Thrills and spills, but …

07-24-16

… no chills.

Today I threw in the towel and stayed indoors again – it was just too hot for me. I must admit to being a wienie in deciding that the air-conditioned house was more of a draw than walking in this heat and humidity.  Besides, the weatherman said the first of three potential Sunday storms was imminent, so I didn’t venture out.

The final stage, #21, of the Tour de France is today.   I think the thrill of this annual event has somehow gotten lost in the midst of the international and national turmoil, the 2016 election and the upcoming Olympics, and that’s too bad.  Though I’m not a big sports enthusiast, at least I can follow this bicycle adventure because it is easy to understand as there are not a bunch of rules or stats needed to enjoy it.  I’ve peeked on their website every day to follow the highlights, including the beautiful and breathtaking scenery.

Back when I worked on site, the small television in the conference room was always tuned in to the Tour de France for the three weeks that it took place since my boss, Robb, has been an avid cyclist for years. So, back then I’d wander in and out of the conference room, plop down on a comfy chair and take the time to watch the route, learn about the teams and personalities, their swag and their swagger.

Robb is on hiatus as to biking right now after taking a bad spill at Belle Isle ten days ago. At 69 years old, he is very athletic and swims one mile every morning at a community pool, and, weather and schedule permitting, takes an 18-mile bike ride daily to and from our office and around Belle Isle which is about three miles away.  Unfortunately, on that brutally hot day,  he reached to sip some Gatorade and the bike wheel hit a curb, spilling him onto the concrete and slamming his bare shoulder onto the ground.  Luckily someone called 911 and after several hours in the E.R., he was diagnosed with a separated shoulder.  He is encumbered by a sling for 6-8 weeks and must sit out swimming and biking until his shoulder begins to heal.  He knows he is fortunate that nothing was broken and now wishes he had opted for the stationary bike in his office that day instead of heading to the island.

I know I am wishing this oppressive heat and humidity will end soon, and, the near-daily threats of volatile weather leave me uneasy and weather weary.

This picture was taken at my favorite house on Emmons Boulevard. I love that cheery-looking clay pot man and his pooch, and, unlike the bikes in the Tour de France, this bike is going nowhere fast as it is laden with fabulous fleurs.

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Draggin’ my wagon.

07-23-16.jpg

I took a break on Friday from walking due to this relentless heat and humidity, but, I was back at it again this morning. I guess I’m just like the rabbit trying to catch up to that elusive carrot since I am chasing after my various walking goals as well.

Just like the picture on the left, I started out quick like a bunny, all fresh and full of energy, while hopping … er walking, down Emmons Boulevard. But, very soon the sun began to climb higher in the sky and beat down on me.  Even though I wasn’t wearing a spotted brown fur coat, I was pretty warm nonetheless, so I made it an abbreviated walk.

On most weekdays, I could call out “run rabbit run” because it would not be the first time I’ve interrupted a bunny, just like the one you see above, who was woolgathering and munching down on breakfast at the same time. Usually those bunnies are out on the lawn enjoying the tender grass, but they quickly scoot into nearby bushes, or duck behind big plants, just as soon as they see the homeowner exit the house.  For the most part, homeowners are oblivious to these bunnies, so the cute and furry little creatures merely bide their time ‘til the car pulls out of the driveway, and then they magically appear on the lawn again a few minutes later.  That is, until I come along, then they have to devise a Plan “B” and so they run like h*ll.

The bunnies are more plentiful on the weekend when most cars remain parked in the driveway so they are free to graze anywhere they want.

I’ve seen very few bunnies in Lincoln Park so far this Summer. That’s because the brainy bunnies head to Wyandotte where most people have automatic sprinkler systems.  If they stay in Lincoln Park, the grass tastes like Shredded Wheat cereal – ugh!

So, the quiet morning brought some photo opportunities anyway and I also got a picture of this bunny scooting away just as I approached. But, where was that usual flash of powder puff tail as he hopped away?

Hmmm – I’d say this bunny, just like this photographer, is suffering from “wagon is draggin’” syndrome.

So, how many days ‘til Fall?

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Good day sunshine?

07-21-16

It seems that the full moon and Mr. Sun have been boasting to one another about their brilliance this week. The Hay Moon was an appropriate name for that nighttime orb since most of our grass looks like hay right now, unless you’ve been watering like crazy to keep it green.

It was hot this morning, even though I left fairly early. There was a little breeze – but oh that humidity.  By the time I returned home from my walk to the tracks and back, I hit the 400-mile mark.  Then, I went to Memorial Park to cool off at the end of my regular trek.  It was there I saw the marquis was touting 78 degrees.

I am thinking I will indeed make that 500 miles walked goal I set for Labor Day. I am still ahead of my car mileage (334 miles in 2016 to date) even though I have been driving more since the car’s little meltdown back in April.

While on my journey today, I watched a squirrel standing up under the spray of an oscillating sprinkler. He was enjoying each time the water came cascading over his head and I wanted to hand him a soap-on-a-rope and give him an even nicer experience.  It made me smile watching his antics.  Then, I saw a baby robin crouched down on the sidewalk and there was a sprinkler nearby.  I think he was not far from the nest because Mom and Pop were looking over my shoulder chattering and clucking at me from their perch in a red maple tree, as I was checking out their baby.  He was a bundle of soft downy feathers and had extraordinarily large feet.  He seemed to be doing okay, save for a beating heart that I swear I could see thumping through his orangey-colored speckled breast.

I was happy to get home and swig down a cool drink – not water because we had a problem in my neck of the woods due to a huge water main break in Detroit, but it is fixed now.

All God’s creatures were doing their best to get through this sweltering hot day.

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Footsteps at the footbridge.

07-19-16

The way I see it, today and tomorrow, will be tolerable for walking and the rest of the week will be like being in a sauna. I pity the people who work outside on hot days.  They must get used to it, but still … this Summer has taken its toll on people, plants and even our wildlife.

But, this morning I went on my usual jaunt down the Boulevard, with a spring in my step, as my skin was cooled by a light breeze – ahhh, that felt good, so there would be no problem making the round trip to the tracks and back in record time.

As usual, I glanced both ways to peer into the water under the bridge, scanning the scum-covered creek for ducks, but there were none, only that light green film which has settled over portions of the still water like an icky and sticky cloak.

There haven’t been any ducks near the footbridge for at least one month and I fear that they have met the same fate as the mallards in Trenton. Earlier in July, more than fifty dead mallard ducks were lined along Marsh Creek in Trenton.  The Department of Natural Resources came to take water samples of the creek water and took a few of the ducks and duckling along to test them.  The DNR concluded that the weather has been so hot that it caused the water in the creek bed to recede, creating the botulism caused by the growing bacteria that has been able to grow in that area.  The ducks and ducklings drank the water and became sick and died.

Like me, people who lived near Marsh Creek enjoyed interacting with the ducks and listening their lively quacking noises. That little joy is gone now at Marsh Creek.

And … maybe as to my mallards at Ecorse Creek at the footbridge as well.

The water has surely never been clear, but before you could see fish swimming beneath the surface or fish lips stirring the surface as they nibbled on seaweed-like plants that undulate slightly in the dark water. I even miss the bullfrogs burping deeply in the quiet morn.  No turtles either.  Sadly, not even a water strider is visible as I peer in the Creek daily.

There is still cause to pause a minute anyway … despite the water’s grungy appearance, there are birds to watch and enjoy.

The Tree Swallows dart in and out of the leafy branches of the trees that tower the footbridge. The swallows blitz by at the speed of sound and dive bomb me nearly every day.  Maybe this is because I’ve tried to capture their picture one too many times.  They are too quick for me, but, I haven’t given up yet, and before the Summer is over, I will write about them and their antics and maybe include a picture as well.

Red-Winged Blackbirds perch on low branches of the trees or sometimes bend down a reed which threatens to break with their weight. They are large birds and sing mightily.  Their voices carry in the still of the morn and their heavenly music reminds me of a meadow in the middle of nowhere and I long to be there.

I’m sure missing those quacking ducks and their peaceful presence as they glide through the water, or the ruckus they would occasionally make when another duck dared to enter their personal space.

I’ve stopped carrying bits of stale bagels or buying bread ‘til the ducks return – if they return. Maybe next year?

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It’s a “BOULEtiful” thing – the boule on the Boulevard.

07-16-16

When I left on my walk this morning, it was downright chilly! Dark clouds loomed overhead and the sun obviously slept in.  The sky looked as if it would open up any moment and pour down raining, so I took along an umbrella, hoping not to get drenched.  I walked pretty fast to get my four miles in, but it never did rain.

The neighborhoods were quiet and I was happy for that – less cars to watch out for, plus, I could gather my thoughts for today’s blog post.

I am sure you’ll agree that it was another sad week, as the world has grown weary with such events as the memorial service for the Dallas police officers Tuesday, and the tragedies in France Thursday and Turkey yesterday. I travelled a lot when I was younger and visited Turkey while on a Mediterranean cruise back in 1981.

A few countries remain on my bucket list and France and Italy would be two destinations that I’d like to visit someday. Any chance of conversing in French with the natives would probably not happen though.  I studied the language of French in elementary school in Canada, then later for several years in college, but those vocabulary words are long gone from my brain, so I’d hardly admit to having spent endless hours memorizing genders, words and conversations from my French books.

After the tragedy on July 14th, I couldn’t help but remember a young French girl who spent a Summer as a runner at the first law firm where I worked. A family member was a legal secretary at the Firm, having emigrated to the U.S. from France many years before.  The young lady quickly fit in and her English was a little halting, but there were absolutely no communication issues.  I made the mistake of admitting I had studied French and she immediately launched into a lively discussion, and I had to stop her to sheepishly admit I only caught about one tenth of what she said.  For Bastille Day, the support staff decided to throw her a party, so we pooled our money to buy croissants from Jacques Patisserie and a sheet cake festooned with an outline of the Eiffel Tower.  We decorated the conference room with balloons and streamers in her country’s colors of red, white and blue.  She uttered the words “Mon Dieu” and happy tears leaked out and rolled down her cheeks as she took it all in.  I vaguely remember the words “Fête de la Bastille” rolling off my tongue that day and sounding pretty impressive – that’s because there were no “Rs” to trill … I never could trill my Rs which made my conversational French a little lame.

I thought of that little get together on Thursday evening after the news broke, and, then again this morning as I strode purposely and quickly down the Boulevard.   I gave a little smile as I passed the place where some kindly soul had placed a huge boule on the sidewalk in front of their house earlier in the week.  The birds and squirrels have been having a lot of fun with that big bread bowl.  I happened to walk by shortly after it was deposited on the front sidewalk.  It was still very fragrant in the warm and humid morning air and I instantly hankered for a piece of crispy bread as soon as I smelled it.  As boules go, it was extra huge and had been “gutted”, then chunks of soft white bread “innards” filled the hollows of that otherwise crispy French bread.

At the time, I wanted to say “ooh la la” as I approached and saw the squirrels and sparrows feasting greedily on this baked treat. While some sparrows were perched up top nibbling delicately on the crusty bread, I saw other tiny brown bodies buried in the soft pillow of bread inside the boule.  Of course, a squirrel stalked nearby, occasionally running up to scare the birds and grab a chunk of soft bread or even trying to gnaw on the crunchy exterior.

So, I’ve monitored the progress that the “gang” has made on this boule on the Boulevard, so that as of today, the sparse remnants are probably hard as a rock, but are still a draw for the critters.

Tomorrow that boule will be history – au revoir au bon pain.

[Image by Couleur on Pixabay]

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Whew doggies!

07-12-16

It was a hot one today, wasn’t it? Those Dog Days of Summer officially kicked in on July 3rd and will end on August 11th, so that means there will be a whole lotta sweatin’ going on in the next month.

I guess I’m just a malcontent because I enjoyed the mild Winter thanks to El Nino, but we’ve sure paid the price with this hot and dry El Nina Summer.

I laughed out loud when I heard a weatherman describe the return of the muggies as “air you could wear” … he got that right. I wore the barest minimum to keep cool and sought out a shady pathway to the railroad tracks and back, and, it was quite sticky out by the time I finished up my four miles.

Tonight is the All-Star game, so that means we are halfway through baseball for 2016. The Boys of Summer are on a brief hiatus, except for the superstars who were in the Home Run Derby or will participate in the big game tonight.

Summer, just like the baseball season, is slipping by all too quickly. You wouldn’t know it from the temps outside today, but sure enough, Mr. Sun is lazier in the morning and sleepier at night.  I have been watching the sun rise later and depart earlier since the Summer Solstice.  Yup, the times they are a’changin’.

I wanted to share this picture of Pam and her pooches, two English Bulldogs who routinely walk with her on the Boulevard. I’ve mentioned this trio in previous blog posts.  Pam and I are like two ships passing in the night – sometimes on the same side of the street and sometimes the opposite side.  We always wave or call out “Good Morning” when we pass.  Sometimes, depending on how early I begin my journey, I may see Pam running up and down Emmons Boulevard because she is training for a marathon right now, but, most of the time I see her walking her two fur babies Chessie (top) and Sophie (bottom).  On hot days, she stops every so often to give them a big swig from their water bottles, then they mosey on.

Whew! Dog days indeed – we’re not even to August yet!

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More musings ‘bout birds …

07-10-16

It seems that Papa Robin gets the last word when it comes to humans intervening with Mama Robin and the babies.

This morning, I packed my camera, then meandered over to Marge’s magnolia bush to get a picture of Mama Robin sitting on or near her babies, as a follow-up to Saturday’s post.

But, when I leaned over, at what I considered a respectable distance away, lo and behold, along came Papa and “chewed me out” but good. He stood his ground on the City property, while making his presence known.  First he scowled, then scolded me with some rapid bird chatter.  I said “alright already – I can take a hint”, so I left for my walk.  I decided to abandon any future picture-taking escapades, because the patriarch of the little robin family was pretty mad at me.   Four miles under my belt, and about 45 minutes later, I returned to see that little devil had left his calling card in splats all over my garage and front door.

Hmmmm – that’ll teach me.

Evidently, the bird gets the final word.

I was going to make this post only about the robin and my walk, but I’m going to tie this bird theme to the upcoming All Star Game and some reminiscing about Mark “The Bird” Fidrych.

My pals who hail from Detroit, as well as other baseball enthusiasts, who follow this blog, will remember Mark Fidrych, the pitching sensation who made his debut as a rookie in 1976. “The Bird” will be featured in a documentary that airs tonight on the MLB Network at 10 p.m.  ET.

While, I’m not really a sports enthusiast, by osmosis I pick up a lot of scores and stats from the radio, as well as sports human interest stories, gleaned from listening to the Mitch Albom Show. A few weeks ago, one hour of the radio program was dedicated to this documentary about Mark Fidrych.  Mitch played some audio of game highlights, a Fidrych interview, plus a few sound bites of his mob of adoring fans from that special season forty years ago.

I remember that rookie season well.   Mark Fidrych made his debut in a Tigers uniform, a cap with the old English “D” plunked down on his golden curls.  He was tall and lanky with a perpetual infectious grin.  His nickname was coined after a coach said he resembled Sesame Street’s “Big Bird”.  All around town, especially on the radio airwaves, the chant in the Summer of 1976 was “The Bird is the Word”, that 60s song having been resurrected in honor of this pitching sensation who won Rookie of the Year and was the starter at the All Star Game.

Not only was “The Bird” a pitching sensation, but his antics enthralled old and young alike. Every time young Mark Fidrych spoke directly to the baseball, or got down on his knees to re-arrange the dirt on the pitcher’s mound, it was documented in the sports section or highlighted in the nightly local news.

“The Bird” was especially big in the Downriver area where I live. This is because, at one time he lived in an apartment in Riverview.  Whenever he got those lovely locks shorn off, there were a gaggle of giggly girls eager to retrieve those curls from the barbershop floor.

During the Summer of 1976, I was working every day at the diner since I was on school break. The conversations between the customers buzzed about “The Bird”, so much so, that Jack and Bernice Loveday, owners of the Dairy Queen, just a few blocks away, contacted his agent to arrange a guest appearance at their store.  The Lovedays were daily customers at Carter’s, and promised my co-worker Leslie and I, the chance for a private meeting with “The Bird” before they turned him loose in the parking lot to the general public.  Well, Leslie and I were all gaga over this anticipated encounter, and talked about it for days, as we waited for his agent to get back to the Lovedays.  But, when the agent finally responded, the appearance fee was so exorbitant that the event never happened.

Of course we were bummed out, but it was fun thinking about it anyway.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Despite the phenomenal rookie season, the next year Fidrych suffered a knee injury, then arm pain, so he was sidelined and on the DL most of the time, and never improved in successive years , eventually leaving the Tigers in 1980.

After his early retirement from baseball, he bought a farm in his native Massachusetts. It is there that he died in 2009, after a dump truck fell down on him on him while he was doing some maintenance on that vehicle.

Back here in Detroit, his fans mourned their idol’s untimely death. Interviews and images on social media helped us all to relive that magical Summer, that not only celebrated America’s Bicentennial, but a boy wonder who wore the #20 and made us beam at the baseball park and beyond.

[Image from Open Clip Art on Pixabay]

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