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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Old Friends

Old Friends

I spoke today with my old friend, Andrew. Tomorrow is his 64th birthday. Normally, we exchange life updates by e-mail, but today just seemed right.

We've been friends since 8th grade, and were practically inseparable for years. When we discovered tennis at age 14, we played most every day during the summer, in the evenings after we got summer jobs. We double-dated to our junior prom. During college, he'd visit me in New Jersey, and I'd visit him in Boston. I remember one particular New Year's Eve when we trudged through the snow with two friends of his to a Clint Eastwood film at the Orson Welles Cinema.

After school, he moved to northern Virginia with his then-girlfriend, now wife. Shortly after, I took a job in Richmond. We'd get together for tennis at local courts in Arlington. I was best man at his wedding in western Maryland. He was to have been best man at my wedding to Karen, but had to move his mother to a nursing home that day.

Karen and I lived in Crofton, Maryland, and Andrew and his wife would come for dinner, or we'd see them in Virginia. We both worked in Washington for a while, and we'd get together for lunch in the District.

We didn't see each other much after Karen and I moved to Wyoming. On occasion, I'd have to fly to Washington, and we'd have lunch. I saw him and Teresa when I went east to my 20th college reunion; he drove up to New Jersey for my father's funeral.

It's been 12 years since we've seen each other, but we've stayed in touch. Today, it was just like old times. We compared the effects of aging. Talked about who was (and was not) recognizable in 45th high school graduation reunion photos. He told me he was thinking about learning radio production at a local community college in hopes of hosting a radio show; I reminded him of the days when we'd sit with an old Wollensak reel-to-reel tape recorder at my house and pretend we were on radio. We talked about what his two kids and my stepson were up to. I invited him to visit us some time on their way to Hawaii, where they have a condo. He allowed as how, now he and his wife are retired, they might come our way to see some of the western national parks.

And it will be good. Like old times, I hope.

I once thought we'd grow old in Trenton, like Simon and Garfunkel's old friends, sitting on a park bench, like bookends. Now, it's e-mail and cell phones. But, still old friends.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Last Post From Scotland - Random Photos

BT supports cycling; but roads too narrow
Abandoned cupola in the countryside

Beached boat at Castle Maol, Isle of Skye

Old photo of Castle Maol

Castle Maol today
Well-kept black-faced ram
Feral black-faced ram

Didn't have ice cream, but did have cullen skink

For people who plan to be cremated, we visited a lot of graveyards

Laggan Dam on Loch Laggan

Eilean Donan Castle, major tourist trap

Feeding ducks on Caledonian Canal

Glen Elg rotary car ferry

George (don't know his master's name)

Interior of broch

Kayaking at GlenElg

Karen, my lovely traveling companion

Lamb on a rock

Lambs to the slaughter, at Inverness

Inverness signs, old and new

Pottery at Cromarty

Pictish art

Paw prints and seaweed at Loch Ness

Skye Bridge from Kyleakin side

Stacked rocks on Loch Ness beach; mine's on top

Stufffed badger, Inverness museum

Standing stones

The Five Sisters

Wool skeins at Highland Folk Museum

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tropical Scotland

On our first visit to the United Kingdom, we spent a week in Cornwall, the southernmost peninsula of the island. We were surprised to see palm trees, apparently enabled by Gulf Stream warming. That said, we never expected to see palm trees in Scotland.

Plockton is a small village on a sheltered bay of Loch Carron. The National Trust for Scotland conservation area served as the fictional village of Lochdubh in the British dramady Hamish Macbeth, starring Scottish actors Robert Carlyle and Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter movies). And, so, we went.


We didn't recognize Plockton from Hamish Macbeth; it looked, in its own way, like Cornwall. Palm trees, lush gardens, small harbors filled with small sailboats, rowboats, and kayaks. Rocky beaches. Colorful restaurants and pubs, specializing in seafood (cullen skink sounds awful, but is a delicious haddock chowder with cream, leeks, onions, ham, and potatoes). The only reminder of the TV show was the sign for the local newspaper, where Henderson worked.

Boat house with sea eagle sculpture
Sail boats in Plockton harbor

Kayakers in wet suits
The Fish Bar

Plockton's newspaper and gift shop

Plockton corgi

Support for Scottish independence

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"This Country Was Their Training Ground"

When a country has fought as many wars as has Great Britain, one would expect war memorials in every town, and that's certainly true of every town we visited in Scotland. Most commemorate a specific war or event, but one remains a living memorial to a group of soldiers from World War II through the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan - the Commando Memorial in Spean Bridge. The memorial, dedicated to the men of the original British Commando Forces, was raised during the Second World War. It overlooks the training areas of the Commando Training Depot established in 1942 at Achnacarry Castle and Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles.


Near the memorial itself is the Area of Remembrance, an open circle of tributes to commandos in more recent wars. Many bear the commando logo, the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife; some bear photographs, unit crests, artificial poppies, whiskey bottles, and flags.