Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Long Lost (with good reason) Lone Ranger Show

By Mickey Rogers of This, That and the Other

Stopping to rest the horses our hero, the Lone Ranger, and his trusty sidekick, Tonto, walk into the nearby woods to look for nuts and berries to eat.

Tonto: Kemo Sabe, me hear strange noise.

Lone Ranger: It’s a mother bear and her two cubs. Do not make eye contact; turn around and slowly walk out of here. Don’t try to run, faithful buddy; no man can outrun a bear.

A few moments later Tonto blazes past the masked man.

Lone Ranger: Tonto, I told you that you can’t outrun a bear.

Tonto: Me not try to outrun bear, Kemo Sabe. Me just try to outrun you.

After getting back to their horses the two men ride away. Soon they discover the charred remains of a building.

Lone Ranger: Old-timer, what happened?

Store Owner: It was the work of the Dalton gang. I wouldn’t pay protection money so they burned down my bakery. Now my business is toast.

Lone Ranger: Don’t worry. Tonto and I will bring those crooks to justice.

After riding a few miles, Tonto dismounts and puts an ear to the ground.

Tonto: Buffalo been through here, Kemo Sabe.

Lone Ranger: How do you know that?

Tonto: Now me have buffalo manure on ear.

The masked man and his trusty friend soon make camp and settle in for the night. About three hours later Tonto awakens and gently shakes the Lone Ranger from his sleep.

Tonto: Kemo Sabe, look upward. What do you see?

Lone Ranger: I see a wonderful array of stars.

Tonto: What does that mean to you, Kemo Sabe?

Lone Ranger: It is a reminder that God is the most awesome artist of all.

Tonto: Kemo Sabe, as you look at stars you should become aware that someone has stolen our tent.

In the morning the Lone Ranger, while sitting down to put on his boots, is bitten on the backside by a deadly rattlesnake.

Lone Ranger: Old friend, you must ride to the nearest town. Bring back the doctor before it’s too late.

Tonto rides Scout at top speed arriving in the town of Dead Man’s Gulch in 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the town’s only doctor is delivering triplets so he cannot leave, but he gives directions to Tonto.

Doctor: Hurry back and do as I say to save your friend. Start a fire and sterilize this knife over it. Then cut an X over the wound. Then suck out the poison.

Tonto rushes back to the masked man.

Lone Ranger: What did the doctor tell you?

Tonto: Him said you die, Kemo Sabe.

Fortunately heroes, at least the ones in the movies, are not killed so easily. In fact, the rattlesnake died. A few hours later, while on the trail, over 1,000 Indians attack our heroes. The Lone Ranger and Tonto take refuge behind a fallen tree.

Lone Ranger: We’re in big trouble this time, old pal. We’re surrounded by Indians.

Tonto: What you mean “we,” Kemo Sabe?

Luckily for the Lone Ranger and Tonto, the raiding Indians were designated by the director to be the “bad guys,” so they were required to be awful shooters of both guns and arrows. On the other hand, the Lone Ranger’s sharp shooting skills soon drove the Indians away.

Two hours later our heroes capture the Dalton gang and return them to the city jail. Upon leaving, Silver, the Lone Ranger’s trusty steed, rises upon its back legs as the masked man shouts.

Lone Ranger: High-ho, Silver, and away.

Or was it “High oh, Silver?” Maybe it was “Ohio, Silver.” Whatever.

As the twosome rode away, a town person asked: Who was that masked man?

Another citizen: I think it was Zorro.

Another person: No, I think it was Batman.

Even another person: Well, he left something behind.

Old lady: A silver bullet?

Citizen: No, an empty six-pack of Old West Beer.

A few miles from town, the Lone Ranger asks Tonto an important question.

Lone Ranger: Tonto, just what does “kemo sabe” mean?

Tonto: Loosely translated, it means “idiot” or “nincompoop.”

Lone Ranger: That’s what I was afraid of.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Worldwide Music Man

By Joanne Zimmermann

Call me naïve, call me cuckoo, but call me. Call me and tell me you can create worldwide music piped from the sewers and skies to those people in constant war mode.

Yanni said it best years ago when he said, “looking at earth from above there are no boundaries, no lines dividing people.”

When viewing old videos of some of his concerts from the Taj and China and other places he visited with his orchestra, one see the faces light up. Even language barriers did not stop the comradeship forming on their expressions as they waved and danced together.

Puttin’ on the Ritz flash mob from Moscow done in 2012 is making the rounds once more. It says, “Imagine a Russian Jew immigrating to New York City and composing this catchy tune.” Then it shows Russia and a crowd performs it, trying to speak English.

“Super Booper,” one lady said hopping around and a parka clad little kid jumps up and down with joy. Even a wedding party appears and the bride leaps out of a limo and tosses her bouquet. A bunch of street sweepers join in and then a whole army stomps to the beat. I never envisioned Russia allowing something like this.

We have lost simply human joy. If all of the warmongers stopped making guns, planes, cannons, and poisons and started up great music factories, just think what might happen. Drumbeats call us to let go of our fears, uncertainties and divisive thinking.

Do our smart phones really turn us on with two thumbs bopping on keys? Oh I know, then humans would start fighting over whose music was best.

But at least religious and boundary fights might finally be put to rest because when we dance and sing, we need lots of people to join in. Then we could divide the world into classical, jazz, contemporary, country, marches and jungle beats.

We could utilize drone music. Whoops, maybe not. But we could have music festivals, any kind, all over going on day and night and finally wear ourselves out into a big happy worn-out sleep. Music is electrifying. So is art, by the way as I myself am an artist of sorts.

If factories made clarinets instead of guns, when you got upset at someone you could just give ‘em a blast with your horn. If you’re really mad, blow a tuba or hit a big bass drum. Even a violin could work as Tevya found.

I know, I know, drummers can be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Hitler was an example. My German husband told me the people are followers and they needed a leader. Sadly they were misled. The music man was really a charlatan and a thief. But somewhere along the way he fell in love with River City and Marian the librarian. Perhaps bad drummers can change as well.

There is an island off Japan that specializes in oriental style drumming. Wow, how fascinating! People flock there to hear them pound away with a lot of drama.

I think we all have a tribal urge within to keep the beat. Perhaps many of the warriors are just followers and so what if we snuck in and played The Pennsylvania Polka behind the lines. Would the army dissolve into dancing frenzy?

Have I just invented a brand new secret weapon?

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Old Woman Waits

By Claire Jean

Old woman waits both day and night
Longing for a much welcomed sight
Who’ll remember to pay her a call
Daughters, sons or perchance them all
Days are long
Nights longer still
She fusses and fidgets until the next pill
The young look and see the old as they are
The old know the young person’s time is not far
 She waits tonight
Tomorrow you might

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 15 September 2014

Tomatoes for Victory

By Trudi Kappel

In 1939, my urban-raised parents moved from New York City to a small rural village in upstate New York. My Dad’s business did well. In the summer of 1941, they moved into their newly built and as yet un-landscaped house with their young son and unborn daughter.

The United States entered World War II in December. The following spring nearly everyone in the village planted a Victory Garden to help with the war effort. Most residents started helping in the garden when they were toddlers.

Neither of my parents had ever planted so much as a radish seed. However, not wishing to be seen as unpatriotic and having a large open yard, they decided to plant a vegetable patch.

They hired a farmer to plow a garden space and opened the Montgomery Ward catalog to order supplies. Along with a variety of vegetable seeds, they ordered tomato seedlings. Dad particularly liked tomatoes. They ordered 100 seedlings.*

When the order arrived, the seedlings were, in Dad’s words, “a dried up whisk broom.” Confident that these twigs were dead, they bought twenty-four tomato plants from a local greenhouse.

After they planted everything, they looked at the tomato whisk broom, looked at their bare yard - what did they have to lose? They planted the 100 twigs. Every twig came to life.

The summer rains and sunshine were perfect for vegetable gardens that summer of 1942. In the fertile native soil, gardens thrived. My parents harvested tomatoes. Then they harvested more tomatoes! And more tomatoes.

They tried giving some of them away but had little success since our neighbors also had bumper crops. My Mom learned how to can and canned tomatoes. We ate those canned tomatoes for several years. It was a tomato tsunami and an educational experience.

Postscript: In the autumn, one of our neighbors coaxed my mother to enter a jar of her tomatoes into the local agriculture fair canning competition.

Mom was reluctant since this was her first venture in canning and her competitors had years of experience. She was assured that the fair organizers liked to have many entries and there was no shame in not winning a ribbon. To the chagrin of the experts, she captured first prize.

*I have told this story many times. At the place in the story where the “*” appears, it becomes obvious who among my listeners has gardened and who has not. The gardeners are splitting their sides laughing while the non-gardeners see nothing at all amusing about 100 tomato plants.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Friday, 12 September 2014

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Past

By Dan Gogerty who blogs at Cast

Maybe it’s time to take up hitchhiking again. I haven’t stuck out my thumb for decades but apparently a robot is making its way across Canada by “relying on the kindness of strangers,” so why not?

Gogertyhitchbot, www.cbc.caHitchbot’s creators set the robot on the side of the road in Halifax and I hope by now it has crossed the country and reached Victoria — its destination.

My hitching wasn’t a social science experiment — it was mainly out of necessity or laziness. At age 15, three friends and I were camping at Pine Lake and we hitched the five miles into Eldora to avoid the walk.

A ’57 Chevy pulled up, we hopped in and a 30-year-old with James Dean hair and fuzzy dice hanging from his rearview mirror popped the clutch and spun out. By the time we made it to the Iowa River Bridge, he was clocking 90 mph.

He slowed some for the town limits and we convinced him the Dairy Queen was our destination. “Nice wheels, man. Thanks a lot,” we said as we rolled out.

During college, I occasionally hitched the 150 miles home on weekends and as an 18-year-old, I looked young. When my Chicago friend Murph joined me to see the home farm, it’s not surprising we were stopped by the police in Waterloo.

Murph looked even younger and they thought we were runaways. We showed them our college IDs and were relieved when they didn’t search Murph’s duffel bag — it contained a pint of cherry vodka.

In 1972 hitchhiking was still popular and it was hard to find a “road less traveled.” I turned 22 that summer and needed to make a trek from New York City to the farm in Iowa. Money was still an issue but I was not confident about hitching from New York City, so I made it to the bus station — a dubious refuge indeed back then.

My plan was to bus to Cleveland and hitch from there. Don’t ask why. My only thought is that the Cleveland Indians were my favorite baseball team as a kid and I’d always wanted to go there.

The overnight express left me at the Cleveland Bus Station and in the early morning light, I found a four-lane street with a sign that indicated it led to Interstate 80. Two young men in an extermination truck picked me up.

With a weird bug symbol painted on the doors, they drove along, singing Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life and having way too much fun for bug busters at 7:00AM.

Interstate 80 was one long ribbon west and I eventually caught a lift from a truck driver as far as the Illinois border. By this era, hitching was starting to get a negative connotation — too many kids in early grunge apparel; too many rumors of crime and drug use.

I was using a flimsy cardboard sign that said “Iowa, Please,” and I tried to keep a smile pasted on my face as the dust and exhaust fumes formed a hazy canopy in the afternoon heat.

Eventually, another trucker gave me a lift to the Mississippi River. He turned south and I was on the east side of the river with the Quad Cities a glow in the distance.

Cars screamed by in the dark so I rolled out my sleeping bag on the edge of a field as river fog crept up from below. I fell asleep to the sound of bullfrogs that must have been the size of small hippos.

A roaring semi woke me and before the morning light could dry off the dew, a car pulled over. If these two guys weren’t heading to a Grateful Dead concert, they should have been. They were friendly and upbeat. When they offered to share, I was hoping it was a breakfast roll or banana but instead I had to mumble something about not smoking on an empty stomach.

“That’s cool, man. Where ya headin’?” one asked.

We talked music, travel and farming until the Highway 65 interchange, and a businessman heading north dropped me a mile and a half from home. I can still see the cornfields radiating heat and the small creek meandering through the pasture as I hiked toward the house.

Dad’s humor hadn’t changed during the summer. “Yep,” he said as I entered the house. “The prodigal son’s arriving just in time to join us for the noon meal.” Mom set another plate at the table.

Hitchhiking has had some PR problems since that era and my key jaunts since then have been overseas. From Luxembourg to England and on to Wales. The motorways, the diesel lorries, the friendly folks with Monty Python accents.

In south Wales, I ran out of light some miles outside a village so I slept on a large flat rock up an incline. Somewhere along the trip, I learned about cricket, British ale and how to pronounce “Gloucester.”

A few years later, my wife and I hitched from Dublin to Cork and we made it in one ride. The young man who stopped for us in the suburbs of Dublin wore a sweat-stained jersey and sported some bleeding knuckles.

“Travelin’ west,” he said. “Don’t mind me appearance. Just finished a hurling match and I’m feelin’ a bit knackered.”

The way he explained it, hurling must be a combination of field hockey, lacrosse and warfare. The man bought us a pub lunch and then drove several miles out of his way to get us to the right place in Cork. He was still wearing his “kit” when we parted ways.

The next day we finished a short jaunt to Shannon by riding with an older couple out buying groceries. We sat among bags of produce and watched the hedges go by on our way to the airport.

If I’m really going to take up hitchhiking again, I need a good sign. “Old Fart Headed to Omaha” probably won’t work. Maybe something like “Need Ride to Denver to See Grandkids” or “My Mercedes is in the shop.”

Gogertyhitchhike sign, commons.wikimedia.orgRecently I read about film director John Waters’ book, Carsick. He hitched from Baltimore to the Bay Area and I think at one stage he used a sign that said, “I am not a Psycho.”

I assume he wasn’t carrying a chainsaw and a 12-pack of Bud Light.

If all the good sign ideas are taken, maybe I’ll just dress up as a robot and see what happens. My wife can drive out and rescue me if I’m at the same spot along Highway 30 when the sun goes down.

Looking back through 40 years of fog, the romance of the road seems appealing at times, but I’m probably too old to write “the hitchhiker’s guide to finding your lost youth.”

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

My Famous Story

By Chlele Gummer

Years ago, when I was a young teacher, I watched The Merv Griffin Show after school at home. I enjoyed his interviews of worldly and renown people, musicians, artists, philosophers, politicians and authors and many others.

Then I would imagine how I would be in an interview with Merv. How wonderful to have the world wait for my poignant answers to his probing questions. That's when I knew I wanted to be famous.

Looking back several decades I realize, of course I don't want to be famous; I'm a very private person and I prefer to remain in the background. The idea of having a spot light on me causes me to find the first cave to hide in. Though, still, I do want to be known as a writer. I want to be a writer of children's books.

During that young period, I wrote stories for young children but I never followed through with the process of becoming published. So in my later years, I wanted finish what I started.

When I received ads for self publishing I thought, Why not put out the money and have the book published?

By this time I did have a book I titled, A Family of Geese. It contained experiences I had had when I walked around our local Spring Lake where the Canada geese have a permanent residence.

I named the main character, a young gosling, Rufus. Being inspired with the story and with many years of experience in drawing, I worked daily on the illustrations for A Family of Geese.

How exciting it was to work with the publishers, the designers, the editors to get the text and the illustrations ready for publication. And then to see the book in its pristine state, fresh off the press, so to speak, in my own hands.

How professional I felt looking at the cover which I had drawn and colored and seeing my name under the title. It was a dream come true!

Of course when you self publish you must self promote and advertise and meet booksellers. You can pay the publisher for that service but I didn't have the money for that process.

I sent out the ebook gift cards which were included in my publishing package but I failed to personally promote myself in person to local booksellers. So the people buying my book were mainly friends and family. I settled for having published a book, though I wished I had promoted it.

Well. The other day I googled my first name. It's an unusual name; not too many other people have it. The results were astounding. I found more than 16 pages of listings. True, many were repeats, but even so, I had to shake my head in disbelief. I'm not sure I believe it to be true, even now. In fact, I'd like it to be investigated.

I found my birthplace, my parents names, my annual retirement income, my allegiances to various boards that I had served on and more than that, I found my book being offered for sale in online booksellers throughout the world - South Africa, India, Holland.

I couldn't believe it. And astoundingly, it is being sold on eBay by three sellers!

I don't know what to make of it. But if Google is the world, then I'm famous. Just what I dreamed of many years ago!

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Waiting Time

By Vicki E. Jones

I’d had microcalcifications – tiny calcium deposits – in my breasts that had always showed up on mammograms but the distribution had always been normal. This time was different and both my annual screening mammogram and the follow-up, highly-magnified diagnostic views, showed a problem. A cluster of seven microcalcifications was present on the left in an abnormal location – deep inside – on the inside of a duct (milk duct).

A needle biopsy (stereotactic breast biopsy) showed atypical ductal hyperplasia, which can indicate the presence of breast cancer 15 percent of the time. If cancer were present, it could either be ductal cancer in situ (in place), or invasive cancer.

I made an appointment with a well-known breast surgeon at the top-notch institution that did the imaging.

At that appointment, I was told that I needed a larger biopsy – an incision or wide biopsy – but that the breast surgeon was going on vacation and could not do the surgery for six weeks. I was told the wait was safe, that if any cancer was present, cancers of the breast grow very slowly. I decided to get a second opinion elsewhere.

Doctor number two agreed that a larger biopsy was needed and said she was available to do the larger biopsy within a couple of weeks. She gave me her business card which had her home phone number and email on it.

I scheduled surgery and met with the head of anesthesiology a few days prior to surgery to discuss some special needs and restrictions that I have. He offered to be my anesthesiologist for the procedure.

I had been told it would take several days to get the results. And so, after my husband took me home, the waiting time began.

I thought I would spend the next several days wondering whether or not I had breast cancer and needed something further - perhaps something my hyper-reactive, sensitive, very allergic body could not handle.

There was nothing I could do about it but wait. I had no control over the outcome.

I wasn’t expecting a call just two days later so when a call came in on the home line from a number I did not recognize, I did not answer. It was my breast surgeon calling with the results and she left a message: No abnormal cells were found in the larger biopsy. The needle biopsy had removed the offending tissue. She had called from her cell phone.

So here I sit a week later with a 2-inch, new scar and some swelling and pain and a lot of purple which is the way we respond to having a good-sized glob of breast tissue or any other tissue removed. We bruise. Here I sit giving thanks that was all I needed.

And I think about those who are not so fortunate who have gone through so much more - some of whom I know - and I have also known women who did not survive.

And I give thanks that I had my annual mammogram. This could not be felt. Not by me and not by a doctor. It was something that could only be detected by a mammogram.

And when I hear on the news about this study or that study or organization or maybe some health insurance company saying that women don’t need an annual mammogram every year and it exposes the breast to unnecessary radiation, I change channels, because I know that is wrong in my case.

If I had let it go a year without having my annual mammogram, the outcome could have been very different - and so much worse.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Tuesday, 09 September 2014

A Special Moon

From Johna Ferguson

The other day everyone was all excited about the full moon that was happening that night; seems it was at its closest distance to earth so it should appear very large.

Not being an astronomer, and also not having a telescope to view it closely, I really wasn’t that much interested in the moon and its size. But being the romantic I am, I dropped my knitting at 8:30PM to go watch it rise above the hills and buildings in Seattle.

As I gazed at it I tried to remember other moons I’d gazed at.

I remember in high school how my boyfriend and I used to drive to a lookout point in a city park to watch the full moon progress across the sky. Of course, interspersed with watching the moon I am sure there were a lot of sneaked hugs and kisses.

Then after I had graduated from college and married, I remember my husband and me sitting on the deck of our sailboat on Lake Washington at night watching the moon rise as the water gently lapped against the sides of the boat.

I’m sure it was after one of those romantic nights when we fell into our bed on our rented, rocking houseboat that our first child was conceived.

After my husband and I divorced, I went to China. I remember seeing my first full moon there. It was bright red when it rose above the hills surrounding Beijing but slowly turned to orange and then finally saffron color. Maybe because it was a strange country to me it seemed larger than any moon I’d ever seen.

But then, when the Harvest moon appeared in the Beijing sky, I gasped at its size and closeness. At first I thought it was fake and that someone was floating a moon shaped balloon nearby but no, for it slowly traveled across the sky.

I hadn’t looked for any men in China but that night I surely wished I had one holding me in his arms.

Since then, the moon has come and gone so many times, but I do remember a special one in Qingdao.

My future Chinese husband and I were walking home from a gym that was located just a block from the sea. I had taken a taxi there for he had promised to show me the gym, one that I might join for exercise classes. After showing me around he suggested we walk home, part of it along the seashore.

As it happened, the full moon was just rising in the sky. I hardly knew the man, also a teacher at the medial college I was working at, but he took my hand in his as we stopped to gaze at it. Something shot through my body and I knew I must get to know him better if possible.

That occasion happened almost immediately for he knew the family I was living with. The grandma invited him to dinner the next night and after that he came frequently to join us at mealtime.

Eventually we both decided we had so much in common and a special bond had developed between us so why didn’t we get married.

Since that time, the moon has had a special meaning for me, be it a big or small moon. Last night I told him to gaze at the sky from his roof top deck at 8:30PM, and I would do the same from the balcony on the sixth floor of the retirement home I now live in just across the street from his condo, and we would think of each other and all our wonderful past times.

Life must go on in spite of circumstances that arise and I know the moon will always be there for both of us to see and remember our past times together no matter where we are.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 08 September 2014

Dogs Steal a Police Car

By Clifford Rothband

Back in the 1980s, we had two Red Dobermans - Patty born on St Patrick's day, and her Beau who showed up on our doorstep not too long later.

Patty had the breeding and papers, nose up and arrogant female temperament. Bo - he did not cross her, eat her snacks or steal her toys.

We lived in a wooded community of Parkland, Florida with about 500 residents on 29 square miles or so. We had a police chief and about eight police officers rotating shifts.

Now, Bozo the clown had uncut ears but a cropped tail, great red coat with tan color markings and a great stance. If a dog really could smile and look silly as if a rescued dog knew how lucky he was, Bozo could.

He was this smart-ass dog. He was always clowning around and stealing our underwear, socks or shoes and running off in a game of catch me if you can.

When it came time to pay someone, Bo was often sitting next to me with my wallet in his jaws. He would even knock over the ringing telephone and bark into it, and he always jumped into our car for a ride.

He figured out that he could open our house front door and sneak out at night, holding the door for Patty. Yes, I saw him do it often enough. Sometimes at about 3AM, Bo would return and jump up and hit our doorbell button: “Let us in,” with a few hello barks.

One night we got a telephone call from Officer Mahoney. He saw our two Dobes on the main street through town, Holmberg Road. So he stopped the patrol car, flashing lights on, decided to pick up the two rovers and figured he would return them to our house.

Of course, the two dogs jumped into the open driver's door immediately. Patty growled and Mahoney was afraid to get back into his patrol car. So he walked a mile or two back to the police station and called us [before cell phones].

I picked them up, installed a dead bolt lock on the front door and promised that I would never tell about this incident.

I can't keep a secret.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Friday, 05 September 2014

A Twilight Zone Experience

By Daniel B. Martin

A Twilight Zone experience is one which seems surreal. Impossible but at the same time very real. Eerie. Disturbing. I suppose everyone has at least one Twilight Zone experience in their lifetime. I have had only one.

In the summer of 1967, I spent three months on assignment, living and working in Manhattan. One weekend, I set out to visit people in Queens. I was unfamiliar with the New York public transit system.

I boarded a BMT train expecting to transfer to the IRT number 7. This subway train was unlike any I'd ever seen before. It was of the old style and yet new, brand new. No graffiti, no scuff marks, no soil, no odor. New!

Each car had only four doors (two at each side) located at the ends of the cars. This was unlike modern cars which have at least six doors.

These doors whooshed open and closed silently. When they closed, the doors moved quickly until almost fully closed and then slowly for the final part of the travel.

The floors were industrial linoleum, battleship gray. Clean, unblemished, new. The seat surfaces were caning, shiny and unscratched. The vertical posts and overhead grab bars were finished with gleaming white baked enamel.

There was no advertising. No placards for shampoo, aspirin, hair dressing, razor blades, etc. No air conditioning - ventilation was aided by slow-turning overhead paddle fans.

Everything looked as if I had time-traveled back to 1912 and had boarded a train on its maiden trip. Who could I ask? The train was empty. I was the only passenger.

The train was a "local" which stopped at every station. The station platforms were empty. Nobody waiting, nobody got on or off the train. The names of the stations were unfamiliar.

I became uneasy. Fearful. I was lost and this train was proceeding into terra incognita. I didn't want to go wherever it was headed - across the river Styx?

At the next station, I got off and watched the mysterious old-new train head off into the distance. Minutes later a modern train came along, going in the opposite direction. Lots of people were on board. It took me back to Manhattan, back to civilization, back to the world of the living.

I had survived a brush with death. I had made a conscious choice to get off the train-to-oblivion and board another one headed in the opposite direction. That choice saved my life.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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