Monday, July 21, 2014

Seventy-Seven: So Mysterious, Full of Promise

Dear George,
Last night I turned seventy-seven exactly at the stroke of midnight.  I barely noticed because I was sound asleep.  My general belief is that it’s best to be unconscious while going through major life transitions.  So far 77 has been better than usual.  A secret visitor dropped off a Graeter’s cherry coffeecake on our back porch this morning.  I can’t think of a better way to start a new year.  Birthdays, of course, aren’t as overwhelming as they were in childhood.  I think of our grandchildren who are turning 6 this September.   That’s amazing.  All these different birthday ages, e.g., 6 or 16 or 40 or 25, have so many rich meanings associated with them.  Lately I’ve been investigating the number 77 to get a better fix on my new status in life.  Here are some of the highlights that I’ve uncovered so far.

7, of course, is a lucky number.  Numerologists point out that that 77’s association of good fortune is twice as strong as is 7’s:
·       According to Joanne W’s Angel Numbers, 77 indicates that you can “expect miracles to occur in your life.”  (31) [note: numbers in parentheses refer to references at end}
·       Master Numerologist Hans D. reports that 77 “is perhaps the most intelligent and inventive of all numbers. “  (11)
·       Other numerologists conclude that 77 “is witty and spiritual” (4), fosters “detachment and expanding consciousness” (33), and is a place “where you can fly and dance in the stars while in any and all forms” (7). 
·       Numerologists also report that 7's (including 77 and 777) are incompatible with 9's.  According to one expert, "A wife, a friend, or a concubine with 9 will spoil your peace of mind and business."  Hmm, my concubine Katja's birthday is Dec. 9.  Should I be worried?  (51)

Adam and Eve, the first generation

Some old-fashioned people are wary of numerologists.  For them, I would point out that the Bible offers even more convincing proof of the significance of 77:
  • Bible number scholars all agree that 77 represents Jesus (C = 3, H = 8, R = 18, I = 9, S = 19, T = 20 – these, of course, add up to 77).  (44)
  • The Bible lists 77 generations from Adam and Eve (#1) to Jesus (#77).  (44)
  • When the apostle Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive his brother 7 times, Jesus said, “no, but unto 77 times” (Matthew 18:21).  (1)
  • Computerized word counts find that "garden", "refuge", and “to feed” are each mentioned 77 times in the Bible.  (30) 

Jane Fonda at age 77

The number 77, of course, is vital to matters of birth and death: 
  • According to IMDb, the ten most popular people who were born 77 years ago are: Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson, Anthony Hopkins, Ridley Scott, Dustin Hoffman, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Billy Dee Williams, Warren Beatty, and George Takei of Star Trek.  (20)
  • Some of the most prominent people have picked age 77 as the time to die: e.g., Jules Verne, John Philip Sousa, Galileo Galilei, Nikita Khruschev, Spiro Agnew, Howard Cosell, Benny Goodman, Ayn Rand, Henry Fonda, Cecil B. DeMille, Auguste Rodin, Jonathan Swift, Lucille Ball, Ted Kennedy, and Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor.  (34, 41)
  • The probability that a 77 year old man will depart from the world this year is .046.  For a 77 year old woman, .033.  (Those odds aren’t too bad.)  (24)

Body-Builder Ernestine Shepherd, age 77

The wayward youth think of 77 year olds sitting around in their rocking chairs, twiddling their thumbs.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Here are a few of the pursuits that 77 year olds have engaged in recently. 
  • 77-year-old Ernestine Shepherd is one of the oldest competitive female bodybuilders in the world.  She took up bodybuilding with her sister at age 56, eats 1,700 calories a day, runs 80 miles a week, and has won two bodybuilding titles.  (47)
  • 77-year old Richard Ramsey, formerly a green beret in Vietnam, had sex-change surgery and is now the oldest transgender woman in the U.S.  (36)
  • Now 77, grandmother and aerobatic pilot Sigrid Baumann regularly takes her monoplane out to do loops, snaprolls, hammerheads, and upside down flying.  (32)
  • Despite no prior flying experience at all, 77-year-old great grandfather, John Wildey, successfully followed instructions from British air traffic controllers and landed a plane after the pilot died at the controls.  (26)
  • At age 77 Charles Manson was sentenced to a year of solitary confinement for possessing a deadly weapon (a piece of wire from a pair of eye glasses).  (13)
  • -77-year-old Tennessee golfer, Bob Robertson, who is blind in one eye from a stroke, shot three holes-in-one on the Smyrna golf course during April 2013.  (2)
  • Irate 77-year-old William Golladay assaulted a fellow Walmart customer with a grocery cart after the latter tried to purchase 22 items in an express checkout lane which had a posted maximum of 20 items.  (28)  

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Of course, the very fabric of our lives today is determined in part by the events that occurred 77 years ago:
  • Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs opened in the Carthay Circle Theatre on Dec. 21, 1937.  (22)
  • Krispy Kreme celebrated its 77th birthday on July 11th.  They offered a dozen donuts for 77 cents if you purchased another dozen.  (9)
  • 77 years ago Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy made their radio debut on NBC.  (22)
  • The Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937.  (22)
  • Marijuana was made illegal in the U.S. in 1937.  (18)
  • Amelia Earhart vanished vanished in her flight across the Pacific Ocean 77 years ago this month.  (45)
  • April 17, 2014, was the 77th anniversary of Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd.  (22)

The Four Tops

I’ve long believed that the best way to comprehend reality is to organize things in rank-ordered lists from 1 to 100.  Amazingly, whenever you do this, something always gets ranked #77.  77 may not seem that high a rank, but, in fact, some of the best things in life are #77: 
  • Lake Tahoe (CA) is #77 in a list of the top 100 tourist attractions in America.  (16)
  • Albert Pujols, first baseman for the L.A. Angels, is the 77th highest paid athlete in the world ($40.6 million last year).  (14)
  • Eva and Adrian were the 77th most popular baby names for girls and for boys in 2013.  (6)
  • Sharon Stone is #77 on IMDb’S list of top female movie actors of all time; Kevin Kline is #77 for male actors.  (19)
  • Billboard lists The Four Tops as #77 in their list of All-Time top musical artists.  (46)
  • According to, Clay Matthews, linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, is the 77th best player in the NFL.  (We would place Clay much higher ourselves.)  (27) 

Republican Senators, looking happy about their chances

Some people don’t like to figure out the rank order of a hundred items because it’s too mentally taxing.  A quicker approach is to divide things into two or three categories, then figure out the percentage for each, e.g., % of rainy days vs. % of sunny days.  Much more often than you’d expect, you find out that there is 77% of one thing, 23% of another. Here are some examples:
  • 77% of college students use Snapchat at least once a day.  (My question: What is Snapchat anyway?) (25)
  • 77% of adult women complained about their appearance to someone at least once in the past month.  (50) 
  • 77% of adults under age 30 support gay marriage.  (3)
  • According to a recent Gallup poll, 77% of U.S. adults identify with a Christian religion.  (15)
  • The top 1% of performers earn 77% of recorded music income.  (12)
  • The Washington Post recently estimated that Republicans have a 77% chance of gaining a majority in the U.S. Senate in November.  (49)
  • Men hold 77% of the top jobs at Facebook.  (37)
  • Antarctic glaciers are melting 77% faster than they were 40 years ago.  (17) 

Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing, April 19, 1995

While 77 is often associated with good fortune, this shouldn’t lead us to be complacent.  77 also has dark and eerie connections to acts of  terrorism: 
  • The 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City took place on Highway 77.  Timothy McVeigh rented his Ryder truck on 77 and was taken to jail along Highway 77 after his arrest.  (5)
  • United Airways Flight 175 crashed into the 77th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2011.  (5)
  • The Pentagon, which is located at the 77th degree longitude, was hit by American Airlines Flight 77 on 9/11.  (5)
  • The July 7 2005 London subway and bus bombings (known as 7-7) killed 52 and injured over 700.  The first bomb exploded on the C77 Stock Circle train.  (43)
  • 77 adults and children were killed in the July 2011 coordinated terrorist attacks in Oslo, Norway, and at a Youth League summer camp near Oslo.  (42)

Red Grange, the Galloping Ghost

Then there is a potpourri of other facts about 77 that threaten to overwhelm one’s sensibilities.  Here is a mere sampling:
  • Halley's comet, which revolves around the sun, reappears approximately every 77 years.  (30)
  • 77 is the atomic number for Iridium -- one of the rarest and densest  elements on earth.  (48)
  • You need to walk 77 miles in order to burn off one pound of body fat.  (35)
  • Miles Davis lived on W. 77th St. in New York City.  (29)
  • In urban slang '77 refers to drinking till you pass out (derived from the great NYC blackout of 1977). (39)
  • According to Buzzfeed, there are 77 thoughts that every woman has during childbirth (e.g., “How can I bring the baby home to a dirty floor?”).  (8)
  • "77" was used as a password at the Sweden-Norway border during World War II because its difficult pronunciation in Swedish made it possible to immediately determine whether a speaker was Swedish, Norwegian, or German.  (44) 
  • Hall of Fame football legend Red Grange wore number 77 on his jersey.  (44)
  • As President Obama noted in his 2014 State of the Union address, the average full-time working woman in the U.S. earns 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  (40)
  • Last year tennis player Andy Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years.  (10)
  • Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, and Elvis Presley all died in ‘77.  (23)

All in all, it looks like 77 is could be the most powerful number there is. That certainly bodes well for those of us who are turning 77.  Of course, it’s not all a cup of tea.  In addition to Red Grange, piloting planes, and Snow White, 77 is connected with terrorism, Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, and a Republican takeover of the Senate.  Despite potential calamities, I myself am looking forward to 77.  We’ll take the bad with the good and just try to enjoy the whole shebang.

Sources:  (1), “Lamech and multiples of seven”; (2), “77-year-0old shoots hole-in-one…”; (3), “American’s ideology and age…”; (4), "The Numerology Number 77 Essence"; (5), “The numerology of lucky sevens”; (6), “Top baby names of 2013”; (7), “The Meaning of Master Numbers”; (8), "77 thoughts every woman has during childbirth"; (9), “Celebrating an Original!”; (10), “He’s done it!”;  (11), “Numerology and the double digit numbers”; (12), “The top 1% of artists…”;  (13), “Charles Manson placed in solitary confinement…”; (14), "The World's Highest-Paid Athletes"; (15), “In U.S., 77% identify as Christian”; (16), “Top 100 tourist attractions in America”; (17), “Antarctic glaciers melting…”; (18), “Historical events for year 1937”; (19), "Born in 1937"; (20), “Most popular people born in 1937”; (21), “Top 100 Female Actors of All time; Top 100 Greatest Male Actors of All Time”;  (22), “News and Events of 1937”; (23), "News and Events of 1977"; (24), “What is the probability a 77 year old man will die this year?”; (25), “Study finds 77% of college students use…”; (26), "Meet the 77-year-old who was forced to land a plane..."; (27), “The Top 100 Players of 2014”; (28), “Florida man, 77, beat Walmart customer…”; (29), "Preservationists honor Miles Davis..."; (30), "Properties of the number 77"; (31), "Angel Number 77"; (32), “Aerobatic pilot is still winging it…”; (33), "The Master Numbers and Their Lessons"; (34):, "Celebrities who died at age 77 years old"; (35), "Walk 77 miles to burn off 1 pound"; (36), "77-year-old man becomes oldest transgender woman..."; (37), “Men hold 77 percent…”; (38), “When in doubt about the cop trying to pull you…”; (39), ""77"; (40), "President Obama's persistent '77-cent'claim..."; (41), “People who died at the age of 77”; (42), “2011 Norway attacks”; (43), 7 July 2005 London bombings”; (44), "77 (number)"; (45), “Amelia Earhart”; (46), "Billboard Hot 100 50th Anniversary Charts"; (47), "Ernestine Shepherd"; (48), "Iridium"; (49), “Republicans  have a 77% chance…”; (50), “The bad habit 77 percent…”; (51), "Life path numerology for name number 77" 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Opera Attire

Dear George,
We had tickets for the opera at Music Hall last Saturday night.  We were running late, and I asked Katja if she could pick out some clothes for me.  I always ask her that because she has a much better sense of these things.  This time she chose a pair of tan slacks, a dark blue short-sleeved linen shirt, and a cream-colored sports jacket.  It looked fine to me.  I started putting the shirt on, but I had a lot of trouble.  The buttons and the buttonholes were small, it took a lot of effort to get each button fastened, and, besides that, the buttons were on the wrong side of the shirt.  All in all, it felt very awkward.  Suddenly it dawned on me that this might not even be a man’s shirt.  I asked Katja, but she said that was silly.  She said she’d bought the shirt in the men’s department, and it had been in my closet for a long time.  I continued struggling with the buttons.  After several minutes I finally finished the last button.  But then I discovered that it wasn’t even a short-sleeved shirt.  The sleeves extended all the way down to the middle of my forearms, ending halfway between the wrist and the elbow, and each sleeve had a large slit in it.  “This isn’t a man’s shirt.”   I protested.  “It’s a woman’s blouse.”   “No it’s not,” Katja said, “this is the new style that men are wearing.”   Just to prove it to me, she had me bend over so she could check the label.  Much to her surprise, the label was for a women’s clothing manufacturer.  Katja was amazed.  She wondered if Macy’s had mistakenly stocked a woman’s blouse among its men’s shirts.  By then we were ten minutes past our planned departure time, and I was getting nervous about whether we would make it to the opera at all.  Since my sport jacket would cover up the blouse’s sleeves, I decided to go with what I was wearing rather than having to unbutton it and start all over.

We got to Music Hall in the nick of time.  The auditorium was packed, and the temperature was on the warm side.  By the middle of the first act I was feeling unpleasantly hot, and I decided I’d have to take my jacket off.  If my nearby seatmates thought that I looked strange in my wife’s blouse, that’s just how it would be.  At the intermission I put my sports jacket back on, and we went out to the lobby for a glass of wine.  I noticed a large poster that I hadn’t seen when we came in.  It announced that tonight was gay pride night at the opera.  That was a funny coincidence.  Actually, if I had to wear some of Katja’s clothes to the opera, this was probably a good night to do it.  At least I was in the midst of a crowd that would be receptive to gender diversity.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

East Fork Report

East Fork Lake

Dear George,
Duffy and I are just back from a three-day camping trip to East Fork State Park in nearby Clermont County.  East Fork is one of Ohio’s largest state parks – nearly 5,000 acres of land and 2,600 acres of water.  It’s known for good fishing, has 85 miles of trails including some designated solely for horseback riders, and nearly 400 campsites.  Here are a few photos from our outing.  

There aren’t that many people camping on weekdays, and I got my first choice of sites.  In my opinion, East Fork has the best campsites in the region – many of them set well back from the road and surrounded by groves of maples, oaks, beeches, and hickory.  Our spot had two tables and two fireplaces.  That’s my Gander Mountain 10 x 12’ dome tent in the photo above.  It’s designed to sleep six and was more than enough room for Duffy and myself.  I bought it for $2.50 at the St. Vincent de Paul some years ago, part of a collection of 6 or 7 tents that I accumulated at the time.  Now I’m down to three, and this one is my current favorite.  

Here’s all my camping gear, packed in the rear of our SUV.  As I Boy Scout I learned to be extremely parsimonious in packing gear – bringing only enough to fit in a boy-sized knapsack.  Now my standards have flip-flopped, i.e., I only bring enough to fit in a single SUV.   

Duffy came with me while Mike stayed at home with Katja.  Duffy is a perfect companion – loyal and true, eager to do whatever his master decides, ever patient, never quarrelsome, and able to fall asleep in a matter of seconds during down time.  Duffy isn’t as fond of camping as I am though.  I know this because, whenever we walk past the SUV, he heads straight for its door in order to go home.  I think it’s because the forest is unfamiliar and uncertain.  One place Duffy likes a lot is his enclosed playpen.  His favorite is the tent which must seem much like a cave.   

I cooked a lot of delicious meals on this outing.  This one’s called “Cheeseburger Breakfast.”  You fry a couple of ground chuck patties and cut them up in bite-size pieces.  Then you scramble three eggs, mix in the burger bites, and cover with grated cheese.  As good as Bob Evans.  

One afternoon we set off for a hike on the Fernhill Trail.  The trail is supposed to be a loop, but I got lost, and it soon became unclear where we were going.  At one point the path descended down into a ravine.  There was a bridge of sorts, consisting of an 8-inch wide plank, which crossed over a creek about four feet below.  I worried about whether Duffy could walk across the plank without falling off, but he solved the problem by simply going down and through the creek.  On the other side the hill was extremely steep, almost perpendicular.  I made my way up by using tree roots as footholds, but I didn’t know if Duffy could make it.  However, he clawed and scrambled, and we eventually got to the top.  I followed the trail at hand, and we came out about a half mile away from where we should have been.  As we walked back along the road, a man came out of the forest and asked me which way to the campgrounds.  He said he’d gotten lost on the trail and didn’t know where he was.  I nodded knowingly.  

Night-time was the most relaxing time.  It’s against the rules, but I gather firewood from fallen tree branches on the forest floor.  Sitting and watching the fire burn makes for lots of nostalgia.  I thought about all the campfires I’d experienced over the years – camping out as a kid at Mason Park or Pig Island, fires on the Green Bay shore at friends’ houses, ghost stories and singing “Comin’ Round the Mountain” at YMCA and Boy Scout camps, tenting with Katja on our trip west as young marrieds. 

Duffy and Mike always seem to want to get on my air mattress in the tent, so this time I brought Duffy his own air mattress.  He wasn’t very interested though, and sprawled out on the tent floor most of the time.  I didn’t sleep well and had lots of dreams.  Years ago I would get nervous when I was alone in the woods at night -- thinking of bears or rabid raccoons or robbers or murderers.  Now I don’t seem to be nervous any more.  Possibly I’ve reached an age where being eaten by a bear isn’t that big a deal.  In any case, I was surprised when I got home to read in the paper that the State Police had just captured a wanted murderer who was hiding out in a tent in the woods at East Fork State Park.  Maybe I ought to be more nervous.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Northside Fourth

Dear George,
The Fourth of July is definitely the best holiday of the year for fireworks and parades.  We didn’t go to the fireworks this year, but I did finally get to the Northside parade.  Northside is the neighborhood just northwest of Clifton.  Lots of artists and writers, a big LGBT community, good restaurants and bars, and an overall hippy ambience.  As you might expect, the Northside parade has a local, quirky flavor.  There are dogs and horses, motorcyclists, unicyclists, floats advertising local businesses, beauty queens, antique automobiles, numerous politicians – mostly Democrats (I got to shake hands with gubernatorial candidate Ed Fitzgerald), the Lawnchair Ladies Brigade, 5 or 6 marching bands plus 5 or 6 dance teams, social movement groups, and lots of enthusiastic kids.The parade route ran along Hamilton Ave. for roughly 20 blocks, and I would guess that there were 3 or 4 thousand spectators.  The Northside parade first began in 1854 when the women and children rode in boats along the Miami and Erie Canal while the men marched alongside them on the banks.  Today it’s the largest parade in the Cincinnati metro area and precedes the Rock ‘N Roll Carnival in Northside’s Hoffner Park.  Here’s what just some of it looked like.