ARE YOU SURE? REALLY? 100,000 HITS? ME? WOW … THANKS GUYS!

100,000 HITS

A few hours ago while we were stuck in traffic on Route 95, I hit two major milestones: 600 followers and 100,000 hits. On the same day — entirely coincidentally. I wrote this post a couple of days ago . I knew the 100,000 would happen this week. (The 600 followers was a total surprise.)

When I started blogging, I wasn’t sure why. A year and a half later, I still couldn’t tell you why. I still don’t know. The simplest explanation is the truest: I enjoy it. I love writing and having people read it. Having an audience is a huge gift. Writers really need readers. Anyone who says they write for themselves is lying … to themselves, if not everyone else. Fortunately, readers need writers. Together we have a wonderful synergy.

I mustn’t forget photography. I’ve been taking pictures almost as long as I’ve been writing. Posting my favorites — not to mention Garry’s photos and other members of the family — really beats out slide shows after dinner or emailing them to people who may or may not even open the attachment. Finally, I get feedback. Somebody out there likes me!

I’m not as good a photographer as many of you. Some of you who follow me — I can’t figure out why. I’m flattered, of course, but you are so much better than me. Despite all the years this has been my hobby, I’m still a babe in the woods with Photoshop. I never seem to get the beautiful “finish” the rest of you get. Part of it is equipment. Lenses to be more exact. I don’t have the great glass I would like. I wish I could throw money at it, but not now. I live in hope of miracles.

Where does hope live? Where is the place we live when life’s not treating us well? When things are going wrong and if you stop and think about it, your brain turns to jelly and you can’t form a coherent thought? When the magnitude of the problems in your life exceed your capacity to process?

Me? I read, write and make pictures. I read your posts, look at your pictures. Sometimes I comment, often I read, look, smile and leave a “like” behind, kind of a calling card to say “Hey, I was here!” I wish I could spend more time on your sites but I run out of time. This blogging thing … it really chews up the hours and days.

I started small. I posted something once in a while and then didn’t post anything for a while, then started putting a few things up now and then. Then … oh, I don’t know. I just got into it. There was no epiphany, no revelation. One day, I just felt I should write, post a picture. The next day, I felt that way again, so I did and then more than once a day.

It was the presidential election that sucked me into the maelström with a vengeance. Talk about lively. The Internet wasn’t merely buzzing. It was screaming. People who normally wouldn’t get involved were out there, giving their opinions on every public forum. The cyber world was wild and I got a share of the action. I doubt I’ll ever post numbers as high as I did in October and November 2012. Crazy numbers, crazy time.

It’s easy to blog when there’s huge controversy everywhere, gigantic hurricanes washing away the right coast of the U.S. It’s harder now. There is always a horrible political thing going on but I find myself writing about my smaller world. Sometimes, it’s about how my little world intersects with the great big world. That’s when politics become deeply personal.

The road, as J.R.R. Tolkien says, goes on and on … back to the point where it began.

And so it does. There’s no starting point, no inherent end. I write, I take pictures and will do that as long as I can. Eventually, after the New Year, I’ll have to stop. For a while. Hopefully not too long a while, but I know it will happen. I hope you folks will remember me and come back to visit now and then.

Meanwhile, it’s been a Hell of a ride. I remember when I got my first 5,000 hits and thought “Wow! 5,000! Never thought this would happen!” and the numbers kept marching upward. A couple of months ago, it became obvious I would cross over the 100,000 mark — a biggie. So … what next?

I never had a plan for my site. 100,000 hits was never a goal. I never told myself if I get “this many followers” or “that many hits,” I will know I’m successful. I consider myself successful because running this site gives me so much pleasure and I don’t want to stop. There are popular blogs that baffle me (why?) and wonderful blogs that fall by the wayside. You can take you best guess at figuring out (1) what constitutes success and (2) why it comes to some, but not others equally or more deserving. Some of is luck, stumbling onto a topic that catches peoples’ attention. And getting noticed by people who help promote you. And I suspect much of it is persistence — posting interesting material often so everyone knows they can always find new stuff on your site.

I never had a goal. I still don’t. I love writing and photography. I enjoy meeting people from all over the world. Learning how their lives are the same and different from mine. Chatting through comments. Getting new ideas. It is the stuff you guys say, in comments and on your own sites, that triggers what I write. You feed my imagination, inspire my muse. And challenge me to be better.

Thanks. Everyone. Really thank you. Truly you are the wind beneath my wings.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Infinite Boston

Into the infinite distance ... Boston from Mission Hill and across Fenway Park.
Into the infinite distance … Boston from Mission Hill and across Fenway Park.

And it goes on forever. The city, the sky, life. Infinity.

Daily Prompt: Mid-Season Replacement – FOREVER FALL

Mumford downtown

I could happily live in perpetual autumn. Warm enough, cool enough. It’s an elegant season, bright with color. The sun is amber and warm … our most beautiful season. For that alone … and because I dread the long cold winter to follow … let me stay in forever fall.

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DRIFTING THROUGH AUTUMN

Drifting leaves

More from this season. You can see the falling leaves if you look. When the wind blows, there’s a little storm of leaves and the ground is entirely carpeted. And the real fall hasn’t even begun. It’s the downside of living in the woods.

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MOM AND POP – CLOSED FOR BUSINESS

Mom and Pop. The backbone of American business. Or used to be.

They are the official symbol of our nation’s best. The hardest workers. The folks who built our towns and cities. How wonderful it is to do business with our neighbors and friends rather than faceless corporate franchises. (Careful. Our friends and neighbors work for those franchises. Mom and pop shops don’t offer a lot of job opportunities.)

Every day, it gets harder to find a mom and pop business. You can blame it all on corporate greed — pushing out small businesses. Nice to have someone to blame. Pity it’s not true. Or not quite as true as we would like. Blaming heartless corporations is a simple, feel-good fix, even if it doesn’t make much sense.

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We love simple answers and if we can’t find one, we make one up. The world keeps changing. So does what people want for themselves and their kids. Labor intensive small retail businesses were — for many years — the bulwark of America’s Main Street. But they aren’t appealing to today’s computer-savvy kids. The kids in this generation are more likely to want a shot at a seat in the boardroom of one of those faceless corporations. They have redefined The American Dream.

Who does want to run those little businesses? Immigrants. The people we seem determined to keep out or get rid of. They don’t see long hours of hard work as punishment. They see it as opportunity. It’s American kids who see mom and pop’s business as a dead-end.

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It’s a matter of how you look at it. Most of our small general stores, if they haven’t already been knocked down to make way for a CVS or Stop & Shop, are being run by recent arrivals from India, Pakistan and Asia. They work long hours, put they hearts into it and do well. They go out of their way to build relationships with their customers. And they succeed. Immigrants have always been the true bulwark of the “American dream” because they came here full of dreams.

The original Mom and Pop? They got old. Their kids never wanted to work at the family deli, restaurant or ice cream shop, so as soon as a better offer came along, they took it. Moreover, Mom and Pop didn’t send the kids to college so they could slave their lives away like they had, so they’re onboard. That was always the plan.

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One by one, family run businesses are closing. Young Americans don’t want to work so many hours for such small returns. The older generation agrees. You and me may want to support them, but they are no longer looking for our support. They want to retire. If they can’t find a buyer for the business, they will sell the land to the highest bidder.

Is it unreasonable to profit from long years of sweat and labor? Everyone knows small retail businesses — unless they find a niche market that doesn’t put them in head-to-head competition with corporate franchises — barely survive, even with community support.

I’d gladly support local small businesses, but who? One by one, our restaurants, delis, gift shops, independent groceries, book stores are going away. There is only one independent bookstore in the Valley now. There never were many, but now, just one.

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Independent drug stores? Gone. Small clothing shops? None. We have a few delis, restaurants, hair dressers and fingernail shops. Services do okay, but not retail shops. Restaurants, especially if they serve alcohol do okay. You can always find a couple of tattoo parlors. A lumber yard with two branches and a hardware store. Everyone else sold, closed and moved away.

We are grateful to haveWalmart. Without it we’d have no place to shop for anything without driving 25 miles to the mall where we would merely be buying from different corporations. We need someplace to buy dish towels, paper goods and bathmats. The place to go if the microwave suddenly dies or I break another coffee carafe. Walmart did not displace local businesses. We never had many and now, even fewer. Maybe a hundred years ago, but not in the last 50.

Good bye, Mom. Good bye, Pop. We miss you, but I understand. You worked hard. You want some time off now and an easier life for your kids. Welcome newcomers. Prejudice and politics be damned. I’m glad to have you in my town.

A Candle in the Darkest Age – Worlds of Arthur by Guy Halsall

Oxford University Press384 pages, Publication date: April 4, 2013

King Arthur is by far the most popular and most written-about king of England who never was. Legends of Arthur have multiplied not only in the British Isles, but in France, in other European countries and more recently, in North America. Tales of Arthur began appearing in the early ninth century and continued to appear through Victorian times to the present day. In fable and books, around medieval campfires and flickering on the silver screen and TV sets of the 21st century, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round table are ever with us. On the literary scene, recent years have produced a virtually continuous flow of books about Arthur,  each “scholarly tome” claiming to have unlocked the truth about the “once and future king.” We apparently have an insatiable appetite for these stories.

The author of Worlds of Arthur is Professor Guy Halsall. Halsall joined the History Department at the University of York (UK) in January 2003. His doctoral research — carried out at York — was on the archaeology and history of the Merovingian region of Metz (north-eastern France and southern Germany), c.350-c.750. It was perhaps inevitable that his researches and the putative world of King Arthur would collide. And so they have. Worlds of Arthur is the result.

Guy Halsall makes a valiant and largely successful attempt to sort through the evidence — reality and myth — as it pertains to the Arthurian legends. He bravely takes on both the “historical” Arthur — the man waging a glorious but doomed struggle to save civilization from the incoming Anglo-Saxon tide — and the mythical King accompanied by his legendary retinue: Lancelot, Guinevere, Galahad and Gawain, Merlin, Excalibur, the Lady in the Lake, the Sword in the Stone, Camelot, and the Round Table.

Knowing in advance that no one wants their favorite stories debunked, he starts with a cold splash of reality. In all likelihood, “King Arthur” never existed. In the unlikely event he did exist on some level somewhere — even as a prototype — we know zilch about him and thus no one, including the author, is going to reveal any exciting new evidence of Arthur’s existence. There is no evidence to reveal. This position is driven home repeatedly, so if you are waiting for an Arthurian revelation, you are bound to be disappointed.

Arthur is a literary and mythological figure, not a real one. Not even loosely based on an historical person(s). Halsall states up front any book claiming to know the real Arthur is bunk. Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, Arthur and all his knights did not exist. Guy Halsall makes it absolutely clear and repeats his position over and over: There is no evidence supporting an historical Arthur.

“The Death of King Arthur”

Having put up front, Dr. Halsall sets himself a rather difficult literary task. How can you keep a reader’s interest for the remainder of the book? Before you have gotten a quarter of the way through, he has declared his position, debunked what is currently the only “evidence” on the “proof” side of the Arthurian equation. What is left?

Halsall writes with humor and wit. Academic though this book is, he tries hard to be understandable by those who are not Ph.D. levels in archeology. In this, he is modestly successful. I’m fascinated by archeology and have read a great deal of archeological stuff over the years. I understood most (not all) of the technical terminology. I’ve explored ruins and attended lectures, but this is dense material. No matter how light-hearted and humorously approached, there is no avoiding the essentially academic nature of the book. It’s not for everyone. You need a background in archeology to understand the author as well as significant personal interest in the subject to stay with the book.

If you have the interest, there is much to learn. Worlds of Arthur is a thorough examination of the evidence and more to the point, a thorough dismemberment of what has been called evidence by other authors. Ironically, one of the unintended results of reading this book was it piqued my interest in reading the books the author is debunking, not because I think they contain “real evidence” but because they sound intriguing as fiction.

If you are passionate about Camelot, Arthur and the gang, this is a thoroughly researched, well-written book that picks apart all previous writings on the subject with minute care. It belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who claims to be a fancier of medieval British archeology. It’s not a riveting tale with lot of surprises. There is no question about where the author is heading since he lays out it all out in the introduction.  The author is a better writer than most academics and makes the going easier with a light touch and a sense of humor. But in the end, this is an academic treatise.

I enjoyed it. Having read many books of this type over the years, I knew what to expect and was prepared to do some mental calisthenics. Give my brain a bit of exercise. There are no revelations in the book. From a broad perspective, I knew at the end of the book what I knew at the start —  that there never was a real King Arthur or Round Table or any other of the well-loved mythical characters. Since I never believed the characters were real in the first place, it was no shock. There is nothing shocking in Worlds of Arthur. It allows no wiggle room to find a real Arthur somewhere in archeological or historical data. But if you are genuinely interested in the early medieval period in England, there’s a lot of well-presented information to digest about a time about which little is known and less has been written. The Dark Ages are dark. Worlds of Arthur: Facts & Fictions of the Dark Ages lights a candle in that darkness.

The book is available on Kindle and hardcover. There are illustrations that might benefit from viewing on paper rather than the smaller format of a Kindle, but the Kindle version does include them so the choice is yours. If you’re an armchair archeologist or medievalist … or just fascinated with the world of Arthur, give this a read. It’s worth your effort.