Ever since our ursine visitor came, I've been a little more cautious when investigating noises in the dark. Especially since I discovered how quietly a bear can move through the vegetation.
It was a different morning visitor this time, however. Forgive the less-than-ideal production values, as I tried to juggle phone and flashlight, to illumine without blinding. (6.5 minutes)
He's rummaging around for bugs and grubs in our garden, and he's welcome to them. The best part wasn't caught on camera, however. He had caught one of our nasty, humongous grasshoppers, the kind that will easily devour an entire plant by itself, and was playing with it as a cat will play with a mouse. Teasing it, catching it and letting it go, putting it in his mouth multiple times—but if he ever actually ate it, I didn't see. I have no love for these destructive insects, but did start to feel a little sorry for it and couldn't help thinking, "Just swallow it already!" But it was funny to watch.
Our grandchildren's community/elementary school playground was recently updated. There was nothing obviously wrong with the old playground, which was not very old. The only obvious improvement was the addition of some equipment that could be more easily used by children with certain disabilities, which is a good thing but surely could have been accomplished without re-doing the whole thing at horrendous taxpayer expense.
Still, a playground is a playground, and this one being within walking distance for our grandchildren is a favorite destination when school is out. Everyone enjoys it, albeit on his own terms.
The first thing every one of them determined was that it was important to break every rule whenever possible. (Click to enlarge.) Beginning, of course, with the one that is not shown here: Adult supervision recommended. After all, it's only a recommendation, and we know what happened when the COVID-19 "rules" changed to "recommendations."
That gotten out of the way, it was time to notice some other interesting things about the equipment. It appears that the students at this school may grow up at a disadvantage in mathematics, at least when it comes to measurement.
I am not under five feet tall, and this is no trick of perspective. For all the money spent on this playground, couldn't they have placed the sign correctly?
On the other hand, I expect the students to have an advantage when it comes to music. How many playgrounds feature chimes in the Locrian scale?
It's 88 degrees outside at the moment, which is actually quite moderate for mid-day, mid-July in Florida. Still, it's ten degrees cooler inside, and that makes all the difference between enjoying my work and wanting to spend the day by (or in) the pool, drinking iced tea.
That increase in productivity I owe in large measure to one of America's great entrepreneurs, Willis Carrier, the "Father of Air Conditioning."
That this post appears today was prompted less by the temperature than by a new article by Eric Schultz' at The Occasional CEO (link is to the article), including an excerpt from his book, Innovation on Tap: Stories of Entrepreneurship from The Cotton Gin to Broadway's "Hamilton" (link is to my review of the book).
Successful entrepreneurship requires (among other traits) knowledge, skill, grit, determination, inventiveness, connection—and being in the right place at the right time. Lucky for us, Willis Carrier had them all, including the last, as you will see if you read the short story of how the Carrier Engineering Corporation opened for business at what looked for all the world like the worst possible time—and stepped into a golden opportunity that would have been impossible even a month later.
I LOVE the Independence Day parade and festivities in Geneva, Florida. I've written about it many times. We were small in numbers this year, but infinitely bigger than in 2020, when there was nothing at all. Thanks to Liz, our organizer and director-by-necessity, and to the good people of Geneva, marching in the parade was still a blast. The event organizers tell us that our antics are "one of the most frustrating things, and yet one of the things that the parade goers enjoy the most."
Thanks to the fact that the Fourth was a Sunday this year, Geneva's party was held a day early. And the federal holiday is a day late, so we enjoyed three days of festivities. Less happily, our neighbors have been making it a week-long holiday with their fireworks. It's a good thing the drought has broken.
The best part of the parade is interacting with the crowd, and hamming it up with my cymbals as we march along. Porter does the same with the water wagon (and its following shark). All it takes is a willingness to leave all pride and self-respect behind as the parade steps off.
I'll have to admit that the cymbals get heavier with every year, and running to catch up with the band—after letting a small spectator "help me out" by banging the cymbals—now leaves me a bit winded. It's a good thing Porter (aka Gunga Dad) is always ready with a drink to keep me hydrated!
The people of Geneva are always so warm, friendly, and encouraging. They love our country, their heritage, and their band. We didn't start in Geneva; 30 years ago we were the World's Worst Marching Band and played gigs not only in Central Florida but as far away as Atlanta and Philadelphia. Geneva at its worst couldn't outdo the heat of Atlanta's Independence Day parade, when Peachtree Street's pavement melted under our feet and (thanks to Gunga Dad) we were the only band not to have someone faint. But when the World's Worst Marching Band put itself out to pasture many years ago, Geneva welcomed us as their own.
One of the exhibits we checked out this year was a travelling exhibition of artwork created using wood from The Senator, our much-beloved and long-lamented bald cypress, which was the oldest in the world when it was destroyed by a careless drug user in 2012. I was expecting something tacky and touristy ("Get your gen-u-wine Senator key ring here!") but it was nothing of the sort. Rather, it was moving and respectful, telling the story of the tree and displaying beauty from ashes through art.
I love sitting on our back porch in the early morning. It's usually dark when I come out, and at first my only company is the insects and the frogs. A little later I can often see the armadillo as he leaves his burrow and goes out on his explorations through a small hole in the fence. As dawn approaches the birds start to wake up. Most common are the Carolina wrens and the cardinals, though there are many more, including owls, hawks, crows, tufted titmice, and unidentified warblers. Soon squirrels are scampering through the trees and across the screened enclosure that covers the pool. If I ignore the traffic noises, the air conditioners, the pool pumps, and the neighbor behind us who gets up early and likes to smoke on his porch, it's a very peaceful time.
Today I went out at about 5:30, and I sat there listening, except for a five to ten minute period when I ducked inside to attend to something in the kitchen. When it was light, I started walking my customary laps around the pool. Shortly before seven o'clock, I heard a small noise from one of the trees, and looked up, expecting to see a squirrel.
Apparently we grow our squirrels on the large side here in Florida.
That photo was taken by our neighbor, Carol; we called them over despite the early hour, knowing how much they would want to see this visitor. The Florida black bear is not uncommon in the neighborhood, but we'd never seen one on our street, let alone in our yard. We're not as close to the bear as you might think; Carol was shooting with a 400 mm lens. The video below was taken with my cell phone and gives you a better sense of the geography of the situation.
At that point we decided it prudent to stand a bit closer to the door to the house, but after descending the tree, he (definitely confirmed to be a male) squeezed back through the hole he had created for himself (Porter's photo), and went on his way. We were lucky he didn't take down a whole section of the fence.
My question is this: Did the bear come into the yard and climb the tree during the short time I was back in the house? Or had he been comfortably ensconced on the branch the whole time I was sitting on the porch in the dark? I'm inclined to believe the former, because when I'm out there I'm listening for and sensitive to unusual noises. But he was amazingly quiet in his moves for something so large, and the idea that he was sitting there the whole time is something to ponder!
At last, Christmas drew near, and we focussed our activities nearer home. Christmas Eve saw us in church, of course, with some of our guests pressed into service in our hand chime choir. Hand chimes are not nearly as beautiful as handbells, but they are what we had. We didn't even have a handbell choir until it emerged as a desperation move to give our choir a way to make music when rehearsing and singing were forbidden. In this we were oppressed, not by the state, but by our very own bishop, whose rules were far more draconian than the governments'. I had so looked forward to being able to share with our family the absolute beauty of our high church worship, especially on such a special day, but it was not allowed to be. Nonetheless, we were grateful to be permitted in-person services at all. We were there; God was there. And some of us went back later for the midnight mass.
Credit for the above three photos Anke Cirillo of Three Point Photography
And then it was Christmas! Happiness is a house full of family.
After Christmas we boldly got together with our long-time friend and former choir director for one of our spontaneous music-making sessions. It's impossible to describe what a glorious outpouring of joy there is in these events. I do have a few recordings I treasure, but out of respect for the true musicians who don't always appreciate having their impromptu experimentations broadcast to the world, I'll leave it to your imagination. We had singing, piano, harmonica, viola, recorder, hand chimes, and all manner of percussion. If I could do this every night I know my mental state would take a drastic turn for the better. And the interaction between me on the tambourine and our granddaughter on the maracas was pretty good physical exercise, too.
We visited several playgrounds and natural parks, including taking the Black Point Wildlife Drive on the east coast. It's a favorite of ours, and a lovely place to see birds. On this trip, however, the more exciting views were of another sort:
And what's a trip to that part of the state without a stop at the Dixie Crossroads restaurant?
We continued to enjoy our final days of this visit, trying not to think too much about the upcoming long trip to Miami and the even longer trip across the Atlantic. And the 10-day quarantine awaiting them back in Switzerland. But they survived all that without catching COVID-19, and so did we. We are so grateful to Florida for welcoming our overseas family, to Switzerland for letting them come (and return), and to all whose efforts made this visit possible. I hadn't fully realized the toll these pandemic restrictions had taken on our mental health until we were reminded of what we were missing. I believe this visit came just in time, and I'm so glad we made the joyful choice.
This December visit seems more than six months distant, given that January and February brought us vaccines and the beginning of more freedom, at least in Florida. It would be April before the Northeast opened up enough for another healing family visit ... and that's a story for another post.
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Part 1 is here. Now for more of our adventures during our December attempt at choosing joy and life amidst a pandemic-inspired focus on fear and death.
The eight of us did most of our venturing-outside-the-home together (being blessed with a car that seats that exact number), but occasionally we split up, as when two of us spent a day at EPCOT and the rest of us sought our entertainment at a classic American mini-golf course. Both groups had great fun. Credit goes to Disney for keeping their parks open and at the same time uncrowded so that the experience felt safe as well as fun. Remember that back then we knew much less about outdoor transmission (or lack thereof) of the virus, and people were nearly as scared outdoors as inside. The golf course was similarly comfortable.
We also separated to give Janet and Stephan a chance to celebrate their anniversary on their own. They chose a hotel on Daytona Beach, and we joined them the next day for the chance to swim in the Atlantic Ocean on the first day of winter. Porter and I declined the swim, as it was 66 degrees, cloudy, and windy. That didn't stop the hardy Swiss, however! I didn't realize until we arrived that they had chosen a hotel on the same section of beach where I spent so many happy hours as a child—a five-minute walk from my grandparents' house. The coquina-built bandshell is much the same, and so is the ocean, but almost nothing else.
Closer to home, we visited the Orange County History Center, which thoughtfully made it possible to see the good stuff while avoiding the decidedly-child-inappropriate special exhibit of history's darker side. We picked out and decorated our Christmas tree, made cookies, and generally prepared for the holiday, which is not surprisingly much more fun with children around. We visited playgrounds, worked on various projects at home, swam some more, and sang and played music together.
Only twice in our entire month together did I feel the least bit uncomfortable with regard to COVID-19. The worst was at our local pizza party arcade, since we arrived at a time when a large party of people without masks crowded the place. Fortunately it was easy to return later.
The second time was at Sea World. I mean no particular criticism of the park, which clearly took precautions very seriously: taking temperatures, requiring masks, keeping even the outdoor stadiums at low, well-distanced capacity. But overall the park was more crowded than allowed for comfortable distancing, unlike our experience at EPCOT. However, this was on December 23, one of the busiest days of the year, one we'd normally have avoided like the plague. (Perhaps that analogy isn't the best one to use at this time.) The experience was overall delightful and certainly much more pleasant than it would have been in a normal year.
More to come.
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This is the post I started to write five months ago, but postponed to make sure everyone involved got through their quarantines and other impedimenta successfully.
I like to think that we've been more careful than most during this pandemic, though more due to the concern of our children (who apparently think we are "old") than our own. But when you're retired, and introverted, and not easily bored, staying home is a pretty easy option. We wore masks before our county made them mandatory, shopped only for what we deemed necessities, and used the stores' "senior hours" when we could. I'm also the only person I know who consistently washed (or quarantined) whatever we brought home.
But all that isolation, particularly the lack of physical touch, is hard even on introverts.
Hardest of all was cancelling our big family reunion scheduled for April 2020—coinciding with what was supposed to be the first visit home in six years of our Swiss family. Following close behind were missing our nephew's wedding, our normal summertime visit to the Northeast, and our long tradition of a huge family-and-friends Thanksgiving week of feasting and fun, all of which would have involved being with most of our American-based family. Plus the breaking my fourteen-year streak of travelling overseas to visit our expat daughter and her family (one year to Japan, thirteen to Switzerland).`
I know that doesn't begin to compare with the hardship endured by those who were forceably separated from loved ones who were sick or dying. But when the "temporary measures to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed" turned into unending months of restrictions—with our hospitals so far from overcrowded as to be financially strapped due to underutilization—even normally compliant people like us began to chafe.
Even as we relaxed and let go of much of our fear, we remained vigilant in our precautions, for a very good reason: a light, not at the end of the tunnel, but a much-needed illumination in the middle of the tunnel. We needed to stay healthy, because...
The reunion remained off the table, due to onerous quarantine requirements imposed by the states the rest of our family live in. But thanks to much work on their part, and a state government more enlightened than most, our European family was able to visit us in December. Rarely have I been so happy to be living in Florida, which welcomed them with open arms. So of course did we! Mind you, I think the CDC was still recommending we wear masks all the time with visitors and stay six feet apart, but naturally that didn't last six seconds! A year apart from family is far too long, and that goes tenfold for grandchildren. Sometimes you just do what you have to do.
We did the risk/benefit analysis—and made the joyful choice.
Porter had to drive to Miami to pick them up, because so many flights had been cancelled. But he would have driven farther than that to bring them home!
We had been prepared to stay mostly around the house, just enjoying each other's presence. And at first we did a lot of that, since merely being in America was adventure enough for the grandkids. But they were here for a month, and most of the tourist attractions had reopened, albeit at reduced capacity, so we took full advantage.
Kennedy Space Center was amazing. We were not the only visitors in the park, but at times it seemed like it. Sadly, some of the attractions were still COVID-closed, but there was certainly plenty to see. The following photo is for the lefties in our family:
One of the trips I enjoyed the most was to Blue Spring State Park, which was visited by more manatees than we've ever seen naturally in one place. The weather was perfect—that is, cold. Cold weather drives the manatees from the ocean and the rivers into the relatively warm water (about 72 degrees) of the springs. The air temperature made most of us keep our masks on even though that was not required except inside the buildings, since we discovered them to be very effective nose-warmers.
Another favorite activity was swimming. (Not with the manatees; that's no longer allowed.) The intent was for most of it to be in our own pool, and indeed it was, but there had been a glitch: We purchased a pool heater, knowing that our pool temperatures in December can dip into the 50's (Fahrenheit). However, the unit that was supposed to have been installed before our guests arrived was delayed again and again. Whether it was actually the fault of the pandemic is anyone's guess, but that's what took the blame. It finally arrived just a few days before they had to return to Switzerland. Until then, the children swam bravely, if not at length, in the cold water, and all of us enjoyed the (somewhat) heated pool at our local recreation center. And then they really appreciated our own heated pool for those last few days.
To be continued....
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I love our church. We have an awesome priest, a fantastic music director, a diverse congregation, and a choir of wonderful people who are managing to hang together as a choir despite having been unable to meet in person for over a year. Most amazing is that our form of worship feeds my heart and soul as none other has ever done. And the church is less than 10 minutes away from our house.
But—there's always a "but," right?—this past Sunday I had the best church experience I've had in months. We had to be in another part of town in the afternoon, so on the way we paid a visit to our previous church, one that has remained dear to our hearts even though circumstances had forced us to move on.
There I was reminded that when it comes to worship and music, I really am a high-church Anglican at heart. There are few churches in our area that have that form of worship service, and ours is a prime example, though greatly hampered by pandemic restrictions, especially those that minimize singing. The more low-church service we attended last Sunday made that clear to me. (And that wasn't even the church's "contemporary" service!) But—yes, another "but"—we were overwhelmed by the friendliness of the church, the welcome of old friends, the particular style of the music director (an unbelievably talented person and dear friend), the priest's pastoral heart, and the fact that here is a church that has managed to keep its people safe without unduly sacrificing the gathering-together and the physical touch that is so vital to that which makes us human. Unlike many churches, they have thrived during the pandemic, and it's not hard to guess why.
Hugs! They give hugs! (Though only to those who want them.)
I was unbelievably, quietly, happy all day. There were other reasons for that, but the church experience was a big part of it. It was a huge boost to my somewhat shaky mental health. I am a hard-core introvert who loves to be home, requires times of solitude to function, and has so many projects going on that boredom is very nearly not in my vocabulary. I have a husband who is very good at giving hugs! Plus, I'm not really a touchy-feely kind of person. It kind of creeps me out when people stand too close or touch me when conversing—and that was before COVID-19 entered the picture. If I am feeling significant distress because of the pandemic restrictions, what must it be like for others with greater needs, and for those who live alone?
I'm including here a video of the service. It is no mark of disrespect to our own church that I don't post our services, which are also livestreamed. I'd love to, but valiant as are the efforts of our people, we're not there yet in quality, especially for the audio.
Note to our children, who are the main reason the video is posted here: You will not have time to watch the whole service, but you will definitely want to check out the prelude (about 4:07-11:33) and the offertory (about 50:33-52:20). (The tambourine player in the offertory is, alas, not me.) If you can listen to this without tearing up, you'll be doing better than I did.
Christ is risen!
I write this before heading out to church to worship, sing, and play with our hand chime choir. The sad news is the expected: Far fewer Holy Week services than usual, severely restricted congregational size for Easter, masks and unsocial distancing required, singing much reduced, and no choir on what is usually the most glorious day of the year. The good news: At least we're having services; last year at this time we were completely shut down. And if we have no choir, at least we will have guest musicians and our little hand chime choir ringing our hearts out. Plus many other choir members singing joyfully from the congregation, which may, perhaps, encourage more congregational singing than otherwise.
I am not unaware of the phenomenon that if you take away people's freedom for long enough, you can make them thank you when you allow them to have a small measure of it back, and that we are very much in that situation. Even so, it is far better to be grateful than not, though I'll reserve my gratitude for God, not the government and not the bishop (who has imposed stricter restrictions than the state).
After the service, I'll be scurrying around our kitchen, getting ready for our dinner guest. This is the same friend who joined us for Thanksgiving, only this time we will not "socially distance" our table. All three of us are well into our vaccination grace periods and intend to take advantage of it when we can reasonably do so, no matter what the more overly-cautious authorities may recommend. We're not going to be stupid about it—we have important events coming up and there are more germs than COVID out there that can bring one down. But "too much" does more harm than "enough."
We tend to be traditionally untraditional. I grew up having ham for Easter dinner, and loved it. However, Porter doesn't care much for ham, and in any case, a normal Holy Week and Easter leave me far too exhausted to think about cooking a meal, much less having guests. Recently, someone from the choir (we miss you, Peggy!) would organize a restaurant brunch. Needless to say, that's not happening this year. But with our severely restricted schedule, I'm willing to cook. But it won't look like Easter. For Thanksgiving we did not have turkey, rather a pork roast. The turkey in the freezer was reserved for a December "Thanksgiving" with family (about which, I realize, I have yet to write). The family get-together happened, but we were too busy with other things to make the belated Thanksgiving part of it. So guess what was still in the freezer and will make our Easter feast, complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce?
UPDATE: Today's dinner, with the table together.
On a different note, meet St. Margaret of Scotland (click to enlarge).
Saint Margaret is my 28th great-grandmother (Porter's 26th), and I've written about her before. This "Tiny Saint" was a Good Friday gift from a very thoughtful friend whom I met in person for the first time at our church service. She is actually our cousin, albeit a tad distant: we all have Saint Margaret of Scotland as a common ancestor. The "Tiny Saint" was officially blessed by a priest, and now has pride-of-place in my office, watching above my computer and under photos of our grandchildren.
Our children, who each have what is considered today to be an unusually large number of offspring, may be glad to know that, according to the write-up on the back, their 27th great-grandmother is considered a patron saint of large families. She herself had eight children.
May you all have a very happy and blessed Easter!
Yesterday I had a tooth extracted. I was sent home with a bewildering list of do's and don'ts, but the one I remember best is this:
Go home. Eat ice cream. Watch movies.
Compliance has not been an issue.
It's time for my annual compilation of books read during the past year.
- Total books: 86
- Fiction: 58
- Non-fiction: 28
- Month with most books: February (15)
- Month with fewest books: December (2; not surprising, with the Stücklins visiting for a very active month)
- Most frequent authors: Arthur Ransome (14), C. S. Lewis (11), S. D. Smith (11), Tony Hillerman (10). Ransome scored so high because of my habit of periodically re-reading good books—it was his turn. This year concluded my C. S. Lewis retrospective. Smith came out with two new books this year and I like to re-read the series before indulging in the latest. Hillerman is a prolific author whose prominence was the result of my introduction to his work via a Christmas gift from last year.
Here's the alphabetical list; links are to reviews. The different colors only reflect whether or not you've followed a hyperlink. This chronological list has ratings and warnings as well.
- The Alto Wore Tweed by Mark Schweizer
- The Archer's Cup by S. D. Smith
- The Art of Construction by Mario Salvadori
- The Bible (Revised Standard Version)
- The Big Six by Arthur Ransome
- The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly
- The Black Star of Kingston by S. D. Smith
- The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman
- The Books of the Apocrypha (Revised Standard Version)
- Brother Cadfael's Penance (Brother Cadfael #20) by Ellis Peters
- C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide by Walter Hooper
- The Child's Book of the Seasons by Arthur Ransome
- Christian Reflections by C. S. Lewis
- Coot Club by Arthur Ransome
- Coots in the North and Other Stories by Arthur Ransome
- Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman
- Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
- The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature by C. S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper
- Ember Falls by S. D. Smith
- Ember Rising by S. D. Smith (March)
- Ember Rising by S. D. Smith (November)
- Ember's End by S. D. Smith (March)
- Ember's End by S. D. Smith (November)
- An Experiment in Criticism by C. S. Lewis
- The Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman
- The First Eagle by Tony Hillerman
- The First Fowler by S. D. Smith
- The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
- The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis
- G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis: The Riddle of Joy by edited by Michael H. Macdonald and Andrew A. Tadie
- Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley
- God in the Dock by C. S. Lewis
- Great Northern? by Arthur Ransome
- The Green Ember by S. D. Smith
- A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
- The Heretic's Apprentice (Brother Cadfael #16) by Ellis Peters
- The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Holy Thief (Brother Cadfael #19) by Ellis Peters
- Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
- Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
- Killing Reagan by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
- The Last Archer by S. D. Smith
- Lead Yourself First by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin
- Legion by Brandon Sanderson
- Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson
- Letters to an American Lady by C. S. Lewis, edited by Clyde S. Kilby
- Letters to Children by C. S. Lewis
- Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C. S. Lewis
- Lies of the Beholder by Brandon Sanderson
- Listening Woman by Tony Hillerman
- Lord Darcy Investigates by Randall Garrett
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Lost Family by Libby Copeland
- Matthew Wolfe: The Making of Matthew Wolfe by Blair Bancroft
- Missee Lee by Arthur Ransome
- Murder and Magic by Randall Garrett
- The New Testament (English Standard Version)
- Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel by George Orwell
- Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories by C. S. Lewis
- The Omega Document by J. Alexander McKenzie
- Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome
- The Picts and the Martyrs by Arthur Ransome
- Pigeon Post by Arthur Ransome
- The Potter's Field (Brother Cadfael #17) by Ellis Peters
- The Psalter by Coverdale translation
- The Quotable Lewis edited by Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root
- Secret Water by Arthur Ransome
- The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman
- The Sinister Pig by Tony Hillerman
- Skinwalkers by Tony Hillerman
- Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein
- Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
- The Summer of the Danes (Brother Cadfael #18) by Ellis Peters
- Surprised Laughter: The Comic World of C. S. Lewis by Terry Lindvall
- Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome
- Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
- Talking God by Tony Hillerman
- A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman
- Too Many Magicians by Randall Garrett
- We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome
- Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome
- The World's Last Night and other Essays by C. S. Lewis
- The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner by S. D. Smith
- Your Blue Flame: Drop the Guilt and Do What Makes You Come Alive by Jennifer Fulwiler
My father was an engineer with the General Electric Company. He worked in several places, including Erie, Pennsylvania and Lynn, Massachusetts, and maybe some others I don't know because that was before I was born. Later in life he worked at Valley Forge and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. But for most of my childhood he was at company headquarters in Schenectady, New York. He had a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, and a master's in physics, and I almost never knew what he did in his job. The genealogist in me regrets that I was so incurious, but he couldn't have told me anyway, as much of his work was classified. Once, many years later, when were visiting the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia (where in retirement he worked as a docent), he pointed to a photo in an exhibit on military airplanes and casually said, "That was one of my projects."
Dad didn't spend a lot of time on the road, but he did have "business trips" that took him around the country. Again, I never knew what for—nor, as a child, was I aware of much besides the souvenirs he'd bring back with him. It's hard to believe that he used to fly in prop planes, though I do remember him expressing his regret that the Schenectady Airport consigned itself to being a backwater of the Albany Airport when it chose not to make the runways long enough to accommodate jets.
By 1960, however, he was enjoying jet travel between here and California. And I mean enjoying. General Electric was not the kind of company to send engineers First Class, or even Business Class if they had had it back then. But in those golden days of flying, Coach was a little different. Here's what he wrote in his diary about one particular trip.
September 25, 1960
This morning I caught Eastern Airlines' 8:40 a.m. flight along with Renato Bobone from Albany to New York City and thence by Trans World Airlines' Boeing 707 jet to Los Angeles and a week in that city. The flight, as is often the case in a jet, was rather uneventful. We left New York at 11 a.m. with overcast weather and it was not long after we were on our way that dinner began. It was interesting to note than TWA left a copy of Newsweek and Life on the table between each pair of seats for passengers’ reading. A good idea.
Dinner started off with the usual two drinks. Then a crabmeat cocktail with two glasses of white wine followed by dinner with two glasses of red wine or champagne.
Dinner was roast beef that I had trouble identifying. I think it was roast tenderloin. Anyway it was very good. For dessert I ignored the calorific foods and had a bunch of grapes. And coffee.
Not too long after this repast, we began flying over the mountains and I sat in the lounge to get some pictures. I may have some fair ones. The flight took us over the southern edge of the Grand Canyon, but haze may have prevented my pictures from being their best. The desert was very interesting to watch. It looks desolate, yet must contain much life. I would like to be able to see it first hand and leisurely sometime.
We landed in Los Angeles about 12:20 Pacific Standard Time and we checked into the Hyatt House. We rested a bit and then Renato and I took advantage of the Hyatt House swimming pool and the sunny day. I also spent some time staring at the TV at the San Francisco - New York professional football game. The Giants won 21-19.
(I confess my near-total ignorance of professional sports when I reveal that I laughed when I read that last line, since I assumed a San Francisco vs. New York game meant that somehow the Giants were playing the Giants.)
That really was the golden age of coach-class flying, with jet-speed travel, lots of room, and sumptious meals. Not to mention at least six free drinks. Plus, if his times were correct, I make the flight time from New York to Los Angeles at four and a half hours, at least an hour quicker than is standard today.
And yet it wasn't all sunshine and lollipops. Here's what he wrote about the return flight.
I got on the plane about 10:00 and by after 10:30 the plane had not left. Someone reported they were waiting for someone on a connecting flight, but the hostess said she didn't believe that was the real reason. Eventually the agent came aboard and announced over the public address system, "All passengers please deplane immediately. We have a bomb scare." We all left right away with no excitement or panic. We were locked in the waiting room while they removed the baggage and searched the plane. They served jus coffee and pastry while we waited.
Eventually we were all interviewed by the FBI—the interview consisting of questions as to name, address, reason for trip, were we involved in a court action, had we reeived threats, might someone be playing a practical joke un us? Then we identified our luggage, stood by while it was searched, and thence back to the plane. We took off three hourse late. The flight back was really uneventful, although as usual I got only about 2 hours' sleep.
We came to New York to find rather couldy skies and a moderate delay before we could land. Since I had an 11 a.m. flight out of La Guardia [having landed at Idlewild], I was not anxious to see much in the way of delays. We finally got off the plane at 10:15 but I did not get my bag until 10:30. The cab driver said it was a 20 minute trip to La Guardia and he made it in 20 minutes. I dashed to the Eastern Airlines counter and thence to the gate to find them just about to pull the stairs away from the plane. I got aboard—but I was the last one to make it.