Al Levenson sighting

The following was found in a dog-eared notebook with a top-of- page date of Nov 16, 2013.  I have no explanation for how it got there and regard it as further evidence of the existence of aliens.

Although there is no credible evidence that anyone by the name of Al Levenson ever existed in the Bay Area, the myth persists,  largely fueled by sasquatch-like sightings and an erratic flow of anonymous writing.

One report as recent as the summer of 2013 put this creature in the Northeast corner of the country, an unexplored, thinly populated area known locally as ME.  The inhabitants are known pranksters and are first cousins to the Crop Circle Cults in England and Midwestern US.   One story had Levenson claiming to have discovered the elusive Chocolate Mouse. After ME came MA and PA–sounds backwards, doesn’t?  Then FL and AL followed by MS, which should surprise no one. And continuing to LA, FA, SOL, LA, TI, DO, TX, NM, and AZ.

The writing that appears spontaneously on a web site at: WWW.ALLevenson1.Wordpress.com  is thought to be produced by 50 monkeys imprisoned in a basement who peck away at random keys on assorted laptops.  The monkeys are fed a diet of Woody Allen movies and oats that have passed through the digestive system of horses and bulls, Where do hoaxes like this come from and how do they thrive?

Posted from Jacksonville, FL  

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The Pelican Tree

From a block away the Pelican Tree is just a skeleton of an aging tree.  But as you approach something wonderful happens.  As if emerging from a dream shapes appear, shore birds resting on the tree limbs.  And pop, the birds are roosting permanently.

 Long1 Long2 Long3

In 1995 this was a healthy liveoak tree when hurricane Opal stripped the tree and and destroyed many dilapidated buildings on the St Andrews waterfront.  The townspeople were determined to rebuild the area.  They bean by clearing the rubble, when they came to the tree they decided to hire a local chain saw artist.  Today the Pelican Tree stands as a symbol of the town’s determination to live on.

 

Sculpture4 Sculpture3 Sculpture2detail3detail2

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Bullwinkle–fourth encounter

 

It was a masterpiece of poor planning that found me still in Maine the first week of November 2013.  Winter slapped me upside my head, and I headed south with too many promises to keep.  It took me six weeks to get to Crawfordville, Florida, on the edge of Apalachicola National Forest.  I rolled in on six miles of paved road and a couple of miles of unpaved washboard that did a shake, rattle, and roll number on the Jolly Swag if I let the spedo creep above ten miles per hour.

It was dusk when I found the secret cove I had discovered 18 months ago, a spot designated as Pope Still on the forest map.  First thing I saw was a deer hanging by his hind legs from an iron crosstree structure.  The rope went up and over a horizontal beam and down at a steep angle to the bumper of a pickup truck.  I had arrived during hunting season.

I eased my way through the path paved with pine needles to a clearing I remembered a hundred yards away, and packed it in for the night.  I could see four trailers in the area beyond the pickup truck.  The hunters sat around their campfire well into the night and were gone in the morning.

This was not going to be the peaceful retreat it was a year-and-a-half before when the population was three. Besides me there was Bob and Bull.

Bob sat behind the wheel of his station wagon reading paperbacks.  He moved the van a few feet every hour or so to dodge the sun.  We exchanged but a couple of words in the week or more I was there.

Bullwinkle, a Nam vet who chose this patch of forest as the arena to confront his personal demons–his personal hidey-hole.  Over the course of a few days, Bull shared a number of stories with me.  Then one day, he was simply gone.

I devoted three blogs to the man. 

Bullwinkle, First Encouter.

Bullwinkle, Second Encounter

and Bullwinkle, Third Encounter 

I reread them and recalled how his story had touched me and dozens of people who follow this blog.  

Pope Still as a hunt camp held little of the oasis flavor of my previous stop.  I drove into town, stopped at the library, and found a spot to set up my laptop and check on a few days of email. 

I was deeply into the hypnosis of the computer screen, when a deep voice boomed throughout the library.  “Who owns that motorhome outside?” 

I turned to see a big guy with a foot of whiskers and an orange whistle hanging on his chest. 

“Bull,” I said with a vigor that forgot this was a library. 

He turned and looked at me.

“Do you remember me? “  I asked.

His faced rounded to accommodate a toothless smile, and he nodded.

“I remember.”  Then he added.  “You going to be here a while?  I’m here for a meeting.”

“I’ll stick around until you’re finished,”  I said.

Email was long finished, and I’d been back to the Jolly Swag for a snack and a nap.  Two hours had gone by, but Bull’s rig was still parked next to mine. 

Finally, he came out of the meeting.

“That was my PTSD group a volunteer therapist runs it once a month.  I think it does some good.”

“I went out to Pope Still looking for you last night.”

“I don’t go out there much.  I park the rig at my church.  I do nighttime security for them, and they let me plug in.”

“The church you took me to for supper when I was here?”

“Probably the same one.”

“How’s your health?”  I asked.

“ ’Bout the same.”

We ran out of small talk quickly.  I wanted to get a few miles of Panhandle done before dark.

“Let me get a couple of pictures of you before I go.”

 

Bullwinkle 12-13 Bullwinkle 12-13 two Bullwinkle 12-13 three

 

Bullwinkle 12-13 four

He hasn’t changed much, has he?

 

I don’t exactly know when or even if I’ll get back to Crawfordville again.  But there is a part of me that would like to know that Bull is doing OK.  I’m thinking that if I head east on a southern route, I ought to see if I can get supper at his church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Morgan’s Wonderland

 

At the intersection of a self made multimillionaire, a worthwhile project, and personal motivation, something wondrous occurred in San Antonio, Texas.

Sign entrance

In 22 years Gordon Hartman built his home construction and land development business from scratch into the largest in San Antonio.  Then he sold it and in 2005 founded The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, devoted to helping children and adults with special needs.  Gordon and Maggie Hartman are inspired by their daughter Morgan, who was born with cognitive and physical special needs.

 11Sign Morgan's Inspiration TEXT

 

And Morgan’s Wonderland was born. 

12Hands and butterfly

13sign dedication

 

14Sign.  Taking fliight

Instead of building a park and then making accommodations for individuals with special needs, Morgan’s Wonderland began by identifying the obstacles special needs people deal with, and then designed the park to overcome those obstacles.

 

area1 

 

Swings that accommodate wheelchairs

Swings that accommodate wheelchairs

 

area12

 

Several chimes and percussion instruments

Several chimes and percussion instruments

 

Catch ad release fishing

Catch ad release fishing

 

area17catfish

 

Pirate's Island

Pirate’s Island

 

Gyraters

Gyraters

  

Gyraters and water cannons

Gyraters and water cannons

 

Train eng1

 

There are lots of graphics of kids with assistive devices. 

kids Image1

 

Kid's image2

 

kid's Image3

 

Kids image4

 

kid's image5

 

6'4" Morgan Hartman and friend

6’4″ Morgan Hartman and friend

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Ha’ Past Texas. 14 Years Ago

My most recent post tickled an ancient memory.  Where have I heard the phrase “Half Past Texas” before?  When my memory cells found it, I had plagiarized myself! 

Just before the turn of the millennium, I indulged myself in ten weeks of playing hooky from work.  I left the Bay Area in my mini-van in November, bound for the annual Levenson Family Turkey Excess, and coasted through the rest of the year and a few weeks more.

Even in those days I was given to self-indulgent journaling and inflicting the outpouring on friends and family. 

Below is the sixth post of that trip.  Who knew I was only apprenticing for the current three-plus years of back-roads tumbling and tens of thousands of words of observations outward and inward.

You sharp-eyed folks will notice I spent New Year’s Day in Austin, Texas in 2000 and again in 2014. 

So join me in a little nostalgia trip:

 

6. Ha’ past Texas — day 58

“There is no place in Big Bend National Park that is not a good place to watch the sunset,” the ranger said.

I arrived late in the morning of January 2.  I left Austin on New Year’s day, which I spent with my Puerto Rican sailing buddy, Vitin,  as soon as it appeared that Alabama was going to blow out Texas in the Cotton Bowl.  I logged 300+ miles across some of the loneliest landscape in the country and ran out of popcorn in Langtry, Texas, where I parked in the parking lot of the Judge Roy Bean visitor center.  Then upanatem for the last 250 miles (there are no short hops in Texas) to the southwest corner.

Fort Lauderdale was a faded memory, although I had stretched the nostalgia trip out visiting a couple of pals in west Florida.  I depressurized with a couple of days in Apalachicola NF before taking the slow route along the Gulf coast of Florida.  (Anyone who thinks California is a long state has never done the Gulf coast of Florida).

The battleship Alabama is within sight of the interstate.  So I pulled off and indulged my lifelong interest in naval architecture and maritime history.  The Alabama is a very well-restored battleship.  A floating gun platform and awesome weapon at the outbreak of WWII and obsolete by the time the war was over.  The park also has an aircraft pavilion with several superb WWII aircraft as well as a B-52.  I spent the day.

On my way to see some friends in Houston, I saw a sign for the Battleship Texas.  I went out of my way to view this WWI-style battleship.  Impressive technology for its time, a ship that still served in WWII.

On to Austin for New Year’s Eve with a long time sailing pal from Puerto Rico.  His kids are the only kids in the world allowed to call me Grandpa.

Big Bend is a nice place to get to:  T-shirt weather during the day, with nights in the 20s.  On the last leg of the drive into the park, I noted that I had passed the 10.000-mile mark of my voyage — that is a long wake for any ship.  I am giving myself another ten days to wind down this trip.  Carlsbad in still ahead, so is Lew in Arizona, and Ruth in Monterey.

Home by ha’ past January.

Leave a light on.

Luv,

AL

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Half Past Texas

Jan 8, 2014.  From an I-10 rest stop 375 miles east of El Paso.

Texas is BIG, ask anyone who’s driven across it.  You think you will have another birthday before Texas is in the rearview.

This time my cruise across Texas is taking longer than ever before because I stopped for dinner with friends Ben and Priscilla in San Antonio.  It was so much fun to see them, hang out, and get around San Antonio, it took nearly a week to get on the road again.

San Antonio has a couple of highlights worth mentioning and blogging about as soon as I get to it.

Riverwalk, the most visited travel destination in the state.

Morgan’s Wonderland, an extraordinary amusement park designed especially for people with special needs. 

Bibliotech

  the country’s first all-digital public library.

Then up to Round Rock, near Austin, to look in on my pal, Vitin.  Vitin and I go wa-ay back, back to Puerto Rico when, as an 11-year old, he was the best sailboat washer I ever had–later to become an ace part of my racing crew.  Vitin came to live with us in Ft Lauderdale, where he spent several high school years before moving on with his own life.  Today, a grandfather himself, he is still the genuinely good human being he was apprenticing to be forty years ago.  We pigged out on college bowl football games and ancient sea stories.

Then a lunch date with my pal, Linda, from Quartzite days.

And on to I-10, the street that starts in Jacksonville, FL and ends in San Diego.

I saw a sign this morning that said the speed limit was 80.  I heard some highway had raised the speed limit to the highest posted speed in the country.  Now we all know about I-10

Speed limit 80

  

Maybe El Paso tonight, but surely Las Cruces, NM by tomorrow, where I might circle the wagon for a day before slipping across southern AZ for my reunion with Quartzite, AZ. 

Quartzite home of t Bare-Assed-Bookseller–(http://wp.me/P11rtv-ex) (http://wp.me/P11rtv-eT) where the town’s population swells in size by 50 or 75 times with RVs from all over the paved universe.  They turn a 100-square-mile patch of desert into an RV rally that is a spectacle that rivaling a combined Woodstock, the Orange Bowl half-time show, and Burning Man.

Quartzite, the place that elevated my expectations about what might be possible for a motorhome tumbleweed. 

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People We Lost in 2013

 

I scanned CNN’s list of 100 people who passed on in 2013.

I was reminded I wrote four obits in 2013:

Dick Newick, naval architect with a specialty in sailing trimarans. http://wp.me/p31Ng8-4H

Paolo Soleri, ecological architect http://wp.me/p31Ng8-2z

Ed Lyman, storyman.  http://wp.me/p31Ng8-3K

Jack Gilbert, Poetryman.  http://wp.me/p31Ng8-3P

We also lost Nelson Mandela, whose name and persona will live in history as long as anyone of this generation.

 

And

Maggie Thatcher

Peter O’Toole, I saw him in Theater in the Round in Philadelphia 50 years ago.

David Frost, who got Richard Nixon to admit he let down the American people and secured Frost his 15 minutes of fame

Eydie Gorme, the iconic torchy singer. “Guess who I saw today, my dear.”

Elmore Leonard ,  “Nobody edits ME.”

Jonathon Winters, a funny man who never used a four-letter word on stage.

Stan Musial, a baseball superstar before the word was coined.

Roger Ebert, together again with Gene Siskel.

There were more, but this is the list of people I wept for.  Who is on your list that I missed?

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