Category Archives: writing

Lucky to Live in the ROC (Part 3)

Previously, on Lucky to Live in the ROC (Part 1) and Lucky to Live in the ROC (Part 2), I shared two great places to visit in Rochester, New York: the Little Theatre and Highland Park. In Part 3, I reveal more attractions, including THE FOURTH-OLDEST ROLLER COASTER IN THE WORLD!

SEABREEZE AMUSEMENT PARK

Seabreeze is a historic amusement park situated in a breezy part of town where Irondequoit Bay meets Lake Ontario. It’s been a summer destination for young and old since 1879. I used to go there in the 1960s.

My favorite ride then was Over the Falls, which in those days meant a slow, creaky ride through dank, cobwebby tunnels, and a 40-foot plunge into a pool. Over the Falls eventually got to be over the hill, though (what does that say about me?), and was replaced in 1984 by the Log Flume.

Although I was daring enough to go Over the Falls, I never had the intestinal fortitude to brave the Jack Rabbit, built in 1920. It’s the fourth-oldest roller coaster in the world, but at 102, it’s also the oldest continuously operating roller coaster in America.

Jack Rabbit

Yes, the Jack Rabbit isn’t just old, it’s an antique – entirely constructed of WOOD. And if that isn’t enough to send you screaming from the park, consider this: you’ll be strapping yourself in for a wild ride full of sharp twists and turns on track that clickety-clacks like a rattlesnake (over 2,000 feet of it) , a 75-foot drop, and a dark tunnel signaling the merciful end.

But hold on a minute. If that type of cheap thrill isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other rides here at Seabreeze (including swirling teacups, which caused me to have to sit perfectly still for an hour after being swirled in one of them).

Although Seabreeze Amusement Park happens to be the fourth-oldest operating amusement park in the United States, not all of its rides are old. Here are some of the other rides you’ll see there. Pictured below are the Time Machine, Tilt, Screamin’ Eagle, Revolution 360, Log Flume, Carousel, and Bobsled:

Speaking of old, seniors get in free every Tuesday. They can enjoy all rides for free that day, too. And yes, if you must know, I was there on a Tuesday.

In my next installment of Lucky to Live in the ROC, an epic road trip in search of the perfect pizza leads to some unexpected paintings in the strangest of places.

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Lucky to Live in the ROC (Part 2)

I’m back with another exciting installment of “Lucky to Live in the ROC,” an ongoing series in which I extoll the virtues of my hometown, Rochester, New York.

(Bonus tip: Scroll to the bottom to see the CUTEST PICTURE EVER TAKEN OF MY DAUGHTERS, and then return here to continue reading.)

Part 2: HIGHLAND PARK

When I first moved to Rochester as a child, I immediately noticed the abundance of trees.

Maybe my impression was colored by the fact that my former street was a busy four-lane highway, and my new address was on a quiet road covered by an arc of leafy elms. But to my twelve-year-old mind, Rochester was a green oasis compared to the drab Buffalo suburb I’d come from.

I soon discovered many lovely parks in and around Rochester that supported my first impression. And, of all the parks in the area, Highland Park turned out to be my favorite.

Highland Park was designed in the late 1800s by Frederick Law Olmsted (the designer of New York’s Central Park). Its 150 acres are located within the city limits. It’s an arboretum that showcases more than 1,200 lilac shrubs (over 500 varieties), as well as magnolias, rhododendron, azaleas, and many other beautiful plants, while maintaining a natural, flowing vibe. It also features an amphitheater, Highland Bowl, that is used for outdoor movies, theater productions, and music concerts.

Highland Park is a great place to visit in the spring, when many flowering plants are at their peak. For a guide to what’s blooming when, click here.

A Lilac Festival is held in Highland Park each May, with music, art, food, and – of course – lilacs.

Winter in Highland Park can be a good time for photos, too, until your fingers get numb from the cold.

Here are my top three memories from past visits to Highland Park:

#1: Attending a Sarah Vaughan concert in the 1980s at the Highland Bowl amphitheater. Fun fact: My daughter Erica (age 1 at the time) came along with me. About 30 years later, we learned that her husband, Richard, had been there, too. Coincidentally, they tied the knot at Warner Castle, located IN HIGHLAND PARK! Could their fate have been written in the stars that night?

#2: Seeing Herman’s Hermits there during the 1990s. Somewhere in my archives, I have a blurry snapshot of Peter Noone (taken by me) singing “I’m Henery the Eighth, I Am.”

#3: Taking my daughters there to see the flowers. One year, on Mother’s Day, a reporter noticed Katie and interviewed her. She was on the news that night!

Well, I guess you can see why Highland Park is special to me. I think I’ll go there today and take more photos.

Tip: Follow me so you won’t miss the next fascinating episode of “Lucky to Live in the ROC,” in which I’ll discuss the FOURTH-OLDEST ROLLER COASTER IN THE WORLD!

Lucky to Live in the ROC (Part 1)

A friend is staying with me this summer, and the weather has been cooperating. In fact, since his arrival, we’ve had almost constant sunshine (and that’s really rare for Rochester). As a result, we’ve been going out on little adventures every day.

Now, through my friend’s eyes, I’m starting to appreciate my hometown more than ever, and I’ve decided to write about this in my new series, “Lucky to Live in the ROC.” In each segment, I’ll discuss something really special about Rochester, New York – something that makes me glad I moved back home.

PART 1: THE LITTLE

The Little Theatre, a.k.a. “The Little,” is located at 240 East Avenue in downtown Rochester. It was built in 1929 as part of the Little Cinema Movement (an alternative to commercial movie houses), was constructed in the Art Deco style by Edgar Phillips and Frederick Pike, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In my opinion, it’s the best place in Rochester for movies, especially if you like independent and foreign films. In addition, it has a great little café with live music and food (including a light, delicious limoncello layer cake).

The Little Theatre, Rochester, NY

We recently visited the café at The Little to hear Hanna & the Blue Hearts. Hanna PK grew up in South Korea; her parents were in a rock band. She learned to play piano at a young age, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that she discovered American blues, and it knocked her out. (My friend Aleks, guitarist for the Blue Hearts, tells me she was “gobsmacked.”)

You can read more about Hanna’s evolution as a blues musician in the WXXI news story, “Music Heals Hanna PK and the Blue Hearts.

Tony Hiler (drums), Hanna PK (vocals),
Aleks Disljenkovic (guitar)
Gian Carlo Cervone (organ),
Hanna PK (piano, vocals), Tony Hiler (drums),
Aleks Disljenkovic (guitar)

I love Hanna not only for her musicality (she plays piano and guitar, covers the blues and American classics, writes her own songs, and sings), but also for her huge heart, which comes across in her original lyrics as well as her stage presence. And the music she and the band play is world class. To my mind, hearing Hanna & the Blue Hearts play the blues is one of the most uplifting things I’ve experienced, here or anywhere else.

And I’m getting an education about the blues, too. After hearing the Blue Hearts’ version of Memphis Slim’s “I’m Lost Without You,” I asked my friend Aleks about it, and he sent me a link to a video – Memphis Slim performing the song along with famed guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy. I’d never heard the song before, never heard of Slim or Murphy, and now I’ve heard both of them play another great version of the song.

Then I did three things: I looked up Memphis Slim (and learned his real name), I looked up Matt “Guitar” Murphy (and learned that he played in the Blues Brothers band and even played a role in the Blues Brothers movie), and I listened to Hanna’s version of the song, which is track 4 on her new CD, “Blues All Over My Shoes.” I learned a lot that day.

As I said, I’m lucky. Lucky to live where I can hear Hanna & the Blue Hearts playing LIVE at the Little Theatre (and all over New York State).

Do you feel lucky living where YOU live?


Simultaneous Success

I’ve got two big announcements this week. It’s rare that I have even one, let alone two, so I’m calling this a Simultaneous Success. Or a Spring Fling. Or maybe just a Win-Win!

PHOTO SHOW

I’m honored to be included in Image City Photography Gallery’s annual Black and White Invitational, June 14 – July 10, 2022, along with six other photographers. Twelve of my photos will be exhibited during the show!

Here’s a preview link, showing a sample of photos from each of the photographers, including one of mine, titled “All Souls Child.” It’s also shown below, and was taken in 2014 at the annual All Souls Procession in Tucson, Arizona. (The All Souls Procession is a community-wide event held in early November, celebrating the lives of hundreds of departed loved ones. It’s a colorful, joyous, respectful, somber, and unique cultural event associated with Día de los Muertos.)

I knew nothing about picture framing for a gallery show before this. Usually, I just buy ready-mades at Michael’s and pop them in. But for a gallery, I knew things needed to be a tad different. For example, there was the matter of attaching picture-hanging wire to the back of the frame. How on earth do people do that? I decided I’d need to splurge on professional framing. But then I discovered how expensive it is. Over $100 per picture, times 12. Nope, I’d need to find another way.

After many Google searches, I finally asked a photography mentor for ideas. He said he just buys kits and assembles them himself. Easy for him to say, but I can barely hold a screwdriver. And then I remembered that my sister Lisa used to frame pictures for a living! I felt like a fool for forgetting that fact (sorry for the alliteration) and I sheepishly asked for her help.

Not only did she offer to teach me the art of picture framing, but she offered to help me frame the pictures!

Once I’d chosen my frame style, glass type, and mat color, I ordered the materials and then pleaded with the universe that the stuff would arrive at my house on time. (It did.) I scheduled a trip to see my sister, then drove the 200 miles to her house with all that glass in the back of my car. Yikes!

None of it broke, but there was one tiny glitch: I’d mistakenly left two pieces of glass at home! But Lisa was such a good teacher that I was able to frame those two items myself once I’d returned home.

Here are some photos of me learning to frame, and then doing it myself:

BOOK SERIES

My second announcement is that my 3-book series, “Wordle Poems: A Poem a Day for Wordle Nerds,” has now gone international, with readers on three continents! To celebrate, I’ve combined all 3 books into 1. You can dip your toe in the water and purchase just 1, or you can get the 3-in-1 version, shown below.

You can even borrow the individual volumes for FREE using Kindle Unlimited. All are available on Amazon or Kindle.

Here’s a sample poem from Book 2. I call it “Cheeky Chair.”

Cheeky Chair (Wordle 246 3/6)


“A three! A three! I’ll take it!”
I shouted from my chair,
“I didn’t think I’d make it,
but see! I did! Right there!”
“Oh no, you must have cheated,”
my chair said, playfully.
“You’ll have to be unseated,”
it laughed, ejecting me.

Now it’s time for me to go celebrate this rare occurrence of simultaneous success!

Do Something

There should be stricter gun laws severely restricting the rights of those who have made or professed threats against others. The Buffalo, New York murders could have been prevented.

The killer believed in a right-wing, extremist, racist theory promoted by selfish, small-minded, greedy individuals. He then wrote a 180-page hate-filled screed and posted it on social media.

He also made a threat, in writing, against his own high school. This was known to the state police before his attack on innocent people.

And yet he was permitted, by New York State law, to purchase an assault-style weapon.

Why was this allowed? And how long before history repeats itself? We must act now to outlaw the promotion of violent propaganda and fear-mongering. We must also outlaw availability of assault-style weapons to those with any history of violent or threatening behavior.

Further, we must vote right-wingers out of office. If I had my way, we’d vote ALL Republicans out, just because they haven’t dissociated themselves from the party led by Donald Trump.

Here’s data reported today in the NYT:

“Over the past decade, the Anti-Defamation League has counted about 450 U.S. murders committed by political extremists.

“Of these 450 killings, right-wing extremists committed about 75 percent. Islamic extremists were responsible for about 20 percent, and left-wing extremists were responsible for 4 percent.

“Nearly half of the murders were specifically tied to white supremacists.” [See Anti-Defamation League graph below]

“As this data shows, the American political right has a violence problem that has no equivalent on the left. And the 10 victims in Buffalo this past weekend are now part of this toll. ‘Right-wing extremist violence is our biggest threat,’ Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the ADL, has written. ‘The numbers don’t lie.’ …

“The pattern extends to violence less severe than murder, like the Jan. 6 attack on Congress. It also extends to the language from some Republican politicians — including Donald Trump — and conservative media figures that treats violence as a legitimate form of political expression.”
—-

The killer’s plan, after completing his mission in Buffalo, was to come to the city where I live, to a corner where I once worked, and continue the bloodshed. He has no remorse. He did not deserve the benefit of the doubt, or his so-called right to bear arms.

Regardless of where he was planning his next attack, good people were going about their daily business on a sunny day in Buffalo and were brutally murdered simply because of the color of their skin. I’m mad as hell. I hope you are, too. And I hope we all finally do something about it.

Dirty Little Secret Garden

My new raised bed organic garden has a secret, and I’m here to spill the beans:

It’s going to be a bountiful harvest!

How do I know that? Well, I don’t. But after spending a significant portion of my annual food budget on this dirty little project, I’m trying to stay positive.

I tried a raised bed garden once, with poor quality soil that was only about 4 inches deep. The birds loved my arugula. My carrots grew sideways.

But I wasn’t ready to give up. Now that I’ve put down new roots here in Rochester, where I’ve got a new backyard to play in, I’ve decided to dig deep into gardening one more time.

Growing a few tomatoes and peppers is simple, right? You just turn over some dirt, plant, weed, and harvest. But because I’m me, I had to watch a video, buy a book, and spend countless hours agonizing over every tiny detail, even including the garden’s eventual location (which I’ve changed three times).

The book I bought, “All New Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew, is great. It explains, in simple language and with pictures, how to build 6-inch deep raised bed garden boxes, what to fill them with, what to plant, and when to plant. I’m trying to follow Mel’s instructions step by step, and so far things are going according to plan – albeit slowly.

The first thing I did after buying Mel’s book was to start some seeds indoors. That was the easy part.

The hardest part, for me, was calculating the amount of dirt (a combination of peat moss, vermiculite, and compost, which the book calls “Mel’s Mix”) needed to fill my 4 x 4-foot boxes to a depth of 6 inches. The math shouldn’t have been that hard, but I tied myself up in knots trying to convert pounds of compost to cubic feet. Oh well, we can’t all be Einsteins when it comes to measuring shit!

And did you know that, according to gardentabs.com, there are at least six different types of compost? You can probably tell I’ve developed a bad case of OCD (Obsessing on Compost Details).

In case you’re brave enough to try this at home, here are a few photos, and what I’ve done after reading the book and planting seeds indoors.

  • Drew garden designs (at least five different versions). Settled on one version, a design using four 4 x 4-foot boxes.
  • Calculated the amount of lumber and type of fencing needed. (My yard is frequently visited by birds and rabbits, and sometimes even deer).
  • Ordered fence materials from Gardener’s Supply Company. Also ordered a smaller fence and gate contraption from them. This was an impulse buy, for an additional garden next to the house, where I hope to plant lots of tomatoes. (I hope I’m not overdoing it, folks).
  • Shopped for cedar boards at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and two local lumber yards.
  • Realized I can’t afford cedar. It’s $30 for an 8-foot board, and I needed 8 of them. New pine was out of the question, too, since all I could find was pressure-treated and could leach chemicals into the soil.
  • Continued my search for lumber on Craigslist and found a supply of new, untreated larch. Granted, it was in Buffalo (75 miles away), but it looked good in the photo and was only $10 a board. Plus, the guy selling it had made his own raised bed gardens with it and said the wood had lasted 13 years so far. Drove to Buffalo, bought the wood. The seller advised me to wear gloves to avoid splinters. Good guy!
  • Carried the boards into my basement, one at a time. Wore gloves. No splinters.
  • Called Home Depot; they said they’d cut the boards in half for me. Lugged them upstairs again and loaded them back into my car. Home Depot worker said “I’m not supposed to do this” but went ahead and cut them all into 4-foot lengths, for free. Felt like a real carpenter.
  • Took a closer look at my lumber. Realized some of it was warped so badly I couldn’t really use it. So much for that good guy! But 3/4 of it was fine. I would build 3 boxes instead of 4.
  • Shopped for screws and brackets for assembling the boxes. (Tried doing this on my own, with limited success. Did much better when accompanied by someone who actually knew something about hardware.)
  • Managed to assemble the boxes in my basement without help, despite having zero carpentry skills. Example: I think (but I’m still not sure) I may have been using the wrong kind of screws at first, since I couldn’t get them to penetrate the wood even when using my power drill. It might have helped if I’d read the drill’s manual first. I later discovered what those little numbers on it meant: torque.
  • Carried boxes outside (with help) and placed them into position.
  • Bought peat moss, vermiculite, and compost. (This took six trips to four different stores, plus one on-line purchase, but that was just my OCD kicking in.) Mixed them all together on a tarp.
  • Filled boxes with “Mel’s Mix.”
  • Shopped for wooden strips so I can make 1-foot grids to lay on top of the boxes. Discovered that even wooden strips are expensive! On a whim, visited a craft store where I found spruce strips, cheap, and exactly the right length.
  • Wondered how in the heck I’m going to erect a 7-foot tall mesh fence around my garden.
  • Tried to remain optimistic.

Am I regretting my decision to create a raised bed organic garden this year? Absolutely not! At least not yet. I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

And by the way, if you need any extra zucchini, please let me know.

Much Ado About Hot Cross Buns

My daughter texted a picture of hot cross buns to a group of us the other day. It was some kind of an inside joke, I think. I’m not sure I want to know the joke. But reading the label did get me thinking about “rising” food prices and my “knead” for better food options at the grocery store.

Overpriced Buns

Those Rising Prices

Do you remember the song “Hot Cross Buns,” the one everyone had to learn to play on their recorders in elementary school?

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!

I can hear my old recorder squeaking on every note.

If only hot cross buns were “one a penny,” or even “two a penny,” today.

Nowadays, the song goes like this:

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! Eight for $5.50, eight for $5.50, hot cross buns!

That’s 69 pennies apiece. Can you say “inflation”?

A typical full bag of groceries used to cost me about $10. A full trunk-load of groceries once a week, maybe 8 bags, came to under $100. But now I’m lucky if I get 4 bags for $100, and my haul doesn’t look like much when I take everything out and place it on the counter.

That Sinking Quality

Diminished quality is another problem I’m seeing when I go food shopping. Some of that is understandable, due to pandemic-related shipping and labor issues. Still, it rankles me when I buy a package of supposedly fresh strawberries that go moldy within a day or two, or when I try to find a dairy product that doesn’t contain carrageenan.

Returning to those 8 hot cross buns for a minute (which weren’t even hot), rather than spacing them out in the package a little to protect their texture, they’ve been needlessly jammed together like sardines, in a space where maybe 4 or 6 should have gone. Plus, they’ve been encased in a plastic lid that’s probably trapping moisture inside, and that glaze looks like car wax. Let’s add another verse to our song:

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! Heavy, chewy, tops are gooey, hot cross buns!

Yes, while prices rise, quality is going downhill faster than Jussie Smollett‘s acting career. Just two days ago, I needed to buy a baked potato, and the only individual potatoes they sold were shrink-wrapped. I felt bad about the plastic until I remembered reading a scientific article that said wrapped produce contributes LESS to global warming than unwrapped produce does. That’s because unwrapped produce supposedly spoils faster, and more often ends up in landfills where it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Peering through the plastic, I judged the potato to be a good one – no green spots, no sprouts. Even unwrapped, it passed muster. But to my chagrin, after I had baked and peeled it, it was bright green inside, and not just right next to the skin. This is bad. Potatoes turn green because they’ve seen the light of day for far too long. And green potatoes may contain solanine, a toxin.

Fun fact: I bought it on St. Patrick’s Day.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but additives in foods are another issue I take issue with.

Those hot cross buns? The package lists 15 main ingredients, but that’s just the start. The following main ingredients contain sub-ingredients (ingredients within ingredients). The numbers of sub-ingredients are shown below:

  • Dried cranberries (3)
  • Margarine (12)
  • Infused dried orange peel (3)
  • Food enzymes (3)
  • Icing (9)
  • Glaze (9)

Yes, that car wax glaze that makes the buns shine brighter than the sun comes from the combination of water, cane sugar, glucose syrup, pectin, citric acid, natural flavor, carrageenan, sodium citrate, and xanthan gum that only modern food technology can provide.

This is one of many reasons I’ve started baking my own bread. I’ll write a post about that soon.

********

If you haven’t already done so, please check out my brand new book, “Wordle Poems: A Poem a Day for Wordle Nerds,” on Amazon. It contains 30 original poems inspired by the daily act of Wordling. No spoilers! Reviews are greatly appreciated!

For more of my writing, visit my author page over at Bardsy, as well as my book, “Standing in the Surf,” on Amazon. It’s a photo journal about the Pacific Northwest area known as the Salish Sea, which includes Whidbey Island, Vancouver Island, Stanley Park, Butchart Gardens, and more.

Two Bridges and More

Inspired by a recent post by my friend Mary (“A Bridge Too … High!”), I’ve decided to post something about bridges, too.

While Mary’s article is about a bridge in Ireland; mine is about two bridges in Italy.

And, while hers is witty and thoroughly entertaining, mine is more along the lines of “here are some photos of bridges, and here is all I can think of to say about them at the moment.” Oh well. One can’t always be witty and entertaining!

I hope you enjoy the photos, and that you’ll check out Mary’s blog as well.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy, 2017:

Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”) is aptly named; it’s over 1,000 years old! (The first written record of it is from the year 996.) These days, it’s lined with shops, and tons of tourists. I just noticed that there are at least six bridges in this photo!

Gazing at this picture brings me back to the moment when I captured it. I’d just toured the nearby Uffizi Gallery. In fact, I was standing inside the gallery when I took the photo, looking down at the Arno River. It was my first trip to Italy (first time in Europe, too). I’d flown there from Tucson, Arizona with a small travel group (only eight of us). Together, in just one week, we visited several interesting and beautiful sites around Tuscany, including Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano, Lucca, and Siena.

On my last day of the trip, I took a 20-minute bus ride from the outskirts of Florence, where we were staying, into the city, all by myself, just so I could absorb some of the local culture and language on my own time. It was an amazing experience. I could barely speak a full sentence in Italian, yet the people on the bus (who barely spoke English) helped me out when I wasn’t sure which was my stop.

My day of solo museum-hopping (which included a delicious three-course lunch – meat, pasta, tiramisu, and of course vino) went by much too quickly. At about 5 p.m., after standing at the wrong bus stop for ten minutes, I discovered my error just in time to catch the last bus back to the hotel. I wasn’t the least bit nervous. It was a friendly, warm, and welcoming place, and gorgeous, too.

Ponte Sisto, Rome, Italy, 2019:

Two years after my first trip to Italy, I had the chance to go again with the same tour group. This time there were only four of us, and we were going to study Italian in Sicily for a week! After the week was up, rather than flying home directly from Sicily, two of us opted to spend two extra days in Rome. I mean, how could I possibly skip seeing Rome when I had the chance? (I LOVED Rome and hope to return some day.)

Ponte Sisto (the bridge pictured above) has a long history. From what I can gather from my online search, there was a bridge on this site in the 4th century known as Pons Aurelius. It was partially destroyed in 772 when Rome was attacked and taken over by a Lombard king, Desiderius. In 1473, Pope Sixtus IV commissioned the rebuilding of the bridge. It is now only for pedestrians and spans the Tiber River in Rome’s historic district. I didn’t realize it when I took this photo, but that’s the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica (in Vatican City) in the background!

* * * * * * * *

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about bridges. My post, “Bridges in Literature,” will bring you up to speed on the many appearances of bridges (or lack thereof?) in books, songs, and movies. Here’s a sneak peek at the photo I used in that article. It’s a bridge somewhere in southern Arizona:

* * * * * * * *

One last thought: The “featured image” at the top of this post is a blue and yellow banner in honor of Ukraine. These days, I’ve been thinking a lot about the bridges there, and about how so many thousands of innocent victims of the Russian invasion are trying to cross them to safety.

This post is dedicated to the brave people of Ukraine.

* * * * * * * *

If you haven’t already done so, please check out my brand new book, “Wordle Poems: A Poem a Day for Wordle Nerds,” on Amazon. It contains 30 original poems inspired by the daily act of Wordling. No spoilers! Reviews are greatly appreciated!

For more of my writing, visit my author page over at Bardsy, as well as my book, “Standing in the Surf,” on Amazon. It’s a photo journal about the Pacific Northwest area known as the Salish Sea, which includes Whidbey Island, Vancouver Island, Stanley Park, Butchart Gardens, and more.

Where Did I (Gink)Go?

photo credit: olga drach on unsplash

Quick: What ancient Chinese tree is known for its reputation as a memory-enhancing supplement?

If you guessed “GINKO,” you’d be just partially right, because you misspelled it. The word is “GINKGO,” but I’ll forgive you for using only five letters, because you’ve probably been playing too much Wordle.

I’m writing about the ginkgo tree today for three reasons:

  • Their leaves are gorgeous.
  • They’ve managed to survive for thousands of years.
  • I have some photos of ginkgo trees to share with you.

But on a deeper level, my reasons are more complicated. As you may remember if you’ve been taking your ginkgo supplements (just kidding!), my dog Maya and I packed up and moved cross-country last year. You can read about our journey in my previous blog series, “New Latitude.” I stopped blogging temporarily, but now that I’m all settled in, I want to get back to my mission: writing stories inspired by my camera.

Yesterday, I uploaded 24 new photos, and I’ll be writing about each one, starting with GINKGO LEAVES:

And now for some Fascinating Facts about the Ginkgo tree:

  • Its scientific name is Ginkgo biloba.
  • It’s native to China.
  • Although its natural range is a small area of China, it has been cultivated in other parts of the world. (My photos were taken at Highland Park in Rochester, New York.)
  • Fossils in the Ginkgo genus date back to the Middle Jurassic period (about 170 million years ago). It was cultivated early in human history.
  • Its DNA genome is about three times as large as our human genome, which is thought to be why the ginkgo tree has many natural defenses against bacteria and chemicals. In fact, it’s so resistant to environmental assaults that six specimens growing in close proximity to the 1945 atomic blast at Hiroshima, Japan survived and continued to grow as healthy plants. They are still alive today.
  • According to an article by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, its use as a dietary supplement for the treatment of various diseases is mixed, and more study is needed.
  • It originally was two separate Japanese words pronounced “gin kyo.” Its current spelling dates back to a probable spelling error by a German, Engelbert Kaempfer.
  • It can grow to over 100 feet tall.
  • It’s considered a “living fossil.” Some living specimens are reported to be over 2,500 years old.
  • The ginkgo leaf is the symbol of Tokyo.

I’m glad I thought to take pictures of those pretty ginkgo leaves in Highland Park last summer. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been so inspired to learn more about this admirable tree. I’d love to read about what inspires you. Please leave a note in the Comments section if you’re so inclined.

Before I go, I just want to say it’s (gink)GOOD  to be back!

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If you haven’t already done so, please check out my brand new book, “Wordle Poems: A Poem a Day for Wordle Nerds,” on Amazon. It contains 30 original poems inspired by the daily act of Wordling. No spoilers! Reviews are greatly appreciated!

For more of my writing, visit my author page over at Bardsy, as well as my book, “Standing in the Surf,” on Amazon. It’s a photo journal about the Pacific Northwest area known as the Salish Sea, which includes Whidbey Island, Vancouver Island, Stanley Park, Butchart Gardens, and more.

New Latitude, Episode 5: Feeling Boxed In

Previously, on New Latitude:

“Yikes, I bought a house, I’m moving from Tucson, Arizona to Rochester, New York!”

“How does that make you feel?”

“Well, I’ve been Tossin’ and Turnin’ a lot …”

“Why is that?”

“House closing snafus, vaccination decisions, car headaches, packing during a pandemic … not to mention my loud upstairs neighbor and his Never Ending Alarm Clock!”

“And you’re driving all that way?”

“Yep.”

“How are you coping?”

“I’m so glad you asked …”

And now, for Episode 5 of New Latitude!

I’ll cut to the chase. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and under-qualified for my big move to the Northeast. Yes, I’d made the trip before, but I was a lot younger and/or had a companion with me those times. This time, my only companion would be a six-year-old (my dog, Maya), and she’s not too good at navigating.

But, thanks to three documentaries I happened to watch recently, I have a NEW ATTITUDE about driving 2,000 miles on the coattails of a drastic winter storm. These documentaries provided me with three role models to look to for inspiration while driving.

  • Audubon (2017)

John James Audubon’s life is admirable enough, but it’s his strong wife (Lucy Bakewell Audubon) who inspired me vis-à-vis my trip. After her husband traveled to Europe to study birds, he wrote Lucy a letter saying he was sorry but he’d have to stay there for another SEVEN YEARS to complete his work. She wrote back asking him to be honest … if there was another reason, he should let her know, and “free” her. When he replied that there was no other reason and asked her to join him in Europe, she replied that he’d have to come and get her. He did. They remained happily married for 42 years. (Remember that number.)

  • Jackie Robinson (2016)

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was a remarkable baseball player who stood up to injustice, but as a young man, when he implored his fiancé, Rachel Isum, not to go to nursing school, she broke off the engagement and returned his ring. They later reconciled after he saw reason, and she went on to become an assistant professor of nursing at Yale. Jackie Robinson’s uniform number was 42. And, on the day I was making notes about his documentary, I noticed that I’d packed exactly 42 boxes. (I’m up to 87 today.)

  • RBG (2018)

As a law school student, Ruth Bader Ginsburg supported her very ill husband while caring for their two-year-old child. She went on to serve on the Supreme Court for 27 years and is known for her desire to find common ground, her sharp intellect, and her dissenting opinions, particularly regarding gender equality and women’s rights. She was extremely focused on her calling, eventually earning the nickname, “Notorious RBG.”

Because of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I’ve decided to think of myself as “Notorious LAB” while driving. (My middle name is Ann.) I’m hoping this moniker will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. With RBG as one of my role models, I’ll remain focused and alert. With my hair pulled back and my black glasses on, I think I kind of resemble her. Heck, maybe I should wear one of those lacy judge collars while driving. By the way, right after making notes about the RBG documentary, I went out for a drive. It was a rare day of Tucson snow, and I noticed it was 42 degrees out.

I know what you’re thinking: Is 42 Lori’s new address? Well, no … but it’s “in the ball park” as Jackie Robinson would probably say.

I leave tomorrow! I’ll be sure to keep Lucy Bakewell Audubon, Rachel Isum Robinson, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in mind as I travel all along interstate routes 10, 20, 30, 40, 65, 71, 70, 79, and 90 (sorry, no 42 unless I take a detour). And I’ll be back with a Prologue after my arrival in my new home!

Cover image by cromaconceptovisual @ Pixabay