Monthly Archives: November 2016

Where’d that word come from?

Almost daily we come across — and many of us even use — familiar expressions that, when you come to think about them, really defy explanation.

As a person who’s made a living by using words, I confess I’m one of the biggest offenders; that is, I often use expression that I feel comfortable with and that I’ve heard before, but seldom am able to explain why I used such terms.

The one that I’ve struggled with is “having an ax to grind.” Surely you’re heard it, possibly even used it. When I first heard it, it was in the context of a faculty meeting at Highlands University, where I used to work.

The professorial crowd, working on proposed changes to the class offerings couldn’t agree on much. So protective were the instructors of their turf that they tried to vote down any proposal that didn’t benefit them directly. Continue reading

Grateful for avoiding pedestrian

I came close to creating another obituary for the Optic as I drove downtown on Hot Springs Boulevard Thursday night.

I proofread all the obits after La Gente Editor Mercy López places them on the page. Thus, it’s safe to say we have a long-time vested interest in what appears on the Optic’s page three.

On Hot Springs, as one approaches the Behavioral Health Institute, the speed limit drops from 45 to 35. I slowed down and soon noticed a woman close to the middle of the street.

She crossed the street as if she owned it. Worse, she didn’t seem to have even noticed whether cars were whizzing by in both directions.

Was she inebriated? Confused? Injured? She was none of these things, merely a woman trying to get across, and for whom crosswalks are a mere suggestion. Was the pedestrian wearing bright-colored clothes that a motorist on that dark night would notice? Was she even aware that she was in the wrong, avoiding the crosswalk lines and walking diagonally across the busy street? Continue reading

Little ones also matter

In just a short week, I’ve noticed many people — including myself — “zoned out,” clearly distracted, grumpy and not very conversational. For what reason? For one thing, Hillary lost the election, preventing the United States from inaugurating its first woman president.

The flip side of that statement is that Donald Trump won. That brings up the questions — I won’t attempt answers here — as to how and why it happened.

The scene last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning was like a dream whose ending I’d hoped I could change. The early results showed Trump with an impressive lead, one of those I naively believed would change once the west-coast checked in. As I tuned in to various networks, I kept expecting to see a shift in momentum that never came.

By around 3 a.m., many millions of Americans turned off the tube and accepted the reality of an honest-to-goodness President Donald Trump.

I then checked Facebook comments and caught a post from my son, Stanley Adam, who just recently celebrated his 10th wedding anniversary. He married a Dane in Copenhagen and they have two young daughters. Continue reading

Whales failed to show up

THE CARIBBEAN — When my wife, Bonnie, and I took a weeklong vacation to Belize formerly British Honduras, in northeastern Central America, we were both impressed.

The trip came as a retirement present after 28 years of teaching at Highlands.

Never having entered Central America before, we couldn’t believe how organized the itinerary was. We flew from Houston but needed to get across to Ambergris Cay, a tiny island whose natives and tourists get around in tiny go-carts whose maximum speed is about 10 mph.

A simple tug on the starter-rope got the thing going for us, and we used it for several days. The first thing we noticed was that the entire island is sandy, and people don’t wear shoes.

Recalling all of the details of that trip, back in 1999, would be fun, but I mention that vacation to contrast it with our dozen days in Puerto Rico, the place Rita Moreno sang about in West Side Story. My first insistence is that the just-completed trip to San Juan and a host of islands clustered around the Atlantic really was enjoyable. Although I complained about the heat in my previous column of island-hopping, I really would recommend it. Continue reading

Call it Puerto Caliente

Our bus driver-guide told us, “There are four seasons here: summer, summer, summer and summer.” And he was absolutely correct.

He made that flippant remark as we rode high up into the mountains of Puerto Rico on Monday. I don’t know how many of the 60-plus passengers even caught the driver’s exaggeration, as many of us were nodding off in the heat and humidity in San Juan.

Along with almost a thousand others, my wife and I had naively assumed that the higher up the mountain you go, the cooler; in fact that’s why we chose that particular tour of the Viking cruise we booked in late October to the British Virgin Islands and a handful of other scenic islands clustered around that site.

We’re in our fourth day of an 11-day cruise of a half dozen attractions in a place we’d never been. But we hadn’t been totally unaware of weather conditions here, as locals have told us this season is, well, unseasonably hot and dry.

Still we wondered while making comparisons. If a drive up Gallinas Canyon can give us temperatures 10 to 20 degrees cooler than in Las Vegas, why isn’t the same happening here? Continue reading