Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Summer Thrill

Old Florence Library

Most people look forward to this time of year. For some, it means new jobs, having to move, or that dreaded family vacation. For the majority of people, it is a time to relax, a time fotr recreation, time at the pool – for some, even a time for chaos. As a child, mine were a mixture of these – a mixture of a free-for-all attitude with the sense to accomplish something, nothing, and usually leading to do something crazy. Thrills were a necessity to keep my young life exciting. But one particular thrill, during one of my childhood summers, almost changed my life for good.

This summer started out like any other summer. School had let out and everybody was off to explore everything new and old, hoping for something new to do. However, after a few weeks, we were wishing school would start back up – we were bored. So like every other day, my friends and I set off for adventure. As we stopped by to pick up each of my friends, their mother would follow him to the door, telling him to be careful and stay out of trouble. It looked like we were marching off to war somewhere; and we were, our own little adventure. Several hours later, we had played long enough and decided to get something cold to drink. On the way to the store, we passed the town library and noticed that the older kids had left their normal hangout. It was then; we decided to try their fun, their thrill – riding the ropes.

The library was an old bakery, a two-story building, enclosed by a fence. The fence was made of brick stanchions and metal rails. It would go on to the far side, and from there, it would be a brick wall. Located in the center of the courtyard were the ropes – on an old flagpole. To ride the ropes, one had to climb the metal rails and position himself on the brick stanchion. Then somebody would hand the ropes to the person atop the fence. He was ready for flight. He would step forward, swing Tarzan-style across the courtyard, dodge the flagpole, dodge a wood post, kick off the wall and then reverse the course. Seemed easy at the time – except for that post. It was a 4x4 post, five feet in height, and had a pyramid like top. It served as the end post for the handrail on stairs leading down to the basement. One had to clear it to survive. Everybody took their turn, accepting the dare, and I was no exception. My turn came up – it was my chance to ride the ropes. My thrill for the day.

As I ascended the rails, the whole procedure went through my mind – jump, swing across, dodge the flagpole, miss the post, kick off the wall, and then repeat the process in reverse. Easy. But my heart raced at an unbelievable rate and my thoughts blurred as the ropes were handle to me. I told myself out loud, “no problem,” but prayed silently to myself. Then I took that step – everything happened in a blink of an eye. The trill was over, everything went as planned – no complications. I could hardly wait for my next chance to ride the ropes.

My turn soon came up, and I heartily grabbed the ropes. But this time was different – everything slowed to a snail’s pace. I watched the whole sequence play before me – the jump, the swing across, dodging the flagpole, missing the post, and kicking off the wall. But as I kicked off the wall, the unthinkable happened – the rope snapped. I dropped like a shot sparrow and the sight below was not inviting. That post. That stupid post. I landed on it, square in the middle of my back. It took its aim leaving me breathless and sprawled out on the lawn.

As I lay there, I gazed up at the sky and wondered if I was still alive. I then looked around and noticed nobody was in sight. I immediately jumped up, not realizing the full extent as to what just happened, and began searching for my friends. Everybody had disappeared. How could they do such a thing? Feeling no pain except for a small throbbing in my lower back, like that of when one bumps their knee into something, I headed back through the empty courtyard. As I stammered along, the thoughts of my friends’ mothers entered my mind – and those casual warnings. I was lucky this time. From then on, the scar on my back was a constant reminder to heed those warnings and to carefully evaluate my next adventure.

Written on June 30, 1984

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sand Animation | Kseniya Simonova

The story begins sometime before June 21,1941. Two people fell in love and were hoping to be together - forever. On June 21,1941, Adolf Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. The young man goes off to fight. The woman and their newborn son remained at home trying to survive the occupation - a time when many experienced lots of pain and suffering. In 1945, the WW2 is over and the son and mom are waiting for the father/husband to return home.

The whole story is a tribute to the people those who died or survived during the war. The loss and victory should never be forgotten.

It is not only an animation, but the music and songs compliment it to complete the story.

Thanks to T. for the interpretation.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Closing the Gap

Closing the Gap

In my last article about Driving in the Nation's Capital, I poked fun at the various things that we Washingtonians have come to love, hate, or just accept. After having the opportunity to drive in major cities worldwide, I have come to conclusion that our traffic problem is not due to congestion, road construction, or even the full moon. We are a victim of our own habits and “it’s all about me” attitude. The one maneuver that is responsible for the majority of the traffic problems is a maneuver I call “closing the gap.”

Growing up in the West, there were wide-open spaces and roads that go on forever. As a kid, we never thought about the hours spent in a car. You see, in the West, the roads go on forever and pretty much in a straight line. You could go faster, but the increase in speed didn’t really gain that much for you.  A moderate increase in speed gained you some time savings, but anything more than that increased risk and reduce fuel economy. Give this fact, most drivers were contempt to put on the cruise control and just enjoy the radio as they rolled out the miles.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The General Store

Country Store

Growing up in a small town, we only had one store. Everybody stopped at this store, since the next larger store was ten miles away. It was a small store containing only the essential items, but our store was ours and it satisfied our needs.

Every day after delivering the local newspaper, my brother and I would set off for the general store. As we came up the sidewalk, the store owner’s dog would come up to greet us. And usually somebody was sitting on the porch, drinking a Red Cream Soda, and chewing on some licorice whips.

Before we would go in, we would chat with the fellow for the local gossip. Then we would peruse the bulletin board for the local news and read all of the for sale signs. It was a ritual that was done before finally going into the store.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Tree on Fire

Union Cemetery Leesburg, Virginia

It was back to my favorite cemetery to take more photos. I took some great photos from the year before, so I was looking for something different. As I walked around the cemetery, I noticed this tree with red and orange leaves. It was the only tree in the cemetery with this color - very spooky. The photo was taken and processed as an HDR picture to bring out the vibrant colors. It truly looks like a tree on fire.

Established in 1855 on the immediate outskirts of Leesburg, Union Cemetery was created as a public cemetery open to people of all faiths. It predated three other "Union" cemeteries in Loudoun County established at Hillsboro, Waterford and Lovettsville. The cemetery contains the 1908 Union Chapel and several notable monuments, including a Confederate War Memorial at the north end of the site, and an imperfectly cut 30-foot- high granite column, allegedly designed for a D.C. public building, but rejected and brought to the cemetery in the 1890s.

This photo was taken on Halloween weekend with the Nikon D90 - an extraordinary camera.

Photo via

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Our Little Secret

Our Little Secret

Years ago, during our lazy summer months, it seemed a certain ritual was performed every Saturday – the trip to our swimming hole. Our town, being an old mining town, was located in some rough country. We couldn’t just drive or even ride our bikes to our favorite spot – one had to walk. Even walking was a chore. The path was barely visible, littered with undergrowth, leaves, and fallen branches. The trees also present a problem, dodging higher branches only to encounter some fallen limb or dead tree stump. But we endured and after an hour trek, our reward lay before us.

Over the years, someone had attached a rope to one of mighty branches that extended out horizontally over the river and looked like the massive arm of a giant. There everybody stood, seeing who would the first one in. Why, one might ask, did we stand around after a long and painstaking walk and not take the plunge. A whirlpool! The tree, with time and the ever-changing course of the river, stood in the water and caused a natural whirlpool.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Amphitheatrum Flavium - The Roman Coliseum

Amphitheatrum Flavium - The Roman Coliseum

This photo was taken with a Canon EOS 10S with Fuji Velvia 100 positive film. I had an opportunity to live in Italy and Rome was one of my favorite destinations. The Coliseum and the Forums were some of my favorite subjects. The following article tells of the colorful history of the Coliseum.

Roman Coliseum by Gail Bellenger

When most people think of ancient Rome, they think of the incredible Coliseum; the grand oval amphitheater that was a central part of Roman culture. The setting where gladiators fought and crowds cheered. While this is true, there's a lot more to the Coliseum than merely an arena. It took two emperors about eight years to design and build it. Vespasian started it, but died before it was completed. His son and successor, Titus, finished the job and opened it with a celebratory 100 days of games. It was called the Flavian Amphitheater in honor of the Flavian ancestry of Vespasian and Titus.

It wasn't until somewhere in the middle ages that it was given the name Coliseum, due to a 'colossal' statue of Nero that stood near it. The amphitheater was designed to hold 50,000 people. It covers about six acres and is more than 150 feet hight. When Vespasian became emperor, right after a very trying time when Rome when through four emperors in one year, he decided to make an impression on the people, to quell the uneasiness. Nero had built a massive palace and artificial lake near the Forum, and the people were not happy with his extravagance, especially since most of them were starving or dying from disease.