S. Carolina: Hilton Head Island, alligators, and Beaufort

March 24, 2014

Our plan for today was to spend the day in Savannah and take the Old Town Trolley historical tour. However, after meeting the resort’s concierge, Carl, we put it off for one day to save money! Carl told us that if we attended a presentation the next morning, about a new resort that has just been built on the island, we could get free tickets for the trolley tour. I normally hate attending such presentations because they always pressure you to buy into something you regret later, but Carl assured us that there was no pressure, it was strictly “soft sell”. Since the tickets would cost us $28 each, we decided it was worth it.

Hilton Head Island

Map of Hilton Head Island

Map of Hilton Head Island

We went to The Diner for breakfast because it was the first place we came to while driving toward the “toe” of the island and since it was after 10 by this time, we were very hungry. It was rather kitschy and the food mediocre. All the waitresses had black hair pinned up and wore Hawaiian shirts – meant to look Polynesian, I guess. There must have been a hiring requirement to have dark skin and black hair, and to have the body type (somewhat plump) of Polynesian women, because every single waitress looked like that! I had a spinach and feta omelet with hash brown potatoes and toast. Tam, who doesn’t normally eat breakfast, had yoghurt with granola, and of course, her requisite caffeine of choice, Diet Coke. Dale had pancakes and eggs, and he ordered coffee which was weak American style. I ordered a small orange juice and understood that I would probably have to forgo coffee today.

Afterward, we headed to Harbour Town on the “toe” of the island, because there is a well-known golf course there, where they often hold tournaments. We had to pay $5.00 at a security gate for the ‘privilege’ of entering that somewhat exclusive part of the island, consisting of Harbour Town and Sea Pines Plantation. It was hard to find a parking space in the area near the lighthouse, but Dale managed to squeeze into a tight angled spot between two other cars that weren’t parked very carefully.

The lighthouse had seemed really interesting, but it in fact turned out to be rather small compared to the ones we were used to and imagined, the large lighthouses that dot the Northeast and the Great Lakes. There was a museum inside, which you could see as you ascended the 100 stairs to the top of the lighthouse, but it cost money to get in, and a lighthouse ‘historical’ museum didn’t attract me, seeing as it was built in 1969. (That was during my lifetime – that’s not history!!)

?????????????????????????????????????Instead we went out onto the marina, a semi-circular walkway flanked by restaurants and shops. On the marina were several yachts, but it is still early in the year and it’s been rather cool, so there were still many empty spaces.


View of lighthouse and circular marina at Harbour Town

View of lighthouse and circular marina at Harbour Town

There was one huge yacht with a heliport on top, as well as a  motorboat stored on the upper deck and a pair of Jetskis.


This sculpture of a bored young man was very lifelike.

This sculpture of a bored young man was very lifelike.

We walked all the way around the marina until we reached the golf course. Harbour Town Golf Course is preparing for a professional golf tournament in late April. They had already erected bleachers for spectators. A golf cart was sitting there, and Dale saw that there were several score cards stashed in it, so he took a couple as souvenirs.

We walked onto the 18th green, where Dale posed for pictures next to the hole. There was a scenic marshy beach bordering the golf course.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????We were told by a group of men who were talking about the tournament, how to get to the Pro Shop, temporarily housed in a trailer. So we wandered into the Sea Pines resort area, where we saw something quite unexpected: an African-American cemetery! We walked among the small cemetery and read some of the gravestones. Many had been lettered by hand.


Finally we found the pro shop where Dale bought a cap with the golf course’s name on it. He frequently does this when we visit golf courses. From there, we circled around until we found the road into the resort again, and our car.


On our way to Beaufort, as we were driving past swamps and marshes, our daughter said, “I just saw an alligator!”

“Where?” I asked.

“Right along the bank,” she said.

I craned my neck but it was too late.

A few minutes later she announced that she saw another one. I whined in frustration for having missed it. She contended that it was because she was looking out the window, instead of having her head buried in a book, as I was. Perhaps, but I’m notoriously bad at observing things quickly anyway, so I doubt if I would have seen them. However, after that, I stopped reading and looked out the window, scanning dry land for alligators as the scenery whizzed by us.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Alligators, our daughter told us, are very different from their cousins, the crocodiles. While crocodiles can be aggressive and dangerous, alligators are actually rather mellow creatures who would much rather sun themselves on an outcrop of their marshland home than to wrestle with humans – which is why it is possible to see people wrestling with alligators! Have you ever seen crocodile wrestling? The point is that alligators pose little or no threat to humans.

Beaufort, SC

Beaufort is the second oldest city in South Carolina, located in the “Lowcountry” along the Intracoastal Waterway north of Hilton Head Island. The official visitors’ guide we received includes in their description, “Antebellum mansions stand proudly like the wealthy cotton barons who once called them home.” There is also evidence of Gullah culture, if you are looking for it. (The Gullah people were escaped or freed slaves who made their way onto the islands off the South Carolina coast, where they established their own communities. Being fairly isolated, they developed their own culture, still alive today, including cuisine and crafts that common to find in this area.)

Using the map in the center of our guidebook, we mostly looked at several of the beautiful historic homes. None of them offer tours – at least none that I knew of – but are interesting nonetheless.

The first home we saw was on Bay Street which runs along the waterfront. It was the Maxcy-Rhett house, or the “Secession House,” for it was here that pro-secession talks were held in the late 1850s.
?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8431Also along Bay Street, we looked at:

John A. Cuthbert House, c. 1810; Victorian elements added later. Now a Bed & Breakfast, Cuthbert House Inn.

John A. Cuthbert House, c. 1810; Victorian elements added later. Now a Bed & Breakfast, Cuthbert House Inn.

Thomas Fuller House (c. 1805) "Tabby Manse" used as a boarding house for more than 100 years.

Thomas Fuller House (c. 1805) “Tabby Manse” used as a boarding house for more than 100 years.

I looked up “Tabby” on an online dictionary, because the only definition I knew for tabby is a type of cat! The online dictionary gave a more fitting definition: a southeastern term “referring to a building material composed of ground oyster shells, lime, and sand, mixed with salt water.”

We walked along Waterfront Park’s shore, away from the parking lot and crowds, and admired the view of marshy waters and trees draped with Spanish moss. The ground was covered with little fallen leaves. I wondered about that. We would see that everywhere we went.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8438As I was staring out onto the water, looking for any outcrop or solid ground where alligators might be, Dale called out, “Look!”
He was pointing upward.

Was it an eagle? No, probably a hawk. It landed in a nearby tree; Dale and I soon had our camera lenses pointing up into the tree.
????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Looking at the map, the other houses of interest to us were a few blocks away – a great walk, for me, but Tam didn’t want to walk it in the shoes she was wearing. So we drove to one of the locations in order to park on the street.
We stopped at the First African Baptist Church and parked across the street. I tried the door, but it was locked and I could barely see anything when I peeked in a side window. The church was built by local Baptists for its African American members and has been in continuous use since 1865. Its most prominent member was Robert Smalls, Civil War hero, statesman and U.S. Congressman. He was born, in 1839, into slavery, but as a young man, learned the skills to pilot a ship and became a sea captain. In 1862 he commandeered the Confederate ship Planter to freedom beyond Federal lines north of Ft. Sumter, freeing himself, his family and the families of three other slaves who worked on the ship, during the night when the white crew was ashore asleep.

First African Baptist Church (c. 1865). Built by the Baptists of Beautfort for its African American members and in continuous use since the 1860s.

First African Baptist Church (c. 1865). Built by the Baptists of Beautfort for its African American members and in continuous use since the 1860s.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????From there we walked east on King Street. Just down the street from the church was the William Wigg Barnwell House, which was moved to its current location in 1963. It was restored by Jim Williams, whose story is told in the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. This was of interest to both Tam and me because we had read the book. In fact, she’d given me the book to read about a month before, because it is about Savannah and some of the interesting and eccentric people that live there. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Flowers! Balm to my soul after a long Chicago winter!

Flowers! Balm to my soul after a long Chicago winter!

On the lawn of one of the houses, we saw a calico cat and called to her. She came right over, jumped onto a low brick wall, and enjoyed us petting her. We saw her again later on our way back, and she purred as we petted her some more!

???????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Other historical houses of interest:

The Berners Barnwell Sams House (c. 1852), with only remaining slave dependencies (second picture), which are now apartments.


Elizabeth Hex House"Riverview" boasts varied flower gardens and a large kumquat tree (at left)

Elizabeth Hex House”Riverview” boasts varied flower gardens and a large kumquat tree (at left)

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Our guidebook said that this was the James Robert Verdier House (c. 1814) on Pinckney Street.

However, my picture is a perfect match for another house that I looked up via Google. According to the web site it is the John Archibald Johnson House at 804 Pinckney St., and says that Dr. John Johnson and his wife, Claudia Talbird, are thought to have built this three-story house in the 1850s. The house was still owned by Dr. Johnson at the opening of the Civil War and was used during the war as a part of Union Hospital #3.

However, when I took the picture above, I thought it was “Tidalholm” – The Edgar Fripp House (c. 1853), which was featured in the movies The Big Chill and The Great Santini. It doesn’t really matter though – I never saw Santini and I saw The Big Chill so long ago that I don’t remember much about it.

After leaving Beaufort, we headed to Savannah for the evening, continued in another post.


Posted in Southeastern USA, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Trip Journal Mar. 2014: Smoky Mountains Nat’l Park and Cherokee, NC

Here I go again! This is the first in a series of travel journals for our recent driving trip to South Carolina and Georgia. On March 22, 2014 Dale (my husband) and I left our home near Chicago and drove as far as Knoxville, TN. Although we didn’t have much time, as we were meeting our daughter in Charleston, SC the next day, we were able to at least drive through Smoky Mountains National Park, a place I would love to return to someday (in better weather)!


We got up fairly early and went to breakfast at our hotel, The Clarion Hotel in Knoxville. Both of us decided to make waffles in the waffle maker, a common fixture in hotel breakfast rooms. The coffee wasn’t too good, so we found a Starbucks for our coffee fix shortly after hitting the road!
Knoxville is located just north of the Smoky Mountains National Park, which I very much wanted to at least drive through. The weather was terrible – cold and rainy, and I thought we could bypass the park and go through it on our way home. However, Dale vetoed that idea and we drove through it anyway.
As we approached the park, we went through little towns with garish billboards advertising various attractions, including country music venues. Dolly Parton’s musical venue is in one of these towns. The town which borders the park, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, is Gatlinburg, TN, known for the country music festivals held there. We didn’t drive through it – we bypassed it – but once we entered the park, we saw it nestled in the valley below the peaks, at an overlook near the visitor center.


Sign at look-out point, showing Mount Le Conte, with the town of Gatlinburg in the valley below. (Downloaded from Google search). Compare with the view I took on a foggy, rainy day.

Sign at look-out point, showing Mount Le Conte, with the town of Gatlinburg in the valley below.  Compare with the view I took on a foggy, rainy day.

Look out point near Sugarlands Visitor Center

Look out point near Sugarlands Visitor Center

Solar panels!  Sugarlands Visitor Center

Solar panels! Sugarlands Visitor Center

Some people just can't resist...

Some people just can’t resist…

The weather was what it was… It was actually kind of cool – there was a lot of fog and I took many pictures as we drove, showing stark black, leafless trees which looked ghostly against the foggy background. Occasionally we could catch a glimpse through the trees of the Little Pigeon River as we drove through the park along the main road, the Newfound Gap Road.

Trees of early spring (the colors of early flowering makes it look like late fall!). Little Pigeon River is below, Mount Le Conte hidden in clouds above. The river is barely visible through the trees on the right.

Trees of early spring (the colors of early flowering makes it look like late fall!). Little Pigeon River is below, Mount Le Conte hidden in clouds above. The river is barely visible through the trees on the right.

West Prong Little Pigeon River can be seen through the trees.

West Prong Little Pigeon River can be seen through the trees.

View through windshield on the road.

View through windshield on the road.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8350I could tell by the way my ears were plugging up and I held my breath to pop them, that we were going up in elevation. The highest point we reached was at Newfound Gap, at 5,046 feet, on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina.

Newfound Gap: state line

Newfound Gap: state line – another new state that I visit!


Diversity of life in the Smokies. I found it interesting that more than 30 salamander species live here!

Diversity of life in the Smokies. I found it interesting that more than 30 salamander species live here!

DSCN8361 Newfound Gap is also a stop along the Appalachian Trail, which I insisted we walk on a little way!

Dale at the Appalachian Trail marker

Dale at the Appalachian Trail marker

???????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8366After that, we began to gradually descend. The road conditions were somewhat treacherous – windy mountain roads, slick with the rain and sometimes fog so thick we could barely see a few feet in front of us! ??????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8369Even so, we saw some beautiful views. At the next scenic viewing place we stopped after Newfound Gap, the fog was showing signs of lifting, and I took some interesting pictures of foggy wisps rising over a series of ridges. By the time we left the park, there were patches of blue sky above!

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8371DSCN8372DSCN8374DSCN8376Sky is lightening somewhat in the distance!

Sky is lightening somewhat in the distance!

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8382??????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8384I also wanted to spend some time in Cherokee, at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. I could have spent more time there, but a little more than halfway through, Dale rushed me the rest of the way, concerned about getting to Charleston in time to meet Tam’s flight. I’d seen most of what I wanted to see, though.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????I was fascinated by the Cherokee language. It was due to one man who had the idea of creating a system of writing for the Cherokee language. The alphabet is based on syllables rather than individual sounds. Most syllables in Cherokee have the CV pattern, making it efficient to create symbols based on these syllables. The inventor of the written language was at first mocked by his family who felt he should be doing something more worthwhile with his life. However, there are now many books translated into the Cherokee language, including the Bible, of course, and the street signs in the town of Cherokee are all bilingual.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This display shows the different symbols of the Cherokee alphabet. Each lights up as a recorded voice recites its sound.

This display shows the different symbols of the Cherokee alphabet. Each lights up as a recorded voice recites its sound.

A Bible written in Cherokee

A Bible written in Cherokee

The official seal of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation

The official seal of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation

After picking up our daughter, Tam, in Charleston, we headed south. The drive to our resort on Hilton Head Island was dark, as we traveled over many back roads, using our GPS to guide us. The name of our resort was Island Links, in the Port Royal Plantation section of the island. HHI is shaped like a shoe, with Port Royal being on the heel of the shoe.

Image downloaded from Google, but we got a map just like this one.

Image downloaded from Google, but we got a map just like this one.

Island Links is not on the beach, but there is a golf course nearby; too bad – we found out that we were each entitled to one free round of golf each day of our stay there! Dale didn’t have his clubs and didn’t intend to rent – his policy is when he’s on a family vacation, he leaves the clubs at home.

We arrived at around 10:00 p.m., and per instructions, we found an envelope with our building and unit number and instructions in a drop box outside the club house office.  Our unit was on the second floor, so we hauled our suitcases up the staircase (Tam had brought just a backpack – she travels light; we travel heavy, especially when we travel by car!), leaving whatever wasn’t necessary for that night in our car.
The unit didn’t have a key to get in; instead it was a combination lock. It was easy to memorize and when the keys were pressed on the keypad, the door opened easily.

Posted in Nature, photos, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

21 Things I Irrationally (?) Dislike*

*Feeling “hate” was too strong a word, I changed it to dislike!

This blog post was inspired by a similar one written by Rarasaur.

Here’s my list:

1. The taste of peanut butter when combined with sugar or chocolate. I like peanut butter inside pretzels or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. However, I hate peanut butter cookies, Reese’s pieces, or any other “sweet thing” contaminated with the taste of peanut butter (which doesn’t taste like “real” peanut butter anyway)!  reeses-peanut-butter-cup-cookies


2. Certain grammar mistakes, especially: misplaced apostrophes (NEVER is an apostrophe to be used to make a plural!!); lack of commas when talking to someone, e.g. “Let’s eat Grandma!” instead of “Let’s eat, Grandma!” They mean totally different things!; misspellings on official documents, company publicity, letters sent to parents from school (what kind of example does this set for our students?? Parents must think we’re morons!); using it’s when you mean its, or whose when you mean who’s, or not knowing the difference between there, their and they’re or between to and too.


3. Bad translations: seriously, if you need to do a decent translation, ask someone who really has a good command of that language instead of using Babelfish or someone who learned the language in their family’s kitchen but never studied it in school. It’s embarrassing to see that the ‘bilingual’ individuals teaching our children are being misrepresented as unschooled idiots!


4. Pride in having less than a college education and not knowing anything about the world outside your country’s borders. (I don’t mean to imply that not having a college education makes anyone inferior or less intelligent – it’s that some people flaunt this and look down on intellectualism.)


5. Having to press a series of digits on one’s phone to reach this department or that employee, only to be connected with someone phone-dial-padwho isn’t there and having to leave a voice mail or start all over!


6. The NRA (this isn’t “irrational” – it’s sensible!). The NRA is so beholden to gun manufacturers that they will tell any lie, such as that people’s 2nd amendment rights are being violated if they aren’t allowed to buy semi-automatic weapons so they can go shoot a lot of people in a public place, or that the bystanders with guns in a violent situation will be able to somehow protect people from a crazed madman with an AK-47, or that guns are needed for “self-defense” in the home – if a burglar enters your house and confronts you by pointing a gun at you, can you really tell him to wait while you fetch and load your gun? If an assailant grabs you on the street and sticks a loaded gun into your back, will you really be able to get out your ‘concealed’ gun to defend yourself? No! Even in the “Wild West” guns were left at the edge of towns. At that time, people knew the power of weapons and that whoever was first to point a weapon at someone else had the advantage. Guns are offensive weapons, very rarely defensive. The only individuals who need to have guns are the police and the military (the “militia” mentioned in the 2nd amendment), and hunters could have rifles although they ought to use bow and arrow to give the animal an equal chance. That’s all. Period! In fact, the 2nd amendment ought to be repealed – it’s no longer necessary today and it’s caused a lot of violence and sorrow as children are killed every single day in the inner cities across America. no-guns-icon
7. Spell check in MS Excel that doesn’t allow me to enter the Chinese name of my doctor. No matter what I do, it changes “Hsi” to “His.” In MS Word I can get around it, but not in Excel.

8. Spell check on my phone that assumes I mean “toe” instead of “tow”, or substitutes what it considers a more ‘likely’ word than the one I’m typing. I know how to spell! Leave me alone!

9. People who take someone else’s expressed opinion as a personal insult. Example: If I am at a potluck or buffet and I choose not to select a particular dessert by saying, “I’m not fond of peanut butter desserts” they think I am criticizing them personally for liking peanut butter in desserts.

10. People who have no manners and delight in being rude or using words they know are offensive to their audience. In fact, I really hate deliberately rude people. This includes people who can’t find an intelligent way of criticizing someone or their opinion; their vocabulary apparently isn’t expansive enough to say something more edifying than, “Fuck you! You are an asshole!” etc.

11. Institutions or individuals who think their “religious rights” allow them to restrict my rights to certain goods or services. Your rights end where mine begin!

12. Those who think it is a matter of opinion to reject scientific theories. Evolution really did happen! The Earth is over 4 billion years old. Human-induced climate change is real and will become a serious threat to our lifestyle in the very near future if we don’t stop polluting in the name of the almighty dollar! We all live on this planet – let’s respect it and all those who call it home. I don’t care what the Bible says about God creating the Earth in 6 days – what was a “day” back then? Why not accept this as being just another creation story, or at most a story with a moral lesson, not historical fact? Get over it!!

13. Cold showers

14. Winter (I do appreciate the changing of seasons and recognize winter as part of the cycle of life, but there’s just too much of it – cold, snow, ice…I need to move somewhere warm!). It is a lot easier to cool off in the summer than get warm and cozy in the winter. IMAG1319-deck-dark
15. Dog lovers who hate cats for irrational reasons. I am a cat person, but I don’t dislike dogs. I don’t go around spouting misinformation about dog habits. If you don’t like cats, fine, but don’t try to justify it by saying something like “cats aren’t friendly” that has no basis in fact. Why does there have to be a rivalry between dog lovers and cat lovers anyway? Why not appreciate all animals for what they are?

cute friends
16. Pop up ads, especially those that flash repeatedly to get your attention.

17. In fact, ads in general. I listen to public radio most of the time because I can’t stand all the commercial breaks other radio stations have. When a commercial break is on TV, I either leave the room or do something else while the commercials are on. Or I record the show on my DVR so that when I watch it later, I can skip all the ads! They are especially annoying during movies.

18. Mosquito bites.

19. Dry skin, especially when it gets so bad that it cracks and bleeds.

20. Lying in the sun for prolonged periods, sunscreen or not. With sunscreen on, the sand sticks to my skin all over, which itches and drives me crazy. Without it, I get terribly sunburned. Suntans are not all they’re promoted to be – in fact, they’re unhealthy. I love the beach, but only for short periods if it’s a hot day.

21. Auto-flush toilets. They always seem to flush when I’m adjusting my position or leaning forward. Then when I get up from the toilet, half the time, it doesn’t flush again!


Note: All photos downloaded from Google, except two: the photos of winter are my own.

Next: Things I (irrationally??) Love

Posted in Me, my life and experiences | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

Most of my reflection photos come from nature, and I have posted some of them before. Most of the following were taken within the last year. They tell the story of the weather this past autumn and winter.

I start with icicles. This winter has been brutal here in the Midwest – record cold temperatures for several days in a row, 3rd snowiest winter on record. So it’s not surprising that icicles this winter were larger than ever and often interesting to photograph.

Taken at 4:41 on Feb. 6: the late afternoon sunlight reflecting on these icicles hanging from the roof of my house enhances the grooves made in the formation of the icicles.

Taken at 4:41 on Feb. 6: the late afternoon sunlight reflecting on these icicles hanging from the roof of my house enhances the grooves made in the formation of the icicles.

I liked the contrast in colors between the white of the snow and the yellow icicles, reflecting the light of the setting sun (taken Feb. 10 at 5:54 pm).

I liked the contrast in colors between the white of the snow and the yellow icicles, reflecting the light of the setting sun (taken Feb. 10 at 5:54 pm).

Later in February, there was a brief thaw. The ice and snow began to melt and sidewalks flooded with water. I took these pictures of the reflections of trees in the pools of melted water:

IMAG1504IMAG1506 (2)Going backward in time, I took the following two pictures at a local park district facility, on a walking path.

Setting sun reflects on the water of a pond.

Setting sun reflects on the water of a pond.

Taken in August 2013:

I often see this ibis in one of the ponds along this walking path. The water was so still, allowing for a perfect reflection of the white bird.

I often see this ibis in one of the ponds along this walking path. The water was so still, allowing for a perfect reflection of the white bird.

Going backward in time to earlier in the summer, my husband and I took a trip down south. First we visited a friend in Austin, Texas. Here you see her and my husband reflected in a mirror, taken in the childhood home of Lyndon B. Johnson.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Later we visited Memphis, where we visited Graceland. Glitz, bling and lights were prominent in Elvis’s home as well as in the museums at Graceland.

I especially like this picture I took in the mansion from the top of a stairway surrounded on all sides by mirrors, reflecting multiple images of the people descending the stairs.

The enclosed stairway surrounded by glass mirrors on all sides gave me vertigo! However, I liked the effect.

The enclosed stairway surrounded by glass mirrors on all sides gave me vertigo! However, I liked the effect.

What trip to Graceland would be complete without visiting the exhibit dedicated to Elvis’s cars? This black car was made more impressively glitzy by lights reflecting all over its surface.

1256Reflections of images, people or animals, or created by the colors of a setting sun or by manmade lights reflecting on a surface are great opportunities to photograph the different effects that light creates.


Posted in Nature, Photo Challenge, photos, seasons, Texas 2013, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Daily Prompt: High School Memories

Today’s prompt: A song comes on the radio and instantly, you’re transported to a different time and place. Which song(s) bring back memories for you and why? Be sure to mention the song, and describe the memory it evokes.

Hello Good-bye by the Beatles is probably the most evocative because to this day it brings to my mind a particular event that I remember pretty clearly. It was mid-December, 1967 at Verde Valley School, nestled among the red rocks near Sedona, Arizona, where I went to high school.

Aerial view of Verde Valley School campus

Aerial view of Verde Valley School campus, with Cathedral Rock as a backdrop.

(Sedona was mostly unknown then and not the tourist attraction it is today.) It was the day we were all preparing to go home for vacation and gathering in the dining hall/quad area, our luggage in tow. Suitcases were piled up on the covered porch of the dining hall, waiting to be loaded onto the school’s green buses for the trip to Phoenix airport, two hours away.

The famous view of Cathedral Rock after a snowfall.

The most famous view of Cathedral Rock after a snowfall.

The unusual thing about this day was that it was snowing! Sedona typically will get a dusting of snow a few times during the winter months, edging the red rocks in white and creating a silent beauty. But it was not just a dusting that we got on that day. This was a sort of freak storm, the snowflakes coming down fast and heavy and covering the ground in a thick blanket of white. (The storm affected the entire northern half of Arizona, I later learned, causing hardship and a few deaths on the Navajo Reservation where people did not have heating and were not accustomed to weather that cold).

Hello Good-bye blasted  from the speakers in the nearby common room.

The patio outside the common room probably looked pretty much like this that day.

The patio outside the common room probably looked pretty much like this that day.

The song was on the 1967 album Magical Mystery Tour, but it was only that song that evokes these memories, and appropriate for the occasion, I suppose! It’s upbeat with a happy sort of rhythm and enhanced the euphoria of the student body, already excited to be going home as well as by the snow. The vast majority of the students were from Arizona or California, most unused to snow.

What was going on in my mind was, if it’s snowing this much here in the Southwest, what will the winter be like back in Wisconsin? (I needn’t have worried – surprisingly, not only was there no snow at all when I got home, but there was no snowfall the entire three weeks I was home, not even at Christmas – I was disappointed!)

Meanwhile, some of the California kids were going a bit crazy with the snow. A few tried to build a snowman (it was wet, “good packing” snow) with bare hands – hardly anyone had gloves or mittens. One very tall, lanky African-American boy from Oakland was picking up snow and forming it into balls to throw at people. At first he wasn’t very good at it – the snowball fell apart in his hands and scattered harmlessly when he threw it – but eventually he got the hang of it and started packing small, hard snow missiles, ready to throw at anyone who came near. He laughed when he hit his target, thinking it was great fun. He mostly hit people in the back or front of their jackets or on their legs, but one of his snowballs barely missed my head!

“Michael,” I admonished him. “Be careful where you’re throwing that! You don’t understand about snowballs! I come from a place where there’s snow every winter, and I’m telling you they can really hurt someone.”

He didn’t believe me or didn’t care, delightedly continuing to scoop up handfuls (he actually was wearing a tight-fitting pair of leather gloves) of the wet stuff to throw at anyone or anything he found. Fortunately no one was hurt because his aim was terrible!

The students gathering in the quad mounted – the buses were late leaving campus due to the storm.  A few kids were transported in smaller vehicles by staff members to nearby communities, so they were able to leave before the rest of us.

The quad after a light snow.

The quad after a light snow.

The ride to Phoenix in a crowded bus full of chattering students was charged with excitement caused by the snowstorm, the music, and the prospect of seeing family and friends at home. For awhile, looking out the window, I saw nearly whiteout conditions, but little by little the snow dissipated, eventually consisting merely of a few stray flakes floating over the arid landscape. By Phoenix, warm temperatures and a high cloud cover returned.

I don’t remember if my flight to Chicago was delayed or not. I just remember anticipating snow at home and feeling let down by a boring landscape of dead cornfields, naked trees and lawns where nothing was growing, just bare ground of soggy, dead grass!

Greeting card showing snow falling outside the dining hall.

Greeting card showing snow falling behind Brady Hall. The dining hall is on the far left.

Note: None of these photos were taken by me. I downloaded them from Google.

Posted in Me, my life and experiences, Nature, Post-a-day, seasons | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Weekly Photo Challenge: Three

This is a series of pictures that tell the story of one of the coldest and snowiest winters in the Midwest! In January, I spent more days at home (19) than at work (12), due to sickness, school cancellations because of below zero temperatures and holidays! These three pictures tell the story of my surroundings with the theme of icicles.

Overview: The house
Relationship: Our cat gazing out a front window, her favorite activity
Detail: Icicles in front of the house

Posted in Nature, Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

It was 50 years ago today…

Yesterday (Feb. 7) was the 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America! I think it was on Feb. 8 that they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

beatles-toys-160I was eleven years old and in sixth grade in February of 1964. I was at that age when pre-teens look toward the teenage years with longing. Eleven and twelve-year-olds (and even ten-year-olds and younger, these days) wanted to imitate everything teens did: we wore their fashions, we incorporated their slang into our speech, and we went crazy for their music.

At school, the cool thing for us at that time was to collect Beatles’ cards, which came in packs of bubble gum, like baseball cards. Some had pictures of the whole group and others showed individual members – so we wanted to get as many as possible of our favorite – Paul cards became scarce very fast! On the back of the cards were facts about the Beatles as individuals or as a group. This is how I found out and memorized each of their birthdays, favorite colors, and other basic facts.

bc26-backMy favorite was Paul, but by seventh grade I’d switched to George, partly as an act of defiance – I didn’t want to be like most other girls who were head over heels for Paul. On TV, they showed shots of girls crying and swooning, mouthing “Paul” over and over again. How embarrassing!

George seemed to be to be sort of ignored. He was quieter and provided an accompaniment for the compositions of John and Paul most of the time. However, every album had at least one song written by George. Ringo was in the background, but he was different – and therefore stood out – than the others because he played the drums, rarely sang and didn’t compose any songs. He had a large nose. When I switched loyalties, George was the logical choice – good-looking, mysterious.  What about John? Well, he was married…

I never had any illusion that I would actually ever meet any of the Beatles, much less entertain the idea of dating them, unlike many girls, it seemed. Or perhaps it was just a fantasy and so when the second Beatle to get married – Ringo – tied the knot, there were girls who were suddenly jolted back into reality by this fact. They threw away or ripped up their Ringo cards (if he had been their favorite) and one of my contemporaries felt so betrayed that she said, right in the hallway of our junior high, “I hate Ringo!”

We were a full ten years or more younger than the Beatles and we lived in the United States in a small town in Wisconsin. Get real! Even though I prided myself for being grounded in reality, I still never even considered John to be my favorite Beatle. The Beatles were a comfort to me in the difficult years of junior high. If I’d had a bad day at school, their songs could make me feel better again.

As for me, I was content to exchange Beatles cards whatever they were, and especially if they were a trade from the boy I secretly liked. He sat right in front of me in class. He was always nice to me, and later (too late) I realized he had a thing for me, too.

beatles2 nociggie

At home, my radio was always tuned to WLS in Chicago, which played the best hits of the early to mid ‘60s. I lined up in loyalty to the evening DJ, Ron Riley, who liked the Beatles and played their records often, as well as good songs by other singers. Others preferred Clark Weber, who was on in the morning. I would listen to him, too, as I got ready for school, but he was very old fashioned: he almost never played a Beatles song, and instead preferred musical styles such as bossa nova – boring!! It was Clark Weber that introduced me to the song The Girl from Ipanema and the band that had recorded it, Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, but I was a long way from appreciating music like that.

On my bedroom wall, I plastered pictures and posters of the Beatles from top (or as high as I could reach on a step ladder) to bottom. My parents were bewildered. None of their other children had ever gone crazy over a singing group or individual singer. None of my sisters ever went crazy over Elvis Presley. They leaned more toward folk music, which I thought was OK. My brother liked jazz and comedy, such as Allan Sherman and others. I heard so many of Allan Sherman’s songs that I memorized a couple of them and still remember them to this day!

Even though I had to share a stereo in the playroom of our house with my brother and whatever sister was home at the time, most of the time it was me and my friends that played records and danced to them. Before I had many records, we would play some of the 45s that my sisters had left lying around, such as La Bamba – we loved to dance to that song.

It didn’t take long before a trip to Dorothy’s Records on Main Street became a weekly excursion. Because of the Beatles, I started listening to rock n roll on the radio and purchased several singles (45s) of other artists. But the only LPs I bought were by the Beatles. 45s cost only about 50 cents, but LPs cost nearly two dollars!116511_cda_f

For every action, there is an equal and direct reaction, and so it was with the Beatles. My brother, of course, professed to “hate” them and used a hole punch to punch out the eyes of their pictures on my album covers. He made fun of their long hair, changing “I Wanna Be Your Man” to “I Wanna Be A Man”. I didn’t find his antics amusing, but they were typical – anything I liked, he was determined to dislike.

album-The-Beatles-A-Hard-Days-Night beatles65

In American society at large, there was also negative press about the Beatles: their hair was too long, their songs had dumb lyrics – all they said was “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” – and they were probably had a deleterious effect on young adolescent minds. Even songs that were anti-Beatles came out: Allan Sherman himself had one, to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel, “I Hate the Beatles”. I was very disappointed in him for that!

It wasn’t long before the media criticism began to get political as the Beatles were under constant scrutiny. It was almost as if you were liberal, you liked them, and if you were conservative, you didn’t, or this was how I framed it in my mind. One of my friends was not allowed to bring Beatles records into her home and was discouraged from listening to them at all. Of course, this only piqued her curiosity, so when she was at my house, she asked to listen to the Beatles latest record and looked at my Beatles magazines. One time I let her take one home, which she begged me for, and she had to sneak it into her house and hide it under her mattress!

Alas, the magazine was discovered by her mother, who grew very angry, and destroyed it right then and there. I thought that was unfair – it wasn’t her property or her daughter’s – at least she could have told her daughter to give it back to me.


I got tickets to see the Beatles in 1966, which was their last formal tour, in Chicago. I went with my friend Val. My dad drove us down to Chicago while my mother stayed home worrying that the theater was in a bad neighborhood. He dropped us off at the International Amphitheater and came back to pick us up.

These ticket holders were lucky to be so close!

These ticket holders were lucky to be so close!

The venue was packed, and we were in the 104th row! Needless to say, the Beatles looked very small from our perspective – they would have been easier to see if we had watched them on TV! Most of the audience consisted of teenage girls, and most of them were screaming the entire time, so we couldn’t hear the Beatles very much either! In fact, I later heard that they would sometimes mouth the words to the songs, not really sing them, because the screaming was so loud that no one noticed. I don’t know if that was true or not. Wouldn’t someone have been taping for TV?

Anyway, I was not one of the screamers. I hated all that screaming and _39837623_ringo_screamcouldn’t understand why so many girls, including Val, did it.  It gave me a headache to scream and I was frustrated because I really did want to hear the concert.

Also in 1966, the Beatles began to change – their music became more complex and less “poppy”. This siphoned off a lot of fans in our conservative small town, who felt the group was going in an undesirable direction. For some it was just that their songs became less danceable. The Beatles hype began to die down, especially after it was announced that the Beatles took drugs, which I refused to believe. They would never do that!! It was said that the Beatles’ use of drugs would lead impressionable young teenagers to take drugs also.

rubber_soul beatles-revolver

I remained loyal to the Beatles, but began to like other bands just as much and I eventually was buying records by others, especially Herman’s Hermits, the Beach Boys and the Doors, and when I was 14, the Monkees, who had taken the country by storm with their hit TV show about a singing group modeled more or less after the Beatles.

I got tickets for a Monkees’ concert too, in Milwaukee, but it was cancelled due to the fear of race riots. That was the summer of 1967 and the inner cities across the country were experiencing uprisings and lootings in black neighborhoods. Fear of this happening led other cities, like Milwaukee to cancel concerts that would attract a lot of people and imposed curfews.

By the time I went away to school, as a high school sophomore, Beatlemania had definitely quieted down.  At that liberal high school nestled among the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona, I was exposed to many other kinds of music as well as bands I’d never heard of or at least never had listened to. It was the age of psychedelia and Haight-Ashbury; hippie fashions were the “in” thing – long hair, large bell bottoms and lots of beads.

beatles_abbey-roadAs for the Beatles, they were very much appreciated, much more than I expected. It was their later music that the kids at my school liked, and I developed more of an appreciation for it also, as my musical education expanded. Rock music had exploded with hundreds of bands and solo singers all getting into the act. From every dorm room came the strains of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, the Beatles and many others. It was also when I got into soul music coming out of the Motown movement. In the common room, some danced to Motown hits or just chilled out with Procol Harem’s Whiter Shade of Pale – even today I can’t hear this song without thinking about that smoke filled common room!

My senior year I had a dorm room to myself. I put on the outside of the door a picture of John Lennon and Yoko Ono naked! The dorm head, one of the teachers who would come around and check our rooms, hated seeing that every day and asked me to take it down, which I eventually did.

From rock and soul, I moved on to folk and classical music, which I preferred for many years. By the early 1970s, the Beatles had broken up while John and George were recording solo albums, and Paul joined the band Wings with his wife, Linda. The new “in” things was disco, which dominated the airwaves for a few years. I never had any interest in disco and didn’t listen to rock music for many years, hardly at all during my college years.

1980 saw the tragic death of John Lennon in New York City, where he had settled with his wife Yoko Ono. I was living in Brazil at the time and there was an outpouring of emotion there as well as in the U.S. There were tributes by Brazilian pop singers such as Rita Lee, Milton Nascimento, and Caetano Veloso.


These two pictures are from the 30th anniversary of his death, in Central Park.

These two pictures are from the 30th anniversary of his death, in Central Park.

I felt his death as keenly as anyone, having come to appreciate John for the genius he was – but as usual, perhaps too late. I went to a Milton Nascimento concert in Natal shortly afterward, and he also did a tribute to Lennon. John and Yoko had released a few albums years earlier, but they had just begun a new era of creativity, and their new album, Double Fantasy, sold out quickly. It was sad – the new album was excellent and expressed so much of the love that they had for each other and for their family. Finally John was happy and enjoyed being out of the limelight.

Their son, Sean, was 5 years old when his father was murdered in front of the building where they lived. John had spent the last several years taking care of his son – he was “Mr. Mom” while Yoko took care of the business side of their life. Beautiful Boy is one of the most heart-wrenching songs of the relationship between father and son. I can’t hear it even now without crying. That song – in fact, the whole album expressed so much hope for the future – a future of domestic felicity with a simpler life of peace and harmony oriented toward family.  It is all the more poignant listening to it after his death, thinking of how he composed it during a time that his heart was full of happiness and love.


Interestingly, if macabre, George Harrison was also attacked at his home. However, his home was in England; he was attacked with a knife, and survived. Guns are not in wide circulation in England. Some years later, George died of cancer, as did Paul’s wife Linda.

So there remain only two: Paul and Ringo, now in their 70s! Although they don’t perform together usually, most recently they ended up playing together at the Grammy Awards. They are no longer identified by our culture as part of the Beatles – young people today often don’t know about the Beatles at all; if they do, they may enjoy their music while regarding it as a relic of their parents’, or grandparents’(!), generation.

Posted in Brazil, Me, my life and experiences, Wisconsin | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment