Another looking glass

It has been many Covid months since last I visited the Harn…one of GNV’s truly magical places.

I finally returned to see Dreaming Of Alice, a wonderful exhibit featuring otherworldly illustrations from Lewis Carroll’s classic “Through the Looking Glass.”

And as things often do, one exhibit led to another. Until I found myself strolling through a hallway of light and shadows…and mystery.

A hallway of infinite possibilities.

Which led me to a place where the mind tends to focus on past glories.

And ancient puzzles.

And sobering second thoughts about one’s rightful place in the world.

Alice has left the building now. But wandering through the Harn I came upon yet another looking glass into an enchanted world. And when viewed through a sufficiently colorful and imaginative mind’s eye, it is revealed to be wondrous indeed.

“Life, what is it but a dream?” Through The Looking Glass

Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

“What does it matter where my body happens to be? My mind goes on working all the same.”

I only wish I had such eyes.”

It’s a great huge game of chess that’s being played—all over the world—if this is the world at all, you know.”

If you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”

She set out once more down the path, determined to keep straight on till she got to the hill.”

It seems very pretty but it’s rather hard to understand!”

“So I wasn’t dreaming, after all, unless – unless we’re all part of the same dream.”

We must never forget

Rioters, some dressed in military fatigues, scaled the historic walls of the Capitol, piercing the very heart of American democracy. Insurrectionists shouted, “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!” A gallows with a noose was erected on the Mall in front of the Capitol. USA Today

Never forget that the government of the United States, in service to Richard Nixon, tried to send Scott Camil and the rest of the Gainesville 8 to prison for conspiring to violently disrupt the Republican National Convention.

Camil and his confederates did nothing of the sort. They were just convenient scapegoats for scheming politicians looking to divert public attention away from their own bloody failures.

Never forget that it took a Gainesville jury of their peers – true and faithful Americans – almost no time at all to decide that the United States Government was trying to railroad these guys for the real “crime” they had committed – that of opposing the Vietnam war.

Never forget that, after the United States government failed to convict, an agent of the United States Government shot Scott Camil in the back – a botched assassination attempt disguised as a drug bust.

If all of this sounds like so much ancient history it is not. It is as relevant as today’s headlines.

The Gainesville 8 did not storm and occupy the U.S. Capitol building. A mob of “patriots” egged on by the President of The United States did that bloody deed.

The Gainesville 8 did not bludgeon a police officer, smash windows, terrorize members of Congress, steal souvenirs and trash The People’s House. Again, it was the Army of Trump, allegedly attempting to “stop the steal,” that did those foul deeds.

So what has the Gainesville 8 to do with last week’s riotous assault on Congress? Simply this.

Before the dust had even settled, duplicitous politicians were already blaming the riot on…antifa. Because it even after all these years it still suits the Republican narrative that liberals, not true patriots, must be the real terrorists among us.

Never forget that the Gainesville 8 was the antifa of its time. Convenient scapegoats to divert public attention from the fact that Richard Nixon’s prosecution of an unjust war was going horribly off the rails.

Perhaps this time the United States Government will prosecute those who were actually responsible for the death and the destruction and the chaos that descended upon the United States Capitol.

Perhaps the United States Government will even bring itself to prosecute the Anarchist In Chief for doing what the Gainesville 8 never did – conspire to overthrow the United States Government.

Perhaps there will be justice this time. Because justice remains an American ideal if not always a reality.

That time in Scotland

Continuing our armchair traveling adventures during this time of Covid, we recall a few summers ago when Jill and I did a weeklong bicycle tour of Southern Scotland. Yes, there were cows, and also sheep galore. Not that many cars, though.

Many thanks to Esther and Warren, of Galloway Cycling Holidays for providing the bikes, routes, accommodations and luggage support. We couldn’t have done it without them. Highly recommended.

We began our trek at the Mull of Galloway, the southernmost point in Scotland. From the lighthouse you can see Ireland, England and the Isle of Man. I think I saw a man on Man wave.

Great routes. I had no idea where we were at any given time. Thank goodness for GPS.

And of course the signs were all encouraging.

Did I mention that Trump visited while we were there?

Low tides, green grass, charming villages, ancient thatch…and a biosphere.

The good news is that my ship finally came in. The bad news…..

Rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules!

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

Very nice folks these Scots. But they don’t say too much.

Let’s just call it a fixer-upper and leave it go at that.

Scotland rocks.

Apparently people have been dying to get into Scotland for a very, very long time.

All roads lead to something or other.

As I understand it, Iron Man once lived in this castle and fought with a frog-like being called Mystique. And all was well. (Hey, it’s history.)

Oh, and we took a pilgrimage to the workshop and the burial ground of the father of the bicycle, Kirkpatrick Macmillan.

Sometimes we cycled for hours and never saw a car.

The egg and me. Don’t ask.

We were impressed to find palm trees this far north. Apparently that’s complements of the Gulf Stream.

I dunno. There were cows in the water. I’m sure they knew what they were doing.

Talk about your road less traveled.

It wasn’t easy, but we finally found an Italian restaurant in Scotland.

We had a great time. But, seriously, these Scots really need to cheer up.

Stream of (un)consciousness

Or what bored bloggers do on a football Saturday night when the home team played hours and hours ago.

I won. I won.

We won! We won!

You lost! You lost!

SEC! SEC!

We won! We won! Da!

We are one! We are one!

We wonder what the hell that was all about!

We won! You are toast!

No, I’m toast! And I won!

I second that emotion! He one! Er, won!

All is being and nothingness! One is won is…..zzzz!

Count your sheep, dog! Wool won!

We won ! It’s right there in black and white!

Remind us again what we won!

I’m tired of winning already!

I’ll drink to that! Hell, I’ll drink to anything at this point!

Wonder what ever happened to these guys? They’re a loser! And they’re not what they appear to be!

If I declare a winner, can I get the hell out of this blog?

There is no way out! And that’s the one-der of it all!

Won-der-ful!

Lighter than air

Consider the weight of water.

It is the most destructive force on Earth. And yet at time is seems it is almost lighter than air.

Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” Lao Tzu

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” W. H. Auden

“In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans.” Kahlil Gibran

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” Loren Eiseley

“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” Jacques Yves Cousteau

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” Leonardo da Vinci

“A drop of water, if it could write out its own history, would explain the universe to us.” Lucy Larcom

(Pop quiz: Find the drop that looks like a skull).

“The fall of dropping water wears away the Stone.” Lucretius

“What’s exceptional about our blue marble is not that we had water. It’s that we held on to it, and that we still do. While the ancient oceans of Venus and Mars vaporized into space, Earth kept its life-giving water. Cynthia Barnett

That time in Montreal

In which we continue our armchair travels during these times of Covid lockdowns and what with Americans being banned from just about every other country in the civilized world. Thanks a lot, Donald.

In the summer of 2013 Jill and I took a cycling trip through southern Quebec and wrapped it up with a weekend in Montreal. Turned out that this major city was as fun to cycle in as the countryside and small towns around it.

Which leads me to the first point I want to make about Montreal. For a major metropolitan area, it is surprisingly bike friendly. Everybody seems to bike. And you can get around the city quite easily, and enjoyably, on two wheels. (BTW: I have no idea what that sign means but it looks, um, bikish.)

Of course, having made the above comments, I must concede that this was August so nobody was exactly up to their sprockets in Canadian snow.

But moving right along, the next best thing I loved about Montreal was its murals. A section of the city at the foot of Mt. Royal seemed to be mural central for Quebec.

Make something of yourself why don’t you.

Any face in a crowd.

That’s right, we eat cars.

Serve you right.

I got nothing.

Ever get that feeling you’re being watched?

My favorite. It keeps me awake at night.

But forget the murals. This city has it’s own dragon.

Not to mention globular objects of all sizes.

But never mind all that. Let’s do some city scapes.

It’s enough to make you dizzy just walking around.

I think I saw this in a Leonardo DiCaprio movie.

Pop quiz: Which one of these buildings is leaning?

Which one of these images makes you want to drink?

This is a very famous Montreal edifice. I just don’t remember which one.

Oh, and before I forget, they have some very, um, interesting pursuits in Montreal. Like surfing the St. Lawrence rapids.

Plus lots of other cool things to do.

Oops. Left this mural out from the batch earlier. This one seems rather, I dunno, dystopian.

Cool things all over the map.

I’d love to, um, re-cycle Montreal. Assuming of course that Canada ever lets us Americans back into their country again.

River of no return

For our latest edition of Armchair Traveler we take a look at one of America’s most scenic, yet threatened, river.

Because rivers run through me.

The gentle Suwannee. The gutted Apalachicola. The algae-breeding St. Johns. The doomed Ocklawaha.

So many great Florida rivers sacrificed on the altar of hyper-growth.

In my nearly half-century journalism career I have been obsessed with our rivers, returning to them again and again. And each time finding them a little dirtier and more stressed.

So naturally, while on vacation in northern Arizona, I wanted to get up close and personal with America’s “hardest working” river, the Colorado.

The liquid artist that carved nature’s ultimate sculpture, the Grand Canyon, out of the living rock.

The 1,450-mile behemoth that funnels life-sustaining water from Rocky Mountain snow fields to 36 million people scattered from Wyoming down into Mexico.

And a downstream rowing trip did not disappoint. Threading our way amid towering red sandstone canyons, from Horseshoe Bend to Lee’s Ferry, we could see large game fish lazing in water nearly as transparent as the Ichetucknee. And almost 25 degrees colder at that.

If Paradise had a river it would be the Colorado.

That is, if the federal Bureau of Reclamation built Paradise.

The word Colorado means red. So named by the Spanish explorers who discovered a much darker, more turbid and warmer river. Indeed, the abrasive power of its silt-laden water helped make the Grand Canyon what it is today.

But improving on nature is an American tradition.

At the Glen Canyon Dam Visitors Center you are informed that the dam was constructed “to benefit ecosystems and communities downstream …” That they made the Colorado run “cold and clear … so all can benefit.”

But other federal employees — rangers at nearby Grand Canyon National Park — complain that since the Colorado turned “cold and clear,” native fish and other species have gone missing and the ecology of the canyon floor has changed dramatically.

A small price to pay for progress, perhaps.

Because Lake Powell is itself a marvel of nature … or rather of artifice.

Flooding 185 miles of canyons has spawned a multibillion-dollar tourism trade. Marinas now host luxury house boats every bit as grand as any yacht tied up in Fort Lauderdale.

And then there’s Page. Built in the 1950s to house dam construction workers, it now sprouts hotels, resorts and luxury villas.

And a manicured emerald green golf course. And lush grass lawns and mediums. All fed by sprinklers that run in the middle of the day.

In the middle of the desert.

Since the turn of the millennium the Southwest has endured a drought of near biblical proportions. America’s two largest reservoirs — Lake Powell to the east of the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead to the west — are less than half full and falling fast.

As famous as the Colorado may be, it’s equally infamous for the stresses placed upon it due to over-allocation, overuse, and more than a century of manipulation,” says American Rivers, the monitoring group that has designated the Colorado America’s most endangered river. “Following decades of wasteful water management policies and practices, demand on the river’s water now exceeds its supply.”

Yes, more water is now taken out of the Colorado than goes in. It is the law of diminishing returns in action.

Four centuries ago, Coronado ventured into the great southwestern desert in search of the legendary Seven Cities of Gold. He came up, well, dry, because cities could not exist in such arid conditions.

Today the Cities of Gold all have names: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and more. All are growing and all fight for more of the Colorado’s diminishing supply.

Throw in competing demands of the region’s multi-billion dollar agriculture and tourism industries, and America’s hardest working river is also its most litigated.

And what will happen when the Colorado is expected to feed, not 36 million people, but 40 million? Fifty million?

John Wesley Powell told us this would happen. In 1869 the great scientist and Colorado River explorer warned: “You are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights because there is not sufficient water to supply the land.”

Powell was booed down. But long after he was safely dead, they did name a reservoir in his honor.

Talk about adding insult to injury. Powell would have been appalled.

Perhaps in the end we are destined to join other civilizations that briefly flourished in this dry, arid and ultimately unsustainable landscape.

And the Colorado will once again run wild and free and untamed.

Just another ride

Things I saw on my ride today from Micco to Sebastian, Fl. Suffice it to say it’s a happening place.

Wanted to make a phone call but she just kept talking and talking

What can I say? He’s hooked.

The route to the brewery and back. If you even want to come back.

Sometimes you go down some strange roads in search of a beer.

Not sure what to make of this. Either someone’s got a really bizarre sense of humor or you can literally get away with murder if you are in the agritourism business in Florida.

There are times when your mouth can really get you into big trouble.

Her name was Rosie. His name was Gus. Gus Gator. They were made for each other.

Signs of the times.

A short walk off a long pier.

Birds of a feather. And Karen.

The regular people play at the Hardback Cafe.

Rumor has it that you can’t eat just one.

Ah Venice redux

Continuing our armchair travels in these home-bound times of coronavirus. Recalling a few days in Venice before things really went to hell.

In the spring of 2014 Jill and I stopped for a few days in Venice on our way home from Croatia. Never did get to climb out of a sewer in St. Marks Square while being chased by religious fanatics and rats, like Indiana. But it was still fun.

We quickly learned that if you want to see anything worthwhile, like the great cathedral at St. Marks, you had to do it early in the morning, before the cruse ships discharged their armies of walking zombies. After that it was all elbows akimbo.

On the other hand, you could jump aboard one of the water taxis and spend the rest of the day exploring the outer islands in the lagoon. Few cruise shippers chose to spend their off day ashore afloat, oddly, so the outer islands were beautiful and uncrowned.

Legend has it that Travis McGee initially wanted to berth in Venice. But they told him the Busted Flush wasn’t up to code.

Oddly, I’ve been to Venice twice. Once as a 19-year old sailor, and once just a few years ago. Still haven’t been on a gondola. It’s rather like paying that guy to pole you across the River Styx.

Murano Island was a riot of color. Colorful buildings competing with colorful boats.

Walking through Venice at night is the most seductive exercise imaginable.

I have to wonder if Venice masks are selling out now that we’re all, you know, wearing masks.

“We’re lost in a masquerade.” Leon Russell.

If Venice were run by a Gainesville council we would all be complaining about the leakage.

What could be better than hanging your socks out on a balcony that’s been around for 200 years?

Lions and babies and nymphs oh my!

What’s the difference between Venice Italy and Venice Florida? You can ride a bicycle in Venice Florida.

This was the Golden Age of Venice, before the floods put everything under water.

“Spill the wine, dig that girl.” Eric Burden.

The opportunity to quietly stroll St. Marks Square in uninterrupted solitude is disturbed only by the cruise ship debarkation schedule.

No to homophobia. No to the mafia. Signs of the times.

“One of the things I like about Venice is that it’s so safe for me to walk.” Julie Christie said in “Don’t look Now” (a slasher flick disguised as an art house film) just before everything went to, um, shreds.

They say that cockroaches will ultimately inherit the world. But I’m not ruling out pigeons.

On the other hand, if Disney had built it there would be moving sidewalks.

On the plus side, they’re not in danger of running out of water any time soon.