Tag Archives: travel

Antofagasta©

  One doesn’t come across the name Antofagasta—a Chilean city 678 miles north of Santiago—in ordinary conversation and one assumes that the words Atacama Desert come up even less frequently. Probably even fewer readers of this column have stopped off at either place. The region produces much of the world’s supply of copper.
I certainly didn’t intend to land in Antofagasta when my flight left Bogota, Colombia.  My destination was Santiago itself. I’d made many trips to Latin America and the Caribbean over the years on assignments for the United States Information Agency (USIA) to train journalists and seek their support for friend of the press.


The first indication that passengers had that we were going to land before we got to Santiago was when the pilot’s voice came over the intercom. Pilots often talk to passengers from the cockpit, pointing out places of interest.
“This is the pilot speaking. We have just been informed that the Santiago airport is fog-covered. We can’t land there yet. We’ve been instructed to land at Antofagasta, which is nearly 700 miles north of Santiago. Please fasten your seatbelts and put your tray tables in the upright and locked position in preparation for landing. Thank you.”    The plane banked and we began a steep descent.  After an uneventful landing the plane taxied to a very small terminal building that was apparently closed.

We learned later that the air terminal only opened when flights were scheduled. Fortunately, the landside of the terminal was open 24 hours a day to accommodate traveler and commercial vehicle traffic.  Food and beverages and travel items were available at various counters.


The passengers disembarked and headed for the counters and restrooms. They were immediately surrounded by people wanting to purchase U.S. dollars. Passengers were offered a variety of exchange prices depending on how vulnerable they looked.  The gullible-looking passengers were offered 7.50 pesos for a dollar. The official exchange rate was 750.00 pesos per dollar.
One could tell the seasoned travelers by how few people surrounded them.  One could detect the passengers who hadn’t understood decimals in school by the fact that they got taken by buyers who moved the decimal point one or two places and cheated them ruthlessly.


Shysters moved through the crowd s trying to bully passengers into yielding their dollars. Others gazed into passenger’s faces and with mock sincerity and sought dollars by pleading poverty and hunger.
To their credit a number of honest citizens berated their crooked country men. The most effective do-gooders were those who spoke English. But they were berated by the shysters also. A few fights broke out.
At this point the aircraft’s captain grabbed a bullhorn, climbed on top of a wooden box and began shouting. The captain was a veteran of this airline route. He spoke Spanish fluently.
He shouted: “This is the captain speaking! Everyone take a step back and be quiet.”
Then he spoke in English.  “Passengers, move return to the airplane and take your seats. The fog has lifted and that the airfield in Santiago is ready to receive our flight. And in the meantime, courteously decline currency transactions of any kind.”

Despite the pilot’s orders there was a flurry of currency exchanges as the the passengers moved across the tarmac and climbed the stairs to the airplane.
As the plane taxied and lifted off, a few passengers complained about the delay. Most were glad for the diversion and for a chance to see a place they had never heard of and to which they would never have thought of booking a flight.
The plane reached cruising altitude and passengers were told they could move around the cabin.


A passenger shouted, “I forgot. How much is this money worth?
Another shouted, “Who cares? I’m saving mine to give to my grandkids. I’ll give you $30 for all your Chilean pesos.


“Pesos?” shouted another passenger. “Pesos?” Shoot! Some shyster sold me a hand full of Brazilian paper money I thought I was getting a real good deal.”
“I’ll give you a buck for all your Brazilian money,” said the grandma.”
“Coffee, tea or milk?” asked a flight attendant.

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-Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Zimmy, Kate and the Cuban Beetle ©


Until recently the U.S. government didn’t want you to go to Cuba.  That policy, which started way back in the Eisenhower administration, required that everybody apply for a license before traveling to Havana.    My friend Zimmy Tarbox  has a Ph.D. in entomology. He’s been all over the world measuring the space between the eyeballs of baby cockroaches.  Zimmy’s British colleague, Kate Billingsly, is the world’s leading expert on pond scum skimmer bugs.    Back in 2006, Kate and Zimmy attended the 15th Annual International Cockroach and Pond Skimmer Conference in Cuba.  In 2016 the sponsoring group, the Entomological Society scheduled its 25th annual conference for Havana, and Kate and Zimmy were invited to give keynote addresses in recognition of their outstanding contributions to entomological research.      In Hong Kong last January, the two talked about their upcoming visit to Cuba.    “Speaking of,” said Kate,  “I met Ricardo Calvez in Samoa last month.  He says that the Hypolestes trinitatis, a beetle endemic to Cuba, is in danger of extinction because of loss of habitat.”  “We should do something.”  “Yes, we should.”          The two scientists got the opportunity sooner than either of them thought.  They were invited to the White House.  The President was preparing for a trip to Cuba and, covering all bases, wanted a staff briefing on the flora and fauna of the island.  After speaking with Zimmy and Kate,
one of the staffers proposed a presidential field trip on the island to search for the Hypolestes trinitatis. She wanted something to showcase the President’s interest in the environment.  Kate and Zimmy were invited to lead the expedition.  So, it turned out, Zimmy and Kate flew to Havana, not on a crowded commercial flight from Miami, but on Air Force One.   Organizing a private “off the agenda” trip by the U.S. President to the forests of central and eastern Cuba could have been diplomatically and politically difficult.  But Zimmy and Kate had “friends at court” in the persons of two members of Cuba’s Central Party leadership who were avid amateur entomologists.   The two leaders had been aching to look for the Hypolestes trenitatis but couldn’t justify the cost to the government of such a trip.    At first the Secret Service threw a fit over the idea of the president tramping around in the outback of a communist nation, but under heavy pressure acquiesced to the endeavor.  Thus the party—consisting of the President, three Secret Service agents who didn’t look like what they were, Kate, Zimmy, and the two Cuban party members, slipped out of Havana by night and headed for the highlands.  As they trekked through the sub-montane forest, sometimes on little-used trails and at other times cutting through thick foliage, the members of the expedition kept their eyes peeled for a glimpse of the elusive beetle.  There were a couple of false sightings that disappointed everyone.  Then one of the Cuban party members spotted the prize, a large bug that looked like Hypolestes trinitatis.  The members of the expedition stepped back and waited for confirmation from Kate and Zimmy.

-Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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The Suit Case Irony ©

My older sister, Merci, is six years older than I. She graduated from high school in in 1947 and was accepted at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. We lived in Idaho Falls, Idaho—a 350 _-mile trip.
Back in those days one took the Greyhound bus from place to place. Merci packed her belongings in two of family’s battered old metal suitcases. She was living in a dormitory. She took a taxi to the dorm from the bus depot. The taxi driver carried her suitcases into the lobby of the dorm. The other residents saw the battered suit cases. Merci was embarrassed.
Fast forward. Merci graduated from BYU in three years and got a good job back in Idaho Falls with the Atomic Energy Commission. She was making really good money.
When it came time for me to get ready to attend BYU Merci bought me a an expensive matched set of leather luggage to take to college. I wasn’t going to live in a dormitory, I was going to live in an off campus apartment with four guys from Idaho Falls. The irony: we drove down to BYU in my roommate’s car. I unpacked the beautiful luggage and stored it away.
The story does have a happy—and worthwhile conclusion. After two years at BYU I was called by the LDS Church to serve as a missionary in Uruguay. The luggage was excellent for the trip down and it held up well over the two-and-a-half years I spent in various towns and cities in Uruguay.

-Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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The Limo and the Supreme Court Challenge©

It’s been more than a decade since the humor column, “Andrew Klees and the Limo” first appeared in the Kaw Valley Senior Monthly. In the story, a master auto mechanic named Andrew Klees rescued a wrecked stretch limousine that was going to be junked. On his farm near Letongaloosa, Andrew Klees lovingly restored the limo and drove it all around the county.
One day a couple of men came to the barn where Andrew Klees was polishing the limo. The two were wearing long black cowboy dusters over their suits. They were members of an organized crime syndicate that had sold the wrecked limo. The men were looking for something they thought was hidden in the car.
The two thugs tried to drive off with the limo but it wouldn’t start. They forced Andrew to press the starter. The engine started. The two made Andrew drive while they searched for the object.
After a while there was silence in the back seat. Andrew looked in the rearview mirror and saw the two men apparently asleep. Amazed, he stopped the car and opened the back door. He smelled ether.
“I put them to sleep,” said a melodic female voice that came from somewhere inside the dashboard. “Now please drive to the police station.”

Police found that the men were wanted in 10 states for murder and armed robbery. Andrew got a reward for capturing the two hoodlums.
For decades after that Andrew drove alone all over the county in his shiny stretch limousine. On warm sunny days folks in the countryside said they heard a woman’s voice singing whenever the limo drove by.
Meantime, lawyers for the syndicate sued to get the limo back from Andrew Klees. The case worked its way through the legal system. It took decades with appeal after appeal. Andrew was not involved in the proceedings. Others took up the cause. Some courts found in favor of the Syndicate, others found that the ownership of the limo was not in question.
Sam and Joe, the two hoods, having served their sentences, were released from prison. The case finally reached the Supreme Court on a legal technicality: the Court was asked to decide whether the car’s melodious voice was an artifact of the machinery or an unexplainable phenomenon. If it the voice were an artifact, the Syndicate would own the limo. If the limo’s voice were an unexplainable phenomenon then Andrew would retain ownership.
The Supreme Court ordered that the Limo be transported to Washington D.C., and appointed a panel of three justices to listen to the voice and decide whether it was artifact or unexplainable phenomenon.
The media got wind of the experiment and turned out in force at a parking lot where the test was to be carried out. Security forces kept the press and curious public at a distance while the justices climbed into the back seat and closed the doors.
“Press the starter,” said the senior justice
The junior-most justice pressed the starter.
Nothing happened. There was no sound, and the motor didn’t turn over.
“Press it again,”
Nothing.“!@#$%^&*(,” said the senior justice, who, when not on the bench tended to express himself colorfully.
“Don’t swear. It’s wicked” said a woman’s voice from the limo’s dashboard.
The senior justice’s face, which was usually florid, turned ashen. He tried to open the door. It wouldn’t budge. His security detail tried to open the door from the outside. It wouldn’t budge.
“Give me back to my owner,” said the voice from the dashboard.
“All right. All right!” shouted the senior justice. “Let us out of here.” ‘
The door opened.
“The voice is an unexplainable phenomenon,” shouted the senior justice. “Give this vehicle back to its owner immediately.”
Then he shouted: “Call the F.B.I! I want those syndicate criminals arrested and prosecuted.”
So, once again on sunny afternoons folks see that shiny stretch limousine driving along their country roads. But nowadays there’s no question in their minds where the singing is coming from.
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Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia is available from Lulu.com.

 

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The Golden Fleece Redemption©

To strangers he looks like a tall goofy rich guy from the Midwest. To the people of Letongaloosa, Blair Trimert is a smart, good-hearted man who does lots of things to help the community.
Blair Trimert was tall. His big ears, long face and loopy smile were acts of nature. Nature, perhaps to compensate, also provided Blair with superior intelligence and quick wits. Blair inherited a pile of money because of maternal nature. Blair’s mom yearned for a child, but never had one, so she and her husband adopted Blair as a baby.
His parents were third generation Basque-Americans. Blair’s adoptive grandparents had come to the U.S. early in the 20th century to herd sheep, but like a number of Basque immigrants, their children ended up owning banks.
When they adopted Blair, Balasi and Adere Intuxuast wanted their son to benefit from their rich language and heritage, but they didn’t want to burden him with a first and last name that his American playmates would find unpronounceable, so they retained Blair’s birth name.
Years ago while he was in Chicago on business, a couple hoodlums from the Pyrenees kidnapped Blair as he walked out of a bank carrying a bundle of expired and worthless financial bonds that he was going to destroy. The two Basque hoods, Mitch and Moe, grabbed Blair and pushed him into a waiting car. The hoods owed their bookie money and he had ordered them to pay up or he would rub them out. As they drove away, a quick-thinking Blair yelled at them in Basque. He convinced the two hoods that they were all part of a bond robbery directed by the mob. They believed him and agreed to follow his orders.
Blair gave them the satchel full of worthless bonds and then told them to drop him off at a restaurant. The two hoodlums took the worthless bonds to the mob to pay their debts. Somehow the two smart Basques were able to escape after the mob realized the bonds were worthless. Moe and Mitch ended up in Letongaloosa because Moe’s cousin Billy Adkins (nee Bidari Azarola) was a bank teller there.
So then the three of them cooked up a plot to rob the bank. They made their plans over the telephone speaking Basque, assuming no one could understand them. A Letongaloosa police detective got a court order to tap the hoodlums’ phone and asked Blair to translate the conversations for the authorities.
Blair was surprised and delighted when he heard Moe’s voice and realized that it was his old nemesis. The police were waiting for the three when they ran from the bank with a satchel full of money. The Basque hoodlums were sent to prison.
In the joint, Moe changed his life. He quit his bad habits, joined Alcoholics Anonymous and was released early. As part of his AA pledge Moe came to Letongaloosa and contacted Blair to apologize for his behavior.
Blair was walking downtown on a fine warm day when he saw Moe standing on the sidewalk. He spoke:
“Kaixo (hello) Blair,” said Moe
“Hori zu zara, (is that you) Moe?” asked Blair
“Yes sir. I’ve come to apologize for my behavior years ago.”
“Where have you been?” asked Blair
“I’ve been in prison. While I was there I changed my life. I joined AA. They let me out early.”
“Congratulations, Moe, That’s excellent.”
“So what are your plans?” asked Blair.
“I want to get a job but there’s not much work for someone with few skills and a prison record.”
“What kind of work are you looking for?”
“I’m pretty good at math.”
“I’d like to help.” Blair introduced Moe to Dean Ima Farseer, at Letongaloosa Community Junior College.
Moe worked hard and graduated with honors. Blair got him a job at a local bank where Blair had large checking and savings deposits.
So in an ironic twist, Moe ended up as a teller at the same bank he and Mitch and cousin Bidar Azarola had tried to rob years earlier.

 

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-Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Against all Odds©

` Two events within 24 hours of each other changed Oswald Parker’s life. If the events had happened in reverse sequence, Oswald would have remained a dirt-poor loser. Instead he became a millionaire and the Great Hope of everyday Joes in the country.
Oswald, a 30-year-old nerdy-looking bachelor, went to a local department store to buy himself a pair of socks for his birthday. Walking through the Women’s Department Oswald saw a life-size poster of a beautiful auburn-haired model.
He gazed at the poster for five minutes during which two sales ladies asked if they could help him find something.. He just stared at the woman in the poster. The floor manager was approaching Oswald when Oswald snapped a photo on his cell phone and bolted for the front door.
He drove straight to a grocery store and stood at the counter where lottery tickets were sold. As everyone knows, a lottery ticket is the poor man’s Magic Lamp.
Oswald held out two one-dollar bills.
“What numbers are you going to play?” asked the clerk.
Oswald didn’t answer. He just stood there in a daze.
Page 2 “Against All Odds”
“Sir, what numbers do you want?” Nothing.
Miffed, the clerk pushed a button and the machine spit out a lottery ticket.
“That’ll be $2, sir,” she said.
Oswald gazed.
The clerk reached across the counter, took the $2 from Oswald and put the lottery ticket in his hand. “Next,” said the clerk.
Oswald drove home, put the lottery ticket on top of his dresser and crawled in bed. He didn’t wake up until morning. He lay with his eyes closed thinking of the woman in the department store poster. It took great effort to get up, get dressed, and leave for his shift at the tire store where he worked.
A few days later television newscasts announced that someone had purchased the only winning ticket for a five-million-dollar lottery pay out. The winner had not come forward to claim the money. That was normal–many lottery winners don’t claim their prize until they get their legal team and their “Instant Millionaire” strategy worked out.
Meantime Oswald went obliviously on with his life until a local newscast prompted him to reflect. He remembered the lottery ticket on his dresser. He checked the number and realized he had the winning ticket.
His first thought was: “Now I can meet her.” Now he could meet the love of his life—the woman in the department store poster. His second thought was: “I want her to like me for myself, and not because I just won a million dollars in the lottery.”
The next day Oswald quit his job, cashed in his savings account and flew to New York City. He had no luck at the model agencies.
Page 3 “Against All Odds”
Nerdy in appearance and speech, Oswald often didn’t even get past the front desk at most agencies. Then a receptionist–who was kind of nerdy-looking herself–took pity on him. She asked him some questions and looked at the photo on his cell phone.
“I’ll help you find her,” she said.
It was a difficult job. There are almost as many model agencies in New York as there are pizza joints. After a couple of days of fruitless searching Fran—the receptionist—asked Oswald if he had seen much of New York.
“Nothing,” he replied.
“Why don’t we take the afternoon off? I’d be happy to show you around. We can start fresh tomorrow morning.”
Oswald agreed reluctantly, but by midafternoon he was having such a good time he almost forgot he had come to New York to find the poster model. The next morning he showed up at Fran’s desk with a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers.
“Let’s see some more sights,” he said.
“I can’t,” said Fran. “I don’t have any vacation days.”
“Then quit your job. I won a million dollars in the lottery. I love you and I want to marry you.” He showed her the winning ticket.
“What about the model, the one in the poster?”
“She can be a bridesmaid,” said Oswald.
And she was.

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-Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Ghosts Of Legends Past ©

Last Thursday, I found myself sitting in my office putting the finishing touches on this month’s column. Every “I” had been dotted, every “t” had been crossed. A problem made this column difficult to write. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to write about, it’s that, with Halloween around the corner, I couldn’t stop thinking about the peculiar conversation I had with Barkley Michaels, WZBZ’s Mega-Radio’s disc jockey.
I had been away from my desk for almost two weeks. I had been in La Mancha at the Cineplex for a week helping finalize the plans for the upcoming Fall Film Festival. Immediately after that I grabbed Emmaline and we headed off to Tahiti to attend the Marlon Brando Film Festival. I went every year, especially after Letongaloosa County Community Junior College, where I teach, acquired a research grant to study the topography of the island where Brando once lived.
I also began writing the weekly movie review for the Letongaloosa Register-Journal-Challenger-Sun Chronicle after Dexter Dolby, winner of the Fall Film Festival, went out to Hollywood. The Marlon Brando Film Festival in Tahiti was always a reader favorite.
I know what you’re thinking–how many reviews can a person read (or write) about an iconic movie legend, especially since the body of work hasn’t changed in decades?
But you would be surprised. Marlon Brando films are just an element of the festivities. There is food, there is fun, and there is just an overall celebration of life in Tahiti. And that brings me back to a vexing problem and to a conversation I had with Barkley.
“I don’t understand how my listeners can be so fascinated about the fact that the station is haunted. It’s the same year after year. The former station owner Reginald Wicker watches over the station. I get tired of hearing the same old stories, along with the corny “running refrigerator” jokes that listeners like to tell, Barkley said.
The legend is that since Reginald dropped dead in the control booth, there have been strange manifestations. Control room lights grow brighter then dimmer, then go out altogether. Announcers’ throats suddenly tighten up and they sounded like Minnie Mouse for a few seconds. Then their voices would go back to normal. It was pretty non-scary haunting. It was not threatening or scary, but something new had occurred, and while still not frightening, was definitely peculiar.
While reading promotions for the Fall Film Festival, trick-or-treating schedules, and other Halloween activities occurring around town, Barkley said, everything seemed normal. Then he read the announcement about my upcoming piece showcasing my time at the Marlon Brando Film Festival. Then the haunting activity picks up.
“It’s weird–every time I play the sound bite that Isabella sent over from the newspaper office, the lights in the studio flash on the back wall like you’d see at a movie premiere”, Barkley looked perplexed.
Isabella Frost, the Letongaloosa Register-Journal-Challenger-Sun Chronicle’s managing editor had the college interns put together sound bites that used lines from well-known Brando films to showcase my review. She thought it would be a good way to get people in Letongaloosa excited about the upcoming fall film festival.
“Hmm, well, Reginald was a huge Brando film buff. I guess he still is…,” I said.
If you think about it, Halloween is more than snack-sized candy bars, haunted radio stations and toilet paper tossed into the trees in front yards. It’s about the legacy and memories that those before us have left behind—whether it is an iconic movie legend or a ghostly station manager watching over things.
“It’s not so bad, you know. And neither are the corny appliance jokes,” I said.
You may roll your eyes, but you could also embrace what’s happening and realize that the people of Letongaloosa remember the past.”
With those thoughts in mind and Barkley’s problem solved, I went home to finish my column. Barkley headed home, too. He put on his favorite Tahitian shirt, popped a large bowl of popcorn, and turned on a Marlon Brando movie. Then he sat back on his couch, and smiled.
Maybe Barkley couldn’t tell the stories of his old pal, Reginald Wicker, but I can wish everybody a Happy Halloween!
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-Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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