Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Tasks

Suddenly there is so much to do.

Obviously, there's a funeral director to deal with -- even if, as in our case, there is no funeral -- and there are clothes and possessions to sort. But there are also credit cards to cancel, insurance policies to claim, pension plans and 401Ks and property titles and blah blah blah. All the little essentials and conveniences of modern life that must be wrapped up neatly.

We met with the funeral director yesterday, and I must say, the guy was great. He was very direct and didn't try to upsell us on anything. My father wants a simple cremation with no service whatsoever. My stepmother did decide to buy an urn, but the funeral director didn't even urge that upon us -- it was her decision. Cremation is a process that takes a while, so I may be back in London by the time his ashes become available. We don't have a firm plan for what we're going to do with them.

Funny aside: During our meeting, the funeral director's cell phone rang several times. His somewhat startlingly loud ringtone was the theme from "The Godfather." Which, coincidentally, was one of my dad's favorite movies. We all laughed.

We decided to go ahead and place an obituary in the newspaper. We debated whether Dad would even want that -- but he always read the obituaries, and I think it's only fair to give his former coworkers and students an opportunity to know. I've got to get that done today.

My brother and I went to breakfast at McDonald's yesterday, where we sat beneath this depiction of Lutz, our suburban community, back in its early years. My brother thinks the people look suspiciously prosperous -- probably nothing at all like the residents of hardscrabble turn-of-the-century Lutz. But you gotta give McD's some credit for trying to create a sense of place in what would otherwise be generic plasticland.

I spent some time with Maybelline yesterday in her dog yard. She's a crazy girl. She loves to lie in my lap, even though she's about 40 pounds and always full of sand. Like all dogs, she is in the moment. If she feels any absence, it doesn't show.

My brother and I went through my dad's garage, and my brother collected some spare Volkswagen parts to take back to Jacksonville. He carries on Dad's interest in Volkswagens, and it's good to know all that stuff won't be wasted. The garage is an interesting embodiment of my dad's mind -- everything categorized and neatly stashed in zillions of tiny jars and boxes and drawers and cabinets. Way too much complexity for me. It's all too organized to be called hoarding, but we did marvel at some of what Dad saved. We have a lifetime's supply of desiccated rubber fittings and damp, ancient matchbooks!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

James H. Reed, 1937-2016

My dad didn't particularly like the spotlight. He certainly didn't like making his business known beyond the walls of his house, or the maze of fences he erected on his property. So I feel a bit conflicted writing about him and sharing these photos. He freely admitted being a bit of a loner -- he could be social if required, but most of the time he saw no need. All he wanted in the world was to spend time with his family.

Yet, when I was a newspaper journalist, and occasionally turned to my family for writing material, he never discouraged me. So maybe he wouldn't mind.

Above is the first picture I ever took of Dad, from my first roll of film. It was 1974 or so, and I'd just received my Magimatic camera for Christmas. The packaging is sitting on the table in front of him.

Dad was born in St. Louis in 1937 and grew up in Southern California, where, driven by his Scoutmaster father, he attained the rank of Eagle Scout and learned to love both girls and math -- almost certainly in that order. He went to college -- the first in his immediate family to do so -- and went on to earn a PhD in mathematics from the University of Maryland.

As a young man, he was adventurous. In the 1950s he traveled around the country with friends from high school. He kept a journal, which I have now, recounting experiences like a fender-bender in Miami and a fancy French dinner in New Orleans.

A year or so later, he booked passage on a freighter with some of the same friends, sailed across the ocean and drove around Europe for weeks. They scrimped to make their money last, eating sandwiches outside Versailles and occasionally sleeping in the car.

After graduate school, when he was recruited in the early 1960s to teach at a new university in Tampa, he was glad to get away from chilly, gray Maryland. Being a Californian, the sun was in his blood.

Most of my dad's career was completely impenetrable to me. I can't pretend to even remotely understand his PhD dissertation. It came with an elaborate mathematical graph. You know how mathematical graphs are usually parabolas, or something of the sort? Well, this one was a huge, circular, undulating thing -- like a gigantic poppy, or a gelatinous sea creature. There was so much in his mind I just couldn't fathom.

He said he liked math because it's neat. There's only one correct answer.

He married my mom in the early '60s. After moving to Tampa, they had me, and then they had my brother. And then, in the crazy, experimental social environment of the early '70s -- when so many marriages ran off the rails -- theirs did too. My dad became quite the rebel. He got rid of any clothing that wasn't denim. He bought a motorcycle -- a short-lived enthusiasm -- and a series of Volkswagens, which he disassembled and assembled with abandon. (Cars were another interest I could never understand.)

He had a bachelor pad where he painted big, swirly, abstract canvases. (Actually, maybe just one.) There were bean bags on the floor. We watched "The Rockford Files" and ate at Steak n' Shake.

Then he built a new house and, in 1976, he married my stepmother, who brought two children of her own into our family. My brother and I adapted, but it was a process. At work, Dad's coworkers called him "The Peacemaker," and he was a bit of a peacemaker in our family, too.

He taught me how to use a 35mm camera, his own Minolta. I remember walking around the yard with him and taking photos. He showed me how to measure the light, how to adjust the settings. I often credit him with teaching me to take pictures, but in all honesty, we only did it a few times.

I don't mean he doesn't deserve the credit. But Dad -- although kind and soft-spoken, even when he was disciplining us (his anger was usually of the "I'm so disappointed in you" variety, rather than outright rage) -- could be a bit remote. He came to our concerts and plays and childhood events. He picked my brother and I up from our mom's house every Friday, dropped us off again every Saturday, and picked us up again every Tuesday night for dinner. He was there, in a way that so many divorced fathers are not.

And, significantly, he was unfailingly supportive when I came out as gay in the mid-'80s.

But he also liked doing things his way, and doing what he wanted to do. He sometimes pulled into himself, particularly as he got older. He sat at the bar in the kitchen, absently watching TV or just staring into space -- "cycling his mind," as he called it.

He once told me he wasn't a good talker, and I think he sometimes felt bad that he wasn't saying more. It just wasn't in his nature.

This is my last picture with him -- taken only two weeks ago, which seems hard to believe.

Dad died at 1:30 in the morning yesterday, before I took flight from London to return to the family. I came anyway, and I'm in Florida now. There will be no services, according to his wishes. I spent yesterday evening with my stepmother and my siblings at one of Dad's favorite steakhouses. It felt oddly normal. I had to keep looking around the table to remind myself that he wasn't there.

Friday, July 29, 2016

About Face

I talked to my brother and stepsister yesterday, and my dad's condition isn't as good as the positive reports of his vital signs had led me to hope. In fact, he's going into hospice care. He was due to be released from the hospital yesterday, to return home and be cared for there. He's very weak and, although breathing on his own, is unable to eat.

So, I'll be back on a plane to Florida this morning. I bought an open-ended ticket so I could schedule my return to England as needed.

Dave and I cancelled our Copenhagen trip, and British Airways very reasonably deferred our tickets so we can use them again at a future date. Unfortunately the hotel wasn't as reasonable -- we're losing the £400 we prepaid for our accommodations. We're going to try to claim it from our travel insurance.

And me? I feel numb, sad, frustrated -- and I know I have it easy compared to, say, my stepmother. It's hard to deal with a situation that is so fluid. I literally don't know what to think, feel or expect. But I think it's important for me to be with the rest of the family.

I was able to speak to my dad on the phone yesterday, to tell him I love him, and he whispered the same back to me. So that's something.

(Photo: Window reflections and our maltese cross flower.)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dad Update, and Trent Park

Thanks for all your good wishes on my post yesterday. My dad is now off the ventilator and is apparently conscious, at least partly. His blood pressure and blood oxygen are good, according to my brother. So this is encouraging.

My approach is to assume that all will be well until there's reason to believe it won't be. I think that's sensible. We're moving forward.

Yesterday I went to Trent Park, near Enfield, with a group from the Royal Photographic Society. Remember Bleeding London, the project I worked on in 2014-2015 to photograph every street in London? Well, this year's local RPS project is called Breathing London, and it's focused on photographing the city's parks and open spaces. I hadn't participated at all until Tuesday, when I finally registered. (The project has been going on for months. I'm a little late!)

I first went to Trent Park in January 2012, about six months after Dave and I moved to London. I hadn't been back since, though, so it was fun to go again and do some more exploring.

As you can see, the ducks love Trent Park!

I met up with six other RPS photographers, and we wandered for a couple hours, taking photos of the yellow ragwort and purple thistles in the fields, the hilly landscape, the immense trees and the ponds. At one point we got off the trail and wandered across fallow farmland and through a forest -- but the good thing is, in such a confined area, you can't stay lost for long. We found the road again and made our way to the cafe for, in my case, coffee and an egg salad sandwich. Then I had to zip home to Skype with my brother.

Last night I uploaded my new pictures to the Breathing London web site. So I'm back on board with an RPS project!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dad, and a Giant Small Dog

My dad is in the hospital again, this time with what appears to be pneumonia. I've been in regular contact with my family but, having just returned from Florida, I don't plan to fly back unless his condition worsens. He's in the ICU, and he's mostly sedated, so we're doubtful he'd be aware of my presence even if I were there. We're in a holding pattern, watching and waiting to see how he fares.

In honor of him and my stepmother, and their chihuahuas Pinky and Manny, I went to East London yesterday to photograph what is possibly the world's largest small dog. I just became aware of this piece of street art, by Boe and Irony, but I think it's been up for a while. It's in Google Street View pictures taken last fall. Pretty amazing, isn't it?

Anyway, I'm now in an awkward position -- Dave and I have numerous minor events planned this week and, more importantly, our pre-paid trip to Copenhagen this weekend. We're certainly ready to drop all that if need be, and even to absorb the financial losses, but my hope is my dad will recover enough that it won't be necessary. It's not so much that I want to have fun in Copenhagen -- in fact it's hard to imagine having any fun with this going on -- but if we don't go, we'll lose the more than £1,000 we've paid for airfare and three nights in a hotel. Argh!

I know. I feel like a selfish bastard even raising the issue. But it's out there.

We just have to take things day by day and see what happens. There's no reason to expect that he won't get better, although it's certainly possible that he won't. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Flying Things

Well, my colonoscopy is over, thank goodness. Aren't you impressed with how quiet I was about the 48-hour prep period? I figured you didn't need to hear about that. You're welcome.

Anyway, the coast is clear -- no polyps, nothing scary. Apparently the digestive issues that nearly sent me home early from Florida really were gastritis. I've finished my course of Nexium so hopefully it won't come back, but if it does, I can always buy more meds.

Just to show you that we do get actual birds at our peanut feeder (and not just mice), here's a photo taken a few days ago. The top bird is a blue tit -- we see lots and lots of those. The bottom bird was a mystery to me, but I looked it up and I believe it's a dunnock, which I don't remember ever seeing before.

Yesterday we had a whole group of long-tailed tits on our suet feeder. I also saw a juvenile goldfinch and several other more common birds. It seems like everything eats these suet balls -- squirrels, magpies, starlings. In fact there are three starlings on the feeder as I write.

(Top photo: A housefly on Totoro, in our garden. For some reason the flies like to hang out on his face.)

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Tree Mallow, and Trump

This amazing bush, a tree mallow, is located around the corner from our flat. It's less amazing now, though. I took these pictures in late June, when it was spilling over the garden wall in floral abundance.

Since then, someone decided the mallow had to be pruned back to the wall, and most of the front of the bush was chopped off. Argh! Was it an inept gardener or maybe someone from the council, trying to clear the sidewalk? Who knows.

I'm going to remember it as it was.

There's an article in the July 11 & 18 issue of The New Yorker about fans of Donald Trump, and I found it fascinating. I know very few people who are likely Trump voters, and I'm always curious to know what's going on in their heads. I genuinely cannot conceive of a reason that anyone would support Trump. The article explores that, as well as the political conditions that gave rise to Trump in the first place.

There are lots of terrific snippets in the piece, by George Saunders, but I especially liked this one, given my background in newspaper journalism:
"Where is all this anger coming from? It's viral, and Trump is Typhoid Mary. Intellectually and emotionally weakened by years of steadily degraded public discourse, we are now two separate countries, LeftLand and RightLand, speaking different languages, the lines between us down. Not only do our two subcountries reason differently; they draw upon non-intersecting data sets and access entirely different mythological systems...In the old days, a liberal and a conservative (a "dove" and a "hawk," say) got their data from one of three nightly news programs, a local paper, and a handful of national magazines, and were thus starting with the same basic facts (even if those facts were questionable, limited or erroneous). Now each of us constructs a custom informational universe, wittingly (we choose to go to the sources that uphold our existing beliefs and thus flatter us) or unwittingly (our app algorithms do the driving for us). The data we get this way, pre-imprinted with spin and mythos, are intensely one-dimensional."
In RightLand, he points out, Vince Foster really was murdered, children are brainwashed by left-leaning universities and Obama really is a Muslim (and maybe not even an American!). To me, those are all laughable assertions, repeatedly disproven. In RightLand, they're facts.

How does a Democracy function when so many people willingly believe outright falsehood?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sultry Day, with Drummers

I took Olga to Hampstead Heath yesterday. The sun was out and the weather was balmy. As I sat on a bench she lolled nearby in the tall grass, wearing a huge panting smile for all to see.

"That dog is loving life," said a man who walked by and took her photo with his iPhone.

He's right!

During our walk I found lots of ragwort, which I know to look for now that we have a very tall example in our own garden. Remember how I mentioned it is the favorite food of the cinnabar moth caterpillar? Well, our ragwort is still caterpillar-free -- but I found some caterpillars on ragwort on the Heath. A new generation of moths is on its way!

The cinnabar moth is beautiful, by the way. Hopefully one of these days I'll see an adult.

As we walked, I heard drumming. It sounded like a drum circle, so I decided to follow the sound, just out of curiosity. I expected to find a big group of colorfully garbed hippies. Well, we walked and walked, practically all the way across the Heath, before I located the source -- these guys! I can't believe just two people were producing so much rhythm!

When I got up this morning, I once again found our venus flytrap ravaged on the lawn. I put it back in its pot, but I'm not sure how much that poor plant can take. I moved it inside.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


More nocturnal garden shenanigans! Remember our poor, beleaguered venus flytrap plant? It's been hanging on, sitting in our garden in its plastic pot, shaded by some larger plants. Well, yesterday morning we awoke to find it dragged across the yard and pulled from its pot. I'm thinking it would require an incredibly athletic squirrel to do that, so once again, I suspect the fox -- although why the fox was interested in the venus flytrap I have no idea. We put the plant back in the pot. It may survive.

Our hanging basket on the patio was also excavated and dirt flung everywhere. That had to have been the work of a squirrel.


Speaking of which, for weeks now, Dave and I have been marveling at how quickly the peanuts in one of the bird feeders have been disappearing. We see tits eating them all the time, but tits are tiny little birds, and we were impressed they could consume so much.

Then, the evening before last, as darkness was falling, we saw the true culprit:

Aha! That explains everything. We've since seen at least three of these little mice eating the nuts. (The photo is a bit blurry because it was so dark and I had to manually focus.)

Dave and I went to see the new "Star Trek Beyond" movie yesterday afternoon. We stopped in to a cafe in Swiss Cottage before the film -- that's Dave in the top photo, sitting out front -- and then caught a 3-D IMAX show. We both loved it. I wouldn't say it's very cerebral but it sure was fun, and the effects are amazing!

And finally, it's blackberry season again! These are the first berries harvested from our backyard vines. I cut them back quite severely in February and thought we might have fewer berries this year, but as it turns out, the blackberries always win. We have just as many as before.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Yesterday morning I got up and went out into the garden, and was confronted by a pungent, unpleasant smell. Really pungent. Like the cargo hold of a fully loaded shrimp boat that's been locked up at port for a week with no refrigeration.

I found a bag of garbage that had been torn open and its contents spread across our grass. I can only surmise that Mr. Fox retrieved it from some local trash can and brought it to us. How thoughtful of him! I wasn't wrong about the smell, either -- rotten eggs and last week's scallops. Lord. I picked it all up and hosed down the grass, but the smell lingered until midday.

The rug cleaning people did come to collect the rug on Wednesday. Now that it's gone, I'm kind of wondering why we have a rug at all. It's pretty nice in the living room with just a bare floor, and it would certainly be easier to keep clean!

Also, ever since we moved in two years ago, Dave and I have been hating the living room drapes. Saggy, dusty and colorless, they served no purpose since we never closed them -- our garden is pretty private, and even if someone were to look in, all they'd see is us reading or watching television. So we took them down entirely -- even the curtain rods, where possible. Again, the room looks much better! So much light!

We're apparently doing the minimalist thing, at least during the warmer months of summer. Maybe when winter returns the rug will feel better on our feet.

We've planned our trip to Copenhagen a week from tomorrow -- bought our tickets and our hotel room. We'll only be gone three nights, but long enough to stroll the Tivoli Gardens and enjoy a Danish beer or two. This will be our one fun trip of the summer, so I'm looking forward to it!

Also, I solved my colonoscopy problem. I found a hospital where I can have one done privately, and although it's expensive, it's not insanely so. I'm going for it. Monday is the day. Dave and I met with the gastroenterologist yesterday for our initial consultation and he agreed that my family history warrants the colonoscopy. He seemed surprised that my NHS doctors wouldn't recommend one -- he said he was willing to write them a letter and suggest it, but it would probably take several months. I told him I was tired of waiting and I'd rather just pay and get it over with.

And finally, Dave and I celebrated our sixth anniversary yesterday. Although we married last December -- as you may remember -- when the law finally allowed it, we were first civil-unioned in New Jersey in July 2010. So we count that as our real anniversary. In addition to the gastroenterologist (how romantic!) we went to a local Vietnamese restaurant that we've always wanted to try. There was some unexpected excitement when a tragedy occurred at the train station next door -- suddenly lots of people were running and looking down on the tracks with expressions of horror. Dave and I caught a glimpse but we didn't want to see too much. It was an alarming yet useful reminder that life can be cut short at any moment. Any day could be our last!

(Photo: Hollyhocks in Lisson Grove, on Monday.)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Armchair Traveler

As I've written before, every once in a while I get curious about a remote corner of the world, and I do some exploring on Google Street View. I just run up and down a few streets on my computer to see what the place looks like. Occasionally I get lucky and turn up pretty interesting images. Here are some of my recent favorites, all courtesy of Google.

Above is Archangelsk, Russia, on the White Sea north of Moscow.

Camden, New Jersey

Santa Barbara in the Azores, a tiny island group in the Atlantic

Vientiane, Laos

Sofia, Bulgaria

Perth, Western Australia

Lagos, Nigeria -- Ghostly figures sometimes appear when someone walks through the frame during the making of a 350-degree panoramic photo.

Montevideo, Uruguay

Henderson Island, an uninhabited speck in the Pacific (but not devoid of plastic!)

And finally, Vina del Mar, Chile

It just goes to show that great photo opportunities are all around us all the time -- even a completely unskilled robot camera gets a good capture now and then!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hot and Sunny

We are having quite a little heat wave. Yesterday's skies were sunny and temperatures reached 91ยบ F, which is pretty impressive for London. I seized the moment and took our blankets to the laundromat, then brought them home and hung them outside to dry -- which they did in no time.

(Still, it's not Florida. It's not THAT hot.)

I also bathed the dog, and I arranged to have our living room rug cleaned. We bought it in January 2012, soon after moving here, and although it's a dark plum color and dirt isn't easily visible, I know it's there. It's starting to smell a bit earthy. So the cleaners are going to pick it up today and, for £55, clean and return it to us in a week.

Did I mention that I've put together a new photo book? It contains the best of my pictures from 2013 (the date of my last London book) to 2015, and it's my biggest book yet. (Those were busy years, with all that Bleeding London photography!) I made an inexpensive e-book version, too. Check it out here and here, if you're interested. You can preview it by clicking on the covers. I'm happy with the way it turned out and I plan to order a copy for our school library, where the kids seem to have enjoyed my two previous London books.

Also, remember how I rescued those slides from my neighbor's trash? Well, I came across a similar story in The New York Times the other day -- by a woman who found a bag of slides on the sidewalk, and investigated whose they were and how they came to be there. It's an interesting video clip! You can check it out here.

(Photo: Notting Hill, on Monday.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The 'No' in Colonoscopy

Be warned that this post concerns medical matters, and as such, should probably not be read over breakfast.

I went to the doctor yesterday to follow up on my recent gastrointestinal illness, which hit its peak while I was in Florida. The doctor seems satisfied with my conclusion that I had gastritis, and indeed nearly all of my unpleasant symptoms (stomach pain, bloating, gas, irregularity, cramps) disappeared after I began taking Nexium. So, in terms of the immediate, acute problem, I'm much better.

The doctor prescribed an additional medication for a "cleanse," to put it politely, which I may or may not do. It seems a bizarre recommendation, as my body now appears to be taking care of things in that department more or less normally.

Given my symptoms, though, I have an additional concern hovering at the periphery of my mind: colon cancer. This is a topic about which I have long been hyper-vigilant. My grandfather -- who I greatly resemble -- died suddenly from undiagnosed colon cancer at age 59. With that family history, I had two screening colonoscopies in the USA, and my doctor in New York recommended them every five years.

Next month, it will be seven years since my last colonoscopy. Last summer, I asked my NHS doctor in London about colon cancer screening, even with something as simple and inexpensive as a fecal occult blood test.

"Oh, we don't start that until you're 60," he said rather blithely. He told me to simply "keep an eye on things" and report back if I experienced anything worrisome. (Never mind that my grandfather had NO SYMPTOMS and was dead before he was 60!)

I've mentioned my concerns to two other doctors since. Yesterday, the doc confirmed that even with gastritis I am ineligible for cancer screening, given the absence of critical symptoms -- chronic diarrhea or bleeding.

So it seems that I have stumbled onto an area of medical disagreement between the USA and the UK. In the states, we're practically begged to get cancer screenings and colonoscopies. The American Cancer Society suggests that people of average risk begin them at age 50. That magic birthday comes for me this year. (Whether I am at average risk seems debatable -- my grandfather doesn't count as an immediate family member and apparently doesn't statistically elevate my risk, even if I do look like him and have his build. But my American doctor regarded that history as significant.)

Remember how Katie Couric, at age 43, had a colonoscopy on American national television to publicize the benefits of the procedure, after her 42-year-old husband died from colon cancer?

Well, here in the UK, the NHS says no. Katie Couric would have been turned away.

If I want a cancer screening, it looks like I need to pay for it myself -- probably a fecal occult blood test, since paying for a colonoscopy is out of my price range. (Granted, I'd have had to pay in the states, too -- except that I had private insurance there.) I understand the NHS wants to avoid unnecessary tests and expenses, but it's not reassuring to be told that I can't be screened unless I am bleeding, by which time early detection is a moot consideration.

(Photo: I walked home from the doctor's office along the Grand Union Canal.)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Garden Progress Report

A lot has happened in the garden during the two weeks I was in Florida. For one thing, the hydrangeas have exploded!

The ragwort, that mystery plant that appeared this spring in the middle of our roses, is also blooming. I saw quite a bit of it along the train tracks when I was coming back into town from Gatwick Airport yesterday morning. Still no sign of any cinnabar moths, though.

The thistle that I moved from the front of the house is blooming, too.

And our speedwell, which we planted a couple of years ago, came up from the roots and is now flowering.

We've also got flower spikes on our red-hot pokers (including one that a snail gnawed through -- argh!) and the butterfly bushes (buddleia) are all in bloom. Dave has planted some marigolds and the cosmos that I saved is doing well, too.

All is right with the world, at least in Olga's mind.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Home Again!

I made it back across the pond. I'm a bit bleary-eyed, but I had a good flight. I watched "Meet Me in St. Louis," with Judy Garland, which I rented from iTunes and which basically advertised to the entire plane that I am a big ol' gay. I may as well have painted a rainbow flag on my forehead.

I sat next to an older couple who were a bit too chatty for my taste, but when I wasn't watching Judy I buried my nose in Jane Mayer's terrifying book "Dark Money," about the influence of the Koch brothers and their ilk on American politics. Thus I wasn't drawn into too much conversation.

When I walked in the door, Olga leaped into the air -- literally, all four feet off the ground. Dogs always make us feel so loved, don't they? (I guess Dave was glad to see me too.) Dave had a garden surprise in store -- he cleared out a big patch of English ivy and planted the area with some new flowers, as well as lots of new plants in other areas. He said he moved or planted 47 plants during my absence. How he keeps track, I have no idea.

Today's photo is courtesy of Dave, who sent it to me just after I posted yesterday. That's pretty much Olga's pose today, too!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Back to England

This sign used to stand atop a pole in front of a mobile home park near the house where I grew up. I always liked it as a kid. I'm not sure why they took the pole away, but now the sign is attached to a fence. What do you suppose got covered up by the word "HOME"? Do the Disney people know about this?

Well, this evening I fly back to England. I gotta say I am ready to go. I love my family, but I want to get home.

Last night I went out to dinner with my step-sister, her husband and their cousin, who I suppose is my...step-cousin? (It's all so complicated.) She's 15 years younger than me, and I hadn't seen her since she was about five -- so it's been a while. I think Duran Duran was still making hit records! Anyway, we had a good time at a posh little restaurant and then went to a bar that was far swankier than anything I knew existed in north Tampa. I had wine but kept it to a minimum for fear of awakening the gastritis monster.

Speaking of which, that's been much better since I began taking my Nexium last week. I have a doctor's appointment on Monday morning in London. Another good reason to go home.

This is what's waiting for me:

Dave sent that picture via Facebook this morning. Look at Olga, soaking up the London sunshine! The brown thing on the grass is Dave's favorite sweatshirt, though, so I guess it must not be super warm, at least in the early mornings. Here in Florida, it's hard to imagine that it's not sweltering everywhere.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Macclenny and South

I drove back to Tampa from Jacksonville yesterday. Again, I took a slightly longer scenic route, through the town of Macclenny -- where I'd never been -- and south through Archer and Newberry to U.S. 41.

When I stopped to photograph this vegetable stand, I first opted to buy a few in order to curry favor with the owner. He was a harried older guy with no teeth, and I forked over $7 for a big cantaloupe and a box of tomatoes. When I asked for a picture of the stand, he couldn't have been less interested. A few minutes later I showed him the result. "Great," he said, unenthusiastically.

I came across this farm where the buildings seemed to be made almost entirely of windows.

Someone appeared to have been reading the Bible by the side of the road, having a coffee, moments before I passed.

In Dunnellon, I found the Blues Brothers performing outside a motel.

Anybody want a pink elephant with demonic light-bulb eyes?

As I said the other day, I do love a good road trip. I got back to Tampa about 3 p.m. and dropped off my stuff at my dad's before having dinner with two friends from college. (My traditional dose of Cuban food -- chicken and yellow rice with black beans!) It was a long day of driving, but fun.