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Marylin Schultz and her first bicycle outside of her North Hollywood home in 1946. She was an original valley girl!

My First Bicycle, North Hollywood, California, 1946, family photo © 1946, 2014 from Marylin Schultz & Mike Schultz. All rights reserved.


By Marylin Schultz

What pleasant memories this prompts. My first bicycle was the only one I ever owned. A Birthday present, back in the dark ages…1946. She was a beautiful blue and cream colored girl’s Schwinn. Before bikes had “models,” your bike was simply either for a male or female! I have to admit, as time went by, that I secretly admired my best friend’s English “racing” bike. It had narrow, harder tires and seemed to be easier to pedal than the fat, “balloon” tires on the Schwinns.

There were no school bus rides for daily use, only for field trips. Before we got our bikes, we walked the few blocks to elementary school. Mine was received shortly before I entered 5th grade. In the city of Los Angeles, the schools were planned so that no one had more than five blocks to walk. Our school was on Victory Blvd, and that was its name, as well. It had been built in the 1920′s or 30′s, in a Spanish style; with arches of stucco, the color of adobe, and red tiled roof. It had to be razed after extensive damage it received in the “Northridge” earth quake. Elizabeth and I rode our bikes together to Jr. High for three years, which was two miles away.

My fondest memories are of our summertime rides to and from North Hollywood Park, about a mile from Elizabeth’s and my homes. Both the Library and Plunge, (aka public swimming pool) were in the park, and we pedaled back and forth; our baskets full of library books, bathing suits & towels. Summer mornings might be for chores our Moms had lined up, but the afternoons were gloriously free.


NOTE: WRITING TOPIC — MY FIRST BICYCLE is a Writing Topic on red Ravine. Frequent guest writer Marylin Schultz adds her Writing Practice to those of QuoinMonkey and Bob Chrisman.

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Mustang Sally – 16/365, Archive 365, Wagner’s Drive-In, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, August 2010, photo © 2010-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Original photo edited in Photoshop Elements.


Every Monday in the summer months, local hot-rodders and car collectors converge on Wagner’s Drive-In in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. When I saw the red Mustang, I stopped and asked the woman in green if I could take a photograph. She happily said yes, and asked me to get out and join them. Turns out she owns the Mustang. I had somewhere to be, so had to keep moving. But not before I snapped this shot with my BlackBerry. In all the hustle and bustle, I forgot to ask the Mustang owner her name. I call her Mustang Sally.

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ARCHIVE 365 is a photo collaboration between skywire7 and QuoinMonkey featuring images from our archives. We will alternate posting once a day in our Flickr sets from July 1st 2012 through June 30th 2013. You can view our photographs at skywire7 Archive 365 set on Flickr and QuoinMonkey Archive 365 set on Flickr.

-posted on red Ravine, Monday, July 16, 2012. Archive 365 post inspired by Jonathan Brand’s Paper Mustang Sculpture – One Piece At A Time. Related to post: WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS

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My first bicycle. Royal blue, silver fenders, metal training wheels bolted on to the frame. Practicing, practicing, practicing until I got it right. Riding a bicycle, my first taste of freedom. My second bicycle, a 26 inch with a wire basket in the front to hold my text books. Books covered in brown paper that was once a bag, drawn on, colored on, with stickers and awkward handwriting. I never had good handwriting. I remember learning to ride a bicycle. The scariest part was the space between the wobble from one training wheel hitting the ground, then the other. Or maybe the scariest part was when the rubber actually hit the sidewalk and it felt off balance, like I was going to tip over, fall to the pavement, scrape my knee.

What I remember about my first bicycle isn’t as much about the object as the person who cared enough to hold the back of the seat until I got my balance, the person who ran along beside me when I teetered, who knew when it was safe to let go after the training wheels were unbolted—let go and let me fly. It’s the memories more than the objects. The objects are triggers. When we moved to Pennsylvania, our breezeway was always full of bicycles. Kids and bicycles. There was always one kid learning to ride a bike. It was the way my brothers roamed the streets with their friends.

I don’t remember riding in a group. It was more of a solitary effort for me. A way to get away and be alone. I clearly remember one ride to elementary school. I was so entranced with the ride, with the process, with looking down and viewing my feet turn the pedals, that I forgot to look up, and ran smack dab into a parked car. It jolted me, my text books flew out of the basket and on to the ground. I caught myself before I fell over but that jolt! when the tire hit the chrome fender, I will never forget it. I was embarrassed and looked around to see if anyone saw me fall. Which matters most? The fall or those who witness the fall.

Now that I think about it, my first bicycle taught me to trust. The second taught me how to fly solo, to be faster than anyone else, to not be afraid. My bicycles taught me independence, to trust myself, how to balance when things were careening out of control, how to stop on a dime right before the pothole swallowed me. My first bike was more than a bicycle. It was the beginning of learning to hold the world in the soles of my feet and the handlebar underneath my palms. It was a way to get away from the crowd, time to think, the feeling I’d later experience again when I learned to ride a motorcycle. There is no freedom like being on a two-wheeler, running under the power of your own two feet.


-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — MY FIRST BICYCLE

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By Bob Chrisman

When I was eight, I received a new robin’s egg blue, girl’s bike for my birthday in May. I had selected that particular bike at the shop in the South End where we lived. I wanted a girl’s bicycle so I wouldn’t hurt myself every time I slid off the seat when I stopped. That always happened on boy’s bicycles and kept me from enjoying riding.

My father looked at the price tag and shook his head. “I don’t think we can afford this much. Let me talk with your mother.”

At eight years old, I had already heard that one phrase, “I don’t think we can afford this much” so often that I knew I would never own the bike I wanted. That’s the way things worked in my family: you didn’t get what you couldn’t afford and we couldn’t afford much at all.

On the morning of my birthday I ate my breakfast and opened my birthday cards. When I asked if I had any presents, my mother rolled the bicycle I’d picked out into the kitchen. “Your daddy and I decided that you were old enough to have this, even though it cost more than we would usually spend for a present. You’ve got to take good care of it. Okay?”

I leapt out of my chair and grabbed the bike before it vanished. Only when I held the handlebars in my own hands was it real. I had the bike I wanted.

Later that morning I opened the screen door and made sure to pull the bike out before the door slammed. I took it down all the stairs to the sidewalk and rolled it down the hill until I reached Ozark Street which was flat and graveled. Only then did I climb on my new bike and pedal along the street with the wind in my face. I felt so happy and so proud.

My friends congregated up the street and I rode my new bike up there to visit with them and show them my birthday present.

When I arrived, one of the boys said, “Hey, Bobby, why you got a girl’s bike? You a sissy?”

“No, I wanted a girl’s bike because it’s easier to get on and off. That’s why.”

“No, you’re a sissy. He’s a sissy, isn’t he?”

Everyone laughed.

Then the kid said, “I want to ride your sissy bike.”

“No, you can’t. It’s brand new. I just got it and I want to ride it for awhile before anyone else does.” I held on tight to the handlebars.

“Hey, sissy, that’s not very nice. But, I don’t want to ride a blue girl’s bike anyway.”

I turned around to ride home. The kids screamed names at me as I rode away. I’d reached the end of the block when a clunk sounded on my rear fender. A cheer went up from the kids. I crossed the intersection and started pushing the bicycle up the hill. When I was out of sight of my friends, I looked at the rear fender. Someone had thrown a big rock and dented and scraped a place on my new bike. I lost it. I couldn’t stop shaking and crying, but I pushed the bike up the hill, up the stairs and parked it on the porch.

My mother came running out of the house. “What’s wrong? Did you fall?”

I couldn’t speak so I pointed at the rear fender. My mother looked at the damage. “So that’s what you’re crying about? For heaven’s sake, it’s only a bicycle.”

No, it was so much more than that.


NOTE: WRITING TOPIC — MY FIRST BICYCLE is the latest Writing Topic on red Ravine. Frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman joined QuoinMonkey in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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My First Bicycle — Morristown, Tennessee, BlackBerry Shot of C-41 film print, Morristown, Tennessee, April 1959, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Do you remember your first bicycle? Did you learn to ride a bike in the 40′s, 50′s, 60′s, or 70′s? Were you sporting a Schwinn, Raleigh, or Western Flyer, 24 or 26- inch frame, balloon-tired, single-speed coaster, three-speed, or ten-speed? Whenever I could, I’d steal away on my brother’s Schwinn Sting-Ray with the banana seat. Did your bike have a Wheelie-Bar (check out this cool poster for the WHAM-O Wheelie-Bar)?

In the 1960′s and 70′s, bikes were booming. (Prior to the 1960′s, most bicycles were sold to children.) In 1960, 3.7 million bikes were sold in the U.S., with sales jumping to 15.2 million by 1973. When I took off the training wheels and graduated to a 26-inch frame, I’m pretty sure I was riding high on the Schwinn Fair Lady. Was my brother riding a Tiger? Did my sister have a Sting-Ray Stardust? I remember her bike had a white basket on the front, laced with flowers.

How many times did you fall off your bicycle when you were learning to ride? Did you use training wheels or go out into that brave new world balancing on the head of a pin. Tell me everything you know about your early bicycle experiences. The look, the feel, the wind in your hair. Were there plastic streamers flowing out of the grips, clothes pins snapped to playing cards (could they be Bicycle) and clipped to the frame, chattering over the spokes? Did you ride with “no hands?”

Get out a fast writing pen and a spiral notebook and do an old-fashioned handwritten Writing Practice. Write My First Bicycle at the top of the page and 15 minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, May 13th, 2011

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By Marylin Schultz




My Father In Front Of The Family Ford — Earl Russell Biggs II, vintage family postcard, circa early 1900′s, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


Images from long ago—letters, photographs, postcards, communicate family history, like ribbons tying up bundles of memories. I look into the sweet innocence of children’s faces and reflect on what I do know of their lives. Little Earl Russell Biggs, II, my father, placed in front of his family’s first automobile by a proud papa. There would eventually be four generations of men in the family, given that name. Family tradition had each generation alternating the names they were “known as.” My grandfather was called Earl, my father went by Russell. My brother was called Earl and his son was known as Russ, or the nick-name,” Rusty.”

The baby, Frances Louise Oliver, my mother, was as fair in complexion as E. Russell was dark. Their childhoods would also be in stark contrast. He was born in 1910, and she was three years younger. Frances was the adored, pampered baby of her family, with three brothers and a sister, much older than she. Frances always got what she wanted, I’m told, and became a woman who maintained that expectation from life.


My Mother — Frances Louise Oliver, family photo scan
© 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


Russell’s life probably began happily enough. His father and mother, Mary Dickens Biggs, lived in Childress, Texas, where he was a successful businessman in banking, and insurance, as well as owning a cattle ranch, where the family lived. Russell was big brother to Emma Ruth, five years younger than he was. In 1920, tragedy struck the young family. Mary Dickens Biggs, who was expecting their third child, died from the dreaded Influenza that took over 20 million lives in Europe and America.

The parents of E. R. Biggs, Sr. were no longer living, and Mary’s parents offered to care for the children, so the devastated father agreed. Russell and Emmy spent the next two years with the Dickens family, who were living on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota, where Felix Dickens, Mary’s brother, was the BIA Agent.

E. R. Biggs married his second wife, Lillian, and the two children were moved back to their Texas home. Very soon, however, Russell, at the age of twelve, was sent off to a Military Academy, and spent the rest of his school years there, only home for the summers and holidays. E.R. and Lillian had another son and daughter. It was one of those cases of a step-mother, whose “own” children could do no wrong, and the older children felt deeply, the deprivation of approval and affection. Emma, while still a teenager, had a baby, who was immediately placed for adoption, never experiencing even one embrace of the young mother who so desperately wanted to love and be loved.




(L to R) Paul, Harriet, Eloise, Mildred, & Grace Dickens, Russell Biggs (My Father) on right, Seger Indian School, Colony, Oklahoma, March 17th, 1912, vintage family postcard, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


I always wondered what it must have been like to grow up on Indian reservations, which the five Dickens children experienced. As we know from the postcard, they were in Oklahoma, then Minnesota and later in Washington State. As a child, I remember my father’s Uncle Felix visiting us a few times at our home in California. I have a few letters that he wrote to my Aunt Emma, which were from a reservation in South Dakota. These were at a much later date, when Emma was an adult.


Side B: Back of the Postcard of Seger Indian School, Colony, Oklahoma, March 17th, 1912, vintage family postcard, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


I finally met some of my Dickens relatives in an unusual way. After the deaths of my mother and father, I received all the family documents. In going through the papers I learned that Mary Dickens was born in McGregor, Iowa. My husband and I were scheduled to drive from our home in Bismarck, No. Dakota to La Crosse, Wisconsin, for a convention, the very next day. I looked at a map and saw that McGregor was only a few miles south, and across the Mississippi River from Prairie du Chien. I decided to see if I could find a trace of the Dickens family in the small, riverside town of McGregor.

It was a cold, gray November Saturday. The trees along the river were bare, but the drive along the river was peaceful and I was feeling hopeful. When I entered the town, I saw a building marked “Museum,” and I parked. The sign on the Museum door said something like “Closed. See you next Spring.” The only place open was the Hardware Store, so I went in. The woman behind the counter gave me a warm welcome. I told her of my quest for family members and asked if she knew of any Dickens who were still living in the area.

“Harvey Dickens lives about five miles west of town,” she replied. “Would you like to call him from here?” I answered in the affirmative just as the phone rang. She spoke to the person for a few minutes, and then I heard her say, “There’s someone here who wants to speak to you,” and handing the phone to me, with a big smile, she said, “It’s Harvey Dickens.” I gasped in amazement at the coincidence, and took the phone. I gave a very brief explanation of who I was. He invited me to come to his home, and I scribbled down the directions he gave, handed the phone back to the woman and thanked her. She smiled and wished me good luck, and I hurried to my car.


Harvey had given good directions to his farm, and I found it with no problem. The plain, two story home, painted a soft yellow, with dark green shutters at the windows, was well cared for. There was a row of pine trees to the west of the house, offering a buffer from the prevailing prairie winds, and a hedge of Lilac bushes between house and out-buildings. The tires of my car made a crunching sound on the neatly graveled driveway. Harvey opened the door of the house before I started up the steps. His smile was wide.

“Come on in, little lady, it’s cold out there!” He introduced me to his wife, Louise, and immediately I felt the genuine warmth of their welcome. They already had a box of old papers and photographs for me to look at. Harvey was a slightly built man, about 70 years old. Louise, looking comfortable in sweater and jeans, offered me coffee, as we sat down around the kitchen table.

“We have four children, but they’ve all moved away,” Louise said, filling my cup.

With a sigh, Harvey added, “Not much to keep them in a small town in Iowa, and none of ‘em was interested in farming.” Harvey took photos out of the box, pointing out each individual by name. “Better write down those names on the back,” Louise gently chided. “No one but you can identify them anymore.” I listened carefully, not recognizing any names until he said, “And this is Uncle Felix.”

“Yes,” I said, now excited, as he handed it to me. “Did he have three daughters, who lived in Washington?” He smiled broadly, and replied, giving me their names. We had made a connection, as it turned out that his grandfather was my great-grandfather. We looked at more photographs and he gave me the names and addresses of other cousins that had done more research into the family history.

We were engrossed in each others’ family anecdotes, laughing at the funny little quirks that all families have, and the morning flew quickly by. I turned down an offer of a noon meal, and told them I needed to get back to La Crosse.

“Now, if you can come back, I’ll take you to the cemetery; quite a few Dickens there,” Harvey said.

“You keep in touch,” Louise whispered in my ear, as we exchanged a hug.

“I promise I will, and thank you so much. It was a great pleasure to meet you. I feel like I’ve been with old friends,” I replied.

“Nope, better than friends, we’re family!” Those were Harvey’s last words to me as I got into my car. That brief visit opened up a whole new chapter in my family history, and as I drove across the bridge over the wide Mississippi, I felt truly blessed.




Editor’s Note: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, professional photographers offered customers the choice of placing photographs on postcards, like the “packages” they sell today. Some were taken in a studio and others at different locations. The photo of Frances was taken in a studio, and the other two at the homes of their clients. Images From The Past was partly inspired by conversation on the postcard piece Joshua Trees & Desert Sands — Jan 25 1947.




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About Marylin: Marylin (aka oliverowl) is a freelance writer living in Wyoming. She has written essays for a weekly column in the Ventura Star Tribune and collaborated with her grandson on two picture books for children. She currently writes with the Cody Writers. Her previous pieces for red Ravine include the travel essay Rollin’ Easy and a Writing Practice, Kindness.

In 2010, Marylin was published in the book, From the Heart — Writing in the Shadow of the Mountain, a collection of work from members of Write On Wyoming (WOW), a group of authors and aspiring writers living in northeastern Wyoming. Her contributions to From the Heart include two works of fiction, To Love Bertie Lou and The Appointment Book, and a collection of haiku, Seasons in Wyoming.


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Icicle Tumbleweed - 2/52

Icicle Tumbleweed (Haiga) – 2/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 2, Elk River, Minnesota, January 14th 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Medium: Digital BlackBerry photograph altered in Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0, Font: Myriad Pro.


I was driving on a rural Minnesota road in a blizzard this week, and snapped an ordinary BlackBerry photo through the windshield. At first glance, I thought the image lacked depth. Then I saw the open space, perfect for poetry. So I altered the photo in Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0 and added text (a haiga) in response to inspiration from Lotus, Bamboo Morning (Haiga). I did a lot of photo work with alternative processes during the years I worked in the darkroom. But so far I’ve been a purist with digital photography; this is opening a whole new world for me.

Lotus and I will continue our call and response by posting a BlackBerry photo for the 52 weeks of 2011. Feel free to join us if you wish (learn about the project’s beginnings at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration). To read more about Lotus, visit her at alotus_poetry on Twitter (where she writes poetry every day in community with other Twitter poets), at Poetry By Lotus, and on her Flickr account.


-related to posts: Best Of BlackBerry 365 — First Quarter SlideShow, BlackBerry 365 Project — White Winter Squirrel, haiku 4 (one-a-day) meets renga 52

-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, January 15th, 2011

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Our guide was named Anh. Like Anne, but a long a. Ah. Ah-n. She had the look of a backpacker. At first. When I took in the rucksack and light jacket, I thought maybe she was a trekker who’d landed her dream job. Tour guide on a medium-sized wooden boat, fits about 20 passengers, floating up and down the Mekong Delta.

But first impressions are deceiving. Anh was from Hanoi originally, now living in Can Tho. She wore thick flesh-colored socks with sandals. A face mask and a traditional Vietnamese hat to keep the sun off her skin. In Vietnam, the women want to remain as fair-skinned as possible. Stark contrast to the Norwegians who shared the boat with us. The two women in that group tied silk scarves over their bathing suits and sat in the hot sun until the silk turned dark with sweat and their skin a sort of freckled orange-brown.

My friend Marcia says that eventually, given enough time, we will all evolve to look like one another. Vietnamese women will get lighter; fair-skinned Norwegians will turn a crispy brown. We’ll all go after the universal beauty ideal. Add a KFC on every corner of every city in the world and Wham-o!, we’re all the same.

Until then, I will enjoy our differences. And prawns with attached heads, which we had for lunch. And cuttle fish, passion fruit, rice. Meals on the Bassac II are gourmet. How it turned out to be just me and the girls plus a Norwegian family of four—I don’t understand. This is the best boat ever, the best crew. The captain is the same one who steered the boat the last time I was on it, and both times he masterfully navigated our vessel through narrow passages where barges carrying silt dredged from the bottom of the river came within a foot of boats that are floating fish farms. And us.

As we gawked at other people’s lives, all while eating steak and fish for lunch or sipping Tiger beer, I imagined we were a nuisance on this commercial waterway. The Vietnamese float by with all their worldly possessions contained in boats only slightly larger than canoes. And yet, they are so tolerant, even nice to us as we float by in all our laid-back luxury.

The crew of Bassac II recognized me when I boarded, and I reminded them that I said I’d return and bring my girls next time. Dee was enamored by the boat immediately, the cool of the cabin and its smell of hibiscus and lemongrass. She wandered around the boat as if under a spell, that slow walk from this end of the deck to that one, all the while tracing her hand along the deep brown wooden railings. The place suited her internal clock, slow and content to not do much.

Em explored every corner of the boat she had access to, bouncing a few minutes around the upper deck, then a few more on the deck below. “Mom, I’m going to check out the front of the boat,” she informed before shooting off again. She waited impatiently for hours, unable to just rest, before we finally boarded the canoe and made our way to a village along one of the canals.

Not being from Can Tho, Anh didn’t know the off-the-beaten-path spots where you could find a temple that wasn’t officially on the tour. Nor did she have the same sense of adventure that prompted our last tour guide to stop in at a Cao Dai temple while making our way back to the boat from the village.

But that was fine. Anh was calm and friendly, and she loved the girls. She spent a generous amount of time in the floating market, took us to a cottage factory that produced soy sauce and salt, and let us sit for almost an hour eating exotic fruits while she showed the girls how to make jewelry and animals out of palm leaves.

When I asked her if she liked her job, she smiled, shrugged her shoulders, and then looked out in the distance. “I miss my children,” she said, “when I come overnight for the tours.” Believe me, I wanted to say, I can relate. Instead I looked over at my own girls and said, “Bring them with you one day, Anh—they’ll never forget it.”

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Vintage Cars At Nokomis Lanes, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






snippets of the past,
bowling alley or drive-in?
2-D sleight of hand —
vintage cars fade into walls,
the future walks a thin line.








-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, April 8th, 2010

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS

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halong bay (one)

halong bay (one), view from a grotto, August 2009, photos
in collection © 2009-2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




Once upon a time, soon after the Việt people established their country, invaders came. The Jade Emperor sent Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons down to earth to help the Việt people fight against their enemy. Right at the time invaders’ boats were rushing to the shore, the dragons landed down on earth. The dragons immediately sent out from their mouths a lot of pearls, which then turned into thousands of stone islands emerging in the sea like great walls challenging the invaders’ boats. The fast boats couldn’t manage to stop and crashed into the islands and into each other and broke into pieces.

After the victory, Mother Dragon and Child Dragons believed this country to be so beautiful that they didn’t return Heaven but stayed on earth at the place where the battle had occurred. The location Mother Dragon landed is now called Hạ Long Bay and where Child Dragons descended is now Bái Tử Long. The dragons’ tails waving the water created Long Vĩ (present Trà Cổ peninsula) and formed a fine sand beach over ten kilometers long.

~Legend of Ha Long Bay, adapted from Origin Vietnam website



halong bay (three)


girls in boat (halong bay)


village (halong bay)


halong bay (four)


halong  bay (two)


village by the rocks (halong bay)


boat house (halong bay)





Every time I come to Vietnam, I try to see a part of the country that I don’t know. Last trip, August 2009, I went north to World Heritage Site Ha Long Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin. The photos speak for themselves.

Tomorrow, Friday, I’ll fly to the Central Highlands, to the ancient citadel of Hue. (I have been to Central Vietnam before, to the city of Da Nang and the ancient village of Hoi An.)

Sometimes I wonder, How did I get so lucky as to come to know this beautiful country and its compassionate people?

I’m curious. Do you believe in luck? Do you ever marvel at your good fortune? Do you curse bad luck? Let me know if you get a chance.

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pig on a scooter

pig on a scooter, pen and marker on graph paper, doodle and
photos © 2009-2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





This is my seventh visit to Vietnam. Seven trips, back and forth across the great expanse. If I added up all the hours spent on just one leg of the trip—San Francisco to Hong Kong and back—it would be 182 hours in the sky. Over one week on just these seven trips.

That’s a lot of time to spend in a vehicle that I liken to an empty toilet paper tube with wings. A lot of time spent sitting, eating, and sleeping in the company of strangers. As someone who doesn’t necessarily enjoy being in such close proximity to people I don’t know who sniffle, snore, and sweat, it is noteworthy, then, that I can muster the mental fortitude to make the slog again and again. The reason I do it, the reason anyone does it, of course, is for what waits on the other side.

My first trip to Vietnam, I wandered the streets of Saigon, lost but unafraid, except perhaps any time I stepped off a curb and into the onslaught of motorbikes, which parted and flowed around me as if I were a boulder in a rushing river. That and my second trip were spent solely in Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, which is a sensual feast and assault all at once.

The roads are clogged with motor scooters, and not just one person per scooter but entire families and small businesses transported on two small tires. There are rickshaws, bicycles, small cars, SUVs, tourist vans with sleeping Japanese or Koreans, and the ubiquitous container trucks, what we call semis, reminding us that this place is being rebuilt before our very eyes.

But traffic and congestion you can see in any big city in the world, and Saigon holds not a candle to many of the largest. Still, where else can you witness the harmony of millions of people and their wheels in synchronous motion, as if this is something they’ve practiced all their lives—driving motorbikes loaded down with baskets, glass panes, multigenerational families, televisions—and are now performing in the symphony of daily life.

There is a Zen quality to the way traffic flows in Vietnam. School girls dressed in white Áo Dàis, the traditional attire for women, stroll in pairs down a busy thoroughfare, impervious to the crazy tourist vans and containers that roar by, spewing their black exhaust. I peer at the chatting girls with both fear and admiration. How do they manage to stay so calm when I am reciting Hail Mary’s and praying that I will return home in one piece?

As I have traveled from Saigon to the Mekong Delta, through the center part of the country in Da Nang and Hoi An, then north to Hanoi and Halong Bay, I’ve seen more than I can ever recall. A naked man walking along the cement divider on a narrow and packed two-lane highway. Cows grazing in the grassy medium. Women bent harvesting rice. Raised graves that look like small cottages. Buddhist statues as tall as skyscrapers.

On my morning commute to work, colleagues on the shuttle bus doze off or talk to one another. Not me. I keep my eyes glued to the passing scenery. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen a bus pass so close that I could touch it or the tangle of rivers we seem to always cross, or the row of shops that sell marble statues in the likeness of any spiritual figure—Buddhas, goddesses, Jesus and Mary—I am still drawn in as if seeing it all for the first time.

On my last trip I went in a minivan from Hanoi to Halong Bay. I’m now accustomed to seeing animals transported on the backs of scooters. Chickens in cages or ducks with their bills and legs tied with twine for the trip. But I had never seen an adult pig, five or six hundred pounds of pink jello-y flesh, roped onto a motorbike. As the young man carrying the pig passed our van and I stared with mouth open, he seemed nonchalant, so at ease bumping along the dirt road with his jiggling sow in tow.

There is no way, really, to describe how exotic, how absolutely delectable Vietnam is to my senses. Roads are torn up, rice paddy fields relocated, new business parks and high rises rise overnight. It is a country in transition, moving to claim its place among economic powerhouses. I am in the midst of it, working with government, industry, and education to prepare for what is to come.

On one of my early trips, I walked with two Vietnamese colleagues down an alley near the coffee house where we’d just been. I looked up at the tangle of communications and electrical cables, signs of growth unplanned. Before us motorbikes surged six rows thick, mixed with taxis, cars, and bicycles. I turned to my friend and said, “I hope Vietnam never changes. I hope I can always see this,” and I motioned with my hand at the chaos before us. She looked me in the eye and said, “Ah, Roma, I hope very much that my country does change. I hope we someday have roads to fit the cars, safe roads and infrastructure for all the people who live here.”

It was then that I realized how unfair of me it was to want Vietnam to remain the same, as if it were a curiosity put here for my own pleasure. The people of any country should be able to determine their own destiny. And especially Vietnam, ravaged by war and poverty, a legacy of imperialism.

I’ve come around to embracing the change that is inevitable. These days I simply observe everything I can, take it in as if I were a recorder. Ten years from now, I vow to come back and see how different it is.



stop light (ho chi minh city) waiting to cross (ho chi minh city)
sharing the road (ho chi minh city) in transition (ho chi minh city)
going for a ride (ho chi minh city)

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Somewhere between Santa Fe and Albuquerque (one), on the RailRunner Express, December 30, 2009, iPhone photos © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
 

2009: re-flec-tion

 
–noun
 
 
1. the act of reflecting or the state of being reflected.
2. an image; representation; counterpart.
3. a fixing of the thoughts on something; careful consideration.
4. a thought occurring in consideration or meditation.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 




Get out your fast-writing pens. The year 2009 (and the first decade of the 21st Century) is over. What did it reveal to you? What did you reveal to yourself?

Reflect on the past year. Write it out. Write about the trip to Santa Fe, the visit to your favorite store (the one with fake geese walking in a line to the front door) where you found an elegant wrist and hand made of blue glass for storing your rings.

Write about the books you read, the movies you saw, the many bowls of popcorn, salted and buttered, you ate. Write the tears and the illness and the losses and gains, the itches and tics, people and places, the time you laughed so hard you fell off the green sofa.









2010: in-ten-tion


–noun


1. an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.
2. the end or object intended; purpose.









Make a list of your intentions for the new year. What do you plan (not hope, but plan) to realize? Reach far and wide, but do so in a pragmatic way. You can achieve what you set your mind to do. Put it out to the universe.

I will…I will…I will…

Fill in the blanks. What will you do this year?








_____________________________________________________________________________________________________


Postscript: For many people, this New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are the start of a long weekend. Take time these next few days to look backward and forward. Even a half hour spent quietly—reflecting on 2009, thinking about 2010—will help you enter the new year with a sense of being grounded, feet on the ground, ready for what comes.


To all red Ravine readers, we are grateful to have spent the past year with you. We look forward to another one.

Happy New Year!


_____________________________________________________________________________________________________


The images in this post came from a day trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and back on the RailRunner Express, December 30, 2009. It was a cold day. Low clouds threatened rain or snow, and by the time we boarded for the one-hour-fifteen-minutes back, the snowflakes had started falling.


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By Barin Beard


It was a snowy, dreary day in southern Idaho. I was cold and homesick, and I was ready to go back to New Mexico. I questioned my sanity for being a thousand miles north, in sub-zero temperatures on the slope of a ski mountain. I didn’t even know how to ski! (When I told that to Idahoans, they couldn’t believe it.)

After a day working the chairlift, I went to my boss Gretchen and told her I was going to quit because I wanted to head back south. I was tired of being cold; snow and ice weren’t for me.

When I walked out of the lodge it was dark and the snow was falling. I got into my Jeep, a 1964 CJ-5, the short wheel-base wonder car, but it hated ice just like I did. I got into the unheated rag-top half cab and buckled my lap-belt. To get the belt to snap took some real effort—it was frozen, but I figured it’d be best to wear my seat belt.

I headed down the mountain in the dark. The road had about six inches of fresh snow. All was fine; I was tooling down the road at about 20 mph in 4-wheel drive high range.

About five miles down from the lodge I came to an S in the road and as soon as I entered the right-hand curve, I knew I was in trouble. Because of the jeep’s short stance, the rear axle slid out to the left, and I was heading down the road sideways. I turned the front wheels to the left into the slide, but there was no response. I may have tapped the brakes which probably worsened the problem, but now the road was curving to the left and I was still sliding perpendicular to the road, but heading straight.

I pretty much knew what was going to happen next. The jeep slid off the road onto the soft shoulder, left wheels digging in first and I immediately rolled! The headlights did a slow motion counter clockwise roll, then the driver’s side of the jeep hit hard with a crash! I continued rolling over… upside down, onto the passenger’s side, back up on the wheels, back onto the driver’s side, upside down, passenger side, upright, driver’s side, upside down, and finally coming to rest on the passenger’s side.

I dangled from the driver’s seat, the world on its side. The electric fuel pump was buzzing, so I turn off the ignition, then turned off the headlights, and assessed my situation while hanging from my seat belt (which I was glad I was wearing). I unbuckled the seat belt and fell into the passenger seat. I stood up inside the cab, reached up to the canvas driver’s door and popped it open. The door opened like the hatch on a tank. I crawled out by using the seats as steps.

Once outside the jeep, I looked things over. Still snowing, still cold, still dark. I figured I might be out there for a long while before someone came along, so I’d better do something. I walked around the jeep. It looked drivable IF I could get it back on its wheels.

There was a trail of debris from the road to the jeep. I needed to find my flashlight first, then my HiLift jack, then my other stuff, like my tool box. After a few minutes stomping around in foot-deep snow I found my things and decided how I could get the jeep back on its wheels. Meanwhile it was cold, probably below zero Fahrenheit. I put the HiLift onto the roll bar on the passenger side of the jeep and started lifting. The jack topped out when the CJ-5 was at its tipping point so I started rocking the jeep. The HiLift slipped out from the roll bar and the jeep crashed back to the ground.

Now more determined, I repeated the procedure and this time was successful getting the jeep past the tipping point, wheels back on the ground. Working as fast as I could, I opened the hood and checked the battery and fluid levels. I piled everything into the back of the jeep, including the ragtop. I got into the driver’s seat, put my foot on the accelerator but it went right to the floor. I knew exactly what happened. I lifted the hood again and saw the throttle linkage had come apart due to a broken cotter pin. I walked over to a nearby barbed wire fence and found some tie wire, broke off a piece, and fashioned the wire into a new cotter pin. I was back in business.

I started the jeep, put it in 4-wheel drive low, reverse gear, and ease out the clutch. The jeep clawed its way back onto the snowy highway. I was back on the road, without a top or heater, headed back to my studio apartment in Twin Falls.

I am not sure if I almost died that night. Obviously my seat belt kept me from being ejected and possibly crushed and killed. I probably would not have frozen to death since other people were still up at the ski lodge. Even so, in five years of owning that jeep, that was the most serious adventure we had together.

A few days later, I left Idaho and headed south to New Mexico, without a top or heater. The first few hours were extremely cold.


-Related to topic post WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. [NOTE: This is the first of three questions mentioned by actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith in an interview with Bill Moyers (see link). She talked about the questions in the context of interviewing people and listening to them. The three questions came from a linguist Smith met at a cocktail party in 1979; the questions were, according to the linguist, guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves. QuoinMonkey, ybonesy, and frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman take on the three questions by doing a Writing Practice on each. red Ravine reader and fellow blogger Barin Beard---aka Mimbres Man---also sent us a piece, based on a 15-minute Writing Practice on the first question, Have you ever come close to death?]

-Also related to posts PRACTICE — Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by QuoinMonkey),  PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by ybonesy), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman).

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By Bob Chrisman


The question strikes me as amusing because I wonder how many times I’ve been on the edge of dying and didn’t realize it. How about the time the gray BMW swung around the corner as it turned left? The outside mirror on the right side caught my open coat and flung it in the air. Even the driver thought he had hit me because he stopped, at least the brake lights flickered before he drove away. But the question is about a time I knew I was close to death.

In college I ran with a group of theater people. My friend, Margie (not her real name), lived at home in the suburbs with her family: Mom, Dad, and a younger brother and sister. The parents regularly invited us to their house for taco night, a family and friends feast of food and laughter. One night in February I left their house to drive back into the city. I felt so lonely and depressed as I headed home in my VW bug.

I took a shortcut down a curving, two-lane road to the main highway. At the beginning of every curve I pushed the accelerator hard. Looking back, I may have wanted to die at that moment. My friend and her family showed me what I would never have in the way of a warm, loving family.

The car entered one curve. I caught the sheen of ice on the highway. Too late I took my foot off the accelerator and stomped on the brake. The car spun around like a yoyo, first one way and then the other.

I left my body. From the backseat of the VW, I watched my physical body frantically try to regain control of the spinning car by turning the steering wheel. Finally “I” gave up. As I watched the accident unfold, I said, “Oh, crap. I’m gonna die.” The car ran up the side of the hill and turned over on the left side. In that instant, I found myself in my body watching the asphalt speed past my driver’s side window.

The car ran into a ditch, stopped and flipped upright. I stumbled out into the cold, dark night on a lonely road in a wooded area. A young couple, on their way to a movie, stopped and made me climb into their car. They took me to a pay phone so I could call the police. When we arrived back at the wreck, they insisted on staying until the police arrived. A tow truck pulled my car from the ditch. The officers told me I could drive it home and I did.

I always remember that night whenever I drive a car. The accident made me more cautious about my driving. To have death come so close made me appreciate how quickly life can be snatched away.



-Related to topic post WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. [NOTE: This is the first of three questions mentioned by actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith in an interview with Bill Moyers (see link). She talked about the questions in the context of interviewing people and listening to them. The three questions came from a linguist Smith met at a cocktail party in 1979; the questions were, according to the linguist, guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves. QuoinMonkey, ybonesy, and frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman take on the three questions by doing a Writing Practice on each.]

-Also related to post PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by ybonesy)

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Berth Of The Night Owl, outside Mickey’s Diner, St. Paul, Minnesota, November 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







drenched beads of lens sweat
black fog that spawns crusty rain
berth of the night owl







Sometimes the best shots are unplanned. A few weeks ago, Liz and I drove through St. Paul after going to see a music performance of Strange Attractors. It was almost midnight, rainy and foggy. We parked at different spots downtown and took a series of photographs. She stepped out into the rain; I stayed behind and shot from the car. I feel lucky my partner is one who loves the night (and art) as much as I do. It provides opportunities for creative sharing that might not otherwise take place. And we can spend downtime together in our art studio in Northeast Minneapolis.

The best part of this rainy shot of Mickey’s Diner through the windshield is the BlackBerry sitting on the dash. When the photo is viewed in its largest size, you can clearly see the raindrop reflections on the screen. They make it look like the rain fell through the glass. This time the photograph was not taken with the camera phone; she’s one of the stars.


Other Night Owl posts from over the years:



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, November 27th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), WRITING TOPIC — WINDOW

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Pink Cadillac, Hindsight, outside the Pink Cadillac Diner, Natural Bridge, Virginia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Back in Pennsylvania. I always think I’m going to post more than I do from the road. But at the end of the day, I find myself exhausted. Out as soon as the head hits the pillow. Perhaps it’s the introvert in me. I love traveling West to East, North to South, all the people I see only once a year. I wish there were a dozen of me. Maybe a baker’s dozen.

Yesterday I drove 13 hours back from Georgia with Mom. I spent this October day with my family in Pennsylvania. It’s almost 4am and I find myself wide awake, wanting to write. It’s the best I can do to post a haiku, a note, a few photographs from the Pink Cadillac Diner in Natural Bridge, Virginia. It’s a little off the beaten trail. Mom was finishing up her ice cream cone while I walked out to photograph the Caddy. A young woman strode proudly up behind me with her two daughters, camera in tow.

“My dad took a photo of me in front of this very spot,” she said, “and now I get to take a photo of you.” Snap. I watched her daughters gleaming next to the rusty chrome. “Would you like me to take a photo of all of you together?” I asked. “I’d love that,” she smiled, rushing over to hand me her pocket camera.

Lineage. Family legacies. The things we pass down.

The day was perfect for driving. The light illuminated by Fall. I hung my head out the window and snapped photos of a sunset front over Virginia. There is so much to tell. For the time being, will you settle for the highlights?


  • visiting the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art in Augusta, Georgia with my mother
  • walking with my dad through the Brick Pond Ecological Park in North Augusta, South Carolina
  • dining on my uncle’s chili he’s been making since he was 12
  • riding on the back of my brother’s Harley Softtail
  • driving through Virginia with the mountains framed in gold
  • visiting my paternal grandparents’ graves for the first time with my aunt
  • photographing a historic Sand Oak at Westover Memorial Park Cemetery
  • standing by the Savannah River on the down side of Clarks Hill Dam
  • spending the day on the Georgia side of Clarks Hill Lake working on family history with Mom
  • watching the Vikings/Steelers game with my family
  • grits, sweet tea, barbecue hash, boiled peanuts
  • seeing the faces of my brother and mom at the airport when I land
  • talking to Liz on the new BlackBerry from Sconyer’s Bar-B-Que (she asked for hushpuppies)
  • Twittering across the Mason-Dixon line (and the rest of the 1200 mile round trip to Georgia) with the same said BlackBerry
  • photographing the October Blood Moon rising over Pennsylvania, setting over Georgia and South Carolina
  • writing haiku in the air, Minnesota to Maryland and Pennsylvania
  • watching my sister-in-law tap dance across her living room floor (and later my niece and brother’s fiancee danced across the same floor)
  • The Beatles Rock Band with my niece, nephew, and brother in his living room
  • attending a huge Halloween bash with my aunt at the Julian Smith Casino building where in the 1950′s my mother used to go to dances and work barbecues to raise money to build a local church
  • laughing with my family, North and South
  • stopping at the Pink Cadillac Diner in Virginia with Mom on the way home from Georgia





season to season
hindsight is 20/20
reflecting the past;
future remains uncertain,
jumps hoops through the looking glass




-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 25th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS, WRITING TOPIC– ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS, you can’t go back — 15 haiku, Cassie’s Porch — Then & Now, Excavating Memories

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balloon fiesta at home (three), the motto of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is “Mass Happiness” and that’s what we’re feeling on this last weekend of the event, October 10, photos © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




    


    


   


     


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