Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Blogger Leaves the Building

Why is it that so many of my posts recently begin with an apology? And yet, I must say it again, dear readers: Sorry about the lack of posts of late. We here at the Globe have been rushing hither and yon, entertaining out-of-towners, working, and preparing for a week's absence.

That's right: The Blogger departs this evening on assignment to Jamaica, to a part of the island that is without internet (or electricity!), so this will be my last post until the middle of next week. Then, tune in for astonishing accounts -- with full-color photos! -- of the following events:






And read all about the following:





Also, don't miss these thrilling additions to Gesh's Globe:



Until then, dear readers, please be patient, please be responsible and thrifty and thorough, and please don't forget that this blog does exist and will one day reclaim its former magnificence.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Family: Update with Links to Photos

Well, folks, I apologize for this, but I'm going to have to send you outside of this site to view the latest family photos. Because of some bandwidth issues, it just became too cumbersome to upload everything onto this blog. I do encourage you to check out the photos, though. There's some good ones in there.

Here's the latest from Jim Thorpe:


. . . came bearing gifts. Honorary Uncles Travis and Tom came out from NY/NJ to meet up with Stillman. We had a grand time lounging on our deck and traipsing about the environs. Travis, Tom, Vanal and I went down to the Lehigh River to splash around in the current, and had a great time just acting like river rats, throwing rocks, wading, exploring, and best of all, letting the current carry us quickly down back to our starting point. Vanal had an assignment to identify some local plants, so the four of us took to the forested hills behind the house with a guidebook in hand (Plant number one: Poison ivy). Vanal couldn't have known that there are no better people to do this sort of thing with than Travis and Tom, who have an infectious curiosity about the natural world. It's funny because they often defer to me on matters natural and botanical, but the truth is that I learn far more by hanging out with them in the woods because there's so much I've always taken for granted, whereas they're always wondering what this or that plant or tree is. And then retaining the knowledge, which I seldom do. It was wonderful to get to spend time with them again, and great to think about how much Stillman will learn from them when he's a little older.


Yes, the time came for Vanal's dad to come pick him up so he can spend the rest of his summer out in Arizona. It was sad to contemplate Vanal's visit coming to an end, but such a joy for Matchie and TLS to get together, and for Matchie to get to meet his nephew at last. Matchie just couldn't get enough of Stillman, holding him, smelling his head, even watching him sleep. And Stillman was pretty fascinated by him, too. One evening at the dinner table, Stillman just wouldn't take his eyes off his uncle. The visit was too short, but we're determined to make the next one happen soon.


It was dank and chilly the other day -- no more than 60 degrees - but Vanal and neighbor Austin decided it wasn't too cold to race boats down the brook. While we were there, I found a crayfish and caught it for the boys. Austin wouldn't touch it, but Vanal held it for a second, then dropped it and tried to crush it with a large rock. Don't worry; I saved it, and threatened to crush Vanal with an even larger rock. It was a chilly but very fun time for me; catching crayfish and spending time in a brook was a huge part of my childhood. I still retain an uncanny ability to rock-hop, a skill which is sadly not in high demand these days (Nevertheless, there are imaginable scenarios in which my rock-hopping prowess could be all that stands between all of us and the forces of darkness, you know).


With not a minute to spare, Vanal caught a fish before he left yesterday. He almost wasn't allowed to go fishing at all, because he had a plane to catch, but we let him go across the street with some neighbor kids. There's a little "duck pond" -- actually just a wide part of the brook where some local ducks live -- right flush against the street. It was good that Vanal went with other kids, because there was just enough peer pressure for him to keep his line in the water for a while, tend to his own equipment, and so on. I came across the street to bring him home so he could catch his plane. He wanted to try a spot upstream a little bit, so I decided to let him. He no sooner threw his line in there than he landed a nice little trout. We took it home, cleaned it, cooked it, and Vanal showered and rushed out the door victorious. A nice note for his visit to have ended on.

So now we're here with no seven-year-old, and we're a bit sad. No making pancakes every morning. Nobody to wrestle with, or fish with, or hike with. Nobody reading to us in the evenings. Nobody falling asleep on our bed watching soccer, no gangly-limbed body to haul off to his bed at midnight. It's just not the same here without you, Vanal. You sure brightened up our home during your time here, and we can't wait till you can come back again!

Baby: Two months!

Depending on how you count 'em. We're a bit puzzled about that. It's now been eight weeks since Stillman was born, so is that two months? Or is it only two months when it gets to be the 24th?

Anyway, because of technical difficulties, you'll notice that this time there's no photo of me leering over my child like I've just stolen him from a nursery and am about to suck his blood.  That photo is soon to be found elsewhere, and I'll be directing you all to a plethora of photos in a subsequent post.

The mother/child one-month photo:

. . . compared to two months:

An attempted family self-portrait. Can you guess which of us wasn't quite in the mood?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Politics: Iraq Propaganda Revisited

I know this is something that I harp on all the time, but no, I'm still not over the infuriating and, frankly, traumatic events that led to war in Iraq. Those of us who were paying attention at the time knew we were being lied to, knew that war was inevitable, and watched as our country went collectively insane, blind to all reason.

I just finished reading a year-old transcript of a Bill Moyers program which ought to be required reading for anyone with lingering doubts about whether the establishment press failed us completely during the run-up to the war. It's a fairly succinct yet compelling re-examination of why it was eminently possible to get the story right, but why cowardice and an atmosphere of enforced patriotism caused the vast majority of the media to abandon their responsibility to ask questions. It is still rather sickening to revisit, especially since those members of the press elite who ought to have been discredited and run out of town on a rail are now receiving Medals of Freedom and getting plum gigs at top media outlets -- as experts on Middle East affairs, no less!

Little wonder that journalists are held in such base contempt by the public, or that the average American feels that the only path to wisdom lies in never believing anything one reads.

Adventure: Quadraplegic Sailor

So how would you react if I told you about a quadriplegic woman who embarked yesterday on an attempt to sail solo around England? What if I told you she makes adjustments to her rig by blowing into and sucking on straws connected to an electronic board which trims sails and tends the tiller? And that she is accompanied by support boats for her entire journey?

Would you scoff? Would you say that's not exactly sailing solo? Would you say that blowing into a couple of straws is hardly the same as doing all the work of cranking on windlasses, going forward to raise and lower sails, and so on?

There's a part of me that felt that way when I first read about her. But then I gave it a little more thought, read her web site, and reconsidered. As she lost more and more physical ability due to a degenerative disease, Hilary Lister fell in love with sailing. It got her outside in the sunshine and open air, in the spell of the eternal ocean. She began doing longer and longer jaunts. She decided to set goals for herself. One goal is this voyage around England.

No one came knocking on her door and said, "I've got a way to make you one of those famous handicapped people who sets some kind of crazy record. It'll be easy, really. We'll just prop you up and all you'll have to do is blow into these straws."

If the lady wants to sail around England, and this is the way it's to be done, then more power to her. If the world wants to cheer, so be it. If some of us can't help setting standards for her based on how life is for people with four working limbs instead of zero, that's our shortcoming, not hers.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Photos: A Portfolio of Sorts

As most of you know, I'm a writer, and by no means a photographer. However, over the past few years, I've been trying to develop some photography skills, not just for work-related reasons, but because I really love excellent photos, and I really enjoy trying to take good pictures.

In a couple of weeks, I'm heading to a fascinating and inhospitable part of Jamaica called the Cockpit Country, on an assignment for Discovery Channel Magazine. My editor asked me to do the photography as well as the reporting, and I replied that I had pretty serious reservations about my abilities as a photographer. Nevertheless, I sent him a "portfolio" of my work to let him judge for himself, and I was quite surprised at his positive reaction to my pictures.

So in the spirit of celebration, and just to kind of share, you're welcome to view the -- ahem -- portfolio -- here. You can view it as a slideshow, kind of, by clicking on the first pic and then the Next Photo tab at the top.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Music: The Sweetest Thing

It may be the drowziness of summer, or it may be having a small music-loving baby in the house, but lately I've been seeking out what I call "sweet" music, or "hammock" music. Not that I have a hammock. But if I did, there's a certain kind of music that I'd want to hear as I lazed about and gazed up into the treetops.

Do you know what I'm talking about? It's also good lullabye music, although it's not designed as such. No dirges, but nothing too fast-paced. Just sweet.

So, you all did so well with the pop list that now I'm asking for your candidates for sweet hammock music, music to doze off to, music for babies and for lounging adults. Any genre, as long as it's got that certain sweet.

For two examples of what I'm talking about, click here.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Family: First Weekend of Summer

Okay, so it's not officially summer, but we over here at Gesh's Globe could be fooled into thinking otherwise. We're frolicking in the water, we're trying to catch fish, we're sweltering, buying fans, letting our babies let it all hang out, and having our morning coffee out on the deck.

This weekend, at long last, Stillman got to meet his Auntie Marcel (Honorary).  It was a meeting nine years in the making, and neither was disappointed. Marcel and her cousin Selena were here for less than 24 hours, but as always happens when Marcel visits, she not only brightened the place up with her company but cleaned up our kitchen, restocked our fridge and helped TLS with some other tasks that have been languishing. Thanks, A.M. (Hon.)! 

Vanal and I continue to have adventures in the great outdoors. We tramped up to the top of the Glen Onoko hike on Saturday, in the sweltering heat. He scrambled like a little mountain goat, and is a great companion on such excursions. There's not much I won't let him do (unless it's extremely likely that he'll do himself in), and it was kind of funny to see passersby giving him warnings: "Careful, honey, those rocks are sharp"; "That's pretty steep for you, little guy. Why don't you come this way?"  I'm a firm believer in letting kids sort these things out for themselves. If rocks are sharp on the bare feet, they'll feel that, right? And then next time make a decision about whether or not to tread upon such rocks?

There's a series of waterfalls along the hike, and we stopped for a snack and some cool refreshment beneath one of them.

There were other people at our lunch spot, and they warned Vanal against climbing underneath the falls because the rocks are slippery. So as you can see, I made him stay on dry land:

Yesterday, we went down to the Lehigh River to take a dip. There are two or three whitewater-rafting concessions in town, and we picked a spot along the river where the rafters come down through. We waded out into the current and Vanal had fun jumping off the rocks, trying to swim upstream, and just generally splashing around. The raftloads of paying customers were pretty surprised to see us out there in what seemed to them to be the middle of a wilderness splashing around in a fast river. One guy floating past asked us if we needed rescue -- he seemed bent on rescuing someone and was a bit disappointed when we told him we were just having a swim. We also threw a line in the water, but returned home fishless for the third time.

The place was a hit with Vanal, so we'll probably be returning to escape this afternoon's heat.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Family: Ah, To Be 7 Again

Hanging out with Vanal has been a lot of fun, and quite refreshing. It's fascinating to be reminded of what it was like for me to be that age. Yet he's very different than I was when I was seven years old -- a lot like I always wished I could be when I was a kid. Just as an example, you can hand him some money and send him into a store to buy something, and he looks forward to that social interaction, the mere threat of which would have reduced me to tears at age 7. There's just no way you could have got me to do it.

His social boldness is nothing next to his physical daring. If there's some feat of derring-do he would be afraid to tackle, we haven't encountered it yet in our adventures. He rushes headlong into everything, injury be damned. His knees are battlefield maps, the front of his skull smooth and thick like a ballpeen hammer. When he gets hurt (approximately 17 times per day) he occasionally sniffles for a moment, but I've never seen it last more than a minute, and then he's racing around again.

When I was a kid, my brother and I used to build crude wooden boats out of old boards and float them down our brook. So last week Vanal and I built a couple boats and brought them up to the trout stream about a half mile from our house. He quite literally threw himself into it. He has a certain laugh that is genuine and irrepressible, so you know he's truly having fun. It comes from the back of his throat and it goes, "O-Ho!" I heard that a lot as he charged down the brook chasing his boat, splashing along, slipping off the rocks, banging himself up.

Our modest beginnings started a neighborhood boat-building craze that has only in the past few days tapered off. Vanal's social skills have been good for us here. We've been fairly isolated out here, just exchanging polite pleasantries with our neighbors, but now a whole tribe of local kids whoops around our yard each day, Vanal spends his afternoons playing across the street, and on two recent evenings, I loaded up a Jeepful of neighborhood boys to go up and test the boats we'd all built on our porch. Obviously this has meant getting to know their folks a bit better.

Last weekend we went fishing, and seeing Vanal experience it gave me more flashbacks to age 7. I spent a lot of time fishing with my brother and cousins when I was Vanal's age or a little bit older, and I loved it and hated it. Hated the way you'd look down at your reel to make an adjustment and by the time you looked up again, your line had gotten tangled around the end of your pole. Hated fishing for hours and not getting so much as a nibble. Hated all the untangling, and tying, and snagging and failure. But loved the overall activity, loved being out there and all the anticipation. Vanal and 7-year-old The Blogger are very much the same in that regard -- a bit too physical, a bit impulsive, a bit impatient (although he's quite a bit better than I was). So I had to feign outrage on the second fruitless day when he finally got sick of it and flung his pole. I probably would have done it halfway through the first day.

Other random notes:

- He's got this game, or toy, or fetish, or talisman, called "Bakugan," which is something to do with some cartoon or other, and which involves small plastic rosary-bead-sized objects which fold out into fighting creatures and which cost $5 a pop but are undoubtedly produced by children his age for 0.13 cents apiece somewhere in the world. There's also a magnetized card with numerals on it which apparently is to be used in conjunction with the collapsible bead-beast. I've finally convinced him that I am never, ever going to play this with him, since to the extent that there are rules, they are more esoteric than the U.S. tax code and only understood by 7-year-olds (who I suspect may be faking).

- One evening, 12-year-old neighbor Austin (who has a story for whatever subject is at hand, even if he has to come up with one impromptu) claimed that he had once really gotten into poison ivy and that he'd gotten it "in a very sensitive place." Vanal thought for a second and then, obviously pleased to have gotten the innuendo, exclaimed, "O-ho! I know exactly where you mean! I can see it right now!"

- He cheats at everything. When you teach him a game, he figures out the way to cheat just as soon as the basic rules settle into his brain. I taught him 20 Questions the other day in the car. When it was my turn to guess, I quickly figured out that he was thinking of a race car (Didn't take much, since race cars are his lifelong obsession). So I said, "Is it a car?" And he says, "Well, sort of. It's part car." I said, "Do you race with it?" He says, "Well, you can," as if we were talking about tractors or lawn mowers. Later I made him explain how a race car is only part car. "Well, you have to have a driver, don't you?"

- He was trying to explain something he'd seen on TV yesterday but was lacking a particular word to describe the genre. Said, "You know, it's on TV but it's not really a show." Took me a minute, but then I figured it out. He meant a reality show. Perfect.

- He counted the lines on my face the other day. Told me you could tell how old someone was by doing so, just the way you count rings on a tree. Apparently I'm 40.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Family: Recent Photos

The Blogger and everyone here at Gesh's Globe would like to apologize for the lacuna.

Life with a six-week-old (as of today!) and a seven-year-old can be rather demanding on one's time. Much exciting stuff in the coming days here at the Globe. Meantime, please enjoy these photos.

Our rhododendrons have blossomed beautifully as predicted.