Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the category “Travel”

There Has To Be A Better Way

WELL, IT IS TIME TO STRAP ON OUR WINGS AND FLY. We are heading down to Texas for a family visit. We are both very happy to be doing this for several reasons.

  1. We are looking forward to seeing everyone.
  2. Dawn’s Mother has better Wi-Fi than we do.
  3. It is warmer there than Indiana and we need to feel some heat.

Those three factors alone make this trip worthwhile. Actually, they would make any trip worthwhile.

When we make these excursions to Texas the snags that appear are all part of the “getting there” that we have to go through. Whoever came up with that “Getting there is half the fun” line must have been drinking the entire time.

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I Don’t Claim To Be An Expert

 

YOU SEE SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY. AT LEAST I DO. It may be something that millions of other people see each and every day, but it’s new to me. It is kind of like the first person who was hungry enough to eat a clam. They looked at that clam, heard their stomach growl, and decided that for the first time in human history that a clam could be food. OK, maybe it’s not exactly like that, but it is close enough for my purposes.

Last week I was, where else, slurping up my morning coffee at St. Arbucks when I saw something I had never seen before. I found it appropriate that it took place in the religious environment of St. Arbucks.

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To Boldly Go Where No Member Of My Family…

THE OTHER DAY I BUMPED INTO A LITTLE FACTOID. It was about you, me, and everyone else on Earth. Unless you know something I don’t know all of us are natives of this planet. According to that factoid you and I live here on Earth which is one planet in our Solar System, which is part of our Galaxy – The Milky Way – and that our Galaxy is off by itself in the emptiest and most remote part of the visible Universe.

To the rest of the Universe we are off in the desert.

How did that happen? Do we have B.O.?

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Ooh, That Feels So Good!

 

THE FIRST OF MARCH. NO MORE FEBRUARY and I am glad about that. March is the month when spring officially starts. It is when Baseball Season begins. All of that nicely wrapped up inside the fact that it is the end of Winter. YAYYYYYYYY!

There is that zoological adage about March, “In like a lion, Out like a lamb.” I think of it more like, “In like an Ice Tray, Out like a Wet Mop.” I agree that the “Lion and Lamb” thing is more poetic, but mine is more realistic and I never claimed to be a poet. I am just a semi-literate Geezer with bad knees.

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It Looks Like A Cow Chip To Me.

FOR THE LAST WEEK OR THREE I have been seeing stories about this Scientist from Harvard named Abraham Loeb who believes that an object that recently entered our solar system might, and he is heavy on the MIGHT, have been an Alien Space Craft (no relation).

To be honest… there was an object that came in from Interstellar Space. It was headed our way. Beyond that… I got nothin’.

After an exhaustive five minutes of research (Which is more than I do for almost everything else here.) I have learned a few tidbits of information – most of it confusing. I was a Liberal Arts Graduate. Having a B.A. in Theater doesn’t prepare you for dealing with Interstellar Space, unless you plan on playing a Klingon on Star Trek.

Here is some of what I have uncovered.

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Comrade Cotton-Eyed Joe

PARTIALLY DUE TO THE INCLEMENT WEATHER and the seemingly endless weeks of battling bugs of varying virulences we have been watching a lot of TV.

My wife, the lovely and the ultimate Amazon Prime Minister, Dawn, and I have gathered up blankets, Kleenex, and hot tea so we could do some serious binge watching.

With Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap we settled ourselves down for a long winters Ripping Yarn. Dawn had been scouting the terrain and had come up with a series that had six years of episodes in the can. We figured that should hold us until Spring. Well… After one week we are halfway through Season Four. Spring better arrive soon.

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Buenas Dias from Thailand

IT WAS JUST THE OTHER DAY as I was driving down the avenue when I noticed that the neighborhood Taco Bell was undergoing some remodeling. I don’t know if they were merely repainting or going full tilt and adding a branch of the Poison Control Center.

While I am not a fan of Taco Bell (I prefer Mexican Food) they are very popular worldwide. The latest figure I could find said that there are 6, 849 Taco Bell restaurants strewn about the globe.

Doing a little (very little) follow-up research I have learned that the number of Taco Bells has grown by one. Last week the first of a planned 40 Thai restaurants opened in Bangkok. And it was a rip roaring success.

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Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Thirteen

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Thirteen

 

For all of the care that the Government took to keep that Atom Bomb thing a secret I couldn’t believe that they didn’t know about all of those Russians in Salt Lake before I did. Did they trust Van Swearingin so much that they didn’t keep a closer eye on it all?

When I called into my contact at the FBI a couple of weeks ago I told them that the Russians were getting pretty cocky. They weren’t even trying to stay off the factory floor anymore. They were interfering in everything. More and more of the American workers were disappearing. The Reds had brought in some Muscle and whoever was left of the men I trusted were being intimidated and threatened. It was never a big plant to begin with, but now the number of Americans on the inside was shrinking. I didn’t know how much longer I was going to be able to hang on.

I contacted a couple of the Americans who had been fired or quit and they weren’t too eager to talk to me. They were scared. I don’t know if it was of the Russians or of me. They probably thought I was a plant – one of “them” – a traitor. None of them, not one, felt safe around me. One of the older men hinted to me that he knew a couple of the men who “quit” had actually disappeared. “Disappeared” – he meant killed and dumped out in the desert or up in the mountains. He wasn’t there when I went to his home a week later.

When I got back to San Francisco I walked over to Larkin Street, to the Federal Building. I didn’t think I was followed, but I couldn’t be sure. I had reached the point where I didn’t care anymore. I wanted out.

“You can’t leave now, Tim. Things are getting to a critical stage. We need your eyes in there.”

Getting critical?” I just shook my head. These FBI mugs were killing me. “Men are dying out there. The Russians have completely taken over and I don’t know why I’m still alive.”

“Van Swearingin is protecting you, Tim.”

“Van Swearingin? He can’t protect himself or his own kids. You told me that they’d snatched one of his kids and I’ve got the other one working with me. No – I’m done. I don’t care. If you don’t do something now, today, I’ll walk out of here and then you’ll have to look for me too.” I got up to leave.

The G-Man got up from behind his desk and got nose to nose with me. He was as old as my father, but he was still solid muscle. He stuck his finger in my face like I was a ten year old.

“Listen to me, kid. Don’t you even try to quit now,” He growled at me. “Too many good and brave men have already died out there, more than you know. We are just about ready to come down on that whole operation. Do you think we are stupid? Do you think that we don’t already have that place and everyone there under a microscope?” His face was turning red. I was getting pale.

“I promise you this, Tim, if you foul this up because you’re scared I’ll make sure – me, personally – I’ll make sure that you disappear out there on the Salt Flats too.”

Without another word he grabbed me by my throat, kicked my ankle and dropped me to the floor. The business end of his pistol was on my forehead before I even saw him reach for it. His eyes burned into me.

“Do I make myself clear, soldier?”

I know that I was followed when I left Larkin Street. I don’t know by whom, but he sure didn’t look friendly.

XXX

The sun was coming up over the mountains as the plane dropped down to Salt Lake. The DC-3 flew in with just two passengers – me and Van Swearingin. Neither of us said much. I felt like I was the first prize in a turkey shoot. Win, lose, or draw I was going to end up dead. He looked like what was left of last year’s turkey shoot. That plane felt like it was a hearse.

The usual Lincoln limo met us at the airport and drove us out to the plant. The driver was new. He gave us a fake smile and said, “Good morning, Gentlemen.” He had an accent that sure wasn’t from Georgia – at least not our Georgia.

When we got to the Black box out in the middle of nowhere the shifts were changing. The few Americans left were checking in and the men who were leaving were all climbing on to a bus. That was new. The Russians didn’t even trust their own workers.

When I opened the door to my little office I saw that Charlie Van Swearingin was sitting at my desk. I’d made him my foreman for whenever I was away. He was young, but at least I knew him. He had once pulled a knife on me, but he was the only one I felt that I could trust.

“What’s up, Charlie? Anything new?”

He nodded slowly and held a finger up to his lips, saying nothing until the door was closed. When I sat down next to the desk he started to scribble on a note pad as he finally started to talk.

“No, Boss, same old, same old,” he said as if everything was hunky-dory. On the note pad it was a different story. His pencil scratched out, “This office is bugged. There is a microphone in the ceiling light, I think.” I looked up at the light fixture. I don’t know what I expected to see. Charlie started talking again.

“It’s been pretty quiet. We had one man quit though – Martin, that machinist, the old guy.” He wrote at the same time. “Martin is dead. He got into it with a Russian and backed into a couple of knives out behind the building. They don’t think I saw him get it. It was murder.”

“That’s too bad, Charlie. I liked him,” I said for whoever was listening. “He was a decent guy.” I took the pencil from Charlie and wrote while I asked him about the weather.

“Keep your eyes open. It’s all about to hit the fan. Don’t take any chances.” I underlined the word “any.” Charlie nodded. I kept writing while he ran down the personnel schedule. “Burn this paper and three sheets underneath it. Don’t give them any excuses to take us out back. I’m going to talk to your father.”

 To Be Continued –

Icy Roads And Hot Soup

OH, SWEET JESUS IT IS GETTING UGLY. Last weekend that was a phrase I said several times. I said it usually right after I looked out of the window. Weather conditions were deteriorating at a rapid pace.

I did not like that.

It was Friday evening and the predictions from the various weather networks, websites, and TV Weather Dudes told us to expect snow and ice – anywhere from one inch to two feet. Don’t you just love such precision?

These predictions of doom and gloom had been coming all week. The forecasts were all over the place. One person would say that it was going to be nasty in northern Maine, but not bad at all in Indiana where we are. The next person would say that Indiana was going to be wiped from the face of the earth. The third source was saying…Somewhere in between.

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…Everyone Would Be In Love With Me.

HOT DOG! HOT DIGGITY DOG EVEN!

Don’t tell anyone, but I am seriously considering coming out of Retirement. Why you ask? Because the job of my dreams has opened up and I think that I am the ideal candidate! If I work things right and put my best foot forward I, your friend and charming as all get out dude, might just be the next “Hotdogger” driver of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile! Oh, yeah!

Eat your heart out.

The official job title for the lucky person chosen to drive the Weinermobile is “Hotdogger” and it is not a term to be taken lightly – at least not in my world. You can call me “Mister Hotdogger.”

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Bum Voyage!

I CHECKED TWICE TO MAKE SURE that I was reading it correctly. Unfortunately I was.

“Frenchman to float across the Atlantic – in a barrel.”

Me: “Geezer to get up and to not spill coffee.”

That Frenchman has his challenges. I have mine.

Some people just have more ambition I guess, but some of those people also have more in the way of daily medications.

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Caveat Emptor, Dude

I’M ALWAYS LOOKING FOR IDEAS. I have so few of my own that I am constantly scouting for the quirky, arcane, and “Gee Whiz” things outside of my own experience. It is a big world and, at any given time, half of the eight billion people on Earth are awake and up to something.

For the last week or so my wife, the lovely and universally interesting, Dawn, and I have been doing a bit of Binge Watching.

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Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Four

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Four

A couple of more flights in that flying coffin and I’d visited all of the Van Swearingin plants and offices. I hope that I don’t have to do that too often. Give me a car and I’ll drive to wherever I need to be.

I was bothered by what “Pops” Mulroy said to me during that plant visit in Salt Lake City. He said that his “retirement” wasn’t his idea, that he was being forced out, after almost thirty years on the job. He didn’t seem to be holding it against me. He told me to finish my “Grand Tour” of the other facilities, keep my eyes open, and then to call him. He slipped me a piece of paper with a phone number on it.

“Call me when you get back. Call me collect, but don’t call me from any phone owned by Van Swearingin. It ain’t only the walls that have ears.”

I went to every Van Swearingin property with the Boss, met a lot of people and never saw anything that looked like a washing machine. Most of the things being built didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen before. Some of the workers were wearing special suits like something out of Buck Rogers and behind thick glass shields.

When I was introduced to the Security Units at each plant I was given the same story. The older, more experienced people were all being replaced with younger men. They were all roughly my age and carried themselves like professionals. I didn’t get to talk with all of them. Some of them avoided me, keeping to themselves. They may have been soldiers, but some of them didn’t look like Americans. They had a look in their eyes. I can’t explain it, but they looked like some of the Russian and German soldiers I’d seen near the end. Hardened by the war and, I don’t know how else to say it, soulless.

Even though the plants were all over the place the HQ, the Headquarters, was in San Francisco. My office was on the fourteenth floor. I had a secretary I didn’t know what to do with, and a desk the size of an aircraft carrier. When the job applications started coming in they passed over my desk even though they were already marked “hired” or “rejected” before they got to me. I went over the applications and some of the “rejects” looked good to me: Former MPs or Shore Patrol, military police, who already know the ropes.

A few of those hired by somebody above me had spent time in the stockade or were discharged at the same rank they had when they went in – Troublemakers. That made no sense to me. Most of those guys would have a hard time getting hired to carry bricks anywhere, but they were now part of my new Security Unit.

I needed to talk to “Pops” Mulroy. I called him, Collect, from a phone booth in the Ferry Building down by the San Francisco waterfront.

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I Would Never Lead You Astray

DESPITE MY CURMUDGEONLY REPUTATION I really do try to be a helpful sort of person. Like yesterday afternoon when a stranger asked me for directions. He was passing through town and wanted to have lunch at his favorite restaurant – “Chili’s” and he needed help finding it.

I was proud that I could give him simple and accurate directions. Follow my directions and an imbecile could find that restaurant.

“Just go down this road. When you get to the big courthouse-looking building, turn left. Keep going for a few minutes, then go under the Interstate. Keep going until you see their sign. It’ll be on your right.”

Simple, not too complicated, and absolutely accurate.

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Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Three

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Three

 

“Think about it.”

That’s all I’ve been able to do. Here I am a newly reborn civilian whose only real job experience is those three years of trying to kill the other guy first. Oh, sure, I had some jobs before the war = delivering newspapers and mowing lawns. Now, pretty much out of the blue, some rich guy, a war industry all by himself, offers me a job for more money than me, my old man, and his old man ever made altogether. Think about it? Darn straight I thought about it.

Everybody knew the name Van Swearingin. He and his factories made more tanks than anybody. They saved a lot of lives, killed a lot of Nazis, and freed up a good sized portion of Europe. He was rich before the war making washing machines. Then the war came and now he is considered one of the richest men in America.

“War Profiteer” – that’s what some people called him. Making tanks and making millions of dollars doing it. I don’t begrudge it to him. His tanks saved my backside several times. Lots of people made lots of money off the war. That’s just the way it is. And now that the war is over they’ll be making washing machines again.

One thing I don’t understand though is if they’re going to be making washing machines again, why does Van Swearingin need a 180 man Security unit? Why does he need me? Does he think that the Russians are out to steal his washing machine secrets?

He gave me a week, with pay, to think over his job offer. He said that he wants me to update and reorganize his Security people, all 180 of them. If they are like most guards and night watchman types I’ve seen the mice could have robbed him blind. During the war I’m sure there were armed G.I.s watching over his factories, guarding against saboteurs and 4-F thieves, but now, transitioning back to washing machines – Grandpas and a new fence should be enough.

Why does he want me to turn his 180 men into what we had at Anzio and Iwo Jima? What was he expecting? That Sears-Roebucks was going to outflank him?

Could I do it? Sure. Any guy who spent three years in uniform could put a decent company together in his sleep. Uncle Sam paid me $40 a month. Van Swearingin would be giving me a heck of a lot more.

If he was willing to fill my pay envelope every week I’d be a fool not to take it.

I guess I’ve made up my mind.

xxx

It was only Wednesday when I called the number Van Swearingin gave me to use when I had decided. He answered the phone himself.

“That’s great, Tim! Welcome aboard. What I need you to do now is come here to the house tomorrow morning at 9 AM. Pack a bag because we are going on a tour of all our facilities – your new responsibilities, so you can get a feel for things. Is that all OK with you?”

“No problem, Sir. Everything I own is in my duffel. 9 AM? I’ll be there.

“Wonderful, Captain. That’ll be your new rank – Captain. In time most of the men under you will be other returning soldiers and they will be used to their boss having rank on them. So, I’ll see you tomorrow morning – captain.”

xxx

I’d never flown before. Busses, trains, then troop ships, and on foot have been the only way that I’ve gotten around. That and a variety of old jalopies.

I was glad when we landed in Salt Lake City. Crossing the mountains and then the emptiness of Nevada made me uncomfortable, almost ready to vomit. Van Swearingin took it like he did it every day. Maybe he did with factories and offices in three different states. He’d almost have to fly to cover that much ground. He had his own private DC-3.

I hope I don’t have to do a lot of this.

West of the city, in a chauffeured Cadillac, we came to an area called the “Salt Flats.” Out there, in the most desolate place I have ever seen with nothing around for miles, was a huge, black as night building. It was one level with no windows. There was a rail spur at either end and one narrow dusty road snaking up to the building.

“Welcome to Van Swearingin Industries, Tim.”

We followed the dirt road toward the building. As we approached a large loading dock door opened and we drove in. There were at least 150 other cars parked in there.

“No sense giving some curious eyes any idea how many people work here,” said my new Boss. “During the war there was a Guard Post back up the road a piece. If anyone who didn’t belong tried to get too close they would have been…let’s just say that they wouldn’t have tried that again.”

That was the way things were.

“What do you make in here, if I may ask?”

“Before V-J Day it was Norden Bomb Sights. Now, we are developing the next generation of Radar units. You’re familiar with Radar, Tim?’

“I’ve seen them being used, but I never got a close up look.”

“Well, we can scan a flock of birds and tell you which ones are going to be laying eggs. I’ll give you a tour later, but first I want you to meet up with ‘Pops’ Mulroy, the current Head of Security. You’re replacing him. He is looking forward to retiring so he can get back to Colorado and his grandchildren.”

“Pops” Mulroy was about the same age as Van Swearingin, but in tip-top physical condition. He may have been in the first war, but he looked like he could have held his own in the Second. Most men called “Pops” look like they are a hundred years old and half dead.

Introductions and handshakes taken care of, Van Swearingin said he had to go.

“I’ll leave you in ‘Pops’ hands to get the Big Picture around here. I have some other things that need taken care of. I’ll rescue you in a couple of hours.”

It was just me and “Pops.” I tried to break the ice.

“You must be anxious to retire and get back to Colorado, is it, and your family?”

“Pops” looked at me. He wasn’t smiling

“Retiring? It ain’t my idea, kid, but there ain’t too much I can do about it.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I must have misunderstood,” I said. What is going on here?

“I’m retiring all right. It was my job, now it’s yours. That’s called retirement around here.”

To Be Continued

Pack Your Bags

 

MY WIFE THINKS BIG. Big Ideas. Big Hubby (I’m working on that.). Big Vacations. She is now in the thick of planning a real, long overdue vacation for us. She is planning for something bigger than a weekend in the Walmart parking lot.

A few weeks ago she floated the idea of going to either Albuquerque/Santa Fe – or – New Orleans. She asked me which of those I would prefer.

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I Was Sure I Was Going To Win

I HAVE ACCEPTED THE FACT THAT SUMMER IS OVER. Considering that it is now early November you would think that I would have reached that conclusion some time ago. I’m a hard sell.

In my mind it is always summer just like in my knees it is always mid-winter in the Yukon. Reality is something altogether different.

I began to have the first inklings that winter was, in fact, zeroing in on us several weeks ago. It happened on the day when I first used the remote starter on the Toyota to warm up the interior before we had to go out. Doing that is a sure sign of a change – more so than the calendar or a holiday. If I feel that I need to preheat my personal oven I know that it is time to hang up all of my Hawaiian Shirts until spring.

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Reblog – From David Kanigan Live and Learn – “Flight AA2632 to DFA”

Flight AA2632 to DFW. And Dreamin’ of Just One Time.

 

 

Flight AA2632 to DFW. And Dreamin’ of Just One Time.

Flight AA2632 to DFW. And Dreamin’ of Just One Time.

Photo: Alex maclean – on roll (via The Cosmic Inspiro-Cloud)

5:15 A.M. Monday Morning.

Terminal B LaGuardia Airport. Not America’s finest example of its greatness or its Might. Dark. Dingy. Beyond Stale. Earning its status as the Worst Airport in the Country. Dead last in surveys. Sad, really.

Lines are backing up at Security, including TSA pre-check.

One hour and 5 minutes to boarding: Flight AA2632 to DFW.

I clear security.

And I walk.

  • AA2126. Boston. 6:00 a.m. Sit in the stands at a Red Sox game.
  • AA4752. Washington. 6:00 a.m. Sit on the steps at Lincoln Memorial.
  • AA4527. Atlanta. 6:05 a.m. Lounge in the Georgia Aquarium.

What if. Just what if. Just one time. You call it in sick. A Sick Day. What’s that? You walk back out of the terminal, stroll up to the American Airlines ticket counter, pull out your credit card, pay full price for a ticket and…take off…to…anywhere else. Like take a day trip. By yourself. To anywhere else. Turn off your cellphone(s). And disappear, for one day. Off Grid. Just one time.

  • AA3803. Raleigh Durham. 6:29 a.m. Sit in a diner and read Murakami’s new book, uninterrupted.
  • AA3549. Portland, Maine. 6:29 a.m. Sit on a bench and watch the leaves turn.
  • AA349. Chicago. 6:29 a.m. Walk Michigan Avenue. 
  • AA2510. Miami. 6:50 a.m. I pause here. South Beach. Beach chair. Cool drink delivered. Long Nap.

I approach my gate.

  • AA2632. Dallas. 6:59 a.m.

And here it comes.

To Do’s. Commitments. Responsibilities.

I walk up to the Gate attendant. “Good morning Mr. Kanigan. You are seated in an Exit row. Are you willing and able to assist in an Emergency?”

Exit. Now. Do it. This is your last chance.

I smile. “Yes. Yes I am.”

I walk down the jet bridge. And I note that the heaviness lifts. Peace.

I get comfortable in my seat, 24E Exit.

You Need This. Murakami’s ’emotional morphine.’ 

You just couldn’t have it any other way.

Hey, Herbie! Look Behind You!

 

I DON’T DO SELFIES. I ALREADY KNOW WHAT I LOOK LIKE. Why compound the issue? There is a big enough supply of pictures of me out there floating in the ether.

A few years ago my wife, the lovely and much more photogenic, Dawn, and I toured the National Parks of the Southwest. We took pictures of the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and the rest. We did not take pictures of ourselves. I saw her there and she saw me – that was proof enough.

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All Aboard!

 

IT’S THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING AND I AM WIDE AWAKE, laying in bed, and listening to the sound of a train passing through town. Its whistle is echoing, muffled in the fog. A real Woody Guthrie moment.

I’m not sleeping. My body is resting to a degree, but my mind is wandering all over the place – Planning our Texas trip, Compiling a grocery list for later today, and when I heard the train whistle I was taken back in time to my childhood. My childhood – a time of Steam Locomotives and steel ribbons of tracks disappearing around a curve. My late night wanderlust is hearing the Conductor calling out, “All Aboard!”

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