Sunday, March 29, 2015

BLEEDING EDGE in Paperback!

Hippocampus Press, the folk who just released my first short story collection (A CONFEDERACY OF HORRORS) have now put out a paperback version of the anthology THE BLEEDING EDGE (edited by Jason Brock and William F. Nolan). THE BLEEDING EDGE was previously only available as a limited edition hardback, so this is indeed welcome news!

Some of my long-time blog audience should recall my trip to California to be a part of the mass author signing for the book. Ray Bradbury, Norman Corwin, and John Tomerlin were there and all three have passed away since. I was fortunate to have met them all that day.

If you're looking for a new volume of fantastic fiction for your library, buy a copy of this new edition of THE BLEEDING EDGE.


Ray Bradbury autographing my copy of the anthology.

Among some genuinely great authors.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


I got out of comics before Warren Ellis became a big name in that industry . I was barely aware of him when I walked away from comics and have to admit that I don't recall reading any of his work in that format. But his name was everywhere whenever I would check into what passes for journalism in the comic book publishing business, so I was aware of him.

Recently I was in an independent bookstore and they had a novel by him on sale. The price was right and the cover blurbs looked interesting. So...what the Hell...I decided to spring for the price of the novel.

It's called GUN MACHINE and it's pretty good. It's a classic detective novel featuring a New York City Police detective. The first five chapters or so are jam-packed with classic detective novel simile. Think the best of the old cats in the form and not some of the talented newer folk like Joe Lansdale. That stuff hooked me but I began to wonder if he could do that for the duration of the entire novel. My feeling is that he could, but chose not to do that. The average reader would have been hooked by that point, so why wring the old drippy gray thing dry when you don't have to?

The story centers on Detective John Tallow who, in the first few pages of the novel, loses his partner to a crazed naked man brandishing a 12-guage shotgun (said nudist blowing his partner's brains out). Tallow returns fire, kills the guy, and then makes an accidental discovery that brings down a shit-storm of woe on the detective and the investigative team who form around the event.

Ellis tells the story in quick, short, effective chapters, splitting the narrative between Tallow and the mysterious killer we see described only as "the Hunter". Tallow has to figure out the origin and the meaning of an apartment decorated with hundreds of handguns used in the commission of murders. What is the gun used by the Son of Sam doing in there as a part of that metal collage? And how did that gun even get there when it's supposed to be in police-controlled storage?

The author takes the reader on a curious journey through the history of the City of New York. From its earliest days as land being stolen from its native inhabitants, to the modern mystery of corruption and calculated murder.

It's quite a feat and I rather enjoyed it. My only problem with the book at all was one moment over a chance meeting that was so improbable that it bugged me to no end, and I couldn't figure out why Ellis couldn't have come up with a better way to otherwise create an explanation for how those two characters could have met.

But if that's all that bugged me, that's a rare feat.

A pretty darned good book. I'll have to see what other prose he's written. But I still haven't read any of his comics. Not sure if I will. Superheroes and all that kind of stuff, you know...

GUN MACHINE by Warren Ellis.

Friday, March 27, 2015

How the (Liberal) Media Got Us Mountaintop Removal

When I was in high school I recall the corporate move to deregulate coal mining. All of the network news stations were in on the propaganda push to change the rules that resulted in the ecological rape we know as mountaintop removal. One particular slant they'd take was to show poor little wildcat coal miners. These were small operators--sometimes one guy--who owned maybe a front end loader, a bulldozer, and a pair of overalls. They'd trot one of these pathetic bastards out and he'd say:

"If'n I could grade away a few feet o' that thar hill I could git at that dab o' coal in thar and feed mah fambly."

Then everyone watching would feel really sorry for the hayseed workin' hard to feed his chirren.

Occasionally they'd have maybe a five-second sound bit of an ecologist warning that big operators would take those changes and tear down entire mountain ranges to get at the coal. After which the reporter would roll his eyes, or they'd have a coal company mouthpiece exclaiming how that would NEVER happen.

Well, it did happen.

People should be shot. Especially the bought and paid for "journalists" who supplied the lying propaganda.

SURFACE MINING AND CONTROL RECLAMATION ACT OF 1977. (The billionaires were drooling and Jimmy Carter signed it into law.)

People should be strung up and hanged by the neck for these kinds of ecological crimes. One of the most horrible things about all this is the language energy corporations use to describe the operations. In their terminology, mountains are called "overburden".

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mainly, TV Sucks

I grew up on television like almost everyone else has. My parents may have been unusual in many ways, but we always had a TV in the house and I always had access to it. Since my parents both preferred to read rather than watch TV I found that I could generally watch what I wanted to watch. So, like most Americans I watched way the hell too much TV.

As I got older I became less and less interested in the old boob tube. It was rare that I liked anything enough to anticipate it and work my schedule around it. I pretty much stopped paying attention to television when I was in my mid 20s. It just wasn't my bag.

However, over the years, I would occasionally stumble upon something that I liked that was made for television audiences. And sometimes those shows would surprise me with particularly good writing and singular performances and productions.

Here are two such productions that did so:

The first one I want to mention was a two-part episode done for a TV show that I seem to have watched alone, in all of the USA. It was called FRANK'S PLACE and starred Tim and Daphne Reid (real-life husband and wife) who own a restaurant in downtown New Orleans. When I mention this series to anyone they don't know what the hell I'm talking about. I never encounter anyone who has heard of it, much less watched it.

By Jove, I watched it. There were only 22 episodes and I don't think I missed but one or two of them. And, yes, I was bummed out when it was canceled.

The most powerful episode was actually a two-parter. It was called "Cool and the Gang Part 1" and "Cool and the Gang Part 2". The thrust of the story dealt with the experience of one of the
Frank's Place employees, the youthful Cool Charles portrayed brilliantly by William Thomas, Jr. In this two-parter the kid becomes involved in drug dealing and soon finds himself with lots of money. But things do not go well. He descends quickly into a hellish life but realizes before it's too late that he has a good way out--toward his friends who love him. The acting is spectacular. Some might call it hokey and false, but they'd be wrong. I found it to be the best of what drama can offer.

Not from that episode, but a brief clip from FRANK'S PLACE.

The other TV production that stunned me was an episode of THE X-FILES. I will assume that most of the readers here are familiar with the alien-chasing FBI agents of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. So I will dispense with explaining such familiarities.

There had been a number of really well-written episodes of the show. I should know, because I watched most of them, since it was one of the few horror/fantasy oriented TV shows on prime-time television in those days.

The episode that amazed me and showed me how good TV could actually be was written by Darin Morgan, directed by David Nutter. That episode was "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" and co-starred Peter Boyle as a life insurance salesman who can sometimes see the future deaths of people he encounters.

Although dealing with the darkest of dramatic elements (murder, suicide, loneliness, despair),
the telepaly is punctuated by wry humor and is wonderfully played by all of the actors, most notably Peter Boyle who portrays the most unfortunate Clyde Bruckman of the show's title. As I watched that story unfold I knew that I was seeing something special and brilliant and that I would not likely see this kind of thing again. And I was right. Since that show I don't think I've seen anything that has come anywhere close to the quality of that episode of that particular TV series.

The late Peter Boyle.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Once again I ended up with a comic book that was not on my want list. This one is OUT OF THE NIGHT #1 from ACG (American Comics Group). ACG was one of those companies that outlasted most of the other second-tier publishers and was creating comics long after so many others had packed it in and ceased publication. They went toe to toe with Marvel and DC and finally bit the dust in 1967 during the superhero boom.

This book was one of their horror titles. ACG was one of the first comics publishers to capitalize on the horror genre with their title ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN. This book, OUT OF THE NIGHT, was obviously created to cash in on the popularity of horror comics.

I was attracted to it for several reasons. Among those is that it's a first issue, and it has a really cool, garish cover. But the main thing that made me grab this copy (other than the low price I got on it) was the Al Williamson, Harold LeDoux artwork inside. The two illustrate a werewolf story that's pretty weird and the illustrations sparkle. 

Publishing information inside indicate that this book was published in 1951.

Williamson's style was striking. Frazetta could ape it, but few others could match the flowing lines of his pencil.

The werewolf in this tale is largely human, initially lacking fur.

Yes, this was a horror comic.

The strange plotting of a werewolf against his victims! "Good Heavens!"

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Vacated Childhood

Sometimes I happen to drive through towns or cities where I lived with my parents when I was growing up. These days there is absolutely nothing whatsoever in those places that is welcoming to me or which resembles in any way the comforts of--as they used to say--home and hearth.

It's strange to travel through these spots, now. What were once areas where I could count on something approaching welcome there is now only coldness and a lurking fear. These days I don't even have photographs of these old homes and neighborhoods. The houses that my parents either owned or rented are mainly gone. I used to joke that wherever I lived was later leveled.

There's nothing quite like the iciness of traveling through a town that once held the promise of a safe place to lay one's head, and a warm home where you could retreat from the rain with the security of four walls and supportive allies. Now, when I move through these towns and cities all I see are buildings and streets and strangers and no hope of any finer emotion.

I never lived in this house. But this wreck isn't far from where I did live when I was a kid in the hell-hole known as Brunswick, Georgia. When I was a child, Brunswick had an economy based on industry of various types. Chemical companies, pulp mills, industrial fabricators, and other such ongoing concerns. One by one those places closed up shop, some of them leaving hideously polluted superfund sites. This crappy shell is typical of the structures still standing in Brunswick. My skin crawls whenever I do happen to travel through this horrid little burg, but I sometimes force myself to go back there to take photographs of places I recall. I have one single friend who still lives there, but mainly I stay the HELL away from it, zipping past at the speed limit on the rare occasions when I do travel nearby. I once took my wife to see Brunswick, and after about 30 minutes she started begging me to get her out of there as fast as I could. I complied.

This is Decatur, Georgia. I rather liked Decatur when I was living there as a kid. Some of the happiest memories of my life are from that time. The town was pretty cool in those days, and it's pretty cool now. But there is no one there for me and if I go back, the only thing in the way of a welcome is what I can buy from a lodging establishment and a restaurant.

My parents' first bookstore was somewhere around this area (North Highland Avenue), circa 1966. It was a great bookstore and I loved being in it. It's where my dad began to accumulate the vast stock of old comics I was able to rummage through during my childhood. It's rare that I encounter a comic book that was published after 1955 or so that I haven't at least held in my hands.

This is Macon, Georgia. Another town that holds absolutely nothing for me. This was on Poplar Street where my parents' bookstore was located. Also known as "the Avenue of Flags" because of the state flags project. My parents funded one of them--the flag for the US Virgin Islands. That was a place they longed to visit, but which they never got to see. I did visit the

Islands, partly because of their fascination with that part of the Caribbeans. As for Macon...the only thing that could entice me to visit it again would be to see the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds.

This is part of downtown Ellijay, Georgia. When I lived in the county it was 100% white and was easily the most virulently racist spot I ever lived. You learned to keep your fucking mouth shut there. One of my teachers was a supporter of a well-known neo-Nazi (JB Stoner) and the school system would bring in Christian evangelists to regale the student body with messages from Christ (against the law and all that, but who was going to complain?). Ironically, I had pretty fun teenage years and developed my love of the outdoors there and learned to hike and backpack. I was also active in sports--football, track, and wrestling. We were rarely in the town itself because we lived on 120 acres of forest on the other side of the county on a chunk of wilderness where our nearest neighbor lived 2.5 miles away and the nearest paved road was more than four miles distant and our driveway was exactly one mile long. I miss the land, but not the ignorant, hateful, racist folk who lived in Ellijay. There is nothing there for me, now.

Monday, March 23, 2015


There is a kind of charm to the SPEEDBALL series. Ditko crammed quite a lot of story into what was then a small publishing package. The size of your average monthly comic book at that time was reduced quite a lot from Ditko's days in the Golden Age and Silver Age. He figured a way around this by packing a lot of panels to the page--sometimes ten or twelve panels. Gone were his grand splash pages of the early days, reserving those for the opening shots of each issue.

Another thing he did that was old-school was that he sometimes had two separate stories in each issue. This also harkened back to the very early days of the resurgent superhero comics of the Silver Age. There is also the possibility that Ditko knew that the modern fan base might not go for his new series and he wanted to establish Speedball as a character and set up a history and a mythos as quickly as possible within the run of the book while he had the chance.

If that last possibility was correct, then it was the right thing to do. Because SPEEDBALL was canceled after only ten issues. The new crop of kids and subnormal adults in those days acting as Marvel's fan-base just weren't impressed with the old master's title. And so Ditko went back to doing his own thing on his own time and Marvel got yet another creation which they could turn into cash at some future date.

And so it goes.


SPEEDBALL #7. Ditko delivers one of his typical villains, a masked gunman.

SPEEDBALL #8. This is probably my favorite cover of the bunch. Featuring one of the simplest bad guys I've ever seen Ditko produce. And all the more appealing for that simplicity. Read it if you can find it.

SPEEDBALL #9...continuing the adventures of a teenaged superhero who still lives at home with his parents.

The last issue. Twisted science and criminal mayhem! What did Ditko suspect about Monsanto?! The finale of the series in which one of the bad guys is croaked in typical Ditko fashion.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


I recall being told about this drama queen who phoned his parents (several times!) to tell them that they were "dead to him"!

I couldn't stop laughing.

I don't know about you, but I don't speak to dead people.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Most of my collection of Steve Ditko comics are from 1968 and before. For a long time I didn't consider much of his later work for my collection for many reasons. I was mainly collecting his comics material because of feelings of nostalgia. So, even though Ditko was far more productive after 1968 than he was before that, I wasn't seriously looking upon that material as collectible.

But then I happened to buy a huge stack of Ditko's Charlton ghost stories mainly from the 1970s and early 80s. This was, I discovered, nice work. Especially the covers. And, of course, I decided to give such work consideration and began to collect it.

One title of which I was aware was SPEEDBALL. This is one he created upon his belated return to working at Marvel Comics. It's a hard one to pin down, and not among my favorite works by Mr. Ditko. He created, plotted, and penciled all of the ten issues he produced before it was canceled. But it's not the kind of thing that was foremost in my mind to add to the boxes of my Ditko books.

Finally, though, I located an entire set in nearly new condition at a silly-low price and took them home. The covers are pretty good for this period for Ditko, but the interiors just don't do it for me. There's not a lot of inventive use of layouts there, and none of the inkers seem to have appreciated delineating his pencils. I do understand that Ditko was all about laying down the line in quick order as he went into his later years--giving what he felt was a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. Perhaps that's why there's almost no magic to this series.

When I compare it to something like STATIC, which he did not too many years before SPEEDBALL, there is an enormous difference in quality. Maybe he just wasn't going to bust a gut for Marvel. It's hard to say.

The dialog is by Roger Stern, and I see little of Ditko's political and philosophical dogma running through the stories, but that stuff is there if you pay attention. In addition, there seems to be a struggle afoot between the creator and the publisher:

SPEEDBALL was marketed (it seems to me) as a book for younger readers. There is a grade-school feel to the logic and storytelling there. But it also has a hard edge to it in some of the adventures--and knowing Ditko's black/white good/evil way of seeing the world, I wonder if the series was indeed intended by him to be aimed at younger readers, or if the book was blind-sided by the publisher and its editors.

Who knows?

At any rate, I added them to my collection. It ain't THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and it's not STATIC, and it's not even THE CREEPER or THE BLUE BEETLE. But it's still Ditko.

SPEEDBALL #1. Ditko starts off the series with a butt shot of the new hero. From everything I've read, his old professional nemesis Stan Lee HATED such covers. Seems fitting Ditko would deliver exactly thus since Liar Lee wasn't in the position to nix the cover at this point.

Issue #2. One of the weirder villains.

#3. Ditko seemed to enjoy creating superheroes who are not supremely powerful. Speedball is just such a creation. Unique, but not god-like. And so the villains he faced were similar in stature.


SPEEDBALL #5. I didn't particularly care for the inking done on any of the ten issues. It's all just uninspired. Decent, but there's no magic or care in it. I suspect Ditko must have been delivering the least amount of detail in his pencils and layouts.

Friday, March 20, 2015

I Remember...

Years and years ago I did a stream-of-consciousness exercise at this blog where I listed 100 things (and people) I loved. After a while I realized that I didn't love most of the people I'd listed. The ones I actually knew, I mean.

So I began to pare the list. My situation has altered and my tastes have changed. The people I actually know are mainly gone, because love is a two-way street. The people whose work still inspires me or whose work still brings me joy remain, but those people were always strangers (at best) and mere historical artifacts, and are mainly dead and gone.

I left on all of the places I enjoy experiencing and the foods I have enjoyed consuming and the films I have enjoyed watching and books I've enjoyed reading and things I enjoy using and even the single politician I admire.

“I remember awakening one morning and finding everything smeared with the color of forgotten love.”-- Charles Bukowski.

Here's one who remains on the list. Never knew her, of course. But I still listen to her work.

26: Anita O'Day.

Anita O'Day in 1957 or so. The year of my birth.
And in 1963 when I would have been six years old. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

SF is Right Wing?

I have never been a huge science fiction fan. I know that sounds weird coming from a guy who grew up reading tons of science fiction anthologies and magazines and novels. But it never made up a large percentage of what I consumed. Perhaps five percent of the fiction I was reading for most of my life has been sf.

In the past decade or so I began to read more of it. Again, it still was not making up a majority of what I was reading, but I had been picking up science fiction novels and anthologies more than in my youth.

And I was struck by something:

A lot of the science fiction I was reading, (and a lot of the science fiction fans I was meeting), are politically right wing. I'm not talking just a tad to the right. I mean full-on Libertarian Fascism. With the exception of Richard K. Morgan, most of the speculative fiction I was discovering is, it seems, being written by people with right wing extremist motives and sympathies.

Has this always been the case?

Yes, I know that shit-hole Robert Heinlein has always been a darling of sf fandom. And I used to encounter right wing creeps on most of the sf-oriented chatrooms back in the early days of the Internet.  For instance, when I tried to interact with Bradbury fans to get information I needed for a project I discovered that they were almost all politically to the right and eager to bombard the Internet with their poisonous dogma. (This should not have surprised me terribly because I already knew that Bradbury had obviously gone from a politically progressive young man to a right wing shithead by his later years.)

But is the majority of the modern science fiction literary scene infected with right wing mania?

I do know that I have quickly grown sick of trying to read these Libertarian/religious/Objectivist/Fascist screeds in the form of science fiction novels and stories. I've reached a point where I'm prepared to swear it all off and go back to reading non-fiction to get away from the endless drone of science-fiction's neo-Fascist themes.


Is all modern SF nothing but Fascistic shite?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Harmless Question

Jack met Winfield years ago at a mutual friend's house in Atlanta. He was there to visit his old pal Earl who wanted to buy some of Jack's old comics. Some years before Jack had stopped investing in collectible comics, but he still had a few choice items to get rid of and Earl was interested in them. After brief introductions, Jack asked what Winfield did for a living.

"I work for the *** Intelligence Agency," he said. "I've been a Federal employee for most of my working life."

 Winfield was a nice enough fellow but didn't have a lot to say and seemed the type who was just as happy listening to conversations as taking part in them. Later, after he'd had time to think back on it, Jack figured that it was probably a great quality to have considering Winfield's line of work. Being a good listener seems to be at the heart of what he would do.

Jack had made time to spend most of an afternoon at his friend's place to discuss comics and to show the old books that he had for sale. The intelligence guy had an interest in comics but didn't actively collect old books the way it was with Jack and Earl. But he knew enough to be able to talk about comic book creators and publishers.

After a while, Jack realized that there was a question he wanted to ask the other guest, but didn't know how he'd react to it. This was in the days before the Internet was widely available (at least to Jack) and his only sources of news information were TV, radio, and whatever domestic and foreign newspapers he could search through at the local library. But it was something that he was really curious about, so he just decided, hell with it. I'll ask him.

"Tell me something--and if I'm out of line, just let me know. I was wondering about a foreign policy event."

"Sure," he said. "If it's out of line I'll tell you." Winfield wasn't being a smart ass; it was just a fact.

"Okay, then. What I've been curious about was whether or not the US or the US and some European countries whacked Alexander Lebed."

"Alexander Lebed? The name sounds Slavic."

"Yeah. A retired Russian military officer who was into politics. I was wondering if he was assassinated or if his death really was an accident."

He shrugged. "Sorry.  I don't know anything about Russia. That's not my area of expertise. I am an analyst, but I don't  deal with eastern Europe."

"Oh. Okay, then." And Jack let it rest with that and Winfield genuinely didn't seem upset that he'd asked the question.

After that Jack went back to talking to their host about comic books and sports and the weather and whatnot. They all thumbed through old comics and sat and drank beer and conversed.

But one thing about Winfield was that the wheels had not stopped turning since that question. He'd apparently got it stuck in his noggin and the gears were engaged.

"Was he alone?"

"What? Was who alone?"

About two hours had passed since Jack asked him what he feared might be a sensitive question.

"This guy. Alexander Lebed. Did he die alone, or were one or more of his closest associates killed with him?"

"Oh," Jack said, surprised that he'd decided to bring it up again out of the blue. "No. He was killed in a helicopter with his advisers. I've forgotten how many were killed. Several."

"Well, then it was an assassination. Maybe we did it. Or someone did."

And that was that. He didn't say anything else about it, and Jack didn't, either. He ended up selling the old comic books--the last of his once large collection--to Earl and soon Jack left. He never saw the other guest again.

Grave of Alexander Lebed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Old Trip

Some years ago Carole and I decided that we wanted to explore some other freshwater springs in North America separate from the ones in Florida. We had read a lot about the springs mainly in Missouri, which included what is considered the highest volume freshwater spring in North America (Big Springs). So, we did our research and reserved our campsites and headed Midwest to visit them.

One huge misconception we had going in was that these would be similar to Florida springs as far as access is concerned. We figured we'd be able to swim in the springs and paddle around in them in our canoe and generally get as up-close with them as we had with the springs in Florida.


Mainly, no one is allowed to swim in these huge springs. You are allowed to use kayaks and canoes, but not in the main head springs. Only in spots downstream from the main body of the springs.

This proved to be a huge bummer.

Also, we knew the weather would be hot (it was August), but we'd never really considered how hellishly hot it gets in Missouri. I must have forgotten my Mark Twain stories! We hit a really bad spot of particularly nasty weather with temperatures in the high 90s and humidity levels in similar numbers. There were days that were pretty freaking miserable.

We had chosen to use one National Park campground and to do all of our exploring by road in our truck. This meant a fair amount of driving to hit all of the springs we had on our list. We managed to see them all, which was a plus, but the access to them was nothing like we were accustomed to getting at the springs in Florida.

Another big disappointment was the lack of wildlife. We didn't see anything at all out of the ordinary. Groundhogs. White-tailed deer. Mallard ducks. That sort of thing.

The one critter who did stand out was a baby muskrat we saw at Mammoth Springs. That spring is aptly named and once was used to generate a fair amount of electricity via a turbine that the volume of water ran until relatively recently. That little ball of fluff paid us almost no mind at all and just sat there in the spring eating greens and swimming about in little circles.

So, here's to one baby animal who made the trip a little more memorable.

A cute ball of waterproofed fluff.

He just sat and ate and ignored us.

Mammoth Springs is indeed enormous. In Arkansas, this was the only spring we explored outside of Missouri.

A dam which made the pool which allowed power to be produced.
Carole examines one of the now decommissioned turbines.

Greer Spring. By far the most beautiful of the big springs we visited on that trip.

The run below the spring head. The water was crystal pure. This spot reminded me a lot of the mountain streams here in North Carolina. Down here in this little limestone gorge the temperature was extremely cool and comfortable.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Well, we've booked our campsite for our first vacation of the year. We're headed to the panhandle of Florida where we'll be kayaking some waterways we've never seen. I like tackling new territory in the wilds, so this will be an adventure for Carole and me.

We get a huge kick out of hitting wild areas of Florida. Yes, I like the mountains. Give me the mountains most of the time. However, for sheer amount of wildlife, nothing can touch the low country of the southern states. When I go to the mountains, I never know if I'll even see any wildlife. Often I do, but sometimes I don't even see a bird. But when I hit a river or spring or hammock in's a wildlife bonanza!

If you're a birder, I can think of no finer location for viewing birds than Florida. If you're looking for megafanua...they have that, too. Every time I go there I will encounter large animals such as alligators, bears, sea turtles, Blue herons, manatees, deer, coyotes, and other such wildlife. The place is just packed cheek by jowl with all manner of wonderful critters.

So, just a few more weeks and off we go. I'm hoping to spy something new and different this time. One thing that I have never photographed in the wild is a bobcat. I know they're in the places I frequent, but they have remained so elusive for me that I've yet to get a photo of one.

One of many campgrounds we've enjoyed in Florida.
Paddling a crystal clear river.
A tiny key deer.


Gopher tortoise. Endangered species, of course.

"Let me climb down this tree, my good man, and fuck up your campsite."
Nice trails to hike!

What?! Another crystal clear river to kayak!
One of my favorite American birds. The Black buzzard.
A school of mullet I swam with in Silver Glen Spring.
A manatee! Probably the biggest animal I've encountered in Florida. I see them often, now that they've enjoyed several decades of protection as an endangered species. I rarely saw them when I was a kid.
The first magnitude springs of Florida. My favorite places in the state!

Jumping off the 20-foot diving platform at Wakulla Springs! I'll be there again in May!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I've Got a Big List

There are so many great parks and wilderness areas to visit, I am always stunned when I run into folk who complain that there's nothing to see or do in their area. For it's a rare place indeed that doesn't have something notable to offer from Mother Nature.

Over the past few years my wife and I have begun compiling a list of the parks and National Forest sites we want to visit when retirement offers us enough leisure time for such exploration. The list actually began to become somewhat ridiculous and so we stopped adding to it, because the USA and Canada have so damned many great spots to visit that trying to make a list of the need-to-see places became unbearably difficult.

So, we decided to just let the Internet do the listing for us, and we'll explore as we see fit when the time comes.

A while back I made a point of bookmarking every state park system on the Internet. Some states have amazing state park systems (California, West Virginia, Florida, etc.). And some states have pathetic state park systems (Georgia, North Carolina, Montana, etc.). I haven't figured out why some states suck at having nice parks and others are masters at it. In some instances it's a case of historical accident (the CCC was quite active in West Virginia and they've had to live with that happy occurrence), and other states work their asses off establishing a wonderful array of parks (such as Florida). And some states that by all accounts for natural beauty should have wonderful state parks instead offer anemic numbers and sad, gray places (my own state of North Carolina is unfortunately among this lot).

Then there are our National Forests. Many of them have eye-popping areas where one can wander and explore and see things most people never will. I can credit the Internet for opening up the world of our National Forest campgrounds and scenic areas and wilderness areas. Without the Internet connecting all of the dots I would likely still be ignorant of many places on my bucket list.

Retirement beckons to me in just a few years. I am champing at the bit to be rid of that particular yoke so that we can hit the road and see what's around the bend. The next mountain. The far lake. The flowing river. The still waters.

The places are out there. Look for them. Enjoy them.

Rhododendron tunnel, Nantahala National Forest.
Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area.
Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina.
Public library, Helvetia, West Virginia.
Oconee State Park, South Carolina.
Road to Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Wild turkey flock, Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Campsite, Cataloochee Campground, Great Smoky Mountains.