It has been a disappointing week. The Artest (first name Ron) formerly known for rude behavior on NBA basketball courts is back in fetid form under his new and highly inappropriate name, Metta World Peace. Hardly tranquil was the Los Angeles Lakers small forward's declaration of war on James Harden's head. Harden's considerable skills are employed by the Oklahoma Thunder and the vicious assault was by way of a World Peace flying elbow. World Peace claimed it was "accidental" but TV replays suggest otherwise. For causing a concussion, he got a seven-game suspension, a decided contrast to a 2004 docking of 86.
Joining World Peace as major screw ups were a bunch of Secret Service operatives assigned to protect the President. Somehow, a number of Columbian hookers wound up at the hotel where President Obama would be staying and, somehow, one of the agents refused to pay for services rendered. Quicker than you can command room service, hotel management, then the cops were summoned resulting in the mom's apple pie reputation of the Secret Service going in the toilet. It was the kind of opening scene of inspired lunacy that might have come from the enormously fertile mind of film director/writer Billy Wilder. The kicker to the scene, of course, is that prostitution is legal in that part of Columbia. Details, details.
It could very well be that the price-conscious agent has one of those very reactive minds much like head-hunting NFL defensive linemen quite unable to think things through. As the story develops, it becomes clear that a number of agents will no longer run the risk of taking a bullet for this or any President.
Then, there's the case of GSA official Jeff Neely who became the poster boy for the $830,000 tab run up by his organization at much ado about precious little celebrations in Las Vegas. What happened in Sin City is not staying there. Neely had the misfortune to be photographed with two glasses of wine within easy reach while smiling from a hot tub. Fox News went reliably crazy.
Offering a nice contrast to this country's stupid elite was one of those feel-good stories NBC's "Evening News" likes to sign off with on Fridays. It's the tale of Misaki Murikami, now aware one prized possession survived the tsunami that destroy his home and community on March 11, 2011. A football, containing messages of best wishes, was given him in 2005 as a good-bye gift when he transferred to another school.
The ball made it all the way to Alaska where David Baxter, a radar technician from Kasilof, found it while beachcombing on Middleton Island, 70 miles south of the Alaskan mainland. Baxter and his wife plan to visit Japan next month but will not deliver the ball directly to Murikami. They don't want to create a fuss.
While on the beachcombing subject, we've been fascinated for a long time by items carried great distances, then found. People have been putting messages in bottles for something like 2,000 years. Champion bottle finder appears to be beachcombing Illinoisan Clint Buffington. A teacher at the University of Kentucky, Buffington is to bottle finding what Art Wall is to the hole-in-one. Wall, as a touring professional, had 45 plus nine as an amateur. Californian Norman Manley claims 59 but he wasn't a pro and some of his aces are unattested.
With bottle-hunting not as popular as golf, statistics are on the rare side. Buffington claims 38 readable notes in bottles and his pursuit is intense for someone with sand in his shoes. He once found a Coca-Cola bottle on an island in the Caribbean Sea and got in touch with the daughter of the man who wrote it, perhaps 50 years ago. The daughter, Paula Pierce of New Hampshire, understandably was impressed: "That gave me the chills. I feel like they're sending me a message." Her parents had stayed at the Beachcomber Hotel in Hampton and had placed a note in a bottle promising the finder $150 to be paid by owner Tina. Dad was, doubtless, a big spender of other people's money.
It was in 2007 on the shoreline of the Turks and Caicos Islands some 550 miles south of Miami that Buffington came upon another bottle tossed in the Atlantic Ocean. The year was 1999 and the bottle flip a part of a first wedding anniversary celebration by Ed and Carol Meyers in Duck, North Carolina, an outer banks community just a few quacks away from Kitty Hawk. Interestingly enough, the beach where Buffington found the Meyers' bottle is the same one where he came upon the Pierce container and the note promising $150 to the finder.
A not so far-traveled message in a bottle was one found three years ago by Darin Winkler of the River Run subdivision on the Spokane River. Walking the banks of the river with his kids, Winkler noticed an old flattened basketball and a bunch of bottles. One, with an old-fashioned cork stopper, appeared to be of greater vintage than the others. Carefully extracting a note from the bottle, Winkler noticed the paper was a bit damp, but mostly intact. A date on it, March 30, 1913, took his breath away. The note was signed by Emmett Presnell of nearby Rockford. Research by Winkler suggests the bottle had had a very short trip and very likely spent the better part of nine decades high and dry on a tangle of logs or washed up on a bank making the note so readable after so long.
A postcard can have a lot of travel miles on it and so it was with one received by Vasilia "Vas" Mazzotta last April. Mazzotta, who now lives in Cromwell, Connecticut, was a bit baffled when she first tried to make sense of it. Addressed to "Miss Vassoula Sitara" (her maiden name), it was an Easter card, written in Greek and signed by her long-deceased grandfather. It was dated Athens 20 April 65. There are no hints of where the postcard had been for nearly 46 years and it remains a mailbox mystery.
Under the right circumstances, balloons can be impressive travelers and so it was when Laura Buxton, 10, released a red balloon ino the air over her home in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England. That was in June, 2001 and on one side of the balloon she had written: "Please return to Laura Buxton," on the other her home address.
About 140 miles away a man in Milton Libourne found the balloon stuck in a hedge on his property. Noticing Laura Buxton's name and address, the man took the balloon to a neighbor's house showing it to the 10-year-old girl who lived there. Her name: also Laura Buxton.
From there the story is like something out of the "Twilight Zone." The second Laura Buxton wrote the first to tell her of the found balloon; the two, thinking the balloon connection extraordinary, decided they had to meet in person.
On meeting day, the two girls wore the same outfit--a pink sweater and jeans. The girls, both tall for their ages, were the same height, had brown hair wearing it in the same style and even brought their guinea pigs along. Both pigs were the same color and even had duplicate orange markings on their hindquarters. Both had three-year-old black Labrador Retrievers at home, as well as gray pet rabbits.
The odd events that brought them together have made possible a strong bonding between the two. They are now 21 and believe their most unusual meeting was too significant to be regarded as mere coincidence. Can't you just hear Rod Serling introducing the two Laura Buxtons: "You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination--next stop, the 'Twilight Zone.'" Da-da-da-da/da-da-da-da.
Quite a few of our four-footed friends have used a variety of travel means to reappear after unique adventures. Emily, a one-year-old tabby diappeared from Lesley and Donny McElhiney's home in Appleton, Wisconsin while on her evening prowl. She soon found herself on a truck headed for Chicago. Inside a container of paper bales, she was shipped to Belgium, eventually winding up in France where a laminating company's employees found her thin and thirsty. Wearing tags, she was soon reunited with her family thanks to Continental Airlines. Emily's across-the-pond adventure totaled 4,500 miles.
It wasn't easy for Troubles, a scout dog, to get back to his First Air Cavalry Division Headquarters during the Vietnam War. Troubles' handler, William Richardson, was wounded deep in the war zone and the two became separated when Richardson was flown by helicopter to a hospital. That was a tough break for Troubles who not only lost his handler but was abandoned by the rest of the unit. Everything was strange about Vietnam but Troubles made it back to headquarters in Anikhe three weeks later. Troubles, a canine on a mission, wouldn't let anyone near him as he searched tents. The lengthy search ended when Troubles curled up for a nap after finding a pile of Richardson's clothes to use for a bed.
I wonder if my Joe Sewell glove will ever turn up? I left it behind when World War II called. Worn by the Hall of Famer who played for the Cleveland Indians and New York Yqnkees, the glove was given me by Xen Scott, a Cleveland area neighbor and Sewell's coach at the University of Alabama. That glove would have to travel some 2,000 miles--if it's still in a dusty corner of a basement on Summit Ave. in Lakewood. That's a long way but you never ever really know about such things. Da-da-da-da/da-da-da-da.
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