Archive for the ‘Memoirs’ Category

NOTE: I wrote the following piece circa 1989 and first published it on my web domain,, in 1995.  With only minor grammar corrections, I left it as I originally wrote it, but I now have added italicized comments in this version to point out my memory errors and to expand somewhat on the original.

It was three A.M. August 11, 1969 and I was sprawled on my bunk in the barracks of B company of the 35th S&S Battalion in Ludwigsberg, Germany reading “A Clockwork Orange“, when the CQ* announced loudly from the Peace23hallway that I had a long distance call from “the world”**. I knew that any news coming at this hour was likely not good and when I got to the phone my fears were confirmed because it was my father bearing the sad news that my stepmother had died of a heart attack. After I got off the phone I quickly learned from the CQ that It is military policy to grant a 30 day emergency leave to soldiers who lose a member of their immediate family.  Therefore in a rather dazed condition and well before noon I had already been transported via “deuce and a half (A 2.5 ton truck), to Frankfurt Rhein Main Airport and was getting ready to board a plane bound for New Jersey.   After a short stop there I caught a flight to Syracuse and was picked up there by my sister and she drove me the twenty-five miles to our home in Auburn.

For the next two days I stayed with my family to help them greet visitors etc. The whole ordeal was particularly hard on my father,  who at the time was still in the process of partial recovery from having fallen off the roof and breaking his neck. He was devoted to Helen and was devastated by her death, both because they had a very close loving relationship and also because he blamed the stress of her having to deal with his injury and care for him being a factor in her heart attack(I did not go into greater detail about my father’s situation here, because this essay originally did not stand alone and was {still is} part of the memoir about my military experience I have been writing for the last twenty years “Army Life and Oxymoron” and a whole chapter in that deals with my father). After the funeral I went to visit one of my best and lifelong friends Jimmy Leinen and he showed me a mimeographed piece of paper that”this guy out by the lake”  had given him. It was all crumpled up, and the original had been handwritten in a somewhat sloppy hand. It was an advertisement for a rock festival scheduled for the following weekend just one day away. When I saw the list of artists that were supposed to play I said to Jim with a doubtful expression:

“Yeah right! Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Who, AND Jefferson Airplane?!? Who gave you this thing anyway?” I said waving the crumpled torn paper at him.

“Some guy in a far out VW bus was givin’ ’em out by the lake(Emerson Park yesterday. He swore that this was the real thing.”

“Probably a bunch of crap” I said.

“Oh yeah? Well what if it really happens and we miss it?” He asked with an indignant smile and then added seriously “besides, I just had a gut feeling he was telling the truth.”

“Maybe” I said with more than a little doubt showing in my voice and then on a brighter note I added, “sheeit man!   it would be fun to drive down there anyway, so let’s!”

Despite my initial doubts, on Friday August 15th, 1969 at about 9:30 a.m., myself, Jimmy, Frank Collela, and another friend of ours, Eddie Shanahan climbed in Frank’s car and started off on the close to 300 mile trip to Bethal, New York. Bethel is a small town near the artist community of Woodstock and the place the concert was actually held. The concert wasn’t in the town itself, but on a farm outside town owned by one Max Yazgar (the farmer of peace), as unlikely a person to foster such an enterprise as could be imagined.

Frank was the self-assigned leader on this mission and as it turned out, at least in this case, we were glad he was. He was the resident acid guru of Auburn’s version of the “beautiful people.”  and was well versed in the knowledge of all drugs and hippie philosophy, having majored in such at the University of Hawaii.  Read some of Frank’s experiences at that place on his blog here.

It was about 2:30 in the afternoon when we got as close as we could by car. We could see no evidence of the vent and one person we spoke to said it was about a 12 mile walk.  I do not know if it was twelve miles, but what we saw was that at the point where we had stopped, the  two lane country road was packed solid, four cars across as far as the eye could see – a giant immobile snake.   Fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars were mixed in with the rest, all at a total standstill, and most unoccupied.  Walking along the road on either sid of the road as far as we could see were knots of people heading away from us and toward the concert.

“Fuck this!” said Frank “There has gotta be a better way than walkin’ way they hell over there” and while he was saying this he was already in the process backing up and heading down a country road to the left and away from the throng of cars. He didn’t even think to ask for a vote, but even if he had, I think we would have all agreed not to take that walk even if it was less than 12 miles.

We drove down that road for about a mile and then took a right on another even smaller road, hoping to find a back way in. After about a half hour of weaving around on this very bumpy road, we came upon a farm on our right with a farmer standing next to his barn holding a pitchfork like a staff at his side, and wearing coveralls, like he was posing for portrait by Grant Wood. Frank got out and asked the guy if he knew a back way in the concert. The farmer said for $20 he did. We scraped that together among us, which took some scraping as none of us had much money and $20 was a lot in those days. Frank handed him the money and we proceeded to follow this guy in our car as he drove his tractor on highly inaccessible roads through farm fields, woods, around fallen logs for a good twenty minutes until suddenly there we were!  In our car in the middle of 500,000 people! Didn’t have to walk at all(Actually after having Frank read this essay several years ago, he pointed out that I had events wrong and I realized he was right — my memory of events had become quite distorted over the years. In fact, I did not see Frank at the concert until after Jimmy and I arrived in another car.  When we found him he was standing next to his{the only} car near the “lake” {farm pond – mud hole} and as soon as we saw him, he {with widely dilated eyes} told us the story of how his car got to this point pretty much the way I related above.  When I wrote the original sometime in the ’80s, I had already told and re-told the story so many times and in doing so I had morphed myself into that car with Frank and I swear I really believed experienced  the whole thing first hand, farmer and all).

   What really made Woodstock unique was that the authorities didn’t have any idea how many of us were going to show up.  In fact, since Woodstock was advertised by word of mouth or in the way I found out, most of the authorities did not know anybody was going there. They were thankfully not ready. That is why all other attempts at this type of concert afterward pale by comparison. At Watkins Glenn, which followed shortly in Woodstock’s wake for example, the authorities and the entrepreneurs  were ready to make people march to their tune, with a hoard of policeman “busting heads” and vendors to sell every kind of crap one can imagine. And then there was Altamont, where the ‘Stones‘ made the mistake of hiring the ‘Hells Angels‘ as security guards and “the Angels” idea of security was murdering concert goers who stepped out of line. At Woodstock people were free to do exactly what they wanted and there was no one to tell them they couldn’t use drugs, go naked, or publicly make love. I saw a guy with a huge hunk of hashish sitting on the back of his station wagon hairy from head to toe and stark naked, actively trading his wares while a policeman stood not 20 feet away watching this with astunned, powerless look on his face, like a little boy who has lost track of his mother at the grocery store(The music flowed to us all from one-hundred foot high speaker stands on either side of a huge stage sitting at the bottom of a Natural Amphitheater formed in the grassy farmland.  I never really made it down close to the music as humanity became more and more tightly packed the closer to the music one squeezed, so Jimmy and I did not venture there.  Jimmy, is paraplegic and has always utilized a wheelchair, so he certainly had no interest in doing so).  Besides, that was one hell of a sound system and you could hear the music just fine no matter where you wandered.

I am aware that we were pretty wild at that time, and our viewpoints were rather idealistic and oversimplified. We “love generation” people had no clue that our revolution would come to a grinding halt with the advent of AIDS twenty years later. Even considering the utter failure of free love, we still accomplished something significant in my opinion. We got together with 500,000 people for three days of peace and music. Put another way, we were a major city for three days. Two babies were born, and not one act of violence is recorded as having been committed. I certainly didn’t witness one. I challenge anyone to Find one city this size then find any three day period in it’s history that was violence free (Frank also pointed out my error here by adding the comment you can see below in comments “Also, I must remind you that there was at least one act of violence… I punched a guy, who was having a bum trip, in the face… you of all people should remember that since you sent that radio dude from Canada to interview me for a documentary he was doing… LOLOL”  The person Frank refers to had interviewed me after reading my piece in research for a story he was doing to celebrate Woodstock’s 25th anniversary.   In addiction to CBC, I was interviewed by the BBC and representative from a Japanese TV station at that time as well).

Actually, the most fun I had at the event was after the torrential rain storm soaked us all.  The grassy hills with troughs of water running down them made the best natural slip-and-slides possible and I took full advantage of them, resulting in my entire being being caked with mud.  When I finally saw the movie — ironically in a movie theater in Amsterdam where the imbibing of the same types of substances freely imbibed at Woodstock were also freely available — I hoped to catch a glimpse of myself sliding in the mud with the other manics out there, but I could not.  

When I got back to Germany after this experience and word got around that I had been to Woodstock,  I was the envy of all the hippies in all of the companies at our post and before long, I had acquired the nickname (that I did not care for) of “Woodstock”, which all my German friends of course pronounced “Voodstock.”

Oh! and one more thing.  We may not have ushered the world into a free-love panacea, but it is clear to me at least that history has shown that we were right about Viet Nam.

* CQ stands for Charge of Quarters.  Each company has a small office occupied by this person after working hours and all night every night.  This duty was assigned by roster and shared by all form corporal (E4) through Staff Sergeant (E6).  I was an E4, so I pulled CQ several times.

** I Remember well that by this time I was already tired of hearing this moronic derogatory GI term implying that Germany is not part of the world


. . . Four Days of Communication at HK

I am beginning this blog while sitting in the Best Western in Woodbury, NY, not far from Sands Point, NY the home of The Helen Keller National Center, where I just spent the last four nights  and days.   It the most rewarding conference of any kind that I have ever attended in my thirty-six years in the field human service,  my twenty-seven years in that of visual impairment or my twelve years as an O&M instructor – having attended a pile of conferences throughout.   I am not however casting disparagement on the others I attended,  because I always learned new things and usually came away greatly enriched.  But even after four days  of demanding work from dawn ’till dusk and beyond, with only five-minute breaks between sessions, working lunches and sessions after dinner,  rather than being exhausted I was so energized I practically floated to my car when I left.  At the seminar we covered mountains of valuable material and while I will summarize the gist of what was offered, no way could I ever do the material justice, but really that is not the purpose of this blog.   As I was leaving the conference, many of my colleagues requested that I send them copies of the photos I took and I think displaying them here is probably the best way I can make them easily available  without emailing monster emails to everyone.  Below before the pictures start is in a tiny nutshell summary of some of the sessions and activities from the conference, but first I would like to mention and thank all of the participants and instructors for the help, support and camaraderie that they generously offered throughout the experience.  I would, from the bottom of my heart like to thank:

Landra B. 
(Ontario, CA),   Magali G. (Ashland MA),
Wayne M. (Denver CO),  Monique M. (Denver CO), Chantae S. (Sands Point, NY),
Amber W. (Kalamazoo MI), Katie C. (Indianapolis, IN), Patrick G. (Burlington VT){my roommate at HK}), Merri L.(Riverside CA), Tricia M. (Sands Point, NY),
Debra S. (Talladega, AL), Sherrie W.(Hempstead, NY), Feng Y.(Salt Lake City, UT),
Heddy Z. (Riverside CA).

Anindya “Bapin” Bhattacharyya
, BA – Technology and Training Specialist Helen Keller National Center (San Francisco, CA)
Eugene Bourquin, DHA, COMS, CI & CT, CLVT – Senior instructor Orientation and Mobility Department at Helen Keller National Center(Manhattan, NY)
Eleanor Carlson, MA, COMS, GDMI Helen Keller National Center – Regional representative (Denver CO),
Deborah Fiderer, BA Supervisor Community Services Helen Keller National Center, Monica Godfrey-Lehrer, MA COMS – Supervisor Technology Department Helen Keller National Center
Carol Hammer, MA, CCC-A, F-AAA – Audiologist Helen Keller National Center
Deborah Harlin, MS, TVI Supervisor Technology Department Helen Keller National Center Joseph McNulty, MA Executive Director Helen Keller National Center
Dona Sauerburger, MA COMS Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist (Gambris, MA)
And last, but far from least
Sr. Bernadette J. Wynne, MA Coordinator National Training Team Helen Keller National Center.

I would also like to offer special thanks to my roommate Patrick, for being the best of all possible roommates imaginable.  I would also like to thank my fellow team members –Landra, Monique, Christie and especially Jill our student — who all helped me greatly to get through the very challenging task of beginning to learn and implement techniques to teach deaf-blind mobility skills  in downtown port Washington.  Oh and thanks to the interpreters and their great feedback as well.

Also, I would like to thank the kitchen staff for providing us with three square meals daily that were really quite good, along with their good nature and the sense of humor that they exhibited while dispensing it to us.


Our first session offered us a history of deaf-blindness and most of us were surprised to learn that Helen Keller was not the first person of deaf-blindness who was formally trained.  We found out that Ms Victorine Morriseau (1789 – 1832 had that distinction and that the second one was Ms. Laura Bridgman born in 1829 and who attended the Perkins School for the Blind in 1837.   We then found out that the third person with deaf-blindness known be educated was Julia Brace (1807 – 1884) and that Helen Keller (1880 – 1968) was the fourth.  Also in this session we also learned about the history of deaf-blind education, who is included in that population and the breakdown of the physical conditions that lead to deaf-blindness.  We learned about the major causes of Deaf-blindness and we learned how Rubella was the leading cause in history for the condition, and that today Usher’s Syndrome is the leading cause.   We also learned the characteristics of  Charge Syndrome and how this genetic effect brings about deaf-blindness.

In our next session we learned about the characteristics of deaf-blind culture and how it differs from those of  both non-disabled and other disabled populations and after that we jumped right into the much larger topic of communication with persons who are deaf blind along with a general discussion of various signed languages; what is and is not a language; the role of the interpreter; the responsibilities of the interpreter and much more that I could possibly do justice to in this blog.

Next, (and I am not sure whether this occurred late Monday or Early Tuesday) we learned about the various technology available to people who are deaf-blind to aid in communciation.   Without going into detail, I will list the items discussed.   We learned about: The Brailliant B40 Braille display; Screen and text enlargement programs such as  Window Eyes and ZoomText; Features in the iPad that can be used by users who are deaf-blind; The DBC (Deaf-Blind Commuicator; The iPhone 4s, and more, including other adapted devices like the sonic bat-like  Mini-guide and the iBill a talking/vibrating money ID machine.  When we had finished our session with technology,  Our FL (Fearless Leader) Gene announced to us offhandedly that right after this session, we would be heading to Port Washington, where we would all be hopping on a train to Manhattan to participate in a “Street Crossing Race”, an activity that none of us had the faintest idea as to the nature of.  We soon found out.

After the group convened at the train station in Port Washington and Gene instructed in how to get our tickets, we obtained them and boarded the train and headed for Penn Station in the Big Apple.   Along the way Gene entertained us with bits of his endless fascinating knowledge of the area, pointing out restaurants and other landmarks along the way.  Also along the way he gave us the basic idea of what we had in store for us in the “Street Crossing Race.”  We found out that when we got to the starting point — 7th Ave. and 34th St. — the two teams — our group was divided in half —  would congregate on the opposite corners of 34th Street and 7th Ave.  At the starting signal, one member from each team was to don a blindfold and using her or his cane, walk to the next corner (35th), stand there and display a sign like the one below . . .

. . . by holding it over the non-cane side shoulder until a passing pedestrian gives the tapping signal and after that person guides the participant to the other side, also the helper has moved on and cannot observe,  the blindfold is taken off and passed on to the next victim.

Although I did not express it, I will admit that when I looked up the 7th St. sidewalks on both side of 34th to see people flowing five abreast in a solid mass toward us, I was experiencing more than a small degree of skepticism about the efficacy of this endeavor.  However as we tapped our way through them, those masses parted for us as if they were the red sea and in my observation none of us waited as long a  minute at our respective corners before a good Samaritan helped us across.    After this thoroughly uplifting experience Gene took us on a tour of some of the sites, which ended at famous John’s Pizzeria, where we all sat down and shared a delicious meal of a variety of slices.  We arrived back at HK, quite tired, but still energized by this wonderful activity, even after a fifteen hour day.

In our next session, we were instructed and began the discussion on the need for economy of language when communicating spoken language with the deaf-blind through an interpreter.  We learned how to shave down the dialogue we use when speaking with an interpreter — simplifying and condensing our English to its most simple and direct form, so that it more closely mimics the language of people who are deaf — ASL.

Even though I know I did not cover one tenth of what was offered to us at this seminar, I hope that gives anyone that is interested a little idea what went on there.  If you work in the field of visual impairment or deafness or both, and you even think you might work with a deaf-blind person in the future, I strongly suggest that you either get your administrator to come up with the funds or you scrape them together yourself to attend the next conference at HK.  If you do, you will not regret it.

Anyway, here are a few pictures I took at Helen Keller and the surrounding area:

This first pic is of the conference room where we were tortured – er… instructed.

The next is a sculpture located in the yard of the main building entitled “Seaform I”, and which was sculpted by Alfred Van Leon.

Here is a shot of the front entrance . . .

. . . and here is HK’s sign on the front gate:

With occasional comments interspersed, what follows are the rest of the pictures I took during the experience that I have to share with you.

Hard at work in the conference room:

The next group of pictures is from our amazing trip to Manhattan:

On the train . . .

. . . and in “The City” — Unfortunately, I was so involved in the Street Crossing race, both when I was under the fold and when I was observing my fellow participants, that I left my camera in my backpack for the whole thing.  If any of the rest of you who took photos of that activity would like to send me a few, I will include them here.

And one final parting shot of a familiar Manhattan icon — the taking of which almost left me behind:

And to wrap things up, here are a few more pictures I took from the nature preserve right next door to Helen Keller.

After leaving the conference I needed to make a brief stop in Port Washington to get my patched-together-with-a-paperclip glasses fixed and after that was done, I buzzed back to take a drive through The Sands Point Nature Preserve located next to Helen Keller to take some pictures and the results are included below, along with a few familiar faces that I captured when I arrived at the beech.

That’s all folks!

PS: You may notice that I have written quite a few blogs on various subjects.  I just want to warn those of you who might be somewhat of the conservative bent to probably shy away from those blogs in the “News Rants” and “World Blogs” categories as they tend toward the polemic as regards the political right.  However, feel free to go there and I welcome any comment you make positive or negative — “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  François-Marie Arouet.  You can get a brief overview at all of them by just reading my blog blog, which is a narrative index giving a brief description of and linking to all of my blogs — well, most of them.

PPS:  I invite anyone to point out Typos, misspellings or omissions you would like included.  In fact, if there is a portion of the event any of you would like to expound further on, feel free to say as much as you like in the comment section and I will insert it in an appropriate portion of the blog.  BTW I have already found about a bajillion little errors that may have been corrected since you last looked.

Hey Folks,

Just thought I would write a blog that gives a short description of the more than fifty blogs I have written so far.  My blogs are divided into categories, so I will arrange this blog in the same way.  Note that some of my blogs fall into more than one of my categories, but they will only be chronicled once below. The blogs are listed in each category in chronological order from the oldest to the newest.

In “The Mexico Expedition“, I tell about an expedition my father and I went on in the jungles of Mexico. In “Shrimp Boats” Although the next blog, entitled “Grand Canyon” is yet unfinished, I published it anyway and at some point will finish this massive blog about the fun-filled trip to the Grand Canyon with the family of my best friends.  Economizing Words details a four-day conference I attended on Long Island, where I began to learn techniques for teaching mobility skills to persons who are deaf-blind.

This category has several entries, but two are rather silly like, “Anti Aging” “Cream” which does not deserve an explanation and “Lovesick Squirrel“, which is also rather weak. I do think that my blog about “The Empty bus“, which details my most embarrassing moment is, if I do say so myself, pretty funny. In “No Virginia“, I shared one person’s(was unable to find who this piece originally came from) scientific analysis of the impossibility of the existence of Santa. In “jokes” I add a few favorite jokes I have received from hyper space over the years. In “National Bake Sale” I make my own tongue-in-cheek “modest proposal” as to how to solve our national debt crisis.

 Miscellaneous World Blogs
In “The Big Ponzi Scheme“, I explain why I think the free enterprise system is one giant Ponzi Scheme.  In “Taxes 101“, I decry America’s aversion to paying taxes.  In “Wiki leaks Realization“, I applaud how these revelations reveal just how stupid our world leaders (mostly men) are.  “Don’t ask Don’t Tell” is just one of my several blogs that attack the moronic bigoted behavior in the world.   In “The Wal-Marting of America“,  I talk about how China has adopted a similar policy of that adopted by Wal-mart to economically crush everyone but them.  In ‘A Letter to the Rich“, I send these sycophants a warning.    In The God of Abraham VS Spirituality,  I detail reasons why belief in this god,  contradicts its adherents claim to spirituality.   “Jesus“, is another of my polemics against bigotry.  In “The Age of Stupid“, I mourn the current anti-intellectual climate fostered by the right wing-nuts of the republican party.    In “Inherent Bigotry“,  I detail how I think the bigotry is inherent in the three major religions that dominate the world today — Judaism, Christianity and Islam.    In” There is a fine“,  I talk about why parents — not teachers — are the ones who are really the ones responsible for the education of their children.   In”I’m Tired of the Bleeping Censorship“, I point out how silly trying to control media language with “‘bleeping” offensive language is.   “Are the Republicans the New Sodomites?“,  is not actually one of my blogs, but was a New York Times OP:Ed in which Nicolas Kristoff, gives an amusing quiz that points out just how out of touch with reality the Christian right are.   In “Corporate Person-hood“,  I decry the supreme court’s decision that gives corporations the same rights as real people and I make an argument why they are not at all human.  in “Good People“, I give my opinion on what it takes to be a good person.   In “Not for Profits Please” I give my argument why these entities are a superior way to proceed in the future.   In “In the Tradition of Tomas de Torquemada” I decry the religious zealotry of Rick Santorum.    And finally in this category, I wrote two companion blogs,  “Racism is …“, which explains why we should stop using this archaic word and “Ethnic Bigotry is caused by?“, which details what science has discovered about the sources of bigotry.

In “My Take on Egypt” I talk about what I think really spurred the Arab Spring.  In “McCarthyism Reincarnated“,  I make a short comment on the ravings of Ann Coulter.  In “Nuclear Lies“, I argue that no matter what we do with this form of power, it will never be safe.  In discuss the meaning of “Cults“, and in Bill Maher’s comments about conservative woman… I argue that Mr. Maher’s comments is neither a sexist nor misogynistic.  In Here’s Something I rant about the Supreme Court decisions on corporate person-hood.

 In “Pictures“, which is not really a blog in my list, but a menu item at the top of my blog, I display some of the favorites from the pictures I have taken.   I display some pictures of my master in “My Cat: Wheatina Turdmonky“.  Lastly in this category, I chronicle the tragedy of  “A Green Heron Saga”

This category had a few entries, but the others have already been mentioned in other categories, so there is only one left.  “A Mystery Noise”  Tells about an actual, very frustrating experience I had in my home one long night.

I have two short stories of my own in this category, “Symbiosis” a completely fictional short short story about an encounter with an unusual individual and “Words in Time“, another short short of mine with time travel as its theme.  And finally in this category, I put in one that is not mine “The Story of an Hour“, by Kate Chopin.  Although only one page long,  this is one of the most powerful short stories I have ever read.

In this final category, I offer on blog that lists some of my favorite “aphorisms” in general and then two more that deal specifically with “Death” and “Ennui”  I also include a list of “Aphorattemts” which lists some original quotes of mine.

Note: Oops! I accidently clicked “publish” instead of “save”. This blog is still under construction. Feel free to browse through it, but as of today, it is sixty-five pages long when copied and pasted into a Word file and I still have quite some way to go.

My best friends were going on a family camping trip to the Grand Canyon National Park and invited me to join them.  I jumped at the chance.
They Are:   Mark(Dr. Mark Hama), my best friend  since our days together at the Univeristy of Texas in Austin in the late ’70s;  his partner Linda (Dr. Linda Kornasky) — who became my other best friend soon after she and Mark met while both earning their doctoral degrees at tulane in New Orleans;  Their two  children: Sebastian(12) and Lincoln (8) — calling these two precocious would be like calling Mt. Everest a hill — great kids.  I have known them since birth and am their honorary “Uncle Ross.”Mark and Linda are both tenured English professors at San Angelo State University and Linda is in charge of gender studies.

So after much discussion and collaborative internet searches the travel plan evolved into this: I was to fly to Albuquerque where Mark’s parent’s live to meet Mark who would have  already driven the eight hours  there from San Angelo with the kids.  I was then going to spend a few days around Albuquerque to see the sights and possibly ride the Tram to the Sandia Crest (11,000 + feet) with the kids.   And when Linda, who had been finishing up her last summer grading arrived, we would be off the the Grand Canyon.  We would camp at the Canyon Campground for four nights, hiking the canyon and seeing the sights, including on the third day driving 100 miles north to Page Arkansas to ride the Colorado through Glenn Canyon on a rubber raft for five hours.  Then after returning the 100 miles from Page camping the final night at the Grand Canyon, Bright and early the next morning, we would be off to beautiful-in-fairy-tale-proportions Sedona, Arizona for two days at a luxurious Best Western.

That was the plan and although I thought it was a rather tall order, that schedule was followed exactly.  What follows are the details, the adventures and unexpected happenings along with my favorite photos from the six hundred plus  I took.

Embudo Canyon

On my first full day in Albuquerque, Mark’s dad dropped me off at the trail-head at Embudo canyon near his home so I could hike around up there and get a few pictures.  The trail itself is pictured to the left and winds around and up into the foothills of the mountains beyond.  I got my first taste of the higher altitude hiking as I walked to the top of one of these foothills.  Albuquerque airport is one mile above sea level and the Hama’s home and the beginning of Embudo trail are at about sixty five hundred feet,  so hiking and particularly climbing is much more challenging than what I am used to in central New York State.  For example, my house is at four hundred and sixty feet and it is at about the highest point in my town.   Below are some pictures I took  of myself using my remote control as I scrambled up a large rock :

Also got a few pics of the Fauna and Flora:

The shot below is a Panorama of Albuquerque from the highest point I achieved that day:

The Sandia Crest

On Sunday, the last day before we were to leave on our trip, the boys and I took the tram ride to the Sandia Crest, which towers over Albuquerque reaching a height of  10,678 feet — roughly a mile higher than the already mile-high city.  It makes one feel very small riding in that little box with the vastness all around and below.  To give some perspective to our height, see our tiny shadow on the ground in the picture to the right — the green around it is full-sized trees, not moss.

Our ride to the top took about 20 minutes and was filled with a stunning Vista in all directions as we swayed and lurched our way to the top.  Photography was difficult, as the car was very crowded, so we did not get many good shots on our trip up and on the return trip, the car was totally packed, so we got only a few on the way down.  The picture to the left may look like a small pile of rocks, but the smaller ones are actually house-sized and the big one on the right is the size of a four-story building.  The picture to the right shows the view of Albuquerque off in the distance in the valley below.  Below is a view of one of the trams viewed from the observation deck on the crest, followed by a blow-up of the tram itself:

 Both Sebastian and Lincoln manned my camera on the tram and took some pretty good shots.  Here are a few of those:

Once we arrived at the top and before we began our hike, we found the view pictured to the right —  a maze of wooden of walkways with railings winding all over the whole crest, with an elegant restaurant nestled in the middle of them.   We then had a delicious meal in that restaurnant in preparation for our hike on the Sandia Creast Trail.   Even though we all over-did eating the excellent food, after staggering out of the restaurant, we somehow were able — after several false starts –to find the correct trail-head and start on our hike — an experience that was made more difficult both by our full stomachs and by the effect of the thinner air at this altitude. Here are some of the shots we got on that hike:





and finally,  a picture of the stone house that was our original goal, but that we did not make it to because we were too pooped to do so:


The Grand Canyon

So, when Linda arrived from San Angelo on Sunday and after enjoying a delicious meal prepared by Carmen (Mark’s Mom), we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening preparing for our trip.  The process of packing everything we could possibly need for this adventure into the Hama’s Honda Odyssey  — tents, food, stoves, air mattresses, sleeping bags, lanterns, flashlights, backpacks, rain ponchos, hats, sun screen, clothing, hiking sticks, leggos and various electronic equipment — was coordinated and supervised by Mark, who is truly a master at this because when the job was done, I would have challenged anyone to find a space in the back of that van into which a credit card could be inserted.

We headed for the Canyon early the next day and after about eight hours we arrived at Grand Canyon National Park.  The boys and I who had never been there before, were surprised by the large Ponderosa pines that filled the park.  We had the picture of the area being a sparse high desert.  The park is quite large and it took some driving around to locate our camp-site, but when we did, everyone pitched in and and everything was quickly set up.  Our campsite, pictured at the right, is about a mile from the rim of the canyon and is cozily nestled in stands of Ponderosa Pines, mixed with various other deciduous and non-deciduous trees.

Those who know me might observe that my tent looks a bit small to accommodate my 6’4″ frame they would be right — it is a child’s tent.   This sleeping arrangement came about as a result of a conversation Mark and I had on the phone when we were originally planning this trip.  He asked my height to find out if I could — corner to corner, fit in a tent he already had.  He said that when he measured the tent from corner to corner it measured slightly more than 6’4″, so he proclaimed that I could in fact fit in the tent.   But in his measurement, he did not take into account the thick inflateable air mattress I would be sleeping on which raised the floor an additional five inches and due to the inward curvature of the tent walls, the full stretch-out distance was reduced to about 5’9″.  However, since I can only sleep comfortably in fetal position, this did not prevent me from having comfortable sleeping throughout the camping experience.  The alternative — being able to stretch out, but submitting my skinny butt to the hard earth, will never happen.   My being in such a small tent did however earn some strange looks from some other campers who happened to glimpse me emerging from it, rather like a snail from its shell.

Just a word about tents in general here:  Whoever comes up with how many people a particular tent is supposed to hold, must be using very small people in their formula.  For example, the Hama’s tent is supposed to be a “six man tent” and the found it very cramped with the four of them in it.

After setting up the camp, we prepared our first meal — Hotdogs, chips and Pork ‘n’ beans  on a trusty Coleman Stove that Mark’s dad had passed on to him.  By the time we finished eating it was nearing sunset and all were eager to take our first look at the Canyon, so we all hopped in the van and headed that way and arrived at the observation point just before sunset.  The pictures cannot begin to capture the vista that unfolded to us.  Because of limited space and because of the bulk of the thing, I did not bring my tripod, so getting pictures at this time of day was a bit sketchy.

Here are two more from that first evening:

By this time, we were all getting pretty tired and ready to hit the hay.  We had planned on having S’mores around the fire, but decided that could wait until the next night.  Linda chose our campsite well when she booked it, because it was right next to the bathroom, so when we finished our ablutions, we were all out like a light in about ten minutes.  I slept quite well, roughing on queen-size battery inflated bed and it was good that I did, because we were all up before dawn in preparation for a very full day.

The Bright Angel Trail

    The picture above is one I patched together from four separate photos — it took that many to cover the whole trail — actually most of the trail as some of the trail could not be viewed from the place on the rim from which I took those pictures.  These pictures were actually taken two days after our Bright Angel hike as we were on our Rim Trail hike.    Note that I  traced the trail in red in the picture above.  The trail-head is near the  visitor center/Restaurant, which appears as a tiny faint blob in the picture above and then switches back and forth for 6.1  miles down  — the part that is visible in the picture that is.  The rest of the trail from that point where the red line ends near the lower left corner of the picture, becomes very steep and difficult and continues about another 10,000 feet (as the crow flies) to the river.   To the right is the whole trail pictured on a map.

     Ones whole sense of distance and size is very challenged by this experience.  Note the red arrow pointing at the cotton woods that appear like moss on rock as opposed to what they are massive trees — some with trunks twenty-five feet in diameter.  I never actually viewed these, as we did not make it that far down the trail, but Mark had made the trek all the way to where that red line ends back in the day.   As you can tell from the picture the trail switches back and forth causing the descent to not be very steep for the most part, but hikers are encouraged to stay away from the edge of the trails, which have no railings and and often offer edges with precipitous drops that would surely be fatal if one slipped.  We all stayed away from those edges as we hiked. Below is selection of pictures taken on that hike:

We saw hundreds of people both going down and coming up the trail and what an international group. I spoke with people from: Germany, Switzerland, France, Sweden, The Netherlands, Italy, Korea, Japan, Viet Nam, Guam.

We get a bathroom and drink stop

The next two pics are of one of the park rangers taking a break in the shade of an overhanging rock from his daily trek of the whole Bright Angel trail.

We wound our way down, for what seemed like forever, but all of us were in very good spirits and holding up quite well, with plenty of water, fruit and energy snacks to keep us going and healthy.  In this very hot and dry environment, one can become quickly dehydrated if large quantities of water are not ingested.

At a point roughly 2.5 miles from our start, I started to worry about the fact that what goes down, must at least in this case, come back up and I expressed my concern to the rest of our group.  The kids of course wanted to continue further down.  I did not mention earlier that the temperature at the rim was hovering at or above 100 degrees and the temperature increases steadily with descent into the canyon until it reaches a sizzling 115 at the bottom, so at our current level it was getting more than a little warm.

At this point, I put my foot down and said that if the others wanted to continue on they could, but this senior citizen was heading back for the top.  The kids reluctantly agreed to begin the ascent and Mark and Linda agreed as well — I suspect with much less reluctance — and we started what felt like a twelve mile hike back to the Visitor Center.

As we wound our way to the top, we took frequent breaks with the frequency increasing as we approached the end.  Just before we reached the top, we were hit by a flash rain shower that was very welcomed as it cooled us off somewhat.

Once finally at the top, we noticed that we were all starving — not that we didn’t have food on our trek, we had consumed many bottles of water, multiple granola bars, apples and oranges, but we were very ready for a sit-down meal so I treated us all to a hearty lunch at the visitor center restaurant.  After this we staggered to the van and headed back to the campsite.  When we arrived we received quite a surprise as a 600 LB cow moose was casually licking water off my tent — apparently an easy source of water for these beasts after the infrequent rain showers there.  She did not seem in the least bit distressed as I walked up and took the picture and when she had licked her fill, she casually ambled away and as she did, multiple campers snapped pictures of her and I was also able to get a pic of her with Sebastian and Lincoln in the foreground.

When everyone settled down from that experience, we started to prepare the fire.   Each site has a cement pit with a large hinged grill over it for building our fires.  Beyond small kindling, no wood is available near the campsite and of course you are not allowed to cut any wood from trees, so you have to buy small bundles of wood at eleven dollars a  pop, so we used our wood rather gingerly.  Mark instructed the kids in the art of building a fire and in a short time we had a roaring blaze over which we prepared our S’mores – a toasted marshmallow sitting on top of chunk of Hershey bar which are both then  squashed between two graham crackers.   S’mores are a tasty but extremely messy treat, that was made slightly more so by the fact that Linda had purchased unusually large marshmallows — about the size of hard balls – which had a tendency to ooze out profusely when pressure was applied to the crackers.  When we had put out the fire and cleaned off all of the sticky stuff, it was time for bed as again we would be getting up very early the next day to head out on the next leg of our adventure

The Glenn Canyon Raft Trip

Early the next morning, as soon as we could drag our rather sore bodies out of bed, prepare a breakfast of oatmeal cooked on the Coleman stove  and complete our toilets, we hopped in the Van to head for Page Arizona where Linda had reserved a trip for us all down the Colorado through Glenn Canyon — Glenn Canyon is basically the same as Grand Canyon, just further up the Colorado and not quite as deep.  Page is roughly 186 miles away — a rather circuitous rout — but it is a pleasant drive especially in the morning before the Earth begins to bake.

Once underway, we made good time and amused ourselves with various car games such as identifying and chronicling  all the different state licence plates we could see — an activity that continued throughout our trip with only a few states missed by the end; playing twenty questions; and posing math problems — Lincoln demonstrated the ability to solve the two variable algebraic equations posed by Mark and I, in his head.  Did I mention he is eight?

When we arrived in Page, we headed directly to restaurant/boutique where we were to catch the bus that would take us on the first leg of our journey.   We had plenty of time to sample the food of the restaurant  before the raft trip where we all sampled their excellent wraps and smoothies.  After we finished eating we browsed the boutique, buying a few souvenir items until it was time to board the bus for the trip.

      I had envisioned that the bus trip would simply involve us being transported to the river by bus.  Although I should have known this is not possible as the river is roughly thirteen hundred feet down in a canyon with precipitous unbroken cliffs on either side, I realized that I really hadn’t thought that out very well.    What actually happened was that we drove around for awhile until we suddenly found our bus facing a huge sandstone wall with a giant un-lit  tunnel easily large enough to accommodate our bus.  From the opening one could observe that the tunnel went downward before it disappeared in blackness a few feet from the entrance.

        As we began our descent the bus driver explained that the tunnel is two miles long and that when we reached the end of it, we we would be at the bottom of the dam, our raft departure point.   The tunnel that was obviously bored through solid sandstone,  has no artificial lighting, but about every quarter mile the tunnel is intersected by a shaft about fifteen feet(I estimate) in diameter that runs from the tunnel out through the canyon wall, affording a pool of brightness eight times during our descent.

When we reached the bottom and emerged into the brightness, we were immediately issued hard hats which we were required to wear to avoid being cracked on the head by any random loose chunk of sandstone that might decide to fall off the canyon wall and were then ushered to our raft and after donning our required life-jackets all of us – roughly twelve in our group — piled on the raft.  The raft, called a J-rig is a thirty-seven foot inflatable pontoon raft powered by an outboard motor and piloted by our guide Kevin.  One could either sit on seats in the lower center part of the boat, or straddle the one of the pontoon on either side as I did affording me the ability to cool off by dangling one of my feet at icy fifty-five degree water.

Here is what the dam looked like when we started our journey:

     Before started down the river, our guide pulled our raft up next to one of the dam’s spillways where just being near the evaporating water gave us some relief from the well-over-one-hundred degree temperature.  As we cooled, he gave us us a brief speech about the dos and don’ts on the trip and after that we were on our way.

Here is another shot of the dam shortly after getting underway:

Here is a shot of Mark taking a picture of the dam:

Remember those shafts I mentioned that offered us some light as we came through the tunnel in the bus?  Here is one of those:

And another of those up closer to the top, near where we entered the tunnel originally:

      It is difficult to represent how much one miscalculates distances in situations like this.  For one example of this, in the following picture you see the canyon wall in the distance and you see raft just like ours made tiny by its distance and it appears to be near the canyon wall behind it, but it is way less than half-way to it:

  We tooled on down the river with the amazing sandstone walls towering over us for a few miles and then our guide turned off the motor and asked us to  look up at the top of the cliffs.  What we saw were tiny ant-like dots up along the rim.  The guide explained that those dots are people at one of the vista points on the canyon.  At that point, as I am sure he does on every trip, he insturcted us all yell “JUMP” in unison on his queue, and we did.  It was a good loud yell and reinforced by my decibels I am sure they heard us up there, but Fortunately nobody jumped this time.  After our shout, the guide told us a story of a previous trip on one of the rafts.   One of the  guides had his group do the same thing and just as they finished their yell they watched in horror as a figure tipped off the cliff and began to plunge into the depths.  However, after dropping about twenty or thirty feet huge wings unfurled and the jumper revealed itself to be a California Condor.  The huge birds that stand nearly as tall as a man and have up to a sixteen foot wingspread.  They are not native to this area, but since they are severely endangered in their natural habitats a breeding and release program has been started in the canyon and according to our guide it has been quite successful.  Unfortunately we did not see one of those on our trip.   The picture below is a telephoto shot of the people on the canyon edge — they looked much smaller to the naked eye.

     For another illustration of the distortion of size and distance in this place, observe the large arch-like indentation in the wall of the canyon, just about in the middle of the picture below.  Note its size:

Ok, Lets take a closer look at that.  Now how tall do you think that arch is?

Ok, here is how big it is:

    That’s right that arch is as high as two football fields are long.  Our guide said that when he was told this he had a hard time believing it, so he went there on his own and climbed from the river through the rock debris below the arch(that debris is actually the remains of the section of the wall that fell out to form the arch) and up to the point where he was standing at its base.   It took him a full hour of very difficult climbing to get up there — something he said that he doubts he will do again.

We saw occasional groups of Kyakers on the river, as well as anglers along the shore:

   About half-way through the trip, we docked our boat at a landing next to a side canyon leading off from the Colorado.  From that landing a trail the leads back into the canyon to huge wall on which petroglyphs etched into this wall by the [fill-in] Indinans  about [fill in] BC, displayed.  Before we walked up that trail to see them, we were all invited to take a dip in the fifty-five degree waters of the Colorado.   Most everyone on the boat, including the four of us, made a quick entry and quicker exit and were quite refreshed by it — momentarily, because after walking about one hundred steps up that trail, we realized how much cooler it is on the river than off.  Here is a view of that canyon and a few pics of those petroglyphs:

     I got some pretty good shots of birds along the way, especially this Great Blue Heron, who appeared to be posing for me:

   We also saw what our guide said was a Peregrine Falcon.  We could tell with the naked eye that the bird was indeed a raptor, but it was not until I later after I enlarged and examined the pictures that I found our guide was right.  Here are some shots of the falcon:

Here are some more miscellaneous shots as we floated along our way:

See the rock in the next picture?  This is a telephoto shot and that rock appeared much smaller to the naked eye, but it is really larger than a three-story house.

    Toward the end of our journey down the river, our guide pulled up near one of the other rafts to perform a ritual river ceremony.  The guide on the other raft, clearly a native American, produced a traditional wooden recorder-like pipe on which he produced a melodic native tune that resonated well.   When he had finished and applause were given, our guide pulled out a harmonica and played a nice little ditty, which he afterward said was a Dylan song, but which I did not find recognizable as such.

And finally my personal favorite from the river trip:

After five fantastic hours, we sadly reached the end of our trip and debarked and after a quick rest-room stop, we scooted through the intense heat to our bus for the hour-long drive back to Page, where we retrieved our van and headed back for Grand Canyon, to spend our final night there and then bright and somewhat weary the next day to tackle . . .

The Rim Trail

   Once back at the Canyon we made a much needed stop at the showers — We did not have showers at the camp-site, the showers are all housed at one central location and each shower is coin-operated, sucking in eight quarters for a ten minute shower.  The guys took turns showering and timing the others, ensuring that we finish our ablutions before the time ran out.  Linda had to fare for herself, but emerged with the same level of squeaky cleanliness as the rest of us.  Refreshed and quite hungry  we headed for the elegant dining room at the El Tovar Hotel, where Linda treated us all to a scrumptious dinner in honor of Mark’s just having officially received his tenure.   I had rack of lamb, Linda and Lincoln both had Buffalo steak and Sebastian had [fill in].   We enjoyed the excellent cuisine, while being afforded a wonderful view of the canyon rim from our table.   After all of that, we somehow each had one of the many fabulous desert choices on the menu.   Well satisfied, we then rolled back to our campsite for a little time around the campfire before our final night in our tents.

  Early the next morning, we headed for our last hike in the Canyon on the rim trail.  This trail as its name suggests runs along the rim of the Canyon and although there are some ups and downs on it, it is much less challenging than the Bright Angel trail, as the return walk is pretty much the same as on the way out.  We only walked a mile or so out on the trail, stopping to take pictures along the way.  Here are some of those shots:

A very lonesome small tree:

Still Life — Old Fart on the Rim:

Grandpa Hama had given both of the boys each an MRE.  MRE stands for Meals Ready to Eat and these are the replacement for the C-rations that GI’s used to consume whenever in the field.   The new twist on these is that they contain chemical Pucketts  that when mashed produce surprising heat, which quickly cooks the contents, and will also burn ones fingers smartly if not handled carefully.  Anyway, the boys both prepared and ate their culinary offerings, without injury.


To be continued ASAP

In Memory of Andy

Posted: January 22, 2011 in ALL POSTS, Memoirs

Circa 1992, I was with my good friend Strick(see my Mexico expedition blog for some info about him)viewing an abandoned 500 acre ranch about fifty miles west of Austin in the Hill Country of central Texas.

At that time,Strick was the director of Child Incorporated a not-for-profit that has improved the lives of pre-school children in Austin since 1972 and which by the way was where I worked my first job in the field of human services — but that’s another Blog.

Ftrick had come up with the idea to have Child Inc buy the ranch for the use  of building a training center/convention center — which they in fact did and and its called Flat Creek Ranch.

Actually, calling the place a ranch is a misnomer, because it was actually not a ranch, but a failed housing development, that had gone belly under after the infrastructure had been built — culs-de-sac, water pipes, but no buildings.
Anyway, we were standing out in the middle of a field of scrub brush and cactus, when I felt something on the back of my leg. When I turned around, I saw a skinny bedraggled Border Collie covered in burrs, with her left paw against my calf and with a look of desperation in her eyes. We then heard a cacophony of crying coming from under a small bush nearby and found there three tiny puppies, roughly (the vet told us later) six days old. Both mom and the pups were starving and covered with fleas.
So as not to transport the fleas along with the dogs in Strick’s car, I waited with them while Strick drove to the nearest town twenty miles away to get some flea shampoo. After giving each of them two baths removing about a trillion fleas and as many burrs, the mom and her pups were transported to my house, where they became immediate residents.

I named the mother Diana after the Roman God of the hunt,  because she had had her pups in this wilderness, where she had apparently been dropped off pregnant by some scumbag and where we found Bobcat scat on the ground right near where we found the pups.

I kept mom and the three pups for six weeks and then put two of the pups in good homes, but kept Diana and one of the pups.  In keeping with the mythological theme, I named that pup Andromeda and she quickly became Andy.

For the next sixteen years, Andy was my constant companion, both in my daily life and my travels around the country, where she pursued her passion of diving into any possible body of water available.  Below are some photos of this amazing creature, who I will always remember fondly and miss dearly.

Andy dives into the air over the waters of the Lake next to Old Forge in the Adirondacks of northeastern New York state.

And then the splash down.

A rainbow collage of Andy:

Andy, a mild-mannered dog, dons her secret costume:

And finally, why it was never a good idea to mess with Andy:


Posted: December 30, 2010 in ALL POSTS, Memoirs
Tags: , , , , ,

The title of this blog is most assuredly misspelled(as you will find out), but we always  pronounced it:

Donjawon’s was the name of  or rather what my friend’s and I called a small Italian-ice shop on a corner of one of the streets in my  Auburn, NY neighborhood.   The shop, located on the corner of Washington & Orchard, was a one-room tiny affair, not much bigger than a phone booth.  It was attached to the corner of Donjawon’s house and was the perfect size for the proprietor who I towered over when I was in the fourth grade.

Donjawon, a tiny always jovial very elderly Italian gentleman,  may have been small, but his ability to produce the best lemon and cantaloupe Italian-ice to be had in Auburn, was undisputed and the warm memory of his offerings looms large.   Just the other day when my good friend Steve Delfavero and I were reminiscing about those days he revealed the secret of these amazing treats as it was  passed on to him by Donjawon himself.  Donjawon’s  secret was buying all the fruit that was just starting to go bad from various markets and grocery stores around town and then cutting off the bad part and using the very ripe remaining fruit as a basis for his concoctions — thus the incredible flavor.

What really spurred me to write this blog though was that recently I went back to that neighborhood the house was still on the corner, but the shop although still there, has long since become a shed.   But, as I was looking at that shed it hit me.  His name was not Donjawon.   It was Don Juan.  Someone had just mispronounced his name at one point, pronouncing the ‘j’ that should have been silent, and then it was passed along by the language ignorant.

Actually, when I was telling my friend Mark(who is Spanish) about this story over the phone, he pointed out to me that being Italian, the name would be Don Giovanni (the Italian inequivalent of Don Juan, in fact the title of Mozart’s Opera in Italian about the great lover Don Juan). But, when I later spoke with another of my Italian friends from Auburn, who also has knowledge of Italian, I found out that yes Don Giovanni is the Italian for Don Juan, and Giovanni is the inequivalent of the English John, as is the Spanish Juan. But he also pointed out that Giovanni is not the only word in Italian that equates with John, Juan pronounced Jew on is another word for John in Italian. The mystery of the name Don Juan’s is solved.


My Most Embarrassing Experience

By Ross E. Deforrest

It was the spring of 1972 and I was in the second semester of my first year at Auburn Community College.  I was 25 at the time, having served my time with Uncle Sam before starting my college career.  One of the classes I had selected for this semester was a biology course entitled “Ecology 103.”  The focus of the class was to study the effects of pollution on the environment.  I was drawn to the class by the description in the curriculum of the several field-trips the class would be taking around Central New York and Northern Pennsylvania, to view and study the effects of pollution.   One of the trips we took and the one that is the focus of this sad story was to view and study the devastating effects of strip-mining in Northern Pennsylvania.

The group which consisted of about 25 co-eds (about 2/3 female) and our biology professor/chaperone/organizer of this trip, was transported via a chartered bus to our destination, a Pennsylvania state park in the northern part of the state.  The curriculum clearly stated what we would need to bring as well as the do’s and the don’ts: three changes of clothing; canned or boxed food of some sort for ourselves as no food would be provided; and no drugs or alcohol (that final rule almost universally ignored.)

The trip to Pennsylvania was uneventful, but when we arrived at the park we found it to be nestled in a truly beautiful forest of giant old growth pines with abundant wildlife including deer, rattlesnakes and numerous flying squirrels gliding from tree to tree.  But this story is not about what occurred there, but an incident that happened on the bus trip home.   However that incident was shaped by actions the night before in our cabin.

As I stated before we all had been instructed to bring various canned and dry foods to prepare for ourselves and we all did.  But the cabin only had one large pot to prepare food in, so somebody got the brilliant idea to create a massive stew by mixing everyone’s offerings in that one pot.  This we did and the resulting gruel consisted of: rice, chicken soup, tomato soup, Chile, mushroom soup, goulash, sauerkraut, beets and one guy even poured about one half of a quart bottle of blackberry brandy in it.   When this concoction was brought to a boil the results were a bubbly, bazaar smelling, purple-brownish witch’s brew.  None of the females would touch it and only a few of the other guys even tasted it.  I refrained from eating it right away, but as the night wore on, my hunger grew to the point that to the astonishment of everyone, I ate two bowls of it — none of them had of course, spent the last two years eleven months fifteen days three hours and thirty six minutes eating army food.

I had eaten this bazaar meal at about one in the morning and went to bed right after that as we were to head back toward Auburn at the crack of dawn.  When that much-too-early time arrived, I slept through several attempts to wake me and dragged myself and my things to the bus which was all packed with everybody on it anxiously glaring at me as I stumbled on.  As I entered the door of the bus and walked down the isle, I detected a distinct fiery rumbling in my stomach and intestines that only increased as I approached an empty isle seat toward the back of the bus.  When I plopped down in my seat, I found that  the guy who put the blackberry brandy in the gruel and who had subsequently consumed the rest of that bottle, leaving him in a severe state of dazed hangover slumped in the window-seat next to me.  We had traveled about twenty minutes of our three-hour journey before I realized that rumbling in my gut would require some release.  I thought that I might get away with carefully allowing a silent, slow release of the pressure and so leaning gently,  I made the attempt.  It was silent, but my seatmate was not, because he immediately turned to me with a horrified look on his already green face and screamed loud enough so everyone on the bus could hear:

“Jesus Ross”, after which he thrust his head out the window and threw up.

As the invisible toxic cloud moved row by row toward the front of the bus, heads snapped around to face me with its arrival at each successive row, and I was met with glaring angry faces.  The “domino effect” continued until the toxic cloud reached the driver, who immediately pulled the bus over on the shoulder and was the first to exit, followed quickly by everyone else. We all stood by side of the road for a full ten minutes until it was safe to re-enter.   That was for me a long ten minutes.