5,000 Challenge

Trail Baboon?

I was thinking I wanted this blog to have a familiar title – something easy to recognize, but sly.  A turn of phrase that describes information that’s sent out solely for the purpose of observing the reaction of the audience. Something catchy but common.  However, somebody else has that title locked up, and so one must make do with the opportunity that one has.

Maybe “Braille Typhoon” would be better. “Teal Ballroom”? I’m open to suggestions.

This was how we started out 7 years ago – a rag tag bunch still mourning the end of TLGMS and following our favorite DJ into a new venture. Earlier this year we completely hijacked the trail and made it our own.

And as of yesterday, we have 5,000 followers to our little blog. Some days it feels quiet on the Trail, but even then we have many likes and probably a few lurkers.

I have a challenge today. If you are reading this blog, but have never commented, please put one quick comment out there.  One word or two or even a sentence is fine.  If you been here before you know we are a kind community and we’d love to hear from you.

For everybody else – do you remember your first comment on the Trail (or the Trial Balloon)?

Rain, rain, go away

It was pouring down rain the morning we steamed into Malaga. I had meetings in the morning and had resigned myself to an afternoon stuck on the ship.  Then as we sat in the restaurant having lunch, the sun suddenly broke through and the clouds started drifting away.

Nobody had to ask us twice; we were off the ship in a flash. All up and down the streets of the older part of Malaga is the Andalusian state tree, the beautiful “Jacaranda” with the most amazing purple flowers in abundance.  I had ask a local is it was Ha-caranda (as you would expect in Spain) or Ja-caranda (maybe the word coming into the language from elsewhere).  Ha-caranda it is!

We poked our heads into a pretty little cathedral and on the way out encountered a sweet but spoiled dog as well as some very good street performers playing guitar.

The Picasso Museum was too tempting to miss; he was born in Malaga, so they feel very territorial about him. It was a nice exhibit with some of his very earliest work up through pieces he did near the end of his life.  They also had bookmarks with just the cat from Reclining Nude with a Cat but wouldn’t take a credit card for a purchase under €10 and I didn’t have any more Euros.  So we settled for some Picasso refrigerator magnets from the souvenir shop across from the museum.

We also had to take many photos of the Malaga Ferris Wheel (the Noria de Malaga) as my client collects Ferris wheel photos (no, I don’t know why). It is the largest itinerant Ferris wheel in Europe, as it is technically moveable.

By the time we got back to the ship, the sky was bright blue with just a few wispy white clouds in the distance – a perfect way for a rainy day to end up!

What do you like to do on a rainy day?


Keep Your Foot Paste off My Keyboard

Today’s post comes from Clyde.

Trying to help my fingers type better, I ordered a new keyboard from Amazon, one that has raised keys that clack like a typewriter. I may not have it long; Sandy has keyboard lust.

It came with two things that did not arouse my confidence in the product. The first was the little white plastic object that is the header picture for this post. My son figured out what it is. I will leave it to you to guess. The second was the warranty card, which is in this photograph.

Been a while since I have received mangled translation like this. How delightful.  I await my three bags of after-sales service.

What have you lost in translation: linguistic, cultural, generational, or political?

Wandering, wandering

We had meetings all morning and by the time we were finished, it was too late to catch one of the shore excursions. But I’ve never been in Cartagena before and my co-worker, Shannon, had never been on a cruise and didn’t want to sit on the ship all afternoon.  So we headed out, grabbing a map of the city center on our way.

We wandered through the narrow streets, took lots of pictures and stopped at one point to listen to a guy playing the accordion. We ended up on the top of the hill overlooking Cartagena among some Roman ruins, including an ancient flour mill where they were installing large metal black widow spiders. I couldn’t remember the word for spider (“aranda” – I remembered it as soon as it wasn’t useful anymore!) but we asked the young men doing the installation “porque” (why).  We got nothing from them – just a laugh and a nod of the head.

Then we wandered down off the hill to look at a big church that we had seen from the top of the hill. It was locked but when we peered inside there was a man sitting in a folding chair at the back of the pews and he came over and let us in. My Spanish is just good enough for me to ask him the name of the church and he gave us the name “Basilica de la Caridad” and a little of its history.

After that we walked a bit until we found a current excavation of some more Roman ruins. It was fascinating to see how everything is put back together during this kind of work and it was very interesting to see the artist renderings of what the building and rooms looked like in Roman times.

By then we had just enough time to buy a t-shirt for Shannon’s son and then get back to the ship. I’m sure we had a better time than if we had done a canned bus tour.

When have you wandered?

Moving the Bed

Today’s post comes to us from Barbara in Rivertown.

We just got back from visiting my mom. Her room in the nursing home is pretty long and narrow, and her bed was in the farthest corner from both the entrance and the bathroom. She’s been after me for weeks – not every visit because she doesn’t always remember, but often enough – to rearrange so that the bed goes crosswise and is closer to both of the doors. I had gotten the OK from the appropriate staff, and Husband was with me Sunday, and so we moved the bed, a shelf, and a little table into new positions.

I can’t remember when she has been so animated, and pleased. She was thrilled that the arrangement makes the room feel cozier, and although the bed is really only a few steps closer to the above mentioned places, it FEELS closer to her, and that’s what counts. What I suspect feels the best is that she still has some say over one aspect of her life.

Is there any part of your life you feel in control of?

Begging for S’More

I started becoming a vegetarian when I was four. My Aunt Effie served lamb for Easter and when I discovered what was on the plate I promptly threw up.  At the age of five I had to be taken out of a seafood restaurant when I realized the lobsters in the tank at the entrance were becoming the meals at the tables around us.  When I was six I found out that venison was Bambi.  And so it continued.

I gave up the very last bit of meat left in my diet (ground beef) when I was 16. Even after all these years there still a few things I miss.  Tuna salad on a tomato on a hot summer day, sizzling bacon on a cold winter morning.

And marshmallows. No yams with marshmallows at Thanksgiving.  No Rocky Road ice cream.  No s’mores. That’s the one that really hurts. In the past few years there have been a couple of companies that have tried vegetarian marshmallows but they weren’t very good to start with and not good at all for s’mores: too small, too sticky, too melty. Over the years I’ve even tried s’mores with marshmallow cream.  If you think regular s’mores are messy, marshmallow cream is messier.

So when I saw the Trader Joe’s has come out with vegetarian marshmallows I was skeptical. But I figured if they were terrible it was only a couple of bucks. Over the weekend, Young Adult and I made a little fire in our pit and gave them a try.  Imagine my surprise when they turned out to be great.  Not quite as soft as your basic Stay Puff, but great for s’mores.  They stayed on the skewer until they were done and tasted just fine.  They did go pretty fast from light brown to bubbly but that might have had something to do with the impatience of the s’more makers.  Guess I’ll have to try marshmallows on yams next!

What have you given up that you miss?

Faux Car, Faux Driver

Today’s post is from Steve.

I’m not sure how it happened, but when I was a kid in central Iowa I fell in love with sports cars. That was in the late 1950s. Where I lived there were almost no sports cars, although I had seen a few Triumph TR3s, a Jaguar or two and maybe a few MGs. Sports cars were exotic and rare in that place and time. Most folks considered them impractical and ostentatious.

My dad knew a man in Ames who owned a sports car, a gleaming black Jaguar XK 120. Dad said this car was kept in a locked garage, and nobody in town (even this man’s neighbors) knew it was there. The owner was one of our town bankers. He only drove his Jaguar late at night when the streets were so dark nobody would spot him in it. I’ve always been amused and saddened by the image of a man infatuated with a flashy car that he could only enjoy in the privacy of total darkness.

Of course, I never got to drive a sports car. Other kids my age made sneak purchases of Playboy magazines that they studied with great longing. I bought copies of Road and Track and engaged in fantasies of zooming through the British countryside in a swoopy red Italian roadster. Our family car at the time—a ponderous Ford station wagon with tail fins–was as far from a sports car as any vehicle could be.

In 1960 my family moved to Minnesota so my dad could start his own stuffed toy animal factory. He joined three businessmen there who invested in his factory. That was the year I went off to college, but I worked summers in my dad’s factory as a shipping clerk.

One day I was summoned to the office. One of my dad’s partners, a man named John, asked me to drive his car home. The car was a Karmann Ghia. My heart jumped. This was a <i>sports car!</i> John wanted me to drive his sports car!

This car had an odd history. It had recently been stolen from a car dealer’s lot where John had left it to be serviced. The stolen vehicle was then used as the getaway car in a bank robbery. While the Karmann Ghia looked sexy, it was just a Volkswagen dressed up in a sexy Italian body. With a 40-horsepower motor, this car couldn’t outrun the slowest cop car on the planet. It was tiny, so if the thieves scored several bags of money there would not be room for them in their getaway car. And you sure have to wonder about the intelligence of a bank robber whose plan was to flee the scene of the crime in a bright orange (and badly underpowered) sports car.

That didn’t bother me. I was just thrilled to drive my first sports car!

I was so pumped up that I didn’t want the ride to end. In Wayzata I took a detour and stopped the Karmann Ghia on a little side road that went to the lake. I switched off the engine and sat there grinning with my wheels almost touching the water. Decades later the rock star known as Prince would tease a girlfriend by telling her she had to cleanse herself in the pure waters of Lake Minnetonka. Not me. I just wanted to enjoy the moment.

Then I started my orange car up and went to back out so I could deliver it to John’s home. Only I couldn’t get the Karmann Ghia in reverse. The gear shift offered no hints about how it could be put in reverse. I desperately sawed the shift shaft through the four forward gears, but reverse was just not there! My wheels were almost in the lake. I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go backward. I was stuck.

And I was humiliated. If my memory is good, I began bawling with shame as I sat there. The orange Karmann Ghia was just a faux sports car, a 40-horse Volkswagen in wolf’s clothing. I was just a shipping clerk from Iowa, a faux sports car driver who couldn’t even put this car in reverse. Faux car; faux driver. All my fantasies rushed back to mock me.

As some baboons know, it is good to be a reader. I had a tickle of memory that related to the gear shift on Volkswagens. I thrust the shift shaft downward as if to shove it through the floor. It moved down an inch or two, slid left and then snicked into reverse!

I wiped away my tears, backed away from the lake and drove on to John’s home.

Have you ever suffered humiliation when your dreams crashed against reality?


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