Eiffel Tower

IMG_3828 2Google maps said it was just a short nine minute walk from the Gare du Nord train station to Chez Cazimir.

My lovely wife and I disembarked from a relaxing train ride from London to Paris.  We needed relaxing because we had just spent a week in London with our 15-month old granddaughter who wasn’t too concerned with the Crown Jewels or The Tower of London or where Winston Churchill helped plan the defeat of the Nazi forces invading his beloved England during the big war. Her only concern was to lick every hand rail she came into contact with and to use her pacifier as a vehicle to taste the subtle differences of each sidewalk she trod.

My wife and I had a little different noshing experience planned when we got to Paris.

So we were ready for our first French meal, a Sunday afternoon brunch, at Chez Cazimir. We were meeting a friend of mine and his wife.  He and I had been on trips to Haiti together and by coincidence we happened to be in Paris at the same time, they at the end of their trip and we at the beginning.  It sounded like the beginning of a Hemingway novel, a chance meeting of New Englanders and Appalachianers. And for good measure, a Frenchman living in Monte Carlo thrown in to share our table.

This sounds all too easy doesn’t it?

Well fate had to work overtime to overcome my directional inadequacies.

Imagine my surprise as we walked out into a light Paris drizzle and found that all of the streets in Paris, France are written in French.  And they aren’t displayed on the street corners but on the sides of the buildings.  And the street names change at each intersection.

I guess when you are a city that is over 2,000 years old, there have been a lot of people after which to name a street.  Sooner or later you run out of streets, therefore you don’t get a whole street, you just get a block.

I could sense my wife’s panic set in.

When I finally stopped to ask directions of a lovely Parisian family, there was a bit of a language barrier.  We repeated this Franco-American street drama numerous times over the next 45 minutes until we were thirty minutes late for our meeting time.

It was the first of many exquisite meals we enjoyed over the next four days.  It was so good to see my friend and for our wives to meet.  We spent about two hours in that cafe and it was a good start to our Paris stay.

I took this photo of the Eiffel Tower on our last day in Paris.  I experimented with my take on French impressionism.  However I don’t remember seeing any of Monet’s paintings in black and white.  Maybe he wasn’t artsy enough to pull it off.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

 

 

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Riding Through Port-au-Prince

haiti-2011-125-2-1He was waiting there, like he always does.  Just standing…and…waiting…

I have been cycling (this sounds more manly and adult than saying “riding my bike”) for about three years now. This is because my almost sixty-year-old knees remind me every day they are almost sixty years old. Riding a bike doesn’t make them feel almost sixty years old.

I love riding through the eastern Kentucky countryside,  riding through woods and past streams, riding past newly cut hay fields, and fields of cattle and horses. We ride past tobacco in the fields and in the barns, a wonderful smell that brings back memories of fall in Kentucky. We ride past fields of wildflowers.

What an idyllic experience to cycle through eastern Kentucky.

Until…

Many times we are snapped out of this pastoral bliss by the canine consternation, when your body goes from producing hot sweat to cold sweat.

Many people have dogs that protect their property from dangerous, middle-aged bicyclers that roam the rural routes, usually in packs, looking for free air to feed their flat tires.  Most of these mutts are not a threat. However,there are those who are threatening and we get to know those very quickly.  We ride many of the same routes and we know where the dogs come a-runnin’.

One particular mongrel stakes out his spot in the middle of the road when he sees us coming.  We lovingly refer to him as “Cujo”.   He has mastered the game of “chicken”, because he will not move.  He makes us decide the path we will ride, then the chase begins.  He is big, about mid-tire high, and muscular, a bad combination for possible contact with your high velocity velocipede.

Last week the aforementioned happened.  Cujo decided he wasn’t going to chase me, so he decided to stop me. He blocked my path like Dick Butkus plugging a hole.

My helmet now has a dent in the side after hitting the pavement with my head inside.  There was various scrapes and blood. There was groaning, but I didn’t cry.  Even now my insides feel like that side of beef looked after Rocky pounded on it in the meat locker

I took this photo of a man calmly riding his bike through the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  There can’t be a calm ride through these streets.  It is ultimate chaos.  He has to dodge cars and trucks and motorcycles and buses and other bicycles navigating without lanes, carts pulled by animals, and  tap-taps (Haitian taxi’s) loaded with people and their belongings.  He also has to avoid goats, pigs, chickens, oxen, and “lions, and tigers, and bears”.  Oh MY.

Every day he is playing a real-life Frogger navigating the streets of Port-au-Prince.

I just had to miss one dog in the middle of the road in peaceful Stacy Fork.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

 

 

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Street Sax Musician

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“I’ve got two extra tickets!”

Oh how we love that phrase.  Nothing activates our dopamine like someone having two extra tickets to an event we desperately want to see.

The thing is,  I didn’t desperately want to see this event.  In fact I had never heard of this person.  Is he a singer? or a magician? or a poet? or a psychic? or a self-help guru? or an evangelist? or a fund-raising politician?

My first reply was “Yes, I will take the tickets.”  My second response was “Who is Sturgill Simpson?” I guess that is why they call it dope-amine.

It wasn’t until after I accepted the invite, that I asked my wife. She was in the throes of PMS…Post Mental Shutdown, since it was after 10:00 at night. She did not put up a fight.

As we neared the destination of the concert, I reminded her that the tickets cost $40.00 each.  She did not recall that conversation from the previous night.  She then put up a fight.

We found our seats in the balcony, behind what I could only describe as a bigg’un. This guy was wearing a local motorcycle group’s shirt that had to be made by a local quilting circle.  If a Vietnamese child would have made this shirt, she would have taken it home to be the new roof of her house.

Bigg’un was waving a fifth of bourbon for all to see.  Amazingly, the liquid was reduced  down to a few tablespoons.  It didn’t take long to know where the rest of the missing libation was residing.  He turned out to be entertaining, just part of the ticket price.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sturgill Simpson and his band.  I tried to describe his music that night to a friend.  It was as if the tour buses of Dwight Yoakum, Tower of Power, and Southside Johnny collided at a New Orleans intersection.  There was a mixup and these musicians staggered onto a bus and kept touring.

I took this photo of a street musician in Boston near Faneuil Hall.  I love to listen to good street musicians.  They add so much to the essence and spirit of the city.

I like the fact that the musician’s face is hidden, that it could be any street musician.  Also since I did not get permission to use this, my attorney was happy that the musician can’t be recognized.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

 

 

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Portland Head Light

IMG_2344 2It was a feeding frenzy of epic proportions.

My wife and I recently visited Maine in search of the one thing that could draw us 900 miles from our eastern Kentucky home to the freezing waters of the Maine coast for a beach vacation…lobsters.  Sure you can get lobsters in Florida and South Carolina and have warm ocean water to swim off the excess cholesterol from the lobster meat and drawn butter, but you have to pay a price that includes their airfare.  And lobsters for some reason don’t accumulate frequent flyer miles.

We consumed eleven lobster dishes in four days…eleven.  I was eating Lipitor poppers in an oatmeal dip for hors d’oeurves.  This allowed me to squeeze enough blood to my brain to keep me cognizant of where I was and why I was there.

We ate whole lobsters, lobster rolls, lobster  mac and cheese, and lobster stew. In between the lobsterpalooza, we devoured steamed clams, fried clams, and oysters.  All of it was the best seafood I had ever eaten.  The closest we get to good lobster in eastern Kentucky is Licking River crawdads, not exactly a delicacy or an object of desire, except when the blue gill aren’t biting and you have to take something home.

I was concerned that my  beach alter-ego, Big Surf Daddy, wouldn’t show since we were going so far north.  Turns out Big Surf has no restrictions of latitude. Mrs. Big Surf and I parked ourselves on the beach for the four days we were in Maine and only left the beach to go eat lobster.

Incidentally the lighthouse in the above photo was taken on our way to Portland to eat lobster.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my photography here.

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Reconstruction of the West Liberty Christian Church

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We won another victory over the tornado of 2012.

Almost four years after a horrible tornado took our 102-year old building from us, we moved into our new church building.

Previous to this, we worshiped at another church.  I know it was a great sacrifice on their part but they  graciously provided their building to us for about a year.   This was a wonderful act of kindness to a reeling church body after taking a devastating blow.  Luckily we were able to stagger back to our corner and get our wits about us.

We were at this time able to go through the difficult stages of shock and grief over our building.  Also the healing started as we dealt with the emotional attachment to a building that was so meaningful to many of us.  Seeing our children coming to accept the Lord Jesus and go through the act of baptism, walking some of those same children down the sloped aisle to their awaiting spouse, saying good-bye to those who meant so much to us at their funerals was on all  our minds as we started planning for a new building.  We all knew how hard it would be, for we had not planned on bidding adieu to our old friend on the corner of Prestonsburg and Broadway.

We then worshiped in a mobile unit for another eighteen months or so back on our lot.  As we stared at a vacant lot where the old building stood, a constant reminder of what was taken and how much work lay ahead of us as we tried to fill that same lot.

We then built a metal building on the back of our property and praised God there.  We shared this building with the food pantry.  On some Sundays we could smell rotten potatoes or onions or other produce.

Eventually God’s grace and mercy brought us through the storm as He promised.  We had our first service on the first Sunday of 2016.  We were so excited. We moved in before the building would be finished and we are still waiting for the downstairs and kitchen to be completed.

I am very grateful to our congregation for their perseverance and their faith in the one and only Creator.

I took this photo during the construction of our new church building and loved the shadows on a late afternoon.  You can see the domes of two buildings in the background, the dome on the right is atop our old, 109-year old court house.  The tornado weakened the roof and the dome collapsed into the courtroom.  The dome on the left is our new judicial building that was close to completion when the tornado hit.  It had to have major reconstruction.

Through it all, when our faith was struggling and our strength seemed to be fading, God answered our prayers and reminded us that His Grace is sufficient for us.

As I write this, I am listening to a song by Jeremy Camp called “Same Power”.  He sings about “the same power that rose Jesus from the grave, the same power that commands the dead to wake, the same power that moves mountains when He speaks, the same power that can calm a raging sea, lives in us.  He lives in us.”

I know we have a long way to go.  We still have to pay for this building.   But we have already had one to commit her life to the Lord Jesus and was baptized.  There will be more.  There will be weddings and funerals and memories for the next generations of God’s people, if He permits.  He has blessed His people since the beginning of time and will continue till the end of time.  Then Jesus will usher in His Kingdom and I will see some of those I said good-bye to in that old building.

After the tornado,  I was interviewed by CBS reporter Anna Werner as we looked at the pile of rubble that was the old building and she asked me what it would mean to see a new building standing here.  I replied, “God always wins.”

He has won another victory for our small town.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

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Row Boat on Eleuthera Island

IMG_9650This was the yin to America’s yang, the gentle breeze to the nor’easter, the Sunday afternoon nap to the frenetic pace of Monday morning.

We landed at the diminutive North Eleuthera Airport.  My arrival at most airports start an immediate increase in heart rate,  sweat starts to roll like an Appalachian flash flood, my brain has to release enough endorphins to combat the stress of walking into the terminal feeling like a cobra slithering into a mongoose burrow.

But this, this was so different.  We were met with a sweet-tempered, warm rain and big broad smiles. My wife and I parked ourselves on the front porch of the terminal as if  we were waiting for a seat at Cracker Barrel for an after-church dinner.  We waited for my cousin and his lovely wife, who were our hosts for the week.  They were coming in on a later flight and arrived about a half hour later.

Instead of the anxiety storms in America, I was awash in serenity from the gitgo.  I felt like I was in the eye of a lilt.

My cousin rented a car from “Big E”.  When Big E’s rep shows up to give him the key and go over the paperwork, the front seat of the rental became the office.  When the transaction had been finalized, my cousin asked, “What do I do with the key when I return the car?”

Big E’s rep, “Just put it under the mat.”

Cuz, “What if someone steals it?”

Big E’s rep, “We are on an island. Where can they go? We just drive around till we find it.”

Occasionally, my attempt to engage in banter with the locals would take a strange turn.  I decided to cook dinner one night so we went down to the local dock to peruse the latest daily catch.  I found a local fisherman proudly displaying his wares.

Me, to local fisherman, “What kind of fish is that?”

Fisherman, “Jackfish.”

Me, “Does it taste fishy?”

Fisherman, “Does it taste like fish?”

Me, “I mean, does it taste too much like fish?”

Fisherman, with a little less smile and more confusion, “Don’t you want this beautiful fish to taste like fish?”

Me, ” I don’t think you understand what I’m asking.”

Fisherman, now totally exasperated, ” I think you want chicken!”

Evidently engaging in tete-a-tete in Paradise has a different thought process than the day-to-day in eastern Kentucky.

I left the poor confused soul muttering something about Americans with fish brains and bought a hog snapper instead.  I figured with a name like “hog snapper” it had to have enough of an identity complex so as not to taste too much like fish.  I was right, it was scrumptious.

In addition to dialogue taking different directions, time also seemed to take a not-so-American sense.

Me, to my cousin, “What time is it?”

Cuz, “Tuesday”

Time is difficult to explain.  Recalling my high school and college physics classes…well I can’t really recall them.  That seems to be one function of time.  Anyway, I always thought that time was the measurement between two physical events. Of course this is measured by a functional clock.

My observance of the relativity of time in a physical sense came from my wife.  She runs her life with the precision of a Swiss watch.  After a few days on this island, she removed hers from her wrist.  Time seemed to have a physical presence, not in an obtrusive, annoying I-wish-you-would-leave presence, but in a genteel, pleasant I-wish-you-would-stay presence.

One other conversation to report.  After the ATM gave me Bahamian dollars, which I mastered the exchange rate after about four days (it’s 1:1), I stated, “Why does it give me Bahamian dollars?”

Cuz’s lovely wife, ” Do we have to have the  fisherman conversation again?”

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

 

 

 

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Lighthouse Beach, Eleuthera Island

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Conch-a-doodle-do!!!!

I think this should be the official greeting on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas.   But more on that later.

After a thirty year hiatus from The Bahamas, Big Surf Daddy returned with his bride of the same number of years, Mrs. BS (she will probably not like the way this looks in print).   We were on Paradise Island for our honeymoon in 1985.  I remember we ate a lot of lobster.  So much so that the government banished us for thirty years, they said it would take that long for the lobsters to repopulate.   After we left they had to look  for another ocean delicacy for tourists and honeymooners to consume. They found it…. conch.

We ate conch fritters, conch pizza, conch chowder, cracked conch, conch ravioli, and my favorite,  conch salad.  This latter dish was prepared for Big Surf by a lovely Eleutheran chef in a small stand on the sea wall in Tarpum Bay.  As I watched her execute this simple native dish of chopped onions, celery, peppers, and fresh raw conch with the lime juice and orange juice dressing, I couldn’t help take in the scene of this small town located on the bay with one small dock and brightly colored houses.

It was getting late in the day and the sun was glistening off the aquamarine water of the Caribbean.  I asked her if she ever got tired of the view.  She looked at me with that “you really can’t be that daft” look.  Then she smiled as all Bahamians do when confronted with another stupid American tourist query and I knew.  How could anyone get tired of this?

How could anyone get tired of white sandy beaches kissed by water so aqua that it can only be experienced?  Just looking at it is somehow not enough.  How could anyone get tired of beaches that are so private, you feel like an Onassis.

The above photo is from the southern-most tip of Eleuthera Island called Lighthouse Beach.  The Atlantic Ocean is on the right and the Caribbean Ocean is on the left.  There are more oceans in this photo than people, and that includes the photographer.

Big Surf Daddy’s legend was born on Oahu but his heart was left on Eleuthera.

Oh, one bit of advice if you go and order the conch pizza, eat it all.  As my cousin found out, it doesn’t get better the next day and Immodium is not cheap on Eleuthera Island.

If you like this picture, so can see more of my photos here.

 

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Cascades

Waterfalls, Morgan County 2011 061 2Water, water everywhere…

My apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  I hope the need for royalty payments  for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner have passed.

This is a sentiment that many of us in eastern Kentucky have expressed over the past few months.  Some were duped by The Farmer’s Almanac website which I will quote, “Summer will be hotter and drier than normal, with the hottest periods in mid to late June, mid to late July, and early to mid-August.”

OK, maybe the “powers that be” changed the season of summer to be from July 24- July 28, because those days were hot and dry, except for the steam that rose out of the swampy goo.

Trying to mow my three acres in this saturated state has become my Waterloo…I’ll let you think about that for a minute.

This summer my grass has been growing at a faster rate than the seemingly, steroid infused mildew that was in the bathtub of my college fraternity house.

Mowing has become necessary again, however I cannot mow.  “Why can’t I mow”, you ask, quizzically.  Because IT’S RAINING!!!  I know you people living in California can’t grasp this concept of rain.  Maybe some pimply faced  intern at The Farmer’s Almanac confused California with Kentucky in the compiling of this year’s almanac.  Somewhere a California farmer is looking for blue mold.

I took this picture of cascades of a creek in the Yocum and Pleasant Run area of Morgan County, KY.  It resembles the water running through my side yard during the last storm.  Shortly afterward, I saw a small Asian boy leading a yak down my street.

My mower has been stuck in mud…stuck in mud…stuck in mud… three times this summer, because you can’t see the water standing in the yard because the grass is so high.  I went to the local hardware store to see if my old Snapper could be fitted with floats like a seaplane.  The amazing thing is I was not the first one to request this.  Since Snapper does not make a hover riding mower yet, I will have to wait for the rain to stop and then send out a dove.

While waiting on my yard to dry, I can always weedeat my gutters.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

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War Creek Road

County Road Curve, Morgan County, KY spring 2005

I was explaining how marvelous my diminutive, relatively new sports car was handling through the curves on Route 519 in northern Morgan County.  My passenger seemed distracted.  It could have been because he was thinking “uh-oh”.

We were driving to school on a Sunday afternoon on our way back to Morehead State University in 1977.  My passenger was a good friend and he was in the right seat of my 1970 MG Midget.  It was his maiden voyage in my British Racing Green classic two-seater.  His mother told him earlier, “I’m glad you are riding back to school with someone respectable.”  These words were spinning around in my thoughts as we were spinning around on the narrow two lane road.

Figure skaters and dancers are taught to keep their eyes moving ahead of the spin so as not to get the “swimmy head”.  As we were pirouetting across the pavement, my eyes saw trees…fence…trees…fence…trees…fence.

Inertia was finally overpowered with the help of the barbed-wire fence we broke through and  the fence post  we nestled up to.

We extracted ourselves from this small capsule, staggering like survivors at Roswell.  The swimmy head trick didn’t work.  We retraced the crash path and saw that we narrowly missed a large crevice that would have completely swallowed up the tiny car and left us on missing persons lists to this day.

This is a photo of War Creek Road taken in the spring.  This small winding road is in the southeastern region of Morgan County in eastern Kentucky.  It is similar to the way Route 519 looked at the time of this story before it was rebuilt. It is typical of the many scenic drives along small country roads  in Morgan County. The views can be memorable… when you are in control of your automobile.

Incidentally, the British Motor Corporation stopped production of the MG Midget in 1979 due to the age of political correctness.  They tried to change the name to MG “Little Automobile” but the body wasn’t big enough to display that many letters.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

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Ezel Presbyterian Church

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I was in a testosterone fog.

Like the tops of the eastern Kentucky hills hidden by the fog of this particular winter, rainy, day, my judgement was clouded by the current state of my machismo.  My bravado gauge seemed to be in sync with the RPM gauge on my Fiat X 1/9, both maintaining a level above what could be considered safe at the time.  You get the picture.

I had my new girlfriend, now my lovely wife of 29-plus years, sitting in the orange leather passenger seat of this Italian classic sports car (description may be an embellishment).  Our destination was Ezel, Ky.

I had invited her to come with me for her first trip to Morgan County, my home, to witness her new boyfriend perform the most manly of courtship rituals.  Amid all of the Animal Planet and Nature Channel shows that focus on the singing, dancing, spreading plumage, and so forth found in nature, there is one facet of the male-to-female attraction ritual that never seems to be shown…the male’s invitation to the female to travel a long distance to watch him play in a basketball tournament in a small rural gymnasium.

As if her femaleness wasn’t clicking on all cylinders in the anticipation of watching me display my prowess on the court of the old Ezel High School gym, added to her delight was riding in a car that barely had the weight to stay within the gravitational pull of the planet at 70 mph.  Not only that, but throw into her experience a driving rain and road spray coming onto a vehicle that wasn’t as tall as the semi trucks’ tires I kept passing.  The six-inch Italian wiperblades could not keep the amount of water cleared off the windshield long enough to see the small ponds formed on the rain-soaked Mountain Parkway.  I assumed each episode of hydroplaning that showcased my daring-do car handling ability would further add to her confidence in opting for my affections.

I was thinking none of her past beaus would have been able to deliver an unprecedented afternoon such as this.

Ezel is a beautiful section of rolling hills and farmland in western Morgan County.  Sitting atop one of these rolling hills is the Ezel Presbyterian Church.  It is one of my favorite sights in all of Morgan County.  This church building was built about ninety years ago.

Remarkably, my wife still continued to date me after this inglorious day.  Although since this day,  when we travel there is a constant update on weather changes and road conditions and speed monitoring coming from the passenger seat.

Also my team made it to the finals of the basketball tournament that day so my lucky new girlfriend was able to be impressed by my manliness for a whole day in that gym at Ezel.  We lost in that game, but not before I was able to keep my man from missing a shot and holding him to about thirty points.

I am happily married today because my wife never understood the fundamentals of a man-to-man defense.

 

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

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