Tarmac ribbons criss-crossing the landscape, dusty back roads twisting between the cool shadows of ancient pines, and less traveled pathways connecting present to past, all I wander, seeking, seeing, with my keyboard and camera capturing scenes and stories to share with you.

Now in its seventh year, this venue has become an important part of my life, a place where I can express my thoughts and feelings about the things I see and do, hoping the process brings me a bit closer to friends and family who enjoy sharing my sometimes chaotic and often nonlinear observations and ideas. A journal, I suppose, but one with which I find pleasure in thinking others are alongside me on my journey.

Comments, thoughts, or just a friendly chat, use the response box below or email me at patrickgroleau@gmail.com.

April 12, 2012

ON THE ROAD - "OH, THE HUMANITY"


... the final stop on our itinerary was a visit with adrien's uncle philip, who lives next door to mcguire air force base in new jersey ... retired from the u.s.a.f. after serving america for almost 10,000 hours flying in a c-141 starlifter, he is now the manager of a firm that provides services for the military ... what services ... near as i can tell, they get stuff, big honking expensive things, pile 'em up, then arrange to have them delivered to all sorts of strange faraway places* ... phil's office is inside "hanger number one," which once enclosed mighty dirigibles, one of which was the ill-fated hindenberg ...

*if i'm way off, phil, just drop me the corrected description



... phil drove us into the hanger to see where he works ...


... it is difficult to convey the scale of this building ... if you parked the titanic inside of it you'd still have unused floor space ... each half-door ways over 1,300 tons, more than a world war one navy destroyer ... it is almost eight-hundred feet from where i stood taking this picture to the other end of the building ... there is over 210,000 square feet of clear floor area ... simply, it is gianourmous ...

... we got to play around with the machines and examine all sorts of wonderful toys, then, after warning us about "looking down" and "stepping on rotten boards," phil led us on our ascent of the huge structure ...


... it's obviously been some time since the hanger was painted, hopefully someone will find funds to spruce it up a bit for it's one-hundreth anniversary, which is fast approaching ...


... how large, you ask ... well, sitting on the floor of the hanger, used for training purposes, is a 1/4-sized aircraft carrier ... !!! ... look closely and you'll spy the tail of a phantom jet fighter parked on hanger's spark proof floor ...


... adrien and her cousin, at the top ... hillary and norgay, finally astride the summit of everest, could've been no prouder, and, i imagine, equally winded ...


... portable building air conditioners, pallets of "meals ready to eat," tents big enough to do a baptist revival minister proud, these are some of the things philip "makes arrangements" for ... large air-tight aluminum "shipping containers," too, with the word "head" stenciled at one end ... how efficient, how practical, how sad, because, when all is done and said and written, that's all it's ever really about ...

... we shared a delightful but far-too-short visit with phil and his family, then, leaving jon at the air base to connect up with some work he had been assigned while we were on the road, adrien and i completed our little road trip with a leisurely drive to rhode island, arriving just in time for a most excellent easter supper ... after that it was back to new hampshire for her, then on to maine for me ... fifteen days, 4,985 miles ... what great fun ...


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ON THE ROAD - "REACHED OUT MY HAND"


... this is just one section of the national air and space museum's steven f. udvar-hazy center at dulles international airport outside of washington d.c. ... truthfully, after countless visits to the air and space museum on the mall, and considering that at the beginning of trip i'd made another pilgrimage to the united states air force museum at wright-patterson a.f.b. in dayton, i fully expected our stop here to be rather anticlimactic ... instead, i was wonderfully surprised to find this extensive assemblage of flying machines to be both informative and excitingly entertaining ... the highest praise i can give it is that upon leaving i accepted it is going be many, many more visits before i can even begin to fully appreciate the size, scale and scope of this collection ...



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ON THE ROAD - LET'S GO FISHIN', PA


... another result of adrien and jon's excellent navigation, we ended up in ... hmmm, well, in a state someplace between georgia and virginia, i wasn't paying attention ... it seems that andy griffith has not only a "childhood home" (sign read:  "quiet, please, guests are living in the house"), a museum, a theater, but there is also a really nice statue honoring the man who portrayed the small-town sheriff who is still one of the top-ten all-time-great television/movie dads ... (atticus, as far as i'm concerned, still heads the list) ...


... to top off our visit, due to the most delightful way history has of twisting together lives, events, and places, next door to andy's shrine is the "siamese twin" museum, an entire room devoted to the lives of chang and eng bunker ... (how odd, that in their birthplace, siam, due to the fact that their father was thai-chinese and their mother was chinese-malay they were known as the "chinese twins") ... after touring with the circus, they settled in the south, where they owned slaves, were well respected as honorable businessmen, fathered twenty-one children, and lived to what was then the senior citizen age of sixty-three years ...


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ON THE ROAD - IT'S THE REAL THING


... in atlanta we visited the coke-cola headquarters ... enjoyable, in a touristy sort of way, especially all the hype about the "secret formula" ... of course, there was no mention of what was originally coke's "active" ingredient ... the "tasting room" was quite fun, even if it did end up costing me a supper after i lost the bet that jon would swig down a full glass of what has to be the most absolutely horrible soft drink in the world, some sort of italian beverage that tastes like quinine water laced with black pepper ...


... adrien, it seems, was deeply moved by the whole experience ...


... we had a good time visiting stone mountain ... the park is wonderful, a place where city people can bring their children for repeated excursions to enjoy the outdoors ... while the mountain is clearly not as advertised, "the largest exposed piece of granite in the world," the towering carving of jefferson davis, robert e. lee, and stonewall jackson, which took forty-nine years to complete, is the world's largest bas relief sculpture ... while this tremendous artistic effort was conceived as a monument to the confederacy, and in great part funded with the support of the kkk, it is a sign of the progress our nation struggles to maintain that all sorts of colors of people seem to have no problem mingling together on the great lawn below the carving, snacking from picnic baskets and playing catch with their children as they all await the nightly laser show ... as for the klan, it seems that it's been thirty years since they gathered to do their thing on the top of the mountain ... 


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ON THE ROAD - I NEED AN ORANGE



... new orleans to atlanta turned out to being our "too-long-crammed-together-in-a-car" day ... this, plus the fact that i was heading into a total hay-fever-nasty-germ exploding brain cold, so i let adrien and jon take over the trip while i curled up in the back seat and practiced my road napping skills ... i awoke to find that the two of them had abandoned the interstate in search of florida, which, according to their calculations, was someplace nearby right alongside the road ... broken tarmac lanes, plus a few red dirt paths along which i could hear distinctly the sounds of dueling banjos, but in the end we snuck a few feet into florida so that adrien could mark off yet another state ... luckily, the tornadoes which seemed to only a few hours behind us gave up the chase and we enjoyed nice weather in "the sunshine state" ...


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ON THE ROAD - WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE


... in new orleans we visited the world war 2 museum ... for what it is it's a very informative offering, but i think it's mostly a "tom hanks' 'band of brothers' and 'pacific' museum" ... i'll reserve judgement, however, since the current building is merely a temporary presentation meant to fill the time until a couple of years from now when the huge multiple city block sized structure is completed and open for business ... we also strolled the streets of the french quarter ... adrien was enthusiastic, but i have to admit that neither jon nor i found much enjoyment in pushing through the hordes of "final four" fans which were clogging the sidewalks ... 

... we left new orleans via the lake pontchartrain causeway, at 23.79 miles the "world's longest bridge continuously over water" ... the newer of the spans is 45 feet longer than the original ... me, if i'd been the one to design the thing i'd have taken the time to make them come out even ... no place to stop, so adrien hung out the window to snap a picture ...

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April 11, 2012

ON THE ROAD - ALONG THE LEVEE

... while in baton rouge we arranged for a tour of "laura," the creole plantation where colorful west african oral tradition stories were recorded by joel chandler harris as the "uncle remus" tales ... the tour was wonderful, especially due to our charming guide who kept everything light and humerous, until we gathered in the slave quarters, that is, where she made it quite clear that "in regards to slavery the creole plantations were like any other ... there was no such thing as 'better' slavery" ...


... laura's history was fascination, especially the powerful and commanding role that woman assumed in creole life ... "business is family and family is business" ... the house and grounds were beautiful, peaceful, possessing a certain serenity that seemed almost to be saying, "here, you need no clocks or watches," but, still ...


... still, i couldn't get it out of my mind that i clearly recall from my childhood the death of the last black american who was born into slavery ... with that thought, this cabin seemed incredibly dark, and i could feel the presence of those for whom the blue sky outside meant just another brutal day in the fields, and the distant horizon was a dream they struggled to keep alive in the verse of their soulful music ...


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ON THE ROAD - FAREWELL KINGFISH


... we had a pleasant visit with my uncle keith and his family in baton rouge ... while there we visited the state capital building, which is so tall jon had to stretch a bit in order to get in the picture ... inside the building we examined the numerous bullet holes made by the machine gun bullets that huey long's bodyguards fired at the assassin after he had done his deadly deed ... (or, according to some, in order to have a convenient patsy for a much more complex plot) ...


... we only had a few minutes, but from the top of the building we enjoyed the view of the baton rouge ... somewhere in the center of this picture, just to the right of the oil refineries, is the little house in which i lived for a year while my dad was stationed alone overseas ...



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ON THE ROAD - BIG LIZARDS

... on the way to baton rouge we wandered a bit along some back roads, one of which i've a haze of childhood memories ... we ate some really good fried chicken fingers, and, being from a state where the snow was still falling, enjoyed watching the bass fisherman casting into the bayous and streams ... then, per our mission philosophy that "there's no such thing as too hokey to stop and see," we visited the alligator farm ... it was fabulous ... if anything, i learned that dull, sluggard, lazy reptiles can move astonishingly fast when a chicken leg is dangled above their heads ...


... almost as exciting, adrien did a good job of managing her aversion to any and all feathered creatures by almost touching a giant emu ...


... since i enjoyed the alligators so much, i decided to give them a second go around ...


... mmmmmmm ... and, of course, it's clear that the alligators liked jon and adrien ...


... on the way out we tried to avoid purchasing any souvenirs ...


... and in the parking lot we made a point of avoiding anyone who had ...


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ON THE ROAD - REMEMBERING

... i was in the seventh-grade in bellevue, nebraska ... it was after lunch, and my "core" (english/history/literature)  teacher had just put us to the task of diagraming a few of our english textbook's rather complex sentence examples ... i detested diagraming, thinking then, as i do now, that the whole exercise was the invention of someone who truly hated writing and wanted to instill that value in others ... i wasn't about to let my teacher know this, since my great respect for him was in no small part based upon my dread of the impact his gold service ring could make against the back of my skull ... in the afternoon, once my peanut butter and jelly sandwich had settled nicely into the bottom of my stomach, i would stare out the classroom window, like eddie rickenbacker or chuck yeager searching the clear blue sky above the distant horizon for the tiny speck which would provided me with yet another enemy plane that was soon to join the neat little row painted upon the fuselage of my trusty p-47 thunderbolt ... (yes, there was usually a girl involved, somehow needing rescue from the dastardly hun aviator) ... i would masterfully maneuver my massive pratt & wittney powered fighter, from out of the sun's glare diving upon my surprised opponent ... but, unlike the other more common flyers, it was not then that i would hurl fiery tracers and armor piercing rounds into my foe ... no, such a simple kill was not for one with my areobatic talents ... instead, i would pull alongside the terrified german, allowing him a long look at what was to be the source of his demise ... then, with a flip of a salute, i'd allow him the first move in our little dance of death ... he'd roll, i'd counter ... watching him attempt escape with an immelman, i'd dive to pick up speed, reverse into a chandelle, then control a violent hammerhead that would place me onto his tail ... he'd jinx left, i'd do a scissors, line him up in my sights, and pull the trigger ...

... bam, stars would exploded in my eyes ... was i in a flat spin ... had another german flyer snuck into my blind spot ... what was happening ... was i going down ... was this what it was like to "buy the farm" ... my final thought was a fervent hope that she'd at least notice my effort to save her ...

... back to reality ... neither an explosive 20mm cannon shell, nor the impact of a machine gun bullet, it was just the concussion as my teacher's massive service ring smacked against the side of my skull ... an immediate discharge from the army air corp, drafted by my teacher it was back to the trenches for me ...

... except this day something was different ... as we slaved away the principal came to the classroom door and with a slight movement of his hand summoned our teacher away from his little throne at the front of the room ... the two whispered for a few seconds, subscribed to normal juvinile curiosity all of us peeked trying to learn the latest news ... as he turned and walked back to his desk, it was then that we all knew that something was different ... something had changed ... something was wrong ... our teacher, a man who had survived omaha beach, the battle of the bulge, even, as he'd told us, returning home to a world that "just didn't seem to understand" ... he with premature greying hair still trim on top and slick on the sides, eyes that as children we intuitively understood to leave him be when they flashed a hint of what some of us would later come to learn was "the thousand yard stare" ... there were tears in his eyes as he collapsed into his chair, muttering, "just keep working, the principal's going to make an announcement in a few minutes" ...

... we didn't, continue working, that is ... we whispered, notes were passed back and forth, some of us could see into the hallway where we noticed teachers and staff members in quiet huddles  ... the thing i remember above all else is how absolutely still the air became, as if we were on the deck of a sailing ship becalmed in the middle of a endless sea ... 

... "this is the principal ... it is with great sadness that i ... the president ... dallas ... shot ... dead ... we're going to release early, walkers can line up " ...

... as i walked west mission avenue's slight upgrade i noticed that cars were parked along the road ... drivers were sitting listening to their radios, and, in many cases, along side of each vehicle was a little gathering of very quiet adults ... some were crying, to varying degrees all appeared stunned ... nobody noticed me as i strolled by, and in the odd stillness i felt as if i were some solitary explorer wandering a landscape devoid of all life ...


... that night, all of us glued to the television, wanting so desperately for the man we trusted, walter cronkite, to inform us it was a mistake, my dad pronounced, "everything's going to be okay, but nothing's ever going to be the same again" ...



... how strange, now living in this future world, to realize that there are two classes of americans, those who will immediately recognize this landscape and those for whom this is simply a rather uninteresting street scene ...


... i also remember pa, who was a marksman, saying, "there was an element of luck, as there always is, but it was a doable shot" ...




... as i stood in this window, sighting down the length of an imaginary 6.5mm carcano rifle, tracking the flow of traffic and quickly working the bolt, i came to the belief that my ol' dad was absolutely correct about the shot ... i don't know if there was a "conspiracy" involved in the murder of john f. kennedy, but i do believe that if one is to form some sort of "alternative" explanation for the events of that day, it cannot be logically based upon the supposed "impossibility" of lee harvey oswald acting alone ... sometimes it's hard to accept that when all is said and done, history is never more than the stories of individuals ...


... just after snapping this picture i was busted because no photography is allowed in the book depository ... i didn't mind, thinking that pa would've done the same thing ... turned out he was right, too, about the world ... things never did go back to the way they were ...


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ON THE ROAD - SMILE


... a pleasant drive from st.louis to dallas, with a little side trip along route 66 so that adrien could count kansas as one of the states she's visited ... i'm not up on current disney movies, but i'm assured that those of you who are will recognize this truck ... i'm told that it was the inspiration for one of the vehicles in the movie "cars" ... all i know is that the facial recognition feature on adrien's camera constantly fixated on the front end of this 1951 international l-170 series tow truck ... good thing it was in galena, kansas, rather than new england, other wise by now it would be nothing but a rusting heap of road-salt corroded sheet metal ...



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ON THE ROAD - RESTING FROM THE MARCH


... last year's trip had called for a stop at the san francisco zoo to see the penguins, but time constraints resulted in one of those "we can do this, or that, but not both this and that" situations, so we had to take a pass ... this year we made up for it by spending almost an hour watching the the critters in their superb habitat at the st. louis zoo ... (read that, "brrrrrrrrrr," since the exhibit is clearly designed for the comfort of the birds) ... these are aptenodytes forsteri, emperor penguins, the largest and heaviest of all the penguins ... they can dive to over 1,800 feet in search of food, are able to regulate their internal core body temperature even when the thermometer reads -57F, and, sadly, due to the effects of global climate change, are probably one of the species which will be close to extinction by the turn of the century ...



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April 4, 2012

ON THE ROAD - PLEASANT INSANITY


... after the zoo we went over to the "city museum" of st. louis ... if the yellow buses lined up along the street weren't enough of a clue, the millions of screaming kids inside were proof that this was more of a family amusement park than an actual museum ... we decided to enter anyhow, despite what we considered to be relatively expensive tickets ... we enjoyed ourselves strolling around the museum, found an entire floor of architectural displays that were, indeed, quite serious (and, thus, almost kid-free), and, with exhibits such as the above, realized that our initial assessment was perhaps a tiny bit too harsh ...

... i mean, after all, how can you beat seeing the "largest pencil in the world" ... (okay, so it doesn't write, but what kid's going to pay attention to that little detail) ...



... we bought a few touristy trinkets, came to appreciate that tucked away all over the building were all sorts of places where tired parents could hide out and enjoy an adult beverage, and then discovered the the heart of the city museum's playground ...


... this picture doesn't begin to do it justice, since, in addition to compressing the perspective, it fails to show the entirety of the structure ... over ten stories from the street level "house of balls" to the top of the upper airplane's tail, a seemingly drug inspired construction invites the tiny hands of children who intuitively understand that bravery need be neither abnormal nor rare, and, also, the moms and dads who desperately do not want to let go of their offspring while at the same time are equally driven to encourage them to leave the safety of their arms ... in a short glance i noticed a thousand ways for a child to suffer a boo-boo, uncounted edges and planes which insured that an afternoon of exploration would most definitely be neither scrape nor bruise free ... a young mother said to me, "i've lost him three times this afternoon, and he's already gotten three injuries" ...

... at this, i fell in love with st. louis ... towering arch, beer, a wonderful history, all are nothing compared to a culture that enables, invites, encourages children to be children ... to say, "bring me your children ... let them go ... understand that to raise a child risk-free is to create an adult who cannot deal with risk," this museum took courage, and for that i salute st. louis ...


... then, after getting thoroughly lost in a labyrinth of a three-story subterranean cave/maze, we came upon this ... what you are looking at is the "delivery shaft" that used to be the central hub of this industrial building ... at every level chutes entered into these huge spiral slides ... workers dropped packages/products into holes in the walls on each floor, the boxes were then whisked by gravity to the lower floors ... 


... except now, the building no longer having any utilitarian purpose, it seems the same people who designed and constructed the outdoor play area decided to see if  beyond all doubt they could convince future generations that they were, indeed, absolutely insane ... climbing ten stories, on monkey bars stairs a feat in and of itself, we came to the top of "the ten story slide" ...


... keep in mind, this is an ancient industrial package delivery system, designed to move boxes, which were at most probably eighteen to twenty-four inches in their largest dimension, to the bottom of the building ... look closely, i think you'll agree that this structure wasn't used for packages containing crystal glasses or fresh eggs ... that's what we thought ...


... but, of course, we've always believed that thinking about stuff can sometimes be a waste of time, so ... so, off we went ... after jon and adrien's screams faded a bit i launched myself into the opening, immediately determining that in the olden days none of the workers in the building ever attempted to deliver any package that was even near grown-up human size ... as i picked up speed my feet kept hitting, slowing me, so i leaned back and lifted my shoes so they only occasionally squeaked against the butt-polished smooth metal surface of the slide ... 32ft/sec/sec minus friction, as i quickly picked up speed centripetal force raised me up along the side of the slide ... by the time i had done three revolutions i was thinking i had "made a bad choice," by the time i had done four i was screaming, at the fifth turn i was so disoriented i couldn't figure out who was doing all the screaming, and, at the sixth revolution, i felt like chuck yeager in "the right stuff," pinned against the inside of fuselage as his tiny x-1a rocket plane spun out of control towards the earth below ...


... this was during my the first spiral, after which the screaming began ...

... adrien says that when i exited at the bottom i couldn't stand up straight for several minutes, i don't remember ... jon says i did good for an old man ... i say that sometime i'm going to return to st. louis and for entire day join with the screaming children descending as many times as i can the ten-story slide ...


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ON THE ROAD - THIS BUD'S FOR US


... the morning of our first full day in st. louis we went on a tour of the anheuser-busch headquarters, where we learned all about the history of the company and how beer is made ... 


... it was a good tour, but, not being a fan of either beer or high-speed bottling machines, i was most impressed with the artwork scattered around the facility ...


... also, i enjoyed learning the history of the company ... most unusual was how anheuser-busch survived the "dark times" of prohibition by manufacturing yeast, alcohol-free beer, and, most unusual, truck bodies ...


... not to disappoint any of you who are budweiser fans, but, at least in modern times, it seems that "beechwood aged" is very loosely interpreted to mean that it's enough to slice up some foot-long strips of beechwood and toss it into these giant stainless steel brewing tanks ... what's next, battery-powered robotic clydesdales ...


... at the end of the tour we were offered a chance to sample some of the company's products ... adrien and i, of course, committed the mother of all faux paus when we returned our glasses almost as full as when they had been poured ... i don't think we'll get invited back, but that's probably more because their secret microphones picked up my comments that anheuser-busch is no longer really an "american" company since it was acquired a few years ago as a holding of the brazilian/belgian "inbev" conglomerate ... {sigh} ... well, at least coke-cola is still holding on ...

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ON THE ROAD - ST. LOUIS TORSO


... after enjoying the gateway arch, we strolled the streets of st. louis looking for we had been advised was some sort of a "illuminated park" ... no luck, but we had a great time on our wander through the city ...

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