Sunday, April 22, 2018

Look Kids, The Grand Canyon


Unlike most great features, the Grand Canyon is invisible until you stand on its rim. You aren’t drawn to it as to a river’s source or a mountain’s peak. You have to seek it out, and then cope with its visual revelation. It simply and suddenly is. 
Source: The Conversation

Every time we go on a trip, I declare it was my favorite. Either we keep topping our last vacation, or all of them are my favorite. Maybe both.

I never wrote about our trip to Yellowstone in 2014, but it was transformative. I was not prepared for the sheer awe and emotional impact of it all. The breadth and expanse of the Yellowstone wilderness atop a volcano made my eyes well with tears of awe. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. Profound, even. 

And it made me question what I thought Earth is, or what it abides. 

The enormity of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the clockwork predictability of some of the geysers and the sheer unpredictability of others, the curiosity of the Grand Prismatic Spring, the surreal aqua blues of Earth's deep chasm pools, and the boiling, bubbling and violent heat of the springs, the travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs

And then there are the animals. The hundreds of bison just walking past your car, standing in the middle of the road just trying to get across. We saw elk, deer, a bear and countless bison. I've never in my life been so close to such raw nature. 


Bison in Yellowstone.
Just moseying along. 

It was after that trip to Yellowstone that we started better appreciating the National Parks. This past fall, we went to Acadia. (We previously went to Haleakala on our honeymoon and Grand Teton during our Yellowstone road swing.)

So when we were planning a spring break, we thought Arizona would be perfect — a bit of warmth, plus the Grand Canyon, one of the seven wonders of natural world and our fifth National Park. And somehow, neither Ray nor I had ever been.

"I'm pretty sure this makes unAmerican," I told Ray. "We are ripping apart the very fabric of our country until we see it."

He agreed.  

Grand Indeed

We first saw it from the lookout at Grand Canyon village, waiting on the bus to take us to the overlooks. Honestly, I wasn't expecting it to be there. I don't know where I thought it would be — further out on the bus trail, I guess — but we looked over and holy shit, there it was. It was so vast it's hard to comprehend. It took us probably a good hour of seeing it from various vistas before our minds could really grasp it. 





To call it a "canyon" seems a bit of misnomer, really. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone makes more sense visually. It is a clear canyon, with clearly defined steep sides. But the Grand Canyon... it's more like a mountain range you are able to peer down upon. 

And the colors. The unbelievable colors. The muted buff and grays on the peaks, the pinks and sunset oranges on the buttes and bluffs, there was white lining the outer rim, and staggering reds diving into the ravines and gorges, and then, the blue-green of the Colorado river, looking like a trickling stream against the magnitude.  

View of the Colorado River from Navajo Point.

View from Hermit's Rest.



It takes time to stitch together all that you are seeing. 

We spent the entire first day just looking at it from different vantages along Hermits Rest Route, the bus route of the Grand Canyon. It was insanely windy, with gusts from 35 to 50 miles per hour. Not surprisingly, one of the gusts knocked me over and caught my Reds hat, sending it sailing away. But Ray was able to scramble over and grab it before it tumbled into the Canyon. I'd have been embarrassed to think my hat would litter the Grand Canyon and befuddle ancient visitors. 

"Why was this unknown ancient a fan of the Reds? Weren't they in a 'rebuilding' year for about 20 years? We can only ponder the thoughts and hopes of the ancient Americans." 

But my favorite part was the Grand Canyon from Desert View Drive, on the east side of the South Rim. It was less crowded and yet views were equally as spectacular, if not more so. The Canyon ends to the east, physically, at Desert View. It's seeing the Grand Canyon up against that unfurling plateau that helps shape its grandness. Navajo Point was my favorite vista to the east, where you can best see the high Colorado plateau flatten out. 


View from Navajo Point. 
Ray with our rental truck, Wauneta. Because you just never know when you might need to off-road into a canyon. Or need extra space for gas station beef jerky.  

Driving into Tusayan to get to the Grand Canyon on 64 North is the definition of barren. Literally, beyond there lies nothing. Nothing but the Grand Canyon anyway. But driving out of the Canyon east toward Cameron is extraordinary. The road follows the Little Colorado River, with its own deep gorge carved into the high plateau. It's also where we met this Raven. 



We weren't home 24 hours before I started to feel depressed. One minute you're out taking in this incredible geological wonder, the next you're back in Ohio washing the red rock dust off your boots. I was writing a check to the cat sitter when I reminded Ray that we never go anywhere. I think I heard him scream into a pillow. 

So if you haven't been, either to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, go, immediately.   


Ray overlooking Desert View.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Awe of the Grand Canyon







We are just back from 5 days in Arizona, including a two-day stop at the Grand Canyon. It was magical.   


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Like That George Jones Song

Papaw and Sarah, about 1985

There hasn't been a good story from the Daugherty Farm lately, so I thought I'd share this one from a recent phone conversation with my dad. If you're into stories of abandonment, torrid love affairs, cheating, sanitariums, mommas and country and western songs, settle in.

Bath County, Kentucky 


It started because my dad said that everyone in the little hamlet where he grew up is wrong about who their "real" dad is. He thinks everyone was cheating on everyone else and that their "real" dad is actually the neighbor or milkman or whomever.

He rarely reveals anything personal, but he'll tell a lot of stories, mostly about growing up in Kentucky, if you can get him going, 

He was raised on a tobacco farm, the son and grandson of generations of sharecroppers. There is a general store 15 miles or so from where he grew up and during our annual trips to see his dad 
in the summer, he would buy me candy at this little store with wood floors. Every year the cashier would ask him, "You Junior Daugherty?" 

Everyone knew everybody else. Even if you'd left 20 years prior. 


Four Hungry Children and a Crop in the Field


My dad’s parents, my Papaw and Mamaw, had four kids. When the youngest, my dad, was a toddler, his mom (Sarah) left them for another man and moved to Tennessee. My dad didn't see his mom again for 25 years.

You know that Kenny Rogers song "Lucille" — "You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille, with four hungry children and a crop in the field" — well, that was my Papaw. A sharecropper left with four little kids who's wife ran off and left him. 


Dad and his three sisters. He is sitting on his sister Wanda's lap. Ada is on the right, Norma Jean on the left. He was born in August 1939. 

So my dad was raised by his grandmother, his sisters (my dear, beloved aunts) and his alcoholic though sweet-natured dad (my Papaw), and his alcoholic but good-natured grandfather (Sam).

Sarah and her new husband built a new life together in Tennessee with several kids of their own. Needless to say, Papaw and Sarah didn't see each other again for 35-years, nor did my dad or his sisters see their mom. 

Not surprisingly, I've rarely heard my dad say a nice word about her. He referred to her never as "mom" but rather by her given name, Sarah. Though more often than not, he referred to her as "that ol' battle-ax" or "your grandmother" or "your mom's mother-in-law."

Distance was the way she was referenced, and why I refer to her as Sarah instead of grandma. 



She Still Preyed Upon His Mind


Papaw and Sarah in the foreground. My dad is on the right standing sideways. I suspect he intentionally turned his back toward his mom for the photo.

But, Papaw and Sarah's relationship is legendary. The Heloise and Abelard of Bath County, Kentucky, if you will.

Because 35 years after she left him, after raising her other kids, Sarah sent Papaw a Christmas card. Her second husband had just died and so I guess she wondered, 'Hmm, I wonder what that ol' Raymond Daugherty is up to these days.'

Well, it turned out that that ol’ Raymond Daugherty was still pining for Sarah 35-years later because no sooner did that Christmas card hit the stoop did papaw and Sarah strike up an old-fashioned correspondence.

Five months later — technically, five months and 35-years later — Papaw drove straight to Tennessee and married Sarah again. They were in their late 60s by that time. Papaw brought her back to Kentucky and she proceeded, as my dad tells it, to torture him personally.

"Her leaving me as a kid wasn't nearly as traumatic as her coming back when I was 40," my dad said. "I was a kid then so I didn't remember her. In the third grade, when we were filling out some forms at school and the teacher asked me what my mom's name was, I didn't know. I had no idea. Your Aunt Ada had to tell me."

"Was her coming back the first time you'd seen her since you were a kid?" I asked.

This is when my dad, for the first time, told me how he had gone to see her in Tennessee once when he was a young man, about 25 years old. I was astounded to learn this.

"They had this long, dusty ol’ dirty drive-way. I was so nervous I felt like I drove up to their house for 20 miles. I finally get up there to this old house and I don't want to get out of the car, you know what I mean? But I walk up there and I see through the screen door that she's in the kitchen, wearing this old torn house dress. And the old man she's married to is sitting in a chair on the front porch. I had thought before I got there that if that old man said anything to me, anything at all, about who I was or who my pap is or what I was doing there, that I'd throttle him. I wouldn't tolerate it. But I see that he's old and crippled and in a wheelchair, and she's in this old ripped housedress... Anyway, she comes to the door and I'm shaking I'm so nervous, and I tell her who I am... and she doesn't believe me. I had to show her my driver's license to convince her who I was. Can you believe that?"

He said this last part with a mix of disbelief and amusement.

"Well, I'm sure she was surprised to see you. It had been 25 years. Or maybe she thought you'd never seek her out. But that is sad that she didn't believe you," I said.

"Sad? It wasn't sad! It was ridiculous! I mean hell, I look just like the man. Who the hell did she think was standing there?"

Right. Well, needless to say, my dad is not one for sentiment.


A 'Frosty' Summer


It has long been storied in my family that the George Jones song He Stopped Loving Her Today could have been written about Papaw. My dad and aunts used to sit around and laugh that it would take him dying before he would stop loving Sarah.

(If you don't know the song, you really need to listen to it for the sake of this story. Plus, it's the saddest, most haunting love song ever written... And that mournful, plaintive harmonica in the second verse (!!!)... it's all just too much.)




As a result, I grew up thinking Papaw had this endless sea of devotion for her. And even though it took 35 years for her to come back, she did, and without reservation, he married her again.

Perfectly neat love story, right?

Well, imagine my surprise (because I was legitimately surprised when I heard this) when my dad got on the topic of kids in Bath County, Kentucky not knowing who their “real” dads are, because this led to the revelation that Papaw had a years-long affair with Nancy, the neighbor's wife. My dad went on to speculate that Papaw could be the dad of any number of kids from Bath County.

Whaaaaat?! Papaw had an affair with a married woman?! But he loved Sarah all those years! He was waiting! You said it was like that George Jones song kind of love!

I was shaken.

"Oh yeaaaaah," he said dismissively, dragging out the yeah for effect. "Everybody knew about the affair. Hell, even Nelson knew about it, Nancy's husband. Nancy had all kinds of affairs and Nelson tolerated it for years. For years, I tell ya."

And how did Nelson know that Papaw had an affair with his wife?

Dad said that one summer night, Nelson came home after being in the tobacco fields all day to find Papaw over at his house getting cozy with Nancy. Papaw lept out of a window to escape but not in time to not be seen. In retaliation, Nelson kicked Nancy out of the house and made her sleep in the barn for a few days. Though Nelson eventually forgave his wife, my dad said Nelson's relationship with Papaw was "frosty" for a while.

At least until autumn.

"Pap said the relationship with Nelson wasn't what it used to be. That was until Nelson needed Pap to help him bring in the tobacco harvest that fall, then things got right again. Nelson had a 'change of heart,' Pap said."

Hard labor trumps betrayal, I guess.

Still, I was stunned by this story. In the narrative I was attached to, Papaw had been loyal to Sarah even though she dumped him with all them kids and ran off to Tennessee to marry someone else. In my mind, he was perfectly saintly until she came back.

"Poor Nelson," I said, all this sinking in. "He got ran around on by his wife and the neighbor who was supposed to be his friend. Some friend."

Well, don't feel bad for ol' Nelson, my dad said. He had the last word on the affair. After years of tolerating Nancy stepping out on him, he finally had enough.

Nelson had been in a TB sanitarium where he met a nurse. When he was released after spending months in the hospital, he went home, packed up his suitcase and told Nancy he was done with her and left her for the nurse.

Even though Nancy had been a jerk to him and had all those affairs, I felt bad for her.

"Aww, that's sad. So then she was old and alone then," I said.

"God no!" my dad corrected. "Nancy never had any problems finding new men to torture. She got remarried two or three more times after that. Well, gotta go — the tea water is boiling!" 


Then he said “BYE” in his southern accent and hung up on me. 


The Inventors of Love

And that was the end of the story about how kids from Bath County, Kentucky, who are in their 70s and 80s now, don't know who their “real” dads are (cause it might be my Papaw), how Papaw came to marry Sarah again 35-years later but not before cavorting with the neighbor's wife, and how my dad is convinced that his mom tortured him personally by arriving back on the scene 35 years after she abandoned him.

It was an unexpected and amusing conversation. Just when I thought we were about to get deep into some personal feelings or emotions, my dad would hilariously reveal that his feelings on the whole matter were nothing more than detached recollections while he was waiting for the tea water to boil for iced tea.

These people are dead now. Papaw, Sarah, Nelson, Nancy, the TB nurse — all gone. And yet you know that 70 years ago these events were so consuming that they all thought they invented love. 



Papaw and my dad, who is most definitely holding a glass of iced-tea. That's all we drink in our house.

Epilogue


For the sake of the record, Papaw and Sarah remained married until he died in 1999 at age 89. Sarah, true to form, didn't really see him the last ten years of his life. He was in a nursing home by my parents' house in Indiana while she remained in Kentucky. My dad moved him up from Kentucky because Sarah didn't want to help take care of him, even though Papaw was mostly fine, just old, my dad said. My dad went to the nursing home every day for 10 years to shave him.

What he ever saw in ‘that woman,’ my dad said, no one will ever know. But like George Jones said, 'This time, he's over her for good.'

Sunday, January 21, 2018

I Have Questions



Did you know we sometimes keep a dinner diary? I got the idea from Dinner A Love Story blog a few years ago. We were hot on it for a while, mostly to keep ourselves from eating out too much, but we go in cycles. The last entry we ate frozen cheese tortellini and broccoli. It probably wasn't very good. I'm steering the wagon back to the journal though because I got a meal kit from Kroger today and I consider that hardcore cooking, so I need to write it down.

Speaking of dinner, have you tried the Prep + Pared meal kits from Kroger? We've tried some over the last year or so. Some of it's very good, some of it I didn't care for. It's always worth a shot though, and makes dinner easy and mindless. I've liked the Japanese bowl and the honey mustard glazed chicken. But we didn't love the chimichurri steak. (It took forever to cook and there wasn't really enough for both of us.) 



Japanese "inspired" beefbowl. Big fans.
Chimichurri steak... where's the beef? 


What about Clicklist? Thank God for Clicklist. I haven't had to walk into a grocery store in over a year, and it's been the best year ever. Except that one time when I ended up with a gallon of glass cleaner and a bottle of hoisin sauce, they always get my order right. 

I am not being paid by Kroger to write things, by the way. But if Kroger does want to pay me, that'd be great. Especially since they owe me $6 for a box of leaky Splenda from last week.
 I can't get my $6 back because you have to go into the store (!!!) to a cashier for refunds and to hell with that. 

You're missing the whole point of Clicklist by making people do that, Kroger.

Do you follow the Cincinnati Zoo on Instagram? Omg, the red pandas, amirite?! I know Fiona gets all the ink — literally, she has a book — and they threw her a 1st birthday party, and her dad died, and everyone loves an underdog story, (er, underhippo story?), but people, the red pandas!



Aren't they cutest things ever? Don't you feel like they are getting shafted?! They are essentially kitten/bear/raccoon/pandas — all of your fave animals combined! I am trying to do exceptionally good in this life so I can come back as one in the next. 

If the Cincinnati Zoo doesn't throw them a birthday party (the fact that I don't even know when their bdays are is a travesty) then I will throw them one myself. Who's in?! Kola, Micu, Lin, Auntie Gina is coming for you! (Kola loves apples, according to IG, so bring some to the party, ok?) 

The zoo is missing a real opportunity for another internet sensation here. I demand answers, zoo.

Have you read Into Thin Air? I read it ages ago (when I first started this blog) and reviewed it here then. I absolutely loved it. I had a voucher for a free audiobook and since I'm pretty lukewarm on audiobooks (I usually think the actors who narrate them are just that, actors, and therefore terrible readers and storytellers), I got Into Thin Air since I already knew I loved it. Given Ray and I were spending an inordinate amount of time driving over the holiday, I figured it'd be a good distraction. 


Oh man. I was so sad when it was over, just like I was sad when the book was over. It's narrated by Philip Franklin, whoever that is, but he does a spectacular reading of it. I was reminded of some of the horror I'd forgotten, which left me driving down the highway with my mouth agape and eyes wide open in shock. It's beautiful, horrifying and amazing. 

I often didn't want to get out of my car it was so good. "Oh, you want over? Sure, come on over! Oh, you too? Slide on in there, I'm in no hurry!" Into Thin Air, making me a nicer, calmer driver since November 2017. 




And can we talk about Beck Weathers? Geezus man. That poor bastard. Go read the book (or listen to it) so we can talk about him specifically, then wax morality on those who helped and those who didn't. I have very specific thoughts on this that I need to share while drinking tea in a bookstore, okay? Let me know when you're ready. 

Ray and I finished the audiobook last night before dinner at Dewey's. As soon as we got home I made him watch several YouTube documentaries of Everest disasters and an interview with Beck Weathers

I feel certain if I lived in Texas I'd hound him until he agreed to meet me for coffee so I could talk to him about him. I'm sure he'd be fine with it.

Monday, January 08, 2018

New Year, New Rug





I really liked the bold pattern of our old rug (top), but after 3-4 years, it was disgusting. It was beyond being cleaned and the cats had partially destroyed it. (They are grounded.)

We got this Persian-esque rug to replace it. I'm a huge fan. It even makes our tiny living room seem bigger. Not an easy feat. 
But the new rug has caused me to decide the living room needs new pillow covers, a new reading chair, a new TV console and possibly a new couch.

The pillow covers are done and here is the new reading chair, replacing the big red reading chair. 




Old reading chair, which I love. But it's gigantic in our small living room. (And that cats, who are grounded.) 



New reading chair. We made some refinements since I took the photo. At first this one seemed too small. But after we removed the leg lamp and its table (merry Christmas, neighbors!) and pulled the rug over to anchor the chair, it came together nicely. The rest of the plan for this corner is to give the Charlie Harper prints some "friends."

We've lived here for five years already. It doesn't hardly seem possible, honestly. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Merry Christmas, My Little Sugar Plums!



Ray and I’s Christmas video this year features none other than Santa himself. It was a huge feat getting the jolly old elf down the chimney (especially since our chimney was built for coal and is about as wide as an Amazon gift box), buuuuut voila! 

In addition to building toys, hitching up his reindeer and spying on little children (is that you, Russia?), Santa also takes out the recycling, reads on the toilet and puts together sexy leg lamps. Hey, Santa is just like us! 

Here’s hoping all your holiday wishes come true! 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Sunday Kind of Love



Our neighbors got married earlier this fall, on the last warm day before it turned cold.

I performed the ceremony, which is the second wedding I've performed. (I have another one in March that is more high stakes — it's at a wedding venue and will have about 80 people in attendance. Eek.)


Alex and Clarissa's wedding was perfect in every way. They did it at the Cincinnati Observatory on a Sunday late afternoon. It lasted about 7 minutes. Their vows were perfectly sweet and thoughtful and I read the ceremony from my phone, because that's where I'd written it. Somehow, their vows to each other and the ceremony I'd written all mentioned the same things — an apple cake, adventure and travel. 

Either we know each other better than we even imagined (probably true), or we are connected on a spiritual plane (possibly true). 



It was just the two of them, the two of us and their two dogs. 

This is my favorite photo from the day: Them in their wedding attire, wrangling Ramond and Tina to a tree.





And then Tina photobombed us.




Afterward we went to our favorite place, Forno, for dinner. Because whatever day you get married, it's nothing without bolognese and bruschetta from Forno.