[Tour of Israel Part 8] Along the Coast

Tuesday, June 13 (יום שלישי, 19 סיון)

When I woke up at 06:45, I headed to the dining room after donning today’s clothes. I had a potato boureka and an omelet, as well as cranberries. An unexpected face showed up: Gary Hochman! Yet another “Can’t take Nebraska out of Nebraskans” situation! He is on assignment for NETV, and needed to be here for some reason. I love bumping into familiar faces unexpectedly like this! Oh, and the scallion-spinach omelet turned out well. I should try their technique (beat an egg and add the ingredients to a rice bowl or similar bowl, and pour it all at once onto the griddle).

Loading up the bus, we checked out of נוף גינוסר. The road took us the same way that we came on Sunday, but though there was some traffic, there was no wreck or fire slowing us down. We got out the road toward Highway 6, via Highway 77. By the way, the Hebrew word for highway is כביש (kveesh). This road took us toward the town of זכרון יעקב (Zichron Ya’akov), which was a mountainous community.


Somewhere between Ginosar and Zichron Ya’akov.

The name of the town is a memorial to יעקב רוטסצ’ילד (Jacob Rothschild) (after all, the town’s name literally means “Memorial of Jacob.” A water tower or just a silo-like tower honors Rothschild. We walked through to the NILI museum. There was no entrance where we were, so we descended stairs on the west side of the museum to reach the auditorium entrance. Of course, people used the restrooms that were outside first. The seats in the auditorium were really low to the ground!


The tower honoring Rothschild.

NILI (or ניל”י) was an acronym for “נצח ישראל לא ישקר” (netzach yisrael lo y’shakeir / the eternity of Israel will not deceive). NILI started as a spy ring in 1914, and sought to drive the Ottoman empire out of “Israel” (since the state Israel wasn’t founded for another 34 years!). A movie explained the story of Aaron and Sarah Aharonson, Avshalom (didn’t catch the last name), and the fact that Aaron’s experience with agronomy allowed him to pull the double-duty. Under the auspices of science, Aaron was able to run NILI.

Naturally, the story, with war and spies, had a lot of death. One of these was Sarah, who committed suicide to avoid further torture by the Ottomans. She hid a gun in her house and used it to kill herself when the torturer allowed her to shower (there was strong opposition in the international community to torturing women) and change clothes.

The story was repeated through the relics in the museum, and since I was allowed to take photos here, I will tell the story through a few photos instead of words (wow, that’s unusual for me!)


Some of the faces of NILI


Information about Sarah Aharonson.


Intelligence in science leads to intelligence in the security sense.



Not heroes in the eyes of everyone…

Well, the next part of our tour had photos forbidden — the houses on the site of the museum. Everything inside the houses is original (well, maybe a few things are updated). In the east house, it was one long corridor, from kitchen to bedroom to dining room to study and back (front?) door to the living room. I noticed that there was no bathroom, but maybe it was in a blocked-off area or there was an outhouse. The house looked like a rustic place, but would have been comfortable to live in, methinks.

The west house opened into the study, and went into the living room, which had the slot on the door jamb that hid Sarah’s gun. A bedroom was beyond the living room, and there was also an entryway with kitchen, bathroom access, and cellar access. Sarah had shot herself in the bathroom, and the cellar was a stone grotto! This whole story was fascinating, but I know that my account is not doing it justice.

We exited the museum, and headed down the street and were on a shopping and lunch break at 11:30. Some restaurants weren’t yet open for lunch, and we had to return to the bus at 12:45. I went rogue, but ultimately got company. .אכלתי שניצל בפיתה במסעדת שווארמה גוטה והיזמנתי רק בעברית (I ate schnitzel in a pita at the restaurant “Shawarma Guta” and ordered solely in Hebrew.) The Hamicksburg offspring, Rosses, Cohen, and Watches also ate there.


Before we caught the bus, we saw an old tree that had its roots coming down rather than going up (see the photo below). It was interesting, but I should have wiped my wet hands on it — לא היו מגבות בשירותים (there were no towels in the bathroom)! There was also the Rothschild Synagogue at our rendezvous point, but no further stories were given since it wasn’t part of our tour.


The roots start at the top and go downward!

On our way down the mountain and on to Highway 20, Gili talked about the song אלף משיקות (Elef Mishikot / 1000 Kisses), which I have heard on the radio several times before. Evidently it is related to NILI due to the song being sung by the widow(?). Yep, I am fuzzy on the details because I might have started to reach Tour Overload. Others were also mentally fatigued, and some may have been physically fatigued. When we saw smokestacks near חדרה (Hadera), Gili gave a “Long Answer” with the joke of them being Roman columns. Be on your toes for that information! Oh, and the power plant was actually in Caesarea.

Our stop in חדרה was a school for Ethiopian Jews (specifically, it was בית-ספר הרב תחומי). We entered ביניין-תמר (the Date Palm building), and the principal and several students were there. Grace, the principal, was at Brandeis when she heard of Operation Solomon, which were the sequence of airlifts of Ethiopian Jews to Israel on 24/5/1991. An earlier mission on foot was Operation Moses, but only 8 thousand of the 12 thousand refugees in that operation survived. The Ethiopian Jews went underground after 0 CE, but re-emerged later, so that they have a lot of history to contribute to the overall Jewish story. The ENP (Ethiopian National Project) tries to aid these Ethiopian Jews with assimilation into Israeli life.

The project that our group visited was an after-school program where teens get to do activities. We played a version of “Chutes and Ladders,” where each square had either a question to answer or “DARE!” If you landed on a “DARE!” square, the dare was a physical activity or a question drawn from a deck of “DARE!” cards. The rules, cards, and board were English-Hebrew bilingual. This was fun! My group got to meet עופר (Ofer) and עידן (Idan), the latter who had a better grasp of English. The game seemed secondary to the socialization and sharing stories!


Ofer and Idan.

Our generation may be the last to hear first-hand stories of the שועה (Holocaust), as well as the Operation Moses: the walking to Sudan to catch the airlift. So we heard the story of טובה (Tova), in Hebrew and with Grace providing the translation. She lived well in Ethiopia until the age of 8, and loved school. One day, her grandfather kept her from school in order to prepare her to leave Ethiopia en route for Jerusalem. In 1984, the 3-4 week walk was survived by everyone in her group, but once their food ran out, the Sudanese food did not agree with their systems. In the refugee camp, she lost her mom and siblings to diseases.

I could tell that she was pained telling this part of the story. She mentioned that whenever something bad happens, something good is bound to happen soon. For example, her Dad remarried after meeting a fellow refugee on the airlift. She loves her current job with this program. Maybe a far cry from her background in graphic design, but college majors are not necessarily career paths!

The holiday of Sigd is celebrated in Israel, and it originated as a yearning for the return to Jerusalem. Moreover, the 4000 people who died during Operation Moses are commemorated on יום ירושלים (Jerusalem Day, observed 43 days after the first day of Passover). I should consider getting her book, סיפור חיים כעף שתול. Though it may be hard for me to read since it will be fully in Hebrew, I would welcome the challenge!

Back on the bus, we drove on the highway toward Tel Aviv. The road system has even numbers for north-south roads (and Highway 90 is the longest road in Israel), and odd numbers for east-west roads. We were on the Ayalon Highway: Highway 20. Gili explained how the Tel-Aviv/Yafo area is a megalopolis. My attention was split because I was trying to set up a lunch rendezvous with Taglit friend(s) for tomorrow. We quickly reached the Rabin Center.


Entrance to the Rabin Center.

Before our tour began, I listened to Aunt Lori speak of over-saturation on the trip — she can’t take more information. I could somewhat see that in myself as well, but push on I must! We entered the museum’s main part by ascending stairs and going into a circular room where footage from the peace rally on 4 November 1995 and the news reports immediately following were given.

The museum had a downward helical slope (wonder if there’s symbolism here akin to Yad Vashem?), with off-shooting rooms. On the helix was a chronology of יצחק רבין (Yizhak Rabin), and on the offshoots were exhibits about the State of Israel, both before and after its formation. I will just share what I found interesting. Another name for תל אביב (Tel Aviv) is עיר לבנה (White City). The pride of Zionism was pioneerism, farming, and labor. Rabin was in the IDF as a commander and later as a chief. The עולים (immigrants) helped to build up Israel’s economy, as the country was impoverished at its formation. These עולים lived in transit camps to start. Israel’s war victories were amazing to consider when thinking about how badly outnumbered they were.

Rabin became an ambassador to the US in 1967. Though Israel won the מלחמת יום כפור, it may have been a Pyrrhic victory. However, Rabin later became prime minister of Israel. When Israel later ceded Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace, the Jewish settlements there were dismantled too. His vision for peace caused factions in Israel including some that compared him to Hitler. Rabin’s study room was preserved for this museum, and the television program that he watched prior to the peace rally was an Israeli football match.

Before we left, we went to the porch for a group picture with Tel Aviv in the background. We then drove seaside on the bus toward the Dan Panorama, in a lot of traffic. Part of the drive went under a hotel, which is now the Leonardo Art. Six years ago, it was מלון מרינה (Marina Hotel), where my Birthright group stayed for one night.

In fact, during this stretch, Gili was in the back of the bus, and I commandeered the microphone to get some laughs: pointing out that hotel, as well as the bike-share bikes that were visible, and also the flashing חינם (FREE) on a sign for a parking area. Maybe I have some sort of tour guide impetus in my brain! After a while, we arrived, but before going upstairs, said farewell to Liz and the Slevins, who were leaving tonight. I had received no responses from Israeli friends, so I went to dinner with the Corens as well as Esti!


Yep, this hotel underpass passed underneath the room I stayed at six years ago! Noah being the proxy tour guide!

Walking down the crowded Kauffman Street, we looked for beachfront restaurants. Our first option was Manta Ray, but it was non-kosher, expensive, and crowded. Moving on, we left the beach and found the תחנה (Tachanah) district, which was a decommissioned train station like what we found in Jerusalem. The kosher restaurant רג’ינה (Regina) was full-up, but our next stop, איטלקית בתחנה (Italian At The Station), was available (albeit non-kosher-certified). We ate there anyway, everyone ordering something vegetarian.

I got a margherita pizza, as did Jemma and Nancy. Ken got… oh, I forgot, and Esti shared pizza with the Corens. We talked a lot about language, as I read the Hebrew menu for kicks. The talk about עלייה was mentioned, and how Israel supports its עולים in getting started on their new life in the country. The אולפן (ulpan/Hebrew school) model must work out well! Some movies were discussed at dinner, and it was outside of my area of expertise and interest. Oh, and we ate outside and saw them retract the awnings. That was pretty cool!


The dinner bunch. Counterclockwise from left-bottom: Jemma, Charlie, Ken, Noah, Nancy, Esti. Photo credit: Ken Greenfield. 

We all returned to the hotel together, before splitting up. I went to the pool deck: the door was open, but the pool had closed at 18:00. So I ascended to Room 529 and looked out the window at the sea and the pool at the next hotel over. For the evening, I listened to Israeli radio on the RLive app, and journaled. When Seth returned from his dinner with a friend that he hadn’t seen in 25 years, it was about 23:00. That’s a good time to fall asleep!



(Dirty?) Thirty: 5 days

Nebraska Regional: 39 days

Semester Kickoff: 70 days

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April 9, 2006 (#FBF)

Today’s blog post is brought to you by Flashback Friday. Given that my main activity today will be driving, I will bring a post of a road trip from 2006–the longest day of me being in a car… or close enough.

Granted, today’s drive is “only” a combined seven hours. Not as bad as the nine-ish hours from nine years ago!

(Note: This post was pre-scheduled to publish at 11:00. I’m not blogging while I’m driving!)


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[Round Two O.C.T.O.B.E.R. VII] Musical memories shuffle XV

Wow, I’ve gotten to fifteen entries in the Musical Memories sequence.  You know the rules, you know the lifelines, so let’s play “Who Wants To Hear Some Music!”

1) She Blinded Me With Science by Thomas Dolby.  This is a repeat from Episode 6, but I wanted to comment on how I really like the different ways that the man exclaims the word “science.”  Sometimes, it is very matter-of-fact, especially when not preceded by “blinded me with…” But, because of that, my favorite is “SCIIIIIENCE!” at circa-130 seconds in.  He gets more emphatic as the song continues.

2) Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks.  I really liked this song when I was young, and hearing it on the oldies stations.  There was one time that we were driving back from Lincoln or Omaha toward Fort Dodge when we used to live there.  As you can predict where this is going, I heard the song at a gas station in Dow City, and after that, Mom recommended that I try to sleep (we were still about 2 hours away from Fort Dodge at that point), and I succeeded.

3) Point of Know Return by Kansas.  One of my favorite songs in 5th and 6th grade.  This song has the distinction of being the first song that I ever successfully requested on the radio.  I was listening to the “All Request Lunch Hour” on The Eagle (92.9 KTGL Lincoln/Beatrice) before going to a Bright Lights half-day camp.  (The topic of the camp was board games.)  Mom suggested that I call in that song, so I did, and heard it on the stereo in the kitchen just before we left!  Is it a coincidence that I recall this now at lunch time as I write this post?

4) Takin’ It To The Street by Eric Marienthal.  A jazzified version of a well-known Doobie Brothers song.  The saxophone foreground combines well with the background, although the refrain (“Takin’ it to the street”) actually IS vocalized, unlike other jazzified songs.  It’s a different idea, and I enjoy it.  I found it on Pandora one day.

5) Bryce Canyon Overture by Mark Williams.  This was one of the songs that we played in sixth grade band at Humann.  It was by far my favorite song that we played, and my trumpet had no more mechanical issues like in fifth grade.  I strived to memorize it when learning it, from inspiration by Kusi Taki when they came to perform for our class earlier that year.  It was the first of many songs from band class which stick out in my head.

6) Woodstock by CSNY.  As implied in #3 of this post, classic rock was my favorite genre of music when I was in late elementary school.  The refrain “We are stardust…” was my favorite, due to the instrumentals.  Like usual at that point, the lyrics didn’t make a difference to me.  Looking at it now, I find a clash in the lyrics!  “We are billion-year-old carbon” (science?) versus “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden” (creationism?)

7) קידוש [Kiddush] arr. by Mordecai Levin.  This arrangement is the “standard Shabbat blessing,” but is accompanied by instrumentals in this recording.  I have never been to a service where it has actually been accompanied by instrumentals, but I like the slower singing in this arrangement, in order to emphasize the musicality of it.

8) Message In A Bottle by The Police.  This song has no specific memory associated with it.  However, it is on my MP3 player because (a) Mom had the MP3 and it was part of the “starter playlist” for me, and (b) the repetitive “sending out an SOS” at the end appealed to me.

9) Spider Webs by No Doubt.   This is a classic “Kiss This Guy” style song.  The first time I heard this song was in October of 1996, and since I didn’t always hear the lyrics well in songs, during the refrain, I heard, “It’s all your fault I scream my bones off.”  I thought it made sense, since that seemed natural near Halloween.  It wasn’t until the summer of 2007 (June 14, to be precise) that I learnt the real lyrics “…screen my phone calls” when my RUTE teammates called my error out.  I still like MY mishearing better, though!

10) Facts of Love by Climie-Fisher.  Repeat of Round Nine, and nothing worth adding.

10b) Silver Springs by Stevie Nicks.  The song got stuck in my head one day in seventh grade when I heard it on the radio while riding “shotgun” in the van (once again listening to The Eagle).  However, after that one, I didn’t hear it for about nine years!

11) Queen of Clubs by KC and the Sunshine Band.  This was on the “Best of KC…” CD that my parents have, and was part of my “starter set” of MP3s.  However, unlike some of the other “Best of” songs that I have ripped from (i.e. Kansas), this one has not really grown on me.  So it goes–you never know when it might!

12) Cast Your Fate To The Wind by David Benoit.  This is on the Weather Channel II CD.  Although it doesn’t have any specific memories associated with it, it has grown on me as I have listened to it.  I especially like the high-energy parts where the keys seem to be moving all over the keyboard.

13) Hit The Road Jack by Buster Poindexter.  On my first spring break as an undergraduate at UNL, I went to Colorado with SPS to tour JILA and NIST.  This was one of the first songs that I heard as we left Lincoln to go westward.  For once, that trip was not particularly conversational, for whatever reason…

14) A Little Bit of Ecstasy by Amber.  In my sophomore year at UNL, during fall break, I was chatting with my siblings about music, and the movie “Night At The Roxbury” came up.  I had never seen that movie (and still haven’t.  One of these days…), but they all recommended it, and to search the Web for songs from the movie.  This was one of them, even though I don’t know if it was actually in the movie.  It came up in the search, okay?

15) When Smokey Sings by ABC.  I heard this song when driving home from Bellevue to Lincoln after a Pokemon TCG tournament.  I don’t know what it is that hooked me to the song, but I suspect it has to do with the “everything’s good in the world… tonight!”  The message as well as the instruments accompanying those lines (though I can’t deduce what the instrument is.)


Today is the seventh day of O.C.T.O.B.E.R.

(Round Two MAPLE XXIII) Throwback Thursday: June 26, 2008

This edition of Throwback Thursday recalls the canoe trip that the math REU took when I was in it in the summer of 2008.

Wednesday, June 26 Canoe Trip, Day Two

Dr. Woodward came around to our tents [in the Halsey National Forest in north-central Nebraska] to get us up at 06:00.  Frankly, I was not very comfortable last night!  I may have slept foot over head, contrary to the recommendation!  I went out to the outhouse to equip my swimsuit and REU T-shirt.  Today, I had Cheerios and Rice Krispies with orange juice for breakfast.  The group sounded a little groggy at this point, but it’s early still, considering most of our team.

What gets set up must be broken down.  We packed up our stuff and tents while dodging various flittering pests.  It’s quite astounding how such a big thing as a tent can fit into a relatively small bag.  We packed up the vans and headed out with no train trouble.

En route to the Niobrara River, we sang songs a-cappella such as Bohemian Rhapsody.  It is fun to do things like that, as I enjoy music so much.  We drove to Thedford, and it was a short trip that we stopped for gas.  I saw a bazillion trains stalled out.  Go figure!

We filled tanks as I continued journaling from yesterday.  This was an opportunity to do something with no bumps in the road.  As a livestock trailer passed us, someone facetiously said, “Hello hamburgers!”  As we returned to the road, we took Highway 83 northbound.  The skies darkened too, and that might not be a good thing!  I journaled somewhat, but there were ten miles of difficult road.   Plus, like usual I wanted to watch the road and scenery.

We turned left onto Highway 20, and it took us over hill and over dale.  I was not watching the scenery much, in hopes of catching up in my journal.  We crossed a bridge and the Niobrara River was just over us.  I quit journaling and watched the scenery instead.  Valentine is a cute little town that we passed by!  We took Highway 12, [Valentine’s] backyard, and drove a few miles.  This was the Launch Point!

The first thing that we did was to apply protection all over.  As we did this, the vans departed for the final destination, with one van to return.  We then unloaded all of the canoes, chose paddles to use, and donned life jackets.  Dr. Woodward went over some basic paddling strokes.  It reminds me of Dragon Boating, or at least the stroke does!  I ended up pairing with Michael, one of the TAs for our department.

We got into the water, ninth of ten canoes.  It took a few strokes to get the hang of it, but there was no capsizing or sinking off the bat THIS time (this refers to Father’s Day this year, when I was in a cardboard boat race.  Ready, set, SINK!)!  Of course, the canoe was not made of CARDBOARD either.  We passed under a bridge safely, and then paddled in sync, quickly catching up to the rest of the group.  Along the way, we saw a glove floating in the water.  I missed it, but Michael got it.  We deduced that it was Kelli’s, which made us paddle backwards [i.e. against the flow of water] to get to them.  After this rescue mission, we forged ahead and intentionally (or not?) rammed Adrienne’s canoe.  There’s no harm in a little horseplay!

The environs were beautiful!  All around, we saw tree-lined cliffs and endless plains.  The cliffs were major erosion hazards—some roots near the top of these cliffs were fully exposed.  I should have worn my hard hat!  Oh well—it’s a risk that we have to take!  The river’s pattern seemed to be somewhat monotonous, with a straight-left-right-repeat pattern.  To make things more interesting, a few islands were in the river, invoking the Axiom of Choice.  We chose the right-hand side each time.

As we continued, Oliver and (Jeff?) wanted to couple our boats.  That worked for a while, as they were having some steering trouble.  Honestly, they probably just used us for a free ride.  That’s fine—more exercise for us!  This caused us to stall several times—more than that one beaching-in-the-middle that happened to us before the pairing!  Eventually, we elected to “divorce” the pairing, and we sped ahead toward the Berry Bridge.

Once there, we beached the boat and awaited the others.  The elapsed time for our canoe was 1 hour and 52 minutes, but it turns out this is just a checkpoint!  I ditched my shirt and forded the river as the others appeared, including SIX boats tied together!  We saw the Berry Falls and had some fun in the river for a while.  There was no wrestling (a-la last night), but a lot of slipping!  The current is stronger here than over at Halsey!

As we left, the Six-Pack asked us to join them, but we unanimously refused.  A Paddle Battle ensued, and although we were outnumbered, it all worked out.  It’s just like water rides at an amusement park!  After all, it’s more efficient to have ONE paddle and TWO oars instead of SIX and TWELVE.  Of course, they did seem to have some caterpillaring fun!  It’s hard to have any progress when there’s little room between the canoes.  For the rest of the trip, we led the way with Gordon, Chris, and Bo in canoes behind us.  The Six-Pack was WAY behind.  Conversations about Iowa, grad school, and many other topics occupied our time.  A few miles later, when my watch read 2 hours and 42 minutes, we landed at Smith Falls.

I found the outhouse first, and then returned to the docking area as the Six-Pack appeared.  We all followed a foot-bridge trail, which was very short.  It ended at Smith Falls.  This is Nebraska’s largest waterfall!  The landing, rush of water, and trees reminded me of the Emerald Pool in Dominica.  Of course, the falls is all there is here—the nearby water is shallow.  It was cold and I chose to not stand directly under the falls.  OK, so call me a chicken!  We got group pictures before leaving.  The area is much more of a canyon instead of a cavernous forest.

Well, we had to get back on the river in order to get to the correct dock.  After lugging all ten canoes onto land and a clearing over a dirt slope, we walked to the picnic table area across a field.  There, we had PB&J sandwiches on honey wheat bread.  It has been a LONG time since I’ve had one, and it was good since it was not on white, but rather on wheat [I’ll leave this as a reference to fourth grade, since I’ve sneaked references from a LOT of years into these two days!  I ate a lot of PB sandwiches then…]  I also had an orange and a few cookies, together with plenty of water.  I walked and talked randomly until the cars came.

(We) loaded up all of the canoes onto Gordon’s truck.  Me?  I was down on the shore watching rock-skipping.  A bunch of tubers appeared and brought a school bus around.  They were all loaded and out as we finished the canoes.  We walked over to the vans and loaded up before leaving.  I started the count up on my watch once we hit Highway 12 [to see how long it would take to return to Lincoln].

The road back at the beginning wasn’t too eventful—almost everyone was asleep.  I got fairly far on my journal, but the bumpiness made it a little difficult.  Just take a look at the hand-written copy in this paragraph and you will see how obvious it is!  [True fact: I BS’d that part, otherwise the next sentence wouldn’t necessarily follow.]  Because it was mostly journaling and sleeping others, let me skip ahead on this part of the trip.  As we drew near Broken Bow, Disney a-cappella (e.g. “A Whole New World”) ensued and we were pathetic!  It is good that we can produce our own music—nothing was on the radio!

Supposedly, a tornado had hit Thedford a few minutes after we left.  The weather can change in an instant, evidently.  We ate dinner at Pizza Hut in Broken Bow.  The conversation was random, and I mostly just listened in rather than actively participating.  Here’s something ironic—it was fourteen years and fifty-one weeks ago (corresponding to my sixth birthday) that my family went to Pizza Hut and THEN canoed by circumstance.  Something tells me that I may be hitting another History-Repeating-Itself Year.

My phone had already fallen to “0” battery [it had died this morning, probably because it spent the whole night searching for a signal].  Thus, I got to use the Woodward cell phone to call home and I left a message.  The skies had darkened and lots of lightning appeared to the northwest.  As we hit the road, I attempted to journal, but the road was too bumpy.  All the radio had was weather or Christian music, but they avoided the latter by my request.

I continued reading in Busting Vega$, where Semyon and company took Atlantic City by storm.  They used Technique #3 several times to win big.  This episode, though, ended with Semyon being robbed and nearly killed.  I’ll have to be wary if I do win big while in Vegas in August.

We got to Grand Island and went straight to Interstate 80, not needing to stop for gas.  As we neared the interstate, Adrienne and Danny were joking about “chicken sandwich and waffle fries,” and I’m pretty sure it’s a movie reference or something.  It was 22:10 at this point, and I decided to fall asleep so that I wouldn’t be fully drowsy while driving.  Sleeping in the car and how time passes is a really interesting phenomenon [observation from 3rd grade].  Once we returned to Lincoln, it was 23:45, and I got dropped off at the 17th Street Garage.

On the way home, the music was on B107.3, and I heard the first few lines of Werewolves in London, or so I thought!  Turns out that it’s a new song—All Summer Long by Kid Rock!  Very interesting…  After that song, commercials played, so I shifted to KGOR.  I hit a bad red wave on Normal Boulevard, and as I neared 56th, they played Ohio by CSNY.  But, right in the middle of the song…


Friday, June 27

…they played a musical “KGOR Omaha” over the song as I noticed the van’s clock said “12:00.”  I managed to safely arrive at home, let Mom know that I was safe, and brush my teeth.  I then went out at 00:19.

*   *   *   *   *   *


Today is the twenty-third day of M.A.P.L.E. That makes three weeks and two days.

(Round Two MAPLE XVI) Throwback Thursday: A Chivalrous Augury

This is a reprint of a paper that I did in English 150H back in 2005, which recalls a my family’s trip to Lincoln when we lived in Fort Dodge.  It was for Mom’s 20th high school reunion.

The idea of this paper was to throw a lot of details into it in order to make a story.  I think I may have overdone the details 🙂


My youthful eight-year-old face utilized my characteristic eyeglasses to look up at the majestic castle. It stretched at least one-by-two city blocks, with an oblique shape. This castle was the façade of Lincoln Southeast High School, where Mom graduated in 1976. I thought, “Another trip to Nebraska from Fort Dodge!” At this point in 1996, we had already visited Lincoln at least three other times. Unbeknownst to Casey, Molly, Levi, and me, Mom and Dad intended these trips as house-scouting missions! This subtly created an augury of two months later.

Dad drove us to Lincoln on a Friday night in late June of 1996. He had a strong build and wore glasses.  Very caring, sometimes his caring showed through his seeming anger. The trip took four hours, but it seemed less than that. The skies began to darken and I feared for what might happen, because starting from fourteen years ago [this is from the perspective of 2005, so from 1991], the weather fascinated me to an obsessive degree. However, severe weather, and even just blasé thunderstorms, scared the bejeebies out of me!

I slept on the road, because I was bored by not being able to see anything in the dark. My twin sisters, Casey and Molly, squabbled en route. They were both seven years old at the time, and often went through sibling rivalry. Long, black hair made them similar, but their builds contrasted. My brother, Levi, slept. He was five at the time and blissfully oblivious. He and Molly had burly figures, contrary to Casey’s and my slim bodies.

Late that evening, we arrived at Gramma Lea’s and Papa’s house, which felt like a mansion. We chatted and watched TV in the large living room with the incomprehensibly-high ceiling. Taking a right from the TV in the cupboard, I walked into the kitchen that always carries Gramma Lea’s cooking full of love (and the aroma and taste of bacon that I could only eat here each morning.) Gramma Lea wore glasses and had a somewhat-wrinkly face. She stood a little taller ten years ago [perspective of 2005].

Mom made us go upstairs to get ready for bed. She had her hair curled and did not act forcefully. After brushing my teeth, I entered the guest room that resembles a suite in an upper-class hotel. In the suite, a king-size bed lies to the left of the door, and then a roll-out couch appears straight ahead from the door. Across from the king-size bed, I saw the dresser with sixteen drawers, and a lamp atop with a parking meter’s red (not yellow) “VIOLATION” flag. Two closets appear in this room, one to the left of the bed, and then one next to the deck door, across from the roll-out couch. Both closets have slanted ceilings. Across from the king-size bed, French doors lead out to the balcony overlooking the great room. It reminded me of the verdant atria in Embassy Suites, minus the trees. I always feel an excited vertigo with balconies. The window of this suite, next to the roll-out couch, gives a marvelous view of Firethorn Golf Course’s eighteenth green. I had just taken up golf, and I later found out that Firethorn is an elite course.

That evening, those dark clouds brought rain and thunderstorms. Each lightning bolt startled me, and then each thunderclap elicited my scream. I slept on the floor that evening in a sleeping bag, between the bed and the balcony doors. Mom and Dad got the king-size bed, and Casey and Molly got the roll-out couch. I repeatedly read the issues of Boys Life and Nintendo Power I had brought with me. I always used to read magazines front-to-cover again and again to satisfy my need for repetition. I eventually managed to fall asleep after tiring myself from reading and desensitizing myself to the storm. Dad’s snoring didn’t wake me, luckily.

The next morning, Gramma Lea cooked the bacon that fully satisfied me. She really knows how to whet her family’s appetites! I read the Lincoln Journal Star, and Gramma Lea commented, “I like how you’re reading the paper!” I didn’t find any interesting news, though. We left the house for Southeast at about 10:30. The thunderstorm had abated for a very nice, sunny day. The temperature was around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but the sunlight shined intensely and the humidity peaked near saturation. We parked in “A” Lot, on the northeast corner of campus. Nearby, I saw the entrance to the John Prasch Activities Center under an overhang with large lights. Seeing the sign for the school with the knight’s helmet at the entrance to the parking lot, I thought that we would enter here. Mom retorted, “This isn’t the main entrance. We have to walk around,” and then Casey, Molly, Levi, and I simultaneously groaned, “Why do we have to walk more?” We walked down the sidewalk with the steep hill on Van Dorn Street, taking a left onto 37th Street, and then walking along the bottom of the sidewalk, looking up in awe at the edifice. I only saw bricks and then a glass window above a series of locked doors, but it intrigued me anyway. I saw the semi-circular driveway typical of high-school entrances, and thought, “Finally! We’re here!”

I eyed six unsightly portable buildings that I had never seen in school settings back in Fort Dodge, and balloons filled my field of vision. Papa dressed up as a clown near the entrance to the marvelous school, making buttons for everyone. Despite his age, he had the heart of a child. His costume stood out with red, yellow, blue, and white, and his face had white paint and he wore a red nose. He covered his bald head with a red top hat. I exclaimed, “Papa!” and embraced him. Also, he blew up balloon dogs for the kids, always a favorite for us.

As we approached the gate, I overheard a lady, probably in her late thirties, likely a 1976 LSE graduate, “Noah is very well-behaved.” This immediately caught my attention, because I never knew any other people named Noah from Fort Dodge. It turns out that she had a two-year-old named Noah as well! This astounded me, and I shouted, “Mom! There’s someone else named Noah here!” Unfortunately, an age of two proves too young to speak coherently. Consequently I did not get to know him, and I don’t think that I have seen him since.

We entered the portal below the welcoming banner, and the internal conditions of the castle immediately registered. I whined, “It’s too warm in here!” because LSE lacked air conditioning (and still does [as of 2005, but the school has renovated and added A/C]). Of course, that did give it more of a castle-like essence, as air conditioning didn’t exist in the Medieval age. We turned left into the auditorium against the lobby’s brick walls. It resembled the auditorium at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, only it looked more run-down. I saw aisles with steep slopes and dots on the floor, and a mural on the west wall. It looked like “O C C L.”

When I first saw it, I thought that it looked like just a random symbolism which I couldn’t comprehend. After reading the inscription, I understood that the shapes represented seeds growing from the darkness. Now that I reflect on this event, the darkness of the first seed (the part that I interpreted as an “O”) appears representative of my childhood struggles with autism!

EDIT: The photo had a formatting problem, but because I think it’s funny to have that, I leave the error message in as well as the correct image.

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LSE mural1

The Student Council of 1976 erected the mural. Mom told me, “This auditorium is the same as when I was here,” which I couldn’t comprehend. I don’t remember the presentation well, because I fidgeted the whole time, the girls chatted, and I think that Levi cried or otherwise complained. However, I do seem to recall hearing the fight song being played at some point, and if that proves more than merely a constructed memory, it truly foreshadows what I would come to do in six years, which now seems like no time at all.

After the presentation, we toured the school, and Mom led us. From the auditorium, we took a slope down to a corridor with gyms, offices, and yellow lockers. This hall seemed to drag on forever. I walked along, watching the alumni and their families walk by. I walked with an unusual silence, and at the turn of the hall, I immediately a different colored floor. It had a similar color to the red of the previous floor, but much brighter. Mom explained, “This wasn’t around when I was at this school [the Prasch addition was finished in 1985].” Casey, Molly, and Levi said nothing. In the hallway with the brighter tiles, I saw plaques of the athletic hall of fame. At the end of the hallway, it led to a left turn, where I saw my epitome of the tour.

In this long hallway, plaques, trophies, and banners attest to Southeast’s strong athletic traditions, with the golden ceiling bars intertwined across the length, accolades everywhere, and just that look of a medieval gallery. As soon as I saw the end, a silver knight statue entered my line of sight, and I couldn’t say anything, because it struck awe into my thoughts. Walking toward the statue seemed to take forever, as if I experienced a fateful encounter. All other stimuli immediately fled my memory, as this took primary salience.

This valiant knight sits on his steed, equipped in silver armor with a mighty sword, attesting to the power of LSE’s athletic program. His height appeals to tradition and chivalry in Southeast’s history. When I reached the statue, I grumbled, because the ropes for the maze-like lines blocked me off. However, my less-than-four-foot body could have easily passed underneath the barrier. Of course, I resisted the temptation; Dad saw my intention and warned, “Don’t even think about it.” I didn’t hear anything from it back then, but I could swear that if I listened to it now, I could hear the Southeast fight song, as now that I have graduated from LSE, the school has become a holy ground to me.

This knight fascinated me and, unbeknownst to me then, summoned me to train as a Knight. During my youth, chivalry, medieval times, and knights intrigued me. I particularly had an affinity for The Sword in the Stone, due to its cartoon nature, and also integration of King Arthur’s legend.

In the rest of the LSE building, I remember the old walls that looked out of shape, and the new wings that created an anachronism with the rest of the building. I didn’t understand additions to buildings, because I had never seen it happen or heard of it before. So I asked uncertainly, “Why is this building new in places and old in others?” Mom explained, “The Lincoln schools have problems with overcrowding, so they need more room.” Even this straightforward explanation befuddled me, and I also had no idea that the portables acted much like the additions.

However, maybe I liked the old feel to it. It gives an aura of medieval spirit in the Southeast building, and it shows how long Mom was out of high school (but I refuse to call her old). Adventure should appreciate history and advances in buildings, and in today’s age, I would like to travel to England to fulfill my vision of walking through a castle from the Middle Ages. It would show my true Knighthood!

We returned to Gramma Lea’s and Papa’s house, and Mom and Dad went off, leaving us at the house. They engaged in house-searching, but Mom and Dad ducked our inquiries, “We just had to go do our stuff.” During the downtime, I watched The Sword in the Stone. I rewound the part where the Wart gets transformed into a squirrel about fifteen times. That just made me laugh in that point in time! Then, that night, Papa invited us to his magic show.

Papa’s magic shows highlighted any Lincoln trip. Papa forbade our entrance to the basement, unless he held a magic show at that time. The “Fun-Cam” became my favorite act. Papa instructed, “Say cheese!” When he hit the shutter, the “camera” shot out water and plastic snakes and other confetti-type things. The snake, though, sent Mom running out of the studio, screaming. She has an extreme fear of snakes! The tricks with ropes and playing cards also entertained me.

This experience in Lincoln preluded another visitation to Omaha in mid-July to go to Dad’s high school reunion at Omaha Central. A few years ago, Mom disclosed, “YOU were the reason that we moved to Lincoln. The special education in Fort Dodge didn’t accommodate your situation well.” The trauma, excitement, and other emotions hit on a muggy summer evening in Fort Dodge. We had finished our routine family bike ride, and Mom broke the news: “We are moving to Lincoln in a few weeks!” I had made so many friends in Fort Dodge and learned so much that I feared moving and losing EVERYTHING. I cried inconsolably in my room for quite some time that night. Mom had to reassure me, “You can still stay in contact with your friends here!”, which I didn’t think about, because the news of our impending move stunned me, preventing my logic. Obviously, radical change challenges me.

Looking back on this experience, I see that the imminent move had several cues. Though it is just a coincidence and a device used in the arts, I can sometimes believe in weather-induced premonitions. The stormy weather followed by the clear skies foreshadowed my difficulties adjusting during my first year or so here in Lincoln. As the clouds dissipate, prosperity reigns as I learn more than before and just enjoy myself. The mural also planted a seed for when we moved to Lincoln. This weekend, indeed, led to a chivalrous invitation to join the ranks of the Knights six years later!

1Here is the text of the mural’s description:

It begins with a line and a shape. They are both dark, the line…represents the past. The shape represents the seed…dark and shriveled. This also represents hope and trust or an investment. When you are a student in high school and have teachers, take courses and get involved in activities which at the time seem useless and even dumb…you are trusting, filling yourself up to the potential you will some day utilize.

Imagine the early settlers in Nebraska, a desert land of grass, even after much hardship the farmers continued to plant the shriveled seeds. Waiting, trusting, hoping. Today he continues to hope…compared to the desert of the past, Nebraska is a garden. The tapered line on the right hand side is green and it represents the present and future. The mural has four large shapes which could represent the four seasons. The first is dark, the seed under the ground, the desert landscape. The second opens up, the seed germinates, the shape raises and turns. The third opens some more and the fourth is release, new seeds, harvest, joy celebration, praise, affirmation, hope restored, freedom, open new horizons, dividends, fulfillment, trust renewed, the alumni who return and remember the dried seeds.

Trust and hope, it begins here at Southeast. Your school colors say it. It begins with black and ends with gold. The materials for the mural are wood, ceramic, formica and metal. The details are subtle and readable up close.

(Source for the mural’s description: http://lse.lps.org/notes/history.html or the LSE auditorium)


Today is the sixteenth day of M.A.P.L.E.  That makes two weeks and two days.