Rainy Sunday Morning

This morning a thunderstorm rolled through. It was not the dangerous, twister making, thunderstorm. Just the rainy, windy, occasional clap of thunder kind of storm. We have the windows open in the house and I sat by an open window reading cook books and watching The Masters on television. Nice!

Happy Birthday, sweetie

My wife is very difficult to buy for.  I struggle every year with Christmas gift ideas and then her birthday is 3 weeks later. At least once, she mentioned wanting to go fly fishing.  So, for her birthday this year I gave her two tickets to Garden & Gun’s Ladies-only Fly-fishing Excursion.  She was thrilled.  She has spent several month planning for the trip and took her best girlfriend with her.

Yesterday she texted me this picture of one of the fishes she caught.  She said that she actually caught 4 fish, two baby ones and another that she lost just as she was getting it to shore.  The smile on her face says it all for me.  She had a really good time.


I received a text over the weekend letting me know that a friend’s wife had passed away.  He was a friend from a previous work place that I regularly keep in touch with.  I had never actually met his wife, but only heard of her through my friend.  They were at a difficult time in their marriage. She was having health problem that, based on what he told me, may had degraded her mental health. What he described to me was someone who was cruel and mean, particularly to him.  She had isolated herself in a back bedroom and rarely came out and almost never interacted with him.  There were several instances where she had called the police on him alleging physical abuse.  According to him, she had even alienated her children.  She only considered her sister as family. Not an enviable situation to be in.

Receiving the news of her death put me in a difficult social situation.  I have seen before when an abusive spouse dies and immediately is forgiven of all sins and only the good times are remembered.   The first time caught me off guard and I committed a social mistake by not recognizing that death changed the situation.  I was guarded this time and would not make that mistake again.

I called my friend and spoke to him.  As I expected, he was devastated by her death.  Despite her numerous health problem, I don’t think he had mentally prepared for her death.  He spoke of her in loving terms as if their life together had been one big honeymoon. He was a dutiful husband and he sincerely loved her.

As humans, we have a tremendous capacity to forgive.  We also want to desperately forget the bad parts of our lives.  I think this is normal and perhaps healthy.  I think this is what true love does.  I have seen people who are bitter and never let go of the hate and abuse.  However, I think with those individuals are seeking attention and victim status from others. True love forgives and forgets the abuse and remembers the love.

Nota Bene:  I hope you found this post helpful, but it was really written to help me process my thoughts and feelings about this situation. I find it helpful to write about difficult situations.

Sunday Morning with Pawpaw

My granddaughter Abigail spent the night last night.  Her Mom and Dad attended a wedding in Athens, GA and thought this would be a good opportunity to see how Abigail would do, not to mention how my daughter would do, away from her parents for a night.

My wife spends one day a week with Abigail, so there is not problem with familiarity.  She knows her “Nana” and gets a big smile on her face as Nana comes closer.    She likes to be held so that she can see what is going on and she follows Nana around the room with her eyes.

On Sunday morning, after she ate some breakfast, we had some time together.  We played on the floor for a while with her toys. I brought out my GoPro camera because I know I will want to relive this day again sometime in the future.  We took a break and sat on the couch and played with the GoPro.  As you can see in this video, at 5 ½ months old she is exploring the world through touch and taste.

Remember my Grandparents

This weekend my Grandmothers have been in my thoughts.  I can’t help thinking this is because my granddaughter will be spending the night with us. Thinking about how I want her to remember me, has prompted me to remember my relationship with my own grandparents.

I grew up living in the same town and frequently visiting my paternal grandparents. Granddaddy and Grandma Williams both lived into their 90’s.  I was an adult when they passed away.  Grandma Williams was archetypal dominant matriarch and an excellent cook. I credit her for inspiring me to cook.  It was through her that I first realized cooking for your family was a way of showing your love for them.

One of my favorite dishes that she made was potato salad.  I was very sad when she died, and I realized I would never taste her potato salad again.  Then on a visit to Biloxi we ate dinner at a friend’s house, and she severed Grandma Williams potato salad. I asked her if she could give me the recipe and she said she could, but it was from the back of a jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. In the age of Google, I was able to find Grandma Williams Potato Salad Recipe. Oh, happy days!

When Grandma Williams died, I inherited the bowl she always served potato salad in.  I still use it whenever I make her potato salad.  It brings back fond memories.

As I begin being a Grandparent, I want my grandchildren to always remember me as an engaging and playful grandfather who loved them very much.  Since I love to cook, I’m certain that one of the ways I will show my love, is by cooking for them.

Meat-less Friday

One of the advantages of the meat-less Fridays of Lent is that it gives you opportunities to eat foods that you don’t normally eat.  Today for lunch I had an egg salad sandwich.  I cannot eat this meal without Pringles potato chips.  This combination, egg salad sandwich and Pringles, goes back to my childhood when I would visit my maternal grandmother’s house in Orlando. Grandma Callanan like egg salad sandwiches and she was an early fan of Pringles potato chips.  While visiting her house we would often have this for lunch. To this day, I never eat an egg salad sandwich without Pringles. Another potato chip would not be the same.

Bellingrath Gardens

Bellingrath Gardens.

I took the family to Bellingrath Gardens this weekend.  Visiting the gardens was a bucket list item for me. I grew up in Pensacola and remember hearing about the gardens and the annual azalea bloom. When I lived in Mobile, I never took the time to visit.

It was not the ideal day to visit the gardens, but having made the trip, we still went.  Recent rains have beat down some of the azaleas.  It is overcast and a little windy today.  I was a little cold as we walked through the gardens, but I was not uncomfortable.  We warmed up by touring the conservatory and the home.  The azaleas were probably at their peak last weekend, but the gardens were still colorful.

The house was impressive. The architect, George B Rogers did a wonderful job incorporating the unique features of the site to build a comfortable house for its time.  The house was before air conditioning and located next to a river, where biting insect would need to be considered.

The house is furnished as a museum and not as the Bellingraths’ would have lived in it.  Bessie enjoyed collecting porcelain and  the house was decorate with some very beautiful pieces.  The dining room tables were all set as if expecting guest  The main dining room was impressive and decorated with mirrors, gold, and red curtains.

The gardens began in 1927 when, after a trip to Europe, Walter and Bessie Bellingrath hired architect George B Rogers to convert Walter’s fishing camp into a country estate.  In 1935 the couple built a 10,500 square foot home on the property.  It is all spectacular to see.

Bessie Bellingrath died in 1943, 12 year before her husband.  Walter created a trust for the house and gardens “as a fitting and permanent memorial to my wife.”

Walter was a very successful businessman.  In 1903, Walter purchased the Coca-Cola franchise for Mobile, AL for $1,500.  I’m certain that, at the time, that was a large investment. I was intrigued by Walter’s success and purchase a biographical book about him in the gift shop. It should be an interesting read.

I’m happy we made the trip and that I’ve finally been to Bellingrath Gardens.  It is a very nice botanical visit and the staff maintains it beautifully.  I came for the azaleas and was not disappointed, despite the less than perfect weather.  I suspect that all year round the staff keeps the grounds colorful with seasonal flowers. I won’t make a special trip to visit again, but If I’m in the areas and have the time, I will come to see what is in bloom.

My Thoughts and Prayers

I’m still trying to process the mosque shooting in New Zealand, but I came across this article by Andrew Klavin: My thoughts and Prayers.  This is the quote that resonated with me:

“When tragedy or atrocity strikes — as it just did with the mosque shootings in New Zealand — thoughts and prayers are not just an expression of compassion. They are, more importantly and more wisely, an expression of humility and helplessness. They are a way of saying: “There is nothing we can do in the face of this wickedness but we stand in solidarity with the victims and ask God to comfort their families in their sorrow.”

Almost every other reaction is absurd. To suggest you have the solution to the eternal problem of evil in the form of addressing your pet peeve or of blaming and attacking your political opponents is disgraceful. It is to use the bodies of the slain for a soap box. It degrades you and insults the victims.”

It is human nature to look to our civic and political leaders in times of tragedy such as this.  I find it disappointing how shallow in stupid they appear to be when they open their mouths.  Tell me again why do we admire celebrities?

Captain Marvel

I took Albert to see the new Captain Marvel movie today. I was pleasantly surprised. I have seen several reviews on the internet that prepared me for a Girl Power, anti-male, estrogen overdose, but the movie I saw did not leave that impression. I didn’t see any scenes or dialog that triggered a negative response. It was an action filled movie with a lot of special effects. I was pleasantly entertained by the story. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give it a solid 8.

Nota bene: I’m the youngest an only male child in my family. I have three older sisters. My mother and paternal Grandmother were both very headstrong women. I do not feel threatened by anyone, male or female, who makes the most of their God given gifts and talent’s. My world view does not see me competing with others, but only myself. I’m trying to become the best person I can be with my God given talent’s and resources.

Happy Mardi Gras!!

I consider Mardi Gras season a great southern tradition. Being from the Gulf Coast, my wife and I grew up celebrating the season. It is an excuse to get together with friends and family and party. My family continues the tradition here in the Atlanta suburbs by decorating the house during Mardi Gras.

Twice we have attended Mardi Gras in New Orleans and I hope to return in the future with my whole family. It is an amazing party.

My wife and I with family before the 2009 Bacchus Ball in New Orleans

Solar Minimum

A few years ago, I had a discussion with my sisters. They were aghast that I didn’t believe in Global Warming a.k.a. Climate Change. I defended myself by asserting that I had read several books on the subject including “The Skeptical Environmentalist” by Bjorn Lomborg and “The Little Ice Age” by Brian Fagan. When they asked what I thought was causing the environment to warm, if it is indeed warming? I said, “The Sun.”

Two article caught my attention this weekend and I’m pretty sure they’re related. The first was a piece in the LA Times with the headline, “A February to remembrrr in L.A.” The article notes, “For the first time since forecasters began recording data — at least 132 years — the mercury did not reach 70 degrees in downtown Los Angeles for the entire month of February.” As Sargent Schultz would say, “Very Interesting.”

The second article was from a website that I check frequently entitled “A Month Without Sunspots” I’m confident that the two article are related.

I still don’t believe in Global Warming a.k.a. Climate Change and I feel these articles reinforce my belief that the Sun, not human activity, is having the largest impact on whether our environment is warming or not. But don’t believe me, I don’t have a college degree in meteorology, my annual income is not dependent on government grants for research, nor am I a Marxist/socialist trying to control other people’s happiness. I’m just curious.

Fond Memories

Nine years ago I went with Albert and his Boy Scout Troop, to go rock climbing at Rocktown, GA. Now all these boys are grown and out of college. We had a lot of fun that day.

Quote of the Day

“Secrecy is the keystone to all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy and censorship. When any government or church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man who has been hoodwinked in this fashion; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, whose mind is free. No, not the rack nor the atomic bomb, not anything. You can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.”
― Robert A Heinlein

“The Green New Deal” as extreme anchor

Too much ink has been spilled this week ridiculing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and her minions’ proposal of “The Green New Deal.” Pundits and talk show hosts have pointed out the economic impossibility of the plan and what it would do to our economy and standard of living. I think what they are missing is that “The Green New Deal” is an extreme anchor. Let me explain.

Your teenage child is going out with friends on a Saturday night. You want him/her home by 10:00PM, they of course want to stay out until midnight like all the cool kids. So, at the start of the negotiation of what time they will be home you suggest and extreme anchor and say, “be home by 8:00PM.” Your teenager goes completely nuts and screams about how all the cool kids’ parents let them stay out until 12:00, etc. By suggesting 8:00PM you have completely changed the dynamic of the negotiation. Your teenager has completely given up on staying out until midnight and is now willing to take whatever they can get to stay out as long as you will let them. Now anything you suggest that is later than 8:00pm sound reasonable. In negotiating that is how an extreme anchor works. It makes anything short of what you originally suggested appear reasonable and a compromise.

This is why I believe “The Green New Deal” is an extreme anchor. Its supporters don’t really think they are going to get everything in “The Green New Deal,” but they will get some of it. What they are really trying to do is shift the country to the left. Anything they get will appear reasonable compared to what they say they want.

I suggest the Republicans try a similar tactic. They should make elimination of the Federal Income Tax and shrinking of the Federal government their party platform. They should list Federal agencies and programs they want to eliminate. This extreme anchor will drive the Democrats and the Media nuts, but anything less than their original plan will appear reasonable.

Goodbye Pensacola

The pier on Pensacola Beach

This morning, as I looked out across Pensacola Beach, I realized that this is most likely the last time I will see Pensacola. I grew up here and lived here for a total of 24 years. I moved away 27 years ago in 1991, so I have not lived here longer than I lived here. Today, the only reason I can foresee for visiting Pensacola in the future would be to attend a friend’s daughter’s wedding or the Blue Angels beach airshow. I think it is this finality that is making me feel sentimental this morning.

Pensacola was a nice place to grow up. I don’t think I had an idyllic childhood, but I’m not bitter about it, either. My mother encouraged all her children to leave Pensacola and see the world and we did. Later in life, when no one lived nearby to take care of her, she might have regretted her decision. She gave us a sense of adventure and I’m looking forward to all the other places I will go in the future. Goodbye Pensacola.

Celebrating my Mom’s Life

At 10:00 this morning we had a Memorial Service for my Mom at St Paul’s Catholic Church in Pensacola. It was a beautiful service, particularly the music and singing. I believe Mom would have been happy with how it all turned out. Her granddaughter Daisy gave a touching eulogy at the end.

Immediately after the church service, we drove to Bayview Memorial Park. It was the normal funeral procession complete with motorcycle Police escort. The service at the grave side didn’t take more than ten minutes. Father gave my sister Martha a small crucifix, which Martha gave to Daisy as a memento for speaking at the funeral. We planned to wait and watch the cemetery workers bury the urn, but a rain shower blew in right as the priest finished the service.

The Williams Family plot at Bayview Memorial Park

Afterward, we went to McGuire’s Irish Pub for lunch. We had almost 35 people attend. I believe everyone had a great time. I saw several people, including myself, order my Mom’s favorite drink, a frozen Irish coffee.

I’m certain my Mom would be impressed with the attendance at her Memorial Service. Her three sisters Rita, Dorothy, and Jane were there. All her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren attended. Her niece Jennifer and nephew John Vincent came from Northern California. Her niece and godchild Lynda and her sister Margo came from Texas. Her nephew Joe came from Toronto. Her niece Ann came from Georgia. It was really nice to have so many family members make the journey to attend.

After lunch, Shari, my sister Nancy, and I drove by Mom’s old house and along Tanglewood Drive. The first thing I noticed was that the new owners removed all the Gerber Azaleas from the front flower bed. I remember how hard I worked to clear out that flower bed and plant those white azaleas. I also remembered how each year Mom would tell me how full of flowers and how beautiful they were.

The whole family gathered together again around 5:30 at the house my sister Anita rented. We visited for the rest of the night. Anita ordered pizzas and Martha brought the left-over bar-b-que from the gathering at her house the night before. It was so nice to be able to visit with everyone. My cousin Jennifer Bailey took the photo below of some of us.

All together

Proud Parents

Tonight, we attended the Georgia Special Olympic Games Opening Ceremony where Albert was awarded the 2019 Male Athlete of the Year. The award is more of an acknowledgement of his activities outside of Special Olympics, but he is quite an athlete. Congratulations!!

Georgia Special Olympic 2019 Athletes of the Year

Chick-fil-a Bowl Florida vs Michigan

We left the house right on schedule and stopped at a McDonalds drive-thru for breakfast. We ate in the car as I drove to the MARTA station. I was surprised to find plenty of parking. We added trips to our MARTA BREEZE Cards and got on a train headed to town. We sat near a few Gator Fans who were also going to the game.

Once we arrived at the Five-Points MARTA stations we change to a West Bound Train to get to the stadium. It was really foggy around the stadium. We walked around a little and then found where the parade was ending. We stood there a few minutes watching the parade. While we were watching the parade, a friend from Church came up to us and said Hello. Small world. The Florida Marching Band came by and we followed it into the Georgia World Congress Center were the Fan-Fest activities are held.

After entering Fan-Fest we met up with Shari’s friend Melanie who is volunteering. After visiting with her for a few minutes we walked around Fan-Fest taking it all in. There were a lot of activities, but most had long lines. We waited in line for about 20 minutes at a basketball toss that Albert wanted to do. Then we walked around more until we arrived at the Face Painting booth. We all got a little face painting done. Albert had his whole face painted.

Go Gators!!

As game time approached, we walked from Fan-Fest to the stadium. Our tickets are on the 300 level, so it took a few minutes to get up there. Once at the 300 level we walked around and surveyed our choices of food. Albert chose an Italian sausage sandwich. Shari and I decided on Fresh-Mex, but the portions were small. After eating we walked to our seats. Shari’s friend Melanie and her Brother-in-Law Larry were already in their seats when we arrived.

The game was over around 4:00. By the time we got out of the stadium, rode the MARTA train back to the car, and then drove home, it was almost 5:30 before we arrived at the house. We watched a little news and cleaned up our faces before going to Taco-Mac for dinner and to watch the second half of the Clemson vw Notre Dame football game. A great day filled with good football.

Thanksgiving 2018

At the first Thanksgiving that Shari and Jessica attended at my parent house, my Mom took Jessica into the backyard to pick magnolia leaves off the tree. They used the leaves to make the feathers for a turkey centerpiece for the Thanksgiving table. The centerpiece was a pineapple with the magnolia leaves and a red turkey head my mother had made. When my mother died, she left the turkey head she made to my daughter Jessica.

This year Jessica and her husband Matt hosted Thanksgiving dinner at their house for the first time. Jessica bought a pineapple and wanted to make the centerpiece for the table. I helped Albert gather Magnolia leaves to complete the turkey’s tail. Shari put the leaves in the pineapple to make the tail. Jessica pinned the head on the pineapple. I took this picture of Albert and Jessica with the pineapple turkey. The framed picture is from the first Thanksgiving that Shari and Jessica ate with my family. Jessica photo-bombed the photo in the bottom right. Too cute.

Fine, Fine, Fired

We had a disappointing day because Albert was fired from his job at North Fulton Hospital. We have heard for weeks that he wasn’t doing the work. Shari sounded the alarm two weeks ago about Albert buying drink at a vending machine as many as 5 times in one day. She alerted, Donna, Albert’s Briggs and Associates advocate about the vending machine activity. It sounds to me that in the end, Albert social nature did him in. Evidently, he wasn’t getting the work done because he was socializing or wandering between deliveries.

I was extremely disappointed in Albert and in his advocate with Briggs and Associates. Being fired from a job, in my mind, is the worst possible outcome. Being fired is a setback for anyone and it normally result in a lesser job the next time. I don’t think Albert has processed what happened yet and what it really means.

Yosemite to Bakersfield, CA

I woke up this morning around 6:30. I laid in bed until almost 7:00. Coffee is available at 8:00 downstairs and breakfast is at 8:30. We are packing the car before breakfast so we can get on the road immediately afterwards. It is a 4-hour drive to Sequoia NP, our next stop.

Stopped in Fresno for lunch at In-N-Out burger.

It took a long time to get to Kings Canyon NP and the to drive on to Sequoia NP. We really didn’t have much on our list to see, but we did see the General Sherman the largest, by volume, of any tree in the world. The giant Sequoias are impressive to see.

After stopping to see the General Sherman, we drove out of the park on a curvy mountain road. It took much longer than we thought because you could only go slow it was so curvy. At one point, a construction crew had torn up two miles of road down to the dirt. It was one lane driving through it.

By the time we were at the bottom of the mountain, it was beginning to get dark. We drove through some citrus groves on our way to Visalia and then on to Bakersfield. We arrived in Bakersfield around 8:00. We stopped at a Panera Bread for dinner.

While driving to Bakersfield on CA-99 we saw the sunset. It is worth noting because the land is so flat in that area that the final view of the sun just looks like a ball on the edge of the world. I’m not describing it well, but it was an interesting site to see.

After checking in the hotel, we took our bags up to the room. Shari did one load of laundry in the guest laundry. It was around 10:30 before she finished, and we went to bed.

Yosemite National Park

I woke up this morning at 5:40. I slept all night and I only remember waking up briefly for a drink of water. We slept with the windows open and my throat was dry.

I got up and worked on my journal adding details about our last two days. It always surprises me how much time it can take to add all the memorable details to a journal.

We went down for breakfast a little after 8:00 this morning. Our hostess had prepared a vegetarian quiche, sausages, and fruit for breakfast. It was all delicious.

We left the B&B around 9:30 and headed back to Yosemite NP. We parked in the main parking lot and walked to find a bus, we just saw a bus leave the stop. The time table posted at the bus stop indicated that the next bus wouldn’t be for 30 minutes. We decided to walk to the Vernal Fall trail head. At one point we go a little disoriented and came up on a bridge. This was the view from the bridge.

Shari found a park employee and confirmed we were headed in the right direction. We continued walking for another 30 minutes through part of the park we would not have normally visited. It was interesting.

The Vernal Falls hike was steep in the beginning and I had to stop several times to catch my breath. We made it to the bridge which had a majestic view. At the bridge we decided to walk the rest of the trail up to the falls. Another 3/4 of a mile of steep trail and rock steps as we reached closer to the falls.

After the hike we took a shuttle bus back to the Village and then another to the hotel where we ate lunch in the bar. I had a three bar-b-que pork sliders plate. Each slider was a different style of bar-b-que. I thought the Korean one tasted the best. It also came with chips that included sweet potatoes and blue potatoes. It was a colorful plate.

After lunch we walked around the hotel and bought some souvenirs. Then we went back to the car and drove up to Taft Point and hiked the 1.1 miles to the end of the overlook where we watched the sunset. Looking down from taft point you could see cars at Yosemite Park below.

Since the sun was setting, we couldn’t stay long at Taft Point. We walked quickly back to the car and drove back to the B&B. Once back at the B&B I squeezed my car into an available parking space, and we went next door and had pizza and beer for dinner. We sat outside and ate. It was considerably warmer down here than it had been at Taft Point.

To Yosemite

I woke up at 4:00 and went back to sleep until 6:00. Shari and Albert were sleeping soundly, so I laid in bed until 6:30. Then I got up and made a cup of coffee. Shari woke up around 7:15 and Albert shortly thereafter. Around 8:15 we went down for breakfast. Belgian waffles were the specialty of the house, so we each had one. I had mine with Nutella and banana. I really enjoyed it. We check out of the hotel a little after 9:00 and headed south to Yosemite.

From Lake Tahoe we followed CA-89 over the mountains. The ride was fantastic and beautiful. Not much fall color with all the conifers, but every now and again there would be a patch of Aspens with deep yellow leaves. It was really spectacular. After descending from the mountains, we drove for a long time through Hope Valley to Markleeville where we started to climb another mountain. Before descending we stopped at an overlook where you could see Mono Lake below. Very Beautiful. After Lee Vinings, CA we left US-395 for CA 120 which took us to and entrance to Yosemite National Park. We drove 59 miles along CA-120 to get to the main part of the park. The drive was spectacular. I know I’ve used the word “spectacular’ a lot, but I really don’t know another word to describe what we saw.

It was after 2:00 before we arrived at the main part of Yosemite NP. We drove down the main drag stopping near El Capitan to take pictures. We did a short hike to the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls. Everything is so beautiful it almost hard to process. We drove through the valley and then found a parking spot near the visitor center. We walked to the visitor’s center, but there wasn’t much to see there. We walked back to the car and stopped in a few shops along the way. Once back at the car, we drove out of the park and to our hotel.

The hotel was not very far outside the park. It was a little hard to find because it was tucked behind another hotel complex. We check in with Liz out hostess and unloaded the car. Since we skipped lunch, we decided to have an early dinner and walked over to the River restaurant that was near the hotel.

After dinner we went to the hotel in front of ours because they had a small shop with provisions. We bought a bottle of wine and a few souvenirs. We walked back to our hotel and when we arrived, Liz let us know she had cookies in the common area. We went upstairs to our room and dropped off a few things and then went downstairs and had cookies. Liz and Shari talked about what hikes we should do tomorrow.

We went back upstairs to our room and we all enjoyed the bottle of wine on the deck outside out room. The deck overlooks the Merced River. A full moon was rising over the mountain and it had a Halloween look to it. After we finished off the bottle of wine, Shari and I stayed outside for a little while discussing how fortunate we are that we can make this trip. We went inside and went to bed.

Lake Tahoe, California

Left the house this morning at 3:45am to make a 6:00 flight.

Slept on the flight to Denver. I enjoyed having to change planes in Denver. It was a nice break.

We arrived in Reno, Nevada a little before 10:00 in the morning local time. Our luggage was waiting for us when we arrived at baggage claim. We walked over to the National Rental Car kiosk in the parking garage and claimed our 2018 Nissan Murano with California license plates. I want to look like a local.

We took I-580 South from Reno and the exited onto NV-431 Mount Rose Hwy. We drove past the Rose Mountain Ski Resort and on to Incline Village where we took NV-28 along Lake Tahoe. We drove along stopping occasionally to enjoy the vistas. We turned on US-50 and took it into California. At the Nevada-California state line there are a few large casinos and then you cross into California. The only State Line marker I saw looked like a street sign.

We located our hotel for the evening, but check-in isn’t until 3:00, so we drove back to the main part of town and found a restaurant for lunch. We ate the Cold Water Brewery and Grill. Nice place, I had the fish tacos and a Mr. Toads Wild Rye beer. The plate had two tacos and corn on the cob. Just the right amount of food. Mr. Toads Wild Rye was an amber beer with a slightly hoppy flavor. I enjoyed both.

After lunch we wanted to take a hike near Lake Tahoe. Our first choice of a trail was Lower Eagle Falls near Emerald Bay. The drive there was spectacular, unfortunately when we arrived, there were no parking spots available. A CHIPS officer was writing ticket for all the cars illegally parked. We drove back to the Taylor Creek Visitor Center where we found a couple of hikes. At first ,we took the Rainbow trail which takes you through Taylor marsh and along Taylor Creek. Then we took the Lake of the Sky trail which took us down to the shore of Lake Tahoe. It was a beautiful view of the lake along the rocky shoreline.

After our hike we went to the hotel to check-in. Shari made us reservations at Fireside Lodge Bed and Breakfast. My first impression as we drove past, was not good. From the street it looked like an old motor lodge that had been refurbished. But this place was fantastic. Each of the ten rooms has a theme. We stayed in the “Field and Stream” Room. It was decorated with antique fishing gear and old Field and Stream magazine art. It was a cozy and comfortable room. The common areas are wonderful. There is a living room that doubles as the breakfast room in the morning, a game room with working vintage arcade games and an air hockey table, a dry sauna and relaxation area, an outdoor fire pit where we made s’mores. The breakfast was great with the main entre being Belgian Waffles with a large variety of toppings. I had one with Nutella and banana. Delicious.

Cowboy Boots

I had a pair of cowboy boots when I was five or six years old. I wore them everywhere, mostly with shorts. I used to romp, play, and explore the woods across the street from my house in them. I was Fess Parker, my favorite actor in the Daniel Boone TV series. As you can tell, I have lifelong fond memories of them. So, it is a bit of a mystery why it took me fifty years to get another pair. Here’s to new adventures in my cowboy boots.

Under the Lights

My son baseball team had a rare night game tonight. It was the perfect evening for baseball. Cool without bugs. 😃

The Democratic Party hates men.

Being a heterosexual White Christian male, I’ve known for years that the Democratic Party hated me. They have made that clear time and time again. The Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearing drove that point home again. At what point will most men realize that the Democratic Party hates them?

He said, She said

I watched the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Initially, I found Dr. Ford’s testimony very credible. But when she couldn’t remember basic detail about her Grandmother funeral, an event that happened within the last 90 days, why I should trust her memory from 36 years ago.
I also, thought there were some unusual details to her story.

Below are some questions I would like to know the answer to:

    In high school, you abruptly leave a party without telling you best girlfriend, and yet the best girlfriend never asks why you left? That doesn’t sound like the high school I knew.
    Why are you just coming forward now? Judge Kavanaugh participated in a similar Senate hearing 12 years ago before being confirmed for his current judgeship, why didn’t she come forth then?

I believe every Democratic Senator asked for an FBI investigation. What should the FBI investigate? Dr. Ford was unable to remember on what date did the party took place, or who’s house it was at. Besides the guests mentioned by Dr. Ford, who don’t remember the party, who else was at the party? Can anyone corroborate Dr. Ford’s account?

I take issue with the description that this was an attempted rape. Based on what is described I would consider it at most, assault. I regret that Dr. Ford was so traumatized over it and I’m sympathetic to how it has impacted her life.

As a Southern Gentleman, there are rules of engagement when it comes to defending yourself against a woman. They limit how a Gentleman can respond to being attacked. I think these rules are necessary, but “always believe the Woman” is a naïve and reckless attitude. I was more open minded before the Duke Lacrosse episode and the UVA Fraternity story in Rolling Stone. When these happened, I believe there were calls to “always believe the Woman,” too. Those events did more damage than we realize.

In the end, if I were a member of the United States Senate, I would vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. He has had a stellar career as a jurist and I do not consider the events described from his youth, enough to negate all the good things he has done as an adult. For me, teenage immaturity should not haunt an individual for all their life. I believe we destroy juvenile criminal records to give the adult a fresh start. I would apply the same standards here.

Chick-fil-a kickoff game

Since yesterday was my company’s fiscal year-end, I went to work this morning. I worked until noon and then went home. A good friend gave us tickets to the Chick-fil-a kickoff game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. My wife and I have never been to the new stadium, my son has been to an Atlanta United game there. The game was Auburn vs Washington only my son cares about either of the teams.

It was and adventure getting to the game. We planned to ride MARTA because parking will be impossible. The first MARTA station we went to didn’t have any parking available. The trains were full of mostly Auburn fans.

We arrived before the game and explored the stadium and ate lunch. It is an impressive stadium with a great selection and variety of food and beverages.

We enjoyed the game and stayed until the end.

Project Complete

For more than a year I’ve been promising my wife that I would build her a proper compost bin. After several days of planning and construction, it is finished!!!

After finishing the construction, I screened all the compost we had before construction.

Homeward Bound

We woke up in Milano this morning at 5:00.

We took a private car from the hotel to the airport. His credit card machine wouldn’t work, so we had to stop at two ATM’s before I could get Euros to pay him.

We arrived at our gate, B2, by 8:30. We had a good 2 hours to wait before our flight begins boarding.

We landed in Atlanta at 3:25pm. We have been traveling for nearly 15 and a half hours. We left the hotel in Milan at 6:00am CEDT.

We cleared Customs and Immigration in less than 10 minutes. Thank you Global Entry.

Viaggiamo a Milano

I woke up early this morning because I was hot. The house we rented in Varenna does not have air conditioning. While laying in bed, all I could think about was why didn’t I let Albert sleep in the room with the bunk beds. It was not a big deal. He asked about it while we were orientating to the house, but our hostess suggested the bedroom he slept in and I didn’t think it was a big deal. So why am I laying in bed, wondering why I didn’t let him sleep in the bunk beds? He never mentioned it again. I don’t think he has ever slept in bunk beds before. I’m sure he would have found it fun. I regret that I didn’t tune in or that it didn’t occur to me until the last day here. I brought him all the way to Italy to have new experiences and I may have missed letting him have the simple experience of sleeping in a bunk bed. Parenting is always fun.

We left the house about 9:10. Since we were early, we went to the restaurant at the train station and ate a second breakfast. Well Shari and Albert did, I just had coffee. The train arrived a little later than scheduled. The cars were already mostly full. Shari, Albert and I were not able to sit together.

Once we arrived at Milan-Centrale train station we easily maneuvered thought the station to the Metro station. We maneuvered the Metro and got off at the Duomo station. I had a little trouble navigating with Google maps once we were out of the Metro station. We found a shady spot to figure things out and were quickly on our way.

We register at the hotel, but our room was not ready, so we checked the luggage and went out to explore and get some lunch. After lunch we walked by the Duomo to see what all the particulars were about tickets and waiting in line. We were concerned if the shorts that Albert and I were wearing and the skort that Shari was wearing would be allowed in. Shari approached and attendant who said our dress was fine and encouraged us to go to the normal ticket counter, not the Skip the Line ticket counter. So We walked across the street where we purchased three tickets and three audio guides.

We walked back across the street to get to the entrance and wait in line. As we entered the line we walked past an attendant who said we were in the wrong line. He directed us to the “skip the line”, line. We can only guess it was because he saw Albert with us that he moved us. That was a blessing because it save us 30 minutes of standing in the hot sun waiting to get in.

We walked around the Duomo for an hour listening to the audio tour. The interior is amazing with 52 sequoia size columns. After finishing the interior tour. We took the elevator to the terraces (roof). We had to go through security again and the guard kept Albert’s Guy Fawkes mask. He told us we could pick it up after we finished. The terraces are very interesting. The details that are carved into the marble is amazing. We walked all the way up to the very top of the Duomo. It was an awesome experience.

After riding the elevator back down, we stopped by the security check point and retrieved Albert’s Guy Fawkes mask and the walked over to the ticket office to return the audio guides and retrieve my passport.

We walked to the hotel and finally check into our room. It was after 6:00 when we entered the cool comfort of the room. We “chilled” in the room for a while and then decided to go get a gelato. We walked over the the Galleria Victor Emanuel and found a gelatoria. Afterward we strolled around and went outside where the Leonardo Da Vinci statue is. We sat on a bench near the statue and ate our gelato. When we finished we took a couple of pictures with the statue and then strolled along the street back towards the Duomo. After wandering around for another 30 minutes we walked back to the hotel. We all took showers and freshened up before going to bed.

Ultimo giorno al Lago di Como

This morning we took the ferry across the lake to Menaggio. Once there we wandered around the square looking for a tourist office. We never found anything, but enjoyed the walk around the lake front. We decided to walk to the Villa Carlotta. Google maps said it was a 3km walk and it would take us about an hour. Shari and Albert were game, so we started walking. Most of the walk had sidewalks, but there were a few places we had to walk on the road. At one point we walked through a tunnel, which Albert thought was a pretty neat experience. He asked me later if we were going to walk through it again.

The Villa Carlotta is an old estate and botanical garden. When we arrived we approached the ticket window and asked for three adult tickets. The tickets are €10 each. The woman at the ticket window asked how old Albert was and I told her he is an adult. Then she said in broken English, he doesn’t pay. I said, Thank you. She handed me back my card and three tickets. We all said thank you and began to walk into the gardens. It occurred to me that she didn’t have me sign anything for the charge. Then I looked at the tickets and all three were no charge. This is not the first time, in Italy, Albert has not been charged an entrance fee. The first time was when we were in Rome at Castle San Angelo. However, this is the first time the someone let all three of us in for free.

We wandered around the Villa Carlotta’s gardens for about an hour. They were spectacular in both the variety of plants and how beautifully the flowers were maintained and arranged. After touring the gardens we entered the house. It was also spectacular with the first floor having greco-roman plaster reliefs all along the walls. It contained several greco-roman statues. It also contained a collection of paintings. www.villacarlotta.it

After walking around the Villa Carlotta, Albert was starving. We walked south to Tremezzo and found a restaurant with shaded outdoor seating and ate lunch. After lunch we walked about 1/4 of a mile to the ferry launch on the lake in front of the Villa Carlotta. We found a shady spot under a tree and waited about 15 minutes for the ferry. We rode the ferry across the lake to San Geovani, then to Bellagio, Menaggio, and then to Varenna. Shari wanted to sit on the front of the ferry in the open air and sun. After a while Albert and I couldn’t handle the heat anymore and went into the main cabin. This turned out to be a good move. The normally stuffy cabin was breezy and not in the sun.

After arriving in Varenna, we walked along the water to the gelatoria where everyone got gelato, and then we walked up the the Varenna town square and found a shady spot to sit and eat our gelato. I went to fill up the water bottle at a spring outside the church and noticed the church was open. Shari and Albert walked over and we all went into the church. This was our first time inside the church in Varenna. After touring the church and saying a prayer we went back to the square and sat on a bench under a tree. Albert asked if we could leave a couple of times and I told him no. He was bored sitting in the shade. I told him we would leave once the church bells rang six o’clock.

After the church bells rang we walked back to the ferry terminal. We decided to see if we could just ride the ferry around the lake for a while. We rode a car ferry from Varenna to Menaggio. At Menaggio I realized that this would be the only ferry for 40 minutes, so we quickly got back on the ferry. We thought it was headed to Bellagio, but Varenna was it’s first stop. Once back in Varenna, we decided to get off the ferry and go up to the house and clean up. Since this is our last night in Varenna, we decided to go out to dinner.

After we all showered and dressed, we walked back down the hill to a restaurant that overlooks the ferry terminal and the lake. The restaurant specializes in lake seafood, so we all ordered seafood for dinner. Everyone enjoyed their meals and we had dessert. It looked like a thunderstorm was rolling in, so we finished up and paid so we could get back to the house before it rained.

Once back at the house, we watched the thunderstorm from the patio. The lightening flashed across the lake, but the storm moved South and away from us. Shari and I sat outside and finished off the last of the red wine and watching the lightening show across the lake.

Secondo giorno al Lago di Como

Today we explored Varenna. We are moving slow this morning and it will be a nice day to stay close to the house and see what is nearby.

We started exploring Varenna by walking down to the ferry terminal and then along the sidewalk that winds around the water front. We continued past the town center and up an alley way that brought us south of the main town square. The Tourist information center is nearby, so we went in to get a map. After reviewing the map we continued to walk south along the road past the monastery We walk along via Roma until we reached the top of the hill and steps to continue to Castle of Vezio. The climb to the castle was very steep and rocky. Albert has some difficulty. Mostly he was uncomfortable with the rocky trail and worried about loosing his footing. So he moved slow. It took us 30 minutes from the stairs to get to the castle. The castle is mostly ruins and was built by either the Romans or the Lombards depending on what historical reference you believe. The view of the lake was spectacular.

We took the ferry trail back to Varenna. It was steep and rocky and we moved slow. As we reached the end, we realized we were at the gate to our house. So we took a break and went inside for a few minutes. Next, we walked back down to the ferry terminal and along the water front. We wanted to get a gelato, but it was sunny and hot and Shari wanted to find some shade. All the gelaterias were down around the waterfront, where at this time of day it is sunny and hot. Fortunately, we found a shaded place along the sidewalk to eat our gelato. Afterward we walked back up to the shade of the town square.

While filling the water bottle near the town square, Shari notice another grocery store. So after sitting in the shade for a while, we walked over to the store. I bought a bottle of wine and a little cheese. Afterwards we walked along the road toward the house.

After the sun was low, we went outside on the patio and ate dinner. We had the meat, olives, and cheese we bought and of course, the wine. We played Uno on the patio as we watched the sun go down over the mountain.

Primo giorno sul lago di Como

This morning I learned something new. How to make coffee in an Italian stove-top espresso maker. I made one pot and it did not turn out very well. So I watched a video on YouTube and realized what I did wrong. I was using too much heat on the first batch. I used a lower heat on the second and it turned out much better.

This morning we rode the ferry over to Bellagio. Today we don’t have an agenda, we are just explored. The ferry terminal in Bellagio is right outside a promenade with shops. We strolled down the promenade until we reached the end and then crossed the street and walked along the sea wall. At one point we stopped and walked down a few steps to the water’s edge. Shari stuck her feet in the water and said it was cold. We continued to walk along the sea wall until we reached the entrance to the Villa Melzi gardens.

After pizza for lunch, we walked down Via Eugenio Vitali to Parchetto della Punta, a beautiful park on the tip of Bellagio. It has a spectacular view of the lake and a green lawn with plenty of shade. People were lounging in the grass enjoying the spectacular view of the lake. Watching the people around us, it occurred to me that what everyone wants is someone to love, maybe a family, and if you have that family, to enjoy the time together with them and to experience the world together.

Since we were all running out of gas, we walked back down to the ferry terminal to catch a boat back to Varenna. We stopped at a Gelateria along the way and each got a gelato. We boarded a ferry and sat at the front and ate our gelato as we rode back to Varenna.

After the sun went down, we went outside on the patio. I opened a bottle of wine and plated some of the meats, cheese, and olives we bought. We sat on the patio eating, drinking wine and playing Uno. We also discovered that the house came with an affectionate cat.

Ultimo giorno a Venezia

Today is our last day in Venice and a travel day. We slept in this morning and packed up for the train ride to Varenna. We left the hotel around noon and took a vaporetto to the train station. We arrived a little early, so we stood outside the train station in the shade people watching.

The train trip to Milan took a little over two hours, but we saw a lot of beautiful Italian countryside. Once in the Milan Centrale station, we waited for our train to Varenna-Esino to be assigned a platform. Our train was delayed 30 minutes, but that was not a major inconvenience.

I was having trouble finding a triple hotel room in Varenna, so I used AirBNB to find a great house. It has an awesome patio that overlooks the town an Lake Como. Here is the view.

After settling in, we walked to town to get something for dinner before the stores closed. We walked on a narrow sidewalk along the main road until we came to a set of steps. The steps led to an alley were we walked along the outside dining for several restaurants. Eventually, we came to an open area. It was the town center where the church was located. At the south end of the square, we found a shop the sold a few groceries. We bought wine, cheese, prosciutto, and salami. They were out of bread for the day. With our dinner in the bag we walked back to the house.

Once the sun went behind a cloud we sat outside and enjoyed the lake view. Shari and I sat outside on the patio watching the sun go down and the stars come out until 10:30, when we went inside to go to bed.

Terzo giorno a Venezia

This morning we stood in line for about 40 minutes to get inside the Basilica of San Marco. Once inside we toured the ground floor in a few minutes. It was dark and hard to make out much detail of the mosaics. Afterwards we went up a steep flight of stairs to reach the San Marco Museum. We toured the museum which was interesting, but what I really wanted to do was to go outside and look over Piazza San Marco.

In the afternoon, we wandered the alley ways of Venice eventually arriving at the far end of Piazza San Marco. We took a right and headed toward the Accademia. We were just strolling with no real destination or time to get there. We came to the Santa Maria De Giglio square. At one end of the square was the Ristorante Al Giglio. They had a nice shaded outdoor eating area, so stopped there for a late lunch/early dinner.

After dinner we walked to the Grand Canal and hired a gondola to take us on a tour. The tour lasted 30 minutes and it costed €100 including the tip. It was pricey, but definitely one of those things you need to experience in Venice.

After the gondola ride we continued walking toward the Accademia. We crossed the Accademia bridge across the Grand Canal. We walked along Rio Tera Foscarini until we reached the waters of the Guidecca Canal. Right then a tug boat was pulling a huge cruise ship through the canal. I’ve never been on a cruise, so it looked like a huge ship to me.

We walked back to Piazza San Marco and went to 6:45 mass in the Basilica. For mass they had the lights on which made it much easier to see the gold mosaics above the altar. We also had a choir visiting from somewhere which added beautiful a capella music to the mass. The mass was in Italian, of course. I kept up with it a little bit, but I was too slow at some place to get the responses right.

After mass we walked back to the hotel and got a gelato along the way. We ate our gelato and did a little window shopping as we walked.

Secondo giorno a Venezia

After breakfast we began walking towards the Piazza San Marco. We started at the Rialto bridge which is close to our hotel. Once we reached the Piazza we continued walking until we reached the water. A cool breeze was blowing in off the Grand Canal. We walked along the Grand Canal away from the Piazza. It was a nice stroll and we occasionally encountered large waves of fellow tourist headed toward the Piazza. We walked almost to the end before turning around and returning to the Piazza. We walked through the streets and stopped in at the Church of St Giuliano and the church of St Salvador.

This evening we ate dinner while a thunderstorm blew through. Afterwards, we walked back to Piazza San Marco and rode the elevator up to the top of the Campanile. A view of Venice from the Campanile of St. Mark’s..

Primo giorno a Venezia

Today was a travel day. We flew from Atlanta to Milan. Took the train from Milan to Venice. Then a Vaporetta from the train station to the Rialto launch which is near our hotel. We are staying at Hotel a La Commedia in Venice. It took us 17 hours of travel to get here. After freshening up, we went up to the hotel’s rooftop bar for cocktails and snacks.

Through the eyes of CNN

During my travels in Europe, I’ve noticed that most hotels have a TV somewhere in the lobby. In my experience, that TV is tuned into CNN. If most Europeans get their impression of America and Americans from CNN, they are receiving a very distorted picture.

Ant-man and the Wasp

This afternoon I took my son and a friend to see Ant-man and the Wasp. It was a really fun movie. It was extra special for my son, because he visit the set of the movie while they were filming in Atlanta. He was allowed to watch the filming of a few scenes and had the pleasure of meeting Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly on the set.

The studio visit was arrange by my nieces boyfriend, Daniele who was working on the movie. He was such a great guy and photographer. Later he presented Albert with framed copies of the photos that were autographed by Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly. What a special gift to remember a special day.

Tomato sandwiches

For lunch today I had the first tomato sandwiches of 2018. The tomatoes were some of the first, that the birds didn’t get, from my garden.

I make my tomato sandwiches with fresh soft white bread. Sunbeam “King Thin” is my favorite. I slather each side of the bread with a generous portion of Duke’s mayonnaise. Then I slice as much tomato as will fit on the bread without falling out when I pick it up to eat. Then a little salt and pepper to finish. Bon appetit, y’all. I have so many tomatoes, I had to have two sandwiches today, before the tomatoes go bad. I finished the meal with a moon pie.

In my humble opinion, that is a classic southern lunch.

Quote of the Day

“Socialism is the Axe Body Spray of political ideologies: It never does what it claims to do, but people too young to know better keep buying it anyway.” Via Instapundit

Morning Thunderstorm

This morning a thunderstorm rolled in. You could hear it coming from far away. When it reached us, It poured down rain and the lightning flashed for about fifteen minutes. There was a flash of lightning and a very loud clap of thunder and then, almost immediately, the rain stopped. The storm reminded me of the ones that would roll in off the Gulf of Mexico on a summer morning when I was growing up in Pensacola.

On Being a Gentleman

Cultivate the virtues of the soul, strong principle, incorruptible integrity, usefulness, refined intellect, and fidelity in seeking for truth. A man in proportion as he has these virtues will be honored and welcomed everywhere.

Hartley, Cecil B.. The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman’s Conduct in all his Relations Towards Society (p. 96). . Kindle Edition.

Guiltless Pleasure

Normally, I’m not a groupie or a fan boy, but after reading an interview with her in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, I consider myself a fan of Nigella Lawson. She has been a culinary sensation for some time in the UK. Shocking, because I don’t normally think of the British when I think good food.

I enjoyed the entire article, but what endeared me to her was how she replied when asked a question about what food trend she was totally over. Her reply echoed my own feelings, but she said it more eloquently.

“A food trend I am totally over is: this tendency to venerate or demonize foods. I have nothing against people wanting to eat in a way that makes them feel healthy and well; that seems eminently wise. But I feel that any form of eating that involves self-persecution can only do long-term damage, however essentially healthy a certain food trend might be. When there are so many land mines and rules, you kill the sense of kinship with the body. It makes eating something fear-filled rather than joyful.”

I must admit, I have felt for years that the kill joys in the media, government, and pop culture and been waging a food fight. Eat this, not that. You’re not healthy unless you run 5 miles per day and limit your saturated fat. On and on. The constant scolding took its toll on me.

It took my mother death to provide me some badly needed perspective. It was a stark reminder that life is short. A cliché, I know, but it helped me to prioritize my own life. I reflected on what I enjoyed and what brought meaning to my life. I realized how good food and the simple pleasure of cooking and eating with family and friends adds so much joy to my life.

Cooking has always been how I expressed my creative side. I love the traditional southern cooking of my youth, but I also love exploring different cultures through their food. Good food satisfies both my physical and intellectual hungers to explore the world and to learn. The guiltless pleasure of good food enriches my life every day.

I’m old and cynical enough to think the article was probable about getting me to buy her latest cookbook, “At My Table.” Well if that’s true, then it worked. After reviewing the table of contents, I placed my order. I look forward to sharing many wonderful meals with family and friends. Buon Appetito!