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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Words for the Ages: Line Twenty-Nine

"Every form of refuge has its price."

Over their long career as songwriting partners, Glenn Frey and Don Henley created many memorable songs, with lyrics almost universally well-suited to their simple but effective melodies. I know there are legions of Eagles fans among you, so I'm hoping you'll submit at least one nomination of an aphoristic Frey/Henley lyric you think is an equal to the short phrase above. Remember: Your nomination must be able to stand alone, be brief enough to be easily recalled, and it must contain a universal truth, i.e., words for the ages. 

Consider for a moment how much that phrase from Lyin' Eyes says about choices we each make throughout life. Although the "I guess" preceding that gem is necessary for the cadence of the lyrical line, those seven succinct words are the essential ones. The inescapable truth of it takes my breath away at the same time it reminds me of my missteps. What price have you paid for a refuge you chose? 

Monday, February 26, 2024


"We may never pass this way again."

Although it's possible I'll get back to the continent of Africa in my remaining years, it's unlikely, especially given the number of other places I'd like to visit at least once. No matter; the last two + weeks exceeded my expectations in nearly every way. 

The food, the sights, and the companionship of our traveling companions were first rate. The history and context we got from our leader - a polymath and scofflaw in equal measure - the knowledge and expertise of our other guides, particularly the extraordinary lecture we had on David Livingstone, and the background information provided on each of the four countries we visited helped make everything we subsequently saw more meaningful. And being fully immersed in an unspoiled environment where birds and wildlife flourish was spiritually nourishing. 

Our last experience, an unplanned stop at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg on our final day - after we'd said goodbye to our Road Scholar group - was a fitting and moving coda to this exceptional trip. As re-entry begins, I desperately want to retain the buzz I'm feeling right now. Perhaps the twenty-nine pages I captured in my journal will assist me in doing so. I hope pictures my wife took - like the one directly below - will also help. Please share with me any technique that has helped you prolong a transcendent experience. I'll try anything to keep my African adventure fresh in my mind.


Friday, February 23, 2024

Dispatch Near the End of an African Adventure

Big thanks to those of you who've read my recent dispatches from Africa. Bigger thanks to those who took the time to make a comment on one or more of those posts. I only wish Wi-Fi had been more consistent because every day had several moments of magic I wanted to share while they were still fresh. 

Can any picture meaningfully convey the splendor of the Chobe River separating Botswana and Namibia? Which words might help bring you close to our experience as this African adventure approaches its end? Below is the river as it looked from the porch of our cabin on the Namibia side. Chirping insects, croaking frogs, and roaring lions greeted us at night. The vibrant birdsong enchanted us on our short walk to breakfast each morning. And each trip down the river was better than the last, bringing us into close and regular contact with herds of elephants, hippos and crocodiles within yards of our boat, countless birds.

I feel fortunate to have experienced the majesty of Africa.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Fourth Dispatch: Walking Through a Rainbow

You read that correctly. Among the many highlights this trip has delivered, walking through a rainbow while at Victoria Falls yesterday is - at least right this moment - near the top of my list. However, if I'm able to get a Wi-Fi signal tomorrow, my next post could well declare something different as near the top because every day has had several moments of magic. 

Starting on the flight from Cape Town to Pretoria last Wednesday, I began asking the other sixteen folks on this journey for their highlights to date. As we left Zimbabwe earlier today and headed to our final location in Namibia, I began re-asking the same question. To the person, everyone I spoke with cited different highlights this second time around.  

The picture below, taken during our elephant walk in Hwange National Park, may help explain why it's difficult for any of us to land on a favorite highlight. Each day delivers a new treasure that ascends to the top of the list. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Dispatch #3: District Six Museum

"Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace."  - Nelson Mandela

Hearing an eighty-five-year-old man describing what it was like for he and his family to be forcibly re-located was difficult. Walking around the District Six Museum in Cape Town and reading the first-hand testimony of countless others who had the same experience in South Africa was more difficult. Reading the words of Nelson Mandela above - a man jailed for twenty-seven years for resisting the ludicrous laws the nation of South Africa imposed on him and every other non-white person beginning in 1948 - reminded me how far I still must travel to become a person of grace. 

I cannot begin to imagine what might have been in my heart had I been forced to endure what black people in South Africa did under apartheid. But I'm reasonably sure I would not have evolved into a man anything like Mandela. Perhaps the time I spent listening to this morning's lecture and then reading the testimony of others forced to live with the horror of apartheid might get me within striking distance of that kind of grace.          

Monday, February 12, 2024

Dispatch from the Tip of the World

No words can convey what it felt like today standing 4000 feet above sea level at the southernmost tip of Africa. The picture - inadequate as it is - will have to suffice. 

But as awestruck as I was by nearly every sight we saw today, the evening we just spent at an African restaurant in Cape Town called Gold could end up being even more memorable. As we sampled small plates featuring the cuisine of eleven different countries, our Road Scholar group was also treated to a vibrant musical feast. The drumming, the singing, and the expert marimba playing were augmented by acrobatic dancing, puppetry, and face painting. A peak experience.  

Friday, February 9, 2024

First Dispatch

You know that expression about the journey being as satisfying - or something - as the destination? Yeah, not so much when the journey involves a lot of time in airplane seats. 

Earlier today, it was hard to think of much besides a comfortable bed. The last long leg of our twenty-six hours of travel - a flight from London to Cape Town - was not unpleasant, per se. As people all around me seemed to effortlessly snooze - including my wife and two friends - I finished a book, watched Oppenheimer, listened to some music. I meditated, wrote in my journal, prolonged the two marginal meals that were served. My time in the air shouldn't have felt so elongated, right? But almost twelve sleepless hours in the same airplane seat - after being in a different airplane seat for half that long earlier, as well as anticipating what was still ahead after we landed in Cape Town - got me reflecting on the whole journey vs. destination bit. And then I began thinking about that bed, the one I'm headed for now.     

Second dispatch coming soon, if technology cooperates. Thanks for all your well wishes here, via e-mail, and on Facebook.   


Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Coming Soon: Dispatches from Africa

Much as I've thought about it, I still can't say why visiting Africa has always appealed to me. Is there a place you've always longed to visit for no readily identifiable reason? 

If my wife and I hadn't discovered Road Scholar in 2015, the trip that we begin tomorrow might not have materialized. But my long-deferred desire to visit Africa was facilitated because of Road Scholar's enticing catalogues - BTW, we get way too many of those - and our uniformly positive experiences traveling elsewhere with them. And this trip promises to be even richer because two of our friends are joining us on the adventure.

The Road Scholar itinerary tells me there will be some long gaps in Wi-Fi service. The bell curve remains open, regardless. My plan is to reflect - and share pics - from each of the four countries we'll be visiting, where possible; stay tuned. Finally, in case anyone wondered, I got the recommended vaccinations, will be drinking mostly bottled beer - such a hardship - and plan to stay a safe distance from wildlife. All this means I should be back in full-time business sometime around February 26, jetlag dependent.     

Monday, February 5, 2024

I've Got Your Number

Based on the number of comments received on two of my posts in 2022, when readers helped me count down from 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover to One After 909 using pop culture, today's challenge is in a similar vein. I hope some of you will join the fun again. 

1.) Car 96, Where Are You?

2.) Seventy-Six Trombones

3.) 66 Tears

4.) Highway 77 Revisited 

5.) Route 54

As you can see, each pop culture reference above - TV show, song, album title - has in it a number over fifty. One of the five is correct as is. Three of the five has its correct number somewhere on this list but not in the title as noted. Start by identifying the wholly correct one and then move onto transplanting the other three numbers into the correct title. This part shouldn't be too difficult, at least for baby boomers who watched some TV and/or listened to some music growing up.  

Now for the bigger challenge. One of these five has an incorrect number that is not anywhere on this list. After identifying that one and supplying the correct number for that title - another number over fifty and, that's the easier part - then take that incorrect number and put it into the title of a popular TV show from the same era. I'll wait a bit to see if any reader gets the first four right and solves both parts of the bigger challenge for the fifth item. If no one does, I'll give a clue - BTW, this TV show was very popular in its day - in a near-future post also entitled I've Got Your Number. By then, I'll likely have more of this nonsense ready to unleash on you. Obviously, no fair using Google etc. 

If any reader solves all five/six without needing the clue, great. I'll acknowledge that in a response to the comment. In that case, the second iteration of I've Got Your Number might be on its way even sooner. Either way, the fun is just beginning

Reflections From The Bell Curve: Pop Culture Triptych: Countdown from Fifty

Reflections From The Bell Curve: Plea for More Rescuers (Start at 29, Please)

Friday, February 2, 2024

It's Back ...

Considering how many people outside of Punxsutawney ever pay attention, isn't it peculiar that of all the movies ever made about holidays few have come close to being as good as Groundhog Day?  What is your nomination for a holiday film that is the equal of Harold Ramis's goofy 1993 masterpiece?

Although I'm not a big Bill Murray fan, Groundhog Day is on the short list of films I've watched more than once. Of the several priceless bits in the movie, my favorite is probably Sonny & Cher warbling I Got You Babe on the clock radio that awakens Murray's character as he endlessly repeats February 2nd - brilliant song choice. What alternative tune would you pick as a way to aurally depict a nightmare you can't escape? My top nominations would be either one of those treacly ballads Michael Bolton screamed during his brief but painful popularity or the musical torture inflicted on us by I-get-paid-by-the-sixteenth-note Kenny G.

Musical snarkiness aside, which bit from Groundhog Day plays over and over and over in your mind? And, if you were able to repeat a single day from your life, which one would you choose?