Monthly Archives: July 2005


Richmond, Indiana

Off to the Preble County Fair this afternoon. Preble County is just east of here, over the border in Ohio.

Preble County still has a large agricultural base, so we saw lots of animals. The Lincoln Sheep were pretty impressive, with their beautifully groomed woolly coats. We watched a little of the judging of goats, but I didn’t understand what was going on. The judge said things like, “I have to compliment number three on good mammary development,” and “The sides slope into the [incomprehensible], and the rear legs are nice and wide-spread.” Not sure what all that means. Personally, I liked the ducks the best. And the big beautiful Barred Plymouth Rock rooster, with his finely-barred black-and-white feathers. We also saw apples that were shown by one of Dick’s children at Wechsler Orchards, with lots of blue ribbons.

While we were looking for some shade, we wandered in to grandstand for the horse races, just as the pacers and trotters were warming up. Jean, being a horsewoman, had to stay and watch the horses, and then she said, can’t we stay and watch one race. Why not, Dick and I were game. The horse pulling their little sulkies behind were fun, but I liked watching the people watching the horses. Two older men sat just in front of us, racing programs well-thumbed. The one man had on a robin-egg blue polo shirt with eyes exactly the same color. His friend said one or two things in a low voice, but the blue-eyed man did not say a word that I heard. They were both intent on the various horses warming up.

In front of the, two people struck up a desultory converstaion. “What did they pay last year?” she said.

“Well, last year they didn’t pay much,” he said, “the ones that should’ve won did win.”

“See anything you like so far?” she said.

“Number 8 just rode by, and he looked pretty good there,” said the man.

Their conversation went on like that. Behind us, a similar conversation between people who just happened to be sitting near each other, and who shared a passion for horses, started out about which horses looked good, and did you see such-and-such a horse race, and then it turned from horses to the bypass surgery one man had had, and whether you’re a Hoosier or a Buckeye — “I may live in Indiana, but I say I’m not a Hoosier, I’m a Buckeye who happens to be a Hoosier until retirement” — to other odds and ends of conversation.

At last it was race time. The race was over pretty quickly, and it was exciting. Jean said, “I can see how people could get addicted to this.” The horse I had liked the looks of finished dead last, ten lengths or more behind the rest of the pack.


Richmond, Indiana

It took longer than I had hoped to get around this morning — a few last things to throw in the moving container — deposit some checks in the bank in St. Charles — a few last-minute things to clean in the apartment. At last everything was done, and I went and celebrated by having brunch at Egg Harbor Cafe on Third Street in Geneva: three blueberry pancakes with lots of butter, two eggs over easy, and a side of bacon. A good midwestern breakfast. Then I drove over the Fox River one last time, headed east on State Street, headed for the Atlantic Ocean.

Driving was pretty horrendous. The Tri-State Tollway was all backed up from the construction south of Chicago. And Interstate 70 is down to one lane in three places from Indianapolis. Fortunately, my sister called me on the cell phone and told me how to avoid the construction on I-70 around Richmond. But even so, I spent about two hours today crawling in traffic. Which is unpleasant in a car that has no air conditioning.

But at last I made it to Richmond, Indiana, where my older sister Jean lives. I chatted with her and her husband Dick, catching up on the latest review of Jean’s new book, the state of Dick’s new photography studio, and talking about the drive east.

Just in passing, Jean said something about cars and air conditioning. “Jean,” I said, “You know what kind of air conditioning I have in my car.”

“What?” she said, giving me a kind of deer-in-the-headlights look.

“465 air conditioning,” I said.

“Danny,” she said (she is the only person in the world who can get away with calling me “Danny,” so don’t you try), “You mean, 4 windows down at 65 miles per hour — you mean you don’t have air conditioning?” Her voice was rising a little at the end.

Dick walked in at this point, and when he was filled in, he laughed. But my sister doesn’t let these things get to her.

“Actually, in some ways I like it better without air conditioning,” she said. “You really feel like you’re driving, not speeding along in this hermetically sealed — thing.”

Dick rolled his eyes and walked out. There’s only so much brother-sister talk you can stand before it gets cloying. Then Jean said, “Do you have some good music?”

“Well,” I said, “The cassette player is kind of dying, so –”

That was too much for Jean. 465 air conditioning is one thing, but cassettes? I promised I would get a portable CD player, which we can plug into my antiquated car stereo.

“Cassettes,” she muttered, shaking her head.

Whereas I don’t care so much about cassettes, or CDs or DVDs or iPods. What I want to know is where I can get free wifi access. Jean’s laptop doesn’t even have a wifi card! — that’s where I start shaking my head.

Actually, I think what all this shows is that we both have the same father, an electrical engineer and quasi-audiophile, and someone who would talk to us about good writing and about journalism when we were kids. Do I even need to add that, like Dad and me, Jean has a wireless LAN in her house? — which I think is cool.

By such strange things do we sometimes define our relationships.

(By the way, Jean, “wifi” (proper acronym is “Wi-Fi) does stand for “wireless fidelity.” How do you like that?)

And counting…

Geneva, Ill.

With any kind of luck, the PODS people will come early tomorrow morning and pick up the moving container. I could be gone from Geneva within 24 hours. Wow.

First step — drive to my sister’s place in Richmond, Indiana. She says she’s going to take me to a county fair, and we’ll go see her horse, Buddy. After that, we start driving east.

Will post again when I can. While we’re on the road I’ll be looking for Panera’s, so I can get free wifi access along with lunch (note to big corporations like Starbucks — you want more business from me, get free wifi).

More soon….

Why craigslist is more than classified ads

Carol and I decided to get rid of our couch (which we got for ten bucks), so we put it on Craigslist for free. I heard from a few people who didn’t really want it, then a fellow named Gary who lives here in Geneva emailed and said he’d like to look at it. He came over with a friend, took one look, and said, “What a great couch, I’ll take it.” His friend, who was pretty quiet, said they were moving out to Sycamore, to a bigger apartment, and they liked the couch.

It is a great couch, comfy and friendly. “I’ll have a truck late Saturday, can I pick it then?” But I hope to start driving on Saturday, so he said he’d find a friend with a van.

Phone call next afternoon. “Dan, it’s Gary, I’ve got the van, can I come over now?” Fifteen minutes later a 10 year old Dodge Caravan pulls up. The driver is a woman named Sunny, who’s wearing a tie-dye tank top.

Gary and his friend wrestle with the couch, while Sunny and I move things out of the way. They’re trying to get it through the door, it won’t quite fit, and Sunny reaches over and unscrews the legs on the bottom of the couch. She’s the kind of person who knows to do things like that, and does them at just the right time. Her personality matches her name, too.

“Need rope to tie it in?” I ask. But no, of course Sunny has bungee cords.

As she’s bungee-ing the couch into the van, the three of us chat (the quiet friend leaves as soon as the couch is in the van). “Hey, if you’re not doing anything on Friday night, come on over to Sycamore Speedway,” she says. “I’m driving in the Demolition Derby.”

“What a blast,” I say, “what are you driving?”

“A mint-green Ford LTD,” she says, one from the mid-70’s. What a great car to do a demolition derby in. “I’m racing as the Menopausal Maiden from [and then she gave the name of her cleaning company, which I promptly forgot].”

Then the conversation turns to the Rainbow Family of Living Light. Do I know about them? Yes, I say, my cousin the Deadhead got involved with them for a while.

“People say, what’s the difference between the Deadheads and the Rainbow Family,” says Sunny, “They both wear tie-dye, right? –but I say, just look at the parking lot after a gathering of the Deadheads, and then look at our site after we leave. Trash everywhere with the Deadheads, but with ours, you wouldn’t even know we’d been there.”

She has pictures of this year’s gathering, and she shows them to us. “Hey, that guy’s naked,” says Gary, laughing.

“Peace, pot, and microdots, that’s our slogan,” says Sunny. “This one’s my husband. And this picture, you can’t really see it but this is looking across the meadow and that’s part of a circle of ten thousand people holding hands. I took like a panorama of pictures, one after the other, but the others are on another roll of film. And this couple got married at the gathering, on the Fourth of July.” I say, his shirt must be handmade. “Yes, and her dress is too.”

Sunny says a famous novelist often attends the Rainbow Family gatherings, which I didn’t know. I happen to know this writer’s daughter, and I ask Sunny if she has met the daughter, but she says no. She goes on: “I always say there are two most important jobs at the gathering: the shit diggers…” she pause, and Gary and I nod, of course they would be very important — “and the pocket trash people. I like the little kids who go around saying, pocket trash, and we all come out with our pocket trash.” Gary asks, what about the rest of the trash, but Sunny says, “What we pack in, we pack out. We all take our own trash out with us.”

“It’s all about healing the earth, and healing each other,” she says, “and having a good time.” We’ve been talking for a long time now, and Gary is clearly getting a little anxious, which I point out, and he says, yes he’s got a lot to do before he moves. So we all say good-bye. And maybe I’ll head up to Sycamore tomorrow, and look for a mint-green Ford LTD in the Demolition Derby driven by one of the nicest people I’ve met in a long time.


My partner, Carol, sent me an email message that’s making the rounds, which reads something as follows:

East Anglian Ambulance Service have launched a national “In case of Emergency (ICE)” campaign with the support of Falklands war hero Simon Weston and in association with Vodafone’s annual life savers award. The idea is that you store the word ” I C E ” in your mobile phone address book, and against it enter the number of the person you would want to be contacted “In Case of Emergency”. In an emergency situation ambulance and hospital staff will then be able to quickly find out who your next of kin are and be able to contact them. It’s so simple that everyone can do it. Please do. Please will you also forward this to everybody in your address book, it won’t take too many ‘forwards’ before everybody will know about this. It really could save your life. For more than one contact name ICE1, ICE2, ICE3 etc.

I did a little checking on this — is it just another urban legend? Apparently it’s for real, according to the Washington Post, as well as various urban legend Web sites.

Of course, it’s by no means foolproof. In an accident, your cell phone could be damaged, or the paramedics might not know how to operate your particular model of cell phone, and so on. (What is not true is that entering such information in your cell phone leaves you open to phone-based viruses.)

Yet it makes perfect sense to carry some sort of emergency contact information. Do I? No, I never thought of it before. But now that Carol sent me that email message, guess I’ll put that contact info in my cell phone, and maybe carry a card in my wallet, too. Hope you do the same (and get your kids to do it, too).

Mournful moment

A slow gentle rain has settled in, accompanied by cooler air. There won’t be enough rain to break the drought, but this weather is a welcome change.

I spent today doing the last of the packing — boxing up everything that’s in the kitchen. It’s a mournful moment, when you pack away the last few things, for then there is nothing left of your stay in that place.

But that feeling is mixed in with excitement, too, a wanting to get on to the next thing, the next adventure. Tomorrow is supposed to be cool and pleasant, and if I’m lucky I’ll get everything loaded into the moving container. Which will give me a day to play in Chicago. We’ll see!

Minor redesign

You may notice that a few things are changing on this blog.

Changes so far:

  • I have been updating my main Web site, and changed this blog (as much as AOL lets me) to look more like the Web site.
  • Most links moved to a separate page, including all links to blogs. Moving these links allows me to annotate the links — besides which editing the list using AOL’s blog software was a nightmare.
  • Added one or two surprises.

A few other minor changes will appear in the next day or two, but most of my efforts right now are on the main Web site.

Update, November, 2005: Now moved from AOL to WordPress blogging software, hooray!


Our “Pods” moving container arrives tomorrow morning, and I was going to go to sleep early, so I could get up and take a walk before it arrived. But it’s just too hot to sleep — 10:05, and 86 degrees. I’m too cheap to put on the air conditioning, which means I’ll sleep fitfully, and my sleep will be filled with dreams. We hit 100 degrees here today — at least, that was the official high temperature today at the DuPage airport five miles from here. Heat advisories all day, dew point in the seventies. It stayed above 95 from late morning until after seven tonight. Hot, humid. At 4:30, I went out and walked down to the river. It was too hot to walk fast, and I always walk fast, so it was an unusual experience for me. Island Park, amazingly, was empty. The usual Sunday afternoon crowds on the river bike trail weren’t there — only the rare bicyclist passing through, one fisherman, and me. I stayed in the shade and wandered slowly downstream on the west side, behind the county complex along Route 31. Three big white Great Egrets, and two big Great Blue Herons, in the middle of the river desultorily stalking fish. Scores of Mallards stood on rocks in the middle of the water, fast alseep; the Wood Ducks stayed in the shade along the edges of the river. A few Spotted Sandpipers, who are gradually losing their spots as their winter feathers grow in, kept to the shady shallows on my side of the river. I sat in the same place for three quarters of an hour, not really watching the birds. At one point, for a moment or two, I understood something about the river… timelessness, not not quite that… the trees have actual personalities, like in those paintings by, not that’s not quite…. And it was gone. Not quite sure what it was, but it couldn’t have been put into words in any case.

Work in progress

The story below is one of the stories I have been working on. It comes from the Gospel of Thomas, chapter 97. Thomas is one of the many gospels that did not make it into the final canonical edition of the Christian Bible. But it remains of interest, since it is another historical record of Jesus. Although the story is protected under coypright, feel free to make personal copies as long as you include the copyright notice.

The Empty Jar

copyright (c) 2005 Dan Harper

Jesus and his followers were traveling from village to village in Judea so that Jesus could teach his message of love to whomever would hear it. They had spent the day in a village where some people wanted to hear what Jesus had to say, and many others didn’t seem to care. That evening, they stayed on the outskirts of the village, and as they were eating dinner, one of the followers asked, “Master, what will it be like when the kingdom of heaven is finally established?”

“Let me tell you a story that will explain,” said Jesus, and he told this story.


Once upon a time, there was a woman, just an ordinary woman who happened to live in a very small village that had no marketplace of its own. At the harvest season, the crops having been gathered in, the woman decided to walk to a larger village, just two or three miles away, where there was a market.

She started off early in the morning. She brought along some things her family had grown to sell in the market, and she brought along a large pottery jar with two big handles. Since she was an ordinary villager, or course she did not have fancy bronze jars, nor did she even have well-made pottery jars with pretty decorations. The potter who lived in her village was not very good at what he did, so her jars were without decoration, and not very well made.

She arrived at the marketplace, and sold everything she had brought. Then she purchased a large amount of meal, or coarsely-ground flour. She filled her jar with the meal, tied the handle with a strap of cloth, and slung the jar over her back.

The path home was steep and rough, and by now the day was hot. She walked along, putting one foot in front of the other, and she did not notice anything besides the heat and the rough path.

But one of the handles to the jar broke off, and the jar slowly tipped to one side. Bit by bit, the coarsely-ground flour spilled out on the path behind her. Bit by bit, the jar tipped even further. Before she reached home, all the flour in that jar had spilled out.

At last the woman reached home. She put the jar down, and discovered that it was empty. That is what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like.


When Jesus stopped talking, his followers respectfully waited a little while longer, because they did not think that could be the end of the story. But Jesus stopped talking. They all sat in silence for a while, and one of the followers finally said, “Master, I’m not sure I understand.” Still Jesus did not explain further, and went off by himself to sleep.

The followers still did not understand the story. They sat up longer talking about the story. “It is like the story when the prophet Elijah goes to the widow of Zarephath,” said one of the followers. “God told Elijah to go there and she would feed him, but the widow did not even have enough flour for herself and her son. Elijah tells her to bake three loaves anyway, and she finds that she does have enough flour after all, for God has provided for her. Indeed, the jar of flour is still just as full as it was before Elijah had arrived. Jesus is telling us that in the Kingdom of God, we will not have to worry where our food comes from.”

“You mean like when Jesus said, the lilies in the fields don’t go to work and yet they have enough to eat,” said one of the other followers. “Perhaps you are right, but I think Jesus is telling us that we will find the Kingdom of God in the most unexpected places. He also taught us that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, a seed so small you can hardly see it, but one that grows into a huge plant.”

“Perhaps you are right,” said a third follower, “but a mustard seed can grow, and an empty jar of flour cannot grow into anything but hunger. I think Jesus is talking about the poor, who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Like the woman in the story, those who are poor and hungry have no flour at all. She will be one of the ones who inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.”

No one else had anything to say, and they sat in silence for a while. At last, another one of Jesus’s followers stood up. “It’s time to go to sleep,” she said. “I don’t think any of us really understand that story, but Jesus got us to think hard about what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like. We have thought, and now it’s time to sleep, because there is a long walk in store for tomorrow. Just like the woman in the story. Though unlike that woman, you won’t have to carry a heavy jar of flour on your back.”

With that, they all went off to sleep.