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March 2 2017Europe 1956
I found the Irish poor but kind and London wet but jolly and theater in both places good. Paris was wet too but in a melancholy way, and the waiters in cafes so snooty you could starve if you didn’t correctly pronounce the nasalized vowels.
The Dutch were hearty laughers but without much humor. The Danes had humor and were cheerful and spoke excellent English. The Germans had no humor but were busy building gleaming new cities. Around the gaming tables of Baden Baden they jostled the pound-shy English asking: “Who won the war?”
So when I had been through these places and done my duty to monuments and museums, battlefields and cathedrals, it was August before I got to Venice. It was hot in Venice and the canals and close-built buildings made it stuffy. I took a room at the air-conditioned Bauer Grunwald and ate my dinner on the terrace watching the flaming sun drop over the Grand Canal.
For two days I walked crowded streets and crossed over little bridges or took Diritto boats to the beach at Lido. At night I sat in cafes of San Marco’s and listened to the orchestras and sipped wine. Then I took a train to Rome and changed for one to Naples. Then a bus to Sorrento.
I got to Sorrento on Sunday evening and found a hotel on a shady street that curved off the square. The hotel was cool, the rooms white-washed and clean, and underneath tall trees there was a patio that looked out over the bay.
Six waiters served me dinner there, and afterwards I walked back to the square and down the steep switch-back street with flowers hanging over the wall to the pier where boats came and went to Capri. There was a band playing and a lighted Ferris Wheel and the boat offices were crowded with people and children laughing and shouting.
I walked out on the pier and tried out of darkness to find Capri. I stared into the blackness but could see nothing. I threw my cigarette into the Bay of Naples and walked back up to the square where I sat in a sidewalk café lit by strings of little lights and sipped a bottle of Tuborg.
In the morning I took the boat to Capri. It was a warm breezy day and the boats were filled with tourists. I had met a lady in Venice who told me to skip Capri. She said tourists had ruined it for those who remembered Capri as it was before the war.
I didn’t ask what war. Capri has been under attack ever since Tiberius built his villa there. Attila and the Huns, those dreadful Goths and Vandals. This August morning I found myself in another barbarian army mustered at the funicular ready to begin the assault
A battalion in sport shirts, thirty-five millimeters strapped over shoulders, chest bandoliers with film. Like the Goths, we brought our women clutching bags to carry away the loot. The cable cars made their slow grinding climb to the top. We exploded from the cars, storming the little plaza to sack the cluttered shops. The natives put up feeble resistance.
April 16 2017
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The Many Benefits of Fungi
Chris Peterson, of The Hungry Horse News, reported on the “The Fabulous Fungi” given by mycologist, Larry Evans... Mushrooms aren’t just for eating. They do much more.
In Montana, the morel mushrooms sprout en masse after forest fires. They also often sprout up after a disturbance, like logging operation. The black species come up when the soil temperature reaches about 42 degrees, but the grays and greens like about 50 degrees. All of the morels are edible.
In places like Ecuador and Bolivia, the oyster mushrooms varieties are being used to clean up old oil spills. Ecuador alone has 1,600 spill sites where crude was left and when it rains, it seeps into the water table threatening water supplies.
Fungus can also filter heavy metal out of water. Heavy metals are positively charged, while the mushroom cell membranes are negatively charged. Run polluted water thru the fungus which is grown on Palm oil waste and it cleans the water of heavy metal.
Fungus could also be used to create insecticides with no harmful effects to the environment. Seventy five percent of insect disease are fungus. It has already been developed to combat grasshoppers. It could also be used to kill species like bark beetles that have devastated western forests.
Fungi could also be used to build biodegradable packaging, that would keep deadly plastic out of the oceans. It can also be used to make clothing. He sported a hat that he made 20 years ago from a conch. Conchs are the hard fungus growing out of trees.
We see mushrooms growing in our yards and in a fairy ring. They are usually the result of a piece of wood or tree roots decaying in the soil They will not hurt anything. Just step on them and they will break down. I have also seen the rabbits and squirrels eating them.
by Jim Bennett • email@example.com
April 16 2017
Priestcraft of a New Glove
IN LATE APRIL of 1952, on my 10th birthday, I got my new baseball glove. More on that shortly.
If you were very careful, you could give a broken bat a second life by driving a one-inch finishing nail into the split area. It wasn’t easy; baseball bats are round, not square. They don’t hold their position.
Luckily for me, we had a workbench in the basement with a vise. I repaired several bats there, although it didn’t usually happen on the first nail. Once I had nail success, I usually wrapped the area tightly with electrical tape for reinforcement. And presto! The bat was good to go. Many friends did the same. In the early ‘50s, it never occurred to us that ages and ages hence, bats would be metal or composite.
There was always a pick-up game somewhere. We rode our bikes through screen door summers in our small town, baseball gloves looped over the handlebars. Sometimes we didn’t need the repaired bats; somebody would show up with a new one.
We always lacked enough players to form full teams, so we innovated. Right field out, pitcher’s hand out, work-up, there was always a way to adapt.
THERE WAS Little League in our town as well. Four teams. Mine was First State Bank. I liked the league, but not as much as the pick-up games. Little League had all the trappings of organized baseball—real uniforms, a real ball field, an outfield fence, umpires, bleachers, and even a public address guy.
Baseball was tense (at least for me) because all of a sudden the game was important. Everything from strikeouts to home runs mattered.
The trappings amounted to what H.L. Mencken, the distinguished journalist and satirist who held organized religion in contempt, called “priestcraft.” What could carry as much heavenly currency in a simple room of people gathered for spontaneous song and prayer was transformed psychologically into a transcendent, holy rite by embellishments such as clergy in ecclesiastical vestments, pipe organs, scripture reading, stentorian chants, stained glass and stations of the cross.
Suddenly, everything was affirmed with a sort of divine imprimatur, much like the infield fly rule or colorful stirrup socks.
PART OF my discomfort was embarrassment. My baseball glove was the old, flat three-fingered style, about as current as Ty Cobb or Joe Jackson. Most of my friends had modern ones. To catch fly balls or throws, I could use the glove to cushion the blow, but since it had no “pocket,” I had to be sure and clamp the ball in place with my right hand. There were no one-handed “stabs.”
The outdated, outmoded glove didn’t seem much of a problem in the neighborhood games, but once the priestrcraft of organized league ball kicked in, the glove seemed as embarrassing as a scarlet letter.
I used to spend time at the Western Auto store on the town square, which had a sporting goods section. I lingered long at the row of shiny new gloves with long, arching fingers bound together with rawhide strips. I usually took three or four down and plunged my hand inside. They could all be folded over to form pockets. Even the leather smell was right. But most of them cost more than $20, and my dad had told me more than once that was too much money for a ball glove. Maybe he was right, but still I ached to have one.
BUT STILL, that day came. On my birthday, I went downstairs before anyone else was up and there on the dining room table was the new glove, wrapped in blue ribbon with a bow. All rich and brown it was, modern in form and function.
It had Marty Marion’s autograph along the thumb line. Marion had been traded from the Cardinals to the Browns in 1950, so I had no specific memories of him, but I knew he had been the slick-fielding shortstop for the Cards for many years.
Over the next few days, after showing off the new glove to most of my friends (they paid it due reverence), I prepped it by rubbing it with linseed oil. Slowly but surely it became softer and flexible. It also had a distinctive, reassuring smell of blended oil and leather.
Soon, I was also using binder twine to wrap it overnight, with a baseball firmly in the pocket. I was giving it flexibility and a well-formed pocket. I think I slept with it near my pillow for at least a month.
Now, in our pick-up games, I no longer had to listen to scornful remarks. I even felt like I was a better player, although that might not have been the case. But I was able to make one-handed, back-handed stabs of fly balls and line drives. I felt like I had arrived, although I couldn’t have explained this notion to anyone.
When summer came, Coach put me in right field on opening day. Several times, I slapped the Marty Marion special against my knee. Just before the first pitch, I could have sworn I heard a church bell toll somewhere in the distance.
The Rest is Still Unrwritten
by John Colclasure of Lexington
April 16 2017
Smoke on the Mountain
Smoke on the mountain is a catchy title and really has little to do with this week’s classic. As a matter of fact, it has nothing to do with the tale that I’m about to spin except that the play, “Smoke on the Mountain” is one of my favorites and if memory serves, it can be seen at Five Points Washington beginning September 22nd running through September 24th, 2017. The setting of course is the sanctuary of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, North Carolina. Now I don’t remember exactly what weaknesses were revealed by the Sanders family during their efforts to bring that tiny congregation into the “modern world” but it does provide me with a springboard into this weeks’ classic. That would be “temptation.”
Yes, you read it correctly, I have been tempted to not only smoke up on the mountain but actually out behind the barn or maybe it was a chicken coup. You see my father was a smoker. Pall Mall to be precise manufactured by R.J. Reynolds first introduced in 1899. The last commercial was aired in 1970 and Pell Mell as it was called featured the words, Flavor? Mildness? You get both. After all, if Lee Marvin smoked them it must be cool!
Anyways, out behind the barn, a pre-teen boy, wanting to be cool like all those who had a pack of cigarettes turned underneath the sleeve of their t-shirt, took his first puff. One had to inhale deeply I had been told, when earlier I had been caught trying to take a drag off of a discarded butt. I had tried to “blow” instead of inhale and had been instructed “NO” I was not to blow as one would through a drinking straw but rather to inhale deeply, filling the lungs and then to exhale.
I had done exactly as my mother had told me. Then the burning, itching and coughing began and then everything from my ankles to the top of my throat came gushing forth. Was I ever sick, thought I was going to die and wouldn’t have cared if I did. That little confrontation with my mother cured me of ever wanting to smoke again until the episode behind the barn.
Somehow, my buddy and I had come across a package of Marlboros (red pack) and some Swisher Sweets. We were going to look so cool to our friends that I rolled up the pack of Marlboros in the sleeve of my t-shirt and we each lit up a Swisher Sweet.
You guessed it! We were not looking too cool when my father came around the side of the barn with a shovel in his hand. We were both barfing like crazy and my dad pulled out his pack of Pall Malls’ from the bib of his overalls, broke a single cigarette in two and handed each of us one-half. He then said, “Light-em up boys!” The expression on his face left little doubt as to the alternative if we did not do as he had instructed. That one-half of a cigarette left such an impression on both of us, that never again did I want the joy and pleasure of smoking Pall Malls, Marlboros or Swisher Sweets.
I must confess that I did try some Copenhagen Skoal at the Tri-State Rodeo in Fort Madison, Iowa a few years ago. UGH, you don’t even want to hear about that one.
Till next time…john
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