July 1, 2022

John Guy – What a Life He Lived!

John Guy Laplante (né Jean Guy)
April 26, 1929 – February 13, 2022

John Guy Laplante (né Jean Guy) passed away quietly in his sleep, which was his wish, on February 13th, 2022.

He was born in 1929 to Marguerite (Bourke) and J. Arthur Laplante in Pawtucket, RI. As immigrants from Quebec, his parents wanted to provide John with the best opportunities, so John began his fourth grade at the Sacred Heart Academy boarding school in Sharon, MA. There, French-speaking priests educated him. John was an excellent student and always eagerly visited with his parents on Sundays. John continued his secondary education at Assumption Preparatory School in Worcester, MA, where instruction was French-oriented and often given in French. 

A story John was proud to tell was that L’Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste d’Amerique (USJB), a Franco-American benefit society, provided full scholarships to Assumption College to one student from each New England state based on a difficult written exam entirely in French. John received the highest score in Rhode Island, and so did another boy. It was a tie! USJB decided to provide two Rhode Island scholarships that year. And so it was that John continued his French-focused education, graduating magna cum laude.  

John developed a strong interest in writing and journalism. An Assumptionist priest told him that studying economics would be excellent training to be a journalist. Dutifully, he began graduate studies in economics at Brown University in 1952. He hated his courses and spent his free time volunteering at the school’s newspaper. A year later, he transferred to Boston University, where he earned a master’s degree in journalism. His career of dipping his quill in the inkwell and scrawling his thoughts across the page had begun.

John was an engaged and supportive father to his three children, raising them with his former wife, Pauline Dupre, in Auburn, MA. He was always ready with advice and strongly encouraged his children to invest in their formal and informal education. He instilled in his children a strong sense that life is full of adventure, and they should readily pursue it. 

John worked for years at the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, rising to become editor of the Feature Parade Sunday Magazine. He wrote a column on camping which had an avid readership. He used that column to fund a summer tent-trailer trip around the United States with his family, writing articles wherever they went. 

Ultimately, John left newspapers to become the director of public affairs at Assumption College, and then years after struck out on his own. The public relations firm John Guy Laplante Associates got off the ground in 1972, with USJB becoming one of John’s launch clients. John ran the firm successfully for fifteen years while building a real estate portfolio on the side. 

John became involved with Elderhostel at Incarnation Camp, Deep River, CT, in his retirement. He loved teaching courses there, as well as captaining the Love Boat. He also met close friend and companion, Annabelle Williams, or as John called her, “Milady Annabelle.”

Central Connecticut became John’s second home, where he became an active member of the Deep River community. He was heavily involved with the Rotary Club, spearheading the installation of Keyboard Park and the elephant statue in front of the town hall. Rotary presented John with the Paul Harris award, their highest honor. Ever the journalist, John continued to contribute articles to the local Main Street News.

While at a concert at the Coast Guard Academy, John felt deep regret that he never served his country. He resolved to change that by joining the Peace Corps. Chernihiv, Ukraine, became his destination. Though he faced many challenges there, he completed his tour, becoming the oldest volunteer in the Corps. Volunteers in Ukraine elected John to represent them when the vice president visited Kyiv, where he memorably shook hands with Joe Biden.    

John had many passions and interests; swimming, sailing, canoeing, biking, exploring. He was a voracious reader who adored libraries and dabbled in watercolors, poetry, and chess. Inspired by Robinson Crusoe, he loved to build things and tinker. Always looking to make improvements, he even designed a better johnny, his MedGown.  

His one true calling was writing. He threw himself into it with energy and enthusiasm, writing hundreds of articles and blogs and three books about his adventures traveling the world and serving in the Peace Corps. Even at the end, after choosing hospice, John characteristically said, “I want to write a blog about this. I think it would interest people.”  

John was intensely curious about people and, through his many travels, developed a vast network of friends around the globe with whom he regularly corresponded. Those connections meant so much to John. 

His parents, his sisters Louise and Rose, and his brother Michel predeceased John. His sister Lucie survives him.

John leaves behind a close and loving family:  Son Arthur, wife Marita, grandchildren Elise, Ryan and wife Samantha, Thomas, and great-granddaughter Allegra Laplante. Daughter Monique, husband David, step-grandson Christopher, and great-granddaughter Ruby Nelson. Son Mark and grandchildren Annalivia and Lincoln Laplante. Nephew Jean-Christophe and nieces Cristin and Michelle.

John always said that he would come back as a seagull if reincarnated. Keep an eye out.

John’s cremated remains will be buried at Notre Dame Cemetery in Pawtucket, RI. A memorial service is being arranged. If interested in attending, please email nelsonswest1@gmail.com.

Bon Voyage

With heavy hearts, we regret to tell you that our father, John Guy LaPlante, passed away peacefully at his home early Sunday, February 13, 2022.

John lived each day fully. Even at age 92, he would get on his tricycle to lunch at the Senior Center twice a week, visit the library every day it was open, and then go to McDonald’s for an afternoon cup of coffee. He followed this routine right up until early February.

John believed if you smiled at someone, they would smile back. He was proof of the old saying, “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.”

He was endlessly curious about people – their interests, inventions, hobbies, and accomplishments.

John traveled the world, visiting a multitude of countries, never in first class. He preferred a simpler approach, wanting to experience a place and its culture more authentically and allowing him to “rub elbows” more easily with the people living there.

His Peace Corps experience, while very challenging in many ways, allowed him to immerse himself in the Ukrainian culture and make many new friends. At the same time, it satisfied a deep need in himself to serve others in a meaningful way.

A journalist to his core, he wanted to share all he experienced with others. Just a few hours before his passing, he expressed his desire to write a blog about hospice – saying he thought it would be interesting to his readers.

That brings us to you, his blog followers – his friends. John was so lucky to meet so many wonderful people. Thank you for enriching his life.

More details will be coming. In the meantime, we would welcome any stories or photos you might like to share on the blog site.

Though we may not be able to respond to many of them, please know they would be appreciated. We thank you in advance for any comments you contribute.

Sincerely,

John’s children
Arthur, Monique & Mark

Biking in Tokyo – Much to Think About

From a Traveling Man’s Diary
Diary Page dated:
  October 14, 2003
By:  John Guy LaPlante

Here I am in Tokyo, a first-timer. My first impression in this huge, humming city?

It’s that the great majority are riding bicycles. I knew this about China, but not Japan. Why is it that in this much wealthier country, the home base of Toyota and Nissan and Honda and such, the vehicle of choice for the great majority is not one of their fine cars, but the bike?

“Japan is a huge car maker, but I was amazed how many people ride two-wheelers. This is a typical scene. Great respect is given to traffic regulations.”
Excerpt From: John Guy LaPlante. “Around Asia in 80 Days. Oops, 83!.” Apple Books.

I was startled my very first evening. I walked out of the train station about 25 minutes from the center and was amazed by the hundreds of bicycles parked all around.

In the morning I saw countless people out pedaling – men, women, children. Executives in business suits. Housewives with a child in a rumble seat and groceries in the front basket. Teen-agers in school uniforms.

Bicycles far unnumbered private cars. That first observation has held true.

I had seen the same thing in Amsterdam. To me Amsterdam is the biking capital of Europe. Well, Amsterdam has a rival here.

I’m fascinated by all this because I’ve been a bike nut for years. In a week of gawking and talking, I’ve learned a thing or two. First, the obvious.

Nine out of ten bikes are women’s bikes. Men’s bikes are a rarity. Everybody rides women’s bikes, even construction workers. This model is just more practical. You can hop on and off better and faster.

Tokyo is quite flat. So most bikes are single gear, although I’ve seen derailleur models.

They are fine bikes – to my eye equal in quality to the fine cars put out by Toyota and the others.

They have a feature that I have never seen on an American bike. Rim-clamping brake pads on the front wheel, as on our bikes. But not on the rear wheel. This wheel has a disk brake!

I’ve made it a point to visit a couple of big bike stores. A good quality bike sells for about $150. This is astoundingly cheap in this ultra-expensive city, where everything else is far more expensive than in Connecticut. To put it another way, my Fuji bike cost me about $500 some years ago. It’s a Japanese brand, you’ve noticed.

Now the less obvious. It turns out that the situation here discourages private automobiles. I’ve heard it’s a national policy.

Tokyo has some seven million people. Metro Tokyo has some 25 million. If the people here were like us Americans, they’d have two cars per family. In fact, our average is higher, I believe. No way could this tight city squeeze them all in. One bike shop salesman joked the island would sink.

John LaDue of Minneapolis, whom I chanced upon here, filled me in. He’s been a Christian missionary here 20 years.

“It costs at least $10,000 a year for various car fees and licenses and parking privileges. Only the rich can afford it. Out of the question for the middle-class Jack and Jane.”

This hefty yearly tab certainly accomplishes the desired result. So most vehicles are commercial or government vehicles. And a highly developed alternate system makes it possible for the millions of bike riders to get around when going longer distances. Thousands of taxis. Buses running every few minutes. And an extensive system of excellent subways and trains. More than a dozen lines criss-cross the city.

Got to mention that I have yet to spot an SUV. They are definitely an American phenomenon. I wonder why. And the irony is that so many are put out by Japanese makers.

As we know, our car problem back home is in a crisis stage. Our cities are being overwhelmed by cars. So many of our highways and interstates have to be upgraded and enlarged. Consider our on-going discussions to do something to handle the ever-increasing traffic on our own section of I-95 in Connecticut.

Another thing. We spend multi-billions every year on our cars. And for most of us, our annual car expenses are second only to our housing expenses. For many families, car expenses are at the top. A great part of our private debt is linked to our car habits. Many families could be debt free (except for mortgage expenses) if they could change their car habits.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to send some of our legislators and highway experts and city planners and community leaders and editors to Tokyo to see what is going on. Valuable lessons here.

Read more about my time in Tokyo in my Around Asia book, Chapter 4: http://johnguylaplante.com/wp/around-asia-2/

It’s the fast-paced sequel to my Around the World book.
In it you will enjoy more adventure, more fun, more good reading.
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Motivated to Speak French and Spanish

From a Traveling Man’s Diary
Diary Page dated:
  March 19, 2002
By:  John Guy LaPlante

Father Armand and Father Antonio would be so happy to behold me now. Father Armand was my French teacher at my old prep school years ago. And Father Antonio was my Spanish teacher. Those dear men tried so hard to make us good speakers in their beloved languages. They must have gotten an A+ for effort when they passed to the other side. “Parlez francais un peu chaque jour,” Father Armand would insist. “Speak French a little every day.” He suggested every lunch. Ha! Poor man. Father Antonio had a different pitch. “Learn 10 new words each day,” he would urge us. “Dies! No es mucho!”

Yes, this is me during Prep School days!

We adolescents thought it very mucho. Those gentlemen didn’t understand. They thought we were studying to learn French and Spanish. The truth? Heck, we were studying to pass their quizzes. But, oh, if they could see me now. I practice my French and Spanish just about every day. I’ve made more progress than they ever might have imagined. And I’ve found it so easy and pleasant.

I’m not studying hours at a time. No poring over books. No evening-school courses. No audio cassettes. No computer programs. They are all fine, of course. I’ve found a different method. It keeps me engaged a few minutes now and then. Sometimes at home, but also when I’m out and about, doing my errands. And none of it costs a penny. Pas un sou. Ni un peso.

My progress has spurred me on. Sometimes I’ve felt exhilarated. If only my old teachers knew. (Maybe they do!) I’m sure Father Armand would beam up there. And Father Antonio, I can hear him now. “Bueno, Juan!”.

Why were all of us boys force-fed these languages? Well, French for a good reason. All of us had French blood. We were the American-born kids of parents recently arrived from Quebec, come down here to les Etats-Unis for the usual reason…a better life. We were continually reminded ours was a fine heritage, and it was precious to preserve it. But Spanish? I’m not sure. Ours was a remarkable school, and maybe it—and Father Antonio—had a prescience. Maybe they had a hunch how important Espanol would become here and other parts of the world.

Well, you ask impatiently: What is your method? First, some background. As all of us know, we consumers are being flooded with stuff. Some made here, much of it in other countries. Mass markets for TV sets and cameras and faucets and just about everything else are vaster than ever – they’re international, in fact, particularly since NAFTA. This stuff is destined to be sold not only in the United States but often Mexico and/or Canada, and often in other countries as well. Rather than imprint the boxes in just one language, it’s cheaper and more effective to do so in at least two, and often three. In English, Spanish, and French. Aha! Now you have a hint of what I do.

You’ve noticed this marketing trend yourself, I am sure. Well, now it’s more than a trend. It’s a standard operating procedure. You probably read the English part, and ignore the rest. I focus on the French and Spanish. Not only what’s printed on the packaging. But if I buy something, the stuff inside. I roam through the operating instructions, the warrantee, the mail-back marketing questionnaire, the safety cautions…whatever is in there. Yes, sometimes dull stuff. Oh, I’m not compulsive about it. But I do it quite regularly. It’s simple. It’s fun. It’s practical. It’s today’s vocabulary.

The opportunities are everywhere. Not only at Walmart’s and Home Depot and Lowe’s and Sears and so many other stores. At the bank when I pick up a folder about CD’s. At the hospital emergency room when I read about payment arrangements. When I glance at the signs on a bus, or read about emergency procedures on a plane. Even my homeowner’s insurance policy! My new bread machine has recipes in Spanish as well as English. The usual combination is English and Spanish, but I find French is included more and more.

I started this innocently. I brought home a new VCR and noticed the instructions were in the three languages. I glanced at the French and Spanish to see how much I could understand. I realized these linguistic snippets could be little lessons. Gradually my vocabulary grew. I began to pick up grammatical differences…to see distinctive patterns in sentence structure. I found myself checking something in a dictionary, even in a grammar. Now and then I found myself buying a Spanish or French newspaper. It has become a wonderful game. And never boredom or burden.

This has motivated me in other ways. I have traveled to France and Quebec and Spain and Mexico. Oh, not just to speak French and Spanish. I went to have a nice vacation. But the chance to speak in the native tongue was part of the appeal. And it has permitted me to leave the trodden tourist path now and then for interesting places where I knew my English would not be very useful.

In Brussels recently I had a typical experience. I stayed at the Jacques Brel Hostel. Yes, Hostel — I, at my age! Being with younger people — in fact, young people — is fun. And it’s stimulating.

One night my roommates were Marc, a law student in Paris, and Rodolfo, a civil engineer from Colombia. Yes, one speaking French, the other Spanish…and both eager to master English, today’s premier world language. We had a good time, and the practice did us good. I was able to hold my own. I thought about this later. And I remembered my dear old teachers. How they would plead with us. Father Armand: “Just 10 minutes every day. S’il-vous-plait!” And Father Antonio: “Remember, 10 new words, Juan.” “Yes, yes,” I thought. “I’ve gotten the message. Finally. But you never told me it might be so easy. And so rewarding.”

Dandelion Odyssey – America on a shoestring

By John Guy LaPlante

I used to drive, oh boy did I drive. In 1993, my trusty Dandelion took me on an Odyssey all over the United States – on a shoestring!

I bought a used Volkswagen minibus camper – a nice sunny yellow, so I dubbed it “Dandelion” and began crisscrossing the country.

I wrote a column about my solo travels in the Worcester Sunday Telegram.

A few of those stories are included below.

Worcester Sunday Telegram, March 7, 1993 – page 1
Click the image to enlarge.
Worcester Sunday Telegram, March 7, 1993 – page 2
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Worcester Sunday Telegram, June 6, 1993 – page 1, page 2 not available
Click the image to enlarge.
Worcester Sunday Telegram, September 26, 1993 – page 1
Click the image to enlarge.
Worcester Sunday Telegram, September 26, 1993 – page 2
Click the image to enlarge.

I also wrote a bit about Dandelion in a Blog early January 2021:

My invention: MedGown

By John Guy LaPlante

This happened some 75 years ago.

I had gotten sick and my doctor got me admitted to our local hospital in Middletown, Connecticut.

In my hospital room, a nurse had come in. She told me to take off my clothes and then, gathering up my clothes, she had handed me a johnny to wear as a patient.

It was a completely routine happening. Every patient got a johnny.

I had been hospitalized over the years and when I checked in again, I was always handed a johnny to wear.

Every patient got a johnny to wear. Johnnies were the adult garment for any patient. Merriam-Webster had even put the word in its famous dictionary.

In this video, I demonstrate the original johnny.

Definition:  “johnny:  a loose-fitting gown opening in the back that is given to patients to wear during their hospital stay.”

One morning my doctor walked in to check me. I’ll call him Dr. Malcolm.

The hospital was a good hospital. It made sure that physicians and surgeons had everything they needed to do a good job helping their patients.

“Yes, it’s all very, very impressive, this high-tech stuff,” I said to him, pointing to an instrument he was using on me.

“But there is still one thing, Doctor, that is still old fashioned. Very old-fashioned, Doctor!”

He stared at me. He was wondering if he had heard right. “And what’s that?”

“It’s this,” I said, and pointed to the johnny I was wearing. The johnny that I had been told to change into when I got admitted. “Doctor,” I said, “this johnny hasn’t changed one bit in the numerous times I’ve been hospitalized.

“Oh, maybe the cloth is better. But it’s really the same, old Johnny. Take my word for it, please!”

Well, way back when I was was growing up and was just 20 or 21, I was given a johnny to put on.

I’ve had to go to hospitals many times over the years. Same old johnny every time. Oh, maybe the cloth is better now.

Dr. Malcolm was all ears.

“I did some serious thinking. Designed a new johnny. Had a seamstress make one, then another, then a third, each better. And finally came up with my current johnny, which I must tell you still closes at the back.

In this video, I demonstrate my invention, the MedGown.

“That’s the essential feature that has made the johnny so popular these many years.

“For one thing, you no longer have to walk around with one hand in back to keep your fanny covered!

Here are some of the other features I developed one by one.

“Johnnies did not have a collar. I included one. It provided a touch of fashion. Especially when you might be sash-shaying down the hall.

And you could turn it up, which provided a bit of warmth in a low-temperature patient bedroom.

I made the sleeves fuller. Nurses and doctors who came in to take a blood pressure reading, say, or do something else on the upper arm sometimes had to take the johnny off the patient in order to do that. No longer necessary.

And I made the sleeves longer, extending some four inches or so below the elbow. So many patients have bruises that they consider embarrassing. No more!

And hospitals could order them in several nice colors. Which patients would like. Especially when family or friends stopped by to visit.

And it also made my johnny warmer. Nobody complained about that, either.

In actual fact, my design’s important innovations became such a dramatic breakthrough that I applied to the U.S. Department of Patents and Trademarks to register the name I had given it. Which is MedGown.

Here, by the way, is proof of my getting it. Trademarked.Yes, spelled just like that.

MedGown
Patient gowns / Medical gowns
owned by LaPlante John Guy
Trademark No. 87926116

Whoopee!

I spent many months in my spare time promoting it.

To hospitals, doctors, and medical people, professionals. Manufacturers and sellers of medical equipment.

To individuals who wanted one of their own for the next time they might have to be a patient.

I even have the MedGown that I used to demonstrate it. I have been congratulated by Dr. Malcolm. But no buyers.

Very humbling.

Far better for patients.

Far better for doctors and nurses also.

Dr. Malcolm had been listening intently. Maybe he thought the old design was just fine. Maybe so.

Truth is, health professionals who have seen it have complimented me. Overdue!

What the heck is this Powerball raffle all about?

By John Guy LaPlante

I thought the State of California operates an annual raffle called the Powerball. Wrong!

Powerball is operated in some 40 states. But their state governments have nothing to do with it. It’s all free enterprise. For the backers, whoever they are, to maximize their take.

It raises money for this good thing and that good thing. No, no, no! As I just said, they do it to line their pockets.

Check to see if you won: https://www.powerball.com/games/home

Well, the latest just paid off with a winning jackpot of $699 million! Hey, that’s more than two-thirds of $1 trillion dollars! Unimaginable! True.

It is the fifth-largest payoff in Powerball’s history and one of the very largest nationwide. True.

Oh, the lump sum payoff will be just $496 million. It will be a full $699 million if the winner settles for that as one of the optional payouts. There are several amortization plans.

Now just think of the millions of tickets sold. The Powerball has 23,200 dealers. Some sell just hundreds of tickets. The price is just $2 per play. Some sell many, many thousands of them. True.

There were more than 281,000 other winners with smaller prizes right down to $5 and $2.

It is amazing how many rascals and swindlers Powerball has attracted. Police get many complaints. These crooks offer a variety of tempting schemes to known winners of Powerball to steal as much of their money as they can. You should hang up on these sweet talkers. Better still, tell them you will call the police.

Remember. Powerball is played not only in most of our states, but in other countries also. Our neighbor Canada is one of them. Again, their government is not part of the deal.

As hard as I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to figure out why it’s called Powerball. Yes, a ball is involved as a key part of the lottery. Some cynics say it’s a take-off on “Parable”, as Parable of the Gospel.

Now here is the real big news. Totally true. The winning ticket was purchased right here in little Morro Bay, population 15,000, which is where I now live, as many of you know. In my own place, with just a little help from my loving daughter Monique and her hubby David.

The October 4, 2021 winning ticket had the following numbers: 12/22/54/66/69

Maybe the person who won had bought just one ticket. Maybe dozens. As I said, raffle tickets are cheap, only $2 per. The best way to improve your odds is to buy many. Even better, many, many, many. Though your chances will still be slim.

Now notice the official wording again:  The winning ticket was sold here. That doesn’t mean the winner was somebody here in town. It could have been somebody visiting here from Timbuktu. Powerball doesn’t care. The more buyers, the better.

Just think:  There are 23,200 raffle dealers in California alone.

I haven’t been able to pin down how much this latest Powerball raffle has raised in California for its sponsors, or in the other states, or other countries where it is offered.

Now for me, the biggest news is that the winning ticket was bought at Albertsons, our biggest supermarket in town. Albertsons is just 15 minutes down the street. I’m a customer there.

And Albertsons will receive $1 Million for having sold the winning ticket. Again, this is because it is Powerball’s strategy to boost the number of outlets selling tickets.

I’ll bet there are a dozen other outlets in town, little ones, that are selling Powerball tickets.

I’ve been scratching my head to figure out who there might have sold the winning ticket. Certainly not the clerk in Produce. Or the one in Cheeses. Or the one in Wines and Liquors. So who? Who?

Albertsons is a national chain. Maybe the $1 Million will go to corporate headquarters. So it will wind up as just a small increase in its annual financial report.

KSBY News:  ‘Who was it?’ Morro Bay abuzz over winning Powerball Lottery ticket

It’s been great publicity for Powerball.

Another thing I’d like to know is whether the winning ticket buyer’s identity will be made public.

Maybe we’ll find out if So and So, the co-manager of our McDonald’s down the street, where I go every afternoon for my cup of coffee, is suddenly taking off for a year with his wife and kids, his family with mom and dad and brothers and sisters, her family with her whole tribe, for a one-year luxury tour around the world.

I think making his identity known would be very unwise, and for lots of reasons.

Anyway, for the last couple of nights I’ve been dreaming of what I would do if I had won that giant jackpot. That’s been a lot of fun.

What would you do? I think you too would find that fun.

One more thing. I’ve mentioned a lot of hard facts here. No way could I have come up with all of this info on my own.

The smartest thing I did was to look it up on wonderful Wikipedia, which is a free service, as we know. But Wikipedia asked me to make a donation. That suggested they would give me better service. They offered a choice of donations. The cheapest was $16.70.  An odd sum. I paid with my credit card. I like Wikipedia.

But even then I couldn’t nail down why the raffle is called Powerball, or what the darn Powerball is.

I’ll bet I’ll get an email thank you from Wikipedia tomorrow. Maybe with an explanation.

I’ve never bought a Powerball ticket. Not even at $2. Never will. Oh, sure, I’ll buy a raffle ticket from our Senior Center, or Library, or the local Rotary Club, if they ask me. But that’s my limit. And none of these use a Powerball.

My long and lovely life on two wheels, and most recently, on three

By John Guy LaPlante

I am now 92 going on 93. So this long story of mine goes way, way back, believe me.

I learned to ride a bike when I was 10. Which means I’ve been pedaling ever since I was in short pants.

My parents were immigrants from Québec, so French-speaking, of course. The trip down by train had taken only 16 hours. They were happy to have arrived in Rhode Island.

But there are so many differences. English! That was the biggest. But also differences in this and that and that. Not easy.

And hoping it would not turn out to be just a wild and sad pipedream.

For my folks it had been a smart move. Life had become much better in the town of Pawtucket.

I was their first-born. I was christened Jean-Guy. When I grew up and went off on my own, I legally changed it to the English equivalent, which is John Guy, as many of you know from past writings of mine.

They didn’t like my doing that, which was understandable. Sometimes now I think that changing my name like that was a blunder on my part.

Anyway, before long I had two sisters and a little brother. They all learned to pedal, too.

Pa had never learned to ride a bike. Neither had Ma. They had never had the opportunity up there. Never gotten to own a bike.

Well, they gave me a two-wheeler. Not one they had bought cheap. You know, second hand. No, no.

A beauty. From a store that sold bikes.

All high quality. Regular size. Balloon tires. Single speed. You braked by back-pedaling.

I was 10 years old in 1939. This Boy’s Bike is from the 1939 Schwinn Catalog.

All bikes were like that back then.

I was the first of us to learn to ride a bike.

But know what? This little kid was scared to get on and try.

Pa and Ma were awfully disappointed in that. They themselves didn’t know how to pedal a bike.

It’s my Auntie Bernadette–my Mom’s younger sister–who taught me how. She was good at making things happen.

She had asked fellow workers at the textile mill where she worked. And they had told her how to go about it.

She explained it all to Pa and Ma. No problem, she assured them. And that’s what she told me. No problem.

“Ten minutes, Jean-Guy, and you’ll be riding your new bicycle. Just10 minutes!”

“No! No! Auntie! I don’t want to!”

She chuckled.

“Get on, Jean-Guy! Just, just get on!”

What to do? Well, I got on.

Then holding me tightly, and running along at my side, and finally deciding we were going fast enough, she let go. And I kept rolling right along. All by myself. No problem.

And instinctively I learned how to slow down and stop and get off without falling.

Whoopee!

So, using me as an example, it became a lot easier for my little sisters and kid brother to learn.

That was many, many, many years ago.

Well, in a few months, I will be 93.

In all these years I have been riding a bike. Have never stopped.

Wherever I’ve lived, in several states, and in fact in a few other countries. Even after I learned how to drive a car. And I’m still pedaling.

But for some 15 years, it has not been on two wheels, but on three. I no longer pedal a bike. I pedal a trike.

There has been a downside to this. I used to be able to put my bike on my car and just take off. Not possible with a trike. Too bulky.

But some months ago I gaveup my auto license. No more driving for me. I felt at my age it was the smart and prudent thing to do.

I gave my car to my grandson Thomas who needed it.

Nice thing about that is not having to look for a parking space the way I used to.

But I’m still pedaling. I certainly don’t need a license to do that!

Over the years I have lived in many states. Especially Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and for some years in Southern California. And close to 10 years now I have been living in Morro Bay on California’s Central Coast. Just a few minutes from my loving daughter Monique and son-in-law David.

Years ago I taught her to ride a bike, also her brothers Arthur and Mark, and before that even their mother Pauline.

And oh, I’m also the one who also taught all of them how to drive.

But now I no longer bike. I know that sounds strange.

Now I trike. Yes, I have a tricycle. Three wheels instead of just two. This is far more stable for an old man.

Most of you haven’t seen me in a long while. You’d be surprised. These days I walk with two canes, one in each hand. Yes, sir.

It’s nothing to be proud of, I assure you.

And in all my waking hours, the truth is I wear a little electronic gadget that dangles on my chest. I pay a monthly fee to use it.

Why? Well, If I happened to fall, it would send a message to a central office that would get me help. I mean 24/7!

Of course, my trike is far more stable than a bike. And certainly far more practical.

By the way I believe mine is the only trike in Morro Bay. That’s one reason I get so many stares as I pedal along.

These days it’s my son-in-law David who takes me shopping for groceries and such.

But I use my trike for smaller purchases, such as from our big Albertsons supermarket nearby.

Recently one of its managers surprised me. Told me it was perfectly okay to pedal my trike up and down all the aisles. No problem. That was very nice of him.

Until then, I used to ride my trike into the store’s lobby, park it there, then get off and push one of its shopping carts up and down the various aisles to pick up the items I needed.

No more. How about that?!

I do get a lot of stares but most people understand.

I said that my trike is far more practical than a bike.

It has a big basket in the back. Can carry smaller purchases from neighborhood shops. Also books from the public library or back to the library.

Of course I use it to go to our nearby bank and post office and senior center, drugstore and other places.

And every afternoon I head to McDonald’s for a cup of coffee.

So on my trike I am a familiar sight to a lot of people. Most don’t know my name or anything about me. They know me just as the “old guy with the trike.”

And oh, my big news. You’ve heard about electric bikes, I’ll bet. Not motorcycles. Electric BIKES!

This is big news. I should have told you earlier. I apologize.

Well, I was able to buy a kit that cleverly converts my pedal trike into an electric trike.

Everyone knows me as the “old guy with the trike.”

And in a few seconds, by the push of a button or two, I can convert it from a power-driven tricycle to a foot-powered trike. Wow!

This is what I do of course at Albertson’s.

There was a time when I moved here that I could pedal my bike down the hills to the “Embarcadero,” which is what our bayfront is called.

But I couldn’t pedal back up. The hills to get home were too steep. I would have been inviting a heart attack.

We have many hills in Morro Bay. No problem.

There is no need to but I’ll bet that my motor-driven trike could get up to the top of just about any one of them.

Well, all this has been about bikes and trikes. If you’ve read this far, you’ll probably be interested in what I’m going to write about now.

It’s about a bicycle thing that I have seen nowhere else. I repeat, nowhere else.

It’s our Morro Bay Bike Park. I don’t know all the little details but it’s something the City is very proud of.

It seems to be a co-op thing between the City and a number of bicycling enthusiasts.

It was built on a hillside of some six to eight acres about a mile or so from where I live.

The Bike Park is an arrangement of dirt ramps and bounds and twists and jumps.
Visit the Morro Bay Bike Park on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MorroBayBikePark/

It’s having been built on a hillside was all-important. You’ll understand in a minute.

The Bike Park is an arrangement of dirt ramps and bounds and twists and jumps.

I understand that it was designed by a professional who has planned a number of such bike parks in communities here and there across the country.

This is the only one I have ever seen. Here’s how it works.

If you are driving with your son or daughter and their bike, which is usually the case, you drive to the top of a small hill. There’s a parking area up there.

No charge to park up there or to use the bike in the park. From there you can look down on the whole park.

You take your son or daughter and their bike to the top of the course. It’s about a hundred feet below where you have parked.

And down they go. Down to every ramp and bound and twist and jump. One after another. It’s amazing how fast, and how exciting it is to get from the top to the bottom.

Most riders want to do it several times. So they have to walk their bike back up to the shop to do it again.

Going downhill from beginning to end gives them the extra momentum, the extra speed to make the ride right down to the bottom so much more exciting.

I’ve found it great fun to watch them.

I’ve seen dads and moms eagerly snapping pictures of their kids as they fly down from one thrill to the other.

Oh, sure, some of the riders are young adults.

But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dad trying the course by himself. He gives the shove-off and that’s it.

Of course, now and then some ramps and bounds and twists and jumps need some fixing, and it’s the dads and bigger kids who are depended upon to come and do the fixing.

Everyone pitches in.
Visit the Morro Bay Bike Park on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MorroBayBikePark/

On school days very few get to use it. Or when the weather is so-so.

On a nice busy Saturday afternoon, you might see only 20 or 25 people up there.

Now a little P.S. for you

Coping with serious old age is not easy. Take my word for it.

There’s no great trick to doing it.

I think what makes it possible is the ability to cope, adjust, cope, adjust, and to just keep doing that one / two.

I’m trying to do that. And I take pleasure in managing to do it.

There is far worse than becoming deaf. Far, far worse, believe me.

By John Guy LaPlante

Being born deaf, for instance.

In my last post, I told you about becoming partly deaf as I was becoming older.

I entitled it, “Oh, the woes of becoming deaf!”

And I talked about how awful it must be to be born deaf. That happens to some people.

And that made me think of a little girl who was afflicted much, much more seriously than that.

She was born not only deaf but blind.

She lost her hearing, her sight, and even the power of speech.

Can you imagine that?!

Her name was Helen Keller. She was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

A beautiful photo from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Keller

Her parents were a solid, highly regarded couple. Later Helen had two siblings who were totally normal. How ironic!

Little Helen was born normal but was bowled over by this tragedy when she was less than two years old. After an illness of some kind. Maybe scarlet fever. Maybe rubella.

And it’s entirely possible that she could have lived with that long tragedy for the rest of her long life. She died in 1968 at age 87.

She did have one great blessing. It was the good fortune of having a young woman named Ann Sullivan constantly at her side. In time she became known as Annie Sullivan.

Annie became totally devoted to Helen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, week in and week out, till the end of her own life.

And so Helen became a highly educated, well-adjusted, widely admired, influential, famous lady who wrote books, traveled the world, met presidents, scientists, kings, famous people of many kinds.

She became famous to people not only in our country but around the world.

Hers was a tragedy so extreme that when she was a little child nobody could do anything to alleviate it or do anything at all to make her life even a wee bit better.

Surely some well-intentioned parents would have wished this little girl dead for her very own sake. Sounds awful, but true.

So little Helen never became able to see the sun or hear the outbursts of a mighty thunderstorm, or even say “Thank you!” to someone trying to help her.

Out of overpowering frustration, she would explode in a humongous tantrum time and again.

Everybody understood that. Who so afflicted would not explode like that?!

But miracle of miracles. Slowly, a little bit at a time, little Helen became able to transform those violent panic attacks and slowly develop into a happy person.

Would spend hours and hours spelling out the words of ordinary things into Helen’s palm. Words like cup and comb and milk.

The big moment came when Annie was washing Helen’s hands with water and Helen made the connection between the word water and the actual water. That was the great, great breakthrough!

Yes, it was miraculous.

Helen learned to write, became widely educated, and in fact graduated from college with honors. She began to travel and earn money to support herself.

She became an author whose books found a wide market. She was able to communicate with and impress people in audiences small and very large.

She learned braille and then to type with a braille typewriter, and later with an ordinary typewriter.

Always with Annie’s essential assistance, of course.

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan in 1888
Photo: Thaxter P. Spencer Family, New England Historic Genealogical Society [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Traveled all over the country and abroad, even to places like India and Japan to meet people of all kinds.

Of course, she could not see or hear any of the people she got to meet. Often she would run a hand over a person’s face to get an idea of what that person looked like.

She would book passage on trains and planes.

She amazed everybody who got to see her. They cheered for her, hugged her, blew kisses to her, prayed for her, remembered her as a heroine in her own right.

She made it a point to meet wounded soldiers and anyone young or old severely afflicted in any way through no fault of their own.

She did not hesitate to express strong opinions and take strong positions.

For instance, that most people everywhere are good people.

And that we should not go to war.

And that there is much, much good to be said about socialism.

She inspired them. Cheered them on.

She lived a long life of personal success and a positive influence on people beyond number.

You can read a lot more here: https://www.biography.com/activist/helen-keller

Yes, she died in 1968, a few months after suffering a stroke.

Ironically, Annie had gone blind in both eyes. Would you believe it?!

They were holding hands when Annie died.

You can get to know Helen in many videos on YouTube.

I was in my forties back then.

I never had the pleasure of seeing her but I became very familiar with her amazing achievements. Who didn’t?

As a young woman, Helen had one piece of amazing good luck that ran on for years and years.

That good luck was meeting and teaming up with Anne Sullivan. Who was also known to many as Annie.

Annie could not claim to come from a higher-up family like Helen’s.

Hers were just ordinary, hard-working Irish stock. Which made her more knowledgeable in the ways of the world, and far more sympathetic to what Helen was going through.

Annie was very smart. Extremely clever. Patient beyond words. Possessed of iron determination.

She was Helen’s teacher, mentor, archangel.

Slowly, one tiny bit after another, she was able to free Helen from the mental prison she seemed locked into for the rest of her days.

Many fine and determined and gifted teachers and trainers would have given up after a few months or a few years. Because what was expected of them was impossible to achieve.

Much of the time the job required she work at Helen’s side from morning till night. All week long, weekdays and holidays.

At Helen’s home in Massachusetts and at her side in all the school and college classes she took, and all the speeches and interviews she gave, and all her meetings with famous people, and whenever she was hospitalized and dealing with doctors and dentists and other specialists and wherever Helen happened to be, at home or in Chicago or Paris or Timbuktu.

Helen was Annie’s only pupil for decades. She served Helen for 49 years, until Annie herself died.

Helen became a movie star in a film about herself. It was called “The Miracle Worker!”

And also the prize-winning play by the same title.

Helen became Miracle Worker Number 1, and Annie Miracle Worker Number 2.

I was so fascinated by Helen Keller’s story that I decided to write about her for you. I was sure you too would be fascinated.

I wanted all the details I could get. So I went to our Morro Bay Public Library. And asked Librarian Nicole what the library might have about Helen, and Nicole went searching.

She reported to me that the library had two books, but they were children’s books. Which surprised me.

Nicole thought I might not be interested in seeing them, for that same reason, being children’s books.

But what the heck! I asked to see them.

I found them both to be fine books. Very interesting. Rich in detail, with a wealth of photos and illustrations.

And I understood why publishers would find books about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan such good and important reading for children.

Of course, there are adult books about them in the San Luis Obispo County Library system, in which ours is a member library.

The two books Nicole lent me were “Helen Keller, Her Life in Pictures” with text by George Sullivan. A wide assortment of photos. Published by Scholastic Nonfiction, an imprint of Scholastic. 2007

Learn more on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Helen-Keller-Their-Own-Words/dp/0439095557

The other is ” Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller,” a fine text written by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Tavares.” Beautiful paintings, no photos. Published by Disney / Hyperion Books, New York, 2012.

Learn more on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Helens-Big-World-Helen-Keller/dp/078680890X

By coincidence, both books have an extra-large format, being eleven inches high and ten inches wide.

I highly recommend both books to you.

Again, both books are rich with photos or illustrations. I hope to include a few for you.

But I was miffed by the publishers’ legalese warning that the photos / illustrations could not be used without permission.

Well, both books were published years ago. It would take me forever to get permission.

And if they squawked, I would argue that my blog would be wonderful publicity for them.

How about that?!

Oh, the woes of being deaf!

By John Guy LaPlante

I am totally deaf in my right ear and partially deaf in my left ear. I wear a hearing aid in that ear.

I have a lot of company. The latest statistic is that 37 million Americans suffer hearing loss.

It is the most common sensory disorder in our country. It affects more than 16% of our country.

We just take it for granted that everybody will become more and more deaf as they grow older. But kids can suffer from the problem. How sad!

How do I know that? I just read in the New York Times that President Biden by executive order has declared that hearing aids will be sold at pharmacies up to a level of $5,000 per pair.

Truth is you can buy a pair of hearing aids for $100 or for $10,000. Even more.

When I read that, I gave the President a thumbs up. Glad I voted for him. For that and other reasons.

A special one is that when I was serving in Peace Corps in Ukraine in my early 80s the then Vice President Biden was dispatched by Obama to hold conversations at the highest level.

One thing Vice President Biden did now and then was give a briefing to leaders and staff of our Embassy in whatever country he was dispatched to.

After his briefing he would offer to take questions from a few people in the audience.

Right now I am talking about the briefing that he gave at our Embassy in Kiev, which is the capital of Ukraine.

I was one of them. Lucky me. He noticed that I was not your typical youngish Peace Corps Volunteer 22 years old, or 28 or 35. I was 78 back then.

There were a couple of hundred people in the audience.

Anyway, he invited me to come down to the stage and I did that. He asked me how come I was such an old Volunteer and I told him.

I wanted to give back. And it appealed to me as a great adventure. And I wanted to write about it.

He could see that I was older than he was!

I had to keep it short and sweet. I knew I would be on the stage with him for only a minute or two.

He nodded. Smiled. Gave me a pat on the shoulder. And shook hands with me. And that was it. I left the stage.

But gosh, how proud he made me feel. I remember that moment to this day.

Many in the audience had cameras. In the next few days I received photos of that great moment from several. I was tickled.

One I liked a lot. I put it along with a few others that I worked with there in Kiev, on the cover of my book,”27 Months in the Peace Corps, My Story, Unvarnished.”

But why did I say “Unvarnished”?

Well, Peace Corps was very good but nothing is perfect, as we know.

It’s from those few fleeting moments that I got to see how caring and genuine a man President Biden was. And I have maintained that opinion of him ever since.

Now back to hearing aids. A couple of days ago when I saw him on TV explaining his executive order, I wondered, does he wear hearing aids?

Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he does. Some hearing aids are so small you can hardly see them.

But to be purchased at pharmacies?!

I did not like that one bit.

Since living in Morro Bay here, I have patronized “Morro Bay Hearing Aid Center,” a small shop on Main Street.

They sell a wide assortment of hearing aids, some very expensive and some so-so.

They give expert advice, have fair prices, provide fine service.

They have gotten to know me well.

They know I don’t want to buy a pair. They know I need only one, for my left ear. I’ll explain in a minute.

Well, the President’s executive order could put that shop and many others out of business. Not good. I’m opposed to that.

Now I will explain.

As I look back, I felt I had very little hearing loss until about 15 years ago. My hearing was great.

Then one day I fell down a stairway headfirst and banged my head against a closed door. No broken bones, lucky me!

I managed to call for help and I was rushed to the local hospital.

The young doctor taking care of me called my daughter Monique to tell her what had happened, and of course she was shocked. She asked to speak to me.

The doctor passed the phone to me and I put it to my right ear. Which is what I always, always do.

I could not hear a darn thing!

I thought Monique and I had been disconnected, so I handed the phone back to the doctor.

“No, no, no!” she said to me. “Your daughter is on the line.” And handed me the phone again. Once more I put it to my right ear. And tried as hard as I could to hear my daughter. But I could not hear a thing.

That’s when I discovered I was deaf in that ear. What woe!

But very quickly the doctor tried to reassure me.

“Oh, please don’t worry,” she said. “I’m sure it will come back.”

It did not.

But with my left ear I could hear quite well. My right ear had gone dead.

Discharged from the hospital, I worried, in fact I was frantic. I quickly consulted an ear, nose, and throat M.D.

Guess what? He told me that if I had been prescribed a certain medicine by that doctor, my hearing probably would have been restored. Imagine my awful disappointment.

I happened to chat with a lawyer. He advised me that I had strong grounds for a malpractice suit. But I never followed through. Maybe that was very dumb on my part.

Now here is just one consequence of that great loss of mine.

Sleeping in bed at night, I have to be very careful. I sleep on my  left ear, which is what I have always done,  and thus my so-called good ear, the one in which I use my hearing aid when I am up and about, is muffled by my pillow, so no way could I hear my alarm clock when it goes off. So I make sure my so-called good ear is not totally muffled by my pillow. But it’s an imperfect solution, believe me.

Now more consequences of having only my left ear working, even with my hearing aid in it.

If I’m walking along on a sidewalk, and someone walking towards me says “Hello, John,” I can say “Hello!” back. No problem.

But if I can’t see him or her, I can hear that “Hello!” But I can’t tell if it’s from somebody behind me, or maybe across the street from me, or maybe even somebody calling out from a second floor window. I can’t tell who it is.

With two good ears, I would have what they call “directionality.”

Which is what you have, I’m sure.

Lucky you!

Again, with just one ear, I can’t tell who’s speaking to me. To repeat, it’s an awful loss.

But there are a lot of smart people around who have come up with solutions of one kind or another.

For one, think of people who are totally deaf from birth. They can learn to read sign language but very few people ever get to “speak” in sign language. So there are darn few people they can converse with.

I am sure that sign language is incredibly hard to master.

And very few people ever get around to mastering it. And they have to be able to use your kind of English — meaning there are so many dirty words and expletives and slang that you never, never heard, so how do you handle that with your sign language? Sounds utterly impossible to me.

But modern technology has provided another solution. But this one is limited in its own way because it involves surgery, which can be risky.

You may have heard of it. It’s quite new– a Cochlear Implant. A specialized surgeon has to put the implant in you. You choose to have that done because it’s the only option you have left. There is no other solution. It’s your only hope.

I know of one elderly lady who has had that done.

It seems to work quite well for her in her circle of family and friends. But there is a steep learning curve for both her family and friends who of course are the usual contacts she calls. I doubt that on her own she could call and make herself understood to a plumber or even her doctor’s office.

But suppose your insurance plan doesn’t cover that?!

Now let me tell you about another solution. It’s a remarkable invention called the CaptionCall telephone. Yes, spelled as one word as I just spelled it. And it is a telephone.

Using my CaptionCall that automatically converts what is being said to text I can read.

I’m very familiar with it.

In fact, I have two.

The CaptionCall is the size of a small computer. It’s just a foot away on a small table by the side of my favorite chair.

If a call comes in, I can turn up the volume very, very high. Which works fine for me.

But if that were not good enough for me, the CaptionCall automatically converts the conversation into nice big captions appearing on a screen. Imagine that!

But suppose somebody is calling in French, in which I am fluent. What then?

Well, I just called my CaptionCall phone, which has its own distinct phone number. And it just didn’t work.

Anyway, I have two of them. One by my favorite living room chair and the other in my bedroom.

And guess what? I was told they are provided free to California residents by a California government agency of some kind.

Then on Google I discovered there are other so-called Caption Call machines. $0 Caption Call phone and another is called the Alelo Caption Call phone.

It turns out that qualified individuals can receive one through the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Which is available to anybody in our country who meets certain criteria.

And that’s why I have never received a bill.

I am sure further things will be invented to make life so much better for people with hearing loss.

Think of what a miracle that was!

And shows what all out dedication and concentration can achieve!

And to say it again, people with normal hearing loss deficits like me, and maybe you, surely appreciate how fortunate we are to live at this time and in this place.

President Biden’s executive order to cover hearing aids for up to $5,000 purchased at a pharmacy to be covered by Medicare, as imperfect as that is, as I have already explained, is really a giant step in the right direction.

How fortunate we are to be Americans — Democrats like me who voted for him but even Trump Republicans or libertarians or people who never get around to voting for anybody or anything.

God bless America!

Around The World – Narrated with Photos

Have you read my book “Around the World at 75 Alone, Dammit!

Yes, I visited  20 countries and covered nearly 37,000 miles. I did it by plane, train, and bus for only $83 a day. And that covered even my medical shots and insurance!

Back in 2005, my good friend Matt Kidd helped me create a DVD that I narrated. On YouTube, you can see my photos and listen to me telling you about my many traveling experiences and adventures.

Part 1 of my photos and narration from my trip around the world.

Part 2 of my photos and narration from my trip around the world.

Part 3 of my photos and narration from my trip around the world.

Learn more about my trip of a lifetime in my book:
http://johnguylaplante.com/wp/my-books-2/

We get to see rare elephant seals close up!

By John Guy LaPlante 

Off I go with visiting family to behold an animal spectacle nearby it’s unlikely you will ever get to see.

That is, unless you happen to come upon an old issue of National Geographic or The Smithsonian.

I am talking of elephant seals.

Of course, if your community library is a good one, you might happen upon a DVD that shows it all.

We were going off by car to see why and how the elephant seals actually rook here every year.

But what the heck are elephant seals?!

They are sea animals that come up on shore for a few days to have their young.

They are called elephant seals because the males have a proboscis, a long snout that looks a lot like the trunk of an elephant but much shorter.

I hope to find a picture or two to show you. A video would be even better.

As I said, their rooking is quite a sight.

It takes place once a year on a Pacific beach some 40 miles up the seashore road from Morro Bay, CA.

Here is a photo of elephant seals from https://elephantseal.org/
They have a live beach camera and
online shop too: https://elephantseal.org/product/large-elephant-seal-plush/

As many of you know, I have been living here in Morro Bay for a few years, close to my daughter Monique and her husband David.

That elephant seal beach is some 10 miles north of the Hearst Castle.

The road goes right by the famous castle, luxurious beyond words, that was created by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst at San Simeon high on a mountaintop. It attracts tourists from all over the country and even beyond.

So that was quite an extra nice sight to get to see as we drove by.

The elephant seals return every year from the Gulf of Alaska to this very beach.

And here they give birth to their pups.

The bulls also mate with the cows, competing with other bulls for the privilege.

The bulls come back twice a year, in the summer to molt and in the winter to breed and birth calves, year in and year out.

Bulls and cows migrate to different places. Bulls to the Gulf of Alaska and cows to the great, wife-open Pacific, plunging back into the saltwater and heading northwest to where they came from.

And next year the elephant seals will return to this same little beach for a few weeks, in the summer to molt for a repeat of this drama.

In the meanwhile, nothing unusual will take place on this little beach. It will be similar to so many other beaches along the shoreline.

But every year some local people are so enthralled by this brief natural occurrence that they drive to this beach time and again to see this natural spectacle take place.

As for me, I’ve lived here in Morro Bay close to a decade now, or so it seems. All to be close to my daughter Monique and her husband David.

It’s about a 40-mile drive to that little beach above Cambria. It was only my second time to go. All to see that spectacle.

Destination: Elephant Seals!

Got to tell you there was no headline in the local papers that I’m aware of that proclaimed “The Elephant Seals Are Back!”

The fact is that my son-in-law David just knew this was the time. And he did not need a calendar to remind him.

He just loves living close to the ocean. He can see it from the front porch of his home here high on a hill.

In the morning he steps out onto the porch to take a look at the ocean.

More than once I’ve stood on that porch with him. And I’ve commented, “David, to me the sky is much more interesting than the water.

You know, the interesting cloud patterns. The Sun beaming down on the clouds, constantly changing the scene. And at night, the Moon rising above!!”

But David just doesn’t buy that.

Every fair day of the year at low tide when the sand has become hard packed, he power-walks on the beach, meaning he walks just short of running on it.

By the way, according to astronomers, it is the Sun and the Moon that determine all over the world how tides, high and low, will take place twice a day.

And thus at exactly what time in the morning it would be best for David to take his power walk on the beach.

But for him, I’m sure a half hour one way or the other would make zero difference at what time he should be out there to walk.

Well, we had relatives visiting us — my son Arthur and his dear wife Marita and their daughter Elise, who is my granddaughter, of course, all just arrived from far-off Florida. Arthur said he had other things to attend to. Or maybe he felt there wasn’t enough room in the car with my big folding / rolling wheelchair and all.

My daughter Monique had seen them several times before and was needed at her office.

Our guests did not ask to go see the elephant seals. They knew very little, if anything, about them. In fact, didn’t know they exist.

To repeat, David just knew they would be greatly interested in seeing the huge animals. Who wouldn’t be?

After all, they are an AAA tourist attraction.

And he took me along for the ride.

I felt bad for my son Arthur.

I thought he wasn’t with us because there was not enough room in David’s car, with my big folding / rolling wheelchair and all.

He was a good sport about it. Said he had some private affairs to take care of.

My daughter Monique didn’t come because she had done the trip before with David and she was needed at her office.

David’s including me was not easy for him, believe me. That’s because I now have a hard time walking unassisted at home, which is on a single floor, mind you. I now walk with two canes.

And just recently I wrote to you about my swollen-leg condition called lymphedema. My legs from my toes right up to close to my knees swell with fluid, becoming twice normal size.

What’s the cure? There is none. It’s not a sickness or a disease. It is a condition, life-long, sad to say.

In the morning I have to put on very, very tight compression stockings to keep my legs from swelling. Thank God there’s no pain involved in any of this.

No way can I put these on by myself.

David comes over in the morning and puts them on me. In the evening my daughter Monique comes and removes them, soothes them with a special lotion, and puts ordinary stockings on me for the night. This goes on seven days a week, week in and week out.

And so it meant that on this excursion David would have to push me in a  folding / rolling wheelchair — a fine wheelchair intended for nice, smooth, very even surfaces inside or outside.

“No problem, John,” he said more than once when he invited me along.

But I knew that he knew that this would be a huge job for him. But as usual he would make light of it.

So there would be four of us on this excursion. David and me and my daughter-in-law Marita and my granddaughter Elise, herself a grown-up adult.

David parked at the very end of the parking lot, as close to the viewing area as he could get us, with stern warnings posted of stiff fines for anybody bothering the elephant seals in any way.

But the seals’ beach was closed off to us by a heavy fence.

It was a cold gray day with a sharp wind. David had told us to make sure to wear warm hats and jackets.

The Pacific Ocean stretched out in front of us. There were just half a dozen other tourists there.

Probably first-timers, come from long distances probably to see the elephant seals for the first time.

By the way, this was not a nice, smooth, blacktopped parking area. This was very rough and uneven gravel.

David had to use a lot of muscle to push me up close to the viewing area.

The elephant seals were still out of sight. They were on a broad beach below us. We were on a mound looking down on them. There were more than a hundred of them.

Some were huge. The males. The size of a big pickup truck, so to speak. Some absolutely still. Then one would wake up and with a strong swish with one of its two flippers spread sand over itself.

The females were smaller, about half the size of the males.

One of the males would rouse himself and waddle to one of the females. To have sex, but that happened only in the winter.

Some of the females had pups at their side, and were not in the mood to be bothered.

It was that these elephant seals had to make a huge swim to get here.

Over the years marine scientists must have tagged some and found out that way. Maybe these studies are ongoing.

And these elephant seals swam to this very cove every year to give birth to their young, repeating the cycle year after year.

David told us this was not so.

There were other coves north and south of here.

Some elephant seals would make landfall at one of them, in time returning to more than one or two of them.

This cove was famous because it was close to the highway, and close enough for visitors like us to get to see them quite easily.

Others were in coves too far from any highway to make it possible for people to get to see them there.

For sure the story that the seals came back here every year was terrific for the local economy, with numerous motels and restaurants and shopping centers and gas stations and souvenir shops nearby.

Oh, on the way home a thick, cold fog had come in and there was no way we could see the world-famous San Simeon Hearst Castle high on its mountain top. What a shame.

Well, even with one difficulty after another, we had a wonderful time.

I am sure that my daughter-in-law Marita and my granddaughter Elise will never forget their visit here to the cove famous for elephant seals returning year after year to give birth to their young, repeating the cycle time and again.

For me what was most meaningful was that it was a rare family outing, from my point of view unlikely to take place again. I’m grateful for that.

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