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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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

Indiana Farm in Winter

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Last night I was so proud of myself.

I entered into the world of uber-technology…I watched a movie on Netflix.  Now this was not just ordinary Netflix, like anyone can do by getting movies in the mail.  No, this was on my newly installed AppleTV Netflix with it’s own remote control device and onscreen menu.  I wish I was a little more nerdy, so I could have appreciated what was happening.

Excitement was building as I looked over from the deep cocoon-like encumbrances of my recliner to my wife, whose eyes had seen enough of the day, or enough of me, by 9:00 PM.  She was on the express train to Nod.

At the very moment when the basis of all human knowledge and entertainment was liberated from the fortified stronghold of her clutches (she gave up the teevee remote), I knew I could watch anything available to me from filmdom’s bounty. But alas, as if I had an HBO or Showtime free weekend, there was not much there to hold my interest.

In the midst of an eastern Kentucky January, the sun is about as rare as a good movie on the menu I was perusing.  So I was looking for something light and comedic and cheery to help coax me from the precipice of seasonal affective disorder.  So naturally I decided to watch a little Swedish film noir with subtitles about dealing with those pesky, lovable scamps called Nazis.  This lively romp takes place in the late 1930’s when Sweden was trying to stay neutral as Germany came a callin’ on Finland.  For some reason, no other colors were added to the winter blues.

I took this photo of an Indiana farm in the midst of winter last year.  I like the loneliness of the barn in the field.  I like the feel of desolateness.

My wife and I went to Indiana this past weekend to see our daughter and our Hoosier son-in-law.  My son-in-law, whom I love dearly, complains that I only take pictures of Indiana that look dark and dreary.  Since he moved my only daughter to Indiana, I say “One man’s happiness is another man’s sorrow”.

He did not need subtitles to understand that message.

 

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