When recently I went browsing through my Gather archives (collected in The Magi Cafe), I was bemused to discover that to date I have posted approximately 160 photo-essays on Gather. These are mostly surreal essays, consisting of some 3,800 images in all. Of this number, about 1,800 photographs depict life as I found it in America. The United States images, to my surprise, easily outnumbered the 1,360 or so photos depicting aspects of living in Western Australia. As to be expected, the number of images focusing on the U.S.A. and those on W.A. were significantly more than those devoted to a third distinct locality: some 18 surreal photo-essays, consisting of 634 images, focused on England and France.
That's in the past! What now? Well, I think it's timely to share two back-to-back North American road trips undertaken during autumn with she who must be obeyed - that is, with she who is better known by the pseudonym of Bob. Why don't you hop in the back of the car and tag along? But do let there be no mistake about it! You are forewarned that these road trips mean accompanying none other than Sergeant-Major NoMercy O'Bess, the former scourge of the Royal Leprechaun Army's special forces boot camp.
As an aside, I note in passing that Bob's recent retirement from the Leprechaunia military brought to an end the boot camp's tough as nails show-and-tell sessions. Hitherto, under the Sergeant-Major's baleful eye, these had been conducted at the nightly humiliation known as Circle Time which, for quaking recruits, were dreaded times indeed. Thankfully, the Sergeant-Major's retirement saw those mortifying sessions consigned to special forces history. A highly classified history - as is Bob's former identity as Sergeant-Major NoMercy O'Bess ... a military secret that we won't share with others. After all, even despised former sergeant-majors deserve the chance for a new life as a born-again civilian ... albeit one fixated on undertaking marching marathons euphemistically termed as healthy exercise.
So it is that although we will mostly call her Bob, at times I will undoubtedly fall back into the unthinking habit of referring to her as the Sergeant-Major - an ambiguity that doesn't break military secrets but does help to explain at times Bob's fanatical obsession with route marching.
Via some of the 360 photographs contained within the 10 essays covering the two road trips we will occasionally record (but not be stupid enough to score) the Sergeant-Major's performance. Bear in mind, though, that each image has been altered, mainly accomplished by using Picasa but sometimes also by using Microsoft Paint as well to manipulate the images. Not a single image is as the eye would ordinarily see it.
But enough of my inane rambling. There are new adventures impatient to be had. These will be added to our growing list of accomplishments such as exploring the Roosevelt Campobello International Park, located on Campobello Island, Canada, just a stone's throw from Lubec - the U.S.A.'s easternmost border town. Many weary miles by car later, we reached the Canadian city of St John; and there we had a quick bo-peep at its reversing falls. We didn't hang about, though. After all, we still had the long miles to travel to almost the very top of the enormous Bay of Fundy. On the way we saw many a strange sight ... something to be expected when journeying with a Leprechaun.
When we finally arrived at our final destination late in the afternoon, we were well and truly whacked. But after a good night's sleep and a big breaky we set off for nearby Hopewell Rocks. There occurs, or so it is claimed, the greatest tidal variation on the planet. Well, we went there at both high and low tides. At low tide we walked on the ocean floor which, at high tide, was some thirty or forty feet under water. It was a blast. That experience was followed by many more long hours and miles on the road. Firstly to visit Prince Edward Island in search of a disturbed girl by name of Anne who spent her time dementedly painting all the gables green; and, secondly, then to drive home all the way to Massachusetts.
Having had a week to recover, we've decided to go visit squadron leader Dr John Beck - formerly a MASH flight surgeon and hot air balloon fighter pilot. Our good friend lives in Wisconsin ... in Door County where the fixated folk spend their earthly hours make all kind of doors - and their unearthly time in the flying saucer mother ship meditating on the philosophy and theology of doors.
But we decided to be transcendental about it all - to go via Niagara Falls, as one does when still punch drunk from a long road trip to Prince Edward Island. Although we looked forward to perhaps seeing Anne of Green Gables going over the falls in a barrel, luck wasn't with us. So we had to be content with looking at a sea of water tumbling into a giant spa at the bottom of the abyss. Alas, if only Anne had fronted up and gone over the falls in a barrel. But she didn't and we hit the long roads again, going westwards across Canada and then down into Michigan ... the back roads there took us to some interesting sights.
However we pressed on, eventually arriving on the shores of Lake Michigan, with Ludington being our jumping off point for crossing over the inland sea. Via a miracle wrought by a smiling face in the clouds, we managed to elude the torpedoes fired at us by the hunting U-boat wolf pack and arrived at the port of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Whereas most gibbering survivors were led away to the nearby madhouse, we dodged the men in white coats carrying electric cattle prods and set out to explore Wisconsin's quirky fascination with doors.
We wave farewell to listing S.S. Badger - alas, all the raging fires are still not doused.
A long windswept road beckons us to do a Lazarus and come forth to discover the mystery of open doors ... indeed, to unwrap the shroud around Wisconsin's obsession with all types of doors, even closed ones.
Well, it's clear that there's no open door policy on these matters ... as is also the case elsewhere in the world. It's black and white: one is either for or against.
Ah, the sign says there is Wisconsin fun just ahead - an open door encouragement to make hay while the sun shines.
Award winning wine and free - yes free - Vodka tasting daily. Now that's what I call enough legless fun to blow open every door in the county! Every day!
Could this be an open door for intoxicated deer to come to the hunters?
The opulent suite that Dr John had waiting for us - rooms and rooms with doors everywhere. It doesn't get better than this!
The doors are so wide open that they're invisible - and pedestrians rule! Love it!
Safely ensconced in Dr John's armoured personnel carrier, we laugh as we drive carefree into the mouth of the beast.
Door County afire with autumn beauty.
Ah, Mother Nature, the long and winding road leads to your door.
With deadly Canon reloaded and Vodka-powered finger on the trigger, the Sergeant-Major laughs fiendishly as she stands ready to blast open any damned closed door.
Now cop this: Winifred and Donald Boynton - lacking any training in craftsmanship - handcrafted this 15th century Norwegian chapel. It took them nine summers (1939 to 1947) to do so. During the winters the couple took wood-carving lessons: and Winifred also painted 41 murals to decorate the interior walls and ceiling of the chapel. A book, Faith Builds a Chapel, written in the first person by Winifred, tells the story .... it's what might be called an open door testimony to the human spirit.
(On a personal note, Dr John sent me the book when I was in hospital last year recovering from open-heart surgery. And having read the book from cover to cover, it was an extra buzz for me when John took us to look at the chapel.)
From here it's down hill all the way - downhill to tranquil Ephraim.
Postcard perfect, would you believe. Well, I reckon it is. Cheesy grin.
In the feared sniper position, the Sergeant-Major coolly takes aim with her rapid firing Canon Gatling gun.
Not walking but running for their lives on blood-stained water, and lifting off .... up and away to where Dr John's squadron of hot air balloons await at twelve o'clock high.
Let share a moment appreciating Mother Nature's art. If needs be, ignore the anonymous Sergeant-Major in the scene.
Here they are, that deadly duo and terror of English Garden Gnomes - none other than the Sergeant-Major and Dr John, former MASH flight surgeon and hot air balloon fighter pilot. They stand glumly, having already downed their free daily ration of vodka on the rocks ... stand there, hoping that their desperate message for Vodka reinforcements will be found in the bottle that they have just thrown into the waters.
Why do I keep humming, Oh island in the sun?
Still reaching for water even though dead from thirst in Potawatomi State Park.
Only the quick and the dead - the blissfully unaware girl poses for a third shooter.
(Extracted from, Gary O'Cooper Faces High Noon Shootout With Doc [John] Holiday first published in the often misunderstood Dead as a Door Nail Encounters Appendix but republished here anyhow, with kind permission, courtesy of The Dead Sea Scrolls.)
Too much free daily vodka, coupled with high noon shootout drama, can result in a psychedelic need to visit a church without a crucifix on the steeple.
Oh, it was a school ... sigh ... which takes me back a long ways. It also takes the Sergeant-Major, with her Canon now on safety, right along with me on Dr Who's time machine, the Tardis. Accompanying us is newly unarmed Doc John Holiday, having checked in his dangerous weapon with Mr Beelzebub. How the hell he also got into the act only the devil knows. But there are two open doors.
Got to love the colour fantasy.
In the spirit of things, could this be the last cook - said to have gone missing in action - of the mothballed tug, John Purves?
(See the cautionary tale, Beware of Dearly Departed Thin Cooks Bearing Strange Gifts in the Armageddon Footnotes of The Dead Sea Scrolls.)
And there she is, side on to us, the mighty John Purves, tug and destroyer of U-boats. Next to her is the diminutive Fred A Busse, former Chicago fire boat - despite dark rumours, the boat was never used by Al Capone, after he missed the bus, to escape from Alcatraz.
But to find out the black and white of it all, Bob casually saunters towards the vessels.
Bravely, the Sergeant-Major descends into the engine room of the John Purves to where former pirate Captain Blackbeard is waiting. But Bob is quite safe. The man now proudly wearing a colour co-ordinated yellow jacket has a grey beard in keeping with his born-again status as a volunteer by name of Mike, who knows everything about the history of the tug in its unending fight against the U-boat menace on Lake Michigan.
All is spic and span and ready for action, should the coast guard be overrun by U-boats and pirates. This is one red tug that will answer the nation's call should eye-patch terrorists on floating doors threaten the home land security of the great lakes.
But, alas, the tug's twin propeller shafts have been removed - thus Mike, Dr John and other patriotic volunteers would have to paddle the tug out to intercept Al-Qaeda surfing operatives and those terrorist peering through U-boat periscopes.
Having seen the cook, the Sergeant-Major is wary about even touching the fruit, let alone accepting the 21st birthday gift left on the table. A parcel bomb of 21 large nitro glycerin capsules is not out of the question.
On the way to reporting the bomb birthday present, we are stopped by a battery of signs and the absence of any other living human beings. Homeland security must be in the bionic hands of robots.
This could be a terrorist trick! Nothing for it but to check this out further.
The Sergeant-Major insists on going bravely alone to check out this strange apparition at the end of the pier. Could it be a communist lighthouse - a cheap import from Red China - or the very top of a huge intercontinental ballistic missile?
Dr John reaches for his cell phone, ready to call in a hot-air balloon strike force, should the Sergeant-Major be captured by Red Chinese pirates .... in the event of it being an IBM taking off, Dr John would no doubt commandeer a fighter balloon and attempt to pluck the Sergeant-Major from the top of the missile. Former MASH flight surgeons are dashing heroes like that.
But all is well. A working tugboat happened by and took us all back home. The Captain's mysterious radio call en route had brawny men in white coats waiting at the wharf to greet us. One let slip that their place had funky padded walls and thick doors.
001 Niagara Falls