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Archive for June, 2009

Periscopes, today I was thinking about my younger brother and periscopes I don’t know what brought it on, I just woke with him on my mind. He’s one of two wonderful brothers that I have, and if  I had to describe him in a word it would be righteous. Pretty heavy words to cloak over your brother, but I can think of no other word that does him justice. He’s not a Rabbi, Minister or a Preist although my impression of him is a man of unwavering faith. He’s just a good man, and  the father of three great kids, who is married to a very special woman.

He and I used to fight like Cats and Dogs when we were kids and over the dumbest of things, maybe that’s something all brothers do. Thankfully we always managed to come back together laughing and crying, scratched all to heck, sometimes nursing a bloody lip or swollen ear, both wondering; “What the Hell were we thinking”? Although he is younger than me, most of the time he had it together more than I, usually maintaining the voice of reason during some out of control moment. Yet fool hardy enough to ride on the back of my motorcycle with a drunken idiot at the controls.

As we grew older and moved out into the world we went in very different directions, he into the U.S. Navy making a career as a diver, and I into the Mechanical Pipe Trades.

I recall a visit that I made to see him when he was stationed at the Naval Base in Norfolk ,Virginia. I was taking some classes in York Pennsylvania, and the trip to Norfolk was only about 3-4 hours as I remember. He had it all set up, I got to tour the base; this was pre 9/11, and I probably got to see more of our U.S. fleet than the average civilian. The size of the vessels were hard to grasp, as I stood at the dock looking up to the flight deck of a Helicopter Transport Ship it was some sixty feet above the water line. Pensive thoughts about abandoning ship, with men and women leaping from her decks into the open sea came to mind, it was the kind of choice I would never want to face. 

Complete with periscope.

Complete with periscope.

 The highlight of the tour was the  tour of the U.S.S. Hampton a Los Angeles Class Nuclear Submarine. The officer of the watch, and my brother had known each other for 20 years. They started their military careers at the same time, and were stationed at boot camp the same time, so I got the $100 tour as they say. As I walked through the narrow galley ways of this machine I was oohing and aaahing like a 6 year old at a “Coast to Coast Store”, frolicking through the toy bin in back, while Dad shopped for “stuff”.

Have you ever had one of those times when things are clicking along just fine? People are describing things to you, and you know just enough to seem semi- intelligent even responding with questions that show a glimmer of cognitive ability and insight. We’ve all had them, and then with four little words it all comes to a screeching halt. Well I had one of those moments, we were in the command center, this is where the overall operations of the submarine are directed, it is also where the periscope is located. So when the officer of the watch asks; “Would you like to check out the periscope?”,  I was all over it, the six year old kid was back. The officer lowered a gleaming silver mast from above, pulled down two hand grips and offered the site to me. Eagerly I repositioned myself so that I could spy the “enemy”, and then it happened. As I peered across the shipyard I blurted out “Hey it’s in color!” Suddenly like the character in Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Resturant”: “Then they all moved away from me there, on the group “W Bench”.

I tried to explain that every WW-II movie I ever saw, including “McHale’s Navy” the picture through the periscope was always Black and White! I felt like I was Ensign Parker trying to explain myself to the Admiral, after blowing up the ammo dump. After some consideration they agreed that a person might think that, but they did manage to point out that “The Hunt For Red October” was in color. I guess they had a point, all the same it was a great time even though some what embarrassing. 

 My brother and I seldom get a chance to be together these days, but on the occasions that we do we always laugh and cry about old times, while encouraging  each other through the challenges  our families are facing today. And when the level of conversation gets a little too heavy, I recall the day I toured the USS Hampton when everything was in color, and it takes some of the hard stuff away.

Talk to you later.

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My wife is one of those world class recyclers, rubber tires, the card board tubes from paper towel and “bathroom” tissue rolls, anything and everything that comes into this house has the potential to be recycled. If the EPA only knew the number of tires that have made their way from the dumpster behind the “Jim Pairs Auto Service Center” to our backyard, it would be declared a Superfund Site. We’ve got tires that are stacked two and three high, with one arrangement I have artistically named Mount Michelin.

Why fill a landfill just put it in my backyard?

Why fill a landfill just put it in my backyard?

I can see value in her thinking, why throw them in a landfill when they can be used as planters for the tomatos and peppers. My greatest fear is one well placed lightning stike and I could have a tire fire that might take a full fire battalion to extinguish.

Not all her recycling ideas are that bad, the wine bottle garden edging is coming along nicely.  Friday night Shabbat and the blessing over the wine has become a Mitzvah with a purpose. So far the edging is only 5 bottles long, but by the end of the season at 4 -6 bottles a month we should be looking pretty good by October.

Her passion for recycling and saving the planet has had a strong influence on our children as well. As youngsters they would walk home from elementary school collecting trash from the curb along the way, stuffing it into their little backpacks so that my trashman could haul it to the dump. My wife and our three little kids, protectors of the planet.

My Special Place I call It Home.

A Special Place I Call Home.

Our front yard is unlike any yard in the 12 block no make that 4 square mile area. Early on we decided to go Xeriscape, eliminating the Kentucky Blue Grass Turf and replace it with low water, low maintenance plants and shrubs. I haven’t owned or pushed a lawnmower in over 20 years. I have to hand it to my wife without her hard work it would never look this nice. Right now it is looking good, the early blooming plants like the Columbines and Centranthus are in full regalia, and as the summer days heat up these will fade while the hardier plants will maintain their blooms well into October.

So that’s the story at my house, two trash cans; one for recycling, a composter, and stacks and stacks of tires. All this in an effort to save the planet and drive me just a little bit closer to the edge. G-d I love that woman!

Talk to you later.

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This Friday marks an anniversary of sorts, Friday June 12th is my Mother’s Yahrzeit. The day that recognizes her passing. The word “Yahrzeit” is Yiddish for anniversary. I’ve written about my Mom before, often recalling events that help me keep her memory preserved in my mind. She was probably the most independent woman that I know. She wasn’t your typical Gloria Steinem type, more like a feminine version of Norm Abram from This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop, with a splash of Paula Deen sporting a Midwest accent.

It wasn’t uncommon to drop by the house for a visit where she would proudly show off her new glass front cabinets that she had sandblast etched and installed herself. She was very creative and her artist ability was amazing. She wasn’t afraid to take on any project; sculpture, woodcarving, leather working, carpentry,(the only woman I know to own a Shop Smith), birthing puppies, and raising her six kids as a stay home Mom.

She loved the outdoors, planning week long canoe trips on the Mississippi, as well as camping  and fishing during the times in her life when her health would allow for these. One summer in 1973 while Dad worked 7/10s at Monsanto Chemical in Soda Springs, Idaho; we spent six wonderful weeks camping in the Cache National Forest located in Southeastern Idaho. (Oops see comments) Mom  loved trout fishing and up there she was in her glory getting up before sunrise cane pole in hand, she would tromp through willow thickets and nettles waist high to get to her favorite fishing holes. After catching two or three Cut Throat Trout she would return to the campsite and cook up her days catch for breakfast.

She was a fearless woman except when it came to moths; spiders, snakes, lizards and toads these didn’t phase her but put a moth in the same room with her and look out! The way she reacted you would think it carried some type of venom, released by the beating of it’s tiny wings. She was a night-owl and on the weekends she and I would sit up late talking sometimes well into the early morning hours. My Dad on the other hand is an early to bed, early to rise kind of guy, how they managed to have six kids together is beyond me.

One late summer night; okay it was about two or three in the morning, Mom and I were sitting at the kitchen table, the back door to the house was open allowing the cool summer breeze to drift through. Our dog Sheila; a dog who had had seen her better years pass her by, blind in one eye and suffering from arthritis, lay under the table at our feet. Without warning this brave little beagle comes ripping out from under the table maneuvering her way through the 16 chair and table legs to chase some curious neighborhood stray cat that had wondered in through the back door. My Mother is screaming at the dog, Sheila Heel! Sheila Heel! All this commotion shakes my Dad from a sound sleep, he comes ricocheting out of the bedroom rebounding off three walls like a 230 pound pin ball being ejected from a plunger and spring. As he hits the third wall with his shoulder the telephone is dislodged from its mount, crashing to the floor the coiled cord and receiver hanging from his right shoulder. My Mother can only laugh, her hand held to her mouth trying to suppress the sound, as Dad looks at her battered and confused. “Honey it’s okay, go back to bed.” Dad shrugs still not fully aware that this wasn’t just a crappy dream, and he stumbles off to bed mumbling.

I miss my Mom’s laugh, and staying up late talking about her plans for her house, or recalling family stories. As a personal preparation for her Yahrzeit I wanted to share some of my memories of a good lady who is dearly missed.

Talk to you later.

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Yesterday was great, with a fresh battery for the motorcycle and much anticipation I went for my first well past due ride of the season. Not long by general standards, 230 miles but with enough twisties in it to qualify as a good run. It was good to get back out there with friends that I haven’t seen in six or seven months and reacquaint myself with sensations that had been dormant for so long.

My fellow riders gentley suggested that I lead the ride, which I was a little hesitant about at first, not wanting to make a complete fool of myself. I’ve been riding with these guys for over 10 years and they have never given me any reason to feel like there is any pressure to perform, but get me in the saddle and my hand on the throttle I have a difficult time keeping my competetive instincts under control.

We decided to ride up Deer Creek Canyon, located just south of the Denver Metro area, the weather was slightly overcast with bits of blue sky starting to break through, it was going to be a good day. The first part of the ride up the Canyon is a very popular ride for bicyclists and motorcyclists alike. This can make for some anxious moments especially when rounding a blind curve only to find a cyclist in your line, it does keep you on your toes. The roads are good in the Canyons this time of year, the spring sanding have been all but washed away and there is very little risk of a gravel mishap. This type of riding is my favorite, a technical ride with one twisty followed by another, some sections of the road allowing the rider to establish a rhythm slinging the bike from one side to the other. If the correct gearing is selected your brake is seldom used, only the back pressure of the engine slowing you slightly as you enter the turn then back on the throttle accelerating through the turn coming out at the apex and on line for the next. Done correctly it’s almost poetic, and will always bring a smile to my face.

 Tarryall, once Puma City all but a ghost town

Tarryall, once Puma City all but a ghost town

 The ride to Woodland Park was fantastic stopping at Deckers for a short break at the mid point of our ride South. Halfway down State Highway 126 I was in full stride and 3/4 throttle, I was thoroughly enjoying myself my sense of timing had returned allowing me to push the envelope only scrapping my pipes once or twice. As I look in my mirrors the road behind me is clear. No one ever complains about going too slow when I lead, usually it’s the weather that draws the most criticism, but today there were no complaints. We stopped at Wooland Park for a quick lunch and then back on the road going further West on U.S. Highway 24 and the North on CR. 77 up through the small town of Tarryall. The South Platte river runs along this less than perfect paved road, the river was bank to bank and the meadows a deep green. Cattle dot portions of the open range, with the occasional mule deer and antelope to keep things on the wild side. While the condition of the road was less than ideal the views made up for it. 

Kenosha Pass

Kenosha Pass

We managed to miss the afternoon thunderstorms that generally plague the high country, although we did don our rain gear as preventative measure. Turning North/East on U.S. Highway 285 we hit the summit of  Kenosha Pass, fearing that it would be snow we would be fighting rather than rain, but the Gods were smiling on us today and we managed to stay dry all the way back to Denver. Such is riding in the Rocky Mountains. I got home about 4:00 p.m. having missed some dreadful weather to the Southeast where a tornado had destroyed some property and put most of South Denver and Aurora into a state of panic.

It was great to let myself unwind and be with friends, next weekend is The Rubbarb Festival in Pine Junction Colorado. I’m thinking my wife likes Rubbarb! Can you say road trip?

Talk to you later.

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At first it was just a light drifting of mist more like a cloud than rain, slowly building as twilight gave way to darkness. The sound of raindrops can be heard tapping out some undecipherable cryptic message on the roofing shingles overhead. A flash from behind the drawn curtains followed by an increase in the intensity of the rain, raises my adrenaline as I anticipate the crash of thunder I’m sure is to follow. As I drift off to sleep my mind drains itself of the days clutter, the sound outside acting as some sort of tonic, its narcotic effect slowing down the function of my brain to a point  that breathing is all that matters. Through the night and well into the following day the rain continues to fall, not torrential just a steady replenishing drizzle a much needed break from what was a very dry winter. Mother Nature has performed her annual miracle transforming the parched slopes of Golden’s Table Mountain into carpets of green. Flowers with flamboyant petals of yellow, red and purple erupt. A closer inspection revealing tiny beads of moisture dotting their delicate members, like wishing glass spheres they reflect the small rays of light that manage to break through the mottled sky above. Spring was late to arrive in the high plains of this semi arid zone. 

Down below on some manicured lawn a Robin moves through the wet blades of turf, with a burst of speed on small delicate legs it makes his way across the grass. A skillful hunter, it stalks it’s prey striking out at an earthworm that has ventured a bit too far from it’s burrow, drawing it from the  moist hole like a seasoned angler playing a fish on a line. One life for another, the passerine with a flash of wings darts from the lawn to the safety of the trees. In the tree above three gaping mouths instinctly rise from the nest, ravenously accepting the offering. 

The return of spring in Colorado.

The return of spring in Colorado.

The rain over the past few days has washed the air, and revitailized the soil. Tomorrow the sun returns casting shadows on deep green carpets, with flowers primed for a display in color and vibrance that only the mind can capture and hold. Have a good day.

Talk to you later

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Busted! Down on Kalamath Street.

It appears that driving at 30 miles per hour in a school zone marked 20 miles per hour, is worth $82.00 dollars, that’s $8.20 for every mile over the speed limit. Using today’s technology they don’t leave too much room for debate, with a total of four shots including a real nice close up of the plate number, and pretty good mug shot, it’s hard to contest. 

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Damn Photo Radar!

Thank goodness it won’t show up on my Motor Vehicle Record and there are no points associated with the infraction. “Simply pay us the money, and be on your way.” Blackmail, Denver City and County Style; to fight the citation would require taking off work and going to court, Hell I’d lose more money in wages than the cost of the ticket. So to all you Denver readers and drivers look out for the little white van parked on the west side of the 1100 block of Kalamath Street, they’re watching! At least I wasn’t caught picking my nose or chugging a cold one, I wonder if I could get a Photo Enforced DUI for the latter.

Yesterdays attempt to recharge the battery on the motorcycle was not successful, so some time this week I’m off to the motorcycle battery store to get a replacement. I knew that my propensity toward procrastination was going to cost me. Fortunately the riding season is young, and the weather patterns seem to be favoring afternoon thunderstorms as of late. I really don’t care for soggy riding. 

Last but certainly not least; when I start thinking about the GM bankruptcy it only pisses me off, how can the market go up 220+ points after the third largest bankruptcy in US history has just taken place. I suppose with the ouster of Citigroup and GM from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the market was bound to look better. “Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain, with a flash of light, a puff of smoke, and a slight adjustment of the mirror everything will look fine in the morning. Sleep… Sleep my little pretties enjoy the Poppies and Sleep!”

Talk to you later.

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