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Archive for October, 2009

The evidence of fall is in full display. Not the brilliant colors we had a few weeks ago; today I see the dull muted colors of leaves that have had their last hoorah. It reminds me of the documentaries that I’ve seen covering the spawning runs of wild salmon. Spent is the word that I would use to describe them, as they litter the many small pools, isolated from the fast-moving current. The leaves are piling high, spent; as my neighbors work feverishly to collect and bag them. With leaf blowers in hand they coax the clutter into piles as if the leaves were trash left behind from some huge block party. I find it disconcerting that they feel the need to tidy up after this natural event.  

Lifes Choices Are Like Leaves,

Life's Choices Are Like Leaves.

As the leaves continue to fall, I’ve been looking at myself; I see them representing the missed opportunities of my life. Did I spend enough time talking with that person? Did tell them that I care? Do my children know how much I love them? I should have gotten her flowers every Friday night. Sisters and brothers that I mistreated or hurt, whether by words or actions the result was pretty much the same.  Too embarrassed to mention it, let alone to ask them forgiveness. Like the leaves that drop from the trees, the task of collecting them to tidy the lawn seems never-ending.

Everyone is consumed with their own family, each has their own pile of leaves to collect and sort through. The questioning of personal choices, and second guessing those decisions are what make life so challenging. If I had one bit of advice to my kids it would be this. The choices we make seem so insignificant at the time we make them, it isn’t until much later that we realize how our choices and actions affect those around us. Take time to tell people close to you that you love them, your actions will come through loud and clear. The adage that actions speak louder than words, didn’t do much for the blind person, and words alone never reached the deaf man. It’s your actions and gentle words that make all the difference.

The internet is full of confessional blogs and I didn’t mean for todays post to be like that. Lately I’m feeling a bit more self-reflective. I apologize if this comes out sounding too sappy. As our house gets emptier, I have more time to ponder and I’m finding that I could have done things a lot differently. I think I’ve got a couple of phone calls to make.

Talk to you later.

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Halloween was huge at our house growing up. I don’t know what it was like for any one reading this blog. I remember beginning in the early seventies the great candy scare that hit our area. At ten years old it was devastating. Maybe it was an urban legend, started by some sick Dentist or maybe it was true, I don’t really know. The story was that some weirdos were lacing candy with LSD and stuffing razor blades in apples, pretty sick!. Either way it put our parents in an understandable state of panic. It was like a Halloween Security Advisory Level approaching Orange. We were allowed to go as long as we followed their strict instructions:

We Have A Level Orange Threat

We Have A Level Orange Threat

1. Only go to houses that we trusted. In our mind that was any house that had a light on, the ones with a Doberman chained to the tree in the front yard were to be avoided

2. No candy was to be eaten while out until it had been inspected, by Mom or Dad. Anything that looked too good to turn into the candy police, never made it to the candy police.

3. We needed to be in by 9:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m. if it was on a school night. Of course none of us had a watch, and cell phones hadn’t been invented, we used the stars to the tell time.

Those security measures stayed in place well after my tricker treating years had ended, which at my house was fourteen. As a matter of fact, I implemented the same guidelines with my children. I recall my wife looking at me with that. “What the Hell kind of neighborhood did you grow up in.” Don’t ask!

You would think that after turning fourteen and the loss of  Tricker Treat, I would have been bummed. Nothing could be farther from the truth. With an LP, yes a vinyl recording, of screams moans and groans, we set out to scare the crap out of every little Tricker Treater that dared to ring our door bell on October 31st.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

As I mentioned before my Mother was an artistic woman, so with a little stage wax, some make-up and a pillow stuffed under a shirt she was able to transform me into a disfigured hunch back, one that would make the politically correct scream foul these days. Using some discretion on  children under 5, we had more fun scaring those little kids.

When my younger sister turned fourteen the following year we performed as a ghoulish couple. Looking like a scary Miracle Max and his wife from the Princess Bride, kids would run screaming from our front door, leaving candy scattered on the lawn in an effort to get away.

The last year that we did this, it was as a trio, I was about seventeen by then, and my younger brother had joined in the act. Chained to the tree in front yard, he would wait for the perfect moment to rise from behind a retaining wall with his arms out stretched, he would have full grown men running across the street, leaving their kids to fend for themselves. Nobody got mad, heck it was Halloween it was supposed to be scary!

With Mothers screaming , fathers cursing and laughing, I think the kids had the most fun of all getting the dickens scared out of them as they watching their Dads burst out laughing, after they had regained some composure.

Things have changed. We have fewer and fewer children, with some arriving in car pools. I get angry at young men showing up to the door in need of a shave, carrying pillow cases, no costume just standing there waiting for a hand out. I’m not sure if they’re here for Tricker Treat or to loot the place. Okay I’m done ranting.

Talk to you later.

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With no pictures to post, it’s not close enough to Halloween to bring that up, a political tirade seems appropriate but ineffectual, I’m left with the weather, or family to write about.

Wednesday was my fathers’ birthday, turning 69 years old he seems to be in good health. Retired, he summers in the mountains of Idaho and winters over in Yuma Arizona. I don’t quite understand that, but it seems to be working for him and his wife Margaret. Some time today, I should give him the phone call that was supposed to have been placed on Wednesday. I love my Dad dearly, but I’m  just not very good with phone conversations with him, they generally seem a bit more something like I’m providing a weather report. A typical phone call might go like this:

“Yellow.”  I get the response, but I’m at a loss to explain it. Lately I find myself using the same corn ball verbiage, and it scares the hell out of me.

“Hey Dad, how’s it going?” I guess I should change up my standard parental phone greeting. How he can pick out my voice from his two other sons has always amazed me. Between my two daughters and my wife I struggle with telling them apart on the phone.

Talking About The Weather.

Talking About The Weather.

” Pretty good, the weathers been a tad cool lately. We got a little rain up on the ridge, but we needed the moisture.” My Dad’s not a farmer not even a gardener however he did grow mushrooms in a jar once. For my Dad, moisture seems to be an important climatic measure in his world. I have fallen into the same trap and will probably talk about the snow we had the other day, and how the last days of the bike riding season are upon us. Since moving to Yuma for the winters, the topics of snow fall and running the snow blower have been eliminated from our list of things to mention. The phone  call will last about 10 minutes, then we seem to run out of things to say to each other, we will tell each other to take care and say good bye. It’s kind of sad as I read through this post, it reads like a Harry Chapin song. Maybe to break things up I’ll open with, “Dad I love you, and I’m pregnant.”

I expect they will be packing things up soon and winterizing the cabin for their annual migration to the land of  seniors and retirement trailer parks. One day the trip North will be more than he and Margaret can take on and they will need to do something with the cabin, I’m not looking forward to that. I feel like I’ve seen this movie before, a rerun, as I have watch the original unveil itself with my father in-law Lenny. Although that day is still years away, I can see the tip of that ships’ mast just breaking the horizon.

Presently I’m more concerned with the health of Alice and Lenny, my in-laws. Their daily regimen consists of medications to be taken, visits to the doctor for blood tests and check ups. Right now Alice is still able to handle the task,  schlepping Lenny off  to the doctor, but sooner than later that responsibility will be ours to take on. We will have a trial run next week when Alice goes to St. Louis for 4 days, leaving Lenny to fend for himself. My wife has already posted a visitation schedule, assigning each one of the kids a night or afternoon when they need to stop in and see him.

One hundred years ago people never made it to that degree of dependency, the marvels of modern day medicine can be both a blessing and a curse. I’m not sure this old age stuff is all it’s cracked up to be, with ears only functioning as a resting place for glasses, compensating for failing vision,  arthritic hands twisted like the roots of an old tree, who wants to live for ever. The mention of euthanasia for many is a horror. I reserve my judgement, there may a day when loneliness and the effort to continue requires more than I have to give.

Talk to you later.

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I hate it when I sit down to write and everything I produce comes out sounding disgruntled, trite, or apathetic. Should I comment on President Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize? I probably better not. What about the Colorado Rockies loss in the ninth inning? Who cares. How about the monetary disaster of  the U.S. currency? Judging by the direction gold is going everybody knows!

So today whilst driving to work at 5:30 this morning it was revealed to me. Like a message from  some ethereal plane. Okay it was actually from a radio commercial. I’d like to comment about Erectile Dysfunction Syndrome, or EDS as the announcer coined it on the radio. Fifteen years ago the mere mention of a mans inability to perform in the bedroom would be kept to small whispers, in the bedroom, preferably his own. Suddenly drug companies saw a bonanza rising from the inactive loins of millions of middle age baby boomers. I don’t blame those Smiling Bobs.  Hell at forty nine years old I think about those things too, especially at 5:30 in the morning when I’d rather be at  home  pitching at tent in the bedroom. Okay I’m sorry, that might have went a little too far, but that ‘s my point. The ads I see on the television have gone too far. Images of flaccid men holding their garden hoses barely managing a trickle as they tend to the lawn, it’s no wonder men are dysfunctional. The pressure to perform has become a burden too great to bear. 

Would You Trust This Guy With Your Kids!

Would You Trust This Guy With Your Kids!

Some of the crap on the market preys on the desperation of  these unhappy couples.  Sponsoring  ads that are laughable with Bob the ever smiling shill of a magic little pill. The FDA doesn’t even recognize their claims and the Federal Trade Commission found them guilty of bank fraud and mail fraud several years back. That aside, would you let your kid in the back yard with that guy?

Maybe it’s the women of the 21st century driving the rage to perform. Women who hit their pubescent years just before the height of the sexual revolution expecting more in the bedroom. With their mothers’ born in the twenties and thirties guilty of  feigned naivety; somehow hoping that their innocent daughters would grow up, marry, have sex, in that prescribed order, and then only for the purpose of making babies. Heaven forbid they might find pleasure in the act. It seems these young women figured out what men knew all along, sex feels good!

To underscore how little these drug companies understand the psyche of the 21st century woman; an advisory near the end of every commercial cautions the user that any erection lasting more than four hours requires immediate medical attention. Right! Like any woman in her right mind would allow that to happen!

God lets hope I don’t suffer from this writers block too often, it could hurt my readership.

Talk to you later.

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Over my lifetime I’ve run into collectors, not hoarders, just collectors of stuff. Usually they specialize in one genre; whether it’s books, motorcycles, cars,  Star Wars Action Figures, or stuffed cane toads.  Many of them finding some gratification that they have the complete set, or a unique one of a kind. My wife and our youngest daughter have the collecting bug. They collect Pyrex mixing bowls. To date they have about 38 pieces between them. They have enough Pyrex Cookware that they could bake Alaska, I’m talking the State, not the dish.

They seem to have an unwritten rule in their search for this heat resistant treasure, the purchase  needs to be made from a second hand store.  The quest takes on a greater luster when they can make the transaction on Blue Ticket Tuesdays when the marked price is reduced by 50%.  Before my wife cries foul, I must admit I have gone out with these two on several occasions.  Sorting through the stacks of cooking ware at the local ARC Thrift Store, looking for specific patterns like Butterprint and Colonial Mist,  I could see where the hunt can get consuming.

Do I collect stuff? Yeah, mostly books and technical manuals, anything related to mechanical systems; steam, hot water, and refrigeration the older the book the better. I’ve managed to collect a couple of pressure gages from the early twenties that I think are pretty cool. I also have a small collection a slide rules that I’m not even sure I could manage calculating 3 times 6 on. They like the rest of my collected treasures, are shining examples of technology left behind.

Ashcroft Boiler Gage

Ashcroft Boiler Gage

York Ammonia Refrigeration Gage

York Ammonia Refrigeration Gage

It is fascinating to me that there are systems that were put in well over 100 years ago that are still functioning today. My sister lives in a home in Alamosa, Colorado. Built in the late twenties, I’ve ventured into her basement, on more than one occasion and marveled at the simplicity of the one pipe steam system heating her home.  One single pipe transporting steam from the boiler, with the  same pipe returning the spent steam in the form of condensate back to the boiler only to start the process all over again. The mechanics of it was so simple,  it was perfect, I get melancholy thinking about how much things have changed. Faster is better, cheaper materials, disposable components, I doubt that 50 years from now some young mechanic will be taking readings from a machine installed in 2010.

Such is the signs of progress, I am only thankful that man doesn’t have a hand in designing himself, or maybe he does. G-d I hope not.

Talk to you later.

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Brrinnnng! …..  Brrinnnng! I feel her elbow hit me in my Latissimus Dorsi, “It’s the phone, answer the phone.” The phone is on my side of the bed, the concern in my wifes’ voice has me instinctively reaching in the direction of the lamp on my night stand. Fumbling around with an extended arm,  my left eye attempted to focus in on the objects next to my bed. I did manage to see that it was seven o-clock on a Saturday morning, as I grabbed the handset before the third Brrinnnng had a chance to chime out.  My pillow is damp from an evening of Theta level slumber, and slobber. The room is too dark to distinguish the buttons on the hand set, it’s a crap shoot whether I’ll disconnect the caller or hear a voice on the other line. I mash the button on the upper left corner of the keypad.

“Hello?” My voice sounds raw; the vocal chords don’t respond too well before coffee.

On the other end I recognize the cheery voice of my youngest daughter. “Dad? I’m on the highway and it’s a sheet of ice. What should I do?” My sleepy brain can think of a number of things, none of which you should do behind the wheel of a car, or give as advice to your own daughter.

“Where are you?” Remember, I married a navigationally challenged woman. One of  the original  lost tribes of Israel, and this is one of her offspring. It took about 30 seconds for me to realize that “where” may have been too difficult of a question for this one.

The Plight of The Directionally Challenged.

Where Are You?

“Ummm, I turned left, when I got to…. you know the Big Highway.” Getting and giving directions to this one is like playing charades with a blind man. Left at the Big Highway means; “I’m traveling West on Interstate 70.” I can see her shaking her left hand as she drives down the road, verifying that she got the direction correct.

“Okay, take the next exit… slowly. Where the… where are you going? My brain is now alert enough to withhold the punctuating verbage. I’m sure that she told me last night, evidenced by the exasperated tone in my wifes’ voice. “To the college, Honey!” Oh yeah… right the college.

Like an echo in my left ear, I hear the shaky voice of my daughter. “To the campus Dad, I have to be there by 8:00!”  I jump from bed and pull on my pants like a volunteer fireman preparing to rescue some cat from the neighbors tree. My wife scrapes the windows on the Chrysler as I finish pulling on my boots, within minutes we are off.

It’s good to be able to come to the rescue of my children, the occasions are becoming less and less though as I grow older. Thankfully she still needs her Dad now and then, even if it is to battle a little black ice on you know…. that one Big Highway.

Talk to you later.

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The leaves falling from the trees, appear dried and spent from a summer of basking. They fall to rest on concrete pathways and are soon ground to powder as children trample them under foot. Gentle breezes; G-ds’ omnipitent whisper,  his promise that change is in the air. Autumn winds send the discarded party favors of summer tumbling into his still green parkways. Racing with the wind, they cart-wheel mindlessly into curbs and gutters. They collect like leafy down only to be scattered again by tennis shoe clad children, shuffling through the clutter.

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

Memories stir as the pace of the planet slows, it is a time for everyone to catch their breath. Lover’s think of warm soft sweaters with cold cheeks and red noses, with the chance to hold each other close without expectations. Thoughts of cooler days and crisp nights are becoming common place, hastening the return of stark naked branches against cold gray skies. We woke this morning with frost on our windows. The quest for lost  scrapers and mittens has rendered our hall closets desheveld, with promises to replace their disemboweled contents when time permits.  

Barren Branches Against Gray Skies

Barren Branches Against Gray Skies

 

As green plants lose their fight against the approaching new season, young children anticipate sharing treats, with goblins and demons. When the garden leaves die away they reveal their hidden treasure. A bounty of pumpkin and squash lay exposed on the ground glowing with colors that reflect  nourishment and warmth.  

 

A Gardens Pride And Joy

A Gardens Pride And Joy

 

Soon all evidence of life will be gone, unmistakenly dormant. While out side blankets of quiet white begin to fall, intent on muffling  the pulse of time.  Never stopping only subsiding, the energy that drove the earth has taken leave; gone from our view. Soon long cold fingers will reach out from this sterile lifeless air, grabbing at the breath of  those venturing out to explore. In muted  unrecognizable contours the landscape takes on a souless shape; pure in its color but unforgiving in it wake. Children tromp and romp in crunchy pillows of cold, their identity concealed, foraging through waist deep snow bundled in red parkas and blue scarves. They struggle to move against the bindings that protect them. Clouds erupt from their little faces protected by masks, as frost collects in hollowed out places that pinpoint the locations of chapped lips and runny noses. 

Hollowed Out Places

Hollowed Out Places

        Winter has her grasp at our throat, but the kids don’t seem to care. They’re far too busy sledding, building forts, and pushing stranded cars out of snow banks in hopes of some monetary reward. I look forward to winter, somehow it seems to soften people. They can’t get traction and give in to the slower pace that mother nature has mandated. Soon enough the warm days will return and flowers will be springing forth again. Right now I’m going to sit back and take a minute to ponder. Where the hell did I put that snow shovel?

Talk to you later.

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