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Archive for August, 2010

I feel like I’ve misplaced my summer, or worse, unwittingly traded it in for a forty hour work week. With the kids no longer at home, the cycle of children running around the house, picnics at the park, and camping trips in the mountains, mental triggers that signal to me summer had arrived, never appeared. Like the missing  ingredient in a favorite recipe; we know something’s missing but just can’t put a finger on it.

In the shed  in the back, the cast iron griddle, a Dutch oven, and two milk crates filled with a complete set of blue chip enamel cookware, are collecting dust. I’ve always thought of camping as the working mans vacation. Pitching tents, digging fire pits, collecting and cutting firewood for cooking and gazing; only a blue collar stiff would find rest and relaxation by busting his hump in the name of a vacation. Camping always brought out the domestic in me, it was like setting up house; cooking breakfast for everyone, cleaning the dishes in water heated over an open fire, collecting more wood for the dinner meal, I blame my father.

He was the consummate outdoors-men. My earliest memories of outdoor adventures with him go back forty five years or so, when I was 5 or 6. He was very into Boy Scouting as a young man, and was a troop leader when I was very young. My first recollection was a Klondike Run in Wisconsin, complete with dog sleds and musher’s, it was a winter time jamboree of sorts that brought Scouts from all over the area. I just remember the cold, feet numb from the ankles down, and the Klondike Soup warmed in a large cast iron cauldron, served in paper cups, I felt privileged to be apart of the activities. My attitudes about camping and vacations were shaped by those early  experiences.

So today with my daughter coming over to the house it hits me that summer is nearly over. I usually marked its end by the Local 208 Pipefitter’s Picnic. Every year the last weekend of August the Pipefitters hold their Annual Picnic. It’s evolved over the years, when I was an apprentice thirty years ago, not married; it was a beer bash complete with the occasional fist to cuff over something somebody said, or how someone looked at somebody’s wife. A case for too much beer and too little brains.

Today it’s a lot different, old men standing around recalling the good old days, when work was plentiful, and they could take on the world. The occasion tip of the glass and nod of the head remembering Walt, Al, or Jimmy who passed away last year. This year I didn’t feel like going, probably because now I’m one of those old guys standing around, remembering the old men that taught me my trade.

When I told my daughter this morning I didn’t think I would be going, she looked at me like I’d ruined her whole summer. I guess I’m not the only one who marks the passage of time with, camping trips, summer vacations, and Pipefitters Picnics. I better get a shower, throw on some shoes and hit the road before all the beers gone and the cops have closed the thing down!

Talk to you later.

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I think I’ve lost my mind in the quest to maintain it. My wife, reader of all studies regarding health and well being, has discovered the answer to my mental health and longevity, I think it was something she read in an A.A.R.P. magazine. I had two choices, learn a foreign language, not likely, or learn to play an instrument. Crap I’m not even old enough to get the Denny’s senior  discount, let alone subscribe to A.A.R.P. Why am I worried about senility? I’m not a fool, so I go along, if I baulk and come down with a bad case senility before she does I’ll never hear the end of it, not that it would matter, I’ll be nutters by then and wouldn’t give a rats pitoot any way. Piece of cake right? I’ll take up the the triangle or the tambourine; heck if I get good I could join a gospel choir and hit the Southern Baptist Revival Circuit; yeah I know I’m Jewish, but as long as I don’t have to play on Friday Nights they’ll never know. At the very worst I think the gay mens chorus is looking for a good triangle player. Just to be perfectly clear, this is a mental health thing; and I would definitely prefer to stand in the very back. According to my wife and A.A.R.P.  those two instruments don’t count.

I thought about it, but...

Not being too excited about the whole challenge your mind to become mentally fit thing, and being a bit tight fisted when it comes to spending cash, I figured I’d hit my son up for some free clarinet lessons. Hell I spent untold thousands on him and his two sisters so they could benefit from the wonders of music, some study that my wife read, cited the advantages of learning music on the young developing mind. Locked in solitary for twelve years one hour at a time, he did manage to become a pretty good musician.

So with a stiff lower lip, last week my son and I went to the music store to buy two music books and all the little accessories that you need to keep a clarinet in fine working order. Forty seven dollars  and fifty three cents, the price for my mental health was adding up.

Honest it wasn't a goose!

Lesson one assembling your instrument: Gently grasp the bore of the clarinet and carefully slide the two pieces together. Okay I’ve got hands the size of two very large Cornish game hens. The words gentle and careful aren’t completely foreign to me, but it would help if I had somewhere to grab. With levers and bars running the length of the clarinet, it reminded me of the first time I picked up one of my newborn children, in two words fragile, and helpless. Fragile describing the infant, helpless referring to my state of mind.

Lesson two forming the embouchure: Remember the face your Mom used to make when she was trying to thread a number 10 sewing needle; or when she was pulling the splinter from the palm of your hand after you attempted your Johnny Weissmuller swing from the rafters? The one where she would curl her bottom lip over her teeth and squint her eyes down really tight. Have you got that image in your head? Good, now form that shape with your lips and shove a piece of hard plastic between your teeth, hold that shape for twenty minutes and blow. The dogs in the  neighborhood will begin to howl, and very soon someone from the A.S.P.C.A. will be at your door, inquiring what kind of rude and lascivious acts you’re performing with your goose. Oh and by the way,  see those six funny looking cryptic symbols there, memorize those and their proper  finger positions for next week. It’s my son’s way of thanking me, pay backs are a mother!

Lesson Three: I’m thinking, maybe a foreign language wasn’t such a bad idea. ¿Puede usted decir español? No estoy loco, yo soy apenas muy viejo. Try babble fish I know you’re dying to know.

Talk to you later.

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Okay I’ve read yesterdays post, and I have to ask myself, “What the Hell was that all about”! To that end, I’ve come up with several possibilities.

1. I was off my meds. and was suffering from a bit of a downer day. Blaming it on Neil may not have been fair.

2. I had one too many Tequila Sunrises for breakfast, three should be my limit. That could go either way, my track record with that spirit hasn’t been so good.

3. Someone hacked into my blog with my admin. password and posted that there. Not likely.

4. I’m about to spend $6,000.00 dollars on new windows for the house. You can’t drive a window, they don’t go fast around the curves, or make barking retorts when I lay into the throttle. That alone would make anyone depressed.

And the answer is… somewhere between item number four, and “Hey it was just one of those days!”

We’ve needed new windows on the house since well, probably two years after we had the current ones installed twenty two years ago. It had gotten so bad that when the wind blew we could watch the curtains sway back and forth. At times it reminded me of growing up on the farm, covered up at night with so many blankets that the weight of them alone made it difficult to breath. Mom and Dad could tell from the bedroom door that you were still breathing by the vapor cloud forming as you exhaled.

I really don’t like salesmen. I believe window salesmen come from the same genetic line, carrying the defective  “L” chromosome (L stands for;” Let me make you a deal”). It’s found in most used car salesmen, insurance salesmen, and funeral directors selling family plots. All necessary evils unless you plan on, living in a tent or tee-pee, walking to work… the grocery… or the drive-in movies, receiving medical care at the Denver clinic, and when it’s all over left in an alley down at 21st and  Broadway.

Identifying the defective L chromosome.

He was a nice guy, recommended a good place to eat breakfast, cracked a good joke, even knew when he could get away with dropping the S bomb, he was a salesmen. Using the latest in window pane gadgetry and science he went on about how his special Argon gas charged windows were a better insulator than air, because air had no weight and Argon Gas was dense. Statements like that drive me crazy, maybe because I understand some of the science related to heat transfer and well let’s face it, I don’t trust funeral directors or salesmen.

The windows are good, his science was crap. And if I could take the guy aside without being sold three new sky lights and a front door I might have reviewed the differences between radiant heat, convective heat, and conductive heat. I smiled and gave a polite nod all the while trying to hold my tongue; as his heat lamp and watt meter gave the perfect illustration of radiant heat transfer which had no bearing on the Argon Gas charge inside the Triple Pane Windows. I felt like I was outside the Big Top being hustled by some Carney into believing that The Goat Boy was real, some biological anomaly discovered living in the outer regions of the Ukraine.

Like I said the product was good, it was his science that bugged me. With the rebates offered by the government, the cost of natural gas on the rise and winters cold blast just around the corner, I was sold.  It’ll be nice to get some sleep without the annoying sound of the venetian blinds striking the window every time the wind blows.

Talk to you later.

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I woke up this morning with a Neil Young kind of feeling weighing on my mind. Summer’s almost gone, my chance for mental relief is quickly slipping by. September’s just around the bend and I’m regretting I never took time to stow away those memories that I’ll need to sustain me through the winter. Yeah, I think it’s going to be a long one, and when I’m deep in its grip, it’ll feel like an eternity to next spring.

It hit me this week as I watched bits and pieces of the thundering herd make their annual trek north to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, not that I would ever want to hang out with 400,000 drunken bikers. But there is something cathartic about going down the road, cleansing your mind of all the clutter. This year the clearing of debris never came to fruition, bits of broken glass and paper wrappers still lay in the corner waiting for the cleaning crew. Maybe tomorrow, or next moth, or next year… or before I die.

I feel it fleeting.

That’s the way of life isn’t it, putting off plans so you can attend to more pressing things. Gotta pay the bills, the house needed a new coat of paint, I got a kitchen that screams for a new floor and counters tops every time I enter, with window upgrades and a new furnace to relieve that thirty year old number in the closet at the end of the hall; all too soon my in-laws will need extra care, when does it end?. Sounds selfish, and petty, doesn’t it. As I look through the haze, I know I got it good. My wife is the one who keeps it all together, remembering birthdays, anniversaries, and Yahrzeits, with invitations out to family for Rosh Hashana, Thanksgiving, and Chanukah, I’d be screwed with out her. Oh and did I mention that she’s a fantastic lov. . cook!

Talk to you later.

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I ran into an old friend on Facebook a couple months back. That’s such a strange way to describe it, the time delayed snippets in a comment window hardly qualify as an encounter, or a conversation for that matter. He and I had been best friends for many years; beginning in elementary school our friendship survived through high school, but became strained as we began to go our separate  ways, as he went away to college, an I into the trades. The first couple of years we managed to stayed in touch, I was living in Denver by then, and he was attending classes in Boulder. I would drive up to Boulder on my motorcycle for the weekend to party, getting stupid drunk while attempting to fit in with his new group of friends. As one would expect we grew in different directions, after I met my wife to be it seemed that our friendship couldn’t overcome the burden of a third party, no fault of anyone, we just weren’t mature enough to allow for the change. After graduating from college he moved to Spokane Washington, and is a producer for a local television station there. Two months ago I ‘poked’ him… yesterday he dropped me a comment. “Hey old friend, hope all’s cool in your world..” Hardly the response I was expecting, of course twenty eight years is a long time to pick up were we left off I suppose.

Sometimes alone is good, sometimes it's just alone.

So why am I prattling on about all this? In a word, it’s friendships, life long friendships or my lack of them. When I was young my biggest concern in school was being liked, hanging with the right crowd, whether that was with the jocks and boozers, or the stoners and smokers, it didn’t really matter I just wanted to belong. Oh there were crowds that I put myself above, the Nerds, kids in band, or the chess club, the debate team or the drama club. G-d only knows why, if I had chose differently I might have become heaven forbid, a  Doctor, or a lawyer, but it was about being cool, and they were definitely not in the mix.

Today, it seems like I have one true friend, and hundred acquaintances. It’s no longer a popularity contest, it’s about time, having the time and energy, a friendship is an investment in both. Take the men I work with, we share tiny bits and pieces of our lives, talk about football, or the job, we might even complain about things at home, looking for a place to vent, I do care about their well being but… Man, this is going to make Friday morning breakfast tough, but does that make them friends?

I’ve got five brothers and sisters, a captive audience of sorts, and yet I’ve gone months, even a year or more, without calling them to say, “Hi… hope all’s cool in your world”. Now what’s up with that! I must be lacking something in my character, that would allow that to go on. It’s time to open up the phone book and start dialing, if I can’t make a life long friend with a brother or sister there’s something really a miss.

Talk to you later.

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It’s a thin line. A common phrase, that alludes to the delicate separation of two very opposing conditions. It’s a thin line between love and hate, or between genius and insanity. Lately I’ve been pressed to view the latter with some whimsical scrutiny.

My wife is the self appointed team captain of operation “Don’t throw that away”. With six or seven columns of rubber tire tomato planters in the backyard, and the wall-o-wine now 62 bottles strong; I’ve tried my best to support the world wide effort to promote a recycling movement that has manifested itself our back yard. However, I’m beginning to question the exact location of that thin line.

Composting material or ruffage, don't ask.

Last Sunday as I was scrounging through the fridge looking for something akin to breakfast,  I found my way into the freezer, I’m not sure how, but I did. Things looked pretty normal, frozen pumpkin seeds in recycled applesauce jars, pinion nuts in another, Zip-lock bags of frozen kale, a half empty bag of frozen blueberries for the occasional smoothie, and one bag of…. crushed egg shells? Suddenly my search for something to eat came to a Humpty Dumpty Halt. Thoughts of bran muffins with a little extra something came to mind, I was afraid to ask. Why? We have the counter top composting tub, or heaven forbid a waste bin complete with liner. Why are we storing frozen crushed egg shells in the freezer? She assures me it’s for composting, or something like that.

I think she maybe planning an early defense for the competency hearings, it’d be hard to testify that she was losing it based on her present actions. Rubber tire tomato planters, the great wall-o-wine, it’s all part of a clever plan; so that when the children come to shuffle her off to Nuttersville she can claim she’s always been that way.

It’s either sheer genius, or utter insanity, I think she’s walking a pretty thin line.

Talk to you later.

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