On Top Of The World

Hans Haus

Hi!  This is Archon, your friendly tour guide/travel agent.  If you’ve been reading my stuff long enough, you’ll know that you’re all invited to Oktoberfest, Kitchener’s beer-bash bacchanalia, beginning Oct. 9, 2015.  That’s a long way off though.  If the Eastern section of the U. S. is accessible to you, and you have some free time and are looking for somewhere scenic to go this summer, I have a suggestion for you.

Skyline map

SKYLINE DRIVE 

Skyline trail

Skyline Drive is a part of the Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia.  It is a glorious 105-mile drive along the tops of the mountains.  There is a reasonable day-trip fee to enter the park.  The Drive is a twisty little two-lane paved road that dodges around this side of this mountain, and then swings around that side of that mountain.  The speed limit is 30 MPH, and nobody rushes it.  The views are magnificent.

Skyline panorama

We took the trip several years ago.  Like the Interstates, once you’re on, you’re committed.  There are only three access roads, one at each end, and one about halfway.  There are several pull-off places where you can park and enjoy the views – a couple with a westerly view, and a couple facing east.

Skyline outlook

At one of the outlook spots, I wandered over to the other side of the road, wondering if I could see any of the opposite vista through the trees.  I encountered several graves, with monument stones set flat to the earth.  I briefly wondered what money or political pull it took to be buried in a National Park.  A glance at the burial dates – late 19th/early 20th century – revealed that these were the resting places of Mountain Folk, people who had lived here, hunted and fished, lived and died, and were buried as close to their God as they could get, long before the Government created this Park.

Skyline Cabin

If you want to do more than a day’s drive-through, there are a couple of lodges, and a couple of sets of cabins that you can rent.  They are extremely popular, so you might have to reserve for next year, or even beyond.

Stony Man

At about the ¾ mark, heading south, is Stony Man Mountain, featured in a set of books I used to read.  I’m glad those arrows hang in midair, or I might have missed it.  Finally pulling off the Drive, we headed west to drive back north up the valley between the two chains of mountains.  We decided that we would pull in somewhere to get food and drink.  I’ve often heard that you should never eat at a place called “Mom’s.”  Apparently many others had also heard this admonition.  Mom’s was closed and boarded up.  The Cracker Barrel in the next town was an acceptable alternative.

Moms 1

Moms 2

We came down from the north, and stayed in Front Royal VA, a small city featured in another series of my books. You can go from high to low, because there are also several caves and caverns in the area, that can be toured.  Just south of Front Royal, near the park access road, is Skyline Caverns.

Skyline caverns

It’s a 2.1 mile underground walk in an almost figure-eight, except the cross point doesn’t touch.  Long before it was opened up, a portion of the roof collapsed, creating a vacuum, and crystals found nowhere else on earth.

Skyline crystals

Among several other caves in the area is Luray Caverns.  This is a 2.2 mile stroll in a helix.  At one point along the edge of a large grotto, there are three levels of the path, 10/12 feet above each other.  An organ was hauled down and assembled, and a caver with perfect pitch wandered the place for days, tapping stalactites with a mallet to hear the note each gave off.  Then little rubber hammers with actuators were attached, and connected to the organ.  Nowadays they have been disconnected to prevent damage, and what you hear is a recording of the final performance, still, it’s awesome.

Luray organ

I’d never heard of Skyline Drive until my plant supervisor told me about it.  I’m not so much interested in any compensation from these sites or the area tourist bureau.  I will be more pleased if only one or two of my readers are the back-to-Earth types who can enjoy what we have experienced.  Happy holidaying!  😀

#456

Advertisements

People Of Privilege

Bible

Much has been made in the media recently about “White Privilege.”  On the average, white people receive and achieve things better than people of other colors, generally the darker the hue, the greater the exclusion.  This ‘Angel Aura’ thing extends from jobs, wages and promotion, to housing, education, banking/financing, and general treatment by those in power (AKA lighter skin), particularly police.

White men came to this continent, and made it in their image.  They marginalized the Indians and other natives, and imported black slaves.  There were some who did disreputable things for financial and social gain, and there were some who performed unspeakable acts to justify eliminating anyone who ‘wasn’t them.’  Mostly, they did it from the perhaps-mistaken, but honestly-held belief that they and their way of life were superior.

So too, did the Christians come here and mold society so that they would reap the benefits, and all others would be ignored and excluded.  Some questions and comments on my recent Religism post, as well as some predictable “Christmas” articles, show that many Christians just don’t get it – or believe it.

Religism is real.  It’s the hatred of a particular faith or set of beliefs.  Some ‘Good Christians’ hate Jews. Many Muslims hate Jews, and also Christians.  Catholics hate Protestants.  Ego and insecurity drives it, and the hatred is often for the wrong reason, or for no reason at all.

The blind, unquestioning faith in the pre-eminence of Christianity often has its proponents mistakenly claiming Religism, when other groups’ rituals are included in secular life.  A woman writer recently spoke of knowing about Chanukah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Wiccan Solstice and the like – but wondered why they would want to celebrate at the same time as Christians, and exclude Jesus.

Because of her (and many others’) assumption of the universality of Christianity, it just never occurs to her that the members of these other religions all have their own year-end celebrations, which they would still practice if Christ had never existed.  A few of them have done so for thousands of years before Christianity came along.

There are the Christian haters who are the equivalent of the bigots who gave blankets infected with smallpox to the Indians, because they regarded them as sub-human.  Most of these folks however, are just the ones who have been subjected to the constant, low-level religious conditioning.  The Catholic Church calls it responsive reading, and catechism.  The Government does the same thing and labels it ‘brainwashing.’

Protecting one’s religious rituals can be a good thing – until you try to force them on others.  Inclusion of what is important to others is not exclusion of any portion of Christianity.  Falsely claiming Religism to justify a Christian-only secular public, makes Christians guilty of the same exclusionary tactics that they accuse others of.

A usually level-headed male newspaper writer pumped out a column labeled ‘Stop Diluting Christmas Traditions.’  It might better have been titled, ‘I ain’t gonna share!  You can’t make me.  I’m gonna take my ball and go home.’  A previously Catholic hospital had gone public.  Now funded by taxes from ALL citizens, it provided care for people of ALL faiths, and none.  They decided not to put up the usual nativity display.  Well, how DARE they??!

He was lost, because he couldn’t parade his faith, and held no-one else’s valid.  “It waves away the possibility of any faith.  It empties our plate, and bids us to eat.”  Actually, it removes the “His-only, a-la-carte” plate, and sets up a smorgasbord of beliefs to sample and compare, but there’s no trying religious chili or curry for him.  He’s a dedicated meat and potatoes Christian.

He complained that, “It’s like trying to speak language in the abstract, but no specific tongue,” apparently unlike me, studying all languages, or in this case religions, and seeing how they influence my favorite.

“It’s not a generic ‘Holiday Tree’, because there’s no generic holiday.”  It’s a generic Holiday Tree because it’s everybody’s ‘holiday’, Christmas included – just not exclusively Christian, even though that’s what he, and many like him, want and expect.  There’s reverse Religism here.  They just don’t see that they’re giving, not receiving.

The history teacher of the 15-year-old atheist son of one of the Free Thinkers was ranting about people who wouldn’t accept “proven historical facts.”  When one of the other students asked for an example, she came out with ‘the proven existence of Jesus Christ.’  School policy prohibits discussion of any single religion.  She was in the wrong, no matter how well-intentioned, or deluded.

Our lad pointed out that there was no ‘historical proof’ that Christ really existed.  “Well, it’s all right there, in the Bible!”  That may be, but no other contemporary Jewish – or Roman – document mentions Jesus, his exploits, his execution or his resurrection.  The boy was sent to the Principal, who chastised him for causing a disturbance in class.  No thinking allowed.  Believe what we tell you.

A local mall has a public meeting room which various community groups can book to present their particular points of interest.  The Free Thinkers recently requested a booking, and were, at least initially told, “We’re not sure you qualify as a ‘Community Group’.”  The Ontario Civil Rights Tribunal has dealt with Sofree(Southern Ontario Free Thinkers) as a community group dozens of times, establishing a precedent.  The president even has the complaint form document bookmarked on his smart phone.  A few keystrokes will rouse the Government to set them straight.

Too often, Christianity acts as a big, unthinking, entitled bully.  While less bloody, the difference between its head-in-the-sand stance, and ISIS’ off-with-their –heads methods, is one of only a minor degree. President Obama recently compared the atrocities of ISIS with the actions of the medieval Inquisition, and the usual suspects immediately began screaming about being attacked, and how dare he compare ISIS’s actions with those of the church.  That’s not Religism, that’s reality.

Newfound Friendliness

newfoundland-map

 

 

<-  Ted’s house!

 

 

 

Monday Feb 16, 2015 was a statutory holiday in Ontario, called Family Day.  It’s relatively new, but long overdue.  Finally, something to get us from Christmas/New Years, through to Easter.  On Tuesday the 17th I went to my favorite nearby supermarket to pick up a copy of the Toronto Sun.

Dear Lord, have people forgotten how to shop ahead??  The store was only closed for one day.  I almost had to bring my own parking space.  Quite often I make 25¢ or 50¢ by neatening up the parking lot, putting away carts with quarters in them.  Not that day!  No carts in either of the cart corrals, but people lurking near them.  No carts in the entryway either, so I grabbed a basket.

Most of the shoppers were white-, or blue-haired.  Do they not remember back in the ‘80s, before we had Sunday opening?  Was toilet paper being rationed, or was there a sale on Polident and Depends?

This place was stuffed – just crammed with shoppers.  Folks were bumping into each other and edging carts past.  It was so full, that people going up the aisles could inhale, while those going down the aisles exhaled.

Besides the paper, I also wanted a small bag of fine sugar, and two dozen eggs.  With the help of a little fairy-dust, and my fancy dancing slippers, I circumnavigated the store in less than three minutes, and only got groped once.  Then I got around to the checkouts….backed up like an old guy eating cheese.  The waits were so long, I hope no-one ‘checked out’ before they checked out.

I headed for the express lane.  It was so busy that they had two of them open.  I entered the first line, and was ninth or tenth.  The curve of the lines put me beside a lady about my age, third from the front, in line number two.  Looking in my basket, she saw only the eggs, and insisted that I get in line in front of her.  I mentioned the paper and the sugar.  “Go ahead, go ahead!”  I don’t know what the nine or ten people behind her thought, but I snuggled in quickly, before anyone objected.

Her thoughtful niceness, along with her strong accent, suggested that she was from Newfoundland, Canada’s easternmost, island province, and just full of kind, helpful people.  When I asked, she confirmed my suspicion.  Then I got nosy and asked specifically where she was from.  “Stephenville.”  Newfoundlanders are generally open, friendly people.  They don’t mind when you ask questions and engage them in casual conversation.

I said, “Oh, I’ve got a blog-friend from Stephenville.”  I don’t think she quite caught, or grasped, the blog-friend’ concept, and seemed to think that I’d driven 1700 miles and taken a two-hour ferry ride, to drink ‘screech’ (high-alcohol, reclaimed rum).  The Rock, as it’s known, is a bit behind, technologically.  They didn’t get World-Standard 60 Hz electricity until the late 1950s, and their Internet is a large ball of twine and several empty tin cans.

To give credence to the rumor that “every Newfie knows every other Newfie”, she asked who he was.  “I might knows ‘im.”  I explained that “he” was Ted White from SightsNBytes, a highly proficient and entertaining writer.  “I knows a lotta Whites, but I don’t t’ink I knows a Ted White.”  Ted has explained that, in Newfoundland, or at least in his home town of Stephenville, (Pop. 6193) there are as many, or more, of ‘his’ Whites, as there are of ‘my’ Smiths.  His family inflated the numbers by changing their French name, LeBlanc, to the English, White.

My Newfie tour-guide, whose married name was Green, went on to tell me that, “D’ere’s even a street called Whites Avenue.  Fer a coupla blocks, d’ere’s nuttin’ but Whites, an’ d’ey’s all related ta each udder.”  Ted’s bunch are not related to that lot, because his group ate croissants and snails, before they sailed west to eat cod tongues and mussels.

This 60ish woman has been in Ontario for 20 years, but hasn’t lost that ‘Down Home’ sound and style of speech, because she spent her formative years, and more, down home on The Rock.  I find these speakers a delight to be around, much like the ”y’all” Southern speakers.  They are the salt of the Earth, possibly because they live surrounded by the salty ocean.  They would give the shirt off their back to a perfect stranger, if he needed it – or go next door and borrow one from the neighbor.

I would have loved to have partaken of more of her friendly sociability.  Because she put me ahead of herself, and several other shoppers, I was soon through the checkout and free to proceed with my errands.  Thanks Mrs. Green!  You were a delight.   😀

It’s Not Christmas

Not yet it isn’t!  It’s only December the 23rd.  Christmas is the 25th, and it’s only one day, not an entire season.  It’s the “Holiday Season” and Christmas is only part of it.  The rest of it is the Festival of Conspicuous Consumption and Display.  The day after Christmas is Boxing Day, and it’s a holiday.  The day of New Years Eve is a holiday, and New Years Day is a holiday.  Many of us get the work-days between Boxing Day and New Years Eve off as holidays.

The Muslims just finished celebrating Ramadan, although the entire month was more Holy Days, than time-off-work holidays.  A whole month??!  Now that’s a Season!  I wished all the Muslims a Happy Ramadan – all except the ones who want to blow up my bridges, buildings and airplanes.

The beanie-wearing Jews just took eight day of holidays to celebrate Chanukah Hanukah….you spell it….and play with their toy tops.  Eight days is a short season, but still, a Holiday Season.

The Wiccans and Pagans, and even the Free Thinkers will have celebrated the Winter Solstice on the 21st.  Of course, that was a Saturday, and a holiday for most of us, but still, a Holiday, in the Season.

Beginning on Boxing Day, December 26th, many of the Negroes – Blacks – Coloreds – African-Americans/Canadians – or whatever politically-correct label they’re sticking on themselves these days, will be starting a weeklong celebration of the holiday, Kwanzaa.

Many Germanic peoples are celebrating the Yule Holiday, a week-long festival with Christmas inside it, but still largely patterned on old Pagan beliefs.

The Eastern Orthodox Christians wait twelve days after December 25th before they get around to celebrating Christmas, stretching the Holiday Season.  They think that Roman Catholics and all the Protestant sects are wrong.  Gee!  Who have I heard sing that song before?

Hindus just finished celebrating Diwali.  Those in India washed their feet in the filthy, polluted Ganges River.  Any who have immigrated to North America, have to make do with New Jersey.

Many Japanese join in a year-end, Shinto celebration.  In fact cultures and religions all around the world, and all across North America get together for a Holiday Season which stretches from the beginning of November to the middle of January.

Christians, with their little one-day observance are inclusively welcomed to join in.  Christ may be Your reason for the season, but a lot of others have their reasons too.  It hasn’t always been Christmas, and it’s never been only Christmas.  While Christmas has been around for two thousand years, the Jews have been observing Chanukah for twenty-three hundred years, and the Wiccans have welcomed the Winter Solstice for over five thousand.  Christmas is the new kid on the block.

Christians around the world are invited to play nice, and join in the Holiday Season, share and share alike, with open hearts and open minds, but not steal, monopolize and impose.  God doesn’t like selfish, nasty kids.

Thus endeth the reading of the annual Anti-my-way-or-the-highway rant.  Please open your hymn books to page 47, and we will all sing hymn number 666.

JESUS SAVES

Jesus puts his money in the Bank of Montreal.
Jesus puts his money in the Bank of Montreal.
Jesus puts his money in the Bank of Montreal.
Jesus saves!  Jesus saves!  Jesus saves!

Jesus is the lifeguard at the local swimming pool.
Jesus is the lifeguard at the local swimming pool.
Jesus is the lifeguard at the local swimming pool.
Jesus saves!  Jesus saves!  Jesus saves!

And on that note, an F-flat minor, we look forward to something a little less confrontational, and a little more educational and/or amusing.

P. S.

Much of Southern Ontario has just been hit with the worst ice storm since 1998.  There are still about a quarter of a million people without power.  Here at Casa Archon, we got power back just in time to publish this post, after almost exactly six hours of cold and dark.  We’re back to making the last of the Christmas cookies, and enjoying coffee, hot chocolate, warm food and warm fingers and toes.  LadyRyl, living a couple of miles closer to city center, was only without power for five minutes, since the grid which supplies her also supplies a major hospital.

While we still had daylight, I dug out the wife’s stash of candles for a little light and warmth.  We plugged a new 9-volt battery into a transistor radio the wife has owned for over 50 years, and listened to an all-news talk-radio station with its own generator.  Kudos to the utilities guys who are still out there freezing their assets.  Some folks may not get power for 36 to 48 hours.

Excelsior