Monday, December 28, 2009

Backed Up in Baltimore

The Z-A installment this week will be a bit late. I am back in Baltimore, the land of my boyhood, so bear with and we'll be back!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Crashin' the Crib

Xavier's Escort cruised and careened down the causeway, headed home, a crazy old Cowsills cassette in the console (It came with the car). Within hours, he completed his course, climbing the concrete drive to the cottage he called home.

Home. It had a calming, almost cryptic quality to it. He cracked the door, entered the cottage, checked the cabinets and closets, and crossed over to the couch. Next, he called Charlie, his old crony from college who lived closer to the city.

"Hey Charlie. I've come back. Time to catch up. Want to hit the cafe for a coffee?"
"Sure it's been a coon's age since we've been out carousing - but I totaled my Corvette on the Cutchersville Curve. Talk about a calamity! So I'll have to call a cab."
"Nah, I'll come by, if you don't complain about my choice of car."

Later, amidst the cacophony in the Corner Cafe, Charlie and Xavier concentrated on the challenges of communicating coherently.
"So, Charlie, bring me up to current times."
"Well, we didn't collapse in your absence. But my career is in the crapper. They conveniently conducted a downsizing - contracting my work to the Chinese."
"My condolences," Xavier commiserated. "Welcome to the club."
"Eh, I'll come through in the clutch. Those callous clowns can't contain me! I'll have them capitulate!"
"It's a cruel world, Charlie. Bunch of creeps."
"Why all the cheer, Xave? You seem...cold."
"Oh, I keep clinging to..."
"Ah, a chance to cavort with, what was her name?"
"Uh, Wendy."
"Yeah, Wendy. Have you called her?"
"Have I called her? Of COURSE I called her!"
"Some cad answered the call, like he camped out there constantly."
Charlie composed his thoughts.
"So what's this 'cad' called?"
"Said he was 'Ed". Just "Ed here."
"Ah, Xavier, you ol' coot ... Ed? Ed's her cousin from Cleveland, came down for Christmas!"
Xavier cooled down a bit. His cause was alive!

Friday, December 18, 2009

All Over Ohio

I put 671 miles on the car in four days this week, all in Ohio except one trip over the bridge into Wheeling, WV. It was all work related. Two days in Morgan County (population around 14,000) interviewing people about what makes the local economy tick. Interestingly, many feel Morgan and its like weather the current recession much better than, say, my home county in NW Ohio where there's too much reliance on the Automobile. Down there, they had their shakeout, and their industrial sector is actually growing of late.

The new Chinese buffet in Morgan County's county seat, McConnelsville (pop.: about 2,000), is doing well, but it's hard to fill the seats with moviegoers in the Opera House. However, the Ohio Valley Opry does pack the place with connoisseurs of county, gospel, and bluegrass on the third Saturday of every month.

And the Quakers - perhaps 25 of them - still assemble on Sunday in Chesterhill (pop.: maybe 500) in the same place they have come since 1834. They follow up their time of silent contemplation with a lunch gathering in the next room.

Chesterhill, like McConnelsville, also has a working theater, the Union Hall, and a new geneaological museum. Chesterhill's Mayor was telling me about the most difficult day in his career, when the Klan showed up, deputies arrived, guns drawn, and things could have gotten more dicey than they were.

I also had meetings in two other counties, and here are some of my pictures from those 671 miles on the road.
McConnelsville's Opera House

At Rokeby Lock on the Muskingum River
Chesterhill's Quaker meeting house - still in use
The Guernsey County Courthouse - a light show every half hour!

The Belmont County Courthouse, "artistically" shot through the rear-view. (It's not 9:20 - more like 3:40...)
Detail on a railroad bridge crossing the Ohio into Wheeling. They don't make 'em like this any more.
Finally - the Gilboa Cow (Putnam County), decked out for the holidays (also appears to the right)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Z-a Monday: Doggone it, just too darned busy for details


Details, like continuing the drama of Xavier et al. Just said goodbye to a houseful of Christmas company and now I'm a packin' for a work related trip (Drudgery!) So we'll dodge this issue and derail the story for a day or two, depending on whether we find Internet at the destination.

Meanwhile, some more dog pictures featureing our orphan, Oliver, and visiting grand-dog-puggle Lilly, to entertain the reader. Who doesn't delight in dog pix? (And if we have to do this again next week, dibs on "Canine")
Here he is, hauling his "stocking stuffer" off to a lair or something...
"are you talking to me? ARE YOU TALKING TO ME???"
- - - -
And then a friend brought this box of balloon structures the skilled balloonist could create. Our son spent a couple exciting hours constructing inflated replicas of the White House and the Golden Gate bridge. Here is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue...
And the bridge? (He had to work with the colors he was given...)
Despite these incredible feats of architectural excellence, I think he will continue to apply to grad schools. And it strikes me that we have strayed entirely from the use of the letter "D", to which I can only say


Monday, December 7, 2009

Z-A Monday: The Essence of the E Edition

Energized and elated - almost egotistical! - over the bus episode, Xavier found an eatery (he was famished) and ordered the eggs benedict with eggplant and endives, eschewing the escargot. Once he'd eaten, and seeking a way to exit this town and hit the expressway for home, he expended his last funds on an old Escort wagon. Not exactly his dream escape, but a good enough vehicle in which to entertain the end of this extended expedition.

And so he embarked on the final episode of this epic event. He was enthused about re-entering Planet Earth, getting employed again, earning a living, maybe extending his education. He was no Einstein egghead, but he could emerge as an entrepreneur, maybe an executive...

Then his thoughts evolved to encounter the elephant in the room. Wendy, to whom he had hoped to be engaged, with whom he had hoped to elope. Now his ex-girlfriend, from whom he felt exiled. Not exactly a euphoric event, was it? If he could erase or eliminate that exchange, he'd be ecstatic. But it existed, and he'd endure it, endlessly.

No more equivocating! No more evasiveness! He'd exhausted all the reasons not to call.

Filled with emotion, he entered her number. After an eternity, someone answered.

"Hi, this is Ed for Wendy."


Who's Ed? EdWARD? EdWIN? EdGAR?

"Hello? This is Ed."

Long seconds elapsed, filled with envy and extinguished expletives.

"Uh, sorry Ed, I, uh, must've erred."

He ended the call.

The Escort drove on into the evening.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

please bear with us...

Xavier's continued Existence will have to wait a tad as we are on the road, in Cincinnati (Xavier should actually be here by now) attending to a sad duty, paying respects to an uncle who passed away a couple days ago. I saw him quite a bit when we cousins were all young and spending summers at the Grandparents' house in the woods, on the water. Some idyllic summers and some great memories. Perhaps my most lasting memory of my uncle, though, was the afternoon we spent in the yard back home, several of us cousins and neighborhood buddies, catching footballs my uncle heaved repeatedly over the largest birch tree in the yard. Then there is the audible memory of his hearty laugh - you knew when he was in the room, with that great laugh.

We'll get back to Xavier later this week, but for now I guess I'd better appreciate the suite they bumped us up to here - no questions asked. Two TVs, three phones, fridge, a little "sitting room", and yeah, free internet service.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Z-A Monday: The Final Leg? A fly in the ointment?

Xavier paid the fee for a bus ride to Florence, KY, then up the freeway toward home. He flopped down next to a formless figure and started flapping his gums with him.

"Hi. I'm Xavier. Where you headed?"
"I'm Frank, going to Florence. Tried to fly. Fogged in. I'm a financier, freelancer, work with Fortune Five Hundred firms, mainly."

"Ah, I'm finagling my way up to Ohio. I've been on a frivolous foray, kinda foolish, really."

"Well, you never know what's foolish and what may be fantastic. Just hafta move forward, y'know?"

"That's fine, but I need to function with more focus, find work...among other things."

"Don't get too frustrated, bud. The finish line's still far away for you. Fame and fortune can wait."

"So I fear. That fog is pretty thick out there."

So thick, in fact, that Floyd Franklin, the bus driver, flipped on his flashers and fell back to forty mph. Just then, in a flash, a Ford Fusion forced its way into his lane. Floyd hit the brakes ferociously, causing the bus to fishtail, fracturing the fender and fanny of the Fusion in the process, and flattening the tires of the bus.

Inside, frightened passengers flew into a frenzy. Xavier surveyed the interior, didn't note any fatalities. Unfortunately, Floyd had fractured his fibula in the fracas, so Xavier took the fire extinguisher and flailed it to force open the non-functioning door. He noticed a couple small children frozen in fright in the fifth seat back, and fearing the engine could spill fuel and flare up any time, he firmly grabbed them and helped them flee. Then, while everyone else filed out and all seats were surveyed fore and aft, he offered a firm shoulder for Floyd to limp out into the frigid fall weather.

Along with the fire engine, first responders, and EMS squad came the WFTV Five News crew, looking to find a fabulous feature for the five o'clock news. Floyd faced the cameras as Francine Fetterbaugh of the Five News Crew forced a microphone on him.

"I faced a choice...and the feasible choice was to force a turn, avoid flipping...but I owe a fervent thanks for a faultless evacuation to that guy", he said, fingering Xavier.

Frank spoke up.

"I was formerly talking to this fine fellow. He helped facilitate a first-rate escape. He was flawless, really, forsaking his own..."

Xavier had to cut in.

"Thanks, Frank, but the fact is, that's a bit of a fabrication, a little far-fetched. I was just functioning as anyone would."

"OK, thanks, fellas" said Francine, finishing the filming and fleeing to the Five News Crew studios.

Xavier fell to the curb, feeling a bit faint but otherwise fine. And he was famished. Where's some fast food when he needed it?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Another fine mess...

So the neighbors had to move to a place that does not accept pets. And they had this dog, Ollie... hated to give him up. Like the gullible person I am, I said sure, we will take him for now if it's us or the pound, but keep looking for a permanent home! So here's Ollie. A large 3-year old. I road tested him just now with a one-mile walk, and he needs a bit of training in this regard. Gave me a good forward pull most of the way. Not a "heeler". But he will sit and understands "no" - stops in his tracks with a good, loud "NO!".

As for the "fine mess", if you know what I mean, we'll chalk it up to nervousness in the new surroundings, and we shall expect a better working knowledge of where certain functions are to be taken care of in the future.

Yes, there is a resemblance to our two past dogs, but this guy is (a) a guy, (b) maybe twice the weight, and (c) a bit untrained in some respects. Maybe it's the youthfulness.

I am not sure where this leads. We are hopeful that the now ex-neighbors can find a good place for him. We're glad to watch him for a while. A while.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Z-A Monday - Those Garage Band Guys, aGain?

Xavier got to the Holiday Inn' s glittery lobby, only to hear familiar guitar riffs coming from The Gathering Place, the hotel lounge. He glanced in - yep, it was the guys, old band name gone, new name gracing the bass drum - "the Guardians of Groove". Geez, he thought. Gaudy name.

At a break, he hailed the gang, gulping a Guinness while gushing about his getaway adventures.

"Dude", said Vince, "you can so sit in on this gig. I've got a spare guitar, a Gibson."
"What are you guys playing? I might be grasping for notes here."
"Oh, we're the Guardians now. We do Golden Oldies, with some pop. You know, Grand Funk, Guess Who, some gnarly Guns n Roses."
Vic added, "and mix it up with a little Vince Gill, Barry Gibb, Goo Goo Dolls. A little Golden Earring, Genesis, Gary Glitter..."
"And", said Vince, "we end with Lee Greenwood, everybody all grateful to be an American and all. It's gorgeous."
"OK", said Xavier, "I'll give it a go."

And so the set ground on, Xavier gelling with the band, the Gibson grooving along, til the grateful audience got their Greenwood and the guys loaded out their gear. Then they grabbed a quick glass and gabbed a bit.

"So, Xave", said Vic, "how's it with the girlfriend?"
A pang of guilt.
"I may be a goner. I haven't gotten through to her. I guess I'm guilty."
"Xavier, Dude, you've gotta get to her from your gut. Gut level, Guy. It's gut check time."
What was with all this gut stuff?
Vince looked at Vic. "Dude, since when are you the guru of getting girlfriends? You're all like 'Grasshopper...'. Gimme a break."
"Guys", Xavier said, with a gaping yawn, "as much as I'd like to gorge myself on your glorious wisdom here, I've gotta get some sleep. I've got a get a ride in the morning."
After goodbyes with the Guardians, Xavier got to the room and gazed at the picture of generic geraniums on the wall. He thought about Wendy, wondered what gut-level gems would generate any more interest, and why he, the genius, couldn't gather the nerve to get her on the phone.

Xavier awoke early the next morning, got up, and got out, only to find his driver was gone. Looked like it was the Greyhound for him.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Xavier thought, you know, the heck with the Honda or Hyundai. He wanted to head home now, so he'd hitchhike. He headed for the highway and hefted his thumb, hailing a ride.

After hundreds seemed to pass as he hoofed along, a hick-looking guy in a horrendous looking old pickup halted. He got in and said hi.

"Howdy, mister. I'm Huck, and this is my truck."

"Hooray", Xavier thought, "The king of the Hillbillies".

"Where you headed?"

"Uh, Ohio, right around Columbus"

"Cool. I knew a guy in Hilliard. Used to cruise High Street with'im."

"So, where are you headed, Huck?"

"Back to Almost Heaven, West Virginia. Got a shotgun shack up in a holler there. It's home, you know. Good for huntin', hollerin' at the moon, and just hangin' around. Say, you hungry?"

"A little..."

"Well, if you get a hankerin', I've got half a hedgehog left in that handsack back yonder."

Xavier felt like hurling at the thought of it.

"Uh, thanks, um, kindly, but I'll hold out for a hamburger or something."

Farther down the highway, maybe halfway home, the pickup made a hair-raising sound.

"Aw, heck!" said Huck. "It's heating up. Ain't gonna haul us any further."

Huck exited the highway and, siting a nearby hotel, said "Hain't goin' no further. Y'all might's well hole up in this here Holiday Inn. Me, I'm gonna hunker down in the truck. If I get 'er goin in the morning I'll give ya a holler."

Well, hallelujah, here he was in heck's half-acre, halfway home, still living hand to mouth, feeling haggard 'n' hog-tied. He wasn't happy, but it wasn't hopeless, either. Life handed him a lemon, and he figured he'd lost it, like the book said. In hindsight, the hillbilly was kinda hilarious. He'd
handle whatever hurdles happened tomorrow. For now, he'd hit the hay.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Z-A Monday: On the Interstate

Spending some of his last funds investing in an old Impala, Xavier took the wheel and instantly entered the Interstate interchange. He felt inspired enough to impulsively head homeward.

It would take some time getting through Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, but he wasn't impatient. It was time for introspection, improving on imperfections, seeking inspiration for the next installment of his recently idle life.

Outside Indianapolis, impaired by sleepiness and incapable of going further, he stopped at a roadside Inn and innocently entered the foyer.

"I need a room", he intoned.

"You need more than that", said the innkeeper, pointing at the flaming, incendiary Impala.

"This is insane", thought Xavier, looking in his wallet for the car's invoice and not finding it.
Inside, the Impala's interior was shot; his investment a total, irreparable loss.

Later, on the phone, he irately itemized and inventoried his lost belongings to the insurance adjuster.

"Cause of loss?", inquired Irma the insurance adjuster.

"Idiocy. Insanity. It just went up in flames."

"I can't insert 'idiocy" in the box", said Irma.

"OK...let's say...leaking fuel injector. Or maybe the ignition. Yeah, that sounds good."

"Sir, we will have to have an authorized inspection. Your invented input will not help."

"Fine - but look - I need new wheels. I need to scoot, get out of Indy."

"We will have Ira's Indy Body Shop assess the impact and issue an itemized assessment. Then we issue payment and you can identify a new car. It will take...less than a week."

Next week! Not very immediate; he'd wanted an instant answer, but the impact was inescapable. Indy was inescapable! Ick!

Next week! Perhaps he'd consider a new Honda or Hyundai. Or a Harley! For now, he felt helpless. No, not that horrible yet. Just really irritated.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Balmy November Day?

It was so nice and warm and sunny that we got out our inflatable raft and headed over to a local body of water at a conservation club we joined and put 'er in for a row up and down the shore. No pictures of the boat in action this time, but here was a little inlet where we just floated and watched the blue sky, knowing that in just weeks we would likely be shoveling that white unmentionable substance. It is an oddity when you are out barefoot in November, getting buzzed by bees, looking at the dandelions, but I am sure we are on borrowed time.
And we have failed to keep up with Weird Objects around here on Fridays. Here is one - late though it is - submitted by our daughter. I believe a friend of hers at work may have produced this pumpki-gourd-snail, with a pumpki-shroom background!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Our Mid-Week Cute Kitty Shot

Well, it is a pretty normal week, and being the first week of standard time, I get up in the quasi darkness and come home in the gathering gloom of night, so there is little opportunity to provide wondrous shots of nature around me (although there was quite a CLOUD of birds - starlings or such - heading southerly above my car, the cloud stretching off infinitely to north and south, this morning. A marvel. Must have been tens of thousands of them. And my windshield passed underneath this cloud unscathed!)

My point being, nothing new to add to the blogosphere, so let's trot out an incredibly, imho, cute picture of that cat we boarded a couple weeks ago, until its owner found us via a couple free ads in the local paper (she actually posted an ad saying "lost cat" the day our ad saying "found: cat") was published - talk about ships in the night!) and a friend putting two and two together and calling her up. Seems the cat's named Theodore because he looks, to his owners, like a teddy bear.

So one more time here for Teddy and then we move on. And I have to give props to my wife, who took this one with the Sony. You can always tell her shots - she loves to brand 'em with the date, or time, or something. Good for the archives, I guess. Not so good for overall composition, but that's just me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Z-A Monday: As The Journey Winds Down

Yeah, it was time to jettison this junket and journey homeward. Time to follow that jagged trail, quit the joyriding and other juvenile behavior (like jail time! Jeez!). That call from Wendy jogged his memory, juxtaposed with the juggernaut of that journal entry in that Life Guide.

Xavier would take the time on this journey to juggle the facts, justify his next actions, and join the jogsaw pieces together. He tried not to be judgmental, just to judiciously sift through the jetsam of the past few weeks. If only he hadn't so hastily jumped into that Jeep way back when ... but perhaps he was getting jaded, too jaundiced. The trip wasn't altogether joyless!

As he journeyed home, he resolved to join the living.
Get a good job.
Find the joy and jocularity in life.
Not jump to conclusions.
And as for the jilted Wendy?
He'd give her a jingle.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

a walk in the woods

captured on the way down

We took an hour out of our busy schedules to walk in a nearby woods, dodging falling leaves and scattered raindrops. I am fairly certain that a walk in the woods does more good for me than the new stuff the doc prescribed yesterday for the ol' systolic and diastolic. Almost as good as petting a dog. So it was gloomy with clouds, and spittin' raindrops, but we ventured in anyway. Some pictures:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Z-A Monday: K

He knew it was time. Time to kick-start this life, to sing that karmic karaoke, to key in on life's kinks (and its keepers) and just keep on keepin' on.

Yet, he felt a bit knackered. But, hey, he was knee-deep in this journey; no time to kick back now. Hardly seemed kosher!

To kick things off, he held the key to a slightly used Kia Rio; away he kazoomed.

The Life Book kinda creeped him out. Was Wendy indeed a keeper? Or the kooky buzz-kill of his recent past? Would her kindred spirit help end his Kafkaesque life of late? Was some strange karma at work? Or was this just some knee-jerk reaction? He wasn't too keen on the prospect, but felt a certain kinship, a knowledge of what would, ultimately, be best.

Keeping an even keel, he kicked the Kia into overdrive. Thinking ahead three weeks, He Headed for Home.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Scenes from Safari

Took the day off and it is raining (and "leafing"), so I am trying to get some things cleared out inside. So I am going back to last weekend and sharing a few pictures from our trip up to the African Safari Park near Port Clinton. It is always a good time, although I do fear for my car's paint job when the water buffalo show up. I love the picture of our son with his new buddy, the camel. I'm not sure who was makin' the goofiest face...

And... some unfinished business. As reported in an addendum to a previous post, the cat's owner surfaced. An acquaintance of hers had alerted her to our classified ad in the local paper, and she described the cat to a "T", thus passing our ownership test. The cat lives about a block away, and is an indoor cat who evidently slipped out through a window and, upon finding our deck, thought it was his deck. Here he is, last weekend, being examined by our daughter's puggle (and being very, VERY tolerant, I would say...)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Do You Trust Your GPS?

Took a trip down to Appalachian Ohio yesterday. I decided to play a little game called "Blindly follow your GPS No Matter What". It worked great going down US 250 to I-77 and heading down 77 to Southeast Ohio. Then it had me exit on SR 831 or something. Well, 831 was closed 11 miles down the road, but fortunately the GPS routed me onto some County road. Well...the county road was five miles that looked and felt like this:
But I was in the game for keeps, so I stuck to the route. Eventually it dumped me out on a nicely paved State Route and I was on my way, only about 15 minutes later than original ETA projections.

My destination was a meeting I was running on doing a community strategic plan. You know, that process where you figure out where you want to go, and then tryt to figure out how to get there. I had a pretty good example of having the "vision" of where to go, but not so much the actual tactics to get there...

Ah...That's better!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Z-A Monday: A Lucid Look at Life

Xavier lifted the large volume, admiring its gold leaf cover. He leafed through it, looking at the cover page ("Lessons for Living"), then started in on page one.

"You should be a Leader, not a Loser. Heed these Lessons; you shall be Lavishly rewarded.
What is your Lot in Life? Is there Laughter? Or are you Languishing in a Lukewarm existence? Do you seek a new Lease on Life? Is your Love Life Lackluster?"

So far, seemed like typical new age Lunacy. He skipped to mid-book, and read the leading lines:

"Law #86: When life gives you Lemons, Lose them

Law #87: Light the Lamp, then Listen

Law #88: Let Love be your Landlord

Law #89: Life is Linear; Not Lucky"

These seemed to come out of left field, suitable for the landfill; no logic at all. Then Law 90 leapt off the page.

"Law 90: When you Let her go, you felt Liberated. Leaving her Lightened your Load. But she shall Land in your Life again. And you shall Lament that you ever Lost her.

Law 91: Learn to Love Lettuce at Lunch..."

OK, Xavier thought, the list was getting loopy again. He closed the book and loped down the lawn, suddenly feeling just a little lonely.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

it keeps coming back

Ever try to center a cat in a picture? Not sure it can be done.

The new deck is a big draw for this fella, a declawed, neutered male cat age maybe 5 or 6. It stayed overnight Sunday then we let it out Monday and it went away. We assumed it went home. We were glad it was gone and hopeful that it had found its home. Then at dinner tonight I looked out on the deck and...

We took it to the vet - no chip so no ID. They said it was well enough cared for. Next step is a free ad in the paper and canvassing the neighborhood to find its owner. We can't keep it. Linda's and Em's allergies preclude felines. So it is short term lodging for this fella.

Addendum: The cat is gone! Its owners described it to a "T" and indeed passed the owners' test, and took it home today - It lives a block away. A bittersweet departure - I had grown fond of that kittie.

Monday, October 12, 2009

a public service notice from streetpolo

Just interjecting here: If you ever get that desire to watch a live feed of ELEVEN German Shepherd puppies, head on over to this site . It's a hoot!

Z-A Monday - A Mountaintop Moment

Xavier motored away in his Mercury Monterey mini-van he bought for minimal money down. He made for the mountains, looking for a magical, meaningful, mind-boggling moment.

While the past few days were memorable, they were not so meaningful - just marginally so. Something was missing; time to miss the mainstream stuff, and meddle with the mediocrity of it all.

As he made his way up the mountain road, he felt his life was like a map with a maze of multiple routes. Like a trip to the Multiplex - Which movie was his? He sought some mystical mountaintop message. Was he mad to do this? A mental case? A Meshuggener?

He stopped the Monterey to use a men's room; as he made his way, a meteor flashed by overhead, passing the moon. Was this whole trip a journey to Meaningfulness, or pure Myth?
He looked down. On the ground was a booklet marked with the words: "Your Manual". He picked it up, and moved on.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Good Weather + Saturday = Opportunities

A good day to get outside, after a couple days of rain and gloom. We were off to a "fall fun fest" put on by our county soil and water conservation district. It's rural Americana at its finest. The county Commissioners judge chili concoctions. Balloons everywhere. Master gardeners showing off their stuff. Free cider and donuts. Kids decorating pumpkins and climbing up the hay bale pyramid. Horse drawn wagon rides. All set in a big barn at the fairgrounds, amidst a backdrop of fall foliage.

Linda was there at the First Book table, giving free books out to kids who wanted them. First Book is a great cause. In this era of videogames and, well, computer screens, it is important to show children how reading books can be a lifelong adventure.

But enough of this - I need to get outside!