Eau la Tique de la Grrrrrr

“Mmmm, what is that fragrance you are wearing?” you may well ask should you happen upon me and my sweet doggy any time soon.

“It is Eau la Tique de la Grrrrrr,” I shall readily reply, a slight blush of pride at my inside joke spreading across my cheeks and nose… or is that a mild sunburn acquired during sunny summer walks with Dawny Virgil?  Yes, for those of you who have been traveling with us for a while and are curious, Dawny has had a wonderful stretch of good health these past few weeks.  I think the home-cooked diet is agreeing with her.

Dawny and I are now enjoying ourselves in the great state of Pennsylvania.  We have worked our way from the farmland and rolling hills that decorate the southern region to the magic of the Pocono Mountains in the north, visiting with family and friends along the road.

We are also settling into a new workamping job.  It is a nice mixture of physical labor and fresh air.  The only problem is that there is a lot of long grass and underbrush where we walk and surrounding the campsites where I need to work.  And that means ticks.

Did you know that Pennsylvania ranks first in the number of cases of Lyme Disease reported each year since 2011?  I believe it!  I forgot to apply Dawny’s weekly dose of anti-tick/flea spray before we took our first walk upon arriving at the campground near my brother’s house.  Dawny, great huntress that she is, forged deeply into the roadside brush, chasing the scent of Eau de la Groundhog.  Over the next three days I picked half a dozen ticks off of us both and found several more strolling leisurely around our little house.  Smoking tiny cigarettes, no less.

Lesson learned, I sprayed the herbal flea/tick spray that I use to supplement the monthly topical drops I apply to the back of her neck.  My favorite brand is Sergeant’s Green Natural Flea and Tick Spray, but it is very expensive.  Some Walmarts carry a cheaper version, Natural Care Flea and Tick Spray, which has a slight variation in ingredients.

Unfortunately, I continued to find ticks as we worked our way northward.  So I sprayed her every time we went out.  Then I started spraying me.  At this point, I spray both of us at least once a day, from the tips of our toes to the flaps of our ears, including my walking hat and work cap.

These natural sprays have a very strong aroma, consisting of peppermint, clove, lemon grass, and cinnamon oils, leading me to ponder the law of unintended consequences.  Dawny and I are basically strolling around in a thick herbal cloud through an area heavily populated by black bears, who have extraordinarily sensitive noses and curiously inquisitive tastes…

Eau la Tique de la Grrrrrr.

I sure hope my attempt at humor doesn’t come back to bite me.

Arlo Who?

When I turned 30 years old, old woman that I was, I had a mind to treat myself to a fancy haircut of fancy proportions.  After all, I was surely deserving of such a fine treat, seeing as how I was a fine, upstanding member of a fine, upstanding society complete with a fine, upstanding career and a fine sort of marriage if you didn’t look too closely.

So I moseyed on over to a fancy local salon full of handsome young people wielding scissors and combs and all sorts of instruments of beautification.  These groovy youngsters washed their subjects’ fine hair in bubbles of water and they utilized various electrical appliances and chemical accouterments to shape and pull and shear and blow and inflict bouncing, burning curls onto the locks of fancy, high-paying customers such as myself.

I walked right in and settled on down into the whirly-twirly chair of a handsome young man who had as distinctive a look of familiarity as ever I had seen.  This handsome young man twirled my chair around to face his mirrored glass wall surrounded by twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures of fancy hair-do’s.  He proceeded to wield his scissors and combs and bubbles and blows until I looked like no one remotely recognizable.

And that is when I recognized him.

I said, “You look just like Arlo!”

With as blank a face as ever I had seen, he said, “Arlo who?”  He continued to snip-snip-snip at my limpy-skimpy, old-lady locks.

And I said, “Why, Arlo Guthrie, of course!  Don’t you know who that is?”

“Never heard of him.”  Thud.

Thud… snip-snip….  Thud… blooowwwww… sounded the silence as I took a nosedive down the rabbit hole known previously and remotely as the generation gap, fancy head of hair leading the way, all while twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures of fancy hair-do’s helplessly looked on.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

That was nearly 30 years ago.  It was the first time in my life that I knew what it felt like to be old.  Or, at least, older.  Or, at the very least, growing older.

I was reminded of all this the other night when I caught Tavis Smiley’s interview with a nearly 70-year old Arlo Guthrie on PBS.  Arlo looked like Santa Claus after half a century of smoking weed.  I don’t know why it comes as such a shock when I see a famous person that I haven’t seen in quite a while and discover that they have aged.  It feels personal.  How dare they succumb to the vagaries and ravages of time?  Oh, heavens-to-Betsy, has that happened to me, too?  “Yes, dear,” responds the little voice in my head, calmly primping her own imaginary hair-do.

But then I stopped obsessing, quieted down, and opened up.  I listened.  I learned.  And I enjoyed a trip to the past where I found hope for the future.  Mr. Smiley did a wonderful interview, and Arlo charmed.

Arlo recounted what it was like growing up as Woody Guthrie’s son.  Remember Woody?  In the United States of America, Woody’s musical and poetic efforts on behalf of the downtrodden and against war earned him the label of communist.  Apparently he was a sympathizer, but never a member.  In the 1940s, Woody was part of the Almanac Singers, where a long friendship and collaboration began with Pete Seeger (another American folk singer and social activist–for any too young to know–and an actual member of the Communist Party for a time, for which he paid dearly).

Arlo, born in 1947, spent his formative years absorbing the music, poetry, politics, and drama of his surroundings.  And in 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War, he first performed what would become probably his most noteworthy, long-lived, far-reaching, heart-stirring, laugh-inducing musical opus, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.”  His father, Woody, was blessed to hear the demo copy shortly before he died.

That was 50 years ago.  Imagine that.

Arlo went on to enjoy his own long friendship with Pete Seeger.  My favorite part of Mr. Smiley’s interview was when Arlo talked about walking with Mr. Seeger, then in his early 90’s, 30 blocks through New York City to join Occupy Wall Street demonstrators at Columbus Circle on a cold October night in 2011.  There they found young people singing snippets of old protest songs, switching from one song to another before finishing any simply because they didn’t know all of the words.  Pete took out his banjo and he and Arlo led the night-time gathering in song.  Teaching words.  Sharing stories.  Crafting connections through the power and magic of song.

When you get old enough, you can be cool again.  As long as you have stayed true (or come back to your truth–it is, after all, so easy to become separated).  True to yourself, your beliefs, your ideals.  True about your past and humble in the face of your future.  And, most importantly, honest with those who come after.  After all, it is a very particular gift to have traveled your road far enough, long enough, and awake enough that you gather even a glimpse of the bigger picture.  You might as well be honest once you get there.

Thank you, Arlo.  And thank you to all who have gone before.  Thank you for your ageless voice and timeless message, your poetry, your song, and your humor.

Oh, and by the way, you’ve still got great hair.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

You can find Mr. Smiley’s April 14, 2017 interview with Arlo Guthrie through the following link:

www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/interviews/legendary-singer-songwriter-arlo-guthrie/.

And, for a youtube recording, complete with lyrics, of “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” here is a link for you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPx2t7xoF1k.

Please, enjoy!

Look!

Look!  Up in the sky!

It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!

No, it’s Tarzan and Jane!

… and Cheetah …

How many of you knew that some of those old Tarzan movies from the 1930s were filmed in Silver Springs, Florida? I think I knew it several times.  Then I forgot it.  Each time.  It’s one of those odd factoids that is fun when you hear it, but it doesn’t tend to stick.  At least not with me.

It is a widely held belief that wild rhesus monkeys were imported to Silver Springs for the Tarzan movies to help make everything look legit.  After filming was over, they stayed.  According to good old Wikipedia, though, the truth is a bit more forgettable (as is often the case).  A fellow who ran the Jungle Cruise boat ride bought the monkeys and put them on an island as a tourist attraction.  He didn’t know they could swim, however, and the monkeys escaped, spreading throughout the Silver River basin.  Hollywood was just an accidental beneficiary.

Speaking of monkeys, or chimps to be more exact and respectful, one of the original Cheetahs supposedly outlived both Tarzan and Jane, passing away in 2011 at the age of 80.  A number of chimps and one little boy played the role over the years, and controversy swirls around whether this particular chimp was really that old and, indeed, how many (if any) of the movies he actually appeared in.  I don’t know.  I’m kind of sick of controversy over this and controversy over that.  Let’s just accept it and move on.  Rest in peace, dear Cheetah.  Real deal or not, I hereby anoint you as the honorary representative of the entire hairy little Hollywood tribe known as Cheetah.  Thanks for all the laughs.

Why are we on this odd tangent?  Because Dawny and I spent some lovely days and nights at Silver Springs State Park this week.  While I try to be ever-vigilant on our walks so as not to miss out on local wildlife, this time I was especially hopeful that I would get to see a wild monkey up in a tree. I could easily lie and say I saw one.  How would you know?  But, alas, I cannot tell a lie.  No monkeys for me.

The campground is not near the main tourist entrance (where you will find the headspring of Silver Springs, the Silver River’s famed glass-bottom boats, beautiful gardens, and mysterious monkeys, etc.), but that is an easy drive away.  It is walking distance to a little museum, though, as well as Cracker Homestead, a replica village of Florida’s colonial-era settlers.  Lots of school groups come to the museum and village to absorb a bit of their rich local history.  The picture to the left is of one of the buildings in the Cracker Homestead exhibit, a replica of a one-room school house that doubled as church on Sundays.

I thought “Cracker” was an insulting name and was kind of surprised to see an educational village named as such.  Wikipedia notes that the term Cracker comes from Elizabethan England, and is a reference to someone full of boastfulness and entertaining tale-telling.  That doesn’t sound so bad.

It reminds me of Tennessee’s favorite son, Davy Crockett, famous for his tall tales, who bragged about his life and accomplishments in his 1834 autobiography.  Some say he wrote it to bolster his presidential ambitions.  Let’s not underestimate the man, though.  Crockett was a hard-working frontiersman, soldier, businessman, and politician who was elected to Tennessee’s state legislature and later to three terms in the US Congress.  After losing his congressional re-election bid in 1835 and with his presidential hopes evidently dashed, Crockett traveled to Texas, where he joined the fight for independence from Mexico.  He died at the Battle of the Alamo the following year.

As befitting any good hero, controversy has surrounded Davy Crockett, including differing accounts as to exactly how–or even if–he died at the Alamo (move over, Elvis).  As for little Davy killing a bear when he was only three, we can thank Hollywood for that tall tale.  And don’t even get started on the whole coonskin cap thing.  All I know for certain is that, according to the photographic evidence included in this post (photos don’t lie), his cap size was 1/4 cup.

Then consider George Washington and the story of his honesty and humility when, as a wee lad, he admitted to chopping down the cherry tree.  It never happened.  We cannot label our first president a Cracker, though.  That story was made up a few years after his death by his biographer, Mason Locke Weems, a minister-turned-book-agent, who wanted his book to inspire future generations (and to sell lots of copies, of course) by extolling Washington’s great virtues, even if he took us there by way of a few … what?  Lies?  Parables?  Alternative facts?

Well, I believe if you survived and thrived in such times and conditions, you likely had quite a collection of wondrous tales.  You had a right to boast a bit and perhaps embellish a point or two.  Haven’t we all?  And if Hollywood, politicians, teachers, preachers, commentators, and writers (now that’s a shifty bunch) shape your words and shade your portrait–usually to suit their own agenda and/or line their pockets–well that is the price and the glory of fame.  I suppose it is up to each of us to sift carefully through sources and motives to discover the truth on our own, such as it is.

That ends our circuitous side trip for today.  Thank you for coming.  Watch your step on the way out, enjoy a cracker or two, and have a truly memorable day.  🙂