Dec 21

Let’s start the family holidays

We have arrived in Pennsylvania. We departed Nashville this morning, an airport experience without incident. Checked a bag, got a free offer to check another bag and so we did. From the ticket kiosk to the desk agent, through security, no problem. The Yankee did the pre check and I went the conventional route. We found ourself on the other side of the security checkpoint at almost the same time.

We had plenty of time for the plane, so we sat and read things for a bit. Boarded our plane, and were told about the upcoming turbulence. There was minimal turbulence. Everything was great, except for the people who don’t understand masks. And also the landing. It was a bit hard, but as I’ve been told before, it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it was the asphalt.

We taxied a bit, and then the plane was brought to a halt. There was, the pilot said a VIP moving through the airport and everything was coming to a halt. Clearly the pilot didn’t know about the guy sitting in 20F, me, who is literally wearing a VIP arm band.

I got a good two minutes of material out of this, which earned polite chuckles from the people around me. The Yankee, meanwhile, had looked it up. How many VIPs could there be, anyway? It was the president, of course. Air Force One was landing at about the same time, and the president was heading home to Delaware. They shut down everything for these sorts of moves. Entire airports, surrounding interstates, and all of that. But it took a while.

I sent him a note.

I did not send him a note. But it got another good chuckle.

And then our plane moved to the terminal, we got off the miraculous flying tube and went through the building and out the front. My godbrother-in-law (just go with it) picked us up and drove us to his home. We’re spending two nights with their family before moving on to other family events.

An event they had scheduled tonight was postponed because of some of the scheduled attendees tested positive and, following the news, this is obviously going to be the theme of the holidays. But there are children involved in all of this and you roll with the punches, and the kids are used it at this point.

So they decorated gingerbread houses and we had lasagna and I taught one of the girls a little bit about volleyball and everyone had fun. There were three couples and five kids, four of them 10-and-under. It was a whirlwind. That will also be a theme!

How are your holidays starting? I hope they’re pleasant and safe and full of promise.

Nov 21

More of the big cats

Here’s the final batch of photos from our Monday trip to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center. We took my in-laws, and had a private tour because they’ve just recently reopened (masks required) to small groups. Because it was just the four of us, our guide let us linger. And it’s a great family fun visit, too. We’ve been before with kids, and the sense of wonder is palpable. And most of the kids survive the tour!

Only kidding. Children are easy targets for apex predators. But, the fences are sturdy, and the cats at Exotic Feline Rescue Center are well pampered.

You won’t find anyone that isn’t impressed by the experience. Visit if you can. Go before lunch if possible, because the cats are a bit more active in the morning.

You can see the first installment in yesterday’s post. Here’s my second batch, full of tigers and a grumpy lioness. Enjoy!

Come back tomorrow! We’re going to hear a lion roar! And maybe some other stuff, too!

Nov 21

Seeing the big cats

We took my in-laws to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center. Really cool place with a great mission.

We provide permanent homes for exotic felines that have been abused, abandoned or for some reason have nowhere to live out their lives, while educating the public about these beautiful cats.

· We do not buy, sell or breed cats

· We do not allow public contact with the cats

· We give big cats a home for life

The EFRC owns approximately 260 acres of land in Center Point, Indiana where a staff of around 15 employees, as well as many interns and volunteers care daily for over 100 big and small exotic cats, give educational tours, sell and ship merchandise, construct and maintain enclosures, and many other tasks. We have cared for over a dozen different species throughout the years. There are just a handful of sanctuaries in the US that provide the same services that we do. We work and cooperate with many organizations including: Indianapolis Zoo, USDA, Louisville Zoo, Indiana DNR, US Fish & Wildlife and New York DEC.

Everyone loves visiting there. And if you’re ever nearby, you should definitely plan a few hours and make a visit for yourself. Here are a few pictures.

And more of those tomorrow.

Sep 21

What was your first concert?

It was a productive and quiet Thursday, which allowed me to catch up on things and prepare for tomorrow, which will be productive and hectic.

I had a great memory this morning.

This is Ray Charles’ birthday. He was born in Georgia. I saw him when I was a little boy at Opryland, in Tennessee. My mother and my grandmother were at the park. And, to be honest, it was probably just an excuse to get out of the sun and heat for an hour or so. But, as I recall, they opened the doors for general admission seating and I, being smaller than everyone waiting to get inside, weaved through the crowd and got us seats close to the stage and right in the center. Maybe six or eight rows back.

Pretty great first concert.

Charles came on from stage right, sat at his piano, and The Raelettes came in behind him. At some point my mother leaning over and saying “I remember, he was old when I was young!”

He would have been about 54 or 55 at the time, my mother was in her mid-20s. That sentence is now hilarious.

He played to the crowd for a nice long matinee set. He leaned way back on his stool. He sang all of the songs you’d expect. He wailed on Hit the Road Jack. I remember that clearly. This isn’t from that show, but a concert about two years before.

I’m sure my grandmother knew some of his songs. Probably some of the country catalog and the stuff that, by then, had become American standards. I wonder what she thought about the show.

Here’s the sports show from last night. It’s just a barrel full of IU sports. What transpired, and what’s coming up. It’s all on Hoosier Sports Nite.

And here is one of the planters out front of Franklin Hall. This area, in the Old Crescent, is one of the campus highlights, and it’s always photogenic. The landscape and facilities people are putting out their best fall colors. They always do terrific work on campus. Just imagine this sort of thing all over the heavily landscaped parts of a sprawling campus.

We’re waiting for them to return my call about whether they work on private residences. I’ll let you know.

Aug 21

Listen to some music, read some books

Just a week ago yesterday I mentioned Nanci Griffith here. She figured into one of my first blog posts. Back then I said “God Bless Nanci Griffith.” I’ve been listening to her for a long time, about a quarter of a century. This evening it was announced that she’d passed away.

God bless Nanci Griffith; he blessed us with her.

The Flyer, looking back, has a certain mid-century weariness that is overcome by the un-replaceable mid-century optimism she put into so much of her work. It was a wonderful entrance to her folkabilly style.

“These Days in an Open Book” sticks with you.

And there are parts of “Grafton Street” that can haunt you. Indeed, I can hear every important note perfectly well in my mind, even now.

She produced 19 records over the course of her career, which spanned most of my life until her health turned a few years ago. It’s an impressive body of work from a gifted storyteller. The nature of the entertainment industry, of course, is such that an artist’s work never leaves us, thankfully. What a gift it is to have all of this to return to.

I’m not ready to listen to them again just now — one day soon, I hope — but you should definitely try them out.

The planned event for the day was the return to the books section. We made it back there in just a shade under two years. That’s a perfectly average turnaround time, if you ask me. Perfectly average if you are Voyager 1 and you are in between Jupiter and Saturn.

This section of the site is a casual study of some of my grandfather’s books. I didn’t have the good fortune to meet him, but I know him from family stories and some of his things that I’ve inherited. Like a giant box of periodicals I rescued. So, today, we’re beginning a look at an issue of “Popular Science,” January 1954. Click the image to see the first five ads I’ve selected.

At this rate, it’ll take a while, and that’s the point. If Popular Science isn’t your speed, you can see the rest of the things I’ve digitized from my grandfather’s collection. There are textbooks, a school notebook and a few Reader’s Digests, so far. It’s a lot of fun.

And fun is what you’re supposed to have over a weekend. I hope that’s what you have in store for you. Come back and tell me about it on Monday, won’t you?