Decoration Day

Some of the stories below have been told here before.  I thought it was a good time to share them again.   

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. At least families have gathered together, although that is starting to change as well with the change in store hours.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, a 3-day weekend trip, a backyard barbecue, or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas, and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days (probably a topic for another time).

Military Cemetery, St. Avold, France

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool.  I don’t.

There is always media coverage of how Americans are hitting the road for holiday trips. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies plan their oil prices to sell more gasoline this weekend. The price is higher than this past winter, although it is somewhat lower than last Memorial Day Weekend.

It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreaths at the tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby.  President Biden participated in the wreath laying this year. It is all over news websites and YouTube.

The Washington DC website promoted the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally yesterday.  Did anyone know the participants were veterans?  They also wanted you to “Chill Out on a DC Rooftop” bar in town. This way you know where to celebrate the meaning of the day.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was.

Three years after the American Civil War, May 30 was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union and Confederate soldiers. Southern ladies had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers during the war. Many places now claim to be the first to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers.

In the 20th century, the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

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Last year after a trip to Toronto, I had the following thoughts about my various travel companions over the years. This post originally appeared on SERENDIPITY.

Friends and Companions, by Rich Paschall

“In life, it’s not where you go. It’s who you travel with.” – Charles Schulz

If you can travel with someone and come back as friends, then you have a good travel companion. I have had the good fortune of traveling with some people who were an absolute joy to spend time with. There were others I would prefer to leave at home. You may have had that experience.

“If we travel together again, he stays in YOUR room!” Perhaps you have had this conversation. It is the one where a group of friends all agree that one of you may be a good friend, but a lousy travel companion. Living with someone for a few days will reveal all of the other’s characteristics that you absolutely do not enjoy. Perhaps couples should take the honeymoon before marriage to decide whether they really want to go through with it. Sharing a small room, a small bathroom, and small seats on an airplane might reveal just how close you want to be to the person next to you.

Some friends and I have been to out-of-town football games, baseball games, and even basketball games. Most of the trips were a lot of fun, but a few might have you asking “Should auld acquaintance be forgot?” Some remained friends but were definitely to be forgotten as travel companions.

What could be wrong with traveling with friends? Let us count the ways. There is the person who is always joking around, every moment of every trip. This might be fine for a night out with the boys, but no one likes a week-long running joke. Well, I don’t anyway. Sometimes you want the other person to take it out of hyper-drive for a few hours and relax.

Another is someone who has an opinion on everything and those opinions are opposite to yours. Last year I had to explain to some friends that I had asked not to be seated at their table at a banquet. They were all friends but I did not want to be with certain friends who might find it their purpose in life to fill me with Republican talking points, many of which have already been proven to be lies. A few hours of that is hard to take, a few days would be next to impossible.

London Olympics

We have a few friends who like to have something to do every minute of every day. Your vacation plans might include scheduling every minute, mine don’t. Parts of my relaxing vacation include…uh, relaxing. Sometimes we can just decide on things as we go along.

Some like to fill any void with the sound of their voices. This is totally unnecessary. It is not radio. Dead air is OK sometimes. Talking just to have noise is like fingernails on a chalkboard just to…uh, have noise. Believe it or not, there are times when I might prefer the absolute silence my grandmother would get when she would glare at us when we were children. I don’t think she ever yelled at us. Her angry glare was enough to bring silence. On a trip, my angry glare apparently never seemed angry enough.

Food pics are serious business. In Heidelberg with John

On the other hand, there are people who you want to be on your travels. For all of 2009, I worked with a French intern. Not only did we become friends, but frequent travel companions, both here and in Europe. I think that it did not matter where we were going because we knew we would have fun. Yes, we had specific goals sometimes. We made some USA stops that he absolutely wanted to see while working here. I never thought to go to Hannibal, Missouri before. It is, of course, the hometown of Mark Twain. We saw Niagra Falls and toured Florida. We went to the 2012 Olympics in London and the Canstetter Volksfest in Stuttgart. Other times we just set out for wherever came to mind that day. Every trip was a great adventure. Every one!

One year I went to Medellin to meet a friend I only knew from online chats. John and I became friends and years later we were travel companions to Europe. Although I was sick for two days in Stuttgart, we found the rest of the trip to be pleasant. Of course, we went on to Strasbourg to meet up with my friend from France.

Travel companions, London

This time I have gone to Toronto with a frequent travel companion. Lewis and I have been to London, Paris, and Strasbourg, not to mention many day trips around town. We have seen baseball in both Chicago ballparks as well as in Milwaukee. Garry will be pleased to know that this adventure included a stop at Rogers Centre to see the Blue Jays play the Boston Red Sox. At least they have a dome in Toronto they can close. It may be much more comfortable than our stop this week at Wrigley Field where a windy day can be brutal in the spring.

We had no other specific plans for three days in Toronto besides the ball game. We discovered that the Ripley’s Aquarium was right near the ballpark after we arrived, and we added that in. I had only been through the airport once and had not seen the city before, and neither had Lewis. So we will bring back our report soon. I am certain I have a good travel companion again.


You could be a Special Victim of Organized Crime at your own residence. Where there is Criminal Intent, it is certain that Law & Order will return! This Caper previously appeared on SERENDIPITY.

The Big Blanket Caper, by Rich Paschall

Crimes like this often go unreported. Perhaps there is fear of confrontation. Perhaps there is an embarrassment. Perhaps the deed is temporarily forgotten in the light of dawn. It is evil, nonetheless. Victims need to come forward without fear of retribution. Action needs to be taken against the perpetrators.

The evildoers of these deeds may feign ignorance of their wicked actions. They may say to those who will care to listen to their lies that they meant no harm if harm was done at all. HA! These especially heinous crimes should be pursued by an élite squad known as the Special Victims Unit in order to bring Law and Order back to the home.

The Big Blanket Caper

We are, of course, talking about those dishonorable reprobates who steal the covers in the night. As a victim you may find that while you were once comfortable in your own bed, a wicked and immoral person has rolled himself (herself) up in your covers, exposing you to the open air. The warmth and safety that you once felt have been taken away by a corrupt person next to you.  Try as you might, you will never recover your portion of the big blanket that was a part of your property. You are left out in the cold, so to speak, while this iniquity goes unpunished. Prior to the light of dawn, there is no way to recover what is rightfully yours so you can re-cover yourself. This depraved action leaves you deprived of your security and domestic tranquility.

As if this encounter was not vile enough, there is also the matter of real estate. You may think that your stake in a territory would be sacred. You may believe what is yours is, well, yours. There are, however, dishonorable “land grabbers” that will sneak in to take your space if the opportunity presents itself. You must protect yourself against the wickedness of those who would swoop in to encroach upon the land.

A property deed will not protect you. No proof of your ownership is respected by these degenerates. The pain and suffering they will inflict upon their victims are absolutely unspeakable. The worst criminal offenders should be pursued by the detectives of the Major Case Squad. Often, however, these atrocities go uncaught and unpunished.

The Case of the Real Estate Mogul

As you have probably guessed, we refer to those corrupt beings who are not satisfied with half of the bed. These noxious mates will take additional territory as if it was the Wild West and they were free to stake any claim they want. It is time to fight back against this villainy. Tweet your dissatisfaction with the term #MyLand. Let the world know we will no longer stand for this wrongdoing.

Victims of the real estate scheme are particularly vulnerable if they momentarily leave their space in the middle of the night due to the calling of nature. It is impossible to ignore this call as if it were a phone that would not stop ringing. But beware! You may return to find that the malevolent mate has swooped in to claim half of what was once yours. You are left with just a sliver of land and little recourse against this sin.

Finally, the Big Blanket Caper and The Case of the Real Estate Mogul are not your only worries at night. Corruption will also take another form. The pernicious conduct that may befall you may actually and quite literally make you fall. If you think the unpleasant actions that have been taken against you are a mere accident, think again!

The Department of In-Home Security has issued a black and blue alert as a fair warning of the cruel and mischievous outrages that may lay in your path.  These ITDs (Improvised Tripping Devices) may surprise you in the middle of the night as you tumble in the dark. Shoes, flip-flops, gym bags, shopping bags, and any other item that may be used as a weapon will be left where you will not see them. BAM! You have fallen on your trip to the washroom or midnight raid of the refrigerator. You have been an unsuspecting victim in what you thought was a clear path in the night. No mere 4-watt night bulb is likely to provide protection against the disgusting action for which the villain will pretend was an unfortunate error.

Rest assured you are not alone and may speak out to bring down these troublemakers.

There are eight million stories in the naked city, these are just a few.  Feel free to bring these sinister actions to the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders!

See Also: A Trip In The Night


Or Is There? by Rich Paschall

When you were younger, a teenager perhaps, you may have heard yourself say a time or two, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.” I know I did. Even today, with so much more to do, some younger people may still lament “There is nothing to do!”. Of course, there is a lot to do, and we ought to get going and do it while we still can.

Last year when I was talking about retirement a friend told me that after the first few days, I would be bored. I assured him this was not the case. “I have enough in mind to do that I will be busy until at least one hundred and three.” “Do you plan to live that long?” he asked. “I am going to have to if I want to get everything done,” I assured him. I always use 103 when asked because the founder of the Neighborhood Boys Club in Chicago lived to 103 and never seemed to run out of things to do.

Like a good teenager, I sometimes play video games to pass the time. This is when I feel like I do not have the energy to assert myself. My desktop is preloaded with many variations of Solitaire. It also has Minesweeper. I bookmarked Microsoft’s Jewel game, similar to the popular Bejeweled. The AARP website also has various games to keep your mind sharp. I have a long list of things in mind. Here are a few ideas. Take notes, you may need some of these ideas in a few years, or a few days as the case may be.


When I was somewhat younger I often noticed retired people of older generations spending most of their time in front of the television. While television watching is not so bad, you may wish to reconsider it if that is basically all you do. I try to at least go for a walk every day. It is the absolute minimum. I also try to get in some other exercise on most days. You don’t need a gym membership. Simple things can be done at home without any equipment. As you get older, it is harder to get back into shape, than to stay in shape. There are plenty of fitness experts online to help you out. Hampton Liu (Hybrid Calisthenics) believes you can start simply and need no equipment.


Of course, I recommend you start with your favorite blog. SERENDIPITY, perhaps. There are plenty of good ones. The truth is I have enough unread books and magazines at home to last me for years. Resale shops have plenty of books you can get for cheap. There are also those things called libraries. Here we can check out certain titles digitally. That means we don’t have to actually go to the library. I get the digital New York Times and several newsletters of interest. AARP magazine comes in the mail.


I have a few jigsaw puzzles I put together many years ago and some I have never done. This includes a 3-D puzzle resting under my bed for the last two years. I have books on crossword puzzles, word search puzzles, and sudoku, which I will definitely have to do in pencil. After the jigsaw puzzles are done, I need to give them away to a friend or a resale shop.


One of the problems with living in the same place for a long time is the propensity to save stuff. Aside from all the stuff I see just looking around, there is also stuff in cabinets, closets, and the basement. When you start buying large storage containers to save stuff you may not use again for years if at all, you have too much stuff. It is time to give away, throw away, or put on ebay. In recent years I have sold off almost all my VHS tapes, Cassette tapes, and old format HD DVDs on ebay. I still have a lot of records, CDs, DVDs, and digital playlists, so I am not going to run out of music and movies. 

There are a lot of papers to review and throw out or shred as needed. I never meant to save items for more than a few years, but as things found their way into boxes and then closets or the basement, I never got back to them. The basement surely has items from the last century to be tossed out. It will take me a long time just to get the important papers in order. I know we don’t like to think about it, but it is foolhardy to keep kicking the can down the road, so to speak.

You may wish to save some things that call up great memories, but what about all those things you will never use again? I am certain the cabinets contain things I will never use. Another time-consuming project, if I wish to tackle it, would be to go through some of the thousands of pictures from my mother and myself that were printed and now sit in boxes and albums. Perhaps people in the next generation would like pictures I have that contain their parents or grandparents. I could continue with many thoughts about “The Accumulation of Stuff.


If it is not possible to travel the world any longer, we can still travel the neighborhood. Showing up in my email Inbox at times is the Newsletter “Free Things To Do in Chicago.” We have world-class museums and there are “free days.” The amazing Garfield Park Conservatory and the Lincoln Park Zoo are always free. The parks are wonderful and the beaches are great in the summer. I also own an excellent Schwinn 10-speed Bicycle. They were still made here when I bought that one.

Adler Planetarium

Watch and Listen

There are now so many entertainment options that I can’t possibly sample all my interests. Whether it is “Films All Guys Should See,” or those “In Glorious Black and White” or even films “In Another Language,” I can’t possibly see them all, not to mention revisiting a handful of favorites I will never grow tired of. There are television shows from here and from around the world. YouTube and other services can now take you everywhere. You can even take virtual tours of many places around the globe.

I will never be bored or run out of things to do. How about you?

Note: The above originally appeared on SERENDIPITY.

Read also, a short story: “Mr. Casten’s Clutter,” rjptalk, February 28, 2022.


It has been well over a year since Russia invaded Ukraine. They apparently hoped to add them to their country as they did with Crimea. They miscalculated the resolve of the Ukrainian people to stay independent. The war drags on and the tyrant remains. The following was posted over a year ago on SERENDIPITY.

And A Bumpy Road It Was, by Rich Paschall

The memories live on. It’s not like they were yesterday, but they are still pretty clear. We lived through cold wars and real wars and you would have thought we had enough of it all.  Here they are again. How can the world be so unprepared for a tyrant once again invading a neighbor? The response has been strong, but is it enough?

Now the tyrant makes vague threats about retaliation and puts his nuclear arsenal on some sort of alert. Did you read Fail-Safe?  See the movie? I did. Worse yet, we lived through the cold war in fear that tomorrow may bring the end.

I recall Soviet Premier Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the table. He told the West “We will bury you.” He later said he did not mean that literally, but we took it that way. He brought on the division of Berlin. He was on the other end of the Cuban missile crisis when the Soviets wanted to erect missiles 90 miles from Miami.

We prepared for the cold war by having drills at our grade school where we would hide under our desks if there was going to be a nuclear attack. I am not sure that elementary school students under their desks would have survived a nuclear blast in Chicago, but we practiced anyway. We knew where the “fall-out shelters” were located in case we had to go underground to hide from radiation fallout after a nuclear blast. I guess that assumed we would still be alive.

People had stockpiles of canned goods in case there were no grocery stores left. Some people literally had basements full of goods “just in case.” Perhaps people actually thought they could live in their basements for years if they really had to do it.

A doomsday clock was established 75 years ago to let us know just how close we were to the end of the world based on a calculation of when we might destroy ourselves. We are now just 100 seconds to midnight. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists made this determination before the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent political maneuverings.

Nuclear threats and far-off wars hung over our heads in the 60s and early 70s. Battles in other countries keep coming around and somehow we are always a player in the game. I guess that goes with being a global superpower and nuclear weapons holder. When we were in elementary school, it was pretty much a stand-off between the Soviet Union and the United States. Now nine countries have nuclear weapons and who knows who might be willing to use them on whom. It is stated that Russia has more nuclear warheads than the US, UK, and France combined. Who can say what a madman will do when his back is against the wall?

Our generation, baby boomers, like many before us had hoped to leave a better world for our children and grandchildren. In that regard, we have failed. For all of our technological advances, we have taken many steps backward. We have not pushed the doomsday clock back. We have not kept tyrants in check. We have not ended the things that are poisoning our world. Even worse, we must face misinformation here by the Fake News channel and certain Republican politicians as well as Russian bots invading social media. How will the current crisis end? If it does not fit the orange one’s narrative, you can expect the FAUX News channel to tell a different story than everyone else.

A Different Kind of Fall-Out

At the airline, I work with someone from Ukraine. She has family there. At this writing they are safe but we know that can change. We get updates when she has them. I only work part-time now, so I will not hear every day. She is a co-worker and a friend. This is painful. I can not imagine what they are living through.

Before the pandemic, I had applied for a visa to visit a friend in St. Petersberg, Russia. While my application was being processed, the world began to shut down. I never got to go. We have been friends since he was a student and learning to improve his English. It has been ten or more years and we have talked often. He too is a friend. No, we have not talked lately.

My Ukrainian friend and Russian friend are good people. They want what we all want: a good job, food on the table, a nice place to live. I can not stop being friends with one or both because of the actions of their governments. I am sad for both. We should all be sad about the current state of the world, not just the state of the union.


Last year I finally watched the entire Twilight Saga movie series. My review first appeared on SERENDIPITY.

A Late Review, By Rich Paschall

Yes, I know. I am late for the party. It is good to be late for some parties. For other parties, it might be better to have not shown up at all. This is one of those.

It started in the pre-pandemic era when I was in Best Buy one day. In the discounted DVD bin was a copy of Twilight, the first of 5 Twilight Saga movies. It was such a sensation when it first came out that I thought I would watch the first one and if I liked it, move on to the others. Like a few other movies and TV series I own on DVD, it sat on a shelf for the past few years.

Since we still have to Hunker in the Bunker to protect ourselves against those who still believe the coronavirus is a hoax, I have decided to consider all my entertainment options. If you have stumbled into our cave in the past, you would have seen some of my TV and music lists and reviews. I finally decided to give Twilight a try and report back to you. I don’t want any of you old-timers to confuse this with the excellent television series, The Twilight Zone. It is weirder and nowhere near as entertaining.

The five movies are based on the four Twilight novels by Stephenie Meyer. Somehow you have to think that the popular novels series made more sense than this collection of films. Four directors perpetrated this drawn-out series on the public to huge financial success. As I was watching these films I kept asking myself, “What am I missing here?” It certainly was not just teenage girls that helped them rake in billions of dollars worldwide. Yes, billions. I guess teenage boys like handsome vampires and cute werewolves too; not so cute when they are angry, I guess.

In the first outing (2008), Bella (Kristen Stewart), a forlorn teenager, goes to live with her father in the Pacific Northwest. You know, where the deer and the werewolves roam. At her new high school, she makes some new friends but becomes smitten (not bitten) by the pale-looking teenager, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). When Bella discovers that Edward is a vampire, she too would like to be a vampire so she can be with Edward for all eternity. Edward, of course, thinks this is a bad idea and refuses to bite her on the neck. Bela (Lugosi) would certainly have bitten Bella but that is another story for another time.

Have you got this so far? Keep in mind that the Cullen family are good vampires and they end up having to protect Bella from bad vampires because Edward has been hanging around with Bella, a human! Bella is saved, evil vampires are vanquished, and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) gets introduced into the storyline. Lautner has a small part in the first movie, but don’t worry. He is a major character in the rest and will have plenty of opportunities to take his shirt off. Perhaps that was the real attraction of the series, but I digress.

In the second movie, New Moon (2009), not a full moon, Edward tries to leave as a way of keeping Bella safe and she does increasingly stupid things as a way to get him back. She also learns that her friend with the buffed-up body, Jacob, is actually a werewolf who tries to keep her safe. It seems the werewolf pack does not need a full moon to turn into wolves. Getting mad will do it. This film kept the CGI (Computer Generated Images) department busy. So did the rest of the series.

Film three, Eclipse (2010), saw even more evil vampires coming for Bella. At this point, I was rooting for the vampires, but the good vampires and their natural enemies, the werewolves made a pact (not a pack) in order to protect Bella from the large horde of vampires on the way for an overwhelming CGI and green screen battle. In the massive battle, Jacob, aka werewolf boy, was massively injured. Bella, of course, rushed to his side to comfort him. This was after she was spending all of her time with the vampire boy.  The series finishes with Bella seemingly torn between a werewolf and a vampire.  What’s a teenage girl to do?

The fourth book gave us two movies that could easily have been just one. Movie four, Breaking Dawn, part 1 (2011) begins with Bella marrying Edward the vampire right after high school. The first 50 minutes are the wedding and honeymoon. There is nothing salacious here. It is PG-13 after all. We do find out later on that Bella is pregnant with some sort of fast-growing demon child. That’s going to cause a problem. If the pregnancy doesn’t kill her, maybe the demon child will.

The final movie, aka part 2 (2012), has another group of upset vampires preparing to come and kill the half-human, half-vampire child out of concern the child will grow up to have superpowers and kill them all. The first half of the film has the Cullens trying to round up some allies against the Volturi who seems to be some sort of ruling vampire family with a very large army. They have a nice castle, anyway. Since the Cullens and friends are severely outnumbered, you know who they will recruit to help them again.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson must have gone to the same coach for mumbling lessons. If you watch the series be sure to turn on the captions in English, if that’s your language, so you can follow along. This is indeed the same Kristen Stewart who is nominated for an Oscar this year for Spencer. Robert Pattinson will next be up as The Batman. Yes, from vampire to Batman. Taylor Lautner will show up in a sports comedy movie this year, Home Team, his first film in 6 years.


Now that many feel safer, vacation and business travel have resumed in a big way. Do you feel safe now? Would you resume traveling? The following ran last year on SERENDIPITY as restrictions began to be lifted.

Suppose the pandemic was past us. Suppose travel restrictions were lifted. If you could go anywhere at all, where would you go? Where would your sense of adventure lead you?  Would it be around the world or around town? Perhaps for you, it would have to be domestic. You could go to St. Louis and see the Gateway Arch and the mighty Mississippi River.  You could go upriver to Hannibal, Missouri, and see Mark Twain’s home. From there you could head east to Springfield, Illinois, and see Abe Lincoln’s wonderfully preserved home, maintained by the National Park Service.

Gateway arch

You might have one of the great wonders of North America in mind. So you could head north of Buffalo, New York to Niagara Falls and ride the Maid of the Mist right up to the Falls, or you could climb down the cliff to a point where the water will fall between you and the land. On your way home, you can stop in the Anchor Bar, home of Buffalo Chicken Wings. Yes, that’s the place that started what is now a full-blown food craze.

Galena Illinois, “the town that time forgot”

If this does not suit your taste, perhaps you would run up to the northwest corner of Illinois and stop in Galena, the “town that time forgot.” You can walk through the mid-1800s. You can stop at the place of speeches by Abraham Lincoln (1856) and Stephen A. Douglas (1858), or visit the home of President U.S. Grant. At this time of year, you could travel down to the Mississippi River, just west of Galena, and, with any luck at all, see the proud American Eagle. The very sight of the bald eagle, waiting to come down from the cliffs to fish, will make the trip worth it. Although you may have to go further inland to the Great Plains during summer to see them.

Seeing a rainbow over Germany from France

If Europe is your adventure you can fly to Frankfurt and go on to Stuttgart for museums and festivals. You can cross the Rhine to visit Strasbourg, France. You can visit the magnificent ancient Notre Dame Cathédrale de Strasbourg or the ancient castles of Alsace. There are vineyards and wine festivals and if you like, you can visit the Statue of Liberty in Colmar, France. It is in the middle of a busy traffic circle so you have to run fast and dodge the cars if you want to get over to it.

Cathedral selfie

If Germany or France is not on your list, how about London?  It is one of the great international cities. In 1777, author Samuel Johnson, writer of an early English Dictionary, spoke words that are still true, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  A few days or even a few weeks are not enough for the sights of London.

Approaching St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

Why do I bring up all these travel ideas?  It is because I am thinking of a recent journey. Some of my friends may say, “Did you go there again?”  Between Delta and Omicron, I traveled to the northeast of France. It was the eleventh time my trip ended up there. In 2010 we made a trip to Stuttgart for an Oktoberfest-type celebration, then on to France.  In the summer of 2013, I went with some friends to Paris, and then on to Strasbourg. In 2012 I met my friend in Baden-Baden, Germany so we could fly together to London for the Summer Olympics, then we went back to France. Last year I made it all the way to Selestat, France. My friend met me in Strasbourg and we traveled from there. These many trips were halted by the pandemic. That helped me to realize how precious all this traveling has been.

Good wine and good friends, the best destination
With good wine and good friends, the best destination

For all of these adventures we had some specific ideas in mind, but each time we did much of the trip spontaneously. When I reflect on these journeys, I realize there really was no “destination.” I could have been going anywhere. We dreamed and we went, but it didn’t matter where. The ultimate destination was never a place. It was a culture, an experience, and friends. Some adventures were new, and some were familiar. We enjoyed the trips, large and small because we were doing them together. Every stop was fun, every place was exciting, and everywhere was new, even if we had been there before. It was because I was with my friend.

We have been together on all the adventures I have mentioned above and more. Of course, we often set off to see great sites or experience great things, but they were made special by the fact that we shared these adventures. So I might fly to Frankfurt again someday and take the bus to Strasbourg. Hopefully, the pandemic will not strand us where we are today. Destination Friendship is still calling my name.

See also: “The Enemy of Ignorance,” rjptalk, March 4, 2023.


The weekend the Thai comedy mini-series begins running in Thailand on broadcast television. Up until now, it has only been available in that part of the world on Disney+. Now seems a good time to revisit my review which ran recently on SERENDIPITY.

A Midnight Series review, by Rich Paschall

Yes, I have been watching another Thai mini-series, and this time it is just for laughs. The Midnight Series is three separate mini-series, Dirty Laundry, Midnight Motel, and Moonlight Chicken. The first two are six episodes apiece and the last is eight episodes. If you are willing to suspend disbelief, as the saying goes, and laugh along, then these might be for you. The loose tie-in among the three is that the most significant action occurs at night.

Dirty Laundry stars Nanon Korapat as an aspiring murder mystery novelist named Night, who is doing his dirty laundry at a late-night laundromat and writing his mystery story as he waits. On the night shift at the laundromat is Neon (Film Rachanun). She envisions Night as her dream guy and loves watching him work. Neon has to put up with quite a collection of odd-ball late-night characters. One night Night saves her from an upset patron after her boyfriend has been coming on like a bright light to Neon.

Foei Patara plays Nick, an aspiring rock star, who is guilty of flirting with others. Jenny Panhan plays his girlfriend Smile who wants Nick to give her solos at his performances. Their fights and absurd attempts to play rock music at the laundromat give the GMM TV veterans an opportunity to “chew the scenery,” as yet another cliche saying goes.

Night’s flow of creativity is interrupted by the rockers, so he invites Neon to go get something to eat with him. “Is this what you call a date?” she asks.  Night replies, “You can call it that.”

Night (Nanon Korapat) [L] and Judo (Pond Naravit)

When they return from the “date” they find Judo (Pond Naravit) taking off his clothes and throwing them into a washing machine. They stop him before he goes too far. He says he is used to taking off his clothes. Later we find out he is an exotic dancer.

When Night leaves the laundromat he leaves a unique shirt behind. When he does not return to the laundromat, it will be Neon’s only lead to finding him. She gets the help of a friend to search the neighborhood by day looking for Night.

When she finds her way to the right apartment building she learns Night has not been there. She tricks her way into Night’s apartment looking for clues. When mobsters arrive, she hides in a closet where she finds a briefcase full of money. Of course, she leaves with the briefcase. Night figures out Neon stole it and he demands its return. That’s when we learn someone has stolen the stolen suitcase which was obviously already stolen. Got it?

Night and Neon will try to figure out who stole the suitcase while going through the list of characters who populated the late-night laundry. Night’s life could depend on returning the money to “Mama-san,” the leader of illegal businesses.

Behind the scenes (Nanon and Film)

In addition to the rockers and the exotic dancer, they will have to consider Chompoo (Godji Tachakorn) the caretaker at the apartment building where Night lives. Also in the mix is a tone-deaf karaoke singer who is actually worse than the alleged rockers. They will need to track them all down, and of course, this will include going undercover, so to speak.

Night and Neon hatch a series of plans to try to find the stolen briefcase at each suspect one at a time. The misadventures and failed attempts will lead them to a final showdown in episode six.

Nanon Korapat has already proved his acting skills in a variety of roles and now gets to tackle a somewhat silly comedy adventure. Film Rachanun is the perfect partner in search of the real thief. Pond Naravit gets a turn at broad-based comedy and the chance to show off his…uh, dancing skills.

Foei Patara has played a large variety of characters at GMM and others. Here is a chance at some outrageous comedy. Foei has appeared in some serious stories recently including “10 Years Ticket” starring Ohm Pawat and the soon-to-be-released Double Savage, also starring Ohm.

Jenny Panhan is a go-to performer in comedic roles. She is also a frequent host and presenter on GMM. The entire cast has done well with this one and you will find no weak performances. Enjoy the adventure and the search for the stolen cash.

Find the Midnight Series including Dirty Laundry on the GMMTV YouTube channel with English subtitles. In Thailand and other SE Asia countries, you may need to find it on Disney+ Hotstar. Dirty Laundy began its run on GMM TV 25 on March 11.


Travel can open up the mind to so many things. Where would you like to go? What would you like to experience? The following appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

When I was working for a freight forwarder in the nineties, I had an air export job at the corporate building. One day the senior vice president of operations asked me if I had a passport. “No,” I told him. “Well, you better get one,” was his response.

Like many Americans, I could not imagine why I would want to leave the continental US. “Why should I go somewhere else when there is so much to see here,” I might say. That would just be parroting what I had heard so many say as I grew up. It’s true, of course. I will never see the whole country. I never knew that I should still go beyond our borders.

By the time I had applied for a passport, I really had not seen a lot of the US. My parents went on some ultimately unpleasant car trips when I was young, and I can not remember seeing much of the country then. When I was trying to make a living and not rely on help from my father, I neither had the time nor the money to go anywhere. I was content with seeing the regional points of interest.

Since the head operations guy and part-owner of the company did not sound like he was making a suggestion, I got my first passport in early 1992. Each year he would send someone from the Corporate International group on the Sabena Airlines Familiarization tour (Fam Trip). It was more of a week-long social event than work. We landed in Brussels and went to Bruges. The group later went on to Spa. From Bruges the VP wanted me to make a side trip to Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Okay. I was going to a foreign country and then would find my way to another foreign country to meet a foreigner. I knew no other languages and couldn’t imagine this would go well. Frequent travelers in our group were able to advise me. There were enough English speakers in Belgium and The Netherlands to help me along my way. I saw cultural differences, but we were all pretty much alike.

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.” ― Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”

Having not gotten lost, kidnapped, imprisoned, or any other imaginable horror non-travelers might tell you, I was ready to take to the skies again. That passport has stamps from London Gatwick from a Northwest Airlines “Fam Trip,” and Mexico City from a Mexicana “Fam Trip.” I won a trip to Italy on Alitalia Airlines and took a comrade from work to Milan, Rome, and Florence. The European countries had not yet adopted the euro when I was there. England never adopted the euro. Italy still had lire. Mexico was changing from the old peso to the new peso. We figured it all out. There were other trips to London (Heathrow) and Mexico (business).

In London with a friend

“Life is a journey, not a destination” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

At my next employer, I was asked one day if I had a passport. “Yes, I do!”  It was my second passport in fact. They were looking for someone to carry a small package to Paris for a well-known manufacturer. I hurried home, threw a few things in a bag, grabbed my passport, and hurried back. The shipper was charged enough for a business-class ticket. This was the way to travel! That second passport also has stamps from Customs at Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, and London Stansted (our Olympics 2012 trip). I made it from Frankfort to Strasbourg several times to visit my close friend.

London Olympics

“Don’t listen to what they say, go see” – Chinese Proverb 

My current passport has stamps from Frankfort and Paris from my various trips to Alsace, France. It also has a London Heathrow stamp. Yes, I have been to all three London airports. I also traveled to Montreal. One year I had to take a few days of vacation in December or lose the vacation days. My young friend in Colombia learned this on one of our SKYPE calls. “Come to visit me. I want to see you. Please. I like you so much. Please.” I never had the desire to go anywhere in South America, but my friend was persistent and I decided to be adventurous. I went to Medellin two times. I used some of the vacation pictures in a series of short stories about an American visiting a handsome South American.

John and I, Colombia at Christmas time

“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

Right before the pandemic started to close everything down, I applied for a visa to go to visit a friend in St. Petersburg, Russia. I never got the visa and fear I will never get to go now. We have had many visits via computer. In the breather between Delta and the surge of Omicron, I made one more trip to France. I am not sure there will be any more international travel for me.

Gate to historic Selestat

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

With the pandemic dragging on through a second entire year, I have spent time traveling on my computer. Many groups offer virtual tours to various places on the globe via your computer, for free or for a small fee. I have chosen to experience other cultures through their movies and television. This has taken me all over the world.

I have been to Argentina (My Best Friend), Germany (You and I), Israel (Snails in the Rain), France (Hidden Kisses), and other places for movies, plus a variety of countries through YouTube and Amazon Prime short subjects. Television series have taken me to China (Dive) and Thailand (Bad Buddy). What have I learned from all my travels?

“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view”― Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”

We are all alike. We want the same things. We want health and happiness for ourselves, our family, and our friends. Governments may hand us a distorted view or corrupt some of their citizens. Mostly, though, we are the same under our different shades of color and various features.

“So shut up, live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.”— Jack Kerouac, “Desolation Angels”


Broadcast, cable, and satellite television as well as various streaming services have opened up television to endless options. The following thoughts and memories ran last year on SERENDIPITY.

So Many Choices, So Little Time, by Rich Paschall

Test pattern for hours

When both television and I were young, I recall that we only had four stations on most of the time with one added in sometimes. The network affiliates for CBS, NBC, and CBS, channels 2, 5, and 7 were on day and night but not overnight. They ended around midnight most days. I think the broadcast day ended with the national anthem followed by the infamous television “test pattern.”  We also had the independent channel 9, WGN, as in “World’s Greatest Newspaper.” It was owned by the Chicago Tribune.

But I am watching this!

A problem then, which still persists to this day, is that channel two was hard to get via broadcast television.  Back in those days, I might have had to stand at the television adjusting the antenna for a long time in a vain effort to capture a good image on channel two. Fortunately, it bounces off a satellite to our house now for the living room television. I don’t even try for it in the bedroom.

WGN was very important in our lives for noontime (Bozo’s Circus), after school (Garfield Goose), and baseball. WGN carried the home games for the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox. There were no road games on television. We had the radio for that. They also carried plenty of Three Stooges programming and old movies. For some reason, I do not find the Three Stooges as funny today as I did back then.

A few hours a day might include educational television on channel 11, NET (National Educational Television). It was the predecessor to PBS and ran until 1970. The few hours of programming usually included adult education classes that did not interest us. One of its last program efforts continues today, Sesame Street.

All the TV channels were on VHF (very high frequency) channels 2 through 13. Channel 1 VHF had problems conflicting with radio bands and was ultimately eliminated. Can you imagine just 12 television channels? Along came UHF (ultra-high frequency) television channels. The problem was that we did not have a television that had these higher channels. In fact, almost no one had such television sets as these channels started to get added. This was good news for television makers. Locally Zenith, Motorola, and Sears were selling a lot of new televisions. By 1964, television makers had to include UHF channels.

We needed channel 32 WFLD as in Marshall Field. It competed for broadcast rights for some White Sox games. It is now the FOX affiliate. Channel 44 became a party to the first pay-per-view with OnTV.  If you paid the subscription fee, you could get a box to unscramble a broadcast signal. It was the predecessor to Cable. OnTV might also include Sportsvision. When WGN started picking up road Cubs games, the White Sox tried a number of television options. I recall there was a black market for those subscription boxes for your television. Clever guys with a few electronics skills figured out how to put them together. No one could imagine actually paying for some channels. Now we have a long list of UHF channels. If you get them, you know there is a limit to that too. Channels 13 to 82 were for UHF but channel 37 frequency was ultimately reserved for radio astronomy. Can you imagine having just 80 channels?

As the years wore on and options increased, we awaited cable in the neighborhood. We just could not imagine that they could wire up every home in a big city. That would take years we thought. The city was divided up and handed off to several companies who paid the city fees to run around and put new cables everywhere, mostly using existing telephone poles. We got Group W for our neighborhood. It’s XFinity now but I dropped them for satellite.

Now there are more channels beaming into my living room than Captain Kirk could ever imagine. After all, he had a flip phone. I am not sure of the number of Spanish channels, but neither was my Colombian roommate John. He watched most things on his iPhone.

The Bluray player I have had for a few years now is hard-wired to the router, and I can get a variety of services via the internet including Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Opera TV store (Vewd) where you can connect a variety of other apps. It also has YouTube. Since the Bluray is connected to 40-inch television, I am now wondering why I was not watching “Bad Buddy” there.

I bought a 24-inch television last year for the bedroom. I confess I did not know all of the features when I bought it. It is connected to the internet via WiFi as well as to broadcast television with a flat antenna. The remote has buttons for six services including Prime which I have. Prime will connect me with Here, which I also have. There is also a button that has “Watch Free TV+” and it will find you all categories of television on a variety of services. The number of apps can take you all over the world.

Smart TV

I can not possibly watch all of the channels I can get in English, not to mention all the Spanish channels John did not watch. I have now discovered that YouTube and other platforms have opened us up to television from a number of countries. I found Chinese television series via YoYo English Channel and a popular Thai series on GMM TV. There are seemingly unlimited options in just about every language. With my limited French, I can watch the news on France 24 and other channels.

If you are willing to invest in a VPN (Virtual Private Network), you might be able to access broadcast options from other places not now available to you. I ran through a server in Thailand and watched some trailers on WeTV. Your connection will be encrypted end to end so probably be more secure than what you have now. I am paying on average just over 6 bucks a month for that.

Now changing the channel means more than walking to the set and moving a dial with a couple of clicks. It can literally mean moving to the other side of the world.