Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Remembering Ben Bova

Ben Bova died a few days ago.

When I was in fifth grade, my gifted class went to the Bethesda Elementary library and the librarian gave us a presentation about some books she was encouraging us to read, books that were nominated for some award that year--it was a long time ago, and I was probably only half-way paying attention anyway, so I don't remember any details, but I think it was probably the Georgia Children's Book Award for the 1977-1978 school year. What I do remember her telling us as we all sat around a table at the back of the library, half a dozen books spread out before us, was that this book--she held up one of the volumes and showed us the cover--was science fiction and it was pretty advanced stuff, but if we thought we were up to the challenge we could give it a try.

That got my interest.

So I checked it out and read it, and absolutely loved it.

It was End of Exile by Ben Bova, perhaps the first "real" science fiction novel I ever read. I mean, a couple of years earlier I had loved The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron, but this was a whole different thing.

The next year, when I got to sixth grade and learned my way around the Sweetwater Middle School library, I was amazed and delighted to discover that End of Exile was actually the third book in a trilogy! (I don't think the librarian at Bethesda mentioned this--she may not have even known it--and apparently I didn't pay enough attention to the book jacket to come away with this information on my own. And really, I was only ten years old--what did I know from trilogies?) I immediately checked out the first two books, Exiled from Earth and Flight of Exiles, and then that third book (which I hadn't even known was the third book in a series when I read it) made SO MUCH MORE SENSE!

I read the Exiles trilogy every year that I was in middle school, and have read it a few more times since, though not in about twenty years--the list I keep of all the books I read tells me that in the year 2000 I read the first book (finishing it on my birthday, in fact) but that I didn't go on to read the second and third books, and have read nothing else by him in the 23 years I've been keeping that list. I have a paperback copy of the early 80's Berkley edition that puts all three books under one cover--"His famous star flight saga now in one magnificent volume!" the cover screams. I don't think I've ever actually read the copy I have now, but I intend to keep it forever.

In my mid twenties I tried reading a couple of Bova's other novels--he published dozens of them in a career that spanned six decades, and also many short stories, and a lot of non-fiction as well--but I couldn't get through them. It's not that they were bad, but nothing could live up to that experience of being ten years old and having my mind blown by End of Exile.

So, even though I haven't read that much of Ben Bova's work, and may never read anything else by him ever again, he is one of the Very Important Authors from my childhood, and for that I will always remember him with a great fondness.

(The winner of the Georgia Children's Book Award that year, by the way, was Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers. I've never read the book, but I've seen the Disney movie--the version with Jodie Foster, not that version that was released years later--many times; I think I actually saw it in a theater when it first came out. John Astin, who was Gomez Addams on TV more than ten years earlier, plays the father. It's a decent little movie, not great, but not bad either. I recommend it if you haven't seen it. In fact, I recommend it even if you have!)

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Four Morning Poems: Two Tanka and Two Haiku

This morning, before everyone else got out of bed, I sat outside on the back deck and took these pictures and wrote these poems:

I see you up there,
Visible half of the moon,
Just over my head
And thousands of miles away--
But where is your other half?

Coffee, notebook, pen,
Birds and squirrels and a light breeze,
The deck to myself,
Everyone else still asleep--
This is a perfect morning.

Half green, half orange,
The leaves are in transition--
Beautiful changes

"Squirrel proof" it may be,
But "chipmunk proof" it is not--
Eat well, little guy!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Halloween 1970: Fifty Years Ago


Fifty years ago I was a lion for Halloween.

FIFTY YEARS AGO! That's amazing to me. What's equally amazing is that I remember--I think, anyway--going with my mother to the Woolworth's at North DeKalb Mall and buying this costume. Or do I just remember her bringing it home to me? I'm not sure. I have a very vague memory of the yellow Volkswagen Beetle we had then ("we" I write, as if I sometimes drove it), and bringing in a shopping bag containing a box containing this costume.

And this is what Halloween costumes looked like in 1970: a plastic mask you put over your face with an elastic band, doing your best to align your eyes with the imperfectly-placed eyeholes, and a thin plastic (vinyl? I'm not sure what it was actually made of) one-piece suit that was an appropriate color for whatever you were supposed to be, that had a picture representing what you were supposed to be on the chest. Costumes like this didn't so much make you look like the thing you were supposed to be as make you look like someone wearing some kind of weird advertisement for the thing you were supposed to be.

The first picture was taken in the basement ("fellowship hall"? I'm not sure what it was actually called.) of the old Ingleside Presbyterian Church in Scottdale. Back in the 1970s, Ingleside used to have Halloween gatherings every year (though I suspect they were on a Friday or Saturday night, not necessarily on the actual date of Halloween); there's a picture I'd love to post but which I can't find, taken at Ingleside the year my brother Jeff dressed up in a fantastic Cookie Monster outfit Mom made for him.

The second picture was taken at our house in Clarkston, the living room of which apparently had a floral motif. I don't know if the Trick or Treat bag I'm holding is in an empty pre-trick-or-treating state or is full of candy. I'm not sure if I actually went trick or treating in our neighborhood or not; I have no memory of it. It's possible that the second picture above was actually taken before the first one.

Another amazing thing is thinking about how different the country, and my world, were when these pictures were taken. The Vietnam War was still going on; Nixon was still in his first term as president; the Watergate scandal was still a couple of years in the future, and the first moon landing was less than a year and a half in the past. Dad still had another week as a twenty-five-year-old, and Mom wouldn't turn twenty-five for another year. All of my grandparents were still alive, and several of my cousins had yet to be born. First grade for me was still nearly three whole years away.

(Note 1: Even though I'm posting this on a Saturday, I'm going to label it Throwback Thursday, for obvious reasons.)

(Note 2: This is, for whatever it's worth, post number 700 on Planet Burdett. I hope to do many, many more.)

Monday, October 19, 2020

I am being watched

I am being watched as I sit outside and drink my coffee!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Once More to the Great Smoky Mountains

Today I took advantage of the fact that Anna's off work for her Fall Break to go out for an all-day adventure on one of my favorite drives: up U.S. 441, through north Georgia, into North Carolina, through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and on to Pigeon Forge, TN--and then back home again.

In one day.

I left this morning at about 9:20 and didn't get home until fourteen hours later*; frankly I wish I'd stopped at the NC/TN border--Newfound Gap in the GSMNP--and then headed back home. Three-hundred and eighty miles is a little too much for a one-day round trip (especially when I don't head out in the morning until over an hour after I'd intended too).

But still, I had a great time, and I took lots of pictures. Here are the ones I texted to Anna and the girls as I went:

(Tallulah Point Overlook, a place I always look forward to stopping at, has moved. I didn't see its new location.)

(The picture above and the two below show Gatlinburg from the bypass.)

(This was at that big year-round Christmas place in Pigeon Forge. Since Elyse collects cardinals, I thought she'd like it. (The picture, I mean; I didn't buy it.))

* If you compared that timeline with the time stamp on this post, you'd have to conclude that my arrival home is still in the future. I'm actually creating this post the next day, on Friday; it's actually "yesterday" I'm describing, rather than "today." Don't tell anyone.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Greenville Zoo with Mommy and Elyse

Today, Anna and Elyse drove 125 miles northeast to go to the Greenville Zoo--Elyse was just desperate to go somewhere and do something, and a zoo is a fun and relatively safe outdoor place to be, and Anna was excited about going to a new zoo. (Jessica didn't want to go and it seemed contrary to the spirit of such an adventure to force her to participate, so she and I stayed home.)

They did have a good time on their adventure, in spite of the fact that the amount of time it took to go through the whole zoo and see everything was less than half the time it took to just to get there. (That sounds like a word problem, so I'll put it more plainly: they drove two-and-a-half hours for an hour's walk through the zoo. But they enjoyed it, so it was worth it.) (Frankly we're a little spoiled, living fairly close to a great zoo like Zoo Atlanta, but that doesn't mean we can't appreciate other zoos.)

Here are some of the pictures they texted me throughout the day, starting with one from a McDonald's where they stopped for breakfast:

(No, a cardinal isn't usually a zoo animal, but they thought it was amusing that it was helping itself to the ducks' food.)

(That's not an ostrich, it's a rhea.)

On the way home, since they still had plenty of time, they stopped at Tugaloo State Park in Lavonia, Georgia; they didn't stay long, but did send me a couple of pictures:

(That's a rather neglected miniature golf course.)

(I think that's Lake Hartwell she's wading in.)

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center with Jessica

Today Jessica and I went to the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center to walk around and take pictures. I've been there a couple of times before, but this was the first time I've been there when the visitor's center was open (it was closed for a few months because of the pandemic):

We were fortunate enough to be allowed inside the center's Chesser-Williams House, an 1850's house that was donated to Gwinnett County Parks a few years ago, moved to the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, and restored:

The house is beautifully adorned with folk art painting, both the front porch and inside in one of the rooms (including on the ceiling!):

(That's the ceiling!)

The rest of the house isn't so lavishly painted, but is charmingly furnished and decorated:

(The eggs and apples above, and the food on the table below, are all plastic.)

Unfortunately, the upstairs isn't restored yet so we couldn't go up there, but we could look up the stairs:

Before we left the center, Jessica sat down to take a picture of the sky (and to rest, I think):