Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bear with me

Ok, so I admit it. I have bears on the brain today.  The major reason is that my hometown of Verona New Jersey has a black bear running loose. It is just more than I can imagine.  Verona is a small town about half an hour outside NYC.  It is very green and lovely but it is true suburbia and the thought that a bear is somehow wandering the streets is fascinating, there are towns around it that have verylarge parks but even so - how the bear made it all the way to Verona is beyond me.  I wonder if he is heading to the beautiful  Verona Park or perhaps the country club golf course (which we could not join but that did not stop us from slipping through the holes in the fence in the winter and sledding on it. 

What it has also brought to mind is the two bear encounters in the wild that I have had. 

Of course I have gone to many zoos and seen many bears - polar bears, grizzly's, black, brown, Koala, etc.  But seeing a bear from a safe distance is one thing. A bear in the wild is quite another.

My friend Kathy and I went on a vacation to Yosemite and Mono Lake a few years ago.  We toured Yosemite for a day then went to Mono Lake for a few days then back through Yosemite.  We had discussed bears with my now ex and he told us we'd never see a bear - they are more afraid of us than we are of them.  So driving back through Yosemite we were discussing all the important news of the day when suddenly from some bushes on the side of the road a large brown thing came dashing right across the road and in front of the car.  I slammed on the breaks and the car coming towards us did the same.  We were all flabbergasted.  It had been a bear. A real live grizzly bear.  How was it possible?  We studied the side of the road where the bear had disappeared awaiting his return. Then we turned to look in the other direction to see what the heck was chasing him.  When nothing appeared we waved at the person coming towards us and he waved back. Then we all slowly proceeded.  So very exciting but not my first encounter.

Many years ago I was working for a telephone company and one of our subsidiaries was in Ontonagon MI, right on the edge of Lake Superior. In those days I was responsible for all the training in the subsidiaries (52 of them) and delivered many classes myself.  Ontonagon could only be reached by flying from Rochester to Detroit then on a tiny tiny puddle jumper up to Houghton Michigan, then driving 60 miles to Ontonagon.  I made this journey several times - once famously getting on the plane to discover that my boss who had the car reservation and directions failed to make our flight.  In any case on one trip I was traveling alone and staying in a small tourist hotel.  After having a terrible dinner the night before at the local pizza parlor - the pizza tasted like Ketchup on a Matzo - I decided to take a walk down the road to a little place with a big sign saying Broasted Chicken. I had no clue what that was but I was not eating Matzo Pizza again and it was only a mile.  I arrived and tucked into one of the most awesome chicken dinners of my life.  Broasted chicken is like fried chicken only moister and less greasy - it was delicious.  I recall the rest was a homebaked roll, a salad and some mashed potatoes.  All in all a wonderful meal. I paid and was starting to leave when the waitress ran up to me and told me I could not leave.  I asked why and she pointed. There in the parking lot were two little bear clubs playing at the garbage can. I told her I wasn't worried and she told me I needed to be - we could not see the mother anywhere.  The last thing any human wants to do is get between a mother bear and her cubs. I asked if we were calling animal control or the police and she told me no - this happened all the time and the cubs were just being babies and they'd eventually leave.  Since I was the only customer I settled in to wait.  After an hour and a free ice cream cone the cubs finally wandered off.  It was closing time so the waitress and cook offered me a ride back to my hotel.  I remember them gratefully to this day. And on all subsequent trips to Ontonagon I drove everywhere and parked as close to any entrance as humanly possible. 

So what does this have to do with Bizz?  Really nothing at all. Except he has expanded his squeaky toy recipe to include selected members of my teddy bear collection. We do share a fondness for bears.  He's a fearless little dude and I am sure would not hesitate to try and add the black bear to his collection.  But for now I think we'll stick to teddy bears.

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