Sunday, November 24, 2019

GETTING LOST ON THE TRAILS AT BEAR BROOK STATE PARK






I was reading the trail reviews for Bear Brook State Park (which is only a stone’s throw from my house) the other day, and one of the main complaints of many of the hikers and mountain-bikers was the trails should be more clearly marked.

I personally can vouch for that. I guess things haven’t changed much in the past 15 years, because I still vividly can remember a hot summer day back then when my dog Molly and I went hiking on those trails...and ended up spending an entire day hopelessly lost.

That particular day, I drove over to the park, parked my car just off Podunk Road, which runs through one section of the 10,000-plus acres of state forest, and Molly and I headed up the trail to Hayes Marsh.

When we arrived at the marsh about 15 minutes later, I noticed a woman I know, Donna, sitting on a small hill near the shore. She was with her two dogs.

Donna and I chatted for a few minutes while our dogs played together.  By then, I’d had just about enough sun and heat for one day, so I told Donna I was going to head back to the car. I’d planned for only a short walk, so I had nothing with me – no water, no phone, no bug spray, no snacks.

As I turned to walk back the way Molly and I had come, Donna said, “Why don’t you go this way?” pointing to a trail behind her. “It’s a nice little trail. It follows the edge of the marsh and loops right back to Podunk Road. Just be sure to take a left every time you come to one and you’ll be fine.”

So Molly and I headed off down that trail.  The problem was that some of the lefts we came to were “iffy.”  I mean, a couple of them were so overgrown, I couldn’t tell if they actually were part of the trail or just looked as if they were. So I skipped a few.  I was about to learn that I shouldn’t have.

After walking for what seemed like nearly a mile, I figured I should be catching sight of Podunk Road at any minute.  The trail narrowed and the woods got thicker…and darker…and still there was no Podunk Road (or any other road) in sight.  I thought about turning around and heading back, but something kept telling me that just over the next hill or through the next clump of bushes, Podunk Road magically would appear.

It didn’t.  Molly and I crossed dried-up streams that were nothing but mud and rocks.  We climbed up steep hills and over the trunks of a couple fallen trees.  The woods only got deeper…and darker. Every horror movie I’d ever seen suddenly sprang to mind:  Freddy Krueger with daggers on his fingers; Jason Voorhees with his hockey mask and machete; and the Big Bad Wolf with Grandma in his stomach. 

ONE OF THE TRAILS IN BROAD DAYLIGHT
Another problem was that I was thirsty.  Extremely thirsty. Tongue- hanging-out-and-lips-cracking thirsty. I was pretty sure I had no saliva left in my mouth, I was so dry.  We came to a brook that finally had clear-looking water babbling through it, and Molly eagerly drank.  I think if I hadn’t envisioned a family of E. Coli bacteria floating around on little rafts in the water, I might have taken a few sips myself.

We climbed another hill, and when we reached the top, I spotted a trail sign!  At last, I thought with relief, I would find out where we were.  The sign said we were on Lost Trail.  

“How appropriate,” I muttered, taking little comfort in the thought that the guy who’d named the trail probably had been hopelessly lost, too.  I half expected to see his skeleton lying somewhere near the sign.

Up ahead was a trail intersection with more signs. My choices were Ledge trail and Ferret Trail.  Well, I didn’t like the sound of the word “ledge” because it immediately conjured up images of my fingertips desperately clinging to a cliff as I dangled over the edge; and “ferret” sounded as if it might be a narrow, weasel-made trail.  So, fool that I was, I stuck with Lost Trail…and proceeded to get even more lost.

About a half-mile farther, I heard it…a thrashing in the bushes. I froze.  Molly barked furiously, tugging at her leash and wanting to chase whatever it was. She tugged so hard, I lost my grip and she darted right into the bushes.  I stood there, listening to branches snapping and a chorus of frenzied barking and yelping, and imagined the worst.  A vicious, drooling bear or bobcat with Molly’s collar in its mouth was going to emerge at any second, I was certain, and then have me for dessert.

I picked up a good-sized rock for protection, despite the fact that with my aim, I knew that if anything smaller than a Tyrannosauras Rex came charging out of the bushes at me, I probably wouldn’t be able to hit it anyway.

Molly soon returned unscathed, and a fat squirrel angrily chattered at her from its perch up in a tree, as if to mock her for not catching him. 

Molly and I had begun our “short” hike at 2:00.  I looked at my watch. It was 5:30.  A new fear reared its ugly head…darkness.  The woods were spooky enough in the daylight, so I sure as heck didn’t want to be stuck in them in the dark. Not only that, the mosquitoes were lining up in V-formation overheard, preparing to attack.  I picked up my pace and moved on.

When I finally saw the sign pointing to Podunk Road, I nearly did a victory dance (I say “nearly” because I was too exhausted by then to lift my feet). That was until I saw, in small print, “1.9 miles.”  I would have cried, but at that point, all of the fluids in my body had dried up.

The first thing I did when I finally set foot on Podunk Road an hour later was collapse into a heap on the side of it.  That’s when I realized that I didn’t have any idea WHERE on Podunk Road I was, or how far away I had parked my car.  I just sat there, my face feeling as if it were on fire, my hair limp and littered with leaves, and every bone in my body crying out for mercy.  Molly, stretched out next to me.

A car suddenly came crawling up the road. I must have looked even worse than I felt because the driver stopped and asked if we needed help. “I’m lost,” I told him. “I parked near Hayes Field, and I don’t know where I am.”

He gave me a strange look, not realizing I’d just traveled about 110 miles through jungle-like terrain. “It’s right up there on your left,” he said.

If I had been able to feel my arms, I would have hugged him.

Well, Molly and I finally made it home, and I think I drank the equivalent of my body weight in water.  A few weeks later, I was talking to one of the park’s employees and mentioned our little adventure to him.

First, he scolded me for venturing out on the trails unprepared

“Even if you intend to go for only a short walk, you should be prepared for emergencies at all times and pack accordingly,” he said.

He then shook his head, chuckled and added, “Well, now you know why it’s called Lost Trail. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are hikers still roaming around up there who started their hikes back in 1960! That trail is appropriately named.”

If all of the other trails up there also are appropriately named, I think, just to be on the safe side, I'll steer clear of Bobcat Trail and Bear Hill Trail.

Just sayin'...


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Monday, November 18, 2019

PROOF THAT I'M THE VICTIM OF A CHRISTMAS-TREE CURSE




For some reason, I’ve never had much luck with real Christmas trees.

I remember one Christmas, only two months after my husband and I were married, when I insisted that we get into the holiday spirit by going someplace where we could choose and chop down our own tree.  Unfortunately, the day we ventured out to a  tree farm turned out to be the coldest day of the year.  We found ourselves trudging through a field of deep, crusty snow as howling winds whipped at our backs.

 After only ten minutes out in the fresh December air, I lost all feeling in my cheeks and lips.  It’s funny how the threat of frostbite and the near-loss of  a lower extremity can suddenly make even the most lopsided tree look perfectly symmetrical. 

The tree we chopped down turned out to have no branches on one side.  Unfortunately, the tree farm’s owner had a “you cut it, you keep it” policy, so we were stuck with it.  We had to stand the tree in a corner of the living room so no one would notice its bare backside.  And because the only corner where it would fit was located right next to a hot-air vent, the tree was completely bald within three days.

A few years later, I decided to surprise my husband by buying a tree and having it all set up and decorated by the time he got home from work.  I chose a night when he would be working late, then went to a tree-sales lot in Manchester, which was 17 miles from our house.

The young man who worked there was very helpful, holding up tree after tree for me as I searched for just the perfect one.  Finally, I found it.  It was super-fresh and full, and the price was right.  But it was huge.

“I don’t think it will fit in your trunk,” the employee told me as he sized up my Ford Falcon.

“Well, maybe we can tie it onto the roof,” I said.

He looked thoughtful for a moment, then shook his head.  “No, that won’t work, either.  But I’ll tell you what I’ll do.  I get out of work here at about 10, and I have a truck.  Give me your address and I’ll personally deliver the tree to your house.”

His generous offer surprised me. “You’d really do that for me?” I asked.  “I guess chivalry isn’t dead after all!” I eagerly gave him my address. 

 When my husband got home from work that night, I was disappointed I didn’t have a decorated tree ready to show him, but I excitedly told him the news.

 “And the employee is even going to deliver the tree after he gets out of work at 10:00 tonight!” I concluded, smiling proudly. "Isn't that great?"

 “You gave some strange guy your home address?” he asked. “You’re kidding, right?  I mean, you’re not really that na├»ve, are you?”

I stared cluelessly at him. “He was just being nice.  What’s wrong with that?”

He rolled his eyes. “You honestly think that if I’d gone there and bought the exact tree, he’d be coming all the way out here to deliver it?  Heck, he’d have strapped it onto my back and made me WALK home with it!  Mark my words - he has an ulterior motive!”

I frowned at him. “You’re wrong!  Can’t someone just be nice without you thinking he’s up to no good?”

My husband shook his head knowingly and sighed. “I’ll bet he thinks you’re single.  And I’ll bet you were wearing gloves, so he didn’t see your ring finger.”  Before I could answer, he added, “Tell you what.  I’ll go out and park my car next door, so only your car will be in the driveway.  Then I’ll hide in here, and we’ll see what your “Mr. Just-A-Nice-Guy” does when he gets here, okay?”

My chin rose defiantly.  “Fine!  You’re on, Mr. Scrooge!”

At 10:30, Mr. Nice Guy, tree in hand, knocked at the door.  I answered it and he barged right in, walking past me and leaning the tree against the living-room wall.

“Cute place you have here,” he said, quickly glancing around as he unzipped his jacket.

As I stood there staring at him, he headed down the hallway, checking out each room along the way. “Hope you don’t mind if I stay here and warm up for a while,” he said. “I’ve had a long day and I’m frozen.  Got anything to drink? And I could use a sandwich or something.  Say, is this your bedroom?”

Not budging, I watched him as he walked directly into the bedroom…where my husband quietly was sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Hi!” I heard my husband cheerfully greet him. “Looking for something?”

The guy practically left skid marks in his haste to get out of the house.

I still can picture my husband, his arms folded and a smug, "I told you so" expression on his face, when he emerged from the bedroom.

The very next year, we bought an artificial tree.

But recently, my urge to have a real tree has returned.  In fact, I've spent the past two months scoping out the trees growing on my land in an effort to find one I can chop down this year for Christmas.  After careful scrutiny, I finally found one I thought would be perfect – just full enough, not too tall, and nicely shaped.

ACTUAL PHOTO OF THE TREE I PICKED OUT
Last week, I went back into the woods behind the house to check out the tree again. As I walked toward it, I suddenly froze, my mouth falling open. Every pine tree surrounding it was lush and green, but my precious future Christmas tree had turned an ugly orange color from top to bottom.  It wasn’t just one section of it, it was the entire tree, as if some virulent pine-killing plague had singled it out and engulfed it all in one shot.  I’d never seen anything like it before.

It’s a curse, I tell you.  A Christmas-tree curse.





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Monday, November 11, 2019

THE ONLY GOOD TICK IS A DEAD TICK!



I hate to admit it, but I’m extremely paranoid about getting a tick on me – to the point where just the sight of one sends me into a total panic and makes me do weird and irrational things.

Last summer, for example, after I read an article about ticks intensely disliking the smell of rose-geranium oil, I bought a bottle of the stuff and sprayed it all over myself every time I went outside. Needless to say, I spent the entire summer smelling like a walking underwear-drawer sachet.

Just the other night, I was sitting on the sofa and opened my laptop (which, appropriately, was on my lap). There, crawling up the screen, was a tick the size of a poppy seed. Had it not been brightly illuminated by the computer screen, I, with my cataract-cultivating eyeballs, never would have seen it.               

As a purely reflex action, I tried to squish the tick with my thumb, completely forgetting that ticks virtually are unsquishable...unless you drive over them with something like an SUV.

So the tick didn’t die when I squished it, it just fell off the computer screen and disappeared... somewhere. The thought of having a tick that tiny, able to hide in any of about 15 quadrillion places on the sofa, caused me to instantly take leave of my senses. The first thing I did, just in case the little bloodsucker had landed on me, was strip off all of my clothes and toss them into the dryer on the hottest setting, hoping to roast it to death. It didn’t matter to me – at least not at the time – that my clothes might shrink down to the size of an American-Girl doll’s.

The next thing I did was grab my vacuum cleaner and crank it up to turbo-suck. Then I vacuumed every inch of the sofa, cushions and carpet in the vicinity of where I’d been sitting. Still, I wasn’t able to relax the rest of the evening.

I blame my paranoia on a similar incident that happened one night many years ago while I was watching a movie on TV.

I leaned my head back against the sofa cushion and felt a tender spot on the back of my scalp. Curious, I reached up to touch it and discovered a small, rubbery lump. I knew when I’d washed my hair that morning the lump hadn’t been there, so I couldn’t imagine how something had sprung up so fast.

I rushed to the bathroom, grabbed a hand-mirror and, straddling the sink, checked out the back of my head in the medicine-cabinet mirror. The lump had little black legs sticking out of it!

A tick!  I felt my heart begin to race.

I ran to my computer and looked up “tick removal.” After scanning through the list of 10,000 potentially fatal diseases a tick can carry, I finally came to the “how-to” section. It said to use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, slowly pull it straight out, making certain not to leave the head beneath the skin, and then immediately apply alcohol to the bite to disinfect it. It also advised not to squeeze the tick too hard because its innards and toxins might go shooting back into your bloodstream and kill you…or something to that effect.

I dug out my tweezers and then returned to the bathroom mirror. I couldn’t, however, hold the tweezers and the hand-mirror and part my hair to expose the tick all at the same time, so I attempted to do things blindly. Three times, I thought I had the tick in the tweezers...and three times I yanked out a big clump of hair. 

Before I ended up plucking myself bald, I decided to do something that only someone in a truly desperate situation ever would dare to do…I woke up my husband.

There he stood, his eyes squinting against the bathroom light as I shoved the tweezers into his hand. Trusting a half-asleep man to tweeze my scalp was a brave move on my part…very brave. 

“You have to grab the tick as close to my skin as possible and pull it straight out,” I instructed. “But don’t squeeze it too hard.”

My husband finally managed to open his eyes wide enough to actually see something.

“Are you sure that’s a tick?” he asked, his nose an inch from my scalp. “Looks more like a mole to me. I don’t want to yank off a mole!”

I sighed. “Trust me and just yank it out, OK?”

He hesitated, then tightly clasped the tweezers, aimed and pulled. Unintentionally, I jumped. The tweezers produced only the hind end of the tick.

“Nooo! You didn’t get the head!” I whined.

“You jumped!” he accused.         

Against my better judgment, I allowed him to try again. This time, the tick’s ugly little black head did come out. My husband tossed it into the sink and stared at it. “How did it breathe with its head buried in you anyway?”

“The Internet says that ticks breathe through their butts,” I answered as I frantically searched for the bottle of alcohol.

“Funny place to have a nose,” he muttered.

We had no alcohol, so I grabbed a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and doused my hair and scalp with it. My husband just stood there and silently watched me.

“Um,” he finally said when my hair was dripping wet. “I hate to bring this up, but doesn’t peroxide take the color out of your hair?  I mean, isn’t that where the expression ‘peroxide blonde’ comes from?”

Ever since that night, I’ve really, really hated ticks.

 

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines for most of her adult life. She is the author of several novels, including (ironically) “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” Contact her at: sillysally@att.net.



                       
           

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Sunday, November 3, 2019

EXPLORING THE MYSTERIOUS WORLD OF DREAMS



Well, I’ve finally done it. It took me over 30 years, but I finally sat down and wrote a book about interpreting dreams.

I probably should have done it back in the 1980s and '90s, at the peak of my dream-interpreting career, back when I was interpreting dreams live on the radio and writing a weekly newspaper column about them for six newspapers. I essentially was the local “Dear Abby” of the dream world at that time.

Back then, because I had so much exposure, I more easily could have promoted and sold such a book. But I was too busy also writing humor, so the dream book was forced to take a back seat...well, a little farther back than that...more like a caboose at the rear of a freight train.

So a few months ago, I decided to cross the dream book off my bucket list and at long last, start to write it.  First of all, I wanted it to be in simple, layman’s terms. No references to any “dream gurus,” like Freud or Jung.  No fancy psychological jargon like “archetypes,” and no references to what dreams predict – mainly because I don’t believe they predict a thing...not unless the person having them is clairvoyant.

That’s an ironic thing for me to say, considering I actually became interested in dreams because my mother used to have a lot of nightmares. And every time she had one of those nightmares, someone she knew would die within 24 hours. So it’s safe to say that whenever my mom had a nightmare, we all made sure our life-insurance policies were up-to-date.

Anyway, I’d always wanted to find out why my mother had these nightmares, so back in the 1970s, I began to research dreams. I never did find out why her nightmares were associated with people dying, however, other than a coincidence on her part (especially if she already was concerned about a friend or relative’s health), but I did discover a lot of other interesting and intriguing information about the mysterious world of dreams. And I wanted to know more, much more.

My curiosity further was piqued when I was standing in the checkout line in a supermarket one day and saw a rack of mini-books near the register. One of the books was a dream dictionary that alphabetically listed the things people commonly dream about – animals, falling, kissing, rain, etc. – and their meanings.

I flipped open the book to the “G” page and saw “grasshoppers” listed. It said, “If you dream about grasshoppers, beware – all of your crops are going to die.”

I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing (which caused the people in front of me in line to turn around and stare at me).

I mean, how would that interpretation apply to a person living in a small apartment in the middle of the city? Which crops would die? The aloe plant on the coffee table?

So I started asking just about everyone I knew to tell me about their dreams. I had the advantage of knowing what was going on in their real lives, so this enabled me to connect their dreams with their current situations and therefore, figure out why they were dreaming what they were dreaming at a specific time.

For example, one of my friends, who was about to enter college, began to have a recurring dream that she was in her car and it kept stalling out or dying. That led me to think that because her car was something that helped her to move forward and get ahead – helped her reach her destination – that she was having fears about college and her ability to succeed. I also thought her car might represent her “drive” or determination, which she also seemed to be lacking.

Over time, I began to develop my own particular way of interpreting dreams – mostly through word association. I came to realize that more often than not, dreams seemed totally absurd and made no sense whatsoever to the dreamer, but by using my method, I soon was able to figure out the logical meanings of most dreams, no matter how ridiculous or nonsensical they seemed.

Take, for example, a man who once approached me in the parking lot of a radio station after I’d just finished doing a live show.

“I just heard you on the air,” he said to me. “And I think all of this dream- interpretation stuff is nothing but baloney! Dreams don’t mean anything at all. They’re just a bunch of crazy, random images.”

I looked at him and asked, “Have you had any interesting dreams lately?

“Yeah,” he said, with a very deliberate smirk, obviously prepared to challenge me. “I had a dream that my wife was standing in a bucket of ice and holding a trout! Are you going to tell me there’s some deep, hidden meaning to a ridiculous dream like that?”

“Is your wife a warm and loving woman?” I asked him.

He shook his head. “Hell, no! She’s a real cold fish!”

I smiled. “Congratulations. You just interpreted your own dream!”

I finally completed my dream book last week and published it. And all I can say is I’m glad I now can chalk it off my bucket list. I tried my best to fill the book with a good cross-section of actual dreams and the crazy and not-so-crazy things I’ve learned about them throughout the years.

Like the all-too-common “bathroom” dream, where you’re desperately searching for a bathroom but can’t seem to find one anywhere. All I can say is be glad you can’t, because if you do find a place to “go” and start to relieve yourself in your dream, you just might wake up with a wet bed.

So if you’re dreaming about urgently looking for a place to “go,” my advice is to get up and head to the bathroom.

Quickly.

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