People Behaving Badly: A day in the life of Ling Ling.

Ling Ling
Ling Ling’s clothing safari

My mother’s full-time hobby is selling clothes, toys and shoes on Ebay. Technically, she’s retired but in reality, Ebay is a round-the-clock passion for her. To feed the beast within, she’s constantly at thrift stores and garage sales looking for items that she can flip. Sometimes being a regular fixture in places that attract all walks of life, she witnesses some pretty crazy things and yesterday was no different. This is the three-part adventure of Ling Ling’s yesterday.

Part One: Ling Ling is in the Salvation Army right next to where she lives. She’s waiting in line to pay for her textile version of crack when the lady in front of her gets up to the counter and asks how much the painting in her hand costs because it wasn’t priced. The clerk didn’t know and said that she couldn’t purchase the painting right now and to please come back. Well the lady completely blew a fuse and demanded that the clerk call someone to ask. So the clerk calls someone who also doesn’t know and says to have the lady return tomorrow when the store’s pricer will be in. The lady proceeds to tell the clerk what she wants to pay for it: $6.00 and to just put a $6.00 sticker on the painting and be done with it. The clerk politely declines the idea and explains that he would get into trouble and the pricer has a better idea of what things are worth than he does, etc… At this point the entire store has stopped to look and there is a collective holding of breath for that magic moment when the woman goes completely bat-shit. The audience doesn’t have to wait long. Seconds later, the lady throws the painting on the floor and proceeds to stomp it into tiny bits and then leaves. Wow!

Part Two: My mother ventures over to another nearby thrift shop, post Salvation Army blow-up. All is well, she’s blissfully shopping along, until she hears someone gagging in one of the aisles. She moves towards the sound of gagging and makes it just in time to see a man with Down Syndrome vomit all over the floor. My mom asks him if he needs help and he begins dry heaving. She asks around the store to see where his caregiver is and the lady finally shows up and starts screaming at the poor, heaving guy. The caregiver and the guy proceed to get into enormous fight over how he needs to go into the bathroom and vomit instead of doing so in the aisle. He just wanted to stay where he was, probably because he felt like if he moved he may hurl again. And the more she screamed at him to get moving, the more he dug in his heels and shouted “no!” It was quite a scene and my poor mother, once again, left feeling extremely bummed.

Part Three: My mom gives up on thrift shopping for the day, obviously for good reason. Her last stop was to Wal-Mart to get a fishing license. She’d been dreading this stop because she loathes Wal-Mart but the woman needs to fish! In front of her in line are three foreign fellas (two of which barely spoke English and one who spoke decent English and helped translate) who are inquiring about guns. They proceed to tell my mother and the clerk that they’re actually from New Jersey but they’re here to buy guns because the laws are not as strict in New York. Okay…shady. The clerk makes sure to tell them that you can’t just buy a gun in New York and willy-nilly transport it to New Jersey. There are rules and regulations about such things. Then they ask the clerk if Wal-Mart sells pistols and handguns….nope. They were upset about that so they inquired where the nearest place was that they could purchase a handgun. The clerk mentions that there are legit gun shops in Syracuse and such. Then they spy some hunting rifles in a nearby case and ask the clerk to open the case (my mom is peeing her pants at this point). The clerk tells them that since my mother is waiting in line too, and it’s just him, that he doesn’t have time to open the case. My mom gets up to the counter and asks to apply for a fishing license and one of the guys decides that he’ll do the same while the other two scope out the gun case. My mom asks the guy where he plans to fish and he says something about Syracuse (if you know the area, you know that Syracuse is home to one of the most polluted lakes and waterways in the country–not optimal fishing) and asks my mom and the clerk for directions. Then he couldn’t fill out the information for the license because he didn’t know where he lived in New Jersey. He asked his friends what county he lived in and they had no idea either. Then the two gun-peepers proceeded to get into a little spat with the clerk because he could only legally sell them a certain number of rounds of ammunition. Well…needless to say, my mother got her license and got the heck out of dodge. When she left, the guys were still rifle shopping. I think it’s particularly interesting that none of them applied for a hunting license…just the one guy’s attempt at getting a fishing license. What were these folks planning to do with hunting rifles without a hunting license? Humm….

My mother came home a complete mess. She was a mix of terrified, let down by humanity and defeated. She witnessed a grown woman resort to violence in the middle of a store because she didn’t get her way, another woman verbally abuse a sick disabled person and three men attempt to purchase guns with, more than likely, the intent to harm others. Ahh…that was one heck of a day in the life of Ling Ling and it says a lot about the world we live in.

Travel, yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: July 16th, 2013

One of them about to dive in to look for its buddy.

I spent the bulk of my morning reading and writing. Then I decided to make the most of my last free day by planning a hike of some sort; that is until it started raining. So I waited out the rain by going to the Lake post office and the Lake Lodge for some brief internet use. I paid for one hour of internet and after five minutes it crashed. Typical. Just when I thought my luck couldn’t get any worse, my fishing pole exploded on me again on the first cast into Yellowstone Lake. I was so pissed, I just balled up the fishing line and lure in my fist and shoved the pole into the backseat of the car–hopefully never to be seen again so it won’t remind me of what an epic failure I am. To calm down I took a nice walk by the shore and sat for a while, watching the rainstorm move across the lake. After I’d sufficiently forgotten all about the fishing incident, I drove back to the dorm to see if Richard and Mardel made it back from the juju-laden Pelican Valley safely. They did but they had one heck of a time with the weather out there. Pelican Valley is a lovely area of Yellowstone but it’s chock full of bears and there’s a long history of bad things happening there. Plainly speaking, I don’t go there. Then it was off to Fishing Bridge to get one of those delicious no-bake cookies that I’m addicted to, rock in the rocking chair out front and people-watch, and then hike the Howard Eaton trail. Andrew and I joke that we should re-name the trails after people we know and respect. I mean, who the heck is Howard Eaton anyways? So we renamed the trail to the Wilfred Brimley trail. How that came about I’m not sure but the Wilfred Brimley trail certainly is one of the longest in Yellowstone so you will definitely need a large bowl of oatmeal before the hike. I began at the Fishing Bridge entrance and walked a few miles along the Yellowstone River. It was it lovely. There were a lot of pelicans, geese, diving birds (two of them got into a squabble over a fish in front of me…kind of amusing) and wait for it….wait for it… river otters! I have been telling people that my trip to Yellowstone wouldn’t be complete unless I saw otters and I finally did! I was taking photos of a pelican by the shoreline when I spied a mother and daughter creeping towards me. I thought that was a little strange but I had a can of bear spray in my hand and was fully prepared to use it against this sketchy mother-daughter team. Come to find out, they were kindly bringing to my attention the two otters playing just to my left. Duh! The otters were very friendly and swam right up to them for some close-up pics. I was not so lucky but I still got to enjoy them from afar. They were so awesome–playing around, jumping onto and then diving off of rocks and logs, pressing their faces together above the water, hassling the geese until they flew off. They really seem to live a rather footloose and fancy free lifestyle. I went back to the dorm and instantly rubbed it in Andrew’s face by showing him my otter pics. He was almost literally green with envy.


Fishing Bridge in the distance.


Two river otters tangled into a ball goofing around.
They are swimming by me.
Two buffle heads fishing and fighting with one another.
A white pelican.

Once I finished my victory dance, we caught up over a few beers and chatted with the two fly fishermen staying in the dorm for the week. One of the fly fishermen is from Lubbock, TX and the other used to live in Oklahoma (not too far from Lubbock) so we had a lot to talk about since I did amphibian surveys in the area. As all Texans seem to be, they were completely flabbergasted to hear that Texas has by far the most amphibians I’ve ever encountered (although that’s not saying too much since I haven’t surveyed a rainforest or anything like that). They’re all just in the ground waiting for it to rain and once it does…watch out! You will think it’s the end of days or something. The fly fishermen had a lot of interesting things to say about fishing in Yellowstone. They fish in the early morning and at night with downtime during the day to let the fish rest. When a fish is caught, the angler puts it into a bucket and hands it over to a researcher from Penn State. If it’s a rainbow trout or a cutthroat trout, their fin is clipped for a dna sample to test the hybridization between the two species. Cutthroats are considered native to the area and rainbows are introduced and thus not wanted. So it’s a cool little program that allows anglers to help out with research and they get to fish Yellowstone in the process. Apparently, there’s also another researcher who has radio telemetry units on some cutthroat in the Yellowstone River. They’ve found that cutthroat live in the river during the warmer months and then migrate into Yellowstone Lake in the winter only to be devoured by gigantic introduced lake trout. This has led to the almost complete decimation of the cutthroat population in Yellowstone Lake which, in turn, has led to the multi-million dollar campaign to exterminate lake trout. The fishermen aren’t sure where the northern Lamar population of cutthroat over-winter, perhaps they stay in the smaller lakes and fare much better. Just to bring this full circle, otters heavily depend on cutthroat. Lately, Yellowstone Lake otters have had to find dietary replacements such as amphibians and longnose suckers but those are obviously lower quality food sources. Additionally, researchers say that lake trout are not a suitable dietary replacement for cutthroat, although otters have been known to consume them. I presume it’s because of their size, their jaw strength, and their location in the water column which makes them more energetically expensive and possibly dangerous to catch. So it’s an interesting conundrum. Let me just say this, those adorable little river otters better stay away from my amphibians!

Travel, yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: June 29th, 2013

Yellowstone Lake (13)Yellowstone Lake (11)Yellowstone Lake (10)Yellowstone Lake (6)Yellowstone Lake (4)Yellowstone Lake (3)Yellowstone Lake (2)Yellowstone LakePlease be advised, this is going to be the most unexciting post to date. Put a pillow next to your head and tuck a towel into your shirt because you’re going to be nodding off and drooling in no time. I spent most of the day finishing Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. It was getting waaaay too exciting to justifiably put down. I finally finished the book at about 3 pm. Then I decided to test out my new rod by ineptly fishing Yellowstone Lake. Oh, I’m so glad no one saw me. My new fishing pole blew up during maiden cast. I had fishing line all over myself and the surrounding rocks. It seems that I’d forgotten how to fish. Eventually, I got the hang of it. Fishing from the shore of Yellowstone Lake is lovely but not really advisable if you want to catch something other than rocks. I had to wade through the water several times because my lure got stuck on the bottom and required some tough love to free it. So after my unsuccessful fishing attempt, my wet butt went to the Lake Lodge to eat a really overpriced, yet delicious, dinner and use the internet until 12:30 am. Yup, that was a whole lotta internet. I paid $11.95 for 24 hours of internet so I intended to make good on every last second. I started my Holistic Life Coaching certification so I had to download of bunch of PDF’s for that; I made reservations for a cabin at the Lake Lodge and some campsites for the 4th of July weekend; I caught up on FB and email; and I began updating my blog. My pictures took forever to upload into WordPress because the connection speed was fairly slow and also because I’ve been taking high-resolution photos. I probably should dial back the resolution a bit but who knows, maybe I’ll want to make big ass posters out of a few of them someday. Who the heck knows? I finally found the car in the pitch-black parking lot and returned to a very dark and creepy dorm. I started reading the first few pages of Hart’s Hope by Orson Scott Card. I love his other books so I’m looking forward to this one. It’s relatively short so I should be through it in no time. I’m seriously eating books for breakfast out here in Yellowstone! I’m a reading machine!

Travel, yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: June 16th, 2013

West Thumb Lake Overlook Trail (7)In previous blog posts I’ve mentioned having weird dreams but this morning takes the cake! Have you ever heard your name being called in the middle of the night or right when you are dozing off? I think it’s fairly common and experts say it’s a hallucination of a sleepy mind. I woke up at about 4 am to a disembodied voice say something. The freaky part is that Brooke, one of the new forest ecologists from Wisconsin, woke up at the same time and started yelling “What? What did you say? Who is there?” I just hid under my covers and freaked out. I would have never believed that two people could have the same hallucination or hear the same disembodied voice. The next morning, I formally introduced myself and asked her if she remembered any strangeness in the early hours. She had no recollection of yelling into mid-air in the wee hours of the morn.

Besides disturbing my new dorm-mate with stories of strange voices and such, I started the day off by creating a mock-up of the book I’m writing–with Cassie illustrating. I got farther than I’d imagined and am feeling really good about the potential benefits of having a book like this available. When my ideas became less than awesome I took a break and went to the Fishing Bridge general store to eye the fishing poles and lures. I’ve been manhandling their fishing gear every day since I arrived. When I saw there was only one more metallic green pole left, I knew it was time to spring into action. I gathered up the pole, a lure, a huge hunting knife and went for it. Then I headed to the marina to purchase a fishing license for the entire season. Now I need to find me some pliers to crush the barbs down (a requirement in the park since it does less damage to the fish). There are only a few species considered native to the area and the rest you are legally required to kill. You can either puncture their swim bladders and let them sink to the bottom of the lake (which adds nutrients to this nutrient-deficient ecosystem) or eat them. I’m not sure I am capable of either. I’m a bleeding-heart sucker but we shall see, maybe I will get in touch with my inner mountain man.

The afternoon was spent hiking the West Thumb Lake Overlook. It’s an easy hike with a beautiful view of Yellowstone Lake. On the way back to the car I literally ran into a herd of elk. Since they are not hunted in the Park, they’re accustomed to having humans up in their grill taking photos of them. They didn’t mind me being there at all. I took a photo or two and continued on. As I walked back to the car, I couldn’t help but consider the 4+ million visitors to the Park, most of whom only stay for less than 1.5 days. They’re idea of enjoying the Park is the cheap and dirty pay-off. It’s the view from their tour bus window or the instant gratification of a roadside peek at a herd of bison or elk. Most never get to feel the exhilaration of stumbling into the middle of a herd of bedded down elk. It’s better than nothing I guess, but to me it’s still sad.

Now I’m back at the dorm, sitting at the picnic table, typing this. Just behind me, our favorite bison from years passed, named Swing Set, is lying down next to the playground equipment he’s named after and it looks like he’s brought a friend. Awe. We also have a marmot scurrying around the dorm. Chunky little waddler! He ate the corner of our grass welcome mat. Gross!

West Thumb Lake Overlook Trail (8)West Thumb Lake Overlook Trail (4)West Thumb Lake Overlook Trail (3)West Thumb Lake Overlook Trail (5)Female Elk (3)Female Elk (2)Female ElkWest Thumb Lake Overlook Trail (11)RavenRaven (2)