Posted by: dharmabeachbum | February 15, 2014

Collecting stones and bones has its benefits

I’ve read my share of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve had fun collecting stones and bones on many a foggy morning and occasionally at night under a full moon.

I thought it would be cool to put shark parts inside of a fish. Usually it's the other way around.

I thought it would be cool to put shark parts inside of a fish. It’s usually the other way around.

Sounds creepy, but it’s not like I’m hanging out in cemeteries or mausoleums. Nor do I spend my time in candle-lit rooms drawing pentagrams on the floor and performing rituals with sharp knives and doomed goats. Gave that stuff up for lent years ago.

Sharks’ teeth and bones found along the Grand Strand are stone. They’ve fossilized after being buried beneath the sands at sea. Minerals seep into surface pores and fissures of deceased marine creatures’ remnants and, for that matter, into those of mammals and reptiles swept into the ocean. The transformation takes tens of thousands to millions of years from what I understand.

 (Upper row, left to right) vertebrae, mastodon molar piece, deer antlers Middle row, left to right: vertebrae, vertebrae, alligator teeth Bottom row: horse and bison teeth

Upper row, left to right: vertebrae, mastodon molar piece, deer antlers (Middle row) vertebrae, vertebrae, alligator teeth (Bottom row) horse and bison teeth

As I sit writing this I’m surrounded by what’s left of creatures that swam the seas or roamed the earth long before we got here to put a damper on their existence.

I’ve got pieces of all kinds of creatures spread throughout my bungalow. Horse teeth. Chunks of mammoth and mastodon molars. Bison choppers. Deer antler fragments. Alligator fangs. Are we sure Noah didn’t dock here? Whale and shark vertebrae. Sea biscuits. Fish skulls. Ray mouthplates and barbs.

Morbid? Maybe a little. But I’ve managed to stay out of the graveyard so far. Knock on driftwood.

A raven? Nah. Just a grackle striking a pose at a beach access on Friday.

A raven? Nah. Just a grackle striking a pose at a beach access on Friday.

Beachcombing is a great way to get some fresh air and keep the blood flowing. It’s also fun to encounter creatures before they shuffle off this mortal coil.

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | February 10, 2014

For Pete’s sake: seagulls bring back memories of great music

The gall of them. These seagulls were hightailing it south along the beach with the wind at their backs.

The gall of them. These seagulls were hightailing it south along the beach with the wind at their backs.

The first wave of bombers took me by surprise and I didn’t have time to be afraid. The second wave? That’s a different story.

“Turn, turn..Turn!”

The seagulls veered around me, but not before I envisioned them attacking me as if I were an extra in the classic 1963 horror-suspense movie, “The Birds.”

I’m not sure why seagulls have such disdain for me. I’ve never harmed one of them. I’ve fed them. I talk to them when they’re down. Yet, they insist on harassing me.

I thought for a second I was going to have to turn one of them around with my walking stick like Mickey Mantle laying ash on a Don Drysdale fastball. I doubt my defense would’ve held up in court.

“Not guilty, your honor. Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3. “…a time to every purpose under heaven. I thought it was time to knock the feathers off those sky rats.”

“Guilty, Mr. Bum. Time for you pay a fine and spend a week or two in the slammer.”

“But, your honor, I would have given them time to heal.”

“Get him out of my courtroom.”

Cha-chink. Scuffing of sandal heels across the floor. “In the name of Alfred Hitchcock, I curse thee…”

In all seriousness, the passing of two “waves” of gulls so near to me was surreal. Like nature was a movie and I was wearing 3-D goggles. Spiritual.

“The Byrds” version of “Mr. Tamborine Man” came to mind as I slopped through the surf immediately afterwards. Then I thought of their version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and, of course, I couldn’t think of that song without remembering Pete Seeger, who died in late January.

He was an extraordinary man. A writer of timeless music. A civil right’s activist. An environmentalist. A lover of nature. Pete once said, “I think God is everything. Whenever I open my eyes I’m looking at God. Whenever I’m listening to something I’m listening to God.”

That brings me full circle in this blog. There’s still time for peace, seagulls. I swear it’s not too late.

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | February 5, 2014

Horseshoe crabs not as ‘bad’ as they look

Just because horseshoe crabs have a menacing appearance doesn’t mean they’re going to go medieval on us when we encounter them on the beach.

Poor girl didn’t quite make it back from whence she came. Female horseshoe crabs are larger than males and this one was well over a foot long.

Poor girl didn’t quite make it back from whence she came. Female horseshoe crabs are larger than males and this one was well over a foot long.

Horseshoe crabs are domed-shaped in the front with gnarly-looking posterior segments that include a series of prongs lining the edges of their exoskeletons. They have twelve eyes, but its the two eye coverings in the front that make them look intimidating. They’re slanted downward like Spock’s eyebrows. Are you angry with me or were you born with a chip on your shoulder?

The invertebrates have been around for a few hundred million years and are known in some circles as “living fossils.” Perhaps their stone-cold appearance has something to do with that. Horseshoe crabs could easily pass for something that came from outer space. They are, in fact, alien to us, coming from a world that is still very much a mystery.

Horseshoe crabs spend much of their lives in coastal waters and estuaries, searching for mates, clams, crustaceans and worms. I dig it. Except for the worm part. Gotta draw a line in the sand somewhere. A friend of mine, now pushing 70, told me they used to amass in Spivey Swash in downtown Myrtle Beach before civilization encroached upon it.

They’ve always reminded me of tanks. Miniature tanks with tails. They can’t hurt us with those tails. They use them to steer or to right themselves when turned topsy-turvy by the surf. The spineless wonders molt their exoskeletons several times during their life spans, and years ago I found one of their shells on the beach. I put it atop a lampshade and light shone through its eye coverings. The devilish looking mask fit in well with my Captain Ahab decor.

I liken Horseshoe Crabs to career politicians. They haven’t evolved in millions of years, spend a lot of time with their heads buried in the sand and have no backbone. The difference is: horseshoe crabs are lovable. There I go making more friends again. Running out of bridges to burn. Good thing I can swim.

I learned a lot while researching horseshoe crabs for this blog. They often swim upside down, so I’d worried needlessly when returning a few live ‘uns to the ocean over the years, watching with concern as their twelve, reddish legs wriggled in the sudsy breaker foam. If you look close enough at their brownish bodies, you can see hints of blue in them. That’s because their blood is blue. Proteins called hemocyanins that spread oxygen throughout their odd bodies.

A horseshoe crab's tail helps it navigate its voyage across the bottom of the sea.

This is my idea of a table setting.

Horseshoe crabs avoid rough surf when spawning and they do so in numbers, gathering on beaches within bays, coves and in the muck and mire of river estuaries. Orgies and crabs. Who knew? Peak activity occurs as the days lengthen, often coinciding with high tides during full and new moons.

Females lay 80,000 eggs or more a year and they must for their species to survive. Eggs and larvae are eaten by shrimp, crabs, fish and shorebirds. Sharks, conches, sea turtles and eels are known to eat adult horseshoe crabs. Not surprisingly, humans may be the biggest threat to them. We harvest them for fertilizer and livestock feed, and we also use them for biomedical purposes.

I can’t pass through Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach without checking out a pool of them centered in the main lobby. Ripley’s may not be among the biggest or nicest aquariums, but it will always be my favorite attraction in town. Stop in next time you’re in town. Knowledgeable attendants are more than happy to supervise you if you care to pick them up and take a look. About the only way you can get hurt is if you pinch your fingers between their hinged carapaces.

Remember to be gentle. Their future may be in our hands.

Source: beach-net.com, horseshoecrabs.org

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | February 1, 2014

Watching brown pelicans never gets old

There’s something ancient about a brown pelican’s appearance. Those long bills. The pouch. Its grayish-brown plummage. Some even have rust-colored streaks in their tails. It never gets old watching them glide along the coast.

"Sorry buddy. I didn't bring any fish with me today. I'll try to remember tomorrow."

“Sorry buddy. I didn’t bring any fish with me today. I’ll try to remember tomorrow.”

Does anyone else think of pterodactyls upon seeing brown pelicans flying over the ocean or around tops of buildings or did I just spend too much time watching “The Flintstones” when I was young? Youngish. Okay, I’d watch it right now just for the Stone Age fix.

“Wilma! Does that pterodactyl look like a brown pelican to you?” Fred never said that. He was too busy driving Wilma nuts with his Ralph Kramden-like antics. Betty certainly didn’t think much of him. Barney, on the other hand, worshipped the gravel he walked on. “Gee, Fred. Want me to take some sandpaper to those calluses before we go bowling?”

While locals may take pelicans for granted as they soar overhead in familiar v-formations, many tourists don’t consider their stays here complete until they’ve seen a flock or two or six gliding out over the Atlantic Ocean.

One doesn’t have to travel too far along the Grand Strand without being reminded of their association with this working-class paradise. Their images can be found on billboards, mailboxes and marquees. Our minor league baseball team’s nickname has long been the Pelicans. Even the blue trash bins in Myrtle Beach are called pelicans.

I’ve been dying to write about them, going through four digital cameras in the last 20 months while trying to get a decent shot of one flying overhead. Yeah, I said “four.” Putting a digital camera in my hands is like handing a dish to Mr. MaGoo. “By George, I thought I had a good grip on it. Gee willikers!”

It’s been an exasperating quest to say the least. If I’d saved every photo I’ve taken of modern-day pterodactyls that ended up looking like dots in the sky, my computer would be out of memory with a DVD full of extras to boot.

There were times I got tired of the pursuit, settling for watching pelicans from the shore as they circle, pause, fold their wings and plunge into the sea amidst a school of menhaden.

But miracles happen. One day the seas parted. The planets aligned. Justin Bieber wasn’t mentioned in the “news.” A pelican landed 50 yards from me as I sat at the base of the dunes vegetating with the sea oats. Last week the Grand Strand was granted a one-day reprieve from a stretch of vicious weather when the pelican swooped in from the north. “Yabba dabba doo!”

With the dexterity of a woolly mammoth, I managed to plod my way near enough to it to get a decent shot before it flew away. My pain eased, I could go back to concentrating on finding old rocks.

Speaking of mammoths. I can’t wait till scientists clone them. I need a vacuum cleaner like the Flintstones and Rubbles had. Woolly and durable. I’m good at breaking vacuum cleaners, too.

(Bum’s rap: The next post will be Wednesday. Thanks for reading.)

Highway 17 Business was like a skating rink. This photo was taken on the north end of the city just after 8 a.m.

Highway 17 Business was like a skating rink in the early morn. This photo was taken on the north end of the city just after 8 a.m.

Nothin’ like a good ol’ smack down from Mother Nature to heighten the senses and make us feel more alive. The inch or so of wintry mix that fell from the heavens in the early morning hours Wednesday reminded me of her power. It was raw outside with temperatures in the low to mid-20s. Add the wind chill factor and it felt like 12 degrees here in the Grand Strand’s hub.

Dunes. The beach looked foreign to me.

Dunes. The beach looked foreign to me.

Good Lord, it was beautiful. Streets, lawns and rooftops were glazed with ice and snow. Vegetation drooped reverently, slicked over with a frosty cover of frozen precipitation. The white blanket rendered Grand Strand streets still.

“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.

The roads were treacherous until noon Wednesday, resulting in a list of closings that included Broadway at the Beach, Horry County’s public schools, Georgetown County’s public schools, Myrtle Beach and Horry County courts, Coastal Carolina University and Horry-Georgetown Technical College.

The quietness of our neighborhoods spoke loudly and clearly.

“From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.

Venturing out into the hump day wintry mix humbled me in a way that no person, government agency, social club or newspaper ever will – hard as some might have tried. I’ll kneel to nature occasionally, but bowing to oppression isn’t an option for someone who holds the First Amendment in high regard.

Where the tides meet the mix.

Where the tides meet the mix.

I write that in reference to having been informed last week that my protest of nearly a year ago and subsequent opinions offered here weren’t appreciated. Oh well. I’ll stare down hypocrisy as long as I’m on the same side of the turf as ice-laden yucca plants. Mess with the shark and you’ll get the teeth. I’m unapologetic when it comes to questioning dogma, and I don’t equate either social commentary or political activism with cynicism. Is it getting cold in this blog or is it just me?

There are some who insist on twisting the First Amendment to suit their agendas. Their beliefs. That doesn’t mean I have to accept it. Nor do I care, necessarily, if they accept me. Thankful for the blog views, though.

“But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate

The message of which I write was delivered by someone who’s both deceitful and delusional, so much so that she sees herself as the “cat” in a petty game she and her self-righteous cronies started and continue to perpetuate. What she had to say both to me and behind my back aren’t worthy of my concern. She just stoked the fire and the flames of that fire were already flickering when I wrote this blog’s motto in the banner above. A desire to seek the truth. Truth melts ice, revealing reality.

If plants could speak, I think this one would have been saying, "Yuck, what is this stuff?"

If plants could speak, I think this one would have been saying, “Yuck, what is this stuff?”

No need to go into much more detail. I put a blog relevant to this story to rest almost a year ago, moved on, and tackled other issues directly affecting me and an area that I loved long before moving here.

Life goes on and I’m indebted to family and friends for helping me through life’s blizzards and for teaching me to see the light. Mother Nature offers me respite, shelter from the storm of society’s craziness. So this morning, Thurday, I’m…

“To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.”

…heading back to the big pond and the frozen sands with no ill will for those who have trespassed against me. My energies and thoughts will be focused on people who have been good to me. They, like the ocean, have always had my back. Ice storm or not.

(Bum’s rap: The words in italics are those of the great American poet Robert Frost. Here’s the link to the related story: http://dharmabeachbum.com/2013/02/18/holy-hypocrisy-mental-midgets-run-myrtle-beach/ What can I say? I had a Gonzo moment. I’ve promised there won’t be a repeat performance. I’m going to kick back, let them have their fun and listen to some Jefferson Airplane. Volume: Loud.)

Desolation Row:

004012


Sources: “The Poetry of Robert Frost,” “The Sun News

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | January 28, 2014

Tigers of the sea mystify me

While hunting the high side of the high tide line on Monday, shuffling through foreshore sands blown dry by recent heavy winds, I found a small tiger shark tooth and was reminded of an experience last summer.

Schools of fish headed south in the surf and I stood facing the horizon in water no deeper than three feet. There was little wind and the waves were nearly non-existent, so standing without bobbing like a cork was easy. Globular dark patches in which smallish fish amassed passed one after the other and it was enjoyable watching the fish scatter and occasionally break the surface.

The tooth on the upper left had barnacles on the back of it. These sand tigers are the best in my collection.,

The tooth on the upper left had barnacles on the back of it. These sand tigers are the best in my collection.,

One of those schools headed straight for me. The problem with little fish swimming parallel to the coast is that bigger fish are usually following them and sharks follow those bigger fish. I stood still as the school neared.

Beneath the glob? Well, that was a bit worrisome. A six-foot sushi swallower shadowed the school and its coloring was all too familiar. Grayish brown with dark, vertical stripes along the sides. My perception may have been distorted by the sun’s surface-piercing rays, but I’m 95 percent sure it was a tiger shark. A pup, really.

It lurked beneath the school, nearly stationary. Sea tigers have a distinctive snout. Wide and blunt. But I wasn’t concentrating on its grill. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t getting closer to me. It was no more than 15-feet away at one point. What a treat for a shark-aholic with no desire to recover.

Tiger sharks are among the requiem shark family. They’re migratory, live-bearing sharks that prefer warm waters. The loners’ wide-ranging diet includes seals, fish, squid, sea snakes, dolphin and turtles. And, yeah, they do visit here during warmer months.

A couple old salts told me on the Springmaid Pier that they saw them from time-to-time. Anglers caught a 14-foot sand tiger three miles off the coast last year. In June 1964, Walter Maxwell landed a 1,780 pound tiger shark of roughly the same length while fishing from the Cherry Grove Fishing Pier. I believe that’s still a world record.

I’m not trying to scare anyone in writing this. Just the opposite. All kinds of sharks swim off the Grand Strand. There’s never been a fatal attack here to my knowledge and your chances of being bitten by the smallest of sharks are very slim. Stay clear of fish schools and enjoy the surf when visiting.

Spring will be here before we know it and I can’t wait to go for a swim.

Sources: postandcourier.com and Wikipedia.org

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | January 24, 2014

Rise, shine and damn the cold

The sun rose today. It did. I saw it. Predicted it, too. I’ve been right..ran out of fingers and toes to count..let’s just say I have a streak going. I’m going out on the limb and predicting it’ll rise again tomorrow. It’s always best to have a sunny outlook. I’m slowly allowing others to convince me of that.

The weather has been the talk of the tundra the past few days. What else is there to rap about? Politics? Please. They’ll change about the time hell freezes over. Television? Yeah, right. Television is nothing more than a conduit for advertising and we’re increasingly being pelted with a plethora of puky reality shows that are pawned off as entertainment.

It was pretty much just me and the gang out on this stretch of sand. That's North Myrtle Beach off in the distance.

It was just me and the gang out on this stretch of sand. That’s North Myrtle Beach off in the distance.

It’s been cold here in Myrtle Beach. How cold? While walking the grandest of strands Wednesday, I saw a seagull mistake a beached jellyfish for a popsicle. Call me delusional but upon looking out to sea I thought I saw an iceberg dead ahead.

Only a nut job would’ve been out on the beach looking for sharks’ teeth the past few mornings, so I volunteered. While this weather is repulsive in general, the tides tugged the compulsiveness out of me even as thermometers plunged below freezing.

This morning it was 23 degrees here and The Weather Channel reported that it felt like it was 10 degrees outside. Shiver me timbers. Digits wouldn’t come to mind if I were to describe the way it felt.

But I got by with a little help from my..friend. Common sense got the best of me after an hour and 15 minutes and I realized it would be prudent to return to the ol’ bungalow and avoid frostbite. Master Po tried convincing me to stay.

“Why is it that you shiver, grasshopper?”

“The elements are harsh, master. They are not to my liking.”

“From the crane we learn grace and self control.”

“But I don’t see any cranes. No herons or sandpipers either. I’m cold and I really want to go back to the less-than-titantic temple.”

“Conflict within can be resolved by becoming one with nature, grasshopper. Only then will you achieve harmony of body and mind.”

“But, master, it’s not the shivering that bothers me. My fingers are a whiter shade of pale. I’m not real big on hypothermia.”

“Palmetto trees contend with atmospheric conditions, swaying with the wind. They survive.”

“The palmetto trees are used to being outdoors by now and they have fronds to protect them.”

I insisted on taking this photo when strolling previously with Master Po. I'd intended on using a photo of this morning's sunrise, but my camera had a little case of red eye. Grasshopper is on Ocean Boulevard in downtown Myrtle Beach.

I insisted on taking this photo when strolling previously with Master Po. I’d intended on using a photo of this morning’s sunrise, but my camera had a little case of red eye. Grasshopper is on Ocean Boulevard in downtown Myrtle Beach.

“Winds blow. The tide flows. The dunes remain. Each acts according to its nature.”

“Yep, and I’m warm blooded. Time to split. Are you coming with me or not?”

Apparently Master Po chose “not.” He didn’t answer. He was gone with the icy wind.

It’s not as if I’m living in South Dakota in the midst of winter. I’m lucky to reside in South Carolina, where the subtropic climate is tolerable throughout the year unless hurricanes pay us a visit.

Our perceptions of weather conditions vary depending on where we live. Twenty-three degrees would seem downright balmy in some parts of the country.

My obsession with hunting fossils usually precludes me from submitting to the weather. Responsibilities, appointments and occasional travel are more likely to keep me away from the big pond and I have no qualms with any of the aforementioned. My left knee and hip are eroding, and that does concern me. Rest is a necessity for recuperation.

When I wrote my blog bio in June 2012, I brashly stated that I wouldn’t think of slowing down until I reached 5,000 days of fossil hunting. That was over 500 trips to the beach ago and I’m still 780 days short. Now time is starting to do my thinking as it narrows the gap on my lead. That doesn’t mean I’m going to waste any energy looking in the rearview mirror. Age-induced erosion is as natural as the weather.

(Bum’s rap: Master Po was a character on the early ’70s show “Kung Fu.” He was a Shaolin priest who taught Kwai Chang Caine. Master Po is also a figment of my imagination. There are a few reality shows that I like. “Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers” come to mind.)

Someone smack me. Go ahead. Just haul off and give me a good whack. Marbles are lodged between my ears and my head needs some jarring.

My mind’s often more stagnated than the middle metal balls of a Neptune’s cradle sphere line up. Click-Clack. Click-clack. Click-clack. I hate those things. That rhythmic racket is enough to drive the Dalai Lama crazy. Kind of cool though. I want one.

It’s time to get a copy of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” for the aquarium. Late in 2013 I added the 15,000th shark’s tooth to it. This is where I keep worn and broken teeth.

It’s time to get a copy of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” for the aquarium. Late in 2013 I added the 15,000th shark’s tooth to it. This is where I keep worn and broken teeth.

Really. How can I make it to my 148th post without having once referenced Jules Verne’s novel, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” a book I read when the seven seas were still ponds? Collecting sharks’ teeth is among my greatest passions, yet it hadn’t occurred to me that “Leagues” deserved a mention?

Son of a sea biscuit! That’s flat out unfathomable.

Verne’s book is part of pop culture, having been adapted and referenced repeatedly since its 1870 publication. Most of us have seen the 1954 Walt Disney movie based on “Leagues” at one time or another. I’m watching it on YouTube as I write this. Kirk Douglas and James Mason were terrific in it. Douglas played sailor Ned Land. Mason, Captain Nemo.

Verne created great characters, none of them more memorable or significant than the vengeful Nautilus captain. Nemo makes a stand against civilization and has no problem killing his perceived enemies, those who serve imperialistic nations, whom he holds accountable for oppressing the downtrodden. He’s cultured, despite his maniacal agenda, reading books and playing classical music on piano.

 The chunks of mineral on the left are parts of fossilized mammoth molars.


The chunks of mineral on the left are parts of fossilized mammoth molars.

I loved the menu Nemo served his “guests” aboard the Nautilus. Filet of sea snake. Brisket of blowfish with squid dressing basted in barnacles. Milk from sperm whales. Fruit preserves prepared with sea cucumbers. The captain was the most accomodating of hosts, offering his guests an after dinner smoke. Cigars made with seaweed. Man, he must have been desperate. Wonder how long seaweed takes to dry. Can’t wait for the next storm.

Verne was a visionary. He predicted among many other things the coming of electrically-powered, high-speed submarines not long after Monitor and Merrimack ran out of steam. The French author took people on ventures to the center of the earth, around the world in 80 days and from the earth to the moon. Most importantly, he peaked the imaginations of people throughout the world.

I have no idea how I overlooked him till now. Sometimes it’s as if I’m searching for Atlantis without the aide of a diving apparatus.

(Bum’s rap: This blog’s being filed in the DBB “Bum’s Booty” category, which includes photos of my collection. Figured I’d let you know in case you’re wondering what the aquarium has to do with Jules Verne.)

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | January 17, 2014

Egret makes bum’s morning at Dharma Pond

A block down the street from my apartment there are two ponds that have blessed me with endless enjoyment and I sit by them, watch the wind-blown water ripple and hope for turtles to surface.

Ducks drop in from time-to-time but they steer clear of me after doing a little aerial surveillance. A frog sticking its periscope peepers above the surface or jumping from the bank into the water is about as exciting as things get around Dharma Pond. But I’m content to see what I see.

“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day,” Henry David Thoreau wrote long ago.

The day stalker. It's always a blast watching egrets fish. A great blue heron was in the same pond a day earlier.

The day stalker. It’s always a blast watching egrets fish. A great blue heron was in the same pond a day earlier, but I couldn’t “draw” my camera quickly enough to capture the moment.

The majority of my walks are early in the morning and it was on a return trip from the beach that I stopped for a little mindfulness meditation on the pond’s banks. I was in a holding pattern when an egret flew in for breakfast. It landed smoothly 30 feet from me, tilting its wings and then holding them in fixed position to slow down it’s descent. Mighty graceful for a bird gawky in appearance.

Luckily I had my digital camera with me. I raised it slowly from my side, took a few photographs and resumed enjoying the moment. I was hoping the egret would safisfy its appetite, perhaps enjoy a buffet, but it wasn’t to be. Not wanting to unnerve it, I rose and slowly backed away. It stalked beneath vegetated pond drapery during my retreat.

Many moons ago a college professor assigned my class to read Thoreau’s “Walden” and “Civil Disobedience,” also known as “Life in the Woods” and “Resistance to Civil Government” respectively. I didn’t know at that moment how fortunate I was.

I'm a serial pond sitter. This beauty is near the Intracoastal Waterway roughly a mile from my bungalow.

Guilty as charged. I’m a serial pond sitter. This beauty is near the Intracoastal Waterway roughly a mile from my bungalow.

My idea of reading then was scanning through “Sport’s Illustrated,” absorbing “Mad” magazine and gobbling up the giddiness of “Reader’s Digest.”

Occasionally I’d pick up a book, but the scope of my preferred reading list was limited in range. Early horror classics by Stephen King. Erich Von Däniken’s ode to ancient astronauts, “Chariots of the Gods?” I was also fascinated by paranormal phenomena stuff like “The Bermuda Triangle,” written by Charles Berlitz, and by the science fiction of Andre Norton, “Daybreak 2250 A.D.,” and Larry Niven, “Lucifer’s Hammer.”

Out of defiance and a double-dose of ignorance, I’d chosen to resist the prodding of my high school English teachers, forgoing all but a few of the classics of literature. Ernest Hemingway’s, “The Old Man and the Sea,” was one of the exceptions. Shakespeare? Pfft. What did he know? “Hi, my name is Rob and I, uh, I’m an idiot.” “Hi Rob.” “When did you last succumb to idioacy?” the pack-of-idiots leader asked. “Um, what time is it?”

Thoreau’s writing was different. It spoke to my very nature. I’ve always been one to immerse myself in the outdoors while keeping my fingers on the pulse of society. Oddly, the noted transcendalist’s meditations on solitude gave me a sense of belonging. But I don’t want to make too much of his solo trips into the wild. Like me, he enjoyed company. But I can’t say that I have Ralph Waldo Emerson or Nathanial Hawthorne visiting me. Well, I could, but they’ve been dead for quite awhile. Ouija, anyone?

Thoreau’s take on civil disobedience influenced me greatly. Proof rests within my infamous rants. I used the term infamous because some people have characterized my legitimate social and political commentary as negative. People read what they want to read and see what they want to see.

I see things, for the most part, the way Thoreau saw them. But I’d pass on the woodchuck unless I was hungrier than a cannibal in a mosh pit. He felt individuals shouldn’t allow government to overrule or atrophy their consciences. It’s my civic duty, especially so as a journalist, to speak up when government oversteps its bounds or fails to act responsibly. Otherwise, I’d be an agent of injustice. I’ll let local media handle the public relations. They’re good at it.

I’d suggest to many of my fellow journalists that they need to find themselves a pond and do some reflecting. A little soul searching never hurt anyone.

(Bum’s rap: I was reminded when writing this blog of an incident from back in my newspaper days. The owner of a small local business burst through the front door of our office and went off on one of my co-workers about a story I’d written. He’d been charged and convicted of hitting someone in the head with a beer bottle. I heard the mayhem and greeted our guest. “Is the story factually incorrect?” I asked. “No, but..” His rant continued until I pointed to the doorway ten feet behind him. Something tells me he’s still attending Idiots Anonymous gatherings. Some people read what they want to read. Others can’t handle the truth.

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | January 13, 2014

Findin’ fun amidst funky fog

The fog was so thick Saturday morning I couldn’t spy the sea beyond 50 or so yards from the beach, but I felt most comfortable with the natural phenomenon surrounding me, as if the milky enclosure were protecting me from an unseen world, a place that is sometimes vicious. Nature had provided me with a cocoon.

While a few of us bask in it, fog is often associated with doom, gloom and the supernatural.

A tad eerie but no ghosts. Darn.

A tad eerie but no ghosts. Darn.

“Something came out of the fog and tried to destroy us. In one moment, it vanished,” said Stevie Wayne, Adrienne Barbeau’s character in John Carpenter’s 1980 classic horror film, “The Fog.” But if this has been anything but a nightmare, and if we don’t wake up to find ourselves safe in our beds, it could come again. To the ships at sea who can hear my voice, look across the water into the darkness…”

Adrienne Barbeau? “Hummina, Hummina, Hummina.” I was 19 when “The Fog” hit the big screen. Barbeau’s a fine thespian, but it wasn’t her acting skills that had my mouth agape throughout the movie. Come to think of it. Her bodacious bod was the only thing that made the television show, “Maude,” tolerable. That and I always anticipated Bill Macy’s character, Walter, backhanding Maude (Bea Arthur). To me, listening to Bea’s voice was about as pleasant as hearing a bunny squeal after its nest was raided by a cat, and that’s coming from someone who has trouble stepping on a cockroach. Just once, Walter. Pleeaase! It’s television. Fictional. Give her a whack. One time. No such luck. Hence, the show frustrated me in more ways than one.

Pardon me for the aside. As one who lives 24/7 with bipolar disorder controlling the relay switches in my brain, my thoughts drift constantly.

Where was I? Is this..what day is this? Oh, yeah. Movies, television and literature help perpetuate the myth that fog is dangerous. Not that I have a problem with that. For gosh sakes, I used to run home from school to watch the gothic soap, “Dark Shadows,” crossing streets as if I were the freakin’ frog in the arcade game, Frogger. It was always foggy in Collinswood and vampires, werewolves and witches were bound to be lurking in the white stuff.

“…Look for the fog,” Stevie Wayne said, warning her radio listeners in coastal California. Vengeful ghosts were hanging out in the fog banks, waiting for a gory 100-year reunion with townsfolk, and sexy Stevie wanted her audience to be vigilant.

Adrienne! Yo, Adrienne. I did. I looked for the fog. But I left the ghosts behind in my pad, so it was comfort for which I looked when I sought the fog on Saturday.

I’ve been on the downslope of bipolar disorder’s never-ending rollercoaster ride lately, plummeting into an emotional abyss after months of mania. Mania is a phase of the mental illness in which the brain shifts into a high-energy state. Imagine being The Energizer Bunny with beer muscles. That’s what being manic is like. You tend to be overly optimistic and sometimes overconfident, living life in a constant condition of euphoria. You could watch “Platoon” and laugh throughout.

The way I see it: the biggest danger of the illness, also known as manic depression, is coming down from that “high” and falling into the polar opposite – extreme lows. That transition often happens in minutes. It’s as if you’re descending into Marianas Trench and your oxygen tanks have been punctured. Like the Grim Reaper himself paid you a visit, scythe in hand with crescent-shaped blade shined and sharpened.

“..It’s just the beast under your bed, in your closet, in your head.”

Oh, hell no. I choose not to fear The Reaper. I awoke mid-nightmare well before Sol’s scheduled appearance Saturday, choosing within seconds to cast aside thoughts of doom and gloom that accompanied unsolicited dreams about past relationship failures. It can’t always be her fault. What am I doing wrong? There’s the door, negativity. Scat. Before venturing to the big pond, I surfed to The Weather Channel and saw that chances of rain were 100 percent. Pretty good chance I’ll get wet, I reckon. And? Donning my boonie hat and rain-proof Nautica jacket, off I went into the wild gray yonder.

Mr. Sol entered stage right but his rays never penetrated the fog’s veil. It drizzled from the time I left my cabana until I returned home. Fog? Rain? Didn’t bother me one bit. Neptune’s pounding surf provided me with all the comforting I needed. The sea is my sanctuary and I wasn’t about to let anything keep me from paying her a visit. Certainly not the weather.

It’s not the fog that’s dangerous. It’s our inability to navigate through it that’s the danger. If we let it in, uncertainty shrouds our psyches with doubts and fears. We all have the ability to overcome our insecurities. To see our way through difficult circumstances. Most of us set our own physical and mental boundaries. Many psychological borders are self-imposed and self-regulated and are subject to change at the drop of a hat. We decide what limits us and what doesn’t.

Dig this. When “Saturday Night Live” actress Gilda Radner was dying of cancer, she said, “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”

Gilda was brilliant.

(Bum’s rap: Give yourself an “A” if you made it through this one. Garbled thoughts. Twists and turns aplenty. Don’t be hatin’ on me, either. I detest the thought of men physically or verbally abusing women. I’m on record saying so on a few websites, including Facebook. Clint Eastwood had it right when he said a man who resorts to abuse to “control” his significant other suffers from the wimp syndrome.)

Sources: azlyrics.com, IMDb.com

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