Have you been thinking lately about those past friends and acquaintances you’ve ever lost touch with over time? But are they really gone? For as the follow story suggests, don’t be surprised if such “deja vu” memories resurface again in your present life either through fate, situation, or chance encounter.
Homeless Success Story
Greg Bowen, a retired English instructor, loved to watch live baseball in the cool indoor ambience of Marlins Park. Yet as he nervously glanced at his watch frequently during both games of the doubleheader on this Friday night, he seemed noticeably distracted. For his experience teaching night classes in the inner city had taught him the dangers of driving such a long distance late at night to and from his home in Fort Lauderdale and downtown Miami. Such worries would soon intensify, when he returned to his car at 11:05 pm. to spot a flat tire for his vehicle at his accustomed parking lot outside a local bank.
At first thought in facing this crisis, Greg hoped to replace the tire himself. But he found his jack unusable and his spare tire deflated of air. So as he sat in his car pondering his other options, the slightest sounds like a dog barking fit or car horn blasts seemed to further put him “on edge.” Reaching for his phone, he did find some temporary relief by deciding to calling AAA , hoping they would send a service vehicle immediately to help him get back on the road. But he soon brooded why it would take an hour or two as he was told on the phone for the the tow truck to show up. So Greg re-considered in desperation whether to seek assistance on his own by walking a few blocks down to Flagler Street in “Little Havana” instead. For in his mind, he knew this was Miami, which meant he’d be taking a risk to leave his car stranded in what might not be considered to him the best area of town.
Nevertheless, Greg proceeded with his new plan. So he walked gingerly to the corner of 17th Avenue and Flagler near midnight, gesturing with his hands in hitchhiker fashion for someone who understood English to respond to his call for help. With a stroke of good luck, he soon noticed a white van swerving wildly into the curb beside him. A young man clad in mechanics clothes quickly rolled down his window to yell out Greg’s former title – “Hey Doctor Bowen. It’s Jose!” Under such unexpected circumstances , an ex-professor and his former student would now reunite with a much greater purpose than just fixing a simple flat tire so Greg could be speedily on his way home.
Understand then that over five years ago, Jose attended Professor Bowen’s College Prep Reading class at Miami Dade College Downtown Campus three nights a week during a time when he lived in his car enduring homeless desperation. It so happened that Professor Bowen took extensive time to help Jose deal with pressures outside the classroom at that crucial time of his life. In particular, he guided Jose to move forward from his enduring plight by encouraging him to read classic literature on his own. Know as well that on one notable student conference occasion during that academic term, Mr. Bowen handed Jose a free copy of Robinson Crusoe, the classic novel written long ago by Daniel Defoe. As the following events ensued in this story, you might say that this first novel which Jose had ever read before, became a definite turning point in his life.
So let’s focus more closely how Professor Bowen helped Jose overcome his homeless plight at the time. For he inspired Jose during their student conference times about how to use Robinson Crusoe and his friend Friday as positive role models for him in the novel who survived Jose’s similar perils of being stranded with lost hope for years in an isolated homeless environment. So during this chance encounter that Friday night, Jose could take some time to proudly report to his former teacher that he now responsibly paid his own way for school and an apartment while holding a steady job in the auto mechanics industry as well.
I too pondered a fortuitous reunion on two recent occasions in my life as briefly illustrated in the captioned photographs below.
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine… “ (Ancient Proverb)
I’ve been thinking lately during those lazy days of summer about the importance of just clearing my mind with less worry about life’s persistent pressing problems. For in my yoga practice, I’ve diligently learned to just “go with the flow” during critical challenges of life. Yet it’s one matter to just lie still on a mat and meditate in silence to a positive chant or some pleasing music. But could I be equally successful letting my inner intuition guide me in more challenging circumstances? The following fictional story thus exemplifies how a chance reunion with one’s past aroused interest in evolving into such a new person.
A Most Humble Garden
It’d been at least five years since George, a retired music professor, had taken part in the education world in any capacity. Undoubtedly, fond memories surfaced now as he glanced at some trophy and diploma mementos from his younger days. For he took great pride in knowing that he achieved well in his university days and had earned tenure as a hard working faculty member. So why did he dread so much the decision to “brush up” a bit on some secondary skills he possessed today? For he would soon return to the academic world once more as a sixty seven year old student by enrolling in a full semester, online course titled ” Ecology and Botany in a Landscape World”.
On the first night of this course, however, George’s self-driven ego spoke loudly to him with doubt. For he pondered why did he need to participate in a challenging small group project of ecological significance as stipulated by the syllabus to be the most significant grade portion of the course. For it seemed simply a waste of his precious time to work with others at least forty years younger than him being so inexperienced than him in the academic learning world. There would thus be no sympathy felt, in his eyes, for those who had not “paid their dues” and he thus reasoned that he could handle the course objectives in his own familiar stoic fashion to master the project assigned.
Yet this particular ecology project soon perplexed George as to how it could be completed without seeking others help. For his assigned team would be required to to collaboratively design a garden plot including an assorted ecosystem of herbs, flowers and various nutritious fruits and vegetables to plant at vacant spots designated within a local community garden. So with good reason, George thought that such an unaccustomed endeavor that required him to dig, till and water soil regularly on his own could never be “his cup of tea” so to speak. Yet with uncharacteristic new insight , his thoughts turned to his ten year old granddaughter, Julie. For he knew that she visited them for a short time on most afternoons before returning home to dinner covered in dirt after playing games with her friends on the grounds of a nearby local park. Thus he prophesied that she would enjoy the similarly unclean experience of using her hands to garden with him each afternoon after school. So in the ensuing weeks of the course, Julie would in fact get “down and dirty” with George in his portion of the community garden as they together sprouted some fertile plant growths of citrus fruit and yellow marigolds with success.
So as the course continued, these lessons of his daughter’s unconditional willingness to help stuck firmly in George’s mind. As a result, he seemed more amenable to logging into the online chat box link each week now to engage with his three other project group members about the progress of each of their gardening efforts. Such team mentoring would serve him well as he proceeded to picture himself as his team’s “virtual” discussion leader. As a result, he listened empathetically to other members deal with various team crises as the final course deadline approached. For the professor intended to inspect each garden by way of a video linked schedule set up for each group at a specific day and time.
To George’s credit then, he seemed to have evolved as a person during the masterful completion of this garden plot. So it seems of far greater importance to him than earning that final grade of “A” in the course, that this garden still stands today as a special shrine he can visit when he desires a jolt of “inner”satisfaction. For he can always find time to relive proudly those times amid this pleasant ecological setting as a new pattern became set in his life for reaching out to others rather than suffering self sacrifice alone to help silence his persistent worries.
For your added interest to the ecology theme of this post, I invite you to check out five of our favorite gardens that I’ve photographed on previous vacations.
“And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for awhile is just bliss.” (J.K. Rowling)
There’s little question in my mind that travel blogging on Word Press for the last five years has not been easy. Consider how I spend a typical night in our latest motel after a long drive or day trip adventure. I’d first managed to write down some superficial notes about the facts of what I’ve seen at a site and perhaps gathered some travel pamphlets at this destination of interest. I’d also taken a large amount of photographs to help me develop a topic to write about. Hopefully, the Wifi signal would be strong enough to access the Internet from our guest room, for I would likely spend extensive time on my I Pad doing research verification, source checks and accomplishing various grammar- spell check concerns then. With so much to prepare before sentence writing, time I would also feel pressure to finish the blog that night. For the longer I waited, the less clear my memory would serve me about what I’d actually seen. After last minute editing, it came time to finally “hit” the send button on Word Press.
But in my perfectionist manner, the process continued as I now turned my attention to reaching my intended audience consistently with this latest effort. So It came time next to interface my entry with my friends on Facebook and use the Anchor app’s free tool to create a podcast version of this writing. As I finally concluded my efforts for the night with a brief check of my early statistics of likes and comments accumulated, the process of publishing and marketing my blog uneventfully ended with relief within three-four hours time.
So where lies the fun in all this effort? For I can vividly recall how I loved as a kid to draw, scribble, and color code my feelings in those simple diaries I wrote about girls, hobbies, and illness symptoms. I flashback as well to my undergraduate college days when taking notes during a professor’s lecture formulated as either an entertaining quiz show framework or an artistic mind map of creative design. At some point in graduate school, I also began to risk using some experimental ideas of Bette Edwards in her book, “Drawing on The Right Side of the Brain” such as creating art compositions while being blindfolded or visualizing images I wrote about by turning a book page upside down. Learn about these techniques below for yourself in the video link below.
But there’s some good news to “calm the waters” of my current blog writing toil as a result of my participation in a “Zoom” Webinar recently watched on Atlas Obscura titled “The Secret Arts: Travel Journaling” For this two hour demonstration of several, beautifully designed travel journals by Spanish artist, Jose Naranja seemed to restore my interest in making my Word Press efforts more fun to create. How motivating it appeared to me then in knowing I could find total creative freedom by filling each page of a personal travel journal in a simple paper notebook with spontaneous expressions of words, images, and personal feelings during such present moments of travel. By recording such waves of thought in a variety of expressive ways for myself at the time of each visit, I also envisioned that my Word Press blogs would be accomplished with less memory loss and thus be energized with fresh newness about what I’d seen. My obsession to correct my mistakes in writing might also be avoided I thought as this free flow spirit of experimentation settled more into my mind.
Would I save time in undergoing this writing transformation? How easily could this former English professor so heavily invested in his academic mindset “let go” of his penchant for correcting himself at every turn? Who knows for now! What about you? Would you be willing to put your creative talents to the test in this way? I invite you to check out the following photos display and Jose Naranja’s presentation below showcasing his inspiring travel writing effort. It will be available on Zoom for the next week only.
“Laurel Canyon was a place that gave you the permission to ask who you were, to find out what this life held for you and not be scrambling for some regimented job in a regimented city.” ( Jackson Browne )
I always envisioned Laurel Canyon in Southern California as an isolated mountain setting filled with celebrity music inspiration clearly set off from the massive city bustle of Los Angeles beyond. It seemed therefore likely to me on our road trip visit last week that we could “chill” enjoying some idle time there and feel less “caught up” in the carousel of time. For I could daydream there for a “spell” about that past generation of musicians that I grew up with who filled me with peace, love, and unity’s call and thus forget the pain of life’s complex problems today.
Without question, then, Ruth and I anticipated a momentous visit to Laurel Canyon as we we casually relaxed with a cup of coffee at the community’s famed Canyon Country Store. Know that this place once served as a casual hub of activity where pop music legends mingled together as “cool people”” during the late 1960s and early 1970s. We’re talking members of The Doors, Beach Boys, or Crosby, Stills, and Nash, for instance, engaging in an intimate exchange of musical energy about writing their latest new songs or perhaps Mama Cass entering the scene to recruit aspiring musical prodigies to her house for an upcoming celebrity party. How exciting it felt now to nostalgically relive in my mind those spontaneous pop star occasions as I took a morning glance at a colorful display of “retro” posters, hippie woodcraft, and graffiti artwork lining the country store that morning.
So with great enthusiasm, we looked forward to continuing our time travel experience of those free- spirited times in Laurel Canyon’s past by taking a driving tour around those crooked narrow streets creeping steeply upward to explore some remaining signs of the town’s bohemian musical past. Yet it soon became clear that Laurel Canyon throughout the town felt nothing like the openly communal aura of pop star mania that I felt earlier at the country store. For as we passed by those iconic Laurel Canyon houses where such magical songs about peace and tranquility of my era were composed, they seemed noticeably secluded by either densely packed foliage, imposing stone walls or electronic security barriers.
So with so much of the town seemingly very private and thus off-limits to tourists, it made more sense for us to spend the bulk of our driving time ascending along cliffside Mulholland Drive to instead obtain grandiose views of the vast Los Angeles Metropolis below. It seems only fitting in my mind that we will conclude our California vacation by getting our fill of some good old rock n’ roll music with a concert featuring Chicago and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys tonight. Enjoy the photos.
“When the well is dry we know the worth of water.” (Benjamin Franklin)
One does not visit California expecting an explosion of water saturated bliss at one’s immediate disposal these days. For like much of the American West, the “Golden State” suffers from extreme drought conditions in recent times. So it’s no coincidence that life stubbornly thrives along its Pacific Ocean beaches and associated inlets as a matter of survival. In this regard, it seemed very fortunate for us that so much of coastal California that we visited on this road trip remains protected in its pristinely natural state by federal or state environmental law.
So I invite you to take a look at my latest photographic montage of our latest Pacific Coast shoreline passage, where life, big and small, thrives in harmony with such arid conditions. Notice the colorful array of summer flowering along barren cliffside overlooks. Become aroused by the gentle leaning of coastal tree strands near their vital aquatic source of life nourishment. Observe the silent presence of a perching seagull, squirrel, or pelican feeling total freedom along the seashore. Picture a petrified boulder evolving from a lone tree existing long ago when wetter times dominated this surrounding earth surface.
Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.” ( Henry Miller )
Ruth and I embark on our road trips west to California from Fort Lauderdale always looking for those sites that seem both freshly new and spiritually uplifting. These lofty goals though seem tough to accomplish when we average 400-500 miles driving each day on our typically prearranged schedule to reach the “Golden State” end of our journey. Know then we’ve reached the logical conclusion that fly/drive adventures make more sense now to cover desired regions of the U.S. in greater depth than we’ve previously undertaken. So we’ve been out on the road moving south along the California coastline from the San Francisco Bay Area since late May. For this particular blog, then, I invite you to relive with us some inspiring video moments of “California Golden” scenes that we’ve witnessed so far on this more time abbreviated adventure. Just click on the six (6) links below that follow each caption.
1.Elephant Seals Along the Central California Coastline CD
“The way you get a better world is you don’t put up with substandard anything.“ (Joe Strummer)
My last blog posting demonstrated how a seemingly enticing airboat ride in the Florida Everglades could easily be delivered to tourists from a substandard selling perspective, Thus, for this latest entry, I continue this theme below by analyzing ten (10) places we’ve visited on past road trips that similarly do not measure up to the desired tourist quality that I expected to enjoy. I then place my trust in some comparable sites below that seem to be better suited for me from a self guided travel perspective.
1. Bourbon Street, New Orleans
I’ve learned to avoid the raucous party reputation of this thirteen block corridor when seeking lively entertainment options in New Orleans on our road trips. For does one really need to tangle with this often crowded tourist frenzy seeking overindulgence in sinful pleasures. You might instead look elsewhere for a decent place to dine at affordable prices and perhaps a jazz performance of musical quality to follow.
Better Choice: Frenchman Street Corridor
2. St. Augustine, Florida
There are some decent tourist options to visit of authentic historical attention like the Castillo De San Marcos District along the Intercoastal Waterway and the Flagler College annex west of downtown. But beyond these likely first time visit options, St. Augustine seems burdened by a “tourist trap” reputation filled with a hodgepodge of tacky souvenir shops, and uneconomical family tourist options that tend to “stretch the truth” like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and the Fountain of Youth Museums.
Better Choice: Charleston, South Carolina
3. South Beach Strip , Florida
Many young tourists come to South Beach to experience its famous club scene offering one’s choice of all night hedonistic pleasures. But for those who venture beyond this beachfront mecca of Art Deco structural pleasure, a more unglamorous picture of Miami Beach appears. For like so many aging cities across our country , one finds a noticeably “rundown” reality there with plenty of homelessness , poverty, and street crime to concern the visiting tourist today.
Better Choice: The Florida Keys
4. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The “Smokies” would be an ideal place for an exciting summer vacation with over 800 square miles of mountains, streams, and forests. Yet while Gatlinburg serves as the northern gateway to to Smoky Mountain National each year during “high season”, the town seems too small to accommodate the huge throngs of tourists who visit there each year.
Better Choice: Asheville, North Carolina
5. Park City, Utah
Winter skiing can be an expensive proposition especially when it caters to the “jet set” in this“upscale” town of Park City. For the frugal traveler, you thus might face the inconvenience of staying outside of Park City and risk missing out on local ski resort fun.The state of Utah’s Mormon dominant politics might also give one second thoughts about indulging in alcohol, pornography and other so called sinful actions.
Better Choice: Steamboat Springs, Colorado
6. Hollywood, California.
Once considered as the tourist center for movie star glamour in the early days of motion pictures, downtown Hollywood, California offers today merely a casual glimpse of its past film glories. Yes, the Chinese Theater and Star Walk of Fame still survive but the movie stars have moved on to exclusive places of suburban privacy like Malibu Beach, Bel- Air and Laurel Canyon. Of course you will still find hordes of Hollywood curiosity seekers who seem determined to chance a rare encounter with the latest celebrity while overlooking the increasingly blighted look of this historic neighborhood.
Better Choice: Visit a Famed Movie Studio
7. Flagstaff, Arizona
The “Mother Road” of Route 66 began in 1926 as one of the first highways to cross east – west to California. So in what locations across America can you best view historic remnants of old gas stations, motor hotels, and iconic cafes from Route 66’s iconic past? Not in Route 66 Flagstaff it seems as the road’s spreading urban sprawl look provides merely an unglamorous weigh station for those moving on to the famed Grand Canyon to the north. You might even easily bypass Route 66 altogether if you transport your vehicle conveniently from I-17 north to I-40 west.
Better Choice: Williams, Arizona
8. Tunica, Mississippi
Tunica’s rise to resort status in the mid 1990s coincided with the popular appeal of casino gambling along the Mississippi River in a desperately poor region of “Deep South” America. While a few of these “grand” hotels still remain to provide a comfortable weekend of gambling fun for commuters from Memphis and other nearby urban areas, there’s not much left to see of the Mississippi Blues Trail culture there. The views of America’s longest river are challenging to find at best as many of these hotels have chosen to restrict public access to Mississippi River scenic vantage points on their private lands.
Better Choice: Vicksburg, Mississippi
9. Amish Country , Ohio
At this more mature time of my life, I like to reminisce about those countryside camping trips, rural farm visits, and YMCA sports outings I’d experienced as a “kid” in Midwest America. Yet it would not be wise to encroach upon the private Amish people in this region to obtain such a nostalgic dose of one’s outdoor frolicking spirit? For I’ve learned not to infringe upon their ultra conservative ways on my previous visits to small towns like Berlin and Millersburg and would never recommend one try to mimic their horse and buggy lifestyle in their country towns to obtain some childlike fun.
Better Choice: Indiana Dunes National Park
10. Pagosa Springs, Colorado
In visiting Colorado, accessibility to the Rocky Mountains for active hiking and camping opportunities should be a major reason for an extended tourist stay.Yet Pagosa Springs as observed from a previous visit lies remotely surrounded by thick National Forest and is therefore somewhat inaccessible to the Southern Rockies region. With the landscape of Pagosa Springs being situated so remotely amid quiet suburbia, there’s not much to do from the tourist point of view.The renowned Springs Hot Springs Resort in Pagosa would no doubt provide an enticing place to relax yet it’s much too sedentary an experience for those who wish to indulge in a more active Colorado time.
“Travel makes a wise man better, and a fool worse.” (Thomas Fuller)
There seemed no better place for Mike to get away from the urban madness of South Florida than this Sunday morning spent alone at his favorite Everglades rest stop quietly munching his sandwich. For he felt such undisturbed environmental conditions here would help him unwind from his stressful commitments as a high school biology teacher that often piled up at the end of the school year.. He also envisioned that some idle study observing this thriving eco-system during the cooler hours before noon would yield some interesting photo shots of migratory birds and reptilian wildlife. After lunch, he might even take some time to slowly reposition myself in yoga mantra position along the adjacent canal to meditate in silence amid this “River of Grass” oasis for awhile.
But then Mike’s uplifting anticipation of nature’s solitude suddenly disappeared when he smelled boat oil followed by the noise piercing engines of a tourist-packed airboat moving quickly near. With no surprise then, this precious eco-system now suddenly became radically disturbed as the resident alligators along the bank now dove into the depths of the now “wake” disturbed canal while feeding herons, anhingas, and egrets scattered nervously into the sky. How unfortunate it seemed to him that this young airboat driver intended to dock his airboat at this location in spite of this disturbing mechanical encroachment upon these pristine yet vulnerable lands. Upon further observations of this ominous environmental scene, the driver in Mike’s view did not seem to care about spreading the word concerning responsible eco- tourism and instead engaged in some extended small talk with the disembarking passengers about about cheap souvenir sales and Indian Joe’s alligator wrestling exhibition
Mike noticed then that some of the tourists complained to each other about practical concerns on this ride such as a lack of restroom facilities and insufficient instructions about how to properly wear their noise deadening headphones. Yet the driver seemed oblivious to their concerns in Mike’s view as he went off to the parking lot on his own to “yak” on his cellphone for the duration of this short stopover. Most importantly, it puzzled Mike that the tourists seemed to be wasting their precious sightseeing time on a high speed ride through these federally protected surroundings while remaining ignorant about the abundance of vegetative and wild life diversity that existed here. So when he heard the loud blare of the airboat engine revving up again, he felt relief that this misguided tour would soon depart. For in a few minutes, Mike’s blissful spot in the Everglades would renew itself as the canal again flowed smoothly and this vast tropical swampland settled back into stillness once more. Mike took comfort then in knowing that the alligators would also return with eagerness to their favorite sand clearing along the canal bank and share their sinister smiles at him once again.
Does the the word “tourist trap” cross your mind in this example? Bingo! These tourists had been scammed of hundreds of dollars for an inferior waste of their airboat time. For it seems logical that the proprietors of this airboat company obviously planned a fast “ripoff” of these clueless tourists knowing full well that the quality of their Florida Everglades experience would be shoddy at best. So as a veteran road tripper of cross country road trips in the past ten years, I urge my blog readers to be beware of such scams of substandard services provided in your future summer travels.
“ These gardens give us the hope and serenity that emanate from the beauty of the earth.” (Eleanor and Eugene Goldberg)
As I eagerly await our next road trip to California later this month, perhaps you’ve noticed that I’m spending more time investigating local tourist spots in my own home territory of South Florida. For in paraphrasing from the introduction to my blog home page, any place near or far will do if your senses are open to the peaceful energy that surrounds you. So I headed north on busy I-95 on Saturday morning last week, then veered west through swanky Boca Raton to spend an amazing two hours meandering around the sixteen acre environs of Morikami Gardens.
So what exactly made the timing of my visit to “Garden Of The Drops of Dew” as Morikami is commonly called so special? Know that upon arrival, I seemed to have “caught a break” as throngs of tourists at Morikami were rushing for cover to escape one of those typical South Florida rain showers that pass through during the approaching summer season. Yet I knew that these deluges did not usually last very long. Thus I felt free to conduct my self guided tour of Morikami’s unique landscape designs at a time when it’s paths were relatively clear of competing pedestrian traffic.
So I invite you to join with me amid the cooler aftermath of summer rain at Morikami in the photo set below. For I hope to recapture for you some highlights of this visit that best capture nature’s solitude there amid its flowering trees, shrubs, rocks ,and gravel in Japanese artistic tradition.
“ Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” (Betty Friedan)
When it comes to music, it’s a fair statement to say that originality can be a rare commodity to find as each age generation passes. For as the iconic bands of the past rapidly disappear from existence, their old songs become reborn in the burgeoning trend of Tribute bands today. Witness for example those wildly popular musical impersonators of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson or Liberace along the famed strip in Las Vegas. Or venture into any wine bar, country hall or dinner theater establishment on a Saturday night and you can often hear American legends of pop music past like Willie Nelson, The Eagles or Tom Petty magically reappear for your enjoyment. Surprisingly, I’ve even observed directly that those memorable songs that I grew up with during the Vietnam War era inspire me to find common ground with today’s youth as well. Thus upon retirement from teaching a few years back, I took out my old trombone and tediously practiced my horn in order to ultimately play with a volunteer gathering of gifted high school students in such a classic rock branded band.
Perhaps you’ve noticed then that Tribute bands seem to pay homage to the idea that while we cannot stop aging of our body, the musical vibe we’ve enjoyed most can remain youthfully alive. So in this spirit of timeless optimism, I ask you to observe then the following song excerpts from four, retro minded, Tribute bands I’ve been paying great attention to lately. Do the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of any particular tunes resonate for you as they once did in the past? Does any performance feature a charismatic lead vocalist who inspires attention to one of your previous musical idols on stage? Do the personalities of other band members stand out for you for any group as they often did before? Are you induced to dance or sing along in youthful vigor to the lyrics of a familiar song? Does the lighting or other special effects accentuate the stage “backdrop” appearance of one or more of these venues in a nostalgic way for you then? Would you be willing to remain for the traditional encore to hear that Tribute Band play on in lieu of exiting early to escape the crowd?