They tell us where we are, where other things are and you can use a map to plot a route between two places.  All of us have mental maps of areas around us, our home, the neighborhood, and way to the important places like the bank, gas station, pizza place, Starbucks …  These mental maps are formed as we engage in our daily travels doing our daily business.  Without them we’d be lost and would never get our pizzas.

I lived in the same city for 60 years and my mental map of that city and surrounding areas is quite detailed.  Not only can I tell you what is on a street corner or how to get to one of eight different Starbucks locations, but I can also tell you what was there before it was a Starbucks.  In some cases I can give you a list of the last five things that were in that location.

Often I’ll give directions that could be the bases for a nice joke, “Go to Campbell Ave and turn into the parking lot where Togo’s use to be, not where they currently are.  You know the one next to the cherry orchard where they built those apartments where Bill use to live.”

You’d be surprised how many of my friends and family would know exactly where that is and the fact that it is now a Thai restaurant.

One of the realities of moving to a new city is that my mental map is basically blank.  I know how to get to our daughter’s homes and the gas station near the interstate but after that – no clue.  So I’ve been relying on that new fangled wonder in my fancy new car: Apple Car Play and Maps (the builtin GPS system).

It’s so cool.  Just press a button on the steering wheel and ask for directions to where ever you want to go.  Then the nice computerized voice directs you where there.  I’ve found grocery stores, Home Depot, gas stations, the pet store, the bank and four different Starbucks.

When I first arrived I’d also use the miracle of technology to get home.  These days I mostly know where the house is, but from time to time I still manage to make a wrong turn and end up driving past houses I don’t recognize.  It’s a bit embarrassing – especially with Heather in the car and she starts asking, “Where are you going?”

Slowly my mental map of this city is starting to form in my brain and I haven’t got lost coming home in two weeks.  We’ve also had time to try a number of different places for shopping and dining so the number of places I don’t need GPS to get to is growing.  This list includes two grocery stores, three Starbucks, a bookstore, the car dealer, two Home Depots, a PetSmart and my doctor’s office.

Yes, I did manage to get registered with a local doctor.  Now I just need a dentist, eye doctor, and to figure out where the Nevada DMV is.  Well, my appointment with the DMV isn’t until December (thanks Covid) so I’ve got time to work that out.

Without this GPS thing, the whole process of learning where stuff is in a new city would be harder.  Remember the old days of paper maps?  In my early career I was a field service technician and drove all over the Bay Area trying to find my clients.  I had a back seat full of maps and the famous Thomas Guides (remember those).  There were a lot of times I ended up parked on a street trying to figure out where I was and where I was going.

These days, no problem.  Just get in the car, plugin the phone, and start CarPlay and speak the magic words, “Directions to Safeway.”  Then the friendly and sometimes annoying voice starts giving directions.  “In one mile turn left.”

Now it’s not all fun and games with this device.  Sometimes it wants to take me to the Safeway in Carson City instead of Reno and from time to time it sends me on the wackiest routes.  It also has a habit of not being that precise on when to turn.  I’ve had it tell me to turn right when there is no street to the right and I’ve also had it say “Turn left” right in the middle of the intersection.  On rare occasion it just goes completely out to lunch and stops directing altogether.

The most annoying thing it does is when you say where you’re going, it displays a map and then says, “Proceed to the route.”

If I knew where the damn route was I wouldn’t need you, you annoying piece of technology.  Generally in these cases I just get on a random street and it starts working.

The voice can be somewhat impatient too.  On many a left turn, I come to a red light and the thing says, “Turn left.” Um, excuse me, can we wait till the light turns green?

And then there’s times when it says, “Proceed north.”  Sadly I don’t carry a compass and getting out the car to figure out where the sun is, just isn’t an option in some cases.

Sometimes I just like to annoy the little voice in the dashboard so I’ll make wrong turns on purpose and enjoy listening to it panic, “Make a u-turn.”

But I just wish it would stop complaining about me driving through a Starbucks.  Okay, I told the little voice I was going to HomeDepot, but there was a Starbucks drive-thru on the way.  It started complaining as soon as I got into line to place my order.

“Proceed to the route.” Not without my latte I won’t …

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Friday Wisdom – Photography

I love digital photography and all its positive aspects – there are no negatives.

I shutter every time I think how that photographer died.

I’ve been thinking about doing more photography.  I’m developing a plan.

If I had a penny for every time I needed to change the battery on my camera, I’d be able to get the cover off.

I tried taking a class in photography but I kept loosing focus.

Two young women order sushi at a fancy restaurant.  The waiter asked, “Is this to eat or to post pictures on Instagram?”

Did you hear of the photographer who was arrested?  I think he’s being framed.

Photographers can be cruel: They’ll frame you, shoot you, and then hang you on a wall.

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Fire and Smoke

The reality for all of us living in the Western US right now is fire and smoke. If you’re not affected by fire, you breathing in the smoke from the fires.  Even here in the desert of the Reno area we have air that is listed from hazardous to merely unhealthy. For the first time ever, the county’s Health District has posted a “Stage 2 Air Pollution Warning.”

When we moved here you could look out from our front door and clearly see the hills that are just a couple of miles away and looking across the basin you could see the Eastern Sierra.  The last few mornings that view has been of smoke shrouded hills and the Sierra is complete obscured by smoke.  Even though the nearest fire is 60 or so miles away, we can smell the smoke. Going outside isn’t something you want to do and it’s started to get into the house.

Most of our time here so far it’s been too hot to go outside for more than just a few hours in the morning.  Now that the temperature is reasonable to be outside all day, we have smoke driving us back indoors.  We hear from our friends and family in San Jose that the air is worse there and a recent heatwave made things unbearable.  Here in the desert we have a good A/C system, but that isn’t the case for many back in San Jose.

This last week was my older brother’s 71st birthday and we decided to make the long drive back for a birthday lunch.  It’s about a five hour drive oneway and doing the round trip in one day makes for a long day.  While we were in the process of selling our home in San Jose, I did many one day trips so it didn’t seem like a big deal to do it one more time for my brother.  I had briefly considered staying in a motel overnight, but with Covid restrictions and fears it seemed safer to have a long day in the car.

That was Wednesday.  All of you here in the west coast know what the skies looked like on that day.  It was clear and cool as we left Reno and headed over Donner Pass.  As we descended down in the California’s Central Valley the air became at first grey, then orange, and then dark.  The automatic headlights in my car came on about Fairfield as Heather tried to get pictures of the gloom.  I noticed that the streetlights had come on at the off ramps and instead of a sunny 9:30 am morning, it looked more like early evening as the sun was going down.

Heather texted the pictures to our family and our daughter-in-law replied back, “Turn around now! You’re driving into the apocalypse!”

I did consider that, but didn’t want to disappoint my brother and I thought it would get better near the coast.

It did, a little, just from dark to brighter grey.  Turned out not to be the best day for a picnic in the park to celebrate a birthday.  Still, my brother enjoyed his lunch out although we thought we felt rain from time to time – likely it was just ash, and not water.

Returning home, the smoke because less dense as we started up highway 80 and finally mostly clear when we arrived home.  Sadly that didn’t last as the next morning we could see the gray smoke starting to build over the eastern mountains like a slow motion wave crashing into the Reno basin.

It’s gotten worse each day and no real sign of when it will clear.  Even the weather forecasters don’t want to guess so we take it day by day.

This thing makes it difficult to be positive and keep up doing creative work.  Someday it will be better, but for now we just do what we can and wait for that clear cold wind that will bring clear air.

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Friday Wisdom – Books ‘n Stuff

A librarian slipped and fell at the library.  The paramedics said she walked into the non-friction section.

I found a great book on anti-gravity – it’s impossible to put down.

Don’t spell part backwards – it’s a trap.

iPads are nothing – Moses got the first table that could connect to the cloud.

I went to the library to find a book on fixing automatic transmissions, but they only had manuals.

My friend lost his thesaurus. He’s at a loss for words.

I found the perfect book about cooking with herbs.  It’s about thyme.

I asked the reference librarian if they had any books on wall paneling.  He said “No, all our books are on shelves.”

Found a great book store yesterday.  They had a sale – one third off all titles.  I got a copy of, “The Witch, The Lion.”

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