Sunday, June 30, 2013

Forty Shades of Green

Why is this difficult to understand?
Thanks to Howard Wolowitz of the Big Bang Theory -- it's so clear now, even for us Americans!

Why visit Ireland?

Most Southwestern Native American tribes do not have a word which distinguishes the color green from the color blue. It is an unnecessary differentiation that never required the creation of a term. The weather here in the High Desert experiences little rain, giving rise to very little "green." In Ireland, it rains. It rains in the winter. It rains in the summer. And for good measure, it rains in the spring. Did I mention the autumn rains? It is a joke, well, maybe not a funny one, that you can tell the season by the temperature of the rain in Ireland. Cold rain:  winter. Warm rain:  summer. But, it's raining and that is why the Emerald Isle is green. So green in fact that those who care about such things have categorized forty different shades of green on this tiny island. We're leaving the desert to see something green.

But are there any other reasons to go?
  1. Because the Irish have always been industrious builders:  When Newgrange, perhaps the oldest prehistoric monument in Ireland was in its planning stages, most of the rest of the planet was peopled with humans trying to figure out why their mud-hut wouldn't stand. These monuments are a few hundred years older than the pyramids at Giza, and their precision alignment to the cosmos is just as remarkable. No where else in the world will you find so many prehistoric monuments in such a small territory: an island roughly three hundred miles in length and a hundred fifty in breadth.
  2. The history, and the future of Dublin, Belfast, Kerry, Cork. Names of cities which resonate in ancient and more modern history. From the time of the Vikings through the current "Troubles," these places have endured.
  3. Natural wonders such as few will ever see. The Giant's Causeway, the Slieve League (the tallest cliffs in Europe) and the views from the cliff-faces.
  4. Preservation of historic heritage: in both Heritage towns and the preservation and restoration of early Christian churches, monasteries, and medieval monuments.
  5. Writers are drawn toward the arts. Ireland is famous for its unique Celtic song, inimitable dance, and for its literature. English was a language thrust upon the Irish. so they took perfect revenge. They mastered the word, crafted the phrase and produced several Nobel Laureates in Literature. You cannot deny there is simply something about that accent, nor can you forget the way so many Irish have turned an English phrase:  Bram Stoker, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Liam O'Flaherty, Geroge Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, and Morgan Llewellen. And, I could be mistaken, but I'm fairly certain the name Reagan, is Irish. Now, if politics is an art, that man was an artist!
  6. Witness the birth of peace as two countries merge not so seamlessly into one. From North Ireland's six Ulster counties and British currency and all the many large and small differences between the north and her southern sister, Ireland, there are indications, reflections of Ireland's troubled history as well as signs of hope and restoration as the partition closes.
  7. Irish pubs. Do I have to explain?
  8. It is indeed the old country for so many of us who have the privilege to claim Irish roots.Nearly thirty five million Americans are Irish or partially Irish, a number which is seven times the current population of the island itself at approximately four and a half million.
  9. The Gathering.  This year, 2013, seventy million Irish from around the world are invited to return home. There is a nationwide welcome home party. How do you pass up that invitation?
  10. Loyalty. If I've discovered anything about the Irish people, and my own roots, it is that the Irish are nothing if not loyal.  Oh, they can joke, cast sarcastic barbs, and have refined self-deprecating humor to an art. Story-telling? Pretty sure, this was where it was invented; and each time the story is relayed, it becomes more fantastical. But while you are jesting, feel free to make light of your own foibles, because though they may joke about their own country, family, religion, etc., it is not your place to cast aspersions. As my sister once said, "My husband may be a jerk, but he's my jerk."  And my daughters? Irish to the core. They would sometimes fight like cats and dogs growing up, but if someone came against the other from outside the family -- they would have hell to pay. Fierce loyalty. How else could a people so besieged and oft conquered, never bowed, never gave up being Irish. 
Erin go Bragh -- Ireland forever!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Haunting We Will Go

"There are some human beings who are dimly aware of their own deaths, yet have chosen to stay on in what used to be their homes, to be close to surroundings they once held dear." - Hans Holzer, legendary paranormal researcher who passed away in 2009.

What does a rational logical person do when they are visiting a city where there is supposed to be one of the most haunted houses in America?

Explore it of course.

That's exactly what J and L did recently while in San Diego for another matter which dealt with being Hunted and not Haunted. Okay that was a cheap shot at self-promoting the novel Hunted and I hope our readers will forgive that dalliance.

We had heard about the number one rated haunted house in America according to Travel Channel's America's Most Haunted and knew we had to walk those spooky grounds. We wanted to tread along the wooden floor boards and hear the creaks and moans of folks who hadn't decided to go 'to the other side' and perhaps convince them perhaps they should or at least to get them to be quieter and not scare the tourists.

After purchasing the entrance tickets for the Whaley House located in Old Town San Diego in lieu of  New Town which is actually downtown San Diego where another haunted location exists called the William Heath Davis House. We had visited that haunt (if you'll permit the pun) earlier in the day without a whisper in our ear or even a tug on our clothes by invisible forces - wouldn't you think there should be a refund policy for not even having one single hair on your arm rise after spending forty minutes going up and down stairs in a ghostly inhabited place?

No such luck.

Determined, we sauntered into the Whaley house which was a rather large and comfortable considering it was built in 1857 on a slight hill looking south west out toward the bay of San Diego. The docents where wonderfully attentive and one fine gentleman grabbed onto us in the main hallway and explained all the paranormal happenings that had occurred within the walls of the house since it had been built.

It seemed Thomas Whaley had purchased a vacant lot which once what the location for the hangings of some of the lower elements of early San Diego but not being a believer in visitors from the afterlife he pooh-poohed the ideas and constructed the two story brick house for his family. One of the most notorious men to have been hung on or nearby the property was one Yankee Jim (James Robinson) who had been convicted of numerous crimes and received a death by hanging decree in 1852. The only problem was that Yankee Jim was a rather tall fellow and when the wagon was forced away from him with rope around his neck the tips of his boots touched the ground. Instead of the usual snap crackle pop of the neck the poor man swung around and chocked to death. Records stated it took nearly 30 minutes for poor Yankee Jim to give up the ghost.

Or perhaps he didn't.

Soon after Whaley built the house and moved his family in the spooking started with the nightly creaking of the ninth step on the inside stairwell. The 'cold' spots where the Whaley's were certain someone from the other side was standing. In fact, it got to the point that Thomas Whaley became a believer in the supernatural (it should be noted he was there when Yankee Jim was executed and believed not in spirits revisiting) especially after hearing the footsteps moving about the entire house at odd hours of the night and not just on the ninth step any longer. He was spooked but it would get worse.

In 1871 being despondent over a failed or troubled marriage the Whaley's twenty-two year old daughter, Violet shot herself in the outhouse and her father carried his dying daughter into the salon where she soon died. It has been reported over the decades one can hear someone crying in that room when there isn't anyone there. As typical with any such a haunted place there are stories of the caretakers, visitors, and other such folk who heard and felt strange occurrences within the Whaley House. There have been children reporting a man waving at them wearing a strange looking outfit - it has been thought that young children are more in tune with ghosts than older folks and clothing from the 1850's would surely look strange to a little one now wouldn't it?

After a rather lengthy description of the house we thanked the Docent and wandered about the interior and exterior of the place for an hour, even haunting (probably wrong term) around a bit on the ninth step bouncing up and down.

Nothing! Or was there?

Not a tingle, not an itch, not a tug, and no cold spots except walking by an upstairs open window and feeling the wonderful cool breeze from the San Diego Bay.

But when we returned home and checked our photos, in the room where the young lady breathed her last, there was a strange lighting effect. (See the comparisons photos). Was there something, someone, after all?

Again, it was a bit of a bust for ghost hunting but worthwhile all the same with the marvelous and tantalizing history that Old Town San Diego has to offer.

But don't expect a refund if you don't get spooked - that should be changed according to this writer.

Whaley House Museum

Old Town San Diego Guide

William Heath Davis house San Diego, California - GoThere

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Father's Day

Our girls, one Christmas!
You know it seems that fathers are often forgotten in the shuffle of everyday living. We all make a big deal of Mother's Day (and you better, I've talked to her!), but Father's day in this nation is celebrated in June:  school is out, Dad acts like it's no big deal but, in his heart, it means so much to be remembered.

Putting it in perspective, if it weren't for that random dude named Dad, none of us would be here! Now don't laugh and stop reading -- think about it for a moment. After all, if that guy had not cared enough about your future existence to marry your mother and then stick around for all those years, you wouldn't be who you are today. He stuck through it:  from pregnancy to toddler to full-fledged brat (the teen-age years still sting), to watch you grow into an adult -- and that is one incredible commitment! The time, money, effort and heartache is unimaginable -- unless you are a Dad yourself.

So Dads get a special day set aside to be celebrated for all of this. You send a card, or give a little gift that says, "Yes, I know I was a pain sometimes, but thanks for being there! Thanks for everything you do and for just being you!"

In today's society with divorce, parental abandonment, or those fathers who never commit to being "Dad," it seems more appropriate than ever to give Dad his due. There are fewer such noble warriors than we might wish to contemplate.

We will write this piece from multiple perspectives, and try not to give you headache -- but I think on one level or another, you will all find something to which you can relate.

L, of the J and L team, remembers her own father as her hero. He taught her about the ways of the world and instilled that good old Puritan work ethic which has helped her become who she is. He was there when his grand-children came, to help teach them about riding a bike and other skills that Dad just seem to do better than Mom. As time went on, distance and the choices made in life took their toll, but there are memories which are still fond and fresh.

Our daughters, and I can say this before I turn the keyboard over to J, of J and L, had the best father I've ever known. A good man -- not always a nice guy (who can be when you must play the role of "Dad") but a very good man who to this day, loves and protects his little ladies fiercely. He knows when to encourage, when to chastise, when to play, and when to listen. And, he had a comment about anyone or anything they would ask. You may not always like the answer, but you got an honest, well-informed opinion when you sought one. Even as adults, the girls call home, sometimes filtered through Mom, to seek his wisdom. They don't always take the advice, but they still ask. Ah, such is the life of a Dad!

J, of team J and L, remembers his father with bittersweet joy. He lost his father nearly thirty years ago. The man who fought valiantly through three wars, lost his last war with cancer, but not before sharing his wisdom and love with his two sons.

Writing comes so easily for a wordsmith but when I discuss my father, George, my throat constricts and my eyes fill with tears of love. My father passed away from cancer when I was in my twenties. The years when the youth believe they know everything and know nothing about life. Those years when we generally are so self-absorbed that we forget or never realize life is just a blink in time. I was one of those twenty-somethings and to this day I regret it.

My father was a wonderful man - quiet and never spoke much about himself but when he did you were meant to listen. My brother and I often disagreed with dad but realized he had been right and we had been wrong.

I recall a special moment in my senior year in high school while playing football and it was father's night - the night when the dads would come out to the field with their sons and place their hand on our shoulder pads in recognition of our accomplishments but now eons into the future it was we, the players, who should have realized we had dads to place those very hands upon our shoulders. I was one very fortunate child.

When cancer took my father from our lives a great hole opened in my life. Though I did not yet have children, I wondered who I could look to for guidance. My mother was great but she was a mother and not a dad. I needed the strong hand and will only, sometimes, a father can muster when a question arose. Not all a dad's answers are welcomed but they come from the heart and the years upon this earth. We do the best we can with the knowledge we have and hope they are the right calls.

I miss my father more than I can state since he never met any of my four gorgeous and talented daughters but my hope is he is looking down from heaven and saying; "You did a fine job, son."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Nevada night in San Diego

John and Zlata

The evening was clear, warm and beautiful with the sun setting to the west of San Diego Bay and both J and L felt very fortunate to be standing on the deck of the fifty foot motor yacht, Bay Watch. We were there at the invitation of Johnny Nevada, the producer, director, and voice of the Talk of San Diego to discuss the recent release of the novel Hunted. Johnny's show was both live radio and a cable show shown on three different cable networks in greater San Diego, the radio broadcast being one of the favorites in the city by the bay.

After being ushered aboard by a dapperly dressed Captain Bill, who is owner and operator of Bay Watch Cruises located on Shelter Island at the Silver Gate Yacht Club we were given a tour of the three story luxury yacht and were duly impressed. Three staterooms, one for each story was our guess, and two heads (that's bathrooms to the landlubbers), a large salon, kitchen, dining area, and overall a great place to live which is exactly what a Captain Bill does when he is not out giving water tours on the bay.

Johnny Nevada, as usual was busy making sure everything was ready for the show that evening, a live radio broadcast as well as television but that didn't mean Nevada was too busy to throw lively jokes, one-liners, and an occasional fun-intended bard toward this writer. Somehow the lovely Laureen seems to escape this good natured hazing by many while the not so lovely John gets broadsided. Since we knew Johnny and now consider him a friend, the real time banter was fun and enjoyable.

It was a great way to relax before sitting down in front of a television camera.

Zlata, John and the illusive Johnny Nevada
Shortly after our arrival the hostess for the show came on board and introductions were once again shuttled back and forth. It was the first night for this newcomer to serve as the host for Johnny's show and she only smiled, sat behind the microphone, tossed her hair, and said she was ready.

Zlata Sushchik (yes, definitely a Russian name) was the 2009 Miss Alaska Teen beauty pageant winner and the competition surely made her ready to sit behind microphones without a bat of an eye or a nervous twinkle for that matter.

To hear John and Zlata, click the link below:

We learned during the interview, where both J and L were interviewed separately for the audience that Zlata recently announced that she will be running for the upcoming Miss California pageant. She would have our votes after listening to her questions us about the novel, our blogging escapades, how we met, and eventually married, and other topics which showed what a wonderful interviewer she was. And she easily kept up her momentum even with Johnny Nevada shooting jokes at her while on-air. She was a true professional.

As the moon rose over San Diego the show round down with laughter and good feelings for a show well done and from the look on everyone's faces it had been time spent in the company of friends.

Laureen and Zlata chat -- to hear them, click the link:

It was great publicity for Hunted, Bay Watch Cruises, Silver Gate Yacht Club, Zlata Sushchik and her many quests (this is one very determined beautiful young woman who has her eyes and fingers on many different venues), and of course for the Talk of San Diego.

Again, Johnny Nevada was a gentleman (hope this doesn't tarnish his image) and we were glad to have spent a truly gorgeous San Diego evening aboard a yacht with him and his entire crew.

"The Talk of San Diego" Cox Cable Ch 23 - AT&T U-Verse Ch 99 ...

A Bay Watch Cruise

Silver Gate Yacht Club