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”

How To Spot A Pregnant Sheep

SHEEP! THERE ARE SHEEP EVERYWHERE. There are more sheep than people on this island.

And the sheep know it.

As we drive along the Irish country roads we have to be alert because around any curve of the road we might be met by a sheep, ten Sheep, or fifty Sheep. They might be crossing the road or, more likely, walking down the road stopping to graze on roadside grasses. As they are doing this they will take an occasional in our direction – not with any animosity, but to send us a message.

“We were here first, so chill.”

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Enlightenment Is Not Always There

WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT IT GETS DARK, RIGHT? You have no idea what dark is until you’ve been in a power failure sitting on a cliff looking out at the Atlantic Ocean at night.

Last night there was a real doozy of a very windy storm here on the northwest coast of Ireland. The sheep on the hillside were holding on for dear life. One wrong step and they would be airborne all the way to Scotland.

It was at about 8 PM when things began to get strange. The wind was already blowing and our lights started flickering. They would throw us into darkness for just a second or two then come back on. That was enough to turn off the TV and make the Alarm System twitter and flash. This happened three times until, at almost 11 PM straight up, the lights went off and didn’t come back on.

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“Let Me Get You A Wee Map”

IF THERE’S ONE THING I CAN SAY ABOUT THE IRISH PEOPLE it’s that they are friendly and very helpful. They all seem to be working as unofficial Ambassadors of Goodwill for their country. If they spot us as being from overseas (The U.S.) they will do two things.

First they will tell you that they have been to “The States” and where. Almost always they have been to New York City, Las Vegas, and Florida. Florida can be translated as Disney World.

Secondly, they will ask if they can help you in any way. And they mean it.

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Let’s Play A Game

 

HERE WE ARE PERCHED HIGH ON A CLIFF overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean. The view is a panoramic vista of rocky crags, enormous cloudbanks and the ocean out to the horizon. So what are we doing? We are enthralled watching the British version of The Game Show Network.

Can we vacation or what?

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How Did They Do That Without Fred And Barney?

NO MATTER HOW MUCH I TRY I have trouble relating to things that are 5000 years old. There aren’t a lot of those things around, at least not in my neighborhood. I’m as close as it comes. It was just the other day that my ability to relate to things older than Sophia Loren was put to the test.

One of those places that everyone should visit if you are coming to Ireland is Newgrange. It is a U.N. World Heritage Site and is only about an hour north of Dublin. Once there you will be greeted by something to make your jaw drop. 

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This Is No Way To Treat A Nervous System

 

IF THERE WAS ONE THING I COULD SAY ABOUT IRISH ROADS IT WOULD BE THAT ONE THING IS NOT ENOUGH. I NEED MORE.

Much like the roads back in the U.S. most roads in Ireland have a number designation, but they also have a Letter attached and that is where the story really gets told.

At the top of the bill are the “M” Roads. The “M11” or the “M7” as an example are super-duper ultra modern divided highways. In Ireland a divided highway is called a “Dual Carriageway.” These roads are in much better condition and better laid out than anything on the American Interstate System.

A slight notch below the “M” Roads are the “N” Highways. These are also excellent roads where you make good time at 120 kph or about 70 mph. They are a good way to travel about the country.

Now, it is on the “R” roads where everything starts to fall apart.

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Rolling After The Rock

MAYBE I AM GETTING OLD, BUT GETTING UP AND WALKING JUST ISN’T AS GRAND AS IT USED TO BE. I had that change pushed in my face this week.

We loaded up the car on a fine Irish morning (That means it wasn’t raining as hard as it was last night.) and headed out from Enniscorthy to play tourist. Our destination was about a 90 minute drive away. We were going to revisit “The Rock of Cashel,” an ancient Royal Castle perched high on a hilltop with a commanding view of the countryside. Anyone with plans of conquest would come around the curve in the road and see that humoungus Fortress Castle up there and think, “Perhaps we should forget this and just go to the beach. We could get a shrimp roll maybe.”

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Connecting All The Way To Disconnect

OH, SWEET JESUS, I DON’T KNOW HOW THEY DID IT. 

Our traveling companions arrived more or less on schedule, but it was a schedule that appears to have been designed by the travel agency of the Marquis de Sade…on a bad day…when his feet hurt.

The “Cousins from Alaska” were coming to Ireland for the first time trusting us and our judgment as to the best way to get from Anchorage, Alaska to Dublin, Ireland without going mad.

No matter how you slice it if you live in Alaska going anywhere takes some serious planning.

For them to get to Dublin their itinerary read something like this: Fly from Anchorage to Seattle. Just about all flights from Anchorage go through Seattle. A layover in Seattle of several hours. Then fly from Seattle to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Several hour layover in Minneapolis. The next leg was the biggie. They then boarded an Aer Lingus plane for the trip nonstop to Dublin overnight. They landed in Dublin at 8:45 AM local time. This made for an amassed time change of NINE HOURS. Their internal alarm clocks must have been screaming by this time.

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Pick Up In Aisle Seven

WE GET ON A PLANE AND FLY ACROSS THE OCEAN to another country where we expect things to be different and they are in many ways. Despite this thought there is a mountain of ways where the differences are merely cosmetic at best.

Back home in HoosierLand (AKA Indiana) when I have the need to go grocery shopping I just hop into the Toyota Stretch Limo and zip down the street to the Kroger Supermarket. In Ireland the differences are minimal. Instead of Kroger we go into the Tesco Supermarket where I can find everything I need. It might take a bit of a search, but I can find it all eventually. I go to Kroger and I leave happy. I go to Tesco and I leave happy.

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We Have Lift Off

WE ARE DOWN TO THE WIRE. We take off tomorrow for a very long day of travel…waiting…more travel and a landing in Dublin at 8:30 AM local time in Ireland. Then comes the not so much fun part of our trip – getting the rental car and relearning to drive on the left side of the road in a car with the wheel on the right side. (There will be moments of screaming for the first twenty minutes.)

Our first destination will be in the town of Enniscorthy. We will have it to ourselves for the first few days until “The Cousins” arrive from anchorage, Alaska. Then we morph into tour guides/relatives. Our first attraction to show them will probably be a Tesco Extra supermarket – a true sight to behold with the 37 different flavors of Potato Chips (Crisps) and to join us in the Applesauce Hide and Seek Treasure Hunt in the store.

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Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Sixteen

 

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Sixteen

 

Three people with pasts I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I may be the kind of person who will give you the benefit of the doubt once, but I’ll never do it twice. These three never, ever, got a square deal in their lives.

Now, through some twist of fate all of them had crossed my path and two of them are dead. One was left and he was the worst. I can’t say that the other two were innocents or harmless. They weren’t. They had both picked up The Gun, for their own reasons, and people died.

It was now down to one: Nate Williams, Junior, and he really was a dangerous man. He killed people with as much feeling as you and I have when swatting flies. He had to be stopped.

Leslie Ann said that he had a plan, a goal, and more people, innocent people, were going to have to die. I was the one, the only one, who was going to be able to stop him. Leslie Ann had trusted me enough to tell me what he was going to do. I owed her.

There was only one person who knew where Nate Williams was holed up – his lawyer. All the cops in the world could lean on him and they’d get nowhere. He’d never break the Attorney/Client Privilege bond for them. It was a matter of Principles – he had none. Any lawyer who would defend Nate Williams and walk with him out of the front door of Police Headquarters was as dirty as his client. The Police can’t touch him. I’m not a Cop and I already feel dirty.

I’ll touch him.

It didn’t take a whole lot of detective work to get that lawyer’s name – Randell…Rockwell Randell. I’ve seen him advertising himself on TV late at night. “When things get rough, call Rocky Randell!”

The man is shameless. His reputation in the Legal Community justifies all of those jokes.

“What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?”

“I don’t know. What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?”

“A good start.”

Even other “Shyster” lawyers couldn’t stand him and it takes a lot to hit a lawyer’s gag reflex.

With Rendell’s face being so well known, thanks to his infomercials, it was going to be hard to corner him one on one without witnesses. Hard, but not impossible. If I can lean on “Rocky” I can find Nate. And if I can find Nate… Well, that’ll stop all of this nonsensical killing and I can go back to being just another grumpy neighbor.

Rockwell “Rocky” Rendell had his law office in a strip mall in somewhat rundown part of town. He was sitting between a liquor store and a slightly shady gun dealer. He knew where his clients were.

A few decades ago he would have been called an “Ambulance Chaser.” These days he’s just known as the “Most crooked lawyer in town.” He sought out the Lowest of the Low for his client base. He put up a billboard ad that shouted “Just because you’re guilty doesn’t mean you did it!”

He specialized in getting people off the hook on the flimsiest of technicalities. Juries would conflict his clients, but if anybody in the courtroom so much as sneezed during the trial Rendell would find a loophole to get them sprung.

He was a real pimple on the rump of humanity.

***

“I want to see your Boss.”

“You mean Mr. Rendell? He ain’t here. You want to make a, you know, a appointment?”

“‘An’ appointment.”

Rendell sure didn’t spend his money hiring his receptionists. She must have other skills.

“He’s not here? Isn’t that his car outside – the Candy Apple Red Mercedes with the license plate ‘Rocky’ on it?”

A second question must have been beyond her limit.

“Yeah, I guess so. I’m new here.”

There was a name plate on her desk. It read: Natalie Piorkowski.

“Tell me, Natalie, when will Mr. Rendell be back – since he left his car here?”

My name is Hailey, like the comet. That’s the last girl who worked here. She quit or something…and Mr. Rendell said he’d be back soon. I think he’s just next door.”

“Which next door?”

If he was at the gun store I’d come back later. Hailey leaned forward and whispered even though we were the only two people there.

“He’s at the liquor store. He drinks a lot. Expensive stuff too – the labels are in French, I think. So, he should be back in jiffy.”

I’ll tell you what, Hailey, like the comet. I’ll come back later, OK?”

“Okie-Dokie, Mister.”

That girl has a great future. I’m not sure in what field, but I doubt that it’s in the Law. Organ donation maybe.

I stepped outside to wait for Nate’s lawyer to appear. I could see him still inside the liquor store pushing a shopping cart half filled with bottles. Rather than confront him inside the store I just leaned up against his car and waited. I watched him pay for his booze in cash. I never saw the clerk card him.

He came out of the liquor store and saw me sitting on the bumper of his Mercedes.

“Hey! Get the hell off my car, Jackass.”

“Oh, is this your car, Rocky? My Grandmother had one just like this.”

“Your Grandmother? Get off my car before I call…”

I cut in.

“Before you call Nate Williams to come over to save your paint job? Don’t make me laugh, Rocky.”

That took him back a step. He set his bag down on the ground.”You know Nate, Pal? Then you know he is one tough character. I call him and he’ll come over here and…”

“I’d like that. It’d save me a trip. He’s already looking for me and I’m looking for him. Call him. He might save your ego and probably a couple of your teeth. How’s that sound, Rocky?”

Rocky squinted at me like he knew he wasn’t going to be happy with the answer to his next question.

“Who are you?”

“I’m the guy who put his father in prison and now I want to put Nate in the Gas Chamber. Call him.”

He forgot the liquor and reached for his phone.

 

 

I’m Packing It In

 

WE ARE GOING TO BE HEADING OFF FOR IRELAND IN A FEW DAYS. I think it is time for me to begin deciding what to take and what to leave behind. My wife, the lovely and highly organized, Dawn, started her side of this process in 1973 give or take a day. We tend to operate at different speeds.

I’m not saying that my way is right or hers wrong. No. No. No. I think it is just a difference in the basic structure of our genders.

I have spoken to a number of men and women about this topic of packing for a trip and the answers have been running consistently along gender lines.

The Question is: How and what do you pack for a week-long trip?

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I’ll Eat It, I Just Don’t Know What It Is.

 

IF YOU’VE DONE ANY TRAVELING IN THE UNITED STATES IN THE LAST TWENTY YEARS I’m sure that you have encountered something redundantly called the “Complimentary Free Breakfast.”

At more and more hotels the Free Breakfast has become almost unavoidable. The big chains, such as Holiday Inn, Marriott, and a dozen others trot out the hot trays every morning to feed their guests between 6 to 9 AM. During those hours you can see the early risers slumped over their plates of eggs, sausage, and potatoes.

While I admit to being among that crowd on most mornings I am doing so for mainly medicinal purposes. Every morning I have my own buffet of medications that I take to stay alive and I am obligated to have something in my tummy to buffer the explosion when the pills kick in. So, I head down to the hotel lobby and the “Complimentary Free Breakfast.”

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Merge, Merge, Merge

 

“LANE ENDS ONE MILE. GOOD LUCK.”

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately on our illustrious Interstate Highway System. It’ll really be nice once they are finished with it. It seems that no matter where I go or in which direction I am faced with long slow moving lines of cars all wedged into one lane.

The System was started back in the 1950s. President Eisenhower, a career military man, saw the maze of roads as a way to quickly transport troops across the country in case of an emergency. It’s a good thing that there was no call to do that because, if today’s roadways are any indication, we would be in deep doo-doo (Technical term meaning ‘Uh Oh’).

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Ch – Ch – Ch – Ch – Changes

 

BRACE YOURSELF – A CHANGE IS ON THE WAY! It is a temporary change to be sure, but a change nonetheless.

Starting in about a week or two…or three you will notice that the Monday through Friday (Excluding Thursday) postings will be coming from Ireland. We are heading off for another excursion to the Land with Forty Shades of Green.

This will be our fifth trip to Ireland since 2006. We will be there for five weeks returning to the States in early November. By that time I will be completely exhausted, chilled to the bone, and not at all in any kind of “Holiday Mood.”

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Drinking And Driving Can Go Together

 

I HAVE SEEN IT ALL NOW! Just when I think I have it all figured out and understand what is what and who is who, and what I can expect in my daily experience – Life throws me a curve.

My wife, the lovely and equally amazed, Dawn, were in Cincinnati last week. That, in and of itself, is nothing worthy of amazement. Cincinnati is, after all,…Cincinnati. If you’ve seen one fast food chili shop, you’ve seen ‘em all. But then we saw something that stopped us in our comfortably shod tracks.

We had stopped into a Kroger Supermarket to replenish our “Goodies” supply. Our shopping cart wobbled up and down each aisle ending up over near the Deli department and the in-store mini-St. Arbucks.

That is where we saw it.

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You Can’t Get There From Here

THIS MORNING I FOUND MYSELF TRAPPED in the middle of a conversation that went from confusing all the way to positively incoherent.

The morning started out quietly which is all I ask for until I have evidence of a stable heartbeat and access to coffee.

I got to my usual spot in the corner at the Chapel of St. Arbucks (Patron Saint of Jittery People) and began my climb to bipedal humanoid status. There was only one lone member of The Usual Suspects present. He was there when I arrived, so I assumed that he had slept there overnight. He was a half step ahead of me toward the ability to speak in a recognizable language.

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It Puts The Remote In Remote Control

I’VE BEEN LEARNING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE LATELY: ENGLISH. Considering that English is already my first and primary language you wouldn’t think that I would need lessons – but I do.

My wife, the lovely and Queen of the Remote Control, Dawn, has us watching a number of TV shows from “Across the Pond,” most of which are Police and Cops N’ Robbers shows from England and Scotland. I didn’t know that the Scots were so into crime shows. I didn’t know that the Scots were into much of anything other than not being English.

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Is That Too Much ?

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN. After two weeks in Texas I’m back in Terre Haute (That’s French for “There is nothing in the fridge.”) and trying to sleep through the night again after being in a strange bed.

The luggage hasn’t had the chance to cool off and plans are underway for the next test of my ability to digest the food and water of another part of the globe. This time the passports are aimed at Ireland for a five to six week stay.

Do I enjoy Ireland? Very much. Do I enjoy being away from comfortable and familiar surroundings? Not so much anymore. Somehow I have suddenly become an old man and my adventuresome spirit has dimmed. There was a time when I would go anywhere at any time with less than a moment’s notice. Now I have a need to sit in a chair that knows my shape and sleep in a bed where I can be warm and where I can find my way to the bathroom in the dark.

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Whose Hot Idea Was This?

 

SWEET DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS, IT’S HOT! I haven’t been this hot since my junior year of high school and this girl from…never mind.

It has been in the mid 90s and above since what seems like the day after Christmas. I like warm weather, hot even, but this hot spell has pushed my limits right off the table.

I love it when the Weather Bunnies on TV say things like, “It is 96 degrees, but the Heat Index is 187,” or whatever number they toss out. After “96 degrees” the rest is as relevant as chocolate sprinkles on a Hershey Bar. It doesn’t change anything, add anything, or make it any better. When life has been reduced to sticking your head in a pizza oven to cool off something like “Heat Index” is not all that important.

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