Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mission Possible

Driving around the Colorado high country a few days ago, I was listening to this NEW radio station with a Vail-Minturn license. You could hear it all over the place in three counties. Let's see I think the call letters were KKVM. VM! I get it. Vail-Minturn. Pretty sure the dial positiion was...lets see..yeah...104.7? The Identity name? THE MILE. Seems it has something to do with an out of bounds ski run, called the Minturn Mile...some sort of "right of passage" challenge in the Vail Valley.

Now I remember all this because I heard this woman come on the station, and in a very non-preachy tone talk about the importance of turning negatives into positives. It really got me to thinkin'.

And, oh, in the interest of full disclosure? I'm working for this station. I'm locked into a series of high country, out of bounds features under the label, MilePosts. If you don't have any high country trips planned, you'll soon to able to hear them on-line from your couch at home.

Anyway, let's get back to this turning negatives into positives thing. I had been informed (by my new KKVM friend Jayme) that getting up to the station was going to be a little tricky this day. Construction projects were forcing interstate motorists to sit in their cars for hellish length's of time, in unfriendly heat. So I, in my wisdom, opted to drive an extra 100 miles to beat the congestion. But there are always trade offs, aren't there?

Initially I started out thinking about all the things I "HAD" to do to make this trip work. For instance I HAD to travel on some one and two lane roads. Getting behind an RV on a 7 percent grade is no fun. And what that does to time and distance between 7-11's toilets can be tortuous.

But I was in no hurry, and my tolerance quotient was under control. And then in Leadville I hear this inspirational pitch on the radio...and the thought came to me in a HEATED VISION, " what if I just changed all my HADS to GOTS.

SOooooo? Tolerance suddenly turned to exhilaration? Like I GOT to use two porta-potties. How often does that happen in one day. I GOT to drive on bumpy roads that appeared not to have been maintained in decades. Sure keeps you awake. HOW COOL! I GOT to drive behind these four couples on motorcycles from Arkansas, who slowed on every turn to take pictures. How DELIGHTFUL to see tourists having so much fun.

Well, with my new "GET TO" attitude in tow, I opted to take the congested interstate route home. What a joy, let me tell you. Going over Vail Pass is typically a 20 minute journey? This day? I GOT to sit in traffic for over two hours while crews applied new asphalt. I got to watch this poor sweat drenched worker hold up a sign that read SLOW. I grinned as I thought, "HOW SLOW CAN YOU GO?" I laughed aloud as I watched driver after driver pull to the shoulder to keep his or her engine from blowing up. And I GOT to be part of all this There were so many "friendly gestures" being shared amongst so many. I GOT some of those gestures tossed my way. WHAT FUN!

Some people were getting out of their running cars to see if they could walk faster than the traffic. I GOT to see some of them disappear over the horizon. Hey, I got home in pretty much one piece. I just can't wait until I HAVE (whoops) GET to do this again.

And, yeah, I'm biased...but listening to "104.7 The Mile" is going to make HAVING or GETTING to do it a whole lot easier.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Goose Egg Caper

Life got a little goosey around Inverness Athletic Club this week. A great mystery surfaced that only I and my super-sleuth assistant "Phoebe the Cat" could solve.

No sooner had the nation put one birthing crisis behind it, than this pops up. The crime tape goes up more than a week ago. Investigators come and go without solving the one big question. This is a tough case.

Early one morning a personal trainer arrives for work and confronts this very suspicious goose blocking the entrance to the health club. Who is this goose? Why is he/her here? (Great crime alliteration, eh?)

Well it seems he/her is guarding a plant pot nest where yet another he/her goose is sitting on four eggs (eggs not legs).

Seems pretty cut and dried on the surface, but the question remains, "which one is the goose and which one is the gander?"

Rumors begin flying around the club that the goose lays the eggs and the gander sits on them. The starter of that rumor, a reputable club manager, says the claim is based on extensive research. Well Phoebe and I aren't buying it.

What lady like goose would try to show off her physical prowess by standing on one leg for hours on end.

And what classy feminine goose would possess such outlandish personal habits. No, this had to be the guy in this affair. This gander is just standing there on one leg saying in Gooselish, " See what I did, dude?"

I also did some deep research on goose/gander mating habits myself (Wikipedia). This goose is DEFINITELY a GANDER.

He'll need to impress US, because she is a little busy right now. If I were him I wouldn't be standing around looking stupid when the eggs crack. There will be a lot of REAL work to do then.

Phoebe says give the rumor monger a break. In some low light goose hues are similar to those of Antarctic penguins. And MALE penguins do sit on eggs.

"Yeah, okay, Phoebe, but to my knowledge, penguins don't honk!"

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Hey Look Me Over"

From left to right: Peggy Reinertson, John Ing, Kathy Ing.

"Okay you three, sing it in unison now!"


I'm not sure at what age it becomes okay to intimately talk about your personal health half the day. Maybe its never okay. I don't know. But it's tough to hold back when you spend more time with DOCTORS and NURSES and PHARMACISTS than you do with your family.

Kathy and John, our friends from New Zealand, recently agreed to a pact (not legally binding) with another couple in our general age category. They promise among the four of them they will only be allowed 13 minutes a day to engage in verbal intercourse concerning health. Okay, here comes the IRONY.

We just got a call from John and Kathy last night. Yeah, they called from New Zealand. And what did they want to talk about? MY HEALTH!! Well, for the record? I feel great. I'm getting plenty of exercise, and eating like I'm on the verge of being a VEGAN! Most of you would kill for my cholesterol and triglyceride readings. My resting heart rate is in the 60s. My typical blood pressure is 114 over 75. I would like to say that took less than 13 minutes to share, but there were a few sidebars that needed to be flushed out.

Now to any students of pre-blog (aka ancient) journalism, you need to know that this might be considered a classic case of 'burying the lead." If you were in a stand up comedy audience? You would label it the PUNCH LINE! TAH, DAH!

You see, despite that glowing report card up there? I HAD A HEART ATTACK! WHEN? I don't know. They (my extended medical family) don't know. Seems I just had one sometime, someway, somewhere. The medical jargon for my condition is SILENT HEART ATTACK.

After sharing all the details of my 2010 THYROID surgery, I thought I'd fore go being the DRAMA KING. I would take the SILENT approach on this one. I'd just keep it in the family. With my family? Who was I kidding? AND, I've just decided it may be a bit of a public service to let everyone know that healthy living is not a guarantee of good heart health. Don't hold me to Journal of American Medical Association research standards here. But it is my understanding that age and DNA can be just as evil as all those bad habit heart risks.

So a stress test finds my heart attack. And then I go have an angiogram (not related to a telegram, or any other gram). Turns out one of my arteries is totally blocked, and the most important artery is 90 percent blocked from cholesterol most likely produced by my own liver (sneakly little devil).

Well, they find the weak spot in the key artery, and put in a STENT. Now my blood is racing into my heart like water through a fire hose.

And now here is a kicker I didn't expect. That totally blocked artery? It is building a whole bunch of its own little by-passes all on its own. And the Doctor's guarded prognosis is I may never have to have ANY open heart surgery of any kind.

Anyway, right now the system (medical) has control of my life, and for the first time that is a GOOD THING. I'm in this new fraternity of people with cardiac issues. We swap sports and heart tales, and work out at the hospital three times a week.

Right now? My various cardiac properties are operating near optimum. In a year? Put your money on me to finish in the middle of the pack in the local 5K. Now if you're a speed reader you got through this in less than 13 minutes. My apologies to the rest of you.

To John and Kathy? The next tofu salad is on me.

(ONLY READ THIS POST-SCRIPT IF YOU ARE FULLY AWARE THAT PAUL'S TONGUE LIVES IN HIS CHEEK. When talking about my cholesterol numbers? My ALTER-EGO was going to write: "they were to die for." Well let me tell you, I had a long severe chat with that ALTER-EGO. He won't be thinking THAT AGAIN anytime soon.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Three bags full

Small Mary O'deepes has lost her sheeps,

And doesn't know if she should fine them.

"Here she comes."

" Let's run! She never catch us."

"Faster Finnegan!"

"Uh, oh, she's backin' up."

"Let's see how game she is for the chase."

"Hey, I'm not jumping in the ocean. You think I'm some kind of IdJit?"

"When I say jump?"

"You jump!"

"Ah, and she'll never find me here."

"You lookin' for us sweet Mary?"

"Why Mary we been here the whole time.

"So wooja mind, sweet Mary, runnin' up the hill to fetch us a pail of water, and for that we'll wish ya Saint Patty's day."

"Happy Saint Patrick's Day" he says with a sheepish grin."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Swan Song

I worked with some photographers through the years that advised me, "it is just GOSH to use signs in your stories." For the most part I bowed to their wisdom, although Dan Dwyer and I won an Emmy doing that.

Nevertheless, as Peggy and I made our way aboard a train from Killarney to Dublin, I ripped my hand away from the shutter as we passed Tipperary Junction. But Later?


I can still remember the musical whimsy that came from Limericks in elementary school. So this little sign set me off. Earlier in the week we'd seen a brilliant local musical revue in Kilorglan. It was called THE THREE PIGS. As an Irish lass told us in New Jersey, "I doubt it will have much to do with the nursery rhyme." She was so right.

Anyway, after the final curtain, one of the main characters popped out and just made up Limericks off the top of his head for about 20 minutes.

So when we got back to Cheri's cottage, I kept Peggy up most of the night composing. Don't remember a single one of them.

But the time has come to see if I can get those juices flowing again...so here goes

"Who Am I," by Paul Reinertson

If in Ireland to find your life's roots,

Dear Peggy tracks down your "ol' coots,"

Outside of Killarney,

She'll fill ya with Blarney,

She says I'm related to NEWTS.

"Sexy Surfers," by Paul Reinertson

"Surf's up in Dingle Bay" the Irish say,

'Cause Gulf Stream waters come this way,

Yet no teeny bikinis,

for these hot Wahines,

You'll need to come back in May.

"Irish Hospitality," by Paul Reinertson

The Irish are a friendly bunch,

Most happy to treat you to lunch,

Need a place to sleep?

"Ocean's not so deep!

(The Sleeping Man, Blasket Islands)
Somehow I just had a hunch.
"Down but not out," by Paul Reinertson

So you're havin' a pretty bad day,
There's a cure the Irish will say,

The Doctor's not in,
And you're needin' a grin?
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, Murphy.

"Birds of an Irish Feather," by Paul Reinertson
Ireland is sure a mysterious place,
Just ask these gulls of humble grace,

A fairy waves its hand,
The Miracle is grand,

Transformed into a royal race.

In the words of Woody Woodpecker, "....oh you know those words."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Irish Circumlocation

Researchers at Ireland's renowned Trinity College have announced a new breakthrough in Micro Electronics and Nano Technology. They have successfully produced a material that is only an atom thick. As if we needed it, they tell us it could once again revolutionize our electronic lives. How do you know if you're holding something an atom thick? They're hinting Nobel Prize for this breakthrough.

I only bring this up because this is Sunday following a Friday National Election in Ireland? And they are still counting ballots. How? From the video I SAW? BY HAND! Now this is not a criticism. It is just a dilemma.

Let's take this a tire tread further. You have all these great scientific and engineering minds on campus, and yet?

When we flew into Shannon Ireland the end of January, the first leg of our ground trip was by bus. I was absolutely dizzy after going through 9 traffic circles less than a mile apart. Had I been driving?
I'd have ended up back at the airport calling a cab. In retrospect it must be why the Irish tend to be born and stay in the same county. Moving would require a very tight (keep those puns a'comin!) learning curve.

And then when we got to rural parts of Ireland? Most roads are just slightly wider than one lane.

Folks just politely wave to each other with the index finger as one driver races to pull over to the let the other driver by.

They are starting to build some comfortable major highways, but still work in those pesky traffic circles whenever they can.

This all brings to mind an eerie (once again pun intended) parallel in my life. Where do a whole bunch of Irish people live in the U.S.?

I lived just outside Boston for four months in the late 60's. You may or may not know that MIT, maybe the most respected engineering school on the face of the earth, sits on the west side of the Charles River. It looks east across the river at what was then the worst designed traffic scheme in the universe. First thing you hit crossing the river? A traffic circle around Boston Common. To be honest that is just a little pet peeve. Some people like them. But not moi!

Shortly after I'd settled into my apartment in Natick, I bought a car and drove into Downtown Boston. That is when I first saw something called a flashing green traffic light. I stopped only to have everyone honking at me. Someone later explained to me flashing green just meant "go for it."

But that was minor compared to what happened later in the day. On a short tour, the guide explained the unique street patterns in and around Boston. It turns out the engineers who designed the traffic flow in and around the city were COWS.
Boston Common, I was told, is where colonists kept the cattle. And so? Where the cows went? So went the roads. Well that just made me curious.

"I think I'll just take some of those cow paths back home to Natick."

You know how cow paths cross over each other? And when you cross over them, there are no road signs telling you which herd went where? Well those of you who know or live in Boston will enjoy this. I thought I was heading for Natick when I finally reached a sign that read Hyannis Port, 5 miles ahead. For those of you unfamiliar with Boston? Wrong direction, many, many, many miles apart. It was very, very late that evening before I settled into my apartment. "Charlie on the MTA" is fiction. This was real.

Oh, back to the election. For you students of Journalism this is a classic example of burying the lead.

As predicted, Enda Kenny of Fine Gael ( a kind of moderate Republican party) is the new prime minister. Not widely predicted, the Fine Gael party will be sharing power with the Labour party. Platform promises from both parties? Sound familiar? JOBs! I suggest engineering and highway construction jobs, tons of them.
Says Irish native, Phoebe the cat:

" Pssst! Hey, mister! The Irish can not be blamed for the road system in Boston. They weren't there yet"

" True, but I'm thinkin' they were mighty comfortable with it when they got there. Don't ya think?"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Irish Spirit

I was 19 years old when James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake" was assigned reading. I have to confess it wasn't the only time I went to Cliff Notes. Joyce can be a tough read, but my recent trip has me thinking I should revisit it.

I did do a little homework and found a reputable newspaper report that says, "wakes have become very rare since the mid 70's." Hmmm?

I don't know whether that was just inaccurate, or we stumbled on to a trend reversal.

Sitting in our friend Cheri's family room every morning listening to the radio? All normal programming would come to a halt for "THE DEATH REPORT."

It consists of announcements of all the people who've died over the past 24 hours. There are brief obits, and then times and locations for wakes, services (almost always Catholic), and burials.

It turns out that while we were listening one morning Cheri discovered one of her neighbors had died. Her landlord had rushed to the man's home to help prepare the traditional steps in a proper wake. (I won't get into them here, but if you have an interest, surfing the net could bring you up to speed. And it is fascinating.)
One ritual to be particularly aware of? "Never speak ill of the dead" at a wake.

It is perfectly clear the Irish take the key rights of passage very seriously, particularly in rural areas. It actually first came to my attention when I was in college. Someone in my family passed on a report from my Irish grandmother that my Dad had been born under the 'Caul'. The Caul is the amniotic birth sac. It happens only once in every 85 thousand births.
From the middle ages comes the belief those born under the Caul will be 'special'.
Depending on what part of Europe you were in, 'special' could be GOOD or BAD. Lucky for me in Ireland it is a good thing. Under the Caul Irish babies are supposed to be full of ESP. No snap judgement here, but my Dad ALWAYS knew what I was up to. It was EERIE, another pun intended.

We quite often talk about those naughty little Fairies called Leprechauns? But in rural Ireland talk is just of Fairies. Irish folklore says an ancient race of angels came down to earth, some of them living just below Ringforts, or Raths you'll see all over Ireland.
Now this is word of mouth, as is much of what you'll learn in Ireland, but I'm told today almost no farmer will tear down or farm the land beneath a rath. It would be very bad luck to invoke the ire of the fairies.

Sometimes found near a sacred fairy fort, you'll find a 'Prayer Well' where both pagan and Christians worshiped. They are not typically found on tourist maps because they tend to be on private farm land, preserved and undisturbed. But you'll quite often find brand new prayer beads and crosses lying near the well.

Also out on some of these wide expanses you'll find small cemeteries with most of the headstone messages carved in Irish. So if you visit one, bring your translator with you.

There seems to be an indestructible respect for Irish ancestry. That's why you'll find these stone castles still erect. And they are one of the best ways to trace your roots. Most Irish names are connected back to these castles.
The castle below, Ross Castle, was once owned and ruled by the O'Donahues. That was my grandmother's maiden name. While the O'Donahues were eventually booted out, descendants of the O'Donahues still hang out here in County Kerry.

So if you're a Kelley, a Gleason, a Murphy, an O'shea, a Boyles, or a Dwyer you can most likely connect yourself to a castle or a county.
(For instance my old buddy Dan Dwyer might look for his roots in the parish of Makarky, in the County of Tipperary.)
My observation is that Irish people, outside of Dublin, still tend to spend their lifespans right where their great, great,great, great grandparents hung out. Not necessarily a fact, just an observation.

No doubt you've heard Catholics rule the Republic of Ireland. And you sure get that impression when in every town and city the tallest structure in town is a Catholic Cathedral. The one below is St. Mary's Cathedral in Killarney. And you might be tempted to think all this sense of spirit and tradition comes from Catholic doctrine. But that is not my impression.

It has certainly had it's influence. For instance it is only just recently that divorce was legalized in Ireland. But from what I've seen, heard and read the church has very little impact on the governance of Ireland these days. And while a typical conversation ends with "God's speed?" I think it also true that very few of the lively attachment's to spirits and tradition can be traced to the church.
What I see is a truly spiritual respect for ancestry and lore that predates Christianity and many other religions. When you are there on a typical February day, visibility dimmed by clouds and mist, you just SEE THINGS that may or may not really be there.

But then why take a chance? Eh?

Major Crime comitted in Ireland today. Someone made off with 270 thousand euros (about 300 thousand dollars) worth of Finnegan's Irish Whiskey from its distillery. Party for the winners of tommorrow's election, maybe?