Monday, February 16th was President’s Day. It used to be Lincoln’s Birthday. Yesterday used to be Washington’s Birthday. It was a separate holiday honoring the “father of our country.”
Garry was waxing nostalgic for the good old days. When George and Abe had their own special days. Modern times are egalitarian. Now, we honor all presidents equally. We know this because they all share a single holiday — President’s Day.
“Poor George and Abe,” opined Garry, “They lost their days. Now we honor William Henry Harrison, Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland, Zachery Taylor …” Then he asked me what Tyler’s first name was. And by any chance, did I know when Martin Van Buren was president.
I didn’t remember Tyler’s first name, so I looked him up. Turns out, he was John Tyler. He got to be president when W.H. Harrison died after one month in office because he got pneumonia standing around in the rain on inauguration day. Which is what my mother always warned me about. Not becoming president, but standing around in the cold and rain, catching pneumonia.
When I was a kid, I had this book called 33 Roads To The Whitehouse. Which means there have been 10 presidents since I was a kid. I read the book a bunch of times. Used to know all about each president up to and including Dwight D. Eisenhower. Which was when the book ended.
Because of that book, I knew Martin Van Buren followed Andrew Johnson. Who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after he was assassinated. In order, it was Lincoln, Johnson, Van Buren, William Henry Harrison (as opposed to Benjamin Harrison), who died after 30 days in office. John Tyler was Harrison’s VP, which is how he got into office. Got that? There will be a short quiz at the end of the period.
All presidents are the same in the eyes of our government, or at least the part of our government that decides on which holidays we get time off from work. Thus we honor, without discrimination, Washington, Lincoln, Harding, Taylor, and the inimitable Millard Fillmore. Even if they did nothing in office. I know for sure Harrison didn’t do anything in office, except die. He wasn’t in office long enough to do anything else.
If you are curious, Wikipedia has a pretty good article titled “List of Presidents of the United States.” It includes lots of presidential trivia. I love historical trivia. It’s those little twists and turns which change destiny.
Maybe next year I’ll buy a car. That’s what real, red-blooded Americans do on President’s Day. And, as everyone knows, I’m a traditionalist.
We surprised everyone — except ourselves — when we announced our plans to honeymoon in Ireland. “Neither of you is Irish,” they said, foreheads wrinkled. I’m not sure why everyone here and there assumes the only reason to go to Ireland is to look for “roots.” While we were there, we were often asked why we’d come and on hearing neither of us is Irish, would get looks of puzzlement. Then, they’d look again and ask “Are you sure?”
It was a great place for Americans. There’s strain between the Irish and English for longstanding historical reasons, but they have nothing but smiles for Americans. From Dublin to Sligo, Shannon, Galway, Cashel and all the lovely towns in between, people were friendly and welcoming. When they learned we were honeymooners, we were treated to rounds of drinks and offered the best accommodations. Avoiding big hotels, we stayed in bed and breakfasts which we found using the National Tourist Board guidebook and a map.
We’d zero in on a destination and phone ahead. After a while, it began to work the opposite way. Wherever we landed, we’d see who had a room and stay there. We always found someplace nearby and each home was spotlessly clean and comfortable, although tiny by American standards.
Our first stop after Shannon was Cashel. The bed-and-breakfast was a little pension. In the shadow of the Rock of Cashel, adjacent to the ruins of a medieval Dominican church, the location was perfect. We stayed two nights, then headed for Dublin.
Dublin was magic. Once we found our feet, it was a city of music and wonderful company We’d been planning to stay two nights, but stayed five. There were evening’s at Foley’s, where Irish music played every night and we all joined in, each in our own key. There were the pubs, where the Irish Coffee was always strong and the folks eager to wish us well and advise us on our itinerary. We shopped, sang, and drank, not necessarily in that order. (Note: Probably you should shop then drink.)
We listened to stories, told some of our own, and would gladly have stayed another week or more.
From Dublin, we drove cross-country to Sligo. As we entered Sligo, the rain began to pelt down. For perhaps five minutes, it poured. Then, as the rain slowed to a drizzle, in front of us appeared a brilliant double rainbow. Welcome to Sligo. Our destination was a bed and breakfast called Rathnashee, which we learned means “fairy ring.” There’s an earthwork fairy ring in the field adjoining the house. I chose it because it had a room with a private bath, was on a main road (we never stopped getting lost, but we did learn to enjoy it), and had a library. Books are my weakness. Maybe my strength too.
The parlor of the house was a library, mainly the history of Ireland and Sligo in particular. Evenings, by the warmth of a peat fire, we settled in with a pot of tea and a plate of cookies. We read about Yeats, the Great Hunger, and the long, often tragic history of the north. In the course of events, Garry discovered he did, after all, have Irish roots, while I dreamt of fairy circles and magic mountains.
Sligo is bursting with magic. You can feel it as you explore the ancient earthworks, standing stones, cairns, and castles. I became convinced that the “Little People” live there still. Loch Gill, “where lies the Isle of Innisfree,” has its own magic.
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by W. B. Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
We spent a grand afternoon exploring the recently restored Park Castle. The crystal waters so clearly mirrored the sky that those viewing the pictures we shot that day have trouble telling which is water and which is sky. Later that same day, while heading toward Knocknarea, the mountain top cairn of the legendary Queen Mab, we met Gordon Winter, ex-spy, author, and local character. We were photographed in close encounters with his pet chickens, sipped tea in his kitchen, and bought an autographed copy of his latest book “Secrets of the Royals.”
Throughout our vacation, the weather never stopped changing. The sun shone, disappeared and reappeared in rapid succession. Wind blew, and clouds rolled in, and it rained. A few minutes later, the rain stopped, the wind died, the sun came out, the temperature rose, and just as you had taken off your jacket and put on your sunglasses, you’d realize it was raining again.
We took our sunglasses on and off twenty times an hour, and took our jackets on and off almost as often. The second morning in Sligo, we awoke to pounding rain. I peeked out the window to see another rainbow, even brighter than the one we’d seen on arrival, in the field across the road.
By the time we went to breakfast, the sun had come out, but by the time we finished breakfast, it was drizzling. Irish weather. It never rained all day, but rained a little almost every day. We learned to ignore weather and so whatever we had planned, counting on the ever-changing skies to give us enough clear weather to tramp through a ruin, scale a castle wall, or walk down by a riverside.
After three days in Sligo, we traveled down to Connemara. One afternoon, we drove to Cong, where John Ford shot “The Quiet Man.” Ardent movie buffs, we literally climbed over fences and wended our way through sheep pastures.
Garry always greeted the sheep by reminding them how good they would taste with a bit of mint jelly. I thought in terms of sweaters and tweeds. We tramped through the pastures until we found the “quiet man’s cottage.” We recognized it by the little stream the runs in front of it … the location, the picture perfect location. But the cottage was a ruin.
Nowadays the Irish Tourism folks are advertising it as “restored.” Having seen it in 1990, there was nothing to restore. The foundation was barely visible. A few pieces of wall, but otherwise gone. They may indeed have rebuilt it, but it was no restoration. Hey, we’re talking Hollywood, so you don’t care, right?
The setting is as idyllic as ever, though, and the stream still flows past the cottage door and under the little bridge. Clearly the movie was the biggest thing to ever hit the town. Cong is full of Quiet Man memorabilia, and the local residents full of anecdotes and memories.
Our time was almost up, and as we continued down along the coast, we began to realize that we would really have to go home. The idea was so depressing that we stopped in the nearest pub for solace.
The only part was driving. Keeping left was a problem. The roads were another. Narrow, a terrifying mix of blind curves, roaming sheep, and meandering cattle, locals drive these narrow roads at supersonic speeds. On roads hardly wider than our tiny compact car, we were passed, after which we felt obliged to check if the door handles and mirrors were still attached.
Eventually we stopped worrying where we were or how to get someplace else. We let the road take us where it would. We knew whenever and wherever we stopped, we’d find a good pub and friendly faces.
We hoped we’d go back again, but other places called and the years ran faster than I believed possible. But we remember.
When we got home, we were visiting Garry’s folks, showing the photos to Garry’s Dad until he stopped us. It was the pictures of Yeats’ burial site. “Those are your people,” he said, pointing to a group of stones slightly behind Yeats’.
“Our people?” asked Garry.
“Your grandparents were from Sligo,” he said. “My mother,” he clarified. That explained the very light-skinned red-headed grandmother Garry remembered.
“When were you going to tell me?” he asked his father.
“I was waiting until I thought you were old enough,” his father explained. Garry was 48 at the time.
Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap – What’s your dream tourist destination — either a place you’ve been and loved, or a place you’d love to visit? What about it speaks to you?
Do I get the extra points for poetry? Just wondering. Hey, I didn’t write the ditty, but I took the picture. That should count for something, even if they are begonias rather than roses. I got the color correct!
We never discussed it. Not a single conversation. We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. We haven’t in the past and don’t now. It’s a fake holiday, designed to sell greeting cards and tacky heart-shaped diamond pendants from jewelry mass marketers.
There are plenty of real holidays to celebrate. In any case, we don’t need a special holiday to say “I love you.”
I love Garry. He loves me. We’ve loved each other a long time and I expect we always will. We say so often. At least once every day. Even when we aren’t having a good day. True love survives bad days, even bad months and sometimes, bad decades.
Become a Citizen Scientist. Click the link to read about Project Squirrel and to tell us about squirrels near you. Project Squirrel has been operating since 1997. During this time, over 1000 people have offered their knowledge, provided observations, and filled out the forms. We have been able to learn a great deal about these squirrels, particularly in the Chicago Metropolitan Region. Observations from other parts of the country have also been welcome and interesting.
In honor of National Squirrel Day …. What, you didn’t know? Well, today is National Squirrel Day. Project Squirrel gives you the opportunity to participate in … well … watching squirrels. Taking pictures of squirrels. And sharing your squirrel stuff with other squirrelly people.
In case you haven’t doped this one out, Garry is a passionate fan of NCIS. In the course of events, he has his acquired an NCIS cap, rain jacket, carry bag, tee shirts in various configurations. And a zip-up sweatshirt with a hood. I too have a sweatshirt and a tee-shirt, but mine is the Abby forensics sweatshirt with a hood and embroidered skull. Which suits me.
Although I enjoy watching the show — okay, I love the show — I am not quite as wholly committed as Garry. As Christmas started rolling into town this year, I asked Garry, as I do every year, what he would like for Christmas.
“An NCIS sweatshirt,” he said. “But not the hoodie. A regular crew neck sweatshirt.”
As it turns out, there is no such thing, at least not a good one from the CBS store. There are fake ones, but the reviews speak poorly of their quality and their tendency to shrink grotesquely in the wash. Carefully watching the show, I realize that Gibbs himself wears a hoodie. I pointed this out to Garry who still does not want a hoodie. He does not like all that stuff around his neck.
So with the clock ticking down, I ordered the 16-month official NCIS calendar.
I feared Garry might not like it, but I worried for nothing. He likes it. Today, he actually requested I take his picture with the calendar so he can post it on Facebook. He is past serious fan and has moved into fanatic.
Note for fellow fans: There’s a strong rumor that Cote de Pablo (Ziva David) will be back! Soon!
Recently, Garry has developed a passion for Star Trek: Next Generation. Given his propensity for full commitment to the fan experience, I expect him to start learning Klingon in weeks to come. I am eternally grateful to Netflix for having the entire series available. Seven full seasons to watch and we are just finishing the first!
It was an interesting year, in the sense of that apocryphal Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times.”
“May you live in interesting times” is actually an English expression which pretends to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. Despite its having become so common in English as to be known as “the Chinese curse”, the saying has no actual Chinese source. At least none anyone has ever found. The nearest related Chinese expression is “宁为太平犬，莫做乱世人” (níng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luànshì rén) which suggests it’s “better to live as a dog in an era of peace than as a man in times of war.”
Last year was the definition of an interesting time. From its beginning, waiting for my heart surgeon’s schedule to free up so he could fix me — and I needed a good deal of repair — to the long-running (tickets still available) show titled “Marilyn’s Recovery,” to the melodrama of our well going dry. Also known as “Jack and Jill went up the hill, but came down with an empty bucket.” From the miracle of friends to the rescue to the subsequent resurrection of the well. Never a dull moment.
There were long weeks of glorious autumn as we traveled through a glorious New England. Two great concerts. Friends from the past, new friends from afar. Good friends we laughed with and the lost friends for whom we mourn.
I posted nearly 1000 times, passed 200,000 views. Took an uncountable number of photographs. Bought another computer. New Kindles all around. Bonnie’s teeth took on a new shine.
Today, the calendar has flipped. It is 2015. Like the opening on a thousand sleazy movies, I’m living in an un-imagined future.
I remember being a kid and learning about how Haley’s Comet would be coming around the year I turned 39. I couldn’t imagine being as old as that. Nor could I ever have imagined I would see the comet on my 39th birthday from a rock in the Judean Desert, just outside Jerusalem.
I certainly never imagined 2015. The big movie of my young adult years was 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). That year came and went 14 years ago. 1984, Aldous Huxley’s dystopian future, has come shockingly close to reality yet life trudges on. At some point, I got kind of old. Which surprises me less than realizing my friends are old, too. How did that happen?
The Beatles sang about “When I’m 64” and I’ll turn 68 in a couple of months. Gee. Life is a lot stranger than any fiction I might have written.