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Sometimes it takes a bird brain to pull a post together.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been mulling over an incident that got me to thinking about the difference between being smart and being intelligent.
What sparked that idea happened as I was walking to the bus stop one morning. A group of five or six little neighborhood kids, ages from four and a half to ten were playing. When they saw me they started yelling “Hello, hello, hello.” One of the few English words they know. Naturally I was saying “Hello, hello, hello” right back. We do this all the time. But the youngest of the group, my next door neighbor’s daughter, separated herself from the group and came over to me and said, “¿Cómo se dice, ‘adios’ en Inglés?” (“How do you say ‘goodbye’ in English?”)
That impressed me. It was a leap of intellectual curiosity that the others didn’t have. She knows what “hello” means and how it relates to an event but she wanted to extend her knowledge beyond that. A person has to have some level of “smartness” to be able to pick up another language. It takes “intelligence” to delve into how it all works.
But that’s a single, isolated incident. What really brought the theme together happened this morning with a rufus-tailed hummingbird.
I took this video of a rufus-tailed hummingbird when I was house-sitting in Potrerillos Arriba…
I was sitting in my rocking chair on the front porch enjoying my morning cup of locally-grown coffee when the hummingbird stationed itself less than three feet in front of me clicking away in humingbirdese. It stayed like that for at least half a minute and flew off. A few minutes later it repeated its performance. It took me a while to figure out why it was doing this. Then I looked up at the hummingbird feeder that hangs nearby. It was empty.
Now, the bird knows that the little flowers on the feeder aren’t real. That’s smart. Knowing it’s empty is smart. Knowing that I’m the one who mixes up the juice for the feeder is intelligence! Hovering in front of me and making a racket so I’d notice that the feeder needed to be refilled is also intelligence. It’s thinking “outside the box.”
Just because something can’t talk doesn’t mean it’s stupid.
It’s a cliché to say no one alive at the time will ever forget where they were 50 years ago, today, when they heard that John Kennedy was shot in Dallas. But all clichés have a nugget of truth to them. It was on this day, a half century ago, that I had what I call my “Forrest Gump Moment.” You remember in the movie he was always having encounters with famous people: LBJ, Nixon, etc.
I was stationed at Bethesda Naval Hospital in November of 1963. A couple of months earlier I’d been hit by a car one dark and rainy night while walking down a sidewalk behind the hospital and, in addition to a moderate concussion, both of my legs had been broken. The morning of November 22nd I’d just had a “walker” cast put on my left leg and was returning to my job in medical records when we heard the news that the President had been shot. Naturally, everyone was stunned. The day dragged on in a fog of disbelief.
His body was going to be brought to the hospital for an autopsy. In the evening, while everyone in our barracks was sitting in the T. V. room watching the news, an officer came in and told us to put on our dress blue uniforms. We were going to be an honor guard for the arrival of the President’s body.
I need to tell you how Bethesda was set up at the time. The hospital sits quite a ways back from the main road, Pennsylvania Avenue. A long, horseshoe shaped drive runs up from the highway to the main tower building. At that time a golf course surrounded the medical center. One fairway stretched across the front of the building between the horseshoe. A helipad, where the President’s body was supposed to arrive, sat at the end of the fairway.
Anyway, I tried to wiggle out of the assignment, pointing out that I’d just had a plaster cast put on my leg and it was still wet and not set up. Didn’t matter to the officer one bit and so I put on my blues and limped out to the helipad as ordered.
Hundreds of people started gathering on the fairway in front of the hospital and television and film crews were setting up their equipment around the helipad where we stood on the perimeter. Some of the newsmen approached several of us asking where we were from. They all got semi-orgasmic when I said I was from Cape Cod, but I refused to be interviewed.
It was all too surreal. The crowd swelled from hundreds to thousands and it was eerily quiet. For a while. We stood around the helipad for several hours waiting for the helicopter bearing the President to arrive. Meanwhile, the silence would be shattered every time a vehicle would depart the hospital and make its way down the horseshoe drive to the main road. People would scream, “It’s Jacquie,” “It’s Bobby,” “It’s Lyndon,” and they would surge, en mass, towards whichever side of the drive the vehicle was travelling on.
From time to time, a few of us would be relieved from standing at the helipad to give us a rest. We’d return to the barracks and watch the news coverage which had little to do with the reality of what was going on outside. Eventually a helicopter did touch down, a casket was removed, placed in an ambulance and taken around to the back of the hospital where the morgue is located. Now, here’s a little-known fact that was related to me. The casket was EMPTY. It was a diversion. The president’s body was taken off the plane at Andrews Air Force Base, transferred to a bakery truck and smuggled into the hospital through a back entrance in order to thwart any mischief that might be planned. It was, after all, a day when paranoia was called for.
Around ten o’clock that night an officer came into the T.V. room, pointed to several of us saying, “You, you, you and you, come with me.” I was one of those he pointed at. By then the lower part of my cast was in tatters so there was no sense trying to protest.
We walked around to the back of the hospital. The others in the group were stationed around the perimeter of the area and ordered to keep anyone from entering. I was placed at a door that opened on to a long hallway leading to the morgue. I was told not to let anyone IN through the door, but I was to open it for anyone coming OUT and salute them as the left.
About a half hour slid slowly by as I stood at the door in the dim light of a single bulb overhead and a ray of light coming through the door’s small window when I finally saw movement in the corridor. As the group approached the I opened the door, as instructed, and saluted. Jacquie Kennedy, still wearing her pink dress, Robert and Ted Kennedy and several serious-looking men, most likely Secret Service agents, came through the door, walked down the three or four steps going down to ground level and got into a black limousine that was just pulling up to the steps. In those few moments, on an evening of a day the world will never forget, Jacquie Kennedy passed less than an arm’s distance away from me as I held the door open for her. My “Forrest Gump Moment.”
Wonder why there haven’t been any posts lately?
The answer is simple…sometimes I just don’t feel like it.
The one inescapable reality of life is that sooner or later everyone dies. Simple as that. Nobody gets out of here alive.
I was in the first graduating class of Nauset Regional High School. Class of 1960 which, strangely enough, consisted of 60 students. There are fewer of us now than there were on graduation day.
A group of Nauset alumni started a Facebook group called, “Nauset Remembers.” Part of it is a list of those no longer with us. Recently a group organized, for lack of a better word, a Remembrance night at the school. Not a memorial service, but more of a celebration of those who have preceded us into the great unknown.
Through that page I’ve been in contact with an old classmate, Jay Schofield. Jay has a blog and wandering through it he had a post of a eulogy he gave for a mutual friend, Bruce MacPherson. Jay wrote that when Bruce was inducted into the Massachusetts Football Coach’s Hall of Fame the theme of his induction speech was “The Dash.”
The dash he spoke of is placed on all gravestones and positioned between the date of birth and the date of death. Something like this…
Bruce questioned what people did with their dash — their time alive. Was it wasted or was it used to good purpose?
What will be written on your dash?
Just because they can’t talk doesn’t mean animals are stupid. They know when things are cool.
The horse belongs to a family around the corner. They tie her up in various places around the neighborhood so she can graze on the grass. In the past two years I’ve never seen her lying down anywhere. But she must have felt that it was safe to take a load off for a while in my yard.
The dog came limping into my yard about a year ago with a broken leg. Nobody in the neighborhood had ever seen her before. Naturally I took her to the vet to get her taken care of, and I bought a large bag of dog food at PriceSmart (Panama’s answer to Costco). Of course, once you feed them they’re yours. They don’t leave. But she’s cool. Laid back. Doesn’t bother anyone. She also loves the horse, and when the young man who takes care of her rides her around, the dog loves to lope along with them. I also took the dog to one of the spay/neuter clinics that are held around the area. Panama doesn’t need any more unwanted puppies.
When you become a legal resident of Panama you receive what is known as a “carnet.” It is an official state-issued identification card complete with an unrecognizable photo of yourself. Actually there are two kinds of state-issued i.d.s. One is called a “cedula.” That’s what citizens have. It resembles a driver’s license in that it is a solid piece of plastic whereas the “carnet” is a cheesy card sadly laminated in cheap plastic. A cedula is permanent while the carnet is tied to your passport number. That means when you get a new passport you have to change your carnet so the numbers match. It recently became possible for extranjeros (expats) to obtain a cedula and avoid having to change things when you get a new passport, but since it will be seven more years until I have to worry about that I 1) don’t know if I’ll even be around in seven more years and 2) I don’t want to spend the several hundred dollars and the jumping through hoops I’d have to go through to get my carnet changed into a cedula.
There are several things that having either a cedula or a carnet does for expats. If you fly into Tocumen airport, PTY in airlinese, with your card and your passport you can enter the country in the much shorter “residents” line instead of the “tourist” line. About an hour east of David there is an Immigration check point and if you’re driving or taking a bus you have to show your i.d. there. Citizens show their cedulas, expats show their carnets. Everybody else has to produce a passport.
You also have to show your carnet do get the numerous generous discounts that are offered to old farts like me. Discount for things like bus and airline tickets, hotels are supposed to give you a discount, and of course restaurants are required to do that too. The most important, and the time I use it most, is for discounts on medicines.
Yesterday, when I went to do my grocery shopping, I pulled out my billfold to present the cashier my “Puntos d’Oro” card. That’s “Gold Points,” sort of like computerized green stamps, and when you accumulate enough “puntos” you can redeem them for “valuable prizes” as they say. As I was digging for my blue “Puntos” card I instantly noticed that my carnet was missing. Shit! GeeZUSS!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
I had no idea what could have happened to it. I tried to remember when I had it out of my wallet the last time. The only thing I could remember was early last month I got on the bus to Rio Serreno on one of those “let’s see where this ends up” bus rides I take from time to time. It was a two hour ride way up into the mountains to a dirtbag little border crossing town on the Costa Rican border. I had to take it out to show the driver so I could get my “jubilado” discount. But I was sure I’d put it back in its place.
I searched all over the house even though I would have absolutely no reason to take it out of its resting place. All I could think of was what a hassle it was going to be having to go to Immigration to straighten things out. I don’t know how computerized they are yet, but since you can only obtain a Panamanian driver’s license if you’re a legal resident I could show the people at the David office that I was, in fact, legal. Of course there was also the dreaded thought that I might have to travel all the way to Panama City to resolve the situation.
Then, as so often happens, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I remembered that a little more than a week earlier I had been to Arrocha to get my blood pressure meds. Surely I must have taken it out then to show the cashier. Hadn’t I? Could I possibly have left it there? There was always the hope, and hope springs eternal.
So, this morning I got up, scrapped the stubble off my face on the chance that I might have to visit Immigration and get a photo taken and took the two requisite buses to the Paza Terronal where Arrocha is located. For a change there wasn’t a line at the pharmacy counter. I told the cashier that I had lost my carnet and explained that I thought I might have left it there. All in Spanish, of course. The chief pharmacist lady, hearing me talking to the cashier, glanced at me and proceeded to the back of the stacks of drugs. There, attached to a shelf by a clothes pin, hung my carnet. HUGE WHEW!!! Immigration showdown averted. I bought my next month’s supply of Zestril and asked the cashier if she wanted to see my carnet. With a big grin she said, and I translate, here, “No. That won’t be necessary today.”
Sure, it’s a shameless bit of self-promotion and hopefully a way to increase sales of my books, but so what?
p.s. – this is the 680th post on THIS blog.
To say that Boquerón is a small town is almost an understatement.
Some 1,200 people live here. About the same as lived in Orleans, Mass., where I grew up on Cape Cod, but Orleans was much “bigger” in some respects than Boquerón. Orleans was the shopping center for what is known as the “Lower Cape.” People bought their groceries at the First National or the A&P, did their drinking at the Land Ho, the Orleans Inn or the Packet Landing Inn. If you got sick you went to Dr. Burk (his entire phone number was the numeral 6, though all you had to do was tell the operator you wanted to talk to him and you’d be connected) and you took his prescription to Livingston’s Pharmacy. There was Snow’s and the Smith Brothers for your hardware needs and Nickerson Lumber for the things you needed to build with. There was a bank and a savings and loan, three churches, several real restaurants, the Catholic grammar school, the public grade school and the high school for kids from Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet. We even had a movie theater and “summer stock” theater in town.
Boquerón’s not like that. At ALL. There aren’t any grocery stores. There are two “Chinos” that are like Seven Elevens in the States where you can pick up a limited supply of food staples, a few hardware odds and ends to tide you over until your next visit to David or Bugaba. There are also several “Tiendas” which offer an even smaller selection of goods. They’re building a Banco National office which will be the first in town. You can get something to eat at a couple of “fondas” which are unregulated eateries where you can get a lunch plate meal for three dollars or less including a soft drink. If you want a beer with your meal and go to Las dos Katherines you can buy one at the Chinos next door. There’s one grammar school, and one bar that you really don’t want to go into for a drink. There’s a Catholic Church, a Kingdom Hall and two other evangelical churches in Boquerón.
Downtown Boquerón is the Palacio Municipal, a covered basketball court and the town park with benches to sit on and a bandstand. Almost exactly three years ago I wrote this post about the town. http://onemoregoodadventure.com/2010/10/18/a-quick-peek-at-boqueron/
This past weekend the little town of Boquerón held a BIG celebration. It’s called a Festival Patronales. My good friend Omar in Panama City who writes the wonderful blog, http://epiac1216.wordpress.com/ tells me, “