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Spring Ain’t Sprung…

Technically Spring started 28 days ago on March 20th. In the last week here in Mount Peculiar, Ohio, officially known as Montpelier, the temps actually touched 80F and trees and bushes changed overnight…

But Old Man Winter’s reluctant to give up his hold, and yesterday we got THIS…


The last time I touched the sky dandruff was in 1991 over in Golfe Juan, France, a bit east of Cannes…

It’s absolutely crazy here in Mount Peculiar. It’s 41F right now just before Noon, and supposed to, perhaps, get up to 50F. Thursday’s high, the Sayers sooth, is supposed to be around 80F and then 43F on Sunday with a low of 28F.

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Mount Peculiar, Ohio (Where Mayberry collides with the Twilight Zone)

Okay, so it’s REALLY Montpelier but it is a peculiar place.When I got to this village plunked down in the middle of miles of cornfield stubble a couple of weeks ago, everything was stark and gnarly. Only a few fir trees showed any green. Visual shock from being in The Swamp on the Saint Johns River in Central Florida. But it seems that nearly overnight things have burst into life again. Some trees with pink and white flowers. Splashes of bright yellow for forsythia. A robin hopping on a lawn. Can’t remember how many years, decades even, since I’ve seen one of those. 

I’m staying at the home of a friend I first met down in Panama and again when I dropped anchor in Bradenton Beach, FL. 

I thought the place where I grew up, Orleans, Cape Cod, was eadly dull, but Mount Peculiar has it beat. The only place in town to get a burger at night, other than Mc Do Doo’s at the edge of town, closes their kitchen at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night! 

I need to exercise more witht the COPD and it wasn’t easy to do that in The Swamp. 

Since I’m going to stick around here at least until after hurricane season is over down below (too old to face another one like Hurricane Ian and four feet of flood water) I purchased one of those blasted rolling walkers.

hated the idea of getting one, It’s an admission that at nearly 81 I’m becoming old and infirm. That SUCKS!! And I really hated those stupid hand brakes. Like you’re gonna have a runaway walker and need brakes? With the COPD I really need to exercise more. Walking unaided is a real chore when your lung capacity is less than 20%. But I found that when I was grocery shopping and using a cart for support I could walk well without getting winded. I though perhaps if I overcame my loathing of those handbrakes I might be able to exercise better. I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to try one out and I was right. Walking with it was easier. So I went out the very next morning and bought one. 

I’ve done several walks of a mile and I won’t lie, I rested several times in the process. My goal isn’t to walk a couple of miles at a time, but to walk that mile with fewer and few rest stops as I get deeper into the regimen. There are small town things I’m enjoying. Like on the walks people driving by give a little wave even though they don’t know me. But they must figure if I’m out walking and pushing the rollator I must be local and all locals get waves. Mostly the two fingers off the steering wheel acknowledgement you exist and a recognized. 

I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind about the brakes. Oh, I still think they look stupid, but as I’m walking and getting out of breath it’s nice to put them in locking mode and sit on the built-in seat and just be “in the moment” where I’ve stopped.

Here are some of the sights I’ve seen in strolling around Mount Peculiar

Pumps are apparently a thing in Mount Peculiar

There will be more pics coming as I roam around different areas.

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Hot Stuff

I’m a born and bred Yankee all the way back to the 1630s. Both sides of the family. My mom used to say, ‘We didn’t come over on the Mayflower but we knew people who did. (Her family arrived in 1635 and my dad’s preceded them by five years.)

My dad was a chef and people of a certain age know that he and my brother Jeff produced what were unarguably THE MOST DELICIOUS fried clams and onions in the universe at Philbrick’s Snack Shack on Nauset Beach in Orleans, Cape Cod, for 35 years.

At home my mom and dad both cooked. It would be like a ballet in the kitchen as they maneuvered around each other to produce the most wonderful meals. There were so many times we’d have a supper that was so delicious we’d ask, “Can we have this again?”

My dad would say, “No. We can have something LIKE this again, but we can’t have THIS again. That’s because in the process of putting the meal together a little of ‘this’ and a dash of ‘that’ went into it and nothing was written down, so it would have been impossible to recreate it.

Mom and dad had different approaches to cooking. My mom was a “measurer.” The ingredients in a dish were generally precise…A result of having attended the Fanny Farmer Cooking School in Boston. There was a battered Fanny Farmer Cookbook in our kitchen and she rarely deviated from the recipe as written.. She also loved to bake and you have to be precise when you bake. It is, chemistry, after all. There is no room for improvisation. When my folks ran Philbrick’s Catering Service in Watertown, Mass., before we moved to Orleans full time, my mom baked all the Parker House rolls. Bread baking…what a wonderful smell to come home to after school.

Dad, on the other hand, pretty much added ingredients and put stuff together as inspiration hit. When he measured salt, for instance he’d pour it into the cupped palm of his hand. I mentioned this to mom once and she said if a recipe called for a teaspoon of salt “I guarantee that if you measured what he poured into his hand it would be within a grain or two of a teaspoon.”

In spite of centuries of New England cooking in my DNA I LOVE southern hot sauces. I like adding a dash or a splash to a lot of the things I cook. Some things, though, just aren’t made for hot sauce. Like NewEngland clam chowder for instance. Anyone doing that should be shot instantly and without warning.

A basic hot sauce is simply cayenne peppers in vinegar and salt. That’s the rock bottom recipe but the “brewing” process produces different, subtle taste variations…And there are certain hot sauces that are necessary for certain dishes.

For example, you CAN’T make a decent Bloody Mary with anything other than Tabasco. Using, say, Texas Pete’s, and it JUST WON’T taste like a Bloody Mary.

For me, there’s another food-specific hot sauce…Crystal. It is amazing on popcorn in lieu of butter. People initially react with an “ewwwww” when I tell them that, but they quickly become addicted to it. Crystal is also the perfect condiment for red beans and rice. Most restaurants in New Orleans have a bottle of Crystal at the table. The ingredients are the same as Tabasco but the flavor and intensity of the the heat factor are different,

When I was offered the job in France I brought along a couple of large bottles of Crystal hot sauce not wanting to be without the stuff for my popcorn. I was gobsmacked the first time I went on a shopping trip to Carrefour where the ONLY hot sauces on the shelf were Tabasco and Crystal!

Similar sauces to the above named include: El Pato (The Duck) from Mexico, Louisiana Hot Sauce, from USA, Texas Pete from North Carolina, USA, Trappey’s made in Louisiana, USA.

Many others, like the popular Cholula, and Frank’s, to name just two, add things like tomato paste, onions, garlic powder and other ingredients to the mix. A good number substitute habanero peppers for the small, red cayenne of the other hot sauces. All have their own niche, I guess, depending on sales distribution

I’ve been to Walmart, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar stores up here in northwest Ohio near the Michigan and Indiana borders and NO ONE has Crystal. I’m going to have to order some online because popcorn just AIN’T RIGHT without it.

In 1992, while anchored off of Caye Caulker, Belize, on the edge of the second longest coral barrier reef in the world I discovered Melinda’s hot sauce. Five of the six lunches I had there were at the house of a woman who would set up four card tables on her front porch and serve up the best lobster tostadas in the entire known world. These were made by taking a tostada tortilla and smearing refried black beans over one as a base. Then came some shredded lettuce and chopped tomato, and some onion. This was topped with a health dollop of freshly caught, local lobster salad. Some grated cheese was scattered on top of it all. She sold these for $2 Belize or $1 US. Two of those along with a bottle of ice cold Belikin Beer made a lunch for $5 with a few pennies left over. Sitting on each table was a bottle of Melinda’s hot sauce. While Melinda’s comes in a variety variations this was the basic sauce made with a blend of fresh carrots, onions, garlic, and a hint of lime juice with the Habanero peppers. Really hot but,YUM !!!

I’m also quite fond of using Sriracha when cooking chicken wings.

I don’t know if it’s the DEFINITIVE list but the Wikipedia list is a good overview of hot sauces one can find around the U.S,

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Catching Up

Once again I’ve been terribly lax in posting here. I post to Facebook and this blog slides.But a lot has been going on so if you care to read it here goes:

March 20, 2023

It’s a bright, sunny, though chilly morning here in The Swamp on the Saint Johns River in DeBary, FL. But there’s a HUGE dark cloud hanging over everything.

As I’ve written, I’m getting ready to make a road trip up to KY to see a very dear friend who has been battling lung cancer. Radiation and chemo shrunk the tumor that was as large as his cell phone in his right lung by 85%. He’d been feeling pretty good and was able to get up and walk as much as a mile (he measured it once) where before the treatment he could barely walk from his living room to the kitchen without running out of breath.

While prepping for the trip to visit him he messaged me last night that the cancer had metastasized. “Cancer has spread to bones all over body… hips, pelvis, femurs, ribs, skull, vertebrae, shoulders, upper arms. Bone scan Thurs confirmed it. Moved from Palliative Care to Hospice. Treatment discontinued. Comfort and pain relief are now the focus.”

He’s 62.

Rushing to finish packing so I can leave early tomorrow morning.j Not going to be able to spend more than a couple of hours with him to say goodbye. My heart is very heavy. I’m going to go from there to see a friend in Ohio who has always had the ability to make me laugh. I’m going to need that now.

March 23

Having a “Lay Day” in Somerset, KY. Have been on the road out of The Swamp and though a 12-hour day behind the wheel, like yesterday, wouldn’t have phased me 25 years ago when those miles follow the eight the day before, these almost 81 year old is BEAT.

On Tuesday I made it up to Macon, Georgia, half way to Somerset where I’ve come to spend time with a dear friend who was diagnosed with bone cancer a week ago. He’d gone through radiation and chemo that had shrunken a cell phone-sized tumor in one lung by 85% but as often happens the nefarious disease metastasized into his skeleton. I spent a very pleasant evening in the company of a friend of a friend who put me up for the night.

I avoid traveling on the interstates. The back roads in Florida and southern Georgia are generally straight. Most of the time there wasn’t another car visible ahead of me or in the rear view mirror. Speed limits were mostly 55 though a few places were posted at 65. Northern Georgia, Tennessee, and the tiny portion of Kentucky I’ve driven through on this trip has twisted and turned like a conservative Republican politician at a news conference. At one point yesterday the routing took me up over a mountain and on top of the rain I drove through for 10 of the 12 hours on the road the clouds on top of the mountain cut visibility to 100 yards or so. Stressful to say the least.

I got checked into a motel and my friend came over and we had a nice supper at a Mexican restaurant. I’d been looking forward to taking a long, hot shower but lay down on the bed “for a second” to glance at my emails and instantly fell asleep.

Today will be spent with my buddy. Reminisce, play a bit of uke together and generally agree that sometimes life REALLY SUCKS!

I’ll be on the road to Ohio tomorrow morning to see a friend I met in Panama who should help ameliorate the sadness of saying a final goodbye to someone I hold dear.

March 23, 2023

It is impossible not to have fun when you own and play a ukulele.

I’m up in Somerset, KY visiting an old friend. This morning I was taking my two Enya ukes out of my car to show my friend when he comes to pick me up for lunch. There was a lady, Patricia, sitting on the curb smoking a cigarette. She saw what I was carrying and asked “Do you play the ukulele?”

Well, I avoided blurting out my first impulse which was to say, “No, these are for transporting my mini machine guns around.” But I didn’t and said I played. She said she played the the harmonica. A few minutes later we were sitting side by side on the curb while I strummed out Jambalaya and she accompanied me with her harmonica.

You can’t buy moments like that with money, but you get them if you own a uke.

March 25, 2023

Made it up to friend’s house in Ohio. Harrowing and stressful drive in the morning. I use Google Maps for driving suggestions. Since it was necessary to cross the Ohio River by a single bridge to Cincinnati on all three suggested routes I took I-75 north from Somerset. The first time in the 1,058-mile journey I abandoned the back roads. Figured I’d simply take the Interstate until I got north of Cincinnati and then reprogram the app to resume the trip.

Soon after I got on I-75 it started to rain. The speed limit on the Interstate is 70 mph. The Interstate system is the home of 18-wheelers. You are forced to “go with the flow” of traffic and find yourself boxed in between these behemoths, drenched in the spray their tires spew from the roadbed while being pelted by rain from above. There were occasional downpours and visibility ahead was mere yards. I was forced to stay safely between the barely visible white lines on the pavement while being bracketed by the large trucks hurtling along at 70 mph. And while we were maintaining the speed limit there were maniacs whipping down the far left lane doing AT LEAST 90 mph!! It was like that for a couple of hours. It’s a wonder there aren’t permanent dents on the steering wheel I gripped it so hard.

Half an hour after the bridge, which crept along stop-and-go after the terror of the Interstate, and I’d gotten into the far northern suburbs of Cincinnati, I pulled into a fast food establishment for a bite to eat and get routing info for the back roads. At that point the difference in travel time to my destination between using the Interstate and back roads was negligible. Much less stressful. Another thing I like about the back roads is you actually get to SEE what the country looks like. You get to see where people LIVE. All that’s blocked from view on the Interstate. It’s amazing how much empty space there is in this country. All along the route I saw mile after mile of land being prepared tor planting crops.

Driving through Paulding and Van Wert Counties I went through The Blue Creek Wind Farm, the largest in the country. It covers approximately 40,500 acres. With 152 cancer-causing turbines the farm churns out enough electricity to service the equivalent of about 76,000 homes. Those BASTARDS!!! I believe that any MAGA hat-wearing Trump supporter should be banned from receiving any of the electricity generated by the turbines.

It’s 36F and raining.

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Yuletide Greetings…

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December 15, 2022 · 8:49 am

Flooding on the Saint Johns River, FL

When Hurricane Ian dumped nearly two feet of rain on us here in The Swamp in DeBary, FL we’ve been seriously flooded out. Alligators have been swimming where I’d normally be parking my SUV. Flood stage for the Saint Johns River, where I’m moored, is four feet at Astor, about 30 miles north of me. In Deland, the next town to my north the water stage stands at 6’2″! The sayers at the U.S. Weather Service sooth that the river is expected to fall to four and a half feet by this coming Thursday, October 27th. Still an awfully long way to go.

The following is PURE SPECULATION on my part with no scientific evidence to back it up. I think one of the major impediments to the flooding diminishing faster is the fact that much of the Saint Johns River is tidal. It’s a slow moving, northwards flowing river with the highest point of its path only 30 feet above sea level to where it debouches into the Atlantic Ocean past Jacksonville. Tides cause seawater to enter the mouth of the Saint Johns and regularly affect water levels as far south as Lake Monroe 161 miles along the river’s 310 mile length. There are two high tides and two lows each day. When the tide is rising it has to be pushing against the water heading to the sea and, reversing the course at up to 2.6 mph! That HAS to impede the river’s ability to empty itself.

But the water IS slowly receding.

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Hurricane Ian Aftermath

If I was a songwriter I’d be penning “The Saint Johns River Blues.”

At 310 miles in length, the Saint Johns River is the longest in Florida and one of 30 in the United States that flow northwards. With a “drop” of only 30 feet from its headwaters to where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean the current of the river is barely noticeable over most of its course.  

Barely a month ago, in August, there were newspaper stories about how the Saint Johns was at its lowest level in more than 60 years. The river is one of the few surface water supplies for drinking water in the state. 

Today, a little more than a month later, the river is at its HIGHEST level in more six decades!

Hurricane Ian slammed ashore 12 days ago on September 28th and dumped nearly 22 inches of rain over DeBary in Central Florida where I’m moored. Wind and tidal surge obliterated Fort Myers Beach on Estero Island. I used to spend an occasional weekend out there on the island preferring it to going to the Keys.

Ian, a Category 4 storm, was the deadliest hurricane to strike Florida since the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane that came ashore with winds of 185 mph dwarfing Ian’s 150 mph gusts. 

By far the biggest impact the storm left on inland Volusia Country has been the flooding of the Saint Johns. County officials preliminary accounts say that at least 4,000 homes have been inundated. In nearby Winter Springs, 16 miles away, at least 2,000 buildings have been affected. The worst thing for the residents is that FEMA records show only about 525 of those houses had flood insurance policies. That means most homeowners will be on the hook for repairs out of their own pockets.

Here in The Swamp the river has risen so high it topped navigation signs. Items placed on top of my picnic table to keep them above water level have floated away. 

A little line of tiny eddy whirlpools string out away from the bottom of my boat as the water slowly flows from the canal to wash over what is usually dry land where I park my SUV. 

The sayers at the National Weather Service are soothing that the river should crest sometime tomorrow and start to recede. It will most likely be days before land starts to appear again and when it does it’s going to be a yucky, muddy mess for days, most likely weeks, afterwards. My guess, based on nothing more than a hunch, is that dry land we can drive and walk on will be what we’ll be giving thanks for over dinner

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Hurricane Ian’s Flooding

In my last post I wrote about how much water Hurricane Ian dumped on us here in The Swamp on the Saint Johns River in DeBary, FL. How has that effected us? FLOODING! This four-picture collage says all that needs to be said…

The beauty of living on a boat is…water rises. So do you. Of course getting out of here to go do stuff is a hassle. Thank heaven I’ve lived nearly 60 of my 80 years in hurricane-prone areas and had plenty of non-perishable food on board as well as good drinking water. I’m just fine, thanks.

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Hurricane Ian Rainfall

It’s much wetter than usual here in The Swamp on the Saint Johns River in Central Florida. We are all waiting, but not with the eager anticipation of children on Christmas Eve, for the arrival of Hurricane Ian.

Yesterday there were a few brief sprinkles of rain lasting just a few minutes each. It was calm when I went to bed but I became aware of the sound of rain and woke up long enough to look at my watch and see it was 1:57 am. Now, at 8:52, it has been steadily raining ever since. Not heavy, yet, since the storm hasn’t even come ashore as far as I can see, but it has been non-stop wet.

I’m just a fraction of a hair to the northeast of the dot marking Orlando.

The sayers are soothing between 10 and 20 inches of rain. How much is that? Well, years ago after devastating rains in Chiriqui Province Panama wiped out one of the major bridges on the Panamerican Hwy, I figured that out.

When it’s said that an “inch” of rain has fallen it means that an acre of land would be covered with one inch of water. According to the U.S. Geological Survey that’s 27,154 GALLONS! Let’s say we here in the environs of The Swamp fall in the middle of that sooth-said rain prediction and get 15 inches of the wet. That’s 407,310 gallons of water over every acre.

An Olympic-sized swimming pool is 165 feet long and 56 feet wide and is at least 6 feet deep. It holds about 660,000 gallons, of water. There are 640 acres per square mile: 260,678,400 gallons of water. The city of DeBary, in which our section of The Swamp is located, has 18.2 square miles of dry land. Well, if it isn’t raining. So, that’s 11,648 acres. OR 4,744,346,880 gallons of water. Nearly four and three quarters of a BILLION gallons. Enough to fill 7,188.4 Olympic-sized swimming pools. (God, you have to have a REALLY SICK MIND to figure that crap out.)

Enjoy your day, peeps, and try and stay dry.


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Dealing With Languages

The whole idea of language has fascinated me for years. I’m not very good at learning them. I joke that I took four years of French in high school: two years of first-year French and two years of second-year French. It didn’t do me much good when I got a job that landed me on the French Riviera back in February 1989. I could count to 100 in the language and tell people that my aunt’s pen was on my uncle’s desk (la plume de ma tante est sur la bureau de mon oncle) but I found that doesn’t come up often in everyday conversation. 

What happens when you land in a situation like that, where you’re thrust into a situation where the language surrounding you isn’t yours? Essentially you become a functional illiterate. For instance: At the supermarket you see a can and the label has a picture of a tomato. There’s a good chance you’ll find tomatoes inside when you open it. You buy laundry detergent because the box or bottle look similar to those you used to buy where you came from. But while you can pretty much figure out the detergent you don’t have a clue that “javel” is French for “bleach.”

I love hamburger stroganoff. It requires sour cream. But I couldn’t find any at the supermarket. There was something called “creme fraise” but that work “fraise” seemed a lot like “fresh” to me so I never bought it and let my tastebuds yearn for the stroganoff until I learned, after a year, that “creme fraise” IS sour cream. DOH!

There were several “Of COURSE” moments in which certain words were revealed. Take vinegar, for example. Most of us know that the French word for wine is “Vin.” After a few visits to local Chinese restaurants in Antibes, I learned that the French word for “sour” is “aigre” pronounced āgra. Put French words for “wine” and “sour” together and you get, Of COURSE, “vinagre,” and wine that ages past it’s drinking life turns sour and becomes vinegar!

This one is more involved and took a couple of years to figure out. Antibes, located between Cannes and Nice on the French Riviera, is a big tourist destination. At the height of the tourist season large buses would crowd the narrow streets of the old town. On the sides of most of them was the cryptic message “K7.” I had no idea what that meant. As I began to learn more of the French language I came to know that the letter “K” is pronounced “Kah” or “Cah.” 

The boat I was running was put on the hard in the town of Golfe Juan just west of Antibes, and when put back in the water we remained there. Daily my girlfriend Florence and I drove from Golfe Juan to Antibes in the afternoons for “sundowners” with our friends at Le Bar du Port. To get there we drove down Route National 7 or, phonetically, “Ere En Set.” Then one day as I was walking past a music store I noticed a sign in the window “K7” and like a thunderclap I realized it meant “CASSETTE.” Of COURSE!

Spanish was a much kinder, gentler language to cope with. For ME at least. Now, everyone who moved from the states to Panama did so with the intentions of learning to speak Spanish. Too many, though, never did. I’d hear them enter a store of business and the first words out of their mouths were the cringe-inducing “Does anybody here speak English?” I just wanted to effin’ slap them! So these people, many of the 3,500 or so expats living in and around Boquete above David (dahVEED) clique together and babble away at each other in English and then embarrass themselves when they have to deal with the natives. 

When I’d meet a gringo in David I’d almost always asked them, “How’s your Spanish?” Mainly they shrugged it off saying they were “Too old to learn,” it was “Too hard.” All male bovine excrement! 

My main rant to people like those was, “At our age we’re never going to become FLUENT in Spanish. Not going to happen. But you need to become PROFICIENT in Spanish. You need to be able to go, say, to Cable Onda and set up an account without dragging along translator. You need to be able to go to IDAAN, the water company and change your address without needing a translator. It’s NOT THAT DIFFICULT!!! At the VERY LEAST learn to say, ‘Lo siento, yo no hablo español.’ It will change how you are treated. If I was a Panamanian with a PhD in English translation and the first words out of your mouth were ‘Do you speak, English’ ASKED in English I’d look you square in the eye and say, ‘NO!'”

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