Who You Gonna Call?
Kingsburg and Reedley California are significantly haunted places. So says Ghost Hunter Josh Rodriguez. Josh has investigated over 30 places throughout California, but most predominately in the South Fresno County area. It all started when he was two years old. His family was living in a home on Elkhorn Road and Josh was playing in the living room when all of a sudden his body flew across the room, according to his mother, Rosa. While the experience was painful, the bigger effect was that Josh was traumatized and it took him years to develop his speech. In addition Josh began having the ability to see and communicate with ghosts. As he grew older, he began researching and studying everything he could get his hands on regarding the spirit world. The more he learned, the less frightened he became and the more confident in his abilities to ghost hunt.
According to Josh, “I know how it feels to be made fun of, so when I heard people talking about seeing things that they couldn’t explain, I knew that I was meant to help them. You need to be respectful of people, but at the same time skeptical. You don’t want someone trying to trick you. But at the same time, you want to help people. My phone rings constantly now with people wanting me to help them to understand what’s going on.”
Rodriquez explained that ghosts reside in places, not necessarily structures. If a house has a ghost in it and the house is torn down, the spirit will remain in the same area regardless. He also asserts that despite popular belief, there are very few ghosts in cemeteries. Instead, they tend to be where the living are because they prefer activity to silence. Poltergeists are entirely different. They are evil spirits who require specialized, and possibly dangerous, techniques to properly deal with them.
In order to further understand the anatomy of a ghost hunt, Josh took my husband Robert, photographer Danny Valderrama, and myself on a hunt in the Kingsburg area. The house is currently occupied by Berta Torres and Jose Barajas who have seen at least four different spirits on the property. According to the couple, there is a large man wearing a cowboy hat, a lady who wears white linen, and two men. They say that the two men are mean and often play tricks on them and push Jose from behind. The lights flicker, the lady in linen was seen by Berta and a guest walking through a wall, then look at them and continue to walk through the house, loud bangs, doors slamming and trees shaking for no apparent reason. Strange and unexplainable things have happened on the property throughout the 15 years that they have lived there. The couple told us about their experiences and then left for the evening so that we could begin the investigation.
Josh had been to this home before with a psychic. The psychic got scared and abruptly left the area. This would be Josh’s second attempt at communicating with the spirits at this location. He began pulling out his equipment which was held in a large duffle bag. The first test would be with an Electric Voice Phenomena (EVP) device. The EVP can be any recording device including a microcassette player. When trying to capture an EVP sound everyone must remain very, very still. Creeks, shifting of feet or any movement will be recorded and could be misinterpreted later. Asking the ghosts questions will prompt them to answer back if they are around and willing to cooperate. Josh asked the female spirit which decade she had died in. She responded “yes” when asked if she had died in the 1970s. We did not hear this, but when we reviewed the tape later, the recording device had picked it up.
Next we used a Ghost Box where a device and amplifier are used to establish white noise. Questions are sometimes answered at frequencies we wouldn’t be able to hear otherwise. Here is the dialog we heard with Josh asking the questions and a spirit answering them:
How many spirits are here? 7
What is your name? Ruben
How old are you? 10
Where did you die? Kingsburg
And then; Please stop
Danny Valderrama brought two additional devices. A parabolic microphone and an electromagnetic fields (EMF) meter. These scientific devices are popular with ghost hunters. The EMF meter is popular because ghosts will often cause a spike in the EMF which becomes a ‘heads up’ for the ghost hunter that they are nearby. The parabolic microphone picks up sounds that might not be heard under normal circumstances. There is a trailer house on the property where the spirit with the cowboy hat is said to have died. We decide to go to that area with our devices. While we talked about who should go, the device spiked to its maximum when Danny said he would go. Josh asked, “Should Robert go?” No response from the meter. “Should Jolene go?” No response from the meter. “Should Danny go?” The meter again shot to its maximum. Brave Danny volunteered to venture to the trailer along with Robert. Not-so-brave Jolene stayed a safe distance away, ready to report what news the others brought back. While there, Danny and Robert picked up more readings on the EMF meter. Danny felt a brush against his ear when there was no one nearby.
Pictures were taken with several different cameras. There are times where an orb or other image will appear in an area, but is unseen by the human eye. Tapping was done as a form of communication as well. Josh invited the spirits to tap if they were present. We did hear tapping but agreed that it was inconclusive. As we finished our hunt, Josh had each of us put a special powder and oil on our bodies to ward off any spirit who might want to leave with us.
Josh says that ghost hunting is done predominately at night because there are less distractions and other sounds than there are during the day making it easier to see and hear spirits. However, spirits are active all the time. He says that people call him when they’re at the end of their rope, feeling frightened and wanting to move away from the dwelling. His goal in these instances is to become the liaison between the two worlds where he can explain to the homeowners who the ghost is, or was, why they’re doing whatever they are doing and in some cases, to attempt to get them to leave the area. He does not charge for his expertise because he considers it more of a calling than a profession. He looks forward to the day when he can meet again the spirit who threw him across the room when he was a toddler. He has a few things he’d like to say to him. For more information about Josh’s services, visit his website, www. http://paranormalcrys.webs.com/ .
Bigfoot is Going Mainstream
As popularity for the creature grows, so does media coverage
It’s the strangest thing. A few years back, if I told someone I was going Bigfoot hunting, they would have scoffed. But now, as I told just about everyone I came into contact with, the standard reply was, “Oh, I want to go!” or “My (family member) would LOVE to do that!”
What has happened recently to change public opinion about Bigfoot? Perhaps it’s the internet, where more and more people turn for information. It used to be that the major networks controlled information. Not so much anymore. Now there are websites dedicated to Bigfoot such as bigfootencounters.com
Shows like radio’s Coast to Coast AM (originally with Art Bell and now with host George Noory) have enjoyed great success with paranormal topics that include Bigfoot on a regular basis. Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot follows a team that includes a scientist on Bigfoot hunts based on reported sightings. There are even apps for Bigfoot. Download Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy to keep updated on Bigfoot news. The History Channel’s show Greatest History’s Mysteries goes into detail about the sightings reported all through history along with theories on their existence. Giving traction to the Bigfoot phenomenon is England’s Oxford University where scientists there have called for people to send in any DNA that is believed to be from Bigfoot so that they can test it and determine more about the beast. There is a Bigfoot Museum in Felton, California, a Bigfoot Symposium was recently held in Visalia and even an unofficial Cryptozoology Boy Scout Merit Badge (which includes Bigfoot).
I attended a Finding Bigfoot Town Hall Meeting at the Shaver Lake Community Center earlier this year. Stunningly, it was standing room only in the large hall with several local people getting up and telling their Bigfoot stories. Being a paranormal fan since the days of Fright Night, Night Gallery and Twilight Zone, I found the experience to be fascinating, if not bone chilling, as some of those stories were startlingly detailed and terrifying. The people giving their accounts were residents from Shaver, Fresno, Oakhurst, Kingsburg, etc.
Moving backwards in time, Native American Indians from a variety of tribes in several U.S. regions have told tales of Bigfoot sightings and interactions. The local Tule River Tribe have pictographs actually showing what resembles Bigfoot on large boulders in their Reservation. National media has shown the drawings which have been dated back to approximately 500 to 1,000 years ago.
How does one go about hunting for Bigfoot? First, you find out where there have been sightings. Jeffrey Gonzalez, founder of the Sanger Paranormal Society, says that there have been sightings all over the Sierra Nevada. There are even reported sightings as close as Zediker and Ashlan Avenues in Sanger, the Kings River south of Reedley, and at Herndon & Highway 99 in Fresno on the San Joaquin River. Gonzalez has taken my family along with the Valderrama family of Kingsburg on two Bigfoot hunts. We’ve been in two areas where there have been frequent sightings and spent the night there. Part of me thinks it would be amazing (to say the least) to see a Bigfoot. Another part of me hopes to never see this creature. I guess that’s the fun. It’s especially unnerving when it gets dark and everyone turns in for the night. Every little sound is magnified and sets your heart pounding.
Here is the anatomy of a Bigfoot hunt. Once you’ve established where you’re going, and who is going with you, two very important factors, then you should pack up. Include apples, as Bigfoot apparently likes them, some sort of protection, in case someone or thing in the wilderness wants to be aggressive, motion sensors so that you’ll know if Bigfoot is around your campsite, a motion sensor camera/recorder or video camera, which is capable of night vision recording, so that if you see him, at least you’ll have proof. You should have binoculars to look for him in the daylight and night vision binoculars for the evenings. Bring a parabolic sound amplifier to let you hear sounds far away, so that perhaps if you can’t see him, you’ll at least be able to hear him. Bring women and children as Bigfoot seems to be lured by the sounds of their voices. Once you’re at your destination and have set up camp, start looking in the woods where there are shadows. Bigfoot is an expert at observing unnoticed. Stay together as you explore your surroundings as a single person is much easier to bother, and more susceptible to abduction, but that’s another story, than a group of people. Take the apples and throw them on the outskirts of your campsite. Go to youtube and search for Bigfoot Tree Knocking to listen to how Bigfoots talk to each other. Bigfoot hits a stick on a tree in a specific way. Bigfoot hunters use this tactic, along with calling (also available on youtube) to catch his attention and perhaps head your way. Set up your night time equipment. Have a nice dinner (in case it’s your last), enjoy some story time around the campfire to enhance your sensitivity, and turn in. Hope that your motion sensors go off, or that your cameras catch something. Gonzalez occasionally sets out food, away from camp, and positions a motion sensitive camera facing the food in hopes of capturing a hungry Bigfoot on film.
But be careful for what you wish for. One local seasoned Bigfoot hunter came face to face with a Bigfoot when he ventured away from his group. He came back and told them what he had seen and then determined that he had seen enough, never returning to hunt again. Another, who is a high school principal in the area, has collected photos, videos and other proof that Bigfoot exists. He is keeping it until he writes a book regarding his encounters. Gonzalez even has DNA that he believes is from Bigfoot. One of the reasons people with Bigfoot proof tend to be careful with their proof is that in the past when they’ve given it over to be analyzed, the specimens have become lost. These stories have added fuel to the government conspiracy theory that they’re suppressing Bigfoot information. Hunters tend to be very guarded with their findings.
Gonzalez says that people sometimes see things that they don’t understand and they want to talk about it and receive explanations for what they saw. His 24 hour hot line is designed to be the local support to any paranormal sighting, from Bigfoot, to UFO’s, ghosts, and anything else that is unexplained by traditional means.
Whether Bigfoot is a missing link, an alien, a figment of people’s imagination, or something else, the fascination continues to grow and the topic has entered the mainstream culture. Naysayers are fast becoming the minority. Who would have thought…
To report sightings of any kind, call Jeffrey Gonzalez at 559-287-8367.
Oh, and by the way…..happy hunting
Haunted Queen Mary
Over the summer, my husband and I travelled to Southern California with friends and stayed on the Queen Mary (QM). We were actually down there to NASCAR race in Irwindale, but decided to stay a couple of nights on the Queen Mary just to make a weekend out of it. We reserved spots for the “Dining with the Spirits” tour which included dinner at the QM restaurant, Sir Winston's, followed by a late-night guided tour of the ship's paranormal hotspots. Unbeknownst to my husband and I until that weekend, the couple we were travelling with were seasoned paranormal travelers and had brought equipment to use during the tour.
We checked into the Queen Mary and got to our rooms. If you ask at the front desk, they’ll give you a list of all of the paranormal sightings both in the ship and in the hotel rooms. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), our room had no record of any unusual observations.
We unpacked and left with our friends for dinner in Long Beach. When we returned to the ship, we said good night to them and walked toward our room, which is much further aft than theirs. Because the corridors are very long and narrow (we are on a ship after all), my husband pulled out his iPhone and started taking pictures of me as I walked down the long hall to our room. It made a photographic shot that he thought would be unique. He took four shots in total. When we got to our room, he looked at his photos and asked if there was anyone in the hall with me. I replied, “No. No one. Why?” He asked, “Are you absolutely sure? No one was in the hall with you?” Of course, being that we’re on a documented haunted ship, I thought he was teasing me, and answered, annoyed, “No. I already said no.” He produced his iPhone and I noticed that his hands are trembling. His hands trembling made my blood turn cold. I looked at the photos. Me. Walking down the hall toward our room. Again, me further down the hall. Then, me, further this time and a bell hop, in a complete bell hop uniform, is walking towards me with his head tilted as if he’s helping me find my room. Next shot, just me, no one else in the hall.
We called our friends and we all attempted a reenactment. We figured out where I would have been in all four shots and there really is no explanation for how someone would have appeared in one shot that took place in between three others without either my husband or I seeing him. In the reenactment, the bell hop was about five feet away from me. So creepily close.
The next morning, we showed the photo to the front desk, and they confirmed that the uniform in the picture is not a uniform that has been worn on the Queen Mary by their staff.. Later, I looked through a QM coffee table book in our room and discovered a photograph taken in the early 1900’s of the bell hops who serviced the ship back then. They are wearing the same uniform as the man who appeared in our photo. Gloves, cap, brass buttons, everything.
I am somewhat happy that I didn’t see him in the hall that night. Although it’s unsettling because it begs the question of what else don’t I see?
Oh, and as for the Spirit Tour? That’s another story…..
I'm Going In
While I was on vacation, my dad stopped texting me. I tried calling but his phone was off. I called his neighbor and asked if he could go over and check on him. He called me back and said he was fine. Two days later I returned home. The next morning, I drove to his house to check on him. He didn’t answer the door. I had a key, but he owned five dogs, two of them were pit bulls who had been aggressive toward me in the past. As I rang the doorbell, they tried everything in their power to breakdown the door to get to me. I called 911 and explained the situation, explaining that I didn’t know what services I should ask for. Within minutes two police cars were there. One of the officers asked how I was doing I answered that I was nervous. Soon thereafter animal control showed up along with the paramedics. By now, many neighbors were standing outside watching. The first responders and I huddled and determined that the police would go in first. As they’re unlocking the door I said, “Wait! I just remembered that he has guns in there, not sure how he’ll react if he thinks he’s being broke into.” With that, we huddled again. The officers suggested that I go in first and call out to him. I agreed but asked if I could borrow their mace if the dogs attacked me. They said no. I remembered that I had mace in my car. I got it out and explained that I didn’t know how to use it. One of the officers showed me how to do it, then let me practice. He said that I should spray it toward the ground and away from the dogs. They would run off without needing the spray to hit them directly. As I’m practicing in the front yard, more neighbors came out to watch.
We line up at the front door, first me, then the officers, animal control and the paramedics last. I unlocked the door, turned the handle, then turned back toward everyone and said, “I’m going in!” Which made all of us laugh. I cracked open the door and yelled “Dad, are you ok?” He yelled back from the back bedroom “NO!” It was a huge relief to know that he was alive. But the dogs were going crazy. With my mace, I go as quickly as I can through the kitchen and out to the garage. The dogs followed. When they were all in the garage, I ran back into the kitchen and closed the garage door. I yelled to everyone that the coast was clear. Immediately, the officers stepped aside making way for the paramedics to get to the back bedroom. The house was too small for me to be in a place where I could see what was happening. I waited in the kitchen, looking around. I realized that the dogs had been locked in the house with him. They had no food or water and there was feces and urine everywhere. The smell was nauseating. My dad had become a hoarder and his house was disgusting to the point where I hadn’t gone in for several months. But this was a new level of revolting.
They ended up taking my dad out in a gurney. He looked terrible, pale, and weak, his hair all over the place, his beard matted. They took him to the hospital for evaluation where he stayed for a few days. I remained at the house to feed and water the dogs. The animal control person said that I could be charged for elder abuse for letting him live like this. I turned on the lights and locked up the house before heading to the hospital.
The prognosis was dehydration. Nothing broken, nothing else wrong with him. A miracle. When I finally got to see him, he said that he fell off the bed and couldn’t get up. His phone was on the other side of the room, and he was too weak to crawl to get it. I asked why the neighbor had thought he was fine. He said that the neighbor had asked if he was inside and he said yes, thinking he would come to his aid. Instead, the neighbor assumed he was ok, thus delaying a rescue.
I had known this day was coming. Earlier in the year he and I had toured assisted living places. I found out that he was getting lost when driving around town, a town he had lived in since he was 15. He liked Oakmont of Fresno the best but refused to go because of his dogs. I asked if I could begin trying to rehome them which he wouldn’t consider. I said that there would be an event that would force him to move. This was the event. I called and made the arrangements to have him moved directly to the facility from the hospital.
I had taken pictures of all the dogs and posted on social media that they needed new homes. After two days, I gave up and was left with no choice. I called the SPCA and asked if they could come pick them up. They met me at the house and together we managed to get them all into their vehicle. Again, I had the neighbors standing in their front yards watching the scene. And believe me, it was a scene. I told him I was thankful for his help, without him I would have had to just open the front door and let them out. My next problem was his house. With the dogs there, no one would dare break in, but now they were gone, and everyone knew it. I asked my mother to help me get all the valuables out before dark. We took the guns, ammunition, jewelry, etc. We agreed to come back the next day with her cleaning lady and my husband to go through the massive amount of junk to make sure there wasn’t anything else of value. When we arrived the next morning, we realized that the house had been broken into but there was so much clutter that it was impossible to know if they had taken anything. We worked all day and determined that we had found anything of value. We then hired a contractor to come in, clear everything out and pull up the carpet. After about a week, and four full size roll-offs filled, the house was in condition to renovate or sell. We sold it without having to list it. With the dogs and house out of my care, I had more time to focus on settling him into his new home. There was very little in his house that was salvageable. Over the years he had amassed collections of magazines, toys, etc. Unfortunately, he hadn’t stored anything properly rending all his collections useless. I had to purchase nearly everything for his apartment at Oakmont. Just as he seemed settled and content, COVID came along and forced him into quarantine. I was grateful that he was safe, being cared for and eating well. I don’t think he would have fared well otherwise.
In my November, 2022 blog I talked about our unsuccessful challenge to get from the Mandalay Resort and Casino to the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas. We had a reservation at the popular restaurant, Mott 32. My son had discovered that they serve Peking duck in an extraordinary way, and we were all excited for the experience. Unfortunately, we didn’t arrive promptly at our reservation time, and they cancelled it. We were out of luck, and out of duck.
My son and husband flew back to Las Vegas in January for a business conference and stayed at the Mirage which happens to be directly across the street from the Venetian. I reserved a table for them and confirmed that they would be dining on the Peking duck. Since they were just across the street, they arrived for their table at the prescribed time. I wondered with all the hype; would the actual experience be disappointing. We have a family text group and we all waited for their assessment in anticipation. You may be curious as to what makes this entrée so enticing. Here is the description from their website:
We begin with hand-selected special breed ducks that are 42 days old and 2kilograms in size. They are prepared over 48 hours in our custom refrigeration system with our special marinading technique and then finished in a brick oven smoked with Applewood. The duck is hand-sliced table-side, using age old techniques with a special Mott 32 signature cut which locks in all the juices. It is combined with the duck’s crispy Applewood smoked skin brushed with brown palm sugar; and topped with the succulent duck breast meat. It is served with Hoisin, peanut and sesame sauces, freshly sliced cucumber and scallions, and the thinnest steamed pancakes.
Note that the word ‘pancakes’ above translates into ‘rice paper’ to us Westerners. I’ve used rice paper and pancakes interchangeably in this blog. It is very thin, and sticky in the shape of a circle. Similar to what contains spring rolls.
Here is the description of the experience from my husband and son’s perspective: The chef at our table was obviously very schooled at his craft. The duck was presented in its totality as cooked. He ceremoniously showed us so that we could take a picture if desired. Then he carefully filleted it starting with the duck skin. He had a very sharp knife that was shaped wide so he could also use it to carry the meat. He artfully prepared the fried duck skin into bite sizes pieces on a plate and surrounded one edge of the plate with brown palm sugar. This would be our first course. Then he perfectly spaced out all the ingredients he would be using. He began to prepare the rest of the duck by delicately cutting the best part of the meat and removing the scraps. The slices were created in such a way to include the duck meat, skin, and the fat layer in between for optimum succulence. The slices were placed on a plate by the chef. The waiter brought a bowl of Hoisin sauce and placed a dollop of peanut sauce in the middle of the Hoisin, when she spun the bowl it turned into a spiral galaxy of flavor.
With the remains, the chef prepared duck fried rice. We were given a bamboo steamer to share that contained the rice paper pancakes, each divided by pieces of actual paper. We used a tong to remove a rice paper pancake topped with a piece of paper and placed it on our plates. It takes practice because the rice paper is sticky and you need to slowly peel the paper off while keeping the pancake flat. Once it’s on the plate, you add sauce, duck, cucumber and/or scallions on top. You can either fold two sides in, and roll it like a burrito, or just roll it without folding the sides since the rice paper is sticky enough to tether the ingredients. The chopsticks are used to lift the roll to your mouth, taking bites. When you’re finished with one, the process starts over again. The entire experience lasts about two hours.
Many nearby diners watched the fanfare as well. My husband and son used chopsticks even though one of them is challenged with such utensils. The entire meal was prepared in a way that made chopsticks easy to use. The taste of everything was excellent. The duck didn’t taste like anything either had had before. It melted in their mouths because of the special technique used to hold the subcutaneous fat, and they ate slowly to savor every moment. Even the duck fried rice was pleasantly unique and has become the standard for all future fried rice dishes. To borrow from a scene in a recent movie, they did not eat, they tasted. A friend commented that for the price, they could have gone to a buffet several times. But the retort was that a buffet isn’t an experience. This was.
In summary, worth it!
If you go, make reservations as far out as possible and be sure to call and confirm that you want the Peking duck. They only prepare a few for each evening and can’t adjust the quantity because of the 42 day life of the duck and the 48 hour preparation period….and don’t be late!
The Man from Nantucket
When my sister-in-law invited us to Nantucket, Massachusetts to celebrate her birthday, we happily agreed. Nantucket wasn’t on our radar at all, but she had been there before and loved it. We flew into Boston, spent the night there then drove to Hyannis to catch a ferry to Nantucket. We were arriving in December to experience the Nantucket Christmas Stroll. Sounds somewhat interesting, but we have something similar in Kingsburg called the Julgranfest and assumed it would be like that. Very wrong. We were shocked at the thousands of people who were there. Many were dressed in fun Christmas attire such as a group of lobsters and a large family of Who’s from Whoville . People even dressed up their dogs. It started decades ago when the merchants of Nantucket didn’t want their residents travelling to Cape Cod to shop for Christmas presents. The festivities begin the first full weekend in December and last from Friday through Sunday with the highlight event being Santa arriving by boat and announced by the Town Crier. As Santa boards the historic fire engine and makes his way through town, those lined up to greet him follow along. There are so many people, it’s hard to do anything but follow in the crowd.
We stayed at a Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) house that is located in the downtown area. The cost this time of year for the rental is about $300 per night. For the Stroll weekend the cost soars to $1100 per night. And this is for a small home. It is in walking distance from the ferry and downtown. Everything we wanted to see was in the downtown area so we left our rented Lincoln Navigator at the ferry parking lot in Hyannis. We were glad we did as there was a great amount of traffic and very little parking.
I usually go for runs when traveling but couldn’t do so in Nantucket. The downtown streets are created with cobble stone making a good run impossible. The regularly paved streets just outside of downtown are too narrow to be safe. Because the island is heavily populated with tourists and owners of summer vacation homes the island pretty much closes for the winter months. The Stroll weekend is the exception. We participated in the walking Tour of Cliff Mansions where we saw multimillion dollar homes owned by the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and former Secretary of State John Kerry. The group wondered how the Kerry security detail were able to protect him when there wasn’t much room to park. And I will say for $50 million dollar homes, I expected them to be bigger and more grandiose. The guide said that for most of the owners, these would be their fourth, fifth or sixth home and that most of them are vacant except for the summer months. Nearly all the houses had lookouts on the roof. I imagine that it would be so amazing to sit up there in the summertime and stare out at the ocean.
We had dinner Saturday night at The Charlie Noble and ordered whole boiled lobsters. Lobster dishes are on just about any menu in the region. And while they were more flavorful than the ones we eat on the West Coast, I’m just too lazy to wrestle with an entire shell of a lobster. I asked the waiter if the chef could undress it for me and the response was a resounding ‘no.’ They were probably in the kitchen snickering at me. In my defense, I didn’t think they brought me the correct tools for such an endeavor.
Sunday we visited the Whaling Museum. Nantucket was considered the whaling capital of the world in the 1700’s and 1800’s. That night we took the evening walking tour, Nantucket Ghosts and Haunted Places. It’s about 80 minutes and we saw five of the most haunted places on the island. We had the perfect tour guide. His inflections, paired with a cold dark night heightened the experience greatly. At the most haunted house on the island, I asked the guide what the owners of the homes think when there are frequent walking tours in front of their homes. He said they don’t mind, and in fact, a couple who had been on the tour years earlier, actually purchased the most haunted one recently. Their son sleeps in the third story room where unseeable entities apply pressure on their human victims leaving them paralyzed for hours. Yeah, I don’t think so, chief. At the last place on the tour, the Unitarian Universalists Church, the guide was talking about the pastor who was seen giving sermons well after he had died. A woman across the street started yelling at us saying ‘What’s the point?’ and other things while pointing at a small window. We figured out that there was an LGBTQ flag, hardly visible, in one of the windows. The theory is she assumed we were talking about that. We explained that we were on a ghost tour to which she retorted that she was a physic. She continued to yell at us as we disbanded. It seems her perception was that she had broken up a group of haters. Maybe she had too much Stroll?
On Monday we left on the ferry back to Hyannis, got our Navigator and drove to Woods Hole to catch a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. Now this is where the title of this blog comes into play. My husband Robert drove that monstrosity from Boston through Cape Cod on to four ferries, around numerous roundabouts and through many narrow streets. He never complained, got agitated or angry. He was a great sport and didn’t mind getting lost and delayed. And we now know what the word ‘Masshole’ means.
So, Martha’s Vineyard. I thought it would be more posh. Our VRBO was nicer than the Nantucket one and far less expensive. There was a little path on the side of the house that circuitously took me to the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, a place to run. I was able to run all around the pier with beautiful homes and beach as my view. I even got to see the famous bridge in the movie Jaws where the shark comes out of the water. The houses predominantly have cedar siding that turns grey as it weathers. We downloaded the ‘www.getyourguide.com’ to look around the island since there weren’t any actual tours going on in what they call the ‘shoulder season.’ The app uses GPS to tell you what you’re looking at as you drive along. When there isn’t anything noteworthy it will tell you an interesting story about the island. We visited the Gay Head Lighthouse and Mytoi Gardens on our excursion. We took a small ferry to Chappaquiddick, nicknamed ‘Chappy’ by the locals, to see where Ted Kennedy crashed his car off a bridge, killing his passenger. On the other side of the bridge is the ‘Cape Poge Little Neck Bomb Target Site’ where the military practiced bombing during World War II. The sign warns to not go off the paths and to keep pets on leashes because even in 2009 they were still finding practice bombs buried in the dunes.
On Wednesday we took the ferry back to Woods Hole and headed to our next VRBO in Falmouth. The nicest and biggest house yet, also, the least expensive of all of them. Yelp showed an axe throwing bar, which we just HAD to do. Ok, maybe just me and the others indulged me. It’s all in the wrist.
Now we are in Cape Cod, or the Cape. We drove up to Provincetown which was the first place the Pilgrims stopped before reaching Plymouth and today is known as a heavily populated LGBTQ community. In fact, I estimate that every third house had a Pride flag. Unfortunately, the famous Pilgrim Monument was closed for the season. Heading back down the Cape we stopped at the Sandwich Glass Museum and Salt Pond Visitor Center. That evening we stopped in Chatham for their
On the way back to Boston, we made a quick stop at Plymouth. We saw the underwhelming rock that the Pilgrims reportedly stepped on while departing the Mayflower and the Mayflower II which is a replica of the tiny ship that was home to 102 people for 66 days. They don’t provide tours in the off-shoulder season months. On the way back to our hotel near the Logan International Airport we drove by the Boston Commons which was dressed for the season in large Christmas trees, bright lights and a large ice rink.
The weather was good for Massachusetts in the winter. I got to finally wear a coat that I bought for Alaska but didn’t need. There were far less people because of the season and that was nice. But, because we were in tourist places with few tourists, there weren’t very many places open. We learned to call a place before heading that way, despite what Yelp said. The beginning of Spring or the end of Autumn might be better, but then you miss all of the Christmas decorations, which were spectacular. There are signs everywhere warning to watch out for Great White Sharks. Advice included not swimming at dawn or dusk, staying close to the shore, and avoiding seals. It’s funny that they have a sign in this region for densely populated areas which says, ‘Thickly Settled.’ The first thing that struck me when we were in the region was the thick New England accent. According to Google, “Common traits of New England accents are non-rhotic or “r-dropping” pronunciation and a nasal-a sound. The “r-dropping” such as father /fa tha/ may come from the influence of English colonists.” My first encounter was a waitress asking me a question which I didn’t understand even after she repeated it. Finally, Robert figured out she was saying ‘beverage.’ When I responded, she had difficulty understanding that I wanted water. I should have asked for ‘whada.’
We had the opportunity to attend a Las Vegas Raiders game with seats in the 6th row on the 40 yard line of the visiting team. We’re fans of Fresno State alumni and quarterback Derek Carr and jumped at the chance to watch him play professionally in person.
We flew in on Friday night aboard Southwest Airlines. This was the first time we used this carrier, and everything was fine except the assigned seating nuance. Your pick your seat as you board. Here was the coaching I received from my Sister-in-law (who also was the one kind enough to offer us the Raiders tickets):
“Boarding group and number order is assigned at check-in and check in opens exactly 24 hrs before the flight. The trick: set your calendar to alarm 23 hrs 55 minutes prior to his flight time. Put the app for southwest on your phone. Be sure to have a frequent flyer number to get better priority. The app has a spot on the bottom labeled ‘check in.’ Log in a few minutes ahead and at exactly 24 hrs before the flight push "check in.” This gives you a group and number assignment- in A, B. C groups and then your number within the group you’re assigned. At the airport line up according to your group and number. People are pretty fastidious about this lining up thing. If you log in as soon as you can=24 hrs before flight- you will get an early boarding spot in the A or B group. With any A or B group you can always grab a window or aisle and sit wherever you feel like. You can pay extra to get "Early Bird automatic check in" which checks in for you and you always get in the A group. The other catch is that if you pay for the pricey Business Select ticket you are guaranteed a spot in the A group 1-15. So the rest of the early bird folks will then have a number after any Business Select ticket- the general public can get A spots if not a lot of folks pay that extra. If you forget to check in until the last minute you will board in the late group and get stuck with only middle seats. So, it pays to jump on it as soon as check- in opens.”
I know, right? How crazy is this? And the tickets were not any less cost than other airlines. It also affected what we were doing at the critical 24 hours mark to make sure we had cell service and were in a place where it was appropriate to use your phone to check-in.
We stayed at the Mandalay Bay Hotel because they have a direct path to the stadium. In fact, the view from our room was of the new Allegiant Stadium.
Anyhow, we got in late, and we were all hungry. It was after 10 pm and most of the restaurants had already closed. I am surprised that a city like Las Vegas would not offer many eating options past 10 pm.
Saturday, we had an amazing brunch at the Border Grill Restaurant at the resort. It’s a fixed price menu where you can select unlimited small plates of Mexican fusion entrees. The weather today included 24 mile and hour winds which somewhat limited what we could do outside, so we decided to check out the Shark Reef Aquarium with over 2,000 animals, including sharks, giant rays, endangered green sea turtles, piranha and a Komodo dragon.
That evening, we went to the Michael Jackson ONE by cirque du Soleil show. The music, of course, was great, especially Thriller. I was expecting more acrobatics from the performers. Overall, I give it a solid B. One surprise was when you enter into the theater there are performers pretending to be paparazzi. They are snapping photos with cameras that have the bright flashes. When we got to our seats, we noticed that they had pulled some of the pictures and photoshopped them into newspaper tabloids that filled two of the three giant screens. My photo was one of the few that was used – it’s startling to see yourself blown up to that extent. I would have had a better smile if I would have known!
After the show, our son Michael had found a restaurant in the Venetian called Mott 32, known for their Peking Duck dinners. They are so popular that you must preorder 48 hours in advance because of the quantity limit and time it takes to prepare them. I made reservations for 9:45 pm, allowing plenty of time to get from the Mandalay to the Venetian. I found a blogger who wrote about taking the monorail which would only take a few minutes and cost less than a taxi. I thought a monorail ride would be a fun addition to our itinerary. Wrong. It turns out there are two. One is city-ran the other is privately funded. You must walk from one casino to another with NO WAYFINDING SIGNAGE in order to switch rails. It reminded me of the 40 years the Jews wandered in the desert. And this was in the middle of having to do our 24-hour check-in for our flight tomorrow. By the time we figured it out and arrived at the Venetian, they had cancelled our reservation and had closed for the evening. It was after 10 pm and all the restaurants had closed. We ended up having dinner at an Outback, of all places. We decided to return on the monorail since we now knew the way. Only to find out that the privately funded rail had closed for the night. I really can’t understand how a city that brags about being open all night, has so many things closed so early, especially on the Strip. We ended up walking from the Excalibur back to the Mandalay.
The next morning, even though it was still a bit windy, we went to the resort’s Lazy River, wave pool and hot tub to soak before the game. At the stadium, you can’t bring in any big purses or back packs. You can bring in a see-through carrier or a plastic bag for your things so I had to determine what I would leave in my suitcase, which was now checked at the bell desk in the resort, as we planned on heading to the airport from the resort after the game. Walking from the resort to the stadium felt like I was in a parade. Thousands of people, many dressed in typical Raiders garb, were enjoying the ability to cover an entire six lanes of the overpass leading to the stadium. Chants of “Raidddd erssss” reverberating throughout the crowd. We had been to an Oakland Raiders game years ago. The fans there made us feel like we were in a prison yard. The Las Vegas fans were just as enthusiastic, but more cleaned up, if you will.
Our seats were epic. The stadium was beautiful with all the bells and whistles. Watching an NFL game that close has a vibe all its own. And they won! Making it all the more fun. We joked that Derek just needed some hometown support to win. Maybe he’ll invite us back as a lucky charm 😊
Chillin’ (not) in Alaska
Let me start by saying that all experiences, good and bad, bring dynamics to our lives. It would be boring otherwise. I wouldn’t change a thing. We decided to go on an Alaska cruise aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) Bliss, which is a fairly new ship. Robert, my husband, was reluctant. He wasn’t really interested and was curious why I wanted to go. I explained that everyone I know that’s gone has had an extraordinary experience and often go back again. We invited my mother and cousin to come along and booked the trip 18 months before travelling – the industry had just started to open again after the COVID lockdown.
There were two excursions that I wanted to do. The first was a Dogsledding coupled with a Glacier Flightseeing Helicopter excursion. What I learned: the excursion isn’t available late in the season. We went in October and therefore couldn’t do the thing I wanted to do most. The second excursion was a tour of the Yukon via bus. I booked this one and for some reason, they later cancelled it. So, I booked a Yukon tour on the White Pass Scenic Railway. Just before we sailed, that one was cancelled too. Seems Skagway, where the excursion begins, had major rockslides in the port and we were forced to stop at Icy Point Straight instead. There were plenty of other excursions, but nothing else seemed interesting to us. We’ve experienced ziplining, whale watching, canoeing all before. We were looking for something unique.
We insisted on having balcony cabins, next door to each other. Robert and I in one and my mother and cousin in the other. I will say that the extra expense for balconies is totally worth it. The best part of our trip was being able to enjoy the beautiful Alaskan scenery from our cabin’s balcony. The downside of having your cabins next to each other is that as the sail date draws nearer, if the ship isn’t full, they will offer upgrades for significantly lower prices. However, they will not place you next to cabins of the people you’re travelling with. I found this to be unnecessarily obstinate. They know full well if there are two upgraded cabins next to each other.
I was very impressed at how masterfully they managed passengers getting on and off the ship. When you check in online in advance, you’re given options as to what time you want to board. By stacking the boarding times, there was hardly any wait time. When we arrived at ports, they used photo recognition to let you off or on the ship. Therefore, you only had to slow down enough to let the reader scan your face and you were done.
The ship was just over half full. It felt somewhat crowded, so I’m glad it wasn’t at capacity. Our package included all you can eat, all you can drink, two dinner upgrades and excursion credits. Regarding the meals, there are several restaurants on the ship. There are the ones that are included in your package and then upgraded restaurants that you pay extra for. For our two free ‘upgraded’ restaurants we chose Ocean Blue and Teppanyaki. I would say that neither exceeded the quality of food in the regular restaurants. However, the Teppanyaki’s chefs were highly entertaining, using their utensils to create fun music.
We stopped at three ports, Juneau, Icy Strait Point and Ketchikan. All three ports had different scenery, however the primary focus was shopping with most of the trinkets similar at each port. Because we were at the end of the season, we were told that the prices were slashed to reduce inventory. I have no way of knowing if that is true or not, but many shoppers seem to respond to the spiel. It’s interesting to note that most of the merchants were from the ‘Lower 48’ as they call it. They go home at the end of the season and come back at the beginning of the next.
The star of the cruise is Glacier Bay. Only two ships are allowed to enter the bay each day. Because of the limited access, it increases the cost of your cruise when it’s included. We had heard a lot of hype and were excited to see this natural phenomenon, especially sitting from our balconies. And it was cool (pun intended) to watch large chunks of ice fall from them. Was it worth the extra cost of the cruise? Kind of. My mother was on a previous cruise that included the Mendenhall, Tracy Arm and South Sawyer Glaciers. She thought they were more spectacular.
The staff were nearly all from different countries. I don’t remember interacting with any that were American, which is interesting. There was about one staff person for every two people on the ship. I was entirely impressed with how attentive and downright joyful every single one of them was. To have that many crew members all spot-on with their customer service abilities is remarkable. We were required to tip the staff weeks prior to our embarkment. I didn’t particularly like paying gratuity for services not yet rendered, however, they earned the tips that were prepaid. A bonus was that I then didn’t feel guilty not giving them anymore at the end of the cruise.
The days at sea were probably the most fun. We spent hours on our balcony watching pods of whales go by. There is so much to do on the ship, it’s unlikely that you would be able to experience everything. While on vacation, my husband and I tend to stay out at night until everything’s closed. This included music, comedy, performances, games, dance classes and a sing-along piano bar. Our favorite performance was by a band called The Beatles Experience. They were on stage four nights, each session taking songs from a specific Beatles era. They did a really good job and surprised everyone when they stopped singing and explained they were from Argentina in their thick Argentinian accents. While at sea, we had intended on getting massages. We were disappointed to learn that a simple Swedish Massage started at $299 for 50 minutes. The prices were too outlandish for any of us, we can get them back home for 1/3 of the cost.
We flew in from Fresno to Seattle the night before. When we did online check-in days earlier, we had to pick the time we wanted to embark. We chose 9 am, the first group, so that we would have more time on the ship. What we didn’t know is by embarking that early, we wouldn’t be able to take the NCL shuttle from the hotel to the ship because it didn’t pick up the hotel guests until 10 am. We had to find our own way there.
When we got to the Seattle hotel, our driver dropped us off at the wrong hotel. Because NCL had booked the hotel, I didn’t have a confirmation number or anything. It took a few minutes to figure out the mistake. We walked, with all of our luggage, the six blocks to the correct hotel. Make sure you check the address the cruise line gave you matches the hotel that you’re being dropped off at.
My mother fell on the fourth day. She hurt her knee, hip, and shoulder. It was interesting to watch the staff go into anti-lawsuit mode, and I don’t blame them of course. We found that there is a floor dedicated to medical needs. She was able to get x-rays and see a doctor. Fortunately, she didn’t break anything, but she was very sore and had difficulty walking. They do not bill insurance. You must pay for use of the medical facility before disembarking. For her, it was $616.
A 7-day cruise is really only 6 days. The first day you don’t leave port until late afternoon. The final day, you arrive at port very early in the morning. The stop at Victoria was from 8 pm to 11 pm the night before the cruise ended, making your excursion choices minimal. We ended up staying in Sequim after the cruise and taking a ferry from Port Angels to Victoria to tour the town, Victoria Butterfly Gardens and Butchart Gardens, which is absolutely beautiful, but was problematic for my mother because it’s not ADA friendly in most areas. We enjoyed High Tea at the Butchart’s family home, then got her a wheelchair and parked her in a nice shady area. Sorry, Mom!
We had great weather. The cruise the week before ours had terrible weather and didn’t get to port at Juneau as a result. We were in t-shirts, shorts and bare feet which was unexpected. The weather is unpredictable in Alaska. We brought layers and it sure helped. I didn’t wear many of my warmer clothes.
While the Bliss is family friendly, I didn’t see many children. There are plenty of activities for the kids and they tend to keep the kid activities positioned away from the adult activities.
So yes, it was a mixed bag. Super happy I went and fascinating seeing glaciers. Would I go again? No, I don’t think I would. The one potential tip of the scale would be for the dog sled experience. A friend mentioned staying at a hotel instead of on a cruise. I think that would be the way I would go back, if ever.
Floyd Steven Little
Floyd Steven Little was born, along with his fraternal twin Lloyd Sterling Little, on March 7, 1937 in Clovis, New Mexico. The twins were a surprise to their parents and three much older siblings. When they were 12, they learned how to drive a car. When they were 14 they sent away for their driver’s licenses – they didn’t need to take a test for a license back then.
By the time they were 15, all their siblings had migrated to California. Floyd and Lloyd wanted to move there as well. Their mother didn’t want to go so the twins announced that they were moving with or without them. Consequently, their parents helped pack up the car and the twins took turns driving cross-country, settling in Clovis, California. On the way, they were delayed by the 1952 Kern County 7.3 magnitude earthquake. They were ascending the Grapevine on Highway 99 when it occurred. Due to the debris and subsequent mayhem, the family was stranded on the highway for 8 hours, significantly worrying their siblings.
They attended Clovis High School where Floyd joined the track team as a sprinter, a trait he would later pass down to his daughter. They weren’t allowed to graduate until they passed the school’s driver’s training course. Their argument that they had already been driving for years fell on deaf ears and they reluctantly took the class. Floyd graduated from Fresno State College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. While attending college, he worked for Santa Fe Railroad’s engineering department, and for a construction company at the Tioga Pass expansion in Yosemite National Park. After graduation, he landed a job with the City of Sanger where he eventually became Director of Public Works and Planning.
He decided to make a career change and became a realtor for his nephew-in-law’s subdivision. When the subdivision was sold-out, he began working at the California Department of Transportation as a permit engineer issuing permits for encroachments within the state, including special events. This enviable position required that he be on location for events that were on the state right-of-way. He was able to meet famous people such as Daryl Hannah, Rosie Perez, Andy Garcia and even famous artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude when they created the temporary work of art entitled The Umbrellas along Interstate 5 through the California Grapevine.
Upon retirement, he extensively traveled including places like Egypt and Ireland. Throughout his life he was a great lover of dogs. He was never without one, or two, or five of them at his side. The wreath on his door where he lived said ‘Dogs welcome, people tolerated.’ Those who knew him will smile knowingly at this phrase.
He died of a combination of lung cancer, stroke and dementia. He is survived by his daughter and son-in-law Jolene & Robert Polyack, his grandsons RJ and Michael Polyack, his son Jerad Little, and his brother and sister-in-law Lloyd and Nancy Little. He is laid to rest close to his siblings and parents, Oras and Effie Little, at the Clovis Cemetery in Clovis, California. Many of the Little family are also buried at the Clovis Cemetery in Clovis, New Mexico.
Ode to Pogo
When I remember Pogo, I go back to the day all four of his family members took him for a walk around the ponding basin. He had a spring in his step that made his cute little ears flop up and down. His gait looked like a prance, as if he was so proud to be with his peeps.
He left this world on June 30, 2022 peacefully going to sleep in his bed on the floor next to us. He never woke up. Here is his story:
He joined our family when another family decided to take him to the SPCA. Before he was driven there, my dad asked if he could take him instead, which they agreed to. My dad posted a picture of him on Facebook and I called to inquire about the dog. I asked if he could come for a sleepover and my dad agreed. Once he got to our home, that was it. He was an immediate member of our family. He went with us everywhere.
Michael was his Best Friend, RJ was his Bro Bro.
We created a Facebook page for him called ‘Pogo Polyack,’ it’s still up if you would like to visit.
When any of us left and came back, he would first see who was coming in, then he would go to his pile of toys, we all would ask, ‘What you gettin’?’ as he carefully chose one and prance it toward the returning family member while wagging his entire hind quarters and walking around with said toy. Once we saw what he had chosen we would say ‘Oh, (fill in the toy name).’ We always used the same name for the same toy. His selection included big reindeer, little reindeer, puppy, stocking, bear, dog, tiger, and beaver. Regarding tiger, Pogo found him on the road during a walk. He picked him up and carried him all the way back to the house.
He hated to be alone. If we were all gone, he would howl loudly. If we were walking, we could hear his howling from half a block away.
The vet said that he had a rare tail because of the double twirl. When he was relaxed, the tail would unwind. It would re-wind quickly at anything that made him more aware.
We had several nicknames for him including Rare-tailed-Pug, Pugalicious, and Pogohontis.
He loved going for walks. If the word was ever used, he would jump up and begin barking. As he got older, the walks got shorter until he couldn’t walk except for around the house and yard.
He also especially liked the word ‘meat.’ Every night at 5 pm he expected a few pieces of ham. He knew when it was time, but occasionally tried to trick us into thinking it was time when it wasn’t.
Because of his big neck and little face, he had to really work at eating. Consequently, he would get food all over his neck. I had to take a wet paper towel to clean it off after every meal. He got used to this procedure. When I would say, ‘Ladies like a clean bib,’ He would lift his head up and back so that I could wipe him down.
One day when my husband was taking Pogo for a walk a French Bulldog named Cupcake attacked him and bit his eye. By the next morning, the eye had turned blue. We had to go to the emergency pet hospital 30 miles away and wait for several hours to be seen. The vet said that he would have lost the eye if we had waited another day. After several weeks of medication, where I would say, ‘Look up at the sky. See the birds?’ he would lift his head up so that I could put the drops in his eye. He never was able to see out of it again, but he got to at least keep it in the socket. It took some time before he learned his way around without bumping into walls and furniture. We can mark this as the beginning of his slide into old age.
Toward the end, he would stand in front of a wall and stare at it for long periods of time. He would get overheated, so we had to keep the air conditioning on. He had a doggie door and would go outside in the heat and forget how to get back in the house.
When he left, it was interesting to realize how integrated he was in our lives. I could now open the front door in the mornings for fresh air without worrying that he would escape, I could unload groceries without him dashing over to the neighbor’s yard to leave a present, I didn’t have to feed him twice a day, there was more room in the office and master bedroom without his beds. So many memory triggers for each of us.
When he first came to live with us we had a Catahoula Leopard Dog named Catahoula, or Cat. Pogo loved her dearly, as did we all. When Cat passed, all of us were sad and Pogo became even more focused on us. We imagine that he is with her now in heaven, chasing butterflies and waiting for the rest of his family to reunite with him.
There never has, and never will be, a pug that is loved more than Pogo Polyack.
Thoughts that are alien to any of my other projects can be found here.