All Vaxxed

I remember some long waits in my childhood: the one for Christmas, the one for summer vacation. Even some when I was older. Nothing, though, will surpass the wait for the second vaccination.

It’s amazing to me how time slows down when something big is coming. Ever since I got my first Covid shot back in March, it seemed like April 23 would never get here.

That first shot went well, with a minimum of bother and almost no pain or side effects. I considered myself lucky. And then, as the long wait began, I began to hear things.

Some people fared worse after the second vaccination. Some didn’t. You heard of people getting the virus after the first shot, but before the second. And a few were getting the virus after both shots.

Added to this were reports of new strains of the virus, from South Africa and other countries, that have made their way to the U.S. This might lead to more shots in our future.

All of this was buzzing in my mind last Thursday, and I found it hard to fall asleep that night.

Friday morning I was a bundle of nerves. Thankfully I had work to take my mind off things. My appointment was for 12:50 p.m., after which I’d take the afternoon off. Possible side effects, you know.


The drive to the old Sears at the mall felt weird. Walking in, I noticed a different atmosphere than the one back in March. It was a lot emptier, for one thing. I checked in as before, and answered eight questions related to the virus. All of the answers needed to be ‘no’. Then I got into a short line with just a handful of people, and struck up a conversation with an older gentlemen in front of me.

We talked about the mall, what might happen to it (it was 90 percent empty) and what might replace Sears. A new anchor store would be the best outcome, I said, but we both agreed that anything could happen. The old Circuit City, at the mall’s other end, was now a trampoline place. No one could have imagined this back in 1990, the year the mall opened.

Then we got separated, and I was led to Station number 4. And it was nothing like my March experience. Instead of the brisk, professional nurse of my prior visit, I got a middle aged man with white haired crewcut. On his shirt was the insignia of the Concord Fire Department. Paramedic, I guessed.


His manner was strange. He tried to project authority but also seemed unsure of himself, walking around me as if I might explode at any second. His nervousness made me nervous. And the way he spoke rattled me, just like a cop might at a traffic stop. “Do you know why I pulled you over?

Sitting there, with two other stern volunteers nearby, I felt as if I were in a police station. Then the fireman asked me to roll up my sleeve. No problem. I expected to feel a jab, but when I glanced to my left I could see him putting on gloves, and making a production out of it. A nurse or doctor would have had them on in a couple of seconds, but this guy was taking forever.

All the while, I was holding up my sleeve, waiting, waiting. He finally got around to my arm, and this time I felt nothing. No pain, no sensation. As in March, I had the feeling, “Did this actually happen?”

We were finished. As I was leaving, he handed me my white card and a round Lindt truffle. Sort of a good luck token. I sat in the waiting area for ten minutes and exited. The whole visit was 25 minutes, much quicker than before.


So now I’m home, around eight hours after getting fully vaxxed. No effects so far. A couple of cat naps, but I take those anyway. I don’t feel the heavy fatigue I’ve been hearing about.

I hear there’s a two week period after the second shot where you’re in another kind of in limbo. What else is new? Two more weeks I can do.

After that I can exhale – maybe. As more of us, including kids, get the shots, we can all start to exhale. And get out there to do the things we used to; knock on wood.


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Half Vaxxed

First shot was March 27. Second shot will be April 23. I’ve now entered that tense limbo period of being half vaccinated for Covid-19.

Part of the reason I’m writing this is so I will remember this whole pandemic period and how it wrapped up. You don’t hear many personal accounts of the last big pandemic, the 1918-21 one. I’ve read that it was so painful that no one wanted to remember.

The only pain I’ve felt was a jab in the arm, then nothing. More on that later.

It’s a miracle that we even have a vaccine now, much less several. All you heard in the later months of 2020 was “When is the vaccine coming?” No one was asking, “How will it be distributed when it gets here?”

I just assumed that Top Men somewhere, or maybe Top Women, were working on a timely and smooth distribution plan. Then January rolled around and we found out: Not exactly.

The whole week that began with me discovering that I could set up an appointment and ended with me getting the appointment, I told everyone, ‘I could write a book’. But there was nothing special about my experience. Everyone could write a book.

I won’t go on forever about the trials and tribulations of navigating a government website. Here are just a couple of things.

In the midst of the long, online questionnaire provided by VAMS, they asked about my health insurance. Why? I thought. It’s a pandemic. But no, they wanted the company name, policy number, group number, ID number, etc. I looked all this up and dutifully entered all the numbers. It seemed crazy, but I wanted to comply.

I mentioned this to a co-worker later that day, and he said, “I read somewhere that you can leave that page blank. No one cares.”

Great. All that aggravation for something that one cares about. Why, VAMS? Why?

I’ve been using computers for most of my adult life, but I kept getting tripped up by idiotic things. For instance, I couldn’t just say I was White. First I had to report that I was not Black or Hispanic. When I did this in the wrong order I had to start over.

I can just imagine a 90 year old man trying to perform this task alone. “So, young man, you call this doohickey a computer? What’s it do?”

Somehow, I finished. Two months dragged by. Finally, vaccination day. I knew the shots were to be given inside a former Sears store at the mall, but little else. I walked though the glass doors, and checked in with a National Guardsman at 12:20.

I got into a long line that snaked its way back and forth, down hallways and around corners. If stretched out, I’d guess it was a quarter mile long. But it moved. My fellow line standers and I could eventually see the eight stations up ahead, plus smaller ones in between. I was assigned to station 6 ½.

The nurse, or whatever she was, gave me my shot. (Pfizer-BioNTech, if you’re curious.) It hurt a little. Another Guardsman handed me a card with my next appointment. I rested in a different chair for a while, then left the building at 1:20. One hour had passed.

I felt okay, but I’d heard stories of people having a 24-hour reaction, something like a real flu. I dreaded that, thinking I’d crumple at any moment, unable to drive or walk. Not to worry though. No reaction at all, as if the shot hadn’t happened. But it did – right?

So here I am. Waiting again, for shot number two. I’ve heard that some people have a stronger reaction to the second one. Trying not to worry about that, but you never know. 

Will I be glad when this is over? I guess. Normalcy by June, please.

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A Walking Tour of Europe? Yes, Please

I like to walk. I love to travel. I’d love to walk and travel in Europe, in fact, several European countries are on my list. The problem, for me and most everyone, is there’s a pandemic going on.

So for now, I’m a weekend hiker and an armchair traveler.

Thank heaven for this British series of travelogues, currently on Amazon Prime. They are called Footloose and are produced, written, narrated and edited by married couple Dave and Debra Rixon. They’ve covered their native country, as well as Ireland, Scotland and many others, walking the rural trails and discovering the highlights of major cities. 

Yes, they do sometimes hop on a boat or train, but for the most part it’s basically Dave following his attractive wife Debra as she walks and walks and walks to wherever it is they’re going. Hence, Footloose. Sometimes Dave points his camera at her actual feet, to drive the point home.

Aside from absorbing the sights and sounds of these far flung places, you get to know Dave and Debra. I’ve seen enough of these so that they feel like the British friends I never had. Dave is the quieter of the two, but always ready to climb narrow, slippery stairs for the chance of a good view. “Stairs, Dave,” Debra will say, and hubby starts his ascent. He’s solid as a rock, and never complains.

Debra is a little harder to describe. She possesses a soft, calming voice, and always enunciates. She seems tireless, and complains only a tiny bit. Her interviews are something to behold, since everyone she meets seems happy to speak to her. Both are good at what they do, and they mesh well.

Any arguments between the couple must happen off camera, but we know there are arguments, because Dave mentioned it once as they viewed a familiar site:

“Debra, remember that blazing row we had up here?”

“Yeah, but I think I blazed a bit more than you.”

Dave is a skilled cameraman/editor, so in addition to filming Debra he takes in the cities, flowers, birds, cows, sheep and the marvelous landscapes. I’ve always wanted to see Ireland, etc. and now it feels like I have. Debra blends in several voiceovers, tossing in bits of history that are always interesting. Barnaby Smith provides the original music.

They’ve been doing these programs since 1998 and show no signs of stopping. Good for them. Happy trails, Dave and Deb, and we’ll see you at the pub.

(Note: For those not yet acquainted with the series, it might be best to start with their first film: The Original Footloose in England – Along the Ridgeway. Here you get a sense of how it all began, and see the couple as honeymooners. Made in 1998 and remastered in 2020.)

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Nineteen Seventy One

As I think about my life, there is one year I keep coming back to. It was an odd, transitional year. A final year at one school, a wrenching move, then a new school in a whole new place. Ups and downs, shocks and clear sailing. And some slow-healing scars.

Time machine? Set the controls for 1971.

I had spent the first six months that year in Mr. Como’s sixth grade class. He was a tall man, thirty-ish, with a distinguished black handlebar mustache. Even tempered to the last. Good teacher.

In the spring we did a class outing in Boston with a visit to a French restaurant (we all took French) and then, on the spur of the moment, to his house. His wife was there, equally nice, and it was cool to see how our teacher actually lived. This would be my lasting memory of Mr. Como.

‘There you go’ – McCloud’s famous catchphrase

My last day at Parker Elementary also sticks in my mind, at least the end of it. After saying goodbye to my classmates, I walked down the concrete stairs of the old school one final time towards the main road. The Who song “I’m Free” played in my head, like the soundtrack to a movie.

I was free of this school, but another, unknown school loomed in my future. We were moving as a family from Lexington MA to the Lakes Region of NH.

The summer I spent in New Hampshire was like the ones from 1968-70, with me raking beaches, trimming trees, watering flowers and mowing lawns. I had never heard the term Landscape Laborer, but that’s what I was. This fall, however, there was no going back to Lexington.

Soon, those circulars with Back-To-School sales started arriving. (God, how I hated that expression, back-to-school, with the stupid pictures of apples, schoolbooks, etc.) In late August, my mother drove us to the regional high/junior high school to register her three sons.

It was a huge, cavernous building, encased in a terrible green plastic material. The sunlight could shine through it, sort of. In any case, we only saw a little piece of the inside on our visit.

I never saw these in New Hampshire!

First day of school. Four of us, my brothers and I plus a neighbor kid, all waited for the bus by the highway. It would be a thirteen mile trip; no seat belts, no music, no guarantee of a good seat. Luck of the draw, always.

Home room was uneventful, but then came the twin horrors of learning to dial a locker combination, and then finding my new classes in less than five minutes.

Somehow I survived the first week, then the first month. I was starting to dread one thing in particular, however: gym class. For some reason, I brought my regulation tee shirt and shorts with the Kingswood logo, but always forgot to bring sneakers. It just never occurred to me. The only way I could participate was to wear socks, which looked totally dumb.

Even after bringing the damned sneakers, gym class was no picnic. We learned the basics of football and basketball, two things I had no aptitude for. The other kids noticed. If you were good at sports, you had their respect. If not, you didn’t. I didn’t.

One mean kid, Syd, started to single me out. He was our squad leader and looked for ways to tick me off. This came to a head in the locker room one day, where he slammed my locker door shut while I was getting dressed. I objected. He then pushed his open palm into my glasses and my upper head.

Just one more question, ma’am.

I saw cartoon stars for a minute, then noticed the gym teacher standing there. He sent us to the principal, where we both got suspended for one day.

My glasses were not broken but the earpieces were stretched out.

When I got back I was the center of attention due to the ‘fight’. I didn’t want a rematch, but Syd did. I spend the next month or so avoiding this jerk. Maybe I shouldn’t have.

Finally the holidays rolled around. Family time, good food, relaxation. No school.

I did make my peace with gym class, long bus rides, and life at Kingswood Regional School. Syd and a few kids like him receded into the background. I made friends, some of the best I’ve ever had. It all took a while though.

Nineteen seventy one was a rough ride, but perhaps it would have been rough anywhere. When you’re twelve and changing schools, anything can happen. I made it through in one piece, with wobbly glasses and definitely more cautious, but otherwise unscathed.

1972 was better, and 1973 even better. Hang in there, kids.

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Cheesy Christmas Movies That Are Actually Good

Okay, Christmas movies have a reputation. They’re easy to make fun of. On the other hand, for the most part I like them. Other people must too, since the assembly line for them never seems to end. So why do we like them?

The formula, usually, goes like this. It’s Christmas time. Our young woman (or man) works in the big city. They’re ready for that big promotion, project, deal, or maybe a marriage proposal. But, oh no! Things go south. Maybe visiting the folks back home isn’t the worst idea. They haven’t gone there for years! Then the obligatory drive though the old home town. What’s changed? Will Mom and Pop welcome them with open arms? Who’s still here?

Maybe that old crush from high school or college. Hmmm.

There is more to the formula, but you probably know it. The Meet Cute, the continual bumping into the old or new crush, the eventual appearance of City Guy (or Gal), the big misunderstanding, the Dark Night of the Soul, then finally, rapprochement.

Satisfying, yes. But you can’t just do the same plot over and over. There must be variations.

A couple of recent movies are worth mentioning, as well as an old favorite. What they have in common is they’ve strayed from the formula and found inventive new ways to keep our interest.

Two sisters from A Christmas Movie Christmas

The first is A Christmas Movie Christmas. Two sisters (Lana McKissack, Kimberly Daugherty) with nothing jobs and no love life fall asleep and are transported to Holiday Falls, the perfect Christmas town. They wake up in a strange house (with hair and makeup done) and meet Gram Gram, the grandmother they’ve never seen or heard of. They meet beaus, save the Christmas Pageant, and put their big city lives on track, employing every trick in the Christmas Movie book. Funny, surprising, over the top at times, but it works as satire with a heart.

A Puppy for Christmas, despite its fuzzy, G-rated title, has elements of darkness to it. It also has Cindy Busby, who plays the mean/rich girl in Heartland. Here her character is a bit sweeter, ready to seal the deal with her guy by buying a dog. But she soon finds herself both homeless and single, as well as struggling at work. Her boss suggests taking time off and her well meaning but obnoxious co-worker invites her to his family’s Christmas tree farm for the holiday. She accepts, enjoys the change of scenery, trains her dog and solves multiple problems. It’s a Christmas miracle!

Featuring Buster, the Pup.

The third one has been my favorite for several years: The 12 Dates of Christmas

The plot is familiar; it’s basically Groundhog Day. But the variances and the skillful touches put into it makes me forget the earlier movie. Made in 2011, it still holds up today.

Kate (Amy Smart, Varsity Blues) is a young woman with a life plan. Step one is to get old boyfriend Jack back. But there’s a hitch: he’s about to propose to another woman. Meanwhile, Kate has a blind date with Miles (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Saved by the Bell), whom she seems to blow off only minutes in. An earlier fall in a department store may have jostled something loose, as Christmas Eve for Kate begins to repeat itself.

Single-minded Kate is not so nice but learns from the repetition of her days and becomes a better person, even changing the lives of those around her. 12 Dates Of Christmas has the agility to take background, two dimensional characters and flesh them out quickly. For instance: A random guy on the street and his girlfriend suddenly gain importance halfway through. 

There’s a lot of juggling going on here, and the movie keeps most but not all balls in the air.

The fresh, breezy quality to the dialogue draws you in, as well as expert pacing and the interesting use of music, including the old chestnut the movie is named after. I like they way the song’s lyrics are imprinted in a subtle way; two turtle doves in a jewelry store, nine ladies dancing in a bar. Well, a conga line anyway.

There will be a dark night of the soul, many misunderstandings, and a fine resolution. Hey, it’s a Christmas Movie. You can bet your holiday cookies that a gentle snow will fall as the young couple unites, mere minutes into Christmas Day.

With a partridge in a pear tree.

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Kit Kats

I have adopted a cat named Josie. She’s twelve and has dark brown fur with black stripes. Right now she’s pacing behind me, wondering when I’ll be done. Click click, click click, go her claws on the bare wood floor. Patience, Kit Kat.

She’s not my first cat. That honor goes to Tiger, a yellow striped devil we picked up when I was 12. He was an amazingly good natured animal, even changing my mother’s mind about cats. He seemed to be always smiling, like the tiger logo for Esso/Exxon gasoline.

There were a few cats in between, all beloved, all missed. The last one was Cheezy, who loved to sun herself in a corner of the back yard. Then one day, the coyotes came.

That was 2006. Lots of changes since then. I thought about adopting a cat when I became single in 2010, and then again early this year. It didn’t happen for whatever reason, but fate came calling in August when my ex-wife told me she was moving to Arizona. Would I come over and meet her cat, and perhaps adopt?

I did, and a week or so later, I brought Josie home.

It was not a smooth transition. Josie headed upstairs to my bedroom and stayed mostly hidden there. Thankfully she found the litter box and used it, one less thing to worry about. But she was not settling in. I decided to call the local vets and have her checked out, for my peace of mind.

She was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, possibly brought on by the stress of the move. Also she had two teeth that needed removal. That last part could wait, they said.

Labor Day weekend turned out to be cat nursing weekend for me, adding medicines to her food and giving her lots of attention. The kitty seemed to be warming up to me, sleeping on my bed most nights, but also getting up umpteen times to visit her litter box.

A few weeks later, she went back to have those teeth removed. It turned out that four were extracted, with another nursing period. This time I had to give Josie liquid medicine from a dropper. Such fun. Any cat owner who has done this has my sympathy.

Things are settling down now. She tends to follow me around the house, and has become more clingy since the dental work. But she loves to hang out, sleeping on my lap while I recline. It’s becoming a calming routine.

We have one thing in common; we love to watch birds. I put up two bird feeders, one with suet that the woodpeckers like. I think both our jaws fell open when a humungous Woody Woodpecker stopped by, almost dwarfing the feeder itself. “Did you see that, Josie? Wow!”

I have discovered I am sensitive to cat dander, so on my doctor’s advice I have kept her from my bedroom. That’s helped. So now she sleeps on the downstairs couch, in a cozy oval bed.

There have been ups and down since Josie aka Kit Kat has come to live with me. But I think we’ll be okay. We’re both calm and quiet, like to relax, and play once in a while. Life is good.

All right, Kit Kat. I’m done. What was so important?

Josie at rest.

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Science Guys

As a kid, I was all about dinosaurs and stars. The dinos were plastic and came in several solid colors. The stars were above my head, but also carefully (and entertainingly) explained in Find the Constellations, by H.A. Rey. I learned them all, and even now it’s nice to look into an early winter sky and say, “Hey, there’s Aldebaran.” And know it’s only 65 light years away.

The rest of the science world didn’t interest me as much. It was cool to visit museums and planetariums, though. The advent of Cosmos, first with Carl Sagan, and many years later with Neil DeGrasse, had my full attention. “Billions and Billions.”

When my kids were small, we had Bill Nye the Science Guy (thanks, Bill) and Newton’s Apple. Both great, and both held our interest.

Now, it’s a YouTube world. And I was never happier to stumble, Archimedes style, on several small, six to eleven minute videos about our prehistoric world and how we got here. It’s called Eons.

The hosts of this series are two science guys (Hank Green, Blake de Pastino) and one science gal (Kallie Moore). All of them are like the coolest high school teachers you ever had. The dress code seems to be Super Casual Friday. They stand, apparently, in front of a green screen while awesome graphics and paintings illuminate their words.

What first grabs me and draws me in are the clever titles. Such as: The Forgotten Story of the Beardogs. When Giant Scorpions Swarmed the Seas. That Time the Mediterranean Sea Disappeared. And dozens of others!

They explain, painstakingly, the mysteries of the past, what we now know, and what we don’t. ‘The fossil record’ is a term that comes up over and over again; no record, no certainty about anything. But what we do know can be fascinating, and reveals an absorbing tale.

Even when the title doesn’t excite me, as in the case of How the Squid Lost Its Shell, I’ve learned that if I give it a chance, within a minute I’ll be hooked. It turns out that ancient squids went through quite an evolutionary journey, at one point sporting a weird headpiece that resembles a party hat. Also, they kind of injected gas into their shells to float above the ocean floor. Who knew?

So this is the science for me; dumbed down just a bit, jokes and puns sprinkled in, genial, knowledgeable hosts, jaw dropping Cosmos-like graphics, and a cozy place to learn stuff. I consider my time here well spent.

Eons is a production of PBS Digital Studios. Give it a chance. Understanding life on Earth, after all, is not a bad thing.

Eon’s Hosts
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Vote By Mail

I’m voting by mail this year. I’ve applied for absentee ballots for September and November, and have already voted in the primary. November, or should I say October, awaits.


The state I live in is not as forward thinking as some, such as Oregon or Nevada. To vote by mail in New Hampshire, you must ask for an absentee ballot, and you need a good reason. This year, they added a reason: Concern about Covid-19.

I am concerned about Covid-19, or course. Who isn’t? But it would be easy, and I assume safe, to vote in person. My polling place is right down the street, and last February, I was the only voter during my mid-morning visit.

The whole process was a breeze, mainly because I took the whole day off. Just to vote.


So why vote by mail? Because I want to make a point. I want several thousand other New Hampshirites to do the same thing, and flood each town and city’s government offices with requests for absentee ballots. If enough people do, then our ancient Secretary of State might get the idea that we should probably catch up with Nevada, and make mail voting a permanent and easy thing.

It might be a pipe dream. But look at our voting history. Election Day is always held on Tuesday. The reasons for this have to do with farmers, horses, and buggy whips. Fast forward a couple of centuries, and it’s 2020. Most of us are not farmers, and Tuesday’s a work day.

So, for an office drone like myself, I have to make a dicey decision each election day. Do I

a. Vote before work and hope to God I get to work on time.

b. Vote on my lunch hour and hope to God that I get back to work on time.

c. Vote after work and hope to God that 2,000 other people didn’t have the same idea?

Can you see the stress this has caused me? Perhaps you can relate. Vote by mail, America.


I know that voting by mail is controversial, when each new Facebook posting on the subject creates a new, ridiculous dust up. But I don’t care. Too bad. Haters are going to hate.

By the way, I just checked the Voter Information Look-up website for my state, and my completed ballot for the primary was received on 8/19. All went well, as expected.

Vote by mail, everyone.



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Sweet Betty

Want to know what I do to keep cheerful in a pandemic? Stay up to 11:30 on a Friday night and watch six Betty Boop cartoons. Crazy, but it works.

When I was a kid, cartoons were getting futuristic. Jetson’s, Jonny Quest, many others. Space ships, Little Dipper school, invisible super jets. Then we’d flip the channel and some dinosaur would come on, like those ancient Popeyes or a Mickey Mouse. To us, they may have well been made during the Civil, or maybe Revolutionary War.

But it was only the 1930’s. Our parents were kids then; it wasn’t that long ago. Now it’s fun to flip through YouTube to see what entertained theatergoers in 1934.


The first clue you’re seeing something old is the music. Jaunty tunes from the jazz age accompany the old timey animation. Betty Boop had her own theme song or songs, one of which went:

Made of pen and ink,

She can win you with a wink.

Wait till you, get a view of

Sweet Bet-teeeee.

Betty is an attractive flapper with a high-pitched voice that tends to squeak. An extra large head atop her shapely body completes the image. She is often assisted by Bimbo the dog and Koko the clown.


The storylines vary. Sometimes she just sits at home, as in my favorite Betty cartoon, When My Ship Comes In. Betty is anxiously listening to her antique radio as a horse race begins. In her hand is the ticket she bought for Sleepyhead, the horse with the longest odds. After a thrilling victory, Betty dreams about what to do with her one million dollar payoff.

As a junior economist, Betty knows that spending is the key to escaping the Depression and getting our country on the right track. After setting her pets and a cage full of mice free (“So long, little pals!”) she makes sure hobos in the park get a square meal, kids get all the free ice cream they can eat, and animals get their own farm. Noisy milkmen are a thing of the past, since Betty has cushioned their wheels and uses balloons to gently deliver each glass bottle.


In a nice montage (“Stars and Stripes Forever”) the country rebuilds, deflated factories are flated again, railroads traverse the nation, and department and clothing stores do a brisk trade. Finally, Betty has spent all of her money. Crowds cheer. The End.

The inventiveness is off the charts. They animators seemed to be having fun. For instance, in Snow White, Koko is changed into a ghost, then transforms himself into a watch chain, then back to a ghost, all the while using the voice and dance moves of Cab Calloway. It has to be seen.


Speaking of Calloway, in some of the earlier Betty cartoons you might see a live action segment with musicians and bandleaders of the day, like Louie Armstrong and Don Redman. This practice faded rather quickly; perhaps it was too expensive.

Betty Boop was a fairly risque cartoon in her day and also made in black and white, which is why she didn’t make the jump to television. But she had a resurgence in the 1990’s when the cartoons appeared on home video, and now on YouTube. The merchandise is everywhere.

Good for her. May she sing and dance forever. Go, Sleepyhead!


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Mount Chocorua

The other day, while perusing Facebook, this post from ‘Lucie’ caught my attention (and made me smile). It said:

After hiking Mount Chocorua 2 days in a row, I feel like I just had a week of Mr. Kelly and Miss Galligan’s suicides (basketball training exercises). I am trying to walk and look good but I don’t think it’s working. LOL

I’ve never met Kelly or Galligan, and I’ve never done a suicide drill, but I thought, yup, sounds about right.

Mount Chocorua, my old nemesis. I knew it well, back in my early 20’s. It’s a craggy, picturesque peak in Northern NH. Not too tall, only 3,500 feet or so, but popular due to its looks and location. And one other thing: it’s tough as nails to hike.


I didn’t know that at first.

I did mostly solo hikes back then, consulting my AMC Guide to choose them. My guide told me there were several trails to the summit, one of the easier ones starting at a restaurant parking lot. Sounded good.

On the day, the weather was promising. For most of the hike, I didn’t see the sun since I was enveloped in deep woods. The trail got progressively steeper as I went, giving my heart and lungs a workout. I vaguely realized that this was the easy stretch, but my mind was in denial about the last part, which would be 100% rock. But hey, I was a good scrambler.

I came to a steep section, still in earthy woods, when I stopped for a break. I noticed something odd: nearby, a young woman lay on the ground, seemingly asleep. I walked over to ask if she was okay.

Her eyes opened. “Yeah, I’m fine. I just needed a rest.” She told me her brief tale. Out with a friend, they decided to tackle Chocorua together. The friend was in good physical shape, she herself was not. She just decided to wait in this spot while her friend advanced to the top.

I got back on the trail. An hour later, panting heavily, I noticed fewer trees above me. Was I approaching the summit, the subject of a thousand paintings and photographs? Was it within reach? Was I there yet?

The cruelty of a humble trail sign told me I was not.

Summit .5 miles”

I had half a mile to go. I got my first good look at the stony trail. Yes, it was all rock and apparently straight up as well. The fire in my feet and legs told me this was more than I was used to. I’d never been on a football or basketball team. But I’d survived boot camp with its obstacle course and midnight grinders.

I would finish this hike.


Somehow, my legs carried me slowly upward. It helped to catch glimpses of spectacular scenery, but I never stopped for long. Other people bounded past me like mountain goats, eager for the summit. I knew I had to keep going, even in my turtle-like fashion.

Finally, I was there. And here’s the odd thing; I have no memory of it. It must have been a great view, almost 360 degrees of mountains, trees and rivers. But on hikes that really challenge me, I often find a flat spot on the summit to lay down. Like the woman I met at the halfway point, I likely closed my eyes and sought to recharge my battery, and perhaps my soul.

I may have thought about the mountain’s namesake, Chief Chocorua, who lived nearby in the early 1700’s. Due to a misunderstanding with local settlers (the stories vary), he was accused of murder and chased up the mountain. Facing certain death by musket blast, he chose to leap from the summit instead. Ouch.



Once I was feeling like a functioning human, I made the reverse journey. Hikers will tell you that the downhill part is often the hardest, especially on the feet and ankles. I can’t remember. The relief of not having to fight gravity must have blotted out any discomfort I felt.

At the parking lot, the restaurant beckoned. Many hikers dropped in for a hearty lunch after this adventure. But I lacked the energy for that. I poured myself into my car and drove home.

Years later, my son was a Boy Scout. His troop was planning to ascend Mount Chocorua, and parents were welcome. I had been to various events with the scouts as a helper, and I really enjoyed it. Did I want to come this time?

I thought for a moment. “You know what, buddy? I’m sitting this one out. Have fun.”


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