My Morning Walk

Mountain View, Arkansas – the little town where I have lived for the last three years – is a cool little town in a lot of ways. I live one block from the downtown square and I still have a great place to walk in the morning. These are some pictures I took on my round late last fall.


Something to chew on

“Be careful what you eat!” When the subject of traveling the world comes up, I get that piece of advice almost as often as I hear “Don’t drink the water!”

While I have to admit the second piece of advice has merit, I’m not so sure about the usefulness of the first. Now, admittedly, once in Mexico I did get Montezuma’s Revenge from eating some raw lettuce. However, it was the only time I ever got sick from eating anything anywhere. And I got that lettuce at a lunch counter in a Mexican Woolworth’s, not from a street vendor.

But, for people who are interested in stuff like that I did find a country with some statistics about bad food that might give you pause for thought. That country has an estimated 48 million people get sick from tainted food each year. That is 48,000,000! About 128,000 are so sick they have to be hospitalized and 3,000 people get so sick from eating bad food they die. That country is the USA and the statistics are from the Center for Disease Control.

Right now as I write this there is an outbreak of people dying from eating cantiloupe tainted with a bacteria called listeria. So far 15 people are known to have died. The kicker is someone can eat a food tainted with listeria and not get sick for weeks so the death toll won’t be known for several more weeks. This cantaloupe was produced in Colorado but was distributed across 25 states, so who knows?

I would like to say this is just an isolated case but the CDC stats prove it is not. For the record, here are some of the worse known cases of food poisoning in the last few years:

Jalisco Mexican Products Inc., Artesia, Calif., January 1985. Mexican-style fresh cheese contaminated with listeria caused 52 deaths, including many stillbirths, although a CDC spokeswoman didn’t know how many.

Bil Mar Foods, Zeeland, Mich., October 1998. Hot dogs and deli meats contaminated with listeria left 101 people hospitalized with infections and 21 deaths.

Peanut Corp. of America, Blakely, Ga., September 2008. Peanut butter and peanut paste contaminated with salmonella Typhimurium sickened 714, and led to 166 hospitalizations and nine deaths.

Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Franconia, Pa., July 2002. Sliced turkey and deli meat contaminated with listeria led to 54 illnesses and eight deaths, including three stillbirths.

Cargill Turkey Products Inc., Waco, Texas, May 2000. Turkey deli meat tainted with listeria left 29 ill and hospitalized and led to seven deaths, including three miscarriages or stillbirths.

Dole Natural Selection Foods, San Juan Bautista, Calif., August 2006. Spinach tainted with E. coli sickened 238, hospitalized 103 people and led to five deaths.

SanGar Fresh Cut Produce, San Antonio, Texas, October 2010. Celery contaminated with listeria sickened 10 people, including five who died.

Jack in the Box, San Diego, Calif., November 1992. Ground beef contaminated with E. coli led to 708 illnesses and four deaths.

Chi-Chi’s restaurant, Beaver, Penn., October 2003. Hepatitis A infections tied to green onions sickened 565 people, left 128 hospitalized and caused three deaths.

Raw restaurant-prepared tomatoes. December 1998. Contamination with the rare salmonella Baildon bacteria in restaurant-prepared cut tomatoes shipped to several states left 86 ill, 16 hospitalized and three dead.

So, the next time I see something that looks good being sold by a street vendor, if I’m hungry and their business is brisk and the flies aren’t too numerous I think I’ll take my chances.

A Little Story

Naturally, I’m “chomping at the bits” to get going even when I’m suffering from stomach clinching nervousness. I keep feeding this stew of contradiction by reading travel blogs about round-the-world travel. Some things I find on them are informative, some are funny, and then there are some that are like reading a menu at McDonald’s. Ever once in a while though I find a real gem that I know is going to stick with me. I found the following story (not copied verbatim) on Lonely Planet.

A traveler came walking down a small road in a rural part of the world. Beside the road an old man was sitting taking in the morning sun. “Good morning Grandfather”, the traveler said. “Can you tell me what the people in the next village are like?”

“Well” said the old man “What are they like back home where you come from?”

“Oh, they are a nice bunch of folks” said the traveler. “Helpful and friendly and always ready to welcome travelers, too.”

“Ah well, son” said the old man “You’ll find the people in this village much the same.”

The next week, along came another stranger, who asked the old man the same question.

“And what are the people like where you come from?” the old man asked the stranger.

“Well,” said this new stranger. “They’re pretty awful actually. That’s why I left. They’d rob you as soon as look at you and not care a bit if you were hungry.”

“I’m sorry for that, son” said the old man. “I fear you will find the people in this village very much the same.”

So now I’m thinking, “uh oh”. And then I think, “No matter where you go, there you are.” And then I think, “Maybe the people around here aren’t so bad after all – even if they are mostly conservative teabaggers who would execute innocent people and let uninsured people die in the street like dogs and hate soldiers because of their sexual preferences and put people in jail for years for inhaling the smoke from a plant.” And maybe cows can really jump over the moon.

Where I need to be.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” — Douglas Adams

Did I mention I have fears? I might have mentioned that once or twice.

Did I mention I have become something of a recluse, a hermit almost, over the last couple of years? Did I mention my social skills, never great to begin with, have essentially atrophied to zero? Did I mention that? Did I mention that I – I who once hiked completely across the Grand Canyon in fourteen hours during temperatures up to 125 degrees – I have become almost comatose and out of shape during the last couple of years. I don’t guess I mentioned that, did I?

Did I mention that my brain went into hibernation a few years ago and no matter how I poke it and jab it, it just doesn’t seem to want to wake up. I probably didn’t mention that either.

So, no matter how much this scares me, I know this is something I have to do if I want to live because, really, right now I might as well be dead. I eat. I sleep. I breath in. I breath out. But I’m not living.

I go for days sometimes without seeing anyone, without talking to anyone. And then, that string of days is usually only broken up by going to Wal-Mart and talking to the checkout person. If this all sounds too pathetic to you, think how it sounds to me whose life it is!

So, that is why, if there needs to be a “why”. There is still a spark in me that just refuses to lay down and die like a good little senior citizen. I am going to get out there in the world. I am going to get dirty and uncomfortable and tired and hungry, and yes, I know this old body is going to hurt – maybe a lot.

It is better than dying here in this sterile house alone though. I fear that even more.

What light through yon window breaks?

I begin to get a glimmer, just a glance perhaps of some light shining through the haze that has been swirling in my mind. For several years now my whole life has been in turmoil. I have been confused and bewildered. I thought I was meant to be a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. I thought that was my “place.” That was what I strived to be. But somehow, it just didn’t work out.
I have been given a chance now to go out and search for something else; a chance to rediscover my “place”. I think that search is leading me to Bulgaria. Not right away. There are things I want to accomplish first, if for no other reason than to quiet certain areas of thought. I don’t believe it is so much to quiet areas though, as it is to lift the swirling haze.
If this doesn’t make any sense to anyone, all I can say right now is – it does to me. There is now a method to my “madness”. I have a plan – really. 🙂
Just follow along…
Old age – forces us to turn inwards

“As the years go by, the destructive principle inevitably works its way into human beings. They cannot overcome it, but they can nevertheless slow down its effect and, above all, learn to make use of the period of old age that is setting in. When we lose our strength and our physical abilities, we have to tell ourselves that now is the time to seek other occupations, other sources of joy. Whatever the conditions, there is always something we can do, and if we are deprived of our physical energy we must seek to turn inwards, delving deep to tap that spring of spiritual energies within, which is inexhaustible.

If the principle that allows beings to grow and flourish did not meet with opposition and obstacles, humans would be lost. Yes, if old age and illness were not there to set limits, a great many people would become monsters! But we all know that the path we are on ends at only one place: death. In this respect, all men and women are equal. So, we all have to admit defeat, be modest, reflect, become wise and find, if we can, the path leading to God.”  — Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov

Life – It’s the real thing!

This is your Life.

Do what you love and do it often.

If you don’t like something, change it.

If you don’t like your job, quit.

If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV.

If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.

Stop over analyzing, life is simple.

All emotions are beautiful.

When you eat appreciate every last bite.

Open your mind, arms and heart to new things and people; we are united in our differences. Ask the next person you see what their passion is, and share your inspiring dream with them.

Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself.

Some opportunities only come once, seize them.

Life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them. So go out and start creating.

Life is short.

Live your dream, and wear your passion.

Oh Man, things are moving.

Just got an offer on the house – but not to get too excited. There is a contingency. They’ve got to sell their house first. But they will know in one week. So I accepted the offer. But they really want this house. They are already talking to the real estate agent about an offer “just in case” their house doesn’t sell as expected. And, they are coming tomorrow to take exact measurements of all the rooms so they can figure out how to arrange their furniture. I would say they are sold.

…But that means I will be out of a house before the end of October – barely a month from now. All my plans have been aimed towards leaving at the end of January. There is so much to do yet. And the kicker right now is, I won’t even know if I should start doing them for another week.

Once I start, there will be no turning back. I have to get rid of all the furniture, all the clothes, store the electronics (sell them?), give away all the painting supplies and paintings, and the truck?! What about the truck? I don’t know yet. Store it, sell it? I sure can’t take it with me. And when everything is gone, it is gone. It is exciting and scary at the same time. And the plane tickets…

I really needed months to sort all this stuff out. Karma bites ass again.