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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Gray Matter: Outdone

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I am always a bit uncomfortable when I realize that I've been outdone. I can usually convince myself that I'm not doing too badly for an eighty-six-year-old, but I've been seriously bettered twice lately. Ouch !

First, I heard from Ruth, a high-school classmate. In the past she has traveled widely on buying trips with a daughter-in-law who owns a unique gift shop. This time, when the younger woman was planning a business trip to Bali and then to visit her brother and family in Bangkok, Ruth had an idea. They'd be half way around the world, so why not make it full-circle, something she had always dreamed of doing. Planning the itinerary, she chose to include many places and creatures average tourists never see. Among them were the Borneo rain forest, Brunei, and Laos with its Buddhist temples and incredible handicraft markets.

From Southeast Asia it was on to Africa. Victoria Falls was their first destination. Coming off a severe drought, the fabled Falls was not as impressive as it might have been. From there they went to the Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana, where they took drives, boat trips and even an elephant ride, which actually afforded the best viewing of all. Next came four days in the Serengetti with an English-speaking guide, a jeep and a driver for morning, afternoon and evening excursions.

Their four weeks in Africa included the islands of Madagascar and Comoros where they viewed many one-of a-kind specimens, both flora and fauna. Making connections in Tanzania, they next flew to London, Madrid, and across the Atlantic to Santiago, Chile. One of their goals was to see the penguins. So they traveled to the southern tip of South America, a short distance from Antarctica, and took a 4-day boat tour of that area. It was summer there, unexpectedly pleasant and green.

One even more remote area was left on their must-see list. They returned to Santiago, via Buenos Aires, and flew from there to Easter Island to view the famed statues many of us have heard about but will never see. They completed their 9-week journey with the final long flight back to California.

In the words of another classmate, Gwen, "Wow! Ruth just returned from around the world and I can hardly make it downtown and back!" Obviously outdone, Gwen and I are overcome with sincere admiration for our life-long friend.

My second "outdoing" took place right here at home. You may have heard about Garnet Stokesberry from Marcus who caucused with Democrats in Cleghorn on the eve of her 103rd Birthday. Though I'm in closer agreement, politically, with her granddaughter, who went on to caucus in Cherokee, I am totally in awe of Garnet's remarkable spunk. Seventeen years her junior, I chose not to even try to go to Cherokee -- a wise decision for I could never have stood in that crowd. But isn't she a great role-model for all of us ?

Speaking of the caucuses, most attendees I've visited with are prone to cut the Republican organizers a bit of slack. The chairman and central committee made the decision to hold a single caucus based on attendance records from the past. Then too, this would allow them to manage with fewer volunteer workers. Unfortunately, it was the wrong choice, but from all reports, it was replicated state-wide by both parties. I've been told that those organizers are all volunteers. If that's true, gratitude from those of us on the side-lines is more appropriate than criticism. From the reaction of several of my young friends who attended their first such event, I know that in spite of the inconvenience, they were impressed by the vibrant enthusiasm, and were left with a sense of involvement that can only be a plus for the next time around. Or, I might say, for the next twenty-odd times, if they can manage to live up to Garnet Stokesberry's remarkable example.