A New N-N-1 is announced

I have always enjoyed participating in these writing/photography collaborations. I strongly urge you to participate, too! It’ll be fun! One photo and 50-100 words on the theme gets you there! Mark your calendars!

Wild Rivers Run South

A new N-N-1 for the New Year will happen this month. N-N-1 is a group project where people take a picture during a common time, around a common theme, and display the results in one place. This month it will be on this blog, Wild Rivers Run South. Each participant cant then re-blog the project results on their own blog. But you need not have a blog to participate.

The theme this January is The Colors of The New Year. If you wish to participate, take your picture between January 18th and 20th. Add your commentary on the picture and theme and send it to me at ngarvois@gmail.com no later than January 25th. Be sure to include your email address and blog name, if you have one. I will then put together the submissions and publish the blog post. I will notify you when the post has published.

N-N-1…

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The Heart of Courage

After yesterday, I was inspired to look up the etymology of the word courage. It stems from the latin “cor” which means heart. The word has been around since at least the 1300’s.

The heart/courage connection makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The two have been intertwined throughout history. We say, “She had the heart of a lion.” Being told you have a brave heart is a great compliment indeed. “Take heart, my friends,” means have courage in the face of adversity. Follow your heart.

The reason I am thinking of this right now is that it took great courage, yesterday, for all those representatives to vote to impeach Trump after having been locked in rooms for hours, clutching gas masks, while a mob was trying to get to them, many of whom talked of lynching and other forms of assassination. They could hear the guards screaming in pain as they were attacked. They could hear glass breaking and doors breaking and gun shots.

I would have been terrified. Americans usually don’t experience threats to their lives in their homeland, especially as perpetuated by fellow Americans. (Well, unless you count those who are forced to walk among fools who refuse to wear masks in public in the midst of a pandemic.)

When the congressmen emerged, it was to see destruction and theft and death and hate symbols and defecation. It was to see that one of the most honored buildings in this country had been trashed. It was to learn that they weren’t adequately protected, and things could have ended even more horrifically than they did. Whether they realize it or not, I’m sure that the entire congress now has PTSD, and that’s going to back up on them sooner or later.

And yet, those representatives showed up yesterday, to the very room that they had to be rushed out of during the insurrection. They impeached Trump. That took guts for miles.

Yeah, nothing will probably come of it. The senate isn’t cooperating, and there’s not much time left (thank God). But the importance of recording, for all the generations to come, that insurrection is outrageous and unconscionable, made them act, despite knowing that there are people out there who will surely want them to die for it. It took a great deal of courage, indeed.

I particularly admire the 10 republicans who chose to do the right thing. Not only are they risking their lives but also their livelihood. They will be the focus of hate for acting based on facts and their personal integrity, even if it meant they were forced to go against the majority of their peers. It takes a lot to speak truth to power. What heart! What courage!

I couldn’t be more impressed if I were twins. Even though we’ve seen the worst of America during that riot, perhaps there is hope for us yet. I’m heartened by that. Very heartened, indeed.

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The Importance of Going Out of One’s Way

We get a quarterly newsletter from the Soos Creek Water & Sewer District. Mostly, I view this as junk mail and don’t give it a second glance as it travels from our mailbox to the recycle bin. Honestly, how much breaking news does one’s sewer company generate, after all?

But one headline this time caught my attention. “Soos Creek employees go the extra mile for customer”. Thinking that I’ve been deprived of really positive stories of late, I paused to actually read this one. Can’t we all use some good news to warm our wintry hearts? Because of that, I’ve decided to share this story with you. (I did attempt to contact them for permission, but have gotten no reply to date, so if they decide that they don’t want to have this awesome story shouted from the rooftops, I’ll willingly retract this post.)

“Jason and Reggie are responsible for the maintenance of the sanitary system, including the sewer mains, manholes and stub services within the district. Soos Creek Water & Sewer District has over 519 miles of sewer pipe ranging from 6” to 42” in diameter.

“We received a phone call from a customer telling us an amazing story about Jason and Reggie. On Tuesday November 24, 2020, one of our customer’s young sons accidentally flushed both of his cochlear processors down the toilet. The devices cost thousands of dollars. After hearing this from his son, he shut the water off to the house, pulled out the toilet and took it apart. He couldn’t find them. He called a plumber who ran a video camera in the pipe from the house to the sewer main. The plumber couldn’t find them, either.

“The customer called Soos Creek Water & Sewer District, and Jason and Reggie reported to the site. The crew went through 8 manholes and 1415 feet of sewer main runs. They finally found the devices stuck to the access ladder in the manhole (the devices are magnetic). Jason and Reggie ‘worked their butts off in the pouring rain’, said the happy customer. Because our crew went the extra mile and showed an extraordinary measure of diligence and hard work, a boy will be able to hear his family again.

“’We have great employees at the district, and they are the most valuable assets of our organization. Thank you Jason and Reggie for going above and beyond your normal job duties’, said General Manager Ron Speer.”

I must say, this blogger is very impressed with this crew. They could have given up, as is often the case in bureaucracies, but they didn’t. They cared. They showed their humanity. They found what is effectively a needle in a very disgusting haystack. And the fact that that was not only acknowledged but also lauded by their employer is really remarkable in this day and age.

Every time I think of this I’m going to smile. And I’ll also wonder how badly that parent wanted to strangle that child.

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Out of Eden Postponed

I was practicing my daily self-torture by reviewing the numbers out of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. I realized that as of the time of this writing, there have been more than 1,900,000 reported deaths worldwide. That’s an horrific number, made even worse by the fact that it’s probably on the low side.

Suddenly I sat up straight in my chair, thinking, “My god. Where is Paul Salopek?”

I’ve blogged about Mr. Salopek a few times before. He’s the guy being sponsored by National Geographic to do the Out of Eden walk, and write dispatches along the way for our reading pleasure. His path follows the migratory route of humanity, and started in January, 2013.

He began his walk in Ethiopia, where humans first evolved. From there he went to Djibouti and crossed the Red Sea. That took 5 months. From there he spent 14 months walking through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the West Bank, and Israel. It took him a further 20 months to make his way through Cyprus, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. From there he crossed the Caspian Sea and traveled along the Silk Road, through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. That took him 22 months. From Pakistan he went to India, and into Myanmar. That was a further 23 months, and then (insert sound of record scratch) he was stopped cold by the pandemic in March, 2020.

He’s been in Myanmar ever since. I was glad to see that he’s alive and well. At the time I wrote this, his latest dispatch was only a few days old. He’s passing the time by writing a book.

Salopek must be the world’s most patient man. Personally, as much as I adore travel, after about 12 days, I want to go home. For him, it’s been nearly 8 years, and he still has a long way to go. The entire journey was only supposed to have taken him 7 years.

His plan, from here, is to go up through Asia, across to Alaska, down the west coast of the United States, into Mexico and Central America, and then all along the West coast of South America, ending in Tierra del Fuego. But first he has to wait out this pandemic.

What must it be like, being away from loved ones that long, and only having the friends you meet along the road as you’re passing through? What must it be like to live with only what you can carry on your back? What happens to your concept of stability and permanence and home?

That, and his feet must be killing him.

Just as with the rest of us, I’m sure this pandemic took Salopek by surprise. But he seems to be coping with it. In the meantime, he has a lot of fascinating stories to share. I highly recommend that you check out the Out of Eden website and enjoy his journey vicariously just as I have done.

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The Headington Shark

I was cleaning out the bookmarks on my browser (sort of) when I came across an article from April of 2019 entitled, “’It went in beautifully as the postman was passing’: the story of the Headington Shark.

Honestly, I have no idea how I let this one slip through the cracks. I love public art, and I love, even more, people who zig when everyone else is zagging. This was a story that screamed out to be blogged about.

It appears that much of the neighborhood of Headington, in Oxford, U.K. is a place where all the townhouses look alike. I personally couldn’t live in an area like that. It would drive me nuts. And apparently the late Bill Heine, a writer and broadcaster and former student at Oxford, felt the same way.

Heine, the owner of the townhouse, commissioned his friend, John Buckley, a sculptor, to do something to liven the place up. He proceeded to install a 25 foot long shark on the roof, which looks as though it fell from a great height. That seems rather random.

The simple answer is that Heine really liked sharks, but he also wanted to make a statement about war, and about feeling helpless when unexpected things drop from the sky. According to Wikipedia, the work was unveiled on August 9, 1986, which was the 41st anniversary of America dropping a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki.

I think it’s a delight, and apparently I’m not alone. Tourists flock to the shark to this day. But the Oxford City Council was not nearly as amused. They tried to get it removed for reasons of safety, but upon professional inspection, the shark, which weighs about 440 pounds, is structurally sound. The federal government then got involved, and there were some public hearings, in which it was made quite clear that the shark had become a beloved resident of the community, where it still resides to this day.

Heine died in 2019 at the age of 74, and by that point his son had already bought the place to keep the shark safe. He now operates it as an AirBnB. Naturally I had to pop over to the website and check it out. It sleeps 12. It’s a beautiful place, not far from the city center. I was disappointed that the shark’s head doesn’t emerge from the ceiling of one of the rooms, but I suppose it would be rather hard to get a good night’s sleep under those circumstances. The place costs about 220 pounds a night to reserve, with a 3 night minimum, but it would definitely be a fun travel memory.

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A Letter to Congress

In light of recent events, I felt the need to reach out to my congressmen. In my case, these are Representative Adam Smith, Senator Patty Murray, and Senator Maria Cantwell. If you agree with my statement below, feel free to send it to your congressmen as well, either by letter or by e-mailing them a link to this post, as long as you give me original credit for the idea.

“First of all, thank you and all your colleagues for being public servants in these trying times. Your service should never put your life at risk. The insurrection in our nation’s capitol was unconscionable and should never be repeated.

“In light of that, I humbly request that the first paragraph of the preamble of the Democratic Platform should be changed. This paragraph should reflect a moral compass that all rational human beings can agree upon. This or a similar paragraph should always be included in every party’s platform.

“My suggestion is as follows:

“’As Democrats, we believe in the rule of law and the constitution. We believe that violence and terrorism are unacceptable, and that our democratic process should be inviolate. Anyone who disagrees with any of these tenets does not, and never will, speak for the Democratic Party.’

“I hope you’ll consider putting forward this suggestion, and as a fellow Democrat, I would encourage you to suggest that this should be made the first paragraph of the Republican platform, and indeed, any other party’s platform, as well. (If every party made this change at the same time, it would show unity and strength, and no one would have to feel that he or she is copying a political opponent.) It is high time we disavow the lunatic fringe. They do not deserve our endorsement in any way, shape or form.

“Thank you for your consideration, and, again, thank you for your service.”

Sincerely,

Barbara Abelhauser

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The Hess Triangle

I love stories about noconformists. They make life interesting. Unlike anarchists, they do obey the law, often to their detriment, but they are usually still able to get their point across.

Such a man was David Hess, who owned a 5-story apartment building in the West Village in Lower Manhattan. From 1913 to 1916, New York City was exercising imminent domain to extend Seventh Avenue for eleven more blocks. Even though Hess fought the demolition of his building, it was eventually razed.

But the Hess family learned that the surveyors had screwed up and left a tiny triangle of land that by rights still belonged to them. They took it to court and won. The city actually had the nerve to ask them to donate the triangle to them as it was encroaching on the public sidewalk.

The family not only refused, but they installed the tilework pictured below. It says “property of the Hess Estate which has never been dedicated for public purposes”. It’s a little nose thumbing at the municipality, and that mosaic is still to be found in the sidewalk to this very day.

The Hess family eventually sold the triangle to a cigar shop to the tune of $1,000. It has been sold several times since then, but it still is private property, and taxes are dutifully paid. If you would like to see the Hess Triangle, go to the corner of Christopher and Seventh Avenue, and the triangle is right in front of the cigar shop’s door. It’s nearly impossible not to trespass on this property when you enter or exit the store.

Sources for this post:

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-tiny-spite-triangle-that-marks-a-century-old-grudge-against-new-york-city?utm_source=pocket-newtab

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/hess-triangle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hess_triangle

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A Unique Opportunity to Cut Off Our Lunatic Fringe

I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but I genuinely believe that not all Republicans are bad. But if we have learned nothing else from the insurrection in the Capitol a few days ago, there are definitely some on the absolute lunatic fringe (as are some democrats, of course). Most of us watched their actions in utter horror. I genuinely believe that includes the average Republican, too.

There are many things most humans can agree on. Violence is unacceptable. Our democratic process should be inviolate. We need to protect our planet as it’s the only home we have. Basic human rights should apply to everyone. We need to improve our healthcare system and our schools. Murder is unacceptable, as is rape, sex trafficking, and theft. We need more invention and innovation. Hate gets us nowhere. Facts are facts.

I think both parties should add the above, with mutually agreed upon wording, to our national platforms. We should rename ourselves the Rational Republican Party and the Rational Democratic Party. If our members can’t agree with all of the above, then they should not be considered part of our membership. They should be rejected outright. “Your hate and violence are not who we are. You do not speak for us.” Let them form their own insane little cohorts and self-destruct.

Each party, of course, still has room for a lot of planks in their platform that the other party may disagree with, and that’s okay. But we have got to agree that we can no longer turn our backs on basic human morality. The lunatic fringe does not deserve our support.

I think if we did that, we might discover that we all agree on much more than we think.

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Living through History

We lived through history yesterday, and it was for the most part shameful. If you think killing a woman in the Capitol Building is acceptable or, worse yet, heroic, if you can say you love people who would do such a thing, if you call people who mounted an insurrection “true patriots”, then you are a moral reprobate.

A woman died. And she was a Trump supporter to boot. At what point do you admit that things have gotten out of control? At what point do you say enough is enough?

Our transitions of power have always been peaceful until now, even when the results stuck in the craw of the majority. Are you proud of yourselves? Do you have any idea what you’ve done to democracy?

The only reason I said “for the most part shameful” up above is that Georgia, a state I’d long since given up on, just managed to elect their first black senator ever, and also the youngest senator. That’s history, too. I wish that was what I could focus on, because it’s miraculous. But no. Shame on the insurrectionists.

Oh, and then, on top of everything else, protestors blocked my bridge for 15 minutes yesterday, too. 6 cars, blocking every lane of traffic, completely strangling the Seattle evening commute. I have no idea what they were protesting, and frankly, I don’t care. It accomplished nothing but ill will. It didn’t further anyone’s agenda. It was just negative energy. And it stressed me out and caused paperwork.

So, yeah, weird day at best.

I’ll leave you with this wisdom from a meme, in the hopes that it will cause you to untangle some pretzel logic if you happen to be experiencing it:

“You might be in a cult if you believe that:

You can’t trust the votes.

You can’t trust paper ballots.

You can’t trust judges at the polling places.

You can’t trust polling observers.

You can’t trust voting machines.

You can’t trust state canvassing committees.

You can’t trust state recounts.

You can’t trust 50 Secretaries of State.

You can’t trust the National administrator for election security.

You can’t trust Trump’s Attorney General.

You can’t trust Trump’s FBI.

You can’t trust the states circuit court judges.

You can’t trust US district court judges, including Trump appointees.

You can’t trust US Supreme Court judges, including Trump’s appointees.

You can’t trust the last ten Secretaries of Defense.

BUT you can trust Donald Trump.”

Maybe I’m Latvian

I just read an article entitled, “Latvia: Europe’s Nation of Introverts”, and it did my heart good. It’s rare to encounter fellow travelers, because we isolate ourselves by definition. Hearing that there’s a whole country full of them felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I may have found my people.

Obviously it’s impossible, or it should be, to make a sweeping commentary about the character traits of a whole nation of people, but it seems even they poke fun of this cultural tendency. And the article goes on to point out that creativity has been found to be strongly linked with introversion. Latvians take creativity very seriously. They also seem to enjoy comfortable silences as much as I do.

I can’t imagine how Latvians coped with being part of the Soviet Union, a time when they were forced into communal living situations and were constantly being watched. That would be my definition of hell. Unfortunately, in spite of the low population density in this country overall, they still are clustered into apartment blocs in metropolitan areas to this day, all the while longing for the single family homesteads of the pre-Soviet era.

And it seems that Latvians are leaving the country at an alarming rate, meaning that it is in sharp decline, and the nation may have to embrace immigrants if it’s ever going to thrive. That will pose a challenge for these people who tend to cross the street to avoid talking to strangers.

Latvians are quick to point out that other countries have a reputation for introversion too. They cite Sweden, Finland and Estonia as having this trait as well. Personally, I think it has to do with the weather and the desire to emotionally hibernate when the weather is crap. It’s a theory.

This article portrays Latvians as self-sufficient, creative, and thoughtful people. I think I’d like them. If I didn’t look so much like my sisters, I’d wonder if I were adopted.

From what I’m seeing on line, it’s a beautiful country. I may just have to go visit. Just having friends say, “Why on earth are you going to Latvia?” would make me smile.

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