing of the National Anthem, and the presentation of the colors by a high school ROTC unit. But there was more than that. There were veterans by the score, some young, many quite old, male, female, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard. And there was quite a crowd, although given the location and a beautiful evening by the ocean, maybe that isn’t surprising:
But what made this such a special occasion was the feel of the crowd. It could have been in a small American town in 1963. And it didn’t feel corny, or fake. It just felt patriotic. And when the ROTC unit advanced the colors, watching graying old men suddenly straighten and snap out a salute was more than a little poignant. For a brief time in an oceanside park, they were bound together once again by evident memories of a time long ago, or maybe not so long ago, and of fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who had given their ultimate for this idea we call the United States of America. The speaker, a former Marine Corps general, called on the crowd to give our servicemen and servicewomen our support. But he also called on us to give them our understanding. We owe them much more, but those things we can do.