Entries 600 - 576

ENTRY #600
DATE:  09/19/17 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  Some Good News!

     Just spoke to my Mom... Bailey will be coming back home on Friday!!! Paul, the breeder/trainer, is pleased with her behavior... and as long as my Mom sticks to the new & improved Training Guidelines, he's confident that Bailey will be fine from now on. So... I am thrilled! WOOHOOOOOO!!!
     AND... when I logged on to check my email this evening I found The Friar's "Reply" to my dinner request. We're on for Saturday evening! So, again, I am thrilled! It's gonna be a great weekend! Bailey's coming home, I'm getting my wine, AND I'm having dinner with The Friar! DOUBLE WOOHOOOOOO!!!
     Oh, and if I'm REALLY lucky, maybe The Friar will send me home with some tomatoes from his garden! Maybe, maybe!!!
     That's it out'a me for tonight. I have to dig my cooler out of the closet and bring it down to the Jeep so I have something to carry the wine home in! Ciao for now!

ENTRY #599
DATE:  09/18/17 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  Westward to the Winery!

     Back on July 8th, I mentioned that I tried contacting the Inspire Moore Winery/Vineyard in Naples, NY about the wine I sampled while dining with The Friar at the Glen Iris Inn. I never heard back from them. I called them a couple weeks ago and learned they can't ship it to me because they don't have the required DCP (Department of Consumer Protection) License that allows them to ship their products into Connecticut. Which means if I want to purchase any of their wine, I have to drive all the way out there to get it myself.
     And that's what I've been planning on doing... but the weather has been so unstable lately I haven't dared to make the trip. First it was Hurricane Harvey. Then it was Hurricane Irma. Now it's Hurricane/Tropical Storm Jose! The next one is Hurricane Maria. Good grief!
     Although... Tropical Storm Jose is due to blow into Connecticut sometime tomorrow afternoon and then out and away from Connecticut on Wednesday. And since we don't know, yet, which path Hurricane Maria is gonna take I figured THE TIME IS NOW!
     I just called the Winery to confirm their hours on Saturday. They're open from 11:00am to 6:00pm and they currently have three cases available of the "LOVE" wine I'm after! However, there is a small problem. According to Amy, the girl I just spoke with, there is a massive Arts & Crafts Expedition being held in Naples this weekend... and finding lodging in town, she said, might be a problem at this point....
     Turns out she was right. I just called three places (the Naples Orange Inn, the Naples Hotel, and Another World Bed & Breakfast) and they are all full.
     I then called Red Roof Inn in Hamburg, which is two hours away from Naples but only two minutes away from The Friar. His birthday is Monday, the 25th, so I'm hoping to take him out to dinner Saturday night for his birthday. I've just emailed him about this and am still awaiting his reply. Anyway, Red Roof Inn only had two rooms available, that's it. The Bills are playing in Buffalo this weekend so the hotels are filling up fast with football fans. Obviously, since I need somewhere to stay, I booked one of those two rooms.
     So... I'm headin' West for Wine this Weekend! And might get to see The Friar too, we'll see! I hope that'll work out.... I have a little something for him for his birthday that I had planned on shipping out to him, but delivering it in person would be much nicer! Since he probably won't read my email until tomorrow, I know it's kind'a short notice, so I hope he'll be free Saturday evening. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!
     I now own all seven of Susan Boyle's CDs... and I've loaded them ALL onto my MP3 Player, even the Christmas stuff. I'll probably listen to her all the way out to Hamburg! Can't wait!!!

ENTRY #598
DATE:  09/16/17 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  A Grand Seat for a Toad!

     I was out driving around with my camera [again!] today and I found a small, very old, very creepy cemetery up in Sandyhook. I walked around for a few minutes and eventually came across this toadstool. I took a number of shots of it from all different angles but this one is pretty cool (sans the toad, unfortunately)...

ENTRY #597
DATE:  09/12/17 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  This is what happens when I'm bored...

ENTRY #596
DATE:  09/10/17 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  Some waterfowl shots...

     I slept like shit last night. Tossed and turned ALL NIGHT LONG thinking about Bailey. Even after begging, praying, and pleading with St. Francis half the night - asking him to intervene on Bailey's behalf - I still couldn't sleep. By 5:00am I was so disgruntled I flung off the covers, got dressed, gulped down some coffee, grabbed the camera and went out driving around looking for something to distract my thoughts away from that poor dog.
     Came across numerous deer in Gate of Heaven Cemetery... but it was actually still a little too dark out to get any decent pictures. My next stop was St. Michael's Cemetery where I did manage to see a fox but couldn't get close enough for photos. I then found a skunk and made an abrupt U-turn back to the Jeep. Luckily I saw it before it saw me, LOL!
     Got a few shots of some Great Egret Herons as they were hunting for fish and frogs in the marsh-lands of Milford. It's been kind'a chilly around here the last few days so I was surprised to see so many of them around. I counted seven in this particular marsh in Milford, then spotted another four in a reservoir up in Shelton. I thought they would've started to migrate by now but, since my knowledge of Herons is somewhat limited, maybe it's still a bit too early in the season for migration.
     Anyway, I thought I'd share a couple of them...

ENTRY #595
DATE:  09/09/17 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Update on Bailey...

     Well, the situation with Bailey has gone from bad to WORSE. Just spoke to my Mom again and Paul, the breeder, is picking Bailey up tomorrow morning...
     My Mom said Paul is going to keep her for TWO WEEKS. During that time, he's going to work with her and HOPEFULLY break all her bad habits. At the end of the two weeks, depending on Bailey's behavior/attitude, my Mom will either take her back or tell Paul to re-home her.
     Even though she's not MY dog, I am absolutely miserable over this... I can't even write any more about it, my hands are actually trembling. I'm going to bed...

ENTRY #594
DATE:  09/06/17 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  Bailey, the Problematic Puppy!

     Oh boy! I think Bailey's days are numbered, I'm not sure. Just got off the phone with my Mom and she's NOT happy. She actually just told me that she's sorry they brought Bailey home. Apparently, Bailey hasn't been cooperating lately... and has adopted the attitude that she's the "boss" (aka the alpha) of the house and she refuses to listen to any of the commands she's given. She won't COME when called; she won't HEEL, SIT, STAY, LAY DOWN or SPEAK unless she knows there's a treat involved; she's been jumping up onto the kitchen table and/or counters to steal food; she's chewing on everything in site; and she keeps biting and snarling at my step-father, with the hair up on her back and all! This is NOT cool behavior.
     I am shocked by this whole situation. Never, in all my animal owning years, have I ever encountered an animal that my Mom (or I) couldn't train. Granted, I don't live there, so I can't actually work with Bailey myself, but my MOM has always had a special gift when it comes to animals. So.... to hear my Mom say that she's actually sorry she brought Bailey home is boggling my mind! I just can't believe that Bailey's behavior is SO BAD that Mom is now facing defeat.
     My Mom is also dealing with caring for my step-father (who is basically an invalid now); she has to maintain the house all by herself; she has to do all the yard work herself; on top of running back and forth getting errands done AND multiple doctor/hospital appointments for herself and Dad.... she's basically running on fumes and she's exhausted all the time. So, this "Problematic Puppy" is only making life that much harder for her.
     This totally sucks. I've already become attached to Bailey... and if my Mom gives her back to the breeder... I don't know.... just thinking about it makes me sad. And I keep thinking about Bailey's feelings too -- how's it going to affect her? I mean, she's almost six months old now! She already knows her name is Bailey; she's learned that my Mom's house is home; and I know she LOVES my Mom 'cause she follows her everywhere. She's a really smart dog! I don't know why she's not behaving. I just hate the thought of my Mom giving up on her. I hope it won't come to that but, as of right now, it's not looking good... :-(

ENTRY #593
DATE:  08/26/17 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Up, Up and Away...

Hot-Air Balloon Festival
Plainville, Connecticut
...written in Memory of my friend, Chet Smith...

TODAY:   I crawled out of bed this morning at 3:00am. I left my house a few minutes after four o'clock. I arrived at Norton Park in Plainville at 5:00am and sat in the dark, alone this time, for almost an hour, waiting for the festivities to begin. At 6:00am I heard the first Dragon clear its throat and witnessed its fiery breath shoot skyward. After 18 years, I knew it was time. I grabbed my camera and got out of the truck...
     I walked across the glistening field still wet with dew and felt the early-morning chill against my skin. The goose-bumps rose and I wondered, Is it the chill in the air or the memories causing them? With the sun slowly creeping above the tree-line, the field began to blossom with billowing colors as the high-powered fans revved their motors. When the first balloon gently lifted off the grass, I stood directly below it. Basking in the glow of the flames, the warmth radiating in waves upon my face, a single tear rolled down my cheek as I closed my eyes and remembered...

YESTERYEAR:   The gusty winds from the fans; the droning hum of their motors. The roar of the flames; their enveloping heat if you stood near. The colors; each one in the spectrum represented and then some. The baskets; their woven wicker gleaming in the early-morning sun light. The crowd; their applause and cheers of excitement as the balloons gracefully lifted their lazy heads off the grass into a standing position, readying themselves for flight. The aroma; pancakes, bacon, sausage, coffee, hash-browns - wafting from the Breakfast Tent as the local Fire Department dished out hot meals to cold hands. The walkie-talkies; their squawks echoing across the ball field as the Pilots and Chase Crews synchronized their plans....
     The place -- Drake Field in Pittsfield, New Hampshire. The event -- The 4th Annual Suncook Valley Rotary Hot-Air Balloon Rally. I was fifteen years old, the date was August 4th, 1985. I was there with my Dad and my best friend, Chet. It was my very first Balloon Rally and as I stood amid the sights, sounds and smells of the morning, taking pictures like a fiend, I could barely make out Chet's bellowing voice as he hollered my name from across the field. Once he started waving his arms I was able to pick him out of the crowd and I watched, highly amused, as he began to run in my direction, his constant yelling lost to the cacophony surrounding us.
     "WHAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU," I yelled as he approached.
     "C'MON, YOU'RE GOING UP, LET'S GO," he yelled again, his words finally making their way to my ears. He grabbed my arm and tugged me along behind him as we began to jog back across the field together.
     "HELL, YEAH, I WANNA FLY! WHICH BALLOON IS IT?" I shouted as our pace quickened to a run.
     "HE'S PAYING FOR THIS?!?!?"
     "NO, MY COMPANY IS THE SPONSOR. THIS RIDE'S FOR FREE!" Chet yelled, grinning at me over his shoulder.
     The tether was untied and the crew helped me as I clambered over the side into the basket. My Dad reached out to take my purse and began backing away as the Pilot pulled the cord to release a long burst of flame. "WHERE ARE YOU GUYS GOING? YOU'RE NOT COMING WITH ME?!?!" I yelled in shock.
     "NO, WE'RE PART OF THE GROUND CREW. WE'LL FOLLOW THE CHASE TEAM AND MEET YOU AT LANDING FOR CHAMPAGNE!" The Pilot released another long burst of flame and I felt the basket begin to wobble against the ground.
     The Pilot held up a bottle, "THIS CHAMPAGNE. IT'S TRADITION," he answered while giving the cord another long pull.
     "ENJOY THE RIDE," my Dad yelled as the balloon lifted off the ground.

     "HOW IS IT?" Chet barked.
     "IT'S SO HOT!!!" And just then, the Pilot pulled the cord once more. "AND LOUD," I added. "THE FLAME IS JUST LIKE THE ROAR OF A DRAGON. AND IT'S REALLY HOT!" I laughed.
     "THAT'S IT, BABY SNOOKS... IT'S DRAGON BREATH," Chet bellowed to me as he waved goodbye.
     "YEAH, IT'S....."

TODAY:   "...DRAGON BREATH!!!" we called it, I remembered silently, as I opened my eyes to the flames now floating up, up and away from me. For the next fourteen years we always referred to it as Dragon Breath. Like the champagne after every balloon's flight, that Balloon Rally became our tradition. Chet and I went to that Rally, together, fifteen years in a row. Though I never flew again, we'd look forward to each and every Rally with just as much excitement and anticipation as we shared during that first one. My god, I thought, that first one was thirty-two years ago.

YESTERYEAR:   The 18th Annual Balloon Rally was held in 1999. That was the last one we attended. We never went back...
     When the 19th Rally rolled around in August of 2000 Chet wasn't well so we didn't go that year. Cancer was ravaging his body at that time and he succumbed to it only five months later, in January 2001. The cemetery where his ashes were buried lies on the other side of the river, directly across from Drake Field, where that Balloon Rally is held...

     We had to wait until May before we could finally lay him to rest. There was a small service held in Floral Park Cemetery, where sixty of his friends and family members gathered to pay respect and to offer comfort to one another. I gave a short eulogy, sharing a few laughs and memories Chet and I had created through the years. As I spoke, some people cried, some people chuckled as they remembered Chet in their own minds and hearts. In closing, I offered the poem (shown above) by Mary Elizabeth Frye that, I thought, summed up - perfectly - how Chet would want to be thought of from now on.
     When I worked my way through the crowd to join my Dad to listen to other people reminisce about our friend, he leaned in close in order to speak directly into my ear. In a hushed tone and with a crack in his voice, "Good job!" was all he could manage.
     Every year, since 1999, the first weekend of August has been circled on my calendar in bright red Sharpie marker. And every year I'd always make a secret promise to myself vowing that This year, I'm going!, but I'd always find an excuse at the last minute to avoid it. I could never muster the courage to go, alone, knowing that I'd end up spending the entire morning glancing towards the cemetery, instead of enjoying the balloons as Chet would have wanted.
     In reality, Chet was gone and, in my heart, the Magic had vanished as well. In my mind, I could see Chet's head-stone, his name etched in cold marble. And, of course, in reality, Dragon Breath doesn't exist; it was only a part of the magical imaginings of childhood -- that same part of you that usually dies when you grow up. You never get over the death of someone close to you, but gradually, with time, you get used to it.
     Chet being gone was a lot to get used to. He was my best friend for as long as I could remember. He was at the hospital with my Mom and Dad the day I was born... and, other than my folks, Chet was the very first person who held me that day. Right up until the day he died, he always said that I was his best friend; I was his adopted daughter. The whole idea of attending another Balloon Rally without Chet by my side was simply unfathomable to me.

TODAY:   Three weeks ago, the 36th Annual Hot-Air Balloon Rally was held, once again, in Pittsfield, New Hampshire. It ran from Friday, August fourth to Sunday, August sixth. The week prior I had decided, for sure this time, that Dammit, this year I AM going! As morbid as it might sound to some, I had planned on attending that Rally with Chet, as usual, right by my side as I'd watch the balloons take flight standing in the cemetery, alongside his grave. I had envisioned getting beautiful photographs of Chet's headstone with the balloons, floating overhead, in the background. I was determined to make it happen, even though it meant I'd have to leave my house at 1:00am to get to the ball park in time.
     Unfortunately, though, my plans were foiled by the weather. "Heavy rains" had flooded the ball field on Friday evening and "damaging winds" on Saturday morning kept the balloons rolled up tight in the trailers that hauled them. By Saturday evening, it was still undetermined if the balloons would even stand (never mind take flight) on Sunday morning so, with a heavy heart, I didn't bother making the trip. I was, however, inspired to search online for any Balloon Rallies in Connecticut... which is how, today, I found myself in Plainville in the midst of appoximately 30 balloons.
     As I roamed throughout the acres of brightly colored nylon in various stages of inflation, the familiar sights, sounds and smells engulfing me, I followed my nose over to the tent offering steaming cups of coffee. After a few sips, I turned to survey my surroundings. As I took in the view, the Magic slowly creeping its way back into my heart, I could feel it as it tugged at the corners of my lips, curling them into a smile. I stepped out from beneath the darkness of the tent into the early-morning sunlight. Coffee in hand and the sun on my face, I allowed the reveries to sweep me back...

YESTERYEAR:   The Pilot reached up and tugged a line attached to the venting-flap at the top of the balloon to release some of the hot air trapped inside. As we began our slow descent to landing, I could see - off in the distance - four vehicles barreling up the dirt road, heading in our direction, entrails of road-dust reaching out behind them for what seemed like miles. The two in the lead belonging to the Chase Team; the two following close behind being my Dad's blue Lincoln Continental and Chet's bright red pick-up truck. Still hundreds of feet in the air, I watched as all four vehicles veered off the dirt road and drove into the grassy, wind-swept field to meet us. I laughed as I marveled over my Dad's plight of maneuvering his car across that field. As if reading my mind, the Pilot also chuckled, making his own observation -- "That must be some rough ride in that old Lincoln. Who's that, your Dad?"
     "Yup, that's him all right! I'm sure he's not too happy right now but it sure beats hikin'!"
     With another tug on the vent-flap, the balloon continued downward. Still flying about two hundred feet above the ground, the Chase Crew parked directly below us and waited as the balloon continued to soar overhead. A minute later, as I watched the ground grow near, I tentatively looked over at the Pilot.
     "Um, I've never flown before," I said, "What's this gonna feel like, when we hit the ground?"
     "Don't worry about it," he said with a confident smile, "There's no sudden jolt or bouncing around, like you might think. You'll hardly notice a thing. The basket will sway a bit once it's on the ground, as the balloon stabilizes above us, but that's about it."
     "OK," I said, but I still gripped the railing just in case, bracing for impact. There was a soft hissing sound, briefly, as the long grass caressed the bottom of the wicker basket and, a moment later, we touched down, coming to rest about fifty feet away from the Chase Crew. Like the Pilot described, the basket swayed side-to-side for a few seconds, rocking gently, like a giant cradle soothing an infant.
     I looked around and saw Chet and my Dad jogging towards the balloon. I let out a WHOOPING cry of exhilaration, waving both hands at them in excitement. I thanked the Pilot for the ride, and climbed out over the railing. Chet reached me first and grabbed me up in a bear hug, lifted me right off the ground, and twirled me around in circles.
     "Welcome back to earth, Baby Snooks! What did'ja think of that?!?!"
     "That was amazing! It's incredible! We were so high! The cars and trucks looked like ants! And there's no sound, it's totally quiet! The only sound you hear is when the Pilot pulls the cord for more flame! That's it, though, nothing else! You don't even hear the wind, nothing at all! It was awesome! Oh my god, I can't believe it! It was totally awesome!" The words came out fast, all in one breath, as I babbled on and on about the experience for the next five minutes, until the Pilot approached with the champagne bottle and a stack of plastic cups.
     Chet was never a fan of alcohol but, knowing a toast was involved, he came prepared with a two-liter bottle of his beverage of choice -- Pepsi Cola! My Dad and I took a few steps back as the two guys armed with bottles vigorously shook them! When the tops were finally popped, our cheers echoed across the field as the foamy geysers soaked us all!

TODAY:   Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there, I did not die.
     As the last balloon flew over the trees, disappearing from view, I turned and walked towards my Jeep, remembering the words from that poem I read in a little cemetery in Pittsfield. It's true what they say, those few simple words. I realized today, as I walked between and beneath the balloons, I could hear Chet's voice; I could hear his laughter and smell his aftershave. I could still feel his arms around me as we twirled in that field. I could see him, clear as a bell, as he wiped foamy droplets of champagne and Pepsi from his glasses. He didn't die. He'll never die as long as his memory lives inside of me.
     Driving through Plainville, heading home, I pulled into a Dunkin' Donuts. It was only 7:15 and I needed more coffee. As I walked across the parking lot, I spotted six balloons off in the distance. I stopped for a few moments to watch as they soared across Hartford County, just below the clouds. I imagined Chet standing right behind those clouds, looking down on me and looking down on those balloons... and I hoped -- no, I knew -- that Chet was feeling the warm glow of Dragon Breath on his face. I smiled.
     Deciding against my usual "Medium coffee, extra light with one sugar" order at the counter, I went to the refrigerator, instead, and pulled out a cold bottle. I paid for it, tossed my change into the TIPS cup and walked out. As soon as the door swung shut behind me, I unscrewed the cap and shoved it in my pocket. When I reached the middle of the parking lot, I stopped and turned to face the balloons. With my thumb firmly covering the top of the bottle, I began to shake it as hard as I could. I aimed the bottle towards the balloons and released my thumb. Foam from the Pepsi bottle shot fifteen feet in the air!
     Cheers, Chet! This one's for you....

ENTRY #592
DATE:  08/16/17 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  Anniversary of THE KING's Death...

     Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8th, 1935.
     Elvis Aaron Presley died on August 16th, 1977.
     He was 42 years old when he died.
     He's been dead for FORTY years, today. If he had lived, he would've been 82 years old now. Wow! Imagine that -- Elvis at 82. Out of curiosity, I just asked Google If Elvis Presley was still alive what would he look like now? This is what was offered at the top of Google's search results...

     [*shrug*] Yeah, I can see that. It's pretty realistic, as far as I'm concerned. That particular image came from the ABC Network's facebook page. Apparently, two years ago, they actually hired a professional "Age Progression artist" to render a likeness of Elvis at 80.
     LOL, and to take this a step further, I wonder what kind of music he'd be making today? Unfortunately, though, that's a query the folks at Google can't answer. Hell, who could? With today's music being as diverse as it is, the possibilities are endless, I guess. Would he be crooning out duets alongside Tony Bennett? Would he have chosen to go more hard-core, perhaps jamming with Ozzy Osbourne? Would he have decided to age gracefully in the genres of American Standards and Broadway Show Tunes, possibly teaming up with Michael Buble or Diana Krall? And what about Country? Would he be cranking out hit records surrounded by Reba, Toby Keith, Gretchen Wilson, and Alan Jackson as his peers? Would he have returned to his southern roots in Gospel music? And, don't laugh, but... what about Rap? Would he have collaborated on an album with Will Smith or maybe Snoop Dog? Hey, I said, "Don't laugh!" I look at it this way.... if Snoop Dog and Martha Stewart can team up to create a Reality TV show, then anything is possible, right? I wonder...
     I wonder who would inspire Elvis. If Elvis was alive right now, who would he be influenced by? Who would he enjoy listening to on his MP3 Player? Justin Bieber? Lady Gaga? Big Freedia? Miley Cyrus? Justin Timberlake? Kanye West? Meghan Trainor? LOL, who knows...
     In light of today being the anniversary of his death, I stopped at the gourmet donut shop,
Donut Crazy, on the way home from work and ordered myself a FAT ELVIS. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of sinking your teeth into a FAT ELVIS, here's exactly what you're missing...

     ...it's a Banana Cream-filled donut, topped with peanut butter, fresh banana slices, crumbled bits of bacon, delicately drizzled with chocolate fudge! It's not just a donut, folks.... it's an EXPERIENCE, trust me!
     As I sat in the truck, bouncing around to Jailhouse Rock playing on the radio, munching on my FAT ELVIS -- and, yes, now that I've just typed those words, I do realize how obscene it sounds, LOL -- all of these Elvis TODAY thoughts were swirling around in my head...
     Anyway, that's about it. I just wanted to share my donut-munching ponderings with you all. Good night and have a good evening...
     Elvis has left the building!

ENTRY #591
DATE:  08/12/17 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  One Fine Day...

     Woke up at the crack of dawn this morning, ready for a fun-filled day with my Best Buddy, Adrienne!
     I pulled up in front of her house promptly at 7:00am and off we went to spend the day in Worthington, MA with my folks "Mama Jane" and "Papa Joe." We pulled into their driveway at 9:30 and at precisely 9:34 we were lovingly mauled by Bailey, my Mom's not-so-tiny-anymore puppy.
     Lunch, served up from Mama Jane's own Grill n' Garden Kitchen [as I like to call it], included hamburgers sizzling-hot off the grill and topped with Mom's homemade pickle Relish, a bowl brimming with sun-sweetened cherry tomatoes she had just picked from the garden earlier that morning, and a side of Papa Joe's chilled, pickled eggs! Dessert was chocolate brownies smothered under a generous scoop of MooseTracks ice-cream. Good stuff! YUMS all across the board!
     Around three o'clock, my Mom's neighbor, Carol-Ann, showed up with her dog, Milo. At that point, the real festivities began out in the yard. PUPPY POWER to the nth degree!

     After a solid hour of watching the dogs drool and romp all over each other, an exhausted Milo finally went home; Bailey crashed in her crate for a nap; Papa Joe retired to the living room where he sat, grumbling, in front of CNN for the rest of the evening; and Adrienne, Mama Jane and I settled down around the kitchen table, sipping on Raspberry SMIROFF ICE Vodka Coolers, chatting the afternoon away... which, I must add, produced numerous hysterical fits of laughter!
     We hit the road to head home at 8:00pm, our original plans including a road-side stop for dinner somewhere along the way. However, LOL, between the dogs, the booze, the laughter, and all the fresh, country air, we both realized we were just too wiped out to eat another meal. I dropped Adrienne off at her house and, by 10:30, I was on my couch, in my pajamas, with a book... as my two cats circled me like sharks trying to identify the alien smell of DOG.
     It was one fine day!

ENTRY #590
DATE:  08/10/17 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  The Greatest Voice of ALL TIME...

....Susan Boyle....

     In 2009, Susan Boyle walked onto the stage during Britain's Got Talent and was immediately ridiculed by the audience - as well as the Judges on the panel - based solely on her appearance. That totally pissed me off. So much for not judging a book by it's cover, eh? Just because she wasn't wearing make-up, or because her hair wasn't professionally done, or because she was a little over weight, people automatically assumed her performance would be laughable. To this day, whenever I watch the clips on YouTube of her audition (when she sang "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Mis), I still find myself wanting to slap Simon Cowell right across the face when I see him roll his eyes at her during the Q&A segment [before she sang].
     I am so glad I can honestly say that I was NOT one of the people who [mis]judged her. The thing is, if all those people had been paying attention - like I was - they would've noticed how melodic her speaking voice was when she was answering all of Simon's questions. Granted, I wasn't positive, but after hearing her speak, I had suspected that she could probably sing fairly well. Although, even with that being said, I was - in no way - prepared for what we all heard that night. I had no idea that when she opened her mouth a chorus of Angels was going to come out! She totally blew me away! I remember my reaction being very similar to the Judges... my jaw dropped open, my eyes widened, my entire body broke out in goose-bumps and tears came to my eyes!
     To say Susan Boyle has talent is an understatement. Susan Boyle has a GIFT. She's definitely been blessed with that voice of hers, BIG TIME!!! And when she actually lost that competition - to a dance crew - I was appalled. Yeah, the dance crew was good, I'll give them that... but they definitely weren't good enough, in my book, to win over Susan's performance.
     Diversity is the name of the dance crew who won. And, NO, I didn't remember their name after all this time... I had to look it up! That, alone, speaks volumes, doesn't it? Where are they now? was the next question I asked Google. LOL, apparently, they're making fitness videos now. Or they were, at some point. However, it appears they have since broken up, which makes sense, I guess, considering most dance crews usually do; once the members get older they tend to go their separate ways.
     Where's Susan Boyle nowadays, though? LOL, that's why I'm writing this right now. I just got home from FYE (a store at my local Mall -- it's short for For Your Entertainment) after purchasing Susan's latest CD, A Wonderful World. It was released in October of 2016 but I put off buying it because I thought it was another collection of Christmas music. As soon as I found out I was mistaken, I headed straight to the Mall to pick it up! It's her SEVENTH album. I now own four of them and I'm currently on the hunt for the other three. She's definitely made a name for herself and her voice is one that will stand the test of time. She's known the world over, very unlike Diversity, that little rinky-dink dance crew!
     I just ripped A Wonderful World onto my computer and synced it to my MP3 player. It's a fabulous collection of music and her voice is flawless. She still blows me away just like that very first night on Britain's Got Talent. I really do believe she's got the greatest voice OF ALL TIME. I think she's even better than Barbra Streisand... and considering I have 50+ Streisand CDs in my music collection, that says A LOT! There's absolutely no comparison between the two -- Susan Boyle is WAY BETTER than Streisand ever was, hands down!
     There are four videos on YouTube that I've had stored in "My Favorites" for years. I've watched them all numerous times and they still give me goose-bumps every time...

Susan Boyle - Britains Got Talent 2009 Episode 1 - Saturday 11th April

Susan Boyle - Memory - Semifinal BGT FULL VERSION

Susan Boyle sings Wild Horses on America's Got Talent 2009

Susan Boyle sings 'You Raise Me Up' on TODAY Oct 2, 2014

     No matter what the rest of the world first thought when they saw Susan Boyle take the stage on Britain's Got Talent, I thought she was adorable back then; and, eight years later, now that she's blossomed into "Who She Was Born to Be," she's climbed to the top of my personal Favorite People list. She's remained down-to-earth and her natural quirkiness is still intact. I love that about her. She had a dream... and her faith, her inner-strength, her passion, and her dedication made her able to achieve it. She's awesome, through and through! Definitely role model material!
     You go, girl!!!

ENTRY #589
DATE:  08/04/17 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  Lip Care Products: Stop the Madness!!!

     I just went from room to room throughout this apartment of mine and gathered together all my lip-care products. There are 51 of them shown in this photograph. However, there are 7 more not shown (there's one out in the truck; there's six in my purse) making the Grand Total a whopping 58...
     This madness has got to stop! What the hell?! I've only got TWO lips. Why on earth do I need 58 tubes of lip-care stuff??? Good grief!
     LOL, I just threw out 26 of them but that still leaves me with 32. I refuse to get rid of any more than that 'cause 95% of the ones remaining are practically brand new.
     MENTAL NOTE TO SELF: Stop buying this crap!!! Oy!

ENTRY #588
DATE:  08/01/17 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  The "Four Days with The Friar" Entry is FINALLY uploaded!!!!!


     The Four Days with The Friar entry has FINALLY been completed and uploaded!!! This is the one about my FIRST trip to Hamburg, NY to visit him at the end of April. So... scroll back to the first of May, ENTRY #560, to read all about it.
     Um... it's a long one too!!! At 17,000+ words, I think it sets the Record for the Longest Entry on The Dish (so far!). It ended up being much longer than I had planned but, once I got started, I just couldn't stop, LOL.
     Years ago, when The Friar was living in Brooklyn, I took the train into Grand Central and he picked me up there, then drove me back to Brooklyn so I could spend the day with him. That was twenty (???) years ago... and now, today, The Friar and I both struggle to remember what we did that day. Well, that will never be the case with this visit to Hamburg since I've recorded just about every single moment of the weekend, LOL. I tried to include every detail I could so I'd never forget.....
     Anyway, just thought I'd let y'all know it's FINALLY uploaded. So, when you've got some time to spare, brew a pot of coffee and read for a while. I hope you enjoy it!
     Now I have to get started on the next Epic Entry about my second trip to Hamburg! Hopefully it won't take me three months like this one did, LOL.
     Ciao for now...

ENTRY #587
DATE:  07/29/17 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Palindromes are Cool...

     So I'm reading this book called PALINDROME by Stuart Woods. It's fiction (obviously!) and has absolutely nothing to do with words that are spelled the same forwards and backwards but that's all I've been able to think about since I started reading this book, LOL. While reading, I've been keeping a list of palindromes as they've been coming to me. I'm sure there are probably thousands, but this is the list I've come up with off the top of my head. I've also included some palindrome phrases and sentences at the bottom that I remembered from grammar school...
     Again, as I've mentioned before -- I am a big NERD -- and the fact that I've actually taken the time to make a list proves it, LOL!

Three Letters:
Bib - Dad - Did - Dud - Eke - Ere
Ewe - Eye - Gag - Mom - Nun - Pep
Pop - Pup - Tat - Tot - Wow - Yay...

Four Letters:
Boob - Deed - Kook - Noon - Peep - Poop - Sees - Toot...

Five Letters:
Civic - Dewed - Kayak - Level - Madam - Radar
Refer - Rotor - Sagas - Sexes - Solos - Stats - Torot...

Six Letters:
Denned - Marram - Redder - Succus - Tallat...

Seven Letters:
Deified - Murdrum - Racecar - Repaper - Reviver - Rotator...

And some weird phrases/sentences:
A man, a plan, a canal; Panama.
A Toyota's a Toyota.
Dammit, I'm mad!
Do geese see God?
Live not on evil.
Ma is as selfless as I am.
No devil lived on.
Step on no pets.
Too hot to hoot.
Was it a rat I saw?

ENTRY #586
DATE:  07/26/17 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  Ten Little Piggies enjoy the Summertime!

     Even though I have 100+ pair of socks (why, I still don't know!), I spend 99.9 percent of the summertime barefoot! Ayuh, the socks actually come OFF, the sandals are dug out'a the closet, the nail polish is shaken (not stirred!), and the pedicure begins!
     I sand, I scrape, I chisel, I file, and I buff away a year's worth of calluses and corns! It's too bad the Black & Decker and Craftsman Tool companies don't have a line of Foot Care products, LOL, 'cause they'd make a fortune! Then a vat of skin-softening and moisturizing lotion is massaged in... and, finally, by the time I'm done, Voilà!, I've got brand new feet!!!
     I'd go to WORK barefoot if I could but, since my shop is industrial, the folks at OSHA tend to frown on that. A nanosecond after I walk in my door, though, all ten little piggies are set free as the shoes and socks come off. Hell, sometimes they're off during the commute home, LOL.
     Whether it's hot pavement, crunchy gravel, warm sand, dewy grass, cool linoleum, plush carpet, or smooth hardwood I'm [bare]foot-loose and fancy free all summer long!

ENTRY #585
DATE:  07/23/17 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  A Bumble Bee Named Jasper...

     As a child - with my grandfather's guidance - I began a coin collection (which I still have today). I was a Book Worm beginning at a very early age (which I still am today). I've also mentioned that, as a child, I was into insects (my favorite being the Praying Mantis) and yes, even today, I still greatly admire the Mantis. It's the coolest bug, ever! And, of course, my childhood hobby of photography has blossomed as I've gotten older. So, yeah, I was - and still am - a big nerd.
     To cement my footings even deeper into the Kingdom of Nerd, I was a Rock Hound too. Oh yes, Rock Tumbler and all, including the polishing Grit in all gradients from "rough" to "fine" to ensure the proper sheen of each rock specimen in my collection. (Ayuh, NERD with a capital N, lol!)
     My love for "rocks" still exists - in a way - but it's now geared more towards the world of gemstones and jewelry. I owe most of my newly acquired rock knowledge to my friend, Adrienne, who's been crafting hand-made jewelry for almost two decades.
     Turquoise, Topaz, Opals, Garnets and Amethyst are some of my favorites, along with Quartz, Agate, and Hematite... but the world of Jasper has kept me intrigued for years as well. "Picture Jasper" and "Leopard Skin Jasper" are two [out of my Top Three] favs! They're both gorgeous!
     Now, if you read the subject line for this entry, you might be wondering what all this has to do with a bumble bee named Jasper, LOL. My third Top Three pick in the Jasper family is one called "BUMBLE BEE Jasper." Here's what it looks like, along with a chunk of Amethyst...

     Those two rocks, combined with my interest in photography - macro shots of flowers, in particular - is how I came to take this photo yesterday afternoon...

     I followed that darn bee around that bush for about twenty minutes in order to get that shot. The colors of the bee and the flowers automatically made me think of Amethyst and Bumble Bee Jasper....
     Um, have I mentioned what a big nerd I am??? ;-)
     Oh, and in case you're wondering, here's what the other two Jaspers look like...

ENTRY #584
DATE:  07/22/17 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  "Patriotic Velvet" - Another BUCKin' photograph...

     Just took this shot of a young buck in Gate of Heaven Cemetery up in Trumbull as he struck a patriotic pose amid the flags left at graveside for Independence Day.
     Since it's only mid-July, his antlers are still coated in velvet. Once his testosterone levels increase come September - just in time for rutting season - he'll shine himself up a bit by rubbing the velvet off (using tree-bark and branches) to impress all the ladies!
     Would've been a beautiful photo if it wasn't for that damn trash-can in the background! Next time I'll have to ask him to pose elsewhere...

ENTRY #583
DATE:  07/16/17 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  An Abalone Butterfly...

     Here's a few facts about me:  I own many different rings. They're my favorite pieces of jewelry to wear. I have a couple that are set in 14k-gold but my preference is actually sterling silver. I also love gems that are multicolored, whether it's a gem-stone (like Mystic Topaz, Ethiopian Opal, and Tiger's Eye) or a gem-shell (like Abalone, Mother of Pearl, and Lion's Paw).

Now, consider this...

     According to the Rainbow Doorways web site, Abalone shells "have a strong elemental bond with the Earth and it's healing capabilities. Abalone is closely connected to that of the Water element and the vibrations of Love, Beauty, Gentleness, Compassion and Peace. It was used by Native American Indians for cleansing, offerings, and prayers."

     Also, according to the Ask-Angels web site, butterflies, considered power animals, "are magical and cherished. They represent spiritual rebirth, transformation, creativity, endless potential, vibrant joy, change, ascension, and the ability to experience the wonder(s) of life."

     Interesting, eh? Yeah, that's what I thought too.

     Soooo..... today, while browsing through the shops at Nature's Art, when I actually stumbled upon an "Abalone Butterfly" ring set in sterling silver [after my recent experience at the Butterfly Conservatory with The Friar], there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to leave the store without this perfect little talisman in my possession!

ENTRY #582
DATE:  07/14/17 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  50 entries have been archived...

     Oy! I've been sitting here for almost five hours working on this site. This page had become rather long so I just archived FIFTY entries to pages of their own. As always, you can find them all at the bottom of this page under the appropriate links.... OR you can find them by clicking the "COMPLETE INDEX" link at the top of this page.
     Now that my back is aching and my butt is numb from sitting here so long, I'm off to bed...
     Nighty night.

ENTRY #581
DATE:  07/12/17 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  Coffee Talk...

   "I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I might be awake." - Lewis Black.

  "Once you wake up and smell the coffee, it's hard to go back to sleep." - Fran Drescher

  "Coffee is a language in itself." - Jackie Chan

  "To me, the smell of fresh-made coffee is one of the greatest inventions." - Hugh Jackman

  "I am a coffee fanatic. Once you go to proper coffee, you can't go back. You cannot go back!" - Hugh Laurie

  "People don't stop eating; and they don't stop drinking coffee." - Magic Johnson

  "Coffee and smoking are the last great addictions." - Lara Flynn Boyle

  "I don't know how people live without coffee, I really don't." - Martha Quinn

  "Without my morning coffee, I'm just a dried up piece of roast goat." - Johann Sebastian Bach

  "If it wasn't for the coffee, I'd have no identifiable personality whatsoever." - David Letterman

  "I never laugh until I've had my coffee." - Clark Gable

  "Coffee! It's not just a beverage. It's a food group!" - Dove

ENTRY #580
DATE:  07/08/17 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Just some random stuff...

1.  Got an email from my Mom today, including a new picture of Bailey. She successfully moved the picture from the camera to the computer, resized it, and emailed it. Good for her! She also mentioned that she laminated my instructions for safe keeping, LOL!
2.  Got a package in the mail today from The Friar. He sent me a DVD with all the pictures from our weekend on it, along with a little note-card he made. It's awesome! I sat and looked at all the pics again and thoroughly enjoyed them! Then I went out for a drive, listening to Jimmy Sturr's polka music on my MP3 player... and it's just not as much fun without The Friar sitting in my passenger seat singing along! I miss him already. I don't plan on heading out that way again 'til Spring. It's gonna be a long wait, that's for sure!
3.  The AC/Vent in JEEP ROMULUS is still working perfectly. I guess the Jeep Service Guys were right - it was just a one-time thing, thank goodness!
4.  I only have one more day left of my vacation. Tomorrow is it, then it's back to work on Monday. All good things must come to an end. Dunno what I'm doing tomorrow. I think I'll just lounge around in my pajamas, resting up for Monday, we'll see. I should read all day. I haven't read a thing all week long!
5.  After some research, Steve and I finally located that incredible wine The Friar and I discovered at the Glen Iris Inn. It comes from a little winery/vineyard in Naples, New York. I sent them an email to see if they distribute it anywhere in Connecticut but I haven't heard back yet. I'll give them a few more days and, if I don't hear anything, I'll just place an order through them directly and have it shipped to me, I guess.
     That's about it, for now. Can't think of much else to mention. Ciao for now!

ENTRY #579
DATE:  07/07/17 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  National Macaroni Day!

     Ayuh, you read that subject line correctly -- today is National Macaroni Day! For other fun/interesting days of the year, check out the National Day Calendar web site for a month-by-month listing of [over] 1500 National Days!
     Anyway, being that today is National Macaroni Day, I decided to head over to Mac n' Out in Milford for some yummy Mac n' Cheese take-out to bring home. Um... big mistake! The place was packed! With adults. With teen-agers. And, unfortunately, with children ranging in age from, my best guess, three to about eight years old.
     Now, I don't mind children - usually - as long as they're well behaved. Mind you, I come from an era where if I dared to act up in public, my parents wouldn't hesitate to give me a good whacking, no matter who was watching. Today, though, a lot of people consider that "abuse" and will actually issue a threat to call Child Services on the reprimanding adult. Which means today's parents have little (if any) Power over their children when they're out in public. That, in turn, means that the rest of us - and by "us" I mean people like me who chose to remain childless - are forced to deal with unruly, ill-mannered, snot-nosed little petri-dishes who insist on screaming and running amok with no discipline whatsoever, while their parents totally ignore them, choosing - instead - to bury their faces behind their cell phones, no doubt complaining about their Spawn-of-Satan kids on Facebook! And if they're NOT complaining, they SHOULD be!
     Regardless, I was dead-set on getting some Mac n' Cheese for dinner so I placed my To-Go order and took a seat to wait while the Zoo-like chaos continued to erupt all around me. My god, it was twenty minutes of HELL. The disgust on my face was evident, I take it, because one woman (apparently the mother of at least two of the monsters) managed to peel her eyes away from her cell phone long enough to leer at me, of all people, as if I was the one screaming at the top of my lungs and jumping up and down in the booth-seats. I tried to offer her a sympathetic grin to show her I felt her pain. It was not well received. With a cold sneer, this woman actually had the audacity to demand "What's your problem?!?!?"
     "Me?", I said, "I don't have kids -- I have no problem! You, on the other hand, well, that's quite clear isn't it?"
     As you can imagine, that wasn't received well either, LOL, and she grabbed her brats and stormed out. All the while I'm thinking, Have a good day, Bitch! Good riddance to you and your little Cretins! Next time you come here, lock those bastards in the trunk, will ya?
     Anyway, the Hostess finally brought my order over to me and apologized profusely. She was rather frazzled from it all herself so I told her not to worry about it, it was no big deal. I grabbed up my order and went out to the truck. As soon as I shut my door, I reveled in the heaven-sent silence JEEP ROMULUS' closed cabin offered! I didn't even turn on the radio. I drove in silence all the way home, basking in it all the way!
     By the time I arrived home I was laughing over the whole ordeal...
     Macaroni? GOOD!
     Cheese? GOOD!
     Silence? GOOD!
     Cats over kids? Double GOOD!
     And I also learned something today.... I now fully understand why there are some species on this planet that actually EAT their young!

ENTRY #578
DATE:  07/06/17 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  A Visit with Mom...

     Left my house this morning at 7:00am for Worthington, MA. I had forgotten that it's THURSDAY and I ended up getting stuck in rush-hour traffic going through the Long Wharf area all the way to the I-95/I-91 split. Hit more traffic in Hartford... then even more going through Springfield, MA. Good grief. I finally made it to my Mom's at 10:30.
     Bailey, the new puppy, is - indeed - a handful! I brought my camera to get some new pictures of her but - alas! - that was an impossibility since she doesn't hold still for longer than 1.03 seconds at a time! She's nearly doubled in size since the last time I saw her but, even still, she's far from fully grown. She's smart as a whip too! She knows what SIT and DOWN both mean. She's still working on NO BITE and OFF though. And the COME command goes right out the window once she hits the perimeter of the woods that surround my Mom's yard. There's just too many tempting smells that draw her attention and she doesn't hear the word COME at all, LOL. However, the phrases WHO WANTS A COOKIE? and WHO'S HUNGRY? seem to work rather well in luring her out of the woods; as soon as she hears either one of those, she comes charging at you fast as a bullet! She's a little stomach with legs, it seems, and she loves her food!!!
     Once Bailey was put to bed, Mom and I hit the computer! I showed her all the photos I took during my visit with The Friar. She loved them all! Then, as predicted, she put me to work. I showed her, once again, how to move photos from her camera to the computer; then I typed up step-by-step directions for her and printed them out. When that was done, I made her sit down and follow those instructions to make sure they were clear enough for her to follow. With no help from me, she did it all on her own. Then I showed her how to resize the photos so they're not poster-sized files when it comes time to email them to her friends. I typed up those step-by-step instructions and printed them out as well. And, again, I made her sit down to try it all by herself. She passed with flying colors! COOL!!!
     We made/ate dinner and I hit the road at 8:00pm, making it home by 10:15. It was a nice day. No photos at all, but that's OK... there's always next time!

ENTRY #577
DATE:  07/04/17 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  My 2nd Trip to Hamburg! (Entry Coming Soon!!!)

This entry is currently
LOL, I have no idea when this one will be done since I'm still working
on the one covering my first trip out to see The Friar in April.
It was another fantastic weekend, I will say that (for now)! We did a TON of cool stuff...
The Albright-Knox Art Gallery!
Hidden Valley Animal Adventure!
Letchworth State Park!
We discovered an AMAZING wine at the Glen Iris Inn!
The Butterfly Conservatory in Ontario!
And I came home with almost a THOUSAND photos (between both our cameras)
so that's gonna keep me busy for weeks, I'm sure.

     Out of the 300+ photographs taken with my camera, there are two SPECTACULAR shots I must share right away. But first, allow me to set the stage for this first one...
     I've recently found this quote by child psychologist, Karen Stephens:

"Children are born eager to learn. Curious by nature, you can't
keep them from exploring as they try to comprehend their environment.
Everything is a wonder!"

     The truth behind that quote was confirmed as Marcel and I roamed around in the Butterfly Conservatory (which contains over 2000 butterflies -- 400 species collected from around the globe). We sat for a few minutes to relax as the butterflies gracefully soared and fluttered around us. I got up to take a few shots of a particular butterfly that had landed a few feet away. When I turned around to take my seat again, I immediately stopped in my tracks. The expressions of curiosity and wonder on Marcel's face were priceless. I stood for a few seconds, in my own silent awe, as I watched him. He had transformed - right before my very eyes - into a small child. The beauty of that was so captivating it, literally, took my breath right away. I froze, not wanting to disrupt the moment, until my brain finally said, "Hey, wake up, you need to record this, get that camera going!" I shot a short video of him, then quickly switched over to still photos...
     As we walked across the parking lot, heading to the Jeep, I couldn't contain my excitement. Still a little breathless I said, "That was awesome! I can't believe you! You actually morphed into a little kid! I saw you! You looked just like a 10-year-old little boy in there! That was amazing!"
     At first, he kind'a chuckled my comments away, as if to say That's impossible! This old face could never look young again! A few moments later though - once my words had a chance to sink in a little - he smiled at me and said, "Y'know, that's... that's actually a great compliment!"
     It wasn't meant as a compliment, really..... it was simply the truth of the moment. Through the years, I've come to learn that the TRUTH can rarely - if ever - escape the lens of a camera. And here's the proof...

     This second photograph doesn't need much set-up. It was taken after our 12-HOUR excursion(s) to Hidden Valley Animal Adventure Park and Letchworth State Park (aka The Grand Canyon of the Northeast) -- both falling under the category of GOD's COUNTRY.
     As we cruised on down the highway, entering Hamburg once again, God decided to share even more of His handiwork with us, using the sky as His canvas...

     I will write extensively (I'm sure, LOL) about the ENTIRE weekend but - for now - I just HAD to share those two remarkable photos! Please be sure to visit again to read about my adventures with The Friar! (Hopefully it won't take months for me to write it down. Wish me luck!)
     Ciao for now!

ENTRY #576
DATE:  06/30/17 (Friday)

     It's official! I AM ON VACATION!!! No work for me 'til July 10th!
     I've just finished the list of things I mentioned in last night's entry... and it's late. I have to get to bed 'cause 3:00am comes awful early around here.
     Nighty night!!!

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