Sunday, June 25, 2017

Soviet Hot Rods

The USSR was criticized by the West for their failure to provide consumer comforts. The grocery stores were devoid of potato chips. The TVs were Black and White. Fashion was puritanical, but Detroit reserved a special disdain for Soviet cars and with good reason.

All they spoke about was the Lada.

The # 1 selling car during the 1970s with a 1.5L VAZ-2103 I4 engine from a Fiat design.

They sold by the millions, however the factories could never keep up with demand and I always joked that the USSR never had hot rods.

I knew nothing.

Nothing about the Volga V12 Coupe.

Or the Pobeda-Sport.

The Gaz-Torpedo.

The Babich Leningrad

The 1934 GAZ A-Aero.

And so many others.

Gone forever into rust.

As Neil Young sang, "Rust never sleeps."

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hope and Anchor Hotel/Bar - Phnom Penh

Roland from the Angkor Arms had written down the address of a salubrious (good-drinking) hotel in Phnom Penh. Deboarding from the Sihanoukville bus near the city's central market, I searched my pockets. The scrap of paper was gone. I had probably used it as a toothpick. Nick laughed, "You can't hold onto anything."

"Do you remember the name?" My mind was a blank after drinking 27 vodka-tonics. More a fuzzbox unable to light on that memory. Nearly 50 tuk-tuk drivers crowded around us echoing, "Where you go? Where you go?"

"No." Nick lit up a cigarette. His nicotine jones has lasted 2 hours. His inhale was stronger than a baby's first breath. "Let's stay the same place as last year. You remember the name?"

"Who can take us to Mike's?" The name dropped from an old branch of the brain stem.

"Not Mike's anymore?" The youngest driver pushed his way to us. "Now Hope and Anchor."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

In Vino Veritas or In Magna Vino Oblivio

From 1847 to her death in 1901 Queen Victoria had ruled the British Empire from Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight. Prince Albert, her consort, had designed the royal residence with the aid of Thomas Cubitt, the London architect. Once finished the Italian Renaissance palazzo on the Solent Osbourne House served as a refuge from London court life, where the family celebrated holidays and birthdays for decades.

Back in the summer of 1985 I traveled from Paris to holiday at a rundown hotel on the grounds of Osbourne House. The rooms were full and I shared a cottage with Vonelli, a CIA agent, whose cover was that he was an European art dealer.

No one believed the native Floridian, but the hotel was a special place and attracted special people. One of them was a Danish sailor married to a Saudi princess.

That spring Kurt’s Harley Street doctor's had advised the elimination of vodka from his diet and the bearded sea captain decided to take the cure on the Isle of Wight, which was the sunniest isle of Britain, while his Countessa 31 was being overhauled at the Cowes shipyard after which he planned to sail to France.

"If I can't be on the sea, then I'll drink like a man in port," slurred Kurt with wine-glazed eyes at lazy lunch on the patio.

“You know when your doctor said to stop drinking. He meant everything," suggested Vonelli.

“No, he said a little wine was okay.”

His wife shrugged and Kurt quaffed his wine.

“Plus I only drink from dawn to dusk," laughed Kurt picking up a knife. Fatima took it out of his hands and he added, "The hotel staff have been instructed to only serve me rose wine. Never the hard stuff."

“Good thing he didn’t pick the dead of winter for this regime,” Vonelli muttered, because summer days were very long this far north of the equator and the calendar was nearing the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Vonelli was joking, because we were both drinkers.

Just not in the same league as the Viking, who never offered us a sip.

The rose was his.

And his alone.

Every day the broad-bellied sailor sat on the porch in the same kaftan like a beserker back from a raid on Byzantium.

After six bottles Kurt liked to throw knives.

His lovely Saudi wife couldn't be around all the time, but he treated her with kindness like a Norseman enslaved by a princess who had abandoned her kingdom. I admired her devotion and tried to imagine Kurt before he had surrendered his soul to drink.

"He had been one of the best-looking men in London during the 60s and great fun," recounted Vonelli.

"That was twenty years ago."

"And the last ten have been hard."

"Very hard and Fatima has stood by him every step of the way."

"Sounds like Hell."

"She gave up a lot and so did he. Kurt had been one of the best oil tanker captains. He married her and was blackballed from shipping by the Saudis."

"Like he was shipwrecked."

"She was outcast. The Saudi royals don't like their kind mixing with others, so he's lucky he wasn't murdered and so was she. "

"Lucky in love." I was jealous of their sacrifice.

Not for long.

It was a warm summer for England.

After a week his outfit smelled like an animal was trapped underneath his kaftan and we avoided Kurt throughout the lengthening days.

On the morning of the solstice I descended to the dining room for breakfast. The sun was breaking through the trees. Bird songs greeted the early dawn. The sea captain sat with his lovely Saudi Princess wife. Her words were whispers and when Fatima stopped talking he sent her away with a tender kiss.

Once she was out of the room Kurt waved me over to his table.

Five bottles were empty at his feet.

"Celebrating the summer solstice."

"No, my boat has been put into the water. It's stocked for the rest of the summer." He signaled the waitress for another glass. "Have a drink with me."

"Thanks." It was early, but it had been day for a long time and I sat down to toast his departure.

"My wife will be happy to go. She doesn't really like the sea, but I don't drink as captain. Not a drop."

"Not even rose."

"Nothing. What Vonelli say about me?"

Just that you had given up being a sea captain to fall in love with your wife."

"That's all."

"Vonelli doesn't talk much about others."

"He know how to hold his tongue. A good man. Here's to him. Here's to the sea. Everyone thinks my drinking started after the blackball, but I only ever drank on shore. I would have given up the world for Fatima and I did, but better that than to not give up anything for the one you love and loves you. We'll travel over to France down to Spain across to Ireland into the North Sea. Our children will be waiting in Copenhagen. I'll be the old Kurt. Maybe not forever, but long enough to be who I was on the sea. Winter's big seas up north and the darkness spreads across the Northlands like black lava in the winter."

"So more drinking."

Kurt shrugged and smiled, "But no more fucking kaftan. This one is shot. You want it."

"Thanks for the offer, but I'm good."

Smell bad?"

"Like a bear after an summer solstice orgy."

"That bad?"

"Maybe worse."

"I'll leave it in Cowes. The Brits will wear anything."

We celebrated the solstice with his rose reserve. Vonelli joined us. Everyone from the hotel did as well. We had a knife-throwing contest at lunch. No one got cut. By sunset all the wine was gone and we carried him to bed.

His wife thanked us and tipped the waiting staff generously.

“You’re no fun,” he said lying on his bed like a beached whale.

“He’s not wrong.” Vonelli sniffed at his jacket sleeve, as we descended to the dining room. "As Pliny the Elder said, “In vino veritas.” or more simply "In magma vino oblivio.”

In wine truth, but in more wine oblivion.

And that’s the truth.

Especially on the summer solstice for a Viking ready for the sea.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Ferocity of the Fat Front


Obesity is a human dietary condition, in which over-eating threatens a human with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, the failure to breathe, cancer, and osteoarthritis according to Wikipedia. Obesity is determined by Body Mass Index or BMI = kilograms in weight divided by your height in meters squared.

18.5 is considered underweight
18.5–24.9 is normal weight
25.0–29.9 qualifies as overweight

Any BMI breaking 30.0 is considered obese.

At 93 kilos and 1.80 meters tall I fit into the upper echelon of overweight.

Last night I walked into Frank's Lounge and the rattlesnake-thin bartender Lola commented, "Pete, you put on some weight in Alaska?"

"Good eye." I smiled thinking that the last thing a bartender was supposed to say was how bad you look. "I'll have a Stella with ice."

Only one and I was out the door.

It was time for regain my girlish figure. New York was due for a heat wave. Some of my bloat could be attributed to beer bloat.

No problem, however the Fat Front has actively combated any strategy to slimize America and the fast food chains, Big Farm, and for years their media flacks attacked the First Lady Obama's program to create a new concept of nutrition for the young of this country.

Michele Obama's effort was strictly triage. The fat adults have lost to the Beast. Their love of potato chips and ice cream excluded any hope of rescue, but the same way the crack epidemic died after the high attrition rates of murder and incarceration, these mor-obs or morbidly obese Americans will extinct themselves with their eating binges, creating salvation for the young.

Big Farm sees the future and their executives recognize their existence depends on new recruits.

Sugar-coated cereal is the first dose of crack food for kids. Saturday morning cartoons are financed by Big Farm. Mickey Ds and Lucky Charms drenched in Coca-Cola are slung like Casper the ghost crack to eager devotees to Fat and this week the powers of obesity hired a former Obama White House communications director to front their junk food assault on the young.

The Sensible Food Policy Coalition includes General Mills, Kellogg, PepsiCo, and Time Warner. They are buying support with millions of dollars to congressmen and TV. The US Chamber of Commerce and Viacom are also members of this cabal to fat up America's young.

The former White House comm-ad is fat. She had to defend her kind. Without more fat people her race will die, because they are incapable of sustaining their numbers by procreation. Big Food is the enemy. I know. At 29 BMI I am on the edge and I'm praying to a record heat wave.

ps Trump is a tubby and he won because tubbies voted for him.>

Death Valley Hot

A long heat wave covers the West and the weathermen are predicting that the temperature in Death Valley might hit 126 tomorrow.

The manager of the Wrangler Restaurant in Furnace Creek on Tuesday closed the establishment after the ACs went on the blink, saying, "We can’t put customers through this -- it’s just too hot.”

Hot, but on July 10, 1913 the thermometer hit 134 degree and this reading has stood over a century as the highest recorded on Earth.

GOP Flat Earthers dispute the present heat wave as proof of Global Warming.

"It's summer in the desert."

"They don't call it Death Valley for nothing."

"This is a dry heat."

For me hot is hot and at 134 in the shade it feels like the sun is ironing your skin.

My advice to those in the Southwest.

Drink liquids, don't move, and stay in the shade.

I'm doing that in New York with a lovely can of 'Gansetts.

It's New England's beer.

Monday, June 19, 2017

CHAPTER 9 - AMONG THE REDWOODS from BACK AND FORTH by Peter Nolan Smith

Overfishing in the 1940s had closed Monterey’s canneries. Gone were the bars and people immortalized by two of John Steinbeck’s Great Depression novels and the only sign of life along Ocean View Avenue were two cats fighting over a mangled fish carcass, so I wandered away from the forlorn harbor toward the Presidio.

Two young soldiers guarded the entrance to the fort. America’s long involvement in Viet-Nam War was coming to an end and they held their weapons at ease. The three of us nodded to each other, then I adjusted the straps of his bags. The ocean wasn’t far away and I hiked across the wooded peninsula to the edge of a continent. Beyond the dunes of Del Monte Beach waves surged from the deep water. A dozen surfers in wet suits rode the thick green swells like gods from Atlantis. California was Beach Boy country.

On the broad strand sunbathers basked like oiled seals and young mothers watched their children playing in the shallows. I shucked off my leather jacket and heavy Fyre boots, then barefooted across the warm sand to the Pacific Ocean, ending my cross-country trip.

As clear ripples eddied around my ankles. I fought the urge to strip off my clothes. Being one with the four elements was better suited for a more secluded spot down the coast and I retreated to the dunes. Sitting on a charred log I brushed the sand off my feet and tugged on my boots, then checked my wallet. I had only spent $60 since splitting up with my friend in Lodi four days ago and was counting on the $1500 to last the summer.

My good friend was waiting down in Encinitas, but at the speed I was traveling, San Diego was more than a month away and I picked up my bags to resume my trek around the Monterey Peninsula.

For most of the 60s ABC’s Wide World Of Sports had aired the Bing Crosby Golf tournament at Pebble Beach and

I stopped to observe a foursome of golfers approaching a pristine tee. The first three landed their shots on the fairway. The last member of the quartet sliced his drive and the ball pocked off a nearby tree. The brightly attired duffer shouted out an apology and I waved to indicate that he hadn’t come close.

17 Mile Drive was too narrow for hitchhiking and I trudged into Carmel a little past 1pm. A nondescript Mexican cantina offered a taco lunch special and I ate two at the bar. I could have easily put down a third. A San Francisco Chronicle lay on the counter.

The previous evening Cleveland baseball fans had rioted at 10 Cent Beer Night and the California police were conducting statewide raids to find the kidnapped heiress, Patti Hearst. The FBI was offering $50,000 for information leading to her capture. Anyone with information of Tania’s whereabouts was saying nothing. The surviving SLA members had gone to ground.

Sean signaled for the check. The bill came to $2.50 and I tipped the dark-skinned waitress a dollar. The pretty girl wished me, “Via con dios.”

“Muchos gracias.”

She waved good-bye through the window and I walked to the end of the block, and then turned right on the Pacific Coast Highway, where I stuck out my thumb.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Monterey Pop Festival 1967

Fifty years ago the Monterey Pop Festival was held south of San Francisco.

"Three days of understanding. Even the cops grooved with us," sang Eric Burdon of the Animals later.

Many regarded the gathering of 60,000 counter-culture music fans to be the opening act of the famed Summer of Love.

Check out the line-up.

Friday Night

The Association The Paupers Lou Rawls Beverley Johnny Rivers Eric Burdon and The Animals Simon & Garfunkel

Saturday

Canned Heat Big Brother and the Holding Company Country Joe and the Fish Al Kooper The Butterfield Blues Band The Electric Flag Quicksilver Messenger Service Steve Miller Band Moby Grape Hugh Masekela The Byrds Laura Nyro Jefferson Airplane Booker T. & the M.G.'s Otis Redding

Sunday

Ravi Shankar The Blues Project Big Brother and the Holding Company The Group With No Name Buffalo Springfield (played w/ David Crosby) The Who Grateful Dead The Jimi Hendrix Experience Scott McKenzie The Mamas & the Papas The Mar-Keys

Only Ravi Shankar played longer than the allotted forty-minute set.

I was 15.

I loved the Airplane.

I traveled in the summer of 1971 to the Haight.

Four years too late.

But a hippie to the core.

Then and now.

To view THE MONTEREY POP FESTIVAL pease go to the following URL on Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXqbcrKeHs0

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A MAN OF SPEED by Peter Nolan Smith

Father’s Day has complemented Mother’s Day since 1910, although the holiday remained unofficial for decades and most Americans treated Father’s Day as a joke, until LBJ proclaimed the Third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Richard Nixon made it permanent six years later.

“The only thing I get for Father’s Day are bills,” my father said at a dinner on that day in 1971.

He was right, even though I recall giving my father a tie on several Father’s Day.

After I passed the legal age for drinking, he received a bottle of wine, which we drank together with my mother.

He was lucky, because most fathers get nothing for Father’s Day.

1 in 6 according to one survey.

Of course some fathers were total bastards and none of their kids celebrated Bastard Day.

My father was a good man. He raised six kids the best he knew how and I loved him for his many sacrifices to better my life.

Some of them were in vain and my father liked listing my failures on various occasions. The list rarely changed from time to time.

“You’re sloppy with everything. You traveled the world like a tramp.”

“Our family traveled the world. My great grandfather had died in a ship wreck off Rio.”

"Their travels had purpose. You were just a hobo.”

It was the truth and I accepted his accusations without any defense.

After my mother’s death we flew to France, Ireland, Utah, the Olympic Peninsula, Montana, and Wyoming for long road trips.

My father was an excellent driver, but his foot was heavy on the gas and we argued about his speeding. He was never wrong and refused to give up the steering wheel in fear of having to permanently surrender his license.

One of our last trips was to Quebec.

"Why Quebec?" My father usually picked our destinations.

I told him about the Manicouagan crater.

“It’s the largest ‘visible’ impact crater on Earth. It hit the earth over 200 million years ago.”

“And we want to go there why?”

“There’s nothing like it in the world. I tried to get there in the winter of 1991.”

"There are two seasons that far north. The season of good driving and the season of bad driving."

"It's definitely bad driving north of the border. " I had been willing for continue north, however my English friend Philippe had been an illegal alien and had refused to cross the border. "I turned back at Fort Kent."

“And you want to go now?” My father was increasingly more comfortable staying at home

“It’s almost always day that far north. No snow either.”

“I don't know if I'd like the endless day. I like my sleep.”

“Me too, but we'll have a good time."

"Doing what?"

"Driving, playing cards, eating good food, and drinking wine.”

“Okay.” My father was an easy sell and two weeks later we headed north from Boston.

July 2000 was a warm summer, but his new Mercedes had superb AC. We reached Quebec City in one day and stayed at the Hotel Frontenac in Quebec City, where we dined on crepes and sipped white wine overlooking the Plains of Abraham.

“Our ancestors fought with the British under General Wolfe.”

“I know.” I was a registered Son of the Colonial Wars.

“So if we won that war, why don’t they speak English?” He was talking about Les Habitants.

“Because they’re French.”

“They’re not French. They’re Canadian, which is almost American.”

“They don’t think that.”

“That’s, because they’re too stupid to know when they’re beaten. You know our ancestors fought here with the British under General Wolfe.”

He had a new tendency to repeats things.

I played my part and said, “I know.”

The waiter arrived before we had to relive the previous dialogue.

Having lived in Paris, I ordered the wine in French.

The waiter ignored me and my father told him, “I want a Mer’Lot.

It was one of his favorite jokes.

The waiter laughed in anticipation of a good tip.

My father would not disappoint him.

“I thought you could speak French.”

“The Quebecois speak an ancient Gallic dialect.”

“And you speak French with a Boston accent?”

“Maybe I do.”

“You know our ancestors fought here with the British under General Wolfe?”

“I know.” I sighed knowing I had not heard the last of General Wolfe.

We finished a second bottle of wine and he told the waiter, “We’re going to see Lake Manicouagan.”

“Why?”

"Because it’s the biggest impact crater in America.”

"Okay.” The waiter shrugged with the same smirk everyone wore on hearing our destination.

"No one seems to be impressed with Lake Manicouagan," my father commented, as we took the elevator to our floor.

“That's, because none of them have ever seen it."

"A big rock in the middle of a lake hundreds of miles from anything."

"Exactly. We night be abel to get there tomorrow if we drive fast."

"Fast?"

"100?"

"Why not?"
“You keep saying that.”

We entered out home and he fell asleep searching the TV for WHEEL OF FORTUNE. I read Kenneth Roberts ARUNDEL about Benedict Arnold’s invasion of Quebec. Our ancestors had also fought in the Revolutionary War. I put down the novel and shut off the light. Tomorrow we had an early start.

The following dawn we skirted along the northern bank of a foggy St. Lawrence. My father was behind the wheel. The shore was dotted with fiords and falls. Whales gathered at the river mouths. I snapped pictures.

“Can you stop a minute.”

“What for?”

“To take a picture of a whale.

“If you’ve seen one whale, you’ve seen a thousand.” He stepped on the gas.

“I’ve only seen one and that was off the coast of Hawaii.”

“Your great-grand-uncle killed whales.”

“Aunt Bert’s father.” She had lived to a 103.

“Her father slaughtered a blue whale for her eighth birthday.”
“I know. Maybe she saw hundreds, but I want to see one closer.”

“If you’ve seen one whale, you’ve seen a thousand.”
p>Traffic on the North Cabot Trail was light and my father enjoyed flying at 110 MPH on the empty road

“Why are you in a hurry?”

“I want to watch WHEEL OF FORTUNE at the motel.” He enjoyed this simple pleasure, even if his show was in French north of the border.

“Baie-Comeau is only two hours away.”

“You been here before?”

“No, but our ancestors fought under Wolfe in Quebec.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Nothing.”

“As usual.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just that you wasted your life.”

“How?”

“I can’t begin to count the ways, but there was the time you drew submarines on the bedroom walls and set fire to the woods.”

“I’d didn’t do it.” My older brother Frunk was a pyromaniac. I was simply his acolyte.

“Then who did?”

I said nothing and my father put on a classical music CD. Mozart filled the silence to Baie-Comeau, where the road turned north to Lake Manicouagan. We stopped for the night at a small hotel overlooking a crystal blue bay. We were a mere two-hundred miles for the crater.

After signing in, the manager asked where we were going.

“Lake Manicouagan.”

“Why?” He regarded us with bafflement. “There is nothing there.".”

"It also has the biggest impact crater in North America.”

“And also biggest Maringouin in Quebec.” The manager shrugged with a smirk.

“What’s Maringouin?”

“Mosquitoes, but savage mosquitoes.”

“How savage?”

“You’ll see in Lake Manicouagan.”
W

We ate fresh salmon in a small restaurant, where the locals sat outside eating corn around a bonfire. We returned to the hotel and I opened a cold bottle of Frontenac Gris. The two of us admired the glow of the near-endless light of summer, although the stars were fighting to be bright through clouds of merciless mosquitoes and blood trickled the bites on our heads.

“You still want to see Lake Manicouagan?”

“It’s only two hundred miles away.” I held the map, which was useless for killing the swarms of mosquitoes.

“On a dirt road.” My father was from Maine. He knew dirt roads.

"With bigger mosquitoes than this."

I slapped my forehead. A glut of blood dripped on my shirt.
“I’ve had enough of this.”

“Me too.”

We retreated inside the hotel room and finished the wine. My father watched his show. His snores kept me up until midnight. I fell asleep reading ARUNDEL. Kenneth Roberts failed to mention mosquitoes, because Benedict Arnold had invaded Quebec in the winter.

Early the following morning I examined the bites in the mirror.

“What do you think?” My father was scratching at his lumpy skull.

“We’re so close. It seems a shame not to try for it.”

"There’s nothing there, but more Maringouins.”

He was right and I agreed that the vicious mosquitoes would drain our veins like vampires.

“So what now?”

"There's an ferry crossing the river at 8am."

"How far?" He checked his watch.

"Thirty miles."

"Let's go."

My father never dropped below 100 and we made the ferry in time for the 8am crossing.

I spoke with several travelers about the drive to Gaspe.

They warned against speeding.

My father ridiculed their advice.

“I’ve been driving over sixty years and never got a speeding ticket. Not like you.”

“It’s a miracle you haven’t.” My last moving violation was on the Mass Pike for driving 85 in a 65 zone. The year was 1975.

“Not a miracle. Just good driving.” He exited off the ferry like he were chased by clouds of bebittes, which was another Quebecoise word for mosquitoes. I supposed they had more.

Towns were clustered closer together on the south bank of the St. Lawrence. My cautions about his speeding were dismissed by his nasty rancor and he swore at me for opening the map.

“It doesn’t matter where we are. Only where we are going.”

“I want to stop and see the sights.” The chances of my coming this way again were nil.

“There’s nothing to see, but trees and sea.”

My father motored past every stunning vista with a vengeance. He was the captain. The Benz hit 90. No other car came close to that speed. I studied the long straight-aways with binoculars and spotted a police cruiser in the distance.

“Slow down. There’s a cop car coming.”

“Slow down for what?” All he saw was open road.

“A cop car.”

“So what?”

“He’s going to stop us.”

“You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.” My father had never used that type of language with me or anyone else.

Something was rattling his brain.

The police car passed us, then 180ed in pursuit. The siren was loud and the light were flashing.

“He wants you to stop.”

“So I’m stopping.”

He pulled off the road and recited a list of my many sins; not delivering my newspaper route fast enough, losing a scholarship to high school because I didn’t believe in God, getting arrested for a high-speed chase, drugs, drinks, and not giving him grandchildren. If that provincial trooper hadn’t knocked on the window, my father would have covered my every trespass since birth.

Worse his accusations were spot on target.

“So much for not getting a speeding ticket.”

“Like always you don’t know shit.” My father put down the window.

“Why are you talking like that?”

“Like what?” He didn’t hear the words and put down our windows.

The hills to the south were covered with a pine forest. The air smelled of cut wood. Somewhere men were working lumber. My grandfather had put himself through Bowdoin College chopping trees in the northern woods.
The trooper asked for my father’s license and registration in Quebecois.

“Is there something wrong, officer?” My father respected the law.

The officer said in French that he had radared the car at 90.

“Le Limite de Vitesse est 60. I will have to take your father into custody.”

“Really?” I asked in French. “Cuffs and all?”

“Oui.” He was dead serious.

My father smiled with a practiced innocence.

“So if you arrest him, you’ll take him which way?”

The officer pointed in the direction of Gaspe.

“Excellent.” I figured booking and arraignment was a two-hour ordeal and I could use the break.

“What if I pick him up in 3 hours?”

“We are not a baby-sitting service.” He didn’t want the responsibility of a man in his 70s and said, “I will give your father a warning. No ticket.”

“C’est pas vrai?” I was disappointed by his decision to let off my old man.

“Roulez moins vite.”

“Yes, officer.” My father understood that he was supposed to drive at a slower pace.

The officer returned to his cruiser and wheeled away from us in the opposite direction.

My father smiled with satisfaction.

He pulled off the shoulder and was soon up to 90.

“I told you that I wouldn’t get a ticket.”

“You told me a lot of things back there.” I slinked into the seat defeated by his escape from justice.

My father talked of our watching bears eat at the town dump, a vandal throwing a rock at our station wagon at South Shore Drive-In, and my coming home late after a night with Janet Stetson. I had been 15. My father had picked me up at 3 in the morning.

“You hit me.”

In the face.

“You should have called home. Your mother was worried.”

“Sorry.” I had said it then and I said it now.

“Save your sorry for hell. You sinned with that girl. You didn’t care about anyone. All you cared about was sex.”

This turn in the conversation was as unexpected as a verbal barrage of curses.

“You’ve been a bum all your life. You should have been working. Instead you traveled the world. To do what? To be a bum.”

“Mom said I was her eyes and ears on the world.”

“Only a mother can love a bum.”

“You can’t talk to me like that.” I had worked all my life but not as a member of the 9-to-5 society.

“Why? Can’t you stand hearing the truth?” His face was red.

“Stop, Dad.” I was worried about his heart.

“I don’t have to stop. This is my car. I can say whatever I want, you dirty bum.”

The speedometer was at 100.

“Maybe you can, but I don’t have to listen.”

“Then you can get out of the car.”

“With pleasure.”

My father stomped on the brakes and veered onto the shoulder.

“Get out of the car, you bum.”

“Pop the trunk. I want my bag.”

“Get out. Now.”

I obeyed him and stood on the asphalt waiting for him to tell me to get back in the car.”

Instead he hit the gas and drove east.

He had a funny sense of humor, but the Mercedes disappeared over the next hill.

“Damn.” I tried his phone with my cell. There was no service. This was not a joke.

I had the binoculars and a map.

I was two miles from Mont-Louis. The another road cut south from 132. Either way I was over forty miles from Gaspe. I stuck out my thumb. No one stopped for hitchhikers in the 21st Century and I started walking east.

Ten minutes later a provincial cruiser stopped on the shoulder.

It was the same officer from before.

I explained what happened and he said in Quebecois that driving long distances with family was a little like ‘le fierve noir’.”

“Black fever?”

“Qui, cabin fever.”

"Vous avais raison.”

He told me to get in the cruiser and we rode to Gaspe at 100 mph. No one drove slow this far north.

“What make you so sure he will be there?”

“He will be there.”

“You don’t know my father.”

“Peut-etre, but I know Gaspe.”

We topped a rise and below us lay a stunning archipelago of jagged rocks dotting the boreal blue Atlantic.

“Gaspe.”

I spotted my father’s Mercedes before a small restaurant overlooking the bay.

“Bonne chance.” The officer left me and cruised back west.

I entered the restaurant. My father was sitting at the window. A glass of white wine was in one hand and a photo of my mother was in the other. He lifted his head and said, “Your mother would have loved it here. You know she said you were her eyes and ears on the world.”

“I know.”

I sniffed the air.

“What’s that?”

The waitress said it was a bouillabaisse of wild salmon, native oysters, and fresh shrimp.” He signaled for our server and said, “Deux plates du bouillabaisse.”

Neither of us had tasted anything better and we drank two bottles of Seyval Blanc toasting my mother, our family, the Red Sox, and traveling the world.

The day lingered long in the northern latitudes and we walked along the cliffs of Gaspe in a shimmering dusk.

There were no mosquitoes.

“Sorry about before. I’ve been losing my temper without any reason these days. Must be getting old. Whatever I said I didn’t mean.”

“I know.” My fight with him had ended decades ago.

“You’ve been a good son.”

“I could have been better.”

“Everyone could have been better. We can only do what we can do. Nothing more.”

It wasn’t an apology.

We knew each other too long to need those.

It was more a passing of the baton.

He was old.

I was 51, which is closer to 80 than 20.

“I wish your mother was with us.”

“She is, because I am her eyes and ears.”

My father pressed his hand into my shoulder.

“Maybe next year we’ll get to Lake Manicouagan.”

“Mom would like that.”

“I know.”

He had loved her more than us, because she loved us all more than she loved herself.

That evening I kissed my father’s head before going to bed. The face mirrored mine.

"You know our ancestor fought the French?" My father shut his eyes.

"A long time ago."

Tomorrow we would drive to Maine.

My sister’s camp on Watchic Pond was 500 miles away. We were both at home on the lake.

My father would do the majority of the driving through the endless forests of New Brunswick and the potato fields of Aroostock County.

Those roads had been built for a man like my father.

He drove fast and even better he didn’t get tickets.

THE EYE OF THE STORM by Peter Nolan Smith

In early September of 1960 Hurricane Donna struck New England as a category 2/3 storm. The radio station WBZ announced numerous school closing led by Beaver County Day School and closely followed by my primary school on the South Shore, Our Lady of the Foothills. My older brother and I were happy to stay home. We were new kids in town.

That morning a raging gale howled against our split-level ranch house and the windows vibrated in their sashes. The electricity died at noon and my father lit a kerosene lamp, which he placed on the kitchen table.

Our family of seven huddled around the flame like Neanderthals sheltering in a cave.

Several hours later the howling hurricane abated to a whisper.

“Where are you going?” my mother demanded with hands on her hips, her voice ringing with the authority of a woman, who had carried five babies in her womb.

“Outside to show them the eye.” My father loved a good storm.

“Hurricanes are not a joke.” My mother had experienced the 1938 hurricane. That tempest didn’t have a name, yet hundreds of New Englanders had died in its path.

“I know.” My father shrugged in weak surrender to the truth.

"You act, as if you don't."

Hurricane Edna in 1954 had destroyed his sailboat on Watchic Pond. The hull lay in our backyard.

Six years later he had yet to repair the damage to the mast.

He never had much free time.

Five kids under the age of ten were a lot of work.

“The skies have cleared." My father looked out the window and then back to my mother.

"We’ll only be a few minutes.”

“I wanna go too.” My two-year old brother bounced off his high chair.

"Not a chance." My mother grabbed his wrist. Padraic had almost died at birth from pneumonia. She wasn't giving Nature any second chances and sternly regarded by father. “Only a few minutes.”

"Maybe even less."

"Then go." My mother trusted my father to obey his promise, since he loved her enough to convert to Catholicism.

“I’ll keep them safe.” My father led us outside.

We lived in the shadow of Chickatawbut Hill.

A sultry wind raced through the trees. Branches were scattered across the yard. Overhead a counter-clockwise swirl of the cloud funnel opened to the blue heavens.

“That is the eye of the storm.”

The three of us 360ed on the lawn to gawk at the storm’s awesome power and glory.

Lightning pulsed within the cloud wall like the Aurora Borealis. If my best friend hadn’t drowned a month ago, the cyclonic display would have reinforced my faith in the Almighty. Instead I said, “Wow.”

Rain dotted the walkway. The wind was soon a gale. The raindrops stung our skin.

My mother yelled at us to get inside.

My father lifted his finger to indicate we wanted a few more seconds.

He had fought the Maine’s Great Fire of 1949. I never had seen him scared of anything other than my mother’s wrath. He quickly explained to my older brother and me how hurricanes formed in the tropics. We were 9 and 8. His meteorological lesson was lost on us and the oppressive pressure of the powerful storm weighed heavily on our skin.

“Remember this for the rest of your life. Few people see this.”

My mother’s next demand was an ultimatum.

“If you don’t come in, I’m locking the doors.” She was serious.

“We better do as she says.” My father guided us inside the house. He gave my mother a hug. She was relieved to have us back inside.

The second half of the hurricane stuck within minutes and lasted into the evening.

The weatherman on WBZ radio announced the all-clear message wagon, as we were going to sleep. School had been cancelled throughout New England. My father was excited as a child on Christmas Eve and he whispered, “Tomorrow Revere Beach.”

The beach there was ideal for watching the storm die against land. Giant waves would slap the concrete flood walls with a force strong enough to make the streets shudder with fear.

The boyish joy in his voice kept us awake for another three minutes, for tomorrow promised to be a day of big waves and wild sea spray.

We could hardly wait.

My Father, My Best Friend

My father, Frank A Smith II came from Maine. His mother and father met during WWI.

Edith Hamlin had been a nurse with Royal Canadian Medical Expedition.

My grandmother had been trying to make a troopship to France. The gangway was being pulled and a man extended his hand to pull her aboard. That man was my grandfather, Frank A Smith I, who had been serving with the RCMEF since 1915.

Both of them saw the horrors of trench warfare.

Their pacifism hadn't prevented my father from joining the US Army Air Force in 1942.

His war was testing B25s over Kentucky. The casualty rate was 25%, but he surviving to marry my mother, who he had met in Boston. The Irish girl said he wasn't his type, until he said he owned a convertible.

They started having kids.

Four was not enough.

Neither was five.

They stopped at six.

We were a happy family living on the South Shore of Boston. My father worked for the phone company. He was an executive. His two loves were his family and my mother.

'Angie' liked to wear her hair in a bouffant.

Me too.

Sadly in 1996 my mother passed a year after my younger brother Michael.

My father and I took trips. He loved traveling.

To Ballyconeeley in Ireland.

France.

Northern Quebec.

Thailand.

The West.

In 2008 he was diagnosed with Alzheimers.

He forgot us one by one.

I was the last, even though I only saw twice a month.

"Why can you remember me?"

"Because you still like you, whoever you are."

All his friends were gone.

As much as he loved his grandchildren, he was ready to go.

'Angie' and Michael were waiting for him.

I wasn't ready to join them.

My family was waiting for me in Thailand.

And anytime I go there.

So does Poo Frank.

He will live in my heart forever.

For one simply reason.

Poo Frank is my best friend.

EVERYWHERE by Peter Nolan Smith

My older brother and I went everywhere with our parents. We drove from Hingham to Maine, Watchic Pond to Boston, Falmouth Foresides to the South Shore. There were thousands of trips with my mother and father. Nowadays Frunk and I live far apart. We haven't been in a car together for over ten years, but we speak several times a month and this afternoon I phoned Frunk to wish him a Happy Father's Day.

"Happy? You know what I did this weekend?"

"I spoke with your son." Franka was moving from Philadelphia to Boston before hitting the road to LA. He wanted to be a TV writer.

"Friday night I drove down to Phillie. I loaded the U-Haul truck with Franka's things. We left at 5. I got home around midnight." Frunka's house was on a hill above the Neponset River. The old mansion was ten times larger than my apartment in Fort Greene.

"And you dropped off the truck in the morning?" I had called his son on Friday. I could have gone to help, instead last night I lay in bed listening to the Stanley Cup finals on WBZ. Their announcers painted better picture than the TV guys.

"No such luck. We unloaded most of his things on the Cape. I'm just entering the U-Haul parking lot to drop off the truck and then I'm going to the house here before driving to Boston in the morning, so ask me how my weekend was?"

Our father would have done the same thing for us. He liked to drive.

"The Bruins won by a goal in overtime." I deflected his slapshot question.

"I listened to it on the radio in the truck." More than likely on I95.

"Did you drive alone?" It was a silly question.

"My wife and son were in the Lexus." Frunka had settled a good case in April. The car was a birthday present to himself. He deserved it.

"At least you had peace and quiet." Marshall McLuhan had said that driving a car was one of the few times man was alone in the modern age.

"No, they called me every five minutes to ask where we were."

"Nice." I was really happy I hadn't helped him.

"How was your Father's Day?"

"I'm drinking a beer.

"Paradise."

"Hope you get there soon."

"Not a chance. I'm taking my son out to dinner, so all I'll get for Father's Day is another bill."

"It goes with the territory." Tomorrow I was sending money to Fenway in Thailand. His teeth are rotting fast and he's only five years-old. I love my son.

"I can't wait for a client to ask how was my weekend."

"I bet you can't." Telling him that I was about to take a hot bath was too cruel and drink another beer while listening to acid rock from the 60s was too cruel, but Franka was with his son Frunka. I wished him a good night and hung up.

I was alone in Fort Greene.

Fenway was on the other side of the world.

My everywheres have shrunk to one place and I'll get to that everywhere one day.

Sooner hopefully more than later for this father, because with Fenway every day is Father's Day.

Father's Day Gift

My father came around the world to see me and Angie in Thailand. Most of the time he had no idea where he was. It was the start of his decline. Frank A Smith II passed in 2010, but my father will always be in the here-now with the love I carry for him into the here-to-come.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ever So Lonely

<
p>On a flight back to the States in 2008 the China Airlines' 747 stopped in Anchorage, Alaska. Two middle-aged men stood in line for passport control. They were wearing shorts and smiles. The older returnee from Paradise, an overweight teamster, said, "That was the best vacation of my life. I don't want it to end until I hit work on the North Slope."

"You're not going to wear warmer clothes until then," I asked viewing the snow piled atop the rugged mountains surrounding Anchorage.

"Nope and I'm thinking of going back to retire to Thailand too."

"Great."

Thousands of first-timers share the same idea and I ran down the basic Rules of Engagement for a farang in Thailand. He had been warned and like most western men he'll ignore it, because no love-starved man is smarter than 23 year-old go-go girl.

"Thanks for the information, but my tee-lat is my dream."

He trundled through immigration with a song in his heart.

As the old song goes "One night in Bangkok can make a strong man stumble."

His family will regard his plans as folly as did one man's son according to America Today. His father was a successful businessman, but at 60 unable to find any US woman willing to date him. Enter a Thai dating website and the father jets to Phuket to meet the 23 year-old masseuse of his dreams. His son is dismayed by his father's naiveté, but then realized after a long-distance phone conversation. "Well, what in the hell is the alternative? An abysmal life leading to death? Or you just keep trying with... very mixed success sometimes."

"So, how much longer do you have over there?" The son ask him.

"'till I go home, if ever," he says. "I might just pay somebody to pack me up and sell my stuff."

Another man bitten by the Thailand bug.

Few are strong when faced by a life without women in the West. It's not the sex they miss it's the love for love is always easier to fake than an orgasm.

ps Anchorage was cold.

The North Slope was colder.

Shorts don't work above the Arctic Circle.

And neither do Thai go-go girls.

Zoe Leonard - photographer - quote

I knew Zoe Leonard as a young woman in the late 70s. She was young then. I was in my twenties. The East Village was a slum. We had fun together. She became a photographer.

Well known.

Political as would anyone who lost so many friends to AIDS.

Zoe became an ardent lesbian.

I remained somewhat straight.

She was not scared of saying her mind.

“I want a dyke for president. I want a person with AIDS for president and I want a fag for vice president and I want someone with no health insurance and I want someone who grew up in a place where the earth is so saturated with toxic waste that they didn’t have a choice about getting leukemia. I want a president that had an abortion at sixteen and I want a candidate who isn’t the lesser of two evils and I want a president who lost their last lover to AIDS, who still sees that in their eyes every time they lay down to rest, who held their lover in their arms and knew they were dying. I want a president with no air-conditioning, a president who has stood in line at the clinic, at the DMV, at the welfare office, and has been unemployed and laid off and sexually harassed and gaybashed and deported. I want someone who has spent the night in the tombs and had a cross burned on their lawn and survived rape. I want someone who has been in love and been hurt, who respects sex, who has made mistakes and learned from them. I want a Black woman for president. I want someone with bad teeth and an attitude, someone who has eaten that nasty hospital food, someone who crossdresses and has done drugs and been in therapy. I want someone who has committed civil disobedience. And I want to know why this isn’t possible. I want to know why we started learning somewhere down the line that a president is always a clown. Always a john and never a hooker. Always a boss and never a worker. Always a liar, always a thief, and never caught.”
― Zoe Leonard

I've only ever been arrested for civil disobedience, although te police came up with other charges.

Zoe spent two years in Alaska during the 90s.

I love these shots and more.

SNOW