FRIENDS CAFE: Kind Servers and Craw-fishy

I will use the overarching title “Friends Café” for my trip to Louisiana, both because it’s the translation of an actual place we visited, and because it applies to pretty much everything I experienced on this journey. Never have I seen truer examples of “Southern hospitality” than I have in this fine state. So, let’s begin the journey shall we?

Friday, December 26

3:20 AM, I make my halting way out to the curb, absorbing the absolute quiet and clear cold that are present on this post-Christmas night. As the duffel bag’s strap digs into my shoulder, I hope that my prearranged taxi does show up at 3:30, for I have no other viable options that I can think of. 3:22, 3:24, and finally it pulls up at 3:27; actually three minutes early. Well done!

I hop in and nearly doze, warming my digits in the heat stream as the driver, from a Middle Eastern country I think, chatters about perceived differences between Christianity and Islam.

“Do you know why you’re here?” he asks.

I think his take-home message is that death exists to keep us from doing things that are too far out there, and that it also focuses us on finding our purpose. We should also strive to live the best we can while in this body. I can agree with those conclusions. I think more than anything though, he’s just talking to keep himself awake long enough to reach Raleigh-Durham International Airport, an 18-minute ride along Durham Freeway and Highway 40 according to Google Maps.

We do reach the building, and I am disgorged at the Delta Terminal. A woman who says she is on her way to Detroit helps me to the check-in counter, but I do not get anymore time to speak to her. Really, I suppose that few people feel like speaking at 4 AM, as even the worker who is guiding me says the bare minimum.

At the ever-so-fun security checkpoint, I am pulled aside and wanded, even having the palms of my hands scanned. Fun times. Then down to my gate, where I sit for about 15 minutes before being silently ushered aboard.

The first flight to Atlanta departs promptly at 5:10. I am annoyed for most of it, because the Braille display absolutely refuses to cooperate. Airplane mode has shut down Bluetooth, and when I attempt to re-enable it I still can’t regenerate the connection. I have since come to the conclusion that it is better to turn on Bluetooth immediately after going into airplane mode, and not once I plan to actually use the display.

I have brought two books onboard with me: Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans, an exhaustive piece about that city’s musical, Jim Crow, and other history as it relates to that jazz great; and Buccaneer by Maycay Beeler, a true crime story about a drug dealer who has all sorts of adventures transporting product and eventually lands in prison. I find the latter to be a better airplane read, as the chapters are generally short and action-packed enough to hold my interest.

After having guzzled a cup of coffee to also give me juice for the day, we touch down in Atlanta where I am to wait another hour and a half for my final flight to New Orleans. No one talks to me at this point, so I finally fight the display and get it working, and chat with people online.

The next flight is relatively uneventful and on time, so I just sit and enjoy this one. On both of these trips, well really all four, I have been placed in right-side aisle seats. This means I have difficulty engaging seatmates in discussion, since I can’t hear particularly well in my right ear. In the small talk I do manage on the way to the Big Easy, I ascertain that the person beside me is from Massachusetts and is visiting family.

“It may be kind of cold out there,” she says: “but I’ll still enjoy it!”

As we disembark, the flight attendant insists that I must try beignets and of course that other Louisiana thing: crawfish. An agent then shows up, whisks me into the airport, and since I’ve managed not to check a bag, straight out to where my party awaits.

I have come to see two individuals with whom I serve on the board of the Norrie Disease Association, mostly for the vacation and fun chatter that would ensue. They are both due to make the long trek to Australia, another place I would very much like to visit, at about the time that I return to the shop for work. The woman who is hosting me at her place actually resides in Lafayette, which is about as far from New Orleans as Charlotte is from Durham. I suppose I should have known this, but still end up feeling a bit bad for not flying straight into Lafayette. That choice does save me $100 at least, though.

Before beginning that drive, we stop at IHOP for a quick bite. I opt for a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich and fries. They really give me two, and I can barely eat even one of them! This is only the beginning of my food consumption in that great state. I also have fun talking to the server in there who asks “what are you doing with that phone!” I think she was surprised at how I could even operate an iPhone. She is fun, funny, and cool, and keeps watching me for most of the time I am there.

On the road again, the guy and I in back start conversing about topics as wide-ranging as independence for blind folks, the pending big changes in the Norrie Disease Association, and what we want out of life in general. Eventually we start to drift off, and she turns on the radio probably to stave off the silence and keep going. After nearly 3 hours, we arrive at her place.

It is a comfortable little house with a 1-car garage. I am given a quick tour: shown where the two bathrooms, stairs, and the guestroom where I will sleep are located. I am then ushered to the little rocker where I immediately get comfortable, wrapping in an LSU blanket and enjoying the warmth of a fire. I quickly adopt this chair as “mine” during my stay there.

Not much happens until dinner, where I get to try crawfish for the first time. It is in a pie that they get from a place down the street called Pouparts French Bakery, kind of like a chicken pot pie type thing. There seems to be some other filling inside of it too: consisting primarily of the “trinity”: onions, bell pepper, and celery, and I enjoy it. I don’t notice much taste in the fish itself, but it might be hard to distinguish within that context. Accompanying that, we have a delicious salad. She accidentally gives me the one with Caesar (sp?) and he the ranch dressing, but I certainly don’t mind. It is delicious and full of flavor. There is also a potato covered in flecks of bacon and cheese. MMM.

And that just about wraps up Friday. As the weather turns gloomier, we opt to just stay inside and call it a night early. I am pretty tired, so take a bottle of water upstairs, crawl under the covers to catch some football on the phone, and soon enough give in to dreamland.

Christmas Vacation 2: The Party

Because I am completely unimaginative, I will use the same subject line I did at this time last year. As I had then, this year I also venture to Lumberton NC to attend the now-Annual Christmas party this past Saturday.

First, the departure. I am excited to learn that Megabus has now made available a route straight from Durham to Fayetteville. This means that, unlike last year when I had to get a neighbor to drive me to Raleigh where I connected with Greyhound, I am able to launch straight from home.

I almost don’t even manage to get out of here in the first place, though. Uber, I still love you as a service, but I have to wonder about the drivers you’ve hired of late. I know that the Megabus is scheduled to leave at 11:25, and I would have to stand in the near-freezing rain to wait, so I admittedly opt to push it about as close as I can and leave at 11. The Uber driver I get though is unable to understand English or, I gather, follow the GPS. I try in vain a couple of times to explain the somewhat complex instructions for locating my apartment and finally hang up. Pondering what to do and prepared to call Durham’s Best Taxi, another taxi happens to pull up in front of me and ask if I need a ride. I’ve seen this guy before as he regularly cruises the neighborhood, and so I don’t hesitate to jump in and hope I still have time to get to that Megabus stop. And because I was unable to properly cancel my Uber, they still billed me $4, I guess their base fare.

Oh man is it cold at this stop! The wind is cutting, and the rain isn’t absolutely pouring but it’s certainly hard enough to make even checking my iPhone impractical. A couple of other families stand nearby, kids milling around and probably trying to keep themselves warm as well. The vehicle mercifully arrives, and a woman lets me stand with her so that I will know when we can board.

I guess the vehicles can be designed differently, as this one has virtually no seat pitch. I sit with my knees almost under my chin, well ok maybe not quite that drastic but close, and try to figure out a way to balance my Braille display on my lap so I can read.

“Excuse me, sir” I hear a voice ask: “where are you getting off?”

I tell her, and discover that she is an older woman from Connecticut who is coming to visit her mom for a month. She has some kind of physical issue who’s origins she is not even certain of, and thus is unable to walk easily.

“I usually use an electric wheelchair,” she tells me: “but they’ve taken it and put it somewhere else. Having to use my walker now, which kind of hurts me.”

We talk about potential careers, and she says she once worked in customer service, but wants now to use her cooking abilities to start a food truck. MMM!

She has offered to help me sort things in Fayetteville in the event that I arrive and my pick-up ride isn’t there, but as it turns out, my ride is indeed waiting. She, as well as the woman on the bus, expresses some concern about the area of town in which the bus disembarks, noting that it’s “real ghetto”. I am just relieved to not have to wait in the cold again.

We speed toward Lumberton as I make conversation with the driver and a front-seat passenger who is also a friend. Both of us blind folks opt to remain in the car during the quick grocery stop, sitting for only about 7 minutes while some additional supplies are acquired.

The party is much the same as it had been the year before and the one before that. I meet my cousin and his wife there, as well as another couple from smalltown NC not far away from Charlotte, who had also been there the previous two years. But, a friend from my university days has made an appearance for the first time in a while. And the most exciting find: my other long-lost “cousin” also shows up with his very kind girlfriend, who impresses us all by her willingness to just jump right in and make herself at home among this disparate, sometimes crazy group.

I am given two tins of cookies, as well as a gift that I still have wrapped because I want something to tear into on Christmas. Just a little of that childhood sentimentality, for old time’s sakes.

The evening’s highlight is the gift exchange. I brought an umbrella, easy to tell what it is even though wrapped, but hey a useful device! Especially considering that we’ve turned into Seattle lately. I don’t know who takes it, but it is plucked near last. I initially get a $25 Starbucks gift card (OO, nice!) but am not surprised in the least when someone opts to “steal” it. On my next draw, I got some sort of ringholder. Funny.

We also consume delicious nachos with cheese and meat, pasta sallad, and the requisite sausage ball that I have every time I go to this particular residence. We laugh as the NFL’s Washington Redskins amazingly knock off the Philadelphia Eagles, ending the Eagles’ hopes of making the playoffs.

After more chattering and ingestion of punch mixed with OJ, lemonade, Southern Comfort, and perhaps something else, I slunk off to bed.

And that’s pretty much the crux of the happenings at this year’s party. Most everyone had already departed long before I do, but I stay with my friend and watch our Carolina Panthers keep their playoff chances, which should by rights have been long gone, alive with a win over the Cleveland Browns 17-13. We have to defeat the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday starting at 4:25 in order to win the woeful NFC South, and extend our season with the worst record in NFL history of any team that has managed to do so.

I guess I’ll check in on that one while down in Louisiana, as I will be from this Friday till next Tuesday. Those will of course be my next series of posts. I’m guessing more will happen than I can even contain in two entries. We shall see, though. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, and happy holidays.

EDIT: Oh, and I also don’t have to await a ride when I arrive on the Megabus in Durham, as the individual I’ve designated as my favorite cabbie happens to be there. I guess she positions herself near arriving transit vehicles like that and Amtrak to see if she can get a fare. Makes me happy, again.

#WhiteCaneDay : A Big Piece of Freedom

Four cylindrical segments of aluminum, fitted together around a double elastic string. She, (because I want her to be a she), stands approximately 54 inches tall and comes to just below the second button on my comfortable sweater. She is the friend who is all good with me, as long as she doesn’t SNAP!

My beautiful, foldable, white cane. I often enjoy the stunned reaction I get when on public transit and I slide the holding string away and pop it open with a flourish.

“Wow, that stick is cool!

As an aside, I don’t have a great understanding of color, not surprisingly, so maybe you can explain why white is better than, say, red? Does red look too much like an emergency, and thus perhaps serve as a grater distraction rather than a signpost to just be aware? I’m curious.

In any event, today marks the 50th anniversary of National White Cane Safety Day, hashtagged on social media as #WhiteCaneDay. The National Federation of the Blind has published this article detailing the history and significance of this particular day. I immediately notice that it was born at the same time that equal civil rights for people of different racial/ethnic backgrounds were also being established. I doubt that this is entirely coincidental.

RELATED: Another great #WhiteCaneDay post: Don’t Fear The Cane

While I now consider her my friend, this “stick” and I were not always on such chummy terms. There are a few reasons for this, not the least of them being that my first metallic staff was a straight thing with curved top, like a candy cane. As a kid, I hated being further ostracized by this thing that I would have to slide under three chairs so as not to trip other children and teachers as they made their way around the class.

I knew the older blind kids had a folding cane, and that it would be a privilege afforded me if I got to a high enough level of Orientation and Mobility (O&M) to move around well and demonstrated a willingness to take care of the thing. Unfortunately, I did not always exercise sound judgement once I acquired that jointed object. For it also made a concealable weapon, ready to be whipped out as soon as I felt I was being insulted. Funny how quickly those halls cleared when it made that fantastic sound, like someone engaging in a sword fight. Get out of my way!

Into my high school and eventually college years, where I finally learned that she needed to stay on the ground, rising only high enough to make the taps that give me critical feedback about my environment. Are we nearing a curb? How far has the bus stopped from the sidewalk onto which I must step. And if I and my companion(s) in my blindness-oriented place of employment use proper skills, our extendable foldable friends will meet in the middle, instead of our heads! This is clearly a more desirable outcome.

As I practice these skills while out and about, I often wonder what some thoughts are that go through sighted people’s heads.

“No, ding dong, it’s not time to cross yet. You’re lucky I see you!”

RELATED: Travel By Leg: on my mobility abilities

“Aww, look at that amazing blind person who has dared to venture beyond his apartment and into the mean streets of town. I wonder where his attendant is?”

“Wait, is she really blind? She’s wearing glasses! Why the cane.

On this last point I’ll let a person with low vision explain more, but basically those who can see to some degree sometimes opt to carry canes in order to inform Joe or Jane Public that they might act in ways more consistent with individuals who are blind, due to an inability to take in a fuller picture of the environment. This can even include challenges in facial recognition, difficulties noticing where sidewalk turns to street, etc.

So if you see this person or any other using a cane, don’t make snap judgements regarding their visual acuity. Probably the best thing to do is clarity is really needed is to just ask, again as is always the case. And for my sake and all of those like me who wish to traverse our nation and world’s streets safely and in one piece, please use caution when operating a vehicle. Eyes on the road and your surroundings! Thank you.

I am grateful for those who have come before and worked hard and tirelessly to clear te way ahead for me. As the above-linked NFB article points out, as recently as 1930 most blind individuals didn’t dare venture beyond their home bounds alone. Now with a combination of fancy-shmancy technology and that good ol’ white cane, we range about as far and wide as we can dream. Here’s to 50 more years of safe, fun, informative, and ultimately life-affirming travel.

Random Rambles, and Monkeying with Site

So at this moment, I don’t have a good topic to write about. However, I feel like pounding on the keyboard anyway, so this is what you’ll get.

I now officially own this patio in front of Dunkin Donuts. I’m here again, for the 200th time, so often that people in every business along this strip know my name. Someone even randomly gave me a $10 gift card, which helped to fund my delicious, traditional ice cream sundae on July 4th. This sundae consisted of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and chopped nuts.

As I told someone else via Twitter, the tradition has its roots in middle childhood, when my mom would load her seven kids (including my cousin) into the family minivan, roll through a McDonald’s drive through, and get us all either sundaes or cones. I’ve always favored sundaes, because they tend to be a lot less messy. Plus, some cones taste like eating cardboard. I do kinda like the flavored ones, though they make the already sweet ice cream perhaps a bit too sweet.

Anyway, we would speed down the highway heading out of Charlotte for nearly 2 hours sometimes. Music from the Quiet Storm (remember that concept?) would finally lull us into a state of sleep that mom would have difficulty rousing us from once we finally turned back into our driveway. I know she’d be relieved though, as we would then drop straight into our beds. I’m guessing for her, this also served as good thinking time, a chance to just let everything float away on the cool, country-scented wind.

Speaking of which, there’s a fairly brisk breeze blowing out here as I sit and listen, with an umbrella flapping noisily overhead. Today and tomorrow are to be mid 80s, but then on Tuesday we’re gonna suddenly shoot up to 99! Hello, full-on summer.

In celebration of that, I activated the Beach theme on this page. I actually have no idea how that looked or if it worked, so eyes can tell me what they see. I just thought it sounded cool, and like something I’d like to be thinking about right now.

And finally, just six more days till my trip out west! Las Vegas Nevada, or as the flight attendant in The Goldfinch called it as they landed: “lost wages”. I certainly won’t be losing much of my wages there, as I plan to play the slots only once or twice, mostly so I can tell you what it’s like.

I find it somewhat amusing that I’d chosen to read this book without checking the reviews, and thus not knowing that a significant part of it takes place in Vegas. It confirms what happens to me every time I go somewhere, that area suddenly seems to become prominent in the news. Well area, object, person, whatever I’m noticing at the moment. I know, I’m important! Haha. Other instances of Vegas can be found in this NPR story on lack of youth employment opportunities there, and an article from the travel site Skift about how Vegas is marketing itself as a more welcoming summer tourism destination.

More sometime soon, maybe not till I get out there or back. I’m trying to decide if I wanna bring my laptop with me, though I fear that’d have to be checked and could thus be damaged, or just stick with the iPhone. I’ve blogged from the iPhone before, but we’ll see if I feel like doing that while on the go. Truthfully, I’ll probably be on the move too much to do it anyway. I have at least twelve people to meet. In any event, you’ll still hear about the fun. I also hope you’ll see some pictures, again if I find eyes to snap them with my iPhone. And there’ll be plenty of audio for us blind folk who thoroughly enjoy it. I’m all inclusive! To those who will be out there with me, have fun, and I can’t wait to hook up.

Christmas Vacation 1: The Party

Well, this has been as good a vacation from work and holiday season as I could have expected. I am sad that there remain only three more whole days before I must return to the routine that has defined my existence for the better part of a year, but hopefully I will feel revived for having this experience.

During this last week plus, I’ve ridden in several cars, a Greyhound bus, an Amtrak train, and a Southwest Airlines plane. Now that’s the kind of travel I long for nearly all the time. Since everything preceeding my Tampa trip, which happened from this Thursday till Sunday, is basically standard; I’ll give a quick sumary of that. Then I’ll cover the trip in greater detail, perhaps in more than one entry.

Last Saturday, the 21st of December, gives me kind of a Florida preview weatherwise. In fact, it probably ends up being a better weather day than I even saw once traveling down south.

After making a fairly short journey to Fayetteville by bus, (Audio from aboard, I arrive and am taken to a small town near Lumberton to celebrate the second straight Christmas party with one of my good friends. Before leaving the Ville, we stroll along and do some window shopping, where I and the individual who has come to get me acquire trinkets for the gift exchange.

Because I am hungry, I opt to get two burrito supremes from Taco Bell as we make our way toward the country. Then, I sit outside chattering with my cousin and a couple of other folks around a stone picnic table at our host’s house while many others go back out to do some quick shopping. We marvel at the openness of that area, and how it doesn’t really block the incessant winds as a place with more buildings would.&lt

We stay out there till the rest of the party returns, then make our way inside where we remain for the rest of the day. Other than participating in the affore mentioned gift exchange, I eat a meal of spaghetti with meat, meatballs, and sausage balls. I also enjoy some homemade peanut butter type cookies from the host.

At the wrap of that evening, we took a couple of fun photos of us all, some being silly and some just sitting in neat rows on the couches and chairs. I think you should be able to see the one I posted on Facebook there. I enjo myself at this gathering, mostly just catching up with people who are becoming and some who had already been firm friends.

Sunday is another early riser, though I have managed to sleep well on the couch after having weird dreas. This time, my cousin, his wife, and I head to another rural town of Pinebluff, where my mom, next eldest sister, and some of my nieces and nephews reside.

Well actually, we first go to First Missionary Baptist Church in Southern Pines to attend service there. As they often do, our pastor opts for a fairly short, uplifting Christmas cermon. He mainly talks about the idea that we should find ways to cheer ourselves up during the holiday season, even if it involves bouncing around to some jazzy Christmas music. I am all for that, mainly feeling pleased that I have found ways to avoid the loneliness that often does plague me at this time of year.

I spend the following week in Charlotte, mainly because I need the transportation flexibility to ensure that I’ll be able to get to my flight on Thursday afternoon.

On Monday, my cousin and I watch bowl games and commiserate about life for most of it. My cousin then accompanies his wife on Tuesday to her parents’ house for a party. During this time, I decide to try and catch a differet movie from one I’d ever seen, taken from a rather comprehensive collection of described content. I pick The Book of Eli, but eventually shelf it as there seems to be endless violence and I am unable to understand the point. It’s a post-apocalyptic thriller in which someone is trying to hunt down and recover some important text that will save humanity.

Tuesday night is given to going to another party, this one a dinner breakfast that another of our longtime friends usually hosts. I post Audio of me unwrapping a gift I got from this party, which I now believe is a set of handcuffs. I can’t say I know what the meaning behind that is, but it gives us a good laugh.

Wednesday, Christmas, is a simple affair. We all have breakfast around the table, then head into the living room in my Aunt and cousin’s place for the gifting gathering. My youngest male cousin gets some nice stuff from his parents and girlfriend. I think my older cousin and his wife get something for nearly everyone, hooking me up with an iTunes and an Amazon gift card. And yes, I will do something for them. My aunt and uncle also help me with some dough to help with trip expenses. I, on the other hand, give to the charity that has helped me a lot in getting from that failed graduate school experience to where I am now, the Community Empowerment Fund. Their primary mission is to assist people who have become or are in danger of experiencing homelessness. I dig this. And I think I should promote the nonprofit organization that is doing research and working to strengthen support for those with my disorder, the Norrie Disease Association, to whom I shall give also. Being a board member of myself, I am well aware of the work we are trying to do.

I go with my Aunt to dinner at some other family members’ house, where I again eat only to capacity as I had on Thanksgiving. Then I just sit and take in the NBA games amidst the swirling mass of humanity.

And that’s about all for this entry. I will chronicle the happenings of my nice, relaxing Tampa vacation in an upcoming post.

Vacation Wind Down

Ah, I can’t help but wonder how many Americans are in my same boat. I thought that being off for a week was supposed to rejuvenate one. Instead, I feel I’ve fallen so far out of my sleep pattern that it’s gonna be real tough to lug myself out of bed at the appointed time tomorrow: 4:15. *big yawns*
Even though I didn’t really go too many places this week, I still feel that it was quite productive. I initiated my application for the computer training course I referred to a few entries ago. It will cost a bit, but I am hoping that the benefits will be more prominent for me. Because almost everything depends at least to some extent on computers and knowledge of them these days.
That feeds well into what I’ve been reading these days. I started the WWW series by Robert J. Sawyer, mmm, maybe 3 and a half weeks ago? The books are, in order, Wake, Watch, and Wonder.
The main premise is that a young woman named Caitlin, an American citizen who has moved with her physicist father and learned mother to Canada, gains sight for the first time via an experimental operation by a Japanese doctor. He connects her to an electronic device that they jokingly call an “eyepod” that corrects the scrambled signals from her nerves to her brain and thus make her able to see. This requires a lot of adjustment, as she’d previously been blind all of her life.
Something goes a bit wonky, and Caitlin discovers that she is able to also “see” the web. She makes a fascinating find that seems quite relevant when viewed against the current revelations regarding NSA data collection capabilities.
There are a lot of controversial philosophical and religious ideas within those pages, but I find it to be good food for thought. I’ve just started the final book this week, and am curious to see how the story will end.
I read almost the entire second book during this past week, and especially on the 4th of July. I hadn’t had much to do for the early afternoon, so I texted around to see what some of my friends were up to. One of my very kind former classmates offered to come and take me to get some frozen yogurt at a local place that I think is called, sensibly I suppose, Local Yogurt. I forgot to ask her specifically, but just googled area places and that’s the one to come up. I had delicious cheesecake flavored yogurt covered in crumbled brownies. We sucked it down while sitting at an outdoor patio and taking in the beginnings of an area fireworks show.
And so I prepare to totter off and get another workweek underway. Hopefully it will be a good one, and especially if I can get all of the ducks on which I am still working in a row. I’ve opted to participate in a project called Audio Mo that asks folk to come up with and record some sort of piece every day for the month of July. You can hear those, as well as my other Audio Boo uploads, if you wish. Also, give me more topics! I’ll write more probably by Friday, as things finally start to take shape. Till then, have a good week.

Book Review: The Forgotten, by David Baldacci

I will begin by saying Happy Mother’s Day to all the women out there working hard and raising their children. Or, I guess by this point it’s more appropriate to say I hope you’ve had a great Mother’s Day.
Read a piece I wrote a few years ago entitled Reflections on My Mother about the great work she did in bringing up and caring for her family. There were definitely a lot of us!
As he often does, David Baldacci explores the ties among family members and the lengths one will go in order to ensure those members are treated fairly. This novel continues to follow John Puller, an officer in the US military who likes to chase down leads and conduct somewhat off-the-books investigations in different parts of the country. While it is a sort of sequel to Zero Day, I would say that one need not have read the former to enjoy this book. It might make things clearer though, as Puller constantly mulls over “the events of West Virginia” the context of which you wouldn’t understand without having read that.
Having been given time to convalesce from those events, Puller suddenly receives a letter from his Aunt in Florida. He’d not connected with her in years, but saw her as a valuable part of his upbringing and one who gave sound advice and was always there to talk to.
She writes that certain happenings in the town of Paradise are concerning her, and wonders if perhaps he could look into things. By the time he arrives on the scene, she has apparently met her demise due to suspicious causes.
The story is told from a third-person perspective but mostly from Puller’s point of view. As in Zero Day, Puller interacts with his father John Puller SR., who is dealing with increasing Alzheimer’s disease that leads him to believe he is still conducting battles as a high-ranking army general. The relationship between father and son is moving, although I think too much mention is given to the fact that Puller the son is just going along with this painful game because he doesn’t know how to break the real news to Puller father. The reader pretty much gets the point after the first two references.
Also as in zero Day, a dynamic that seems to be leading toward romantic connection is developing between Puller and the main female cop in Paradise: Cheryl Landry. I am not entirely certain if that will happen though, due to the fact that I’m only a little less than halfway through the novel.
I feel safe in recommending this book, as long as you can deal with a fair amount of violence and loss of life. It’s a good, easy read that I’ve mixed in among the myriad other books I’m working my way through as well. If only I could read while on the job!
I think I may have read more Baldacci than I have almost everyone else. I like his ability to so widely vary his styles, though I imagine that makes him hard to categorize as family-friendly vs. more adult-oriented. I suppose this challenge can be mitigated by doing what one should anyway: vetting the book before allowing young ones to be exposed to it. In any event, I’ve not been let down by any of his works that I have chosen to check out.

Easters of Yore

Ok, I failed at posting every day already. But there’s a reason for that! I’ve just gotten this new PC, a nice Dell Inspiron 17-inch laptop, and I’m kind of trying to get everything up and running. I’m approaching that status fairly quickly, though.

I hope I’m actually getting this entry’s content into the right place, because at first the edit boxes didn’t seem to be labeled. I played around with the preview links, and now I think things are working properly.

Anyway, Happy Easter! I’ve enjoyed having Friday off this past week, and feel a lot more relaxed for it. It makes me tempted to petition for a four-day workweek, but I know those days are over. I suppose I’ll just have to enjoy the time off whenever it comes.

I did venture over to Dunkin Donuts, which isn’t too far from my neighborhood, on that Friday. I mostly had to learn where exactly the building was. The streets are at somewhat odd angles, and there is a set of widely spaced steps that one must ascend in approaching the entrance. No one came to speak to me as I sipped coffee and read more of The Aviator’s Wife, however it was good to just listen to the ambience of the people as they came and went.

Yesterday was spent chatting with neighbors while sitting under the glorious sun. One of the best things I can say about my little area of Duke Manor Apartments is that there is a strong sense of community here. I stay in E, the guy in D helps me with technology issues as he’s really good at that kind of stuff. The woman in C reads my mail, sometimes transports me to the grocery store, and is just generally a supportive ear. She doesn’t let anyone move in here to whom she hasn’t introduced herself. She’ll bound out to the truck and help you offload your stuff! And she saw me the first time I really stepped outside after arriving that cold January weekend.

And today I sit, listening to the Yolanda Adams station on Pandora and reflecting on Easter as a kid. I don’t think my nieces and nephews celebrate it in the same way we usually did, but then I”m not sure much of anything is the same for them.

First, we often went to the sunrise service. If I thought 11:00 AM was early to attend church, try 6:45! Many an elbow to the ribage was necessary to keep me awake while sitting on those hard ews. It was the one rare time, when I was quite young, that my biological male parent actually came along to church with us.

After that service, they would feature an awesome breakfast of eggs, grits, sausages, biscuits and gravy, orange juice, and fruit. Great, I’m making myself hungry at a time when I can’t do much about it other than having a bowl of frosted flakes.

Then, we would head to Sunday School, and finally to that 11:00 service. This was definitely the longest day of the year in my mind. I’m pretty sure I did often go to sleep by that point.

Out of the doors and onto my grandma’s house for dinner. The thing I most remember about this time is the endless photos we seemed to take. Each of us individually, in smaller groups, lined up against the piano, standing outside, in just about every configuration you can imagine. My face would hurt from trying to smile.

Then the kids would be herded inside while the adults ran around in the grass and distributed eggs for the anual Easter egg hunt. My Aunt would always include three plastic eggs among the edible ones: one with money, one with a prize that would allow you to select some extravagance that she’d pay for (my cousin got it one year and took piano lessons), and a third with a piece of paper that said “rotten egg”.

Because my cousin and I were blind, we would usually be taken around by my other Aunt, who is sadlyu no longer living. She would divide the eggs between us, even though my cousin couldn’t stand the things anyway and so his lot would just be redistributed among the rest of the kids.

I would venture to say that I kind of lost my afinity for boiled eggs because I ate like 9 or 10 of them pretty quickly one Easter. NOw they don’t seem so kind to my stomach. Give me scrambled!

The last time I even had something remotely resembling that tradition was back in 2011, when my Aunt told me to hop a train down from Chapel Hill, where I was in graduate school at the time, to join her for two services. We went to sunrise in Charlotte, then hopped on the highway to attend the 10:30 service in Southern Pines, NC. That was definitely a long day as well, but fun as it concluded with a delicious meal at Golden Corralle.

What are/were some of your Easter traditions? I’m sure they may have been similar to what I experienced, but well we all come from slightly different backgrounds. I hope you’re having a good one, in any event.