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Archive for September, 2010

It had been on that wall for twenty eight years or more. Six foot-eight inches off the floor, eleven foot – seven inches down the hallway from the closet that houses a furnace probably just as old. A guardian against danger, like a posted sentry of the Queens Guard ready to sing out, it’s my smoke detector, well, was my smoke detector.

Untold layers of latex paint had formed a nesting place around the base of this old friend, it was comforting like your favorite sweater, familiar as your Dads’ favorite house shoes, it fit perfect in the hallway. The simple design was fool proof, press to test; the skull splitting sound left no doubt in your mind, smoke was in the air. I never really understood my wife’s objection to it; maybe she thought it had outlived its prime, the poor thing was older than our marriage. Maybe it had pointed out one too many times that she had burned the Latkas at Chanukah, or overcooked the rice, it was only doing it’s job when sounding off to the boiled the eggs that burst like miniature volcanic bombs in the kitchen. What ever it was, it had been on her radar since about August 2006, and she wanted it replaced.

It still worked, why would you replace it?

Arguably some people, people like my wife; might consider me a bit of a procrastinator, but if somethings still functioning, what’s the rush? Yeah, I know the rubber band securing the cover of the front door bell chime looks tacky, but it still works, and the smoke detector mounted next to it doesn’t mind. My wife G-d love her, is driven crazy by things like this, and eventually I get around to replacing them. Take the smoke detector, I replaced it just last month!

It was supposed to be a surprise, well sort of; of course she did have to buy it, and it did sit on the kitchen table for a week, I was just waiting the perfect moment. Okay, I’m starting to see her point. Any way while she was off with our daughter, at some cooking class, I decided this would be the perfect moment. Rounding up my tools; cordless drill, small Phillips screw driver, my tape measure, I began the process of installing our new 21st century combination smoke detector and CO alarm, I think she was trying to make my old detector look bad with that little added feature. I began to read the installation instructions; I may be a procrastinator, but when I get around to doing something by G-d, I  do it right!

The instructions said the device needed to be mounted 15 feet away from any natural gas burning appliances; removing my old smoke detector with its seven layers of latex paint sealed around it, looked far more complicated than I was willing to deal with. I decided the easiest approach was to remove the battery from the old one, and mount the new one around the corner in living room. With careful planning and placement I was able to conceal the alarm behind the entertainment center, if you were sitting just right. A European craftsman could not have done a finer job, the alarm was mounted so that the lettering and the front case was straight plumb and square, it was perfect.

The new kid on the wall.

An added feature of this 21st century combination smoke and CO detector is that it has an audible message. Yes Sir Ree, it not only pierced your ears with it’s 166 decibels of skull splitting sound, it yelled at you too, alerting you to the location of the smoke and what the CO levels were in Parts Per Million, my wife was really out to make my old detector look bad! It reminded me of the robot from Lost In Space, with arms flailing, “Danger Will Robinson, Danger!”

With the alarm programmed and my tools put away, I sat back, and waited for my wife to return home. Like a third grader bringing home a B- on his report card, I proudly unveiled the smoke detector as she walked in the door, and just like Mom who was expecting something a little better than a B-  said, “Why’d you put it there? Why not put it in the hall way where the other one was?” I didn’t have the guts to tell her the other ‘one’ was still there, which was stupid, like she might not notice it? Defending myself, I began quoting from the instruction packet like some Evangelical Preacher quoting scripture, going on about distances, and gas appliances. She wasn’t buying it. She looked down the hall, and frowned, the old smoke detector with it’s cover missing, which I accidentally broke when I was removing the battery, looked disheveled and pathetic. She didn’t say a thing.

I should have left well enough alone, but like any man, if there’s a pile a shit within stepping distance you can be sure we’ll find it. With words of reassurance, trying to pacify the situation, I told her it would be fine, and besides “sweetheart” you can’t see it if you sit in this chair over here, offering her the seat. I sat in the chair across from her grabbed the remote and turned on the T.V. It was Sunday and I didn’t want to miss the game, I pointed the remote at the entertainment center and changed the channel.  Suddenly! 166 decibels of ear drum shattering sound filled the room; “Warning, Evacuate! Smoke has been detected in the living room. Evacuate!” The message  continued “Warning Carbon Monoxide levels are at Zero Parts Per Million” The message finished with three loud chirps.

Warning, Will Robinson, Warning!

I turned to my wife, my mouth looking for an answer, I felt a giggle trying to make it’s way from some where within, but after seeing her expression, it subsided. The packaging for the detector sat on the end table next to me, under the plastic wrap, highlighted with a red background, in two inch yellow letters read the following. “Can Be Tested Using Your T.V.’s Remote!” Man, I didn’t recall reading that in the instructions.

So it looks like this weekend, or one of these weekends soon, I will  be relocating our new 21st century combination smoke and CO detector down the hall, fifteen feet-six inches away from the closet that has the old furnace in it.

Talk to you later.

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The much anticipated amber days of summer have arrived; marked by groves of copper and gold  colored Aspen in the Colorado high country, the sound of bull elk making their final stand against all takers, and a nonstop string of cars moving incrementally down the mountain from The Eisenhower Tunnel to Floyd Hill on a Sunday afternoon.

Colorado colors

Autumn by; David Kocherhans

Last night my wife and youngest daughter decided that today would be a good day to see the fall colors. I believe planning the Normandy Invasion, code word Operation Warlord; with Eisenhower and Bradley leading the way, probably required less discussion and planning than the half  day adventure my two commanders had in mind. They spent twenty minutes  reviewing  whether this was going to be a drive through the high country, a hike in the high country, or a picnic. However you cut it, this was not shaping up to be a picnic, in any depiction of the word.

Planning the invasion of Normandy was probably easier.

I walked into the planning room, the computer was on and High Country Highlights were displayed on the screen. I felt as if I was a contestant in a geographic quiz show; they would give me the name of a Mountain Pass and I provide them with it’s location in the state, complete with Interstate and highway access points, estimated drive time, and distance to the nearest human civilization.

It was determined early on, that this was definitely not going to be a drive through the high  country. It was to be a down on your hands and knees, run your  fingers through the dirt, sniff the clean mountain air, kind of hike. We would need; sun screen, and bandannas, hiking boots or adequate walking shoes, water bottles, and first aid kits, oh and by the way did I mention, we want to be home by 11:00 a.m. I looked my two operation commanders square in the eye, repeated  their timeline like a teenager questioning a curfew. “Home by 11:00? It’s at least an hour and a half to the high country! That doesn’t leave much time for becoming one with the planet. How early did you two plan on leaving for this outing?” Like Bambi and Thumper, they looked at me with innocent eyes.

“Your mad aren’t you. Why are you mad? You always get mad.” Now let me assure you I wasn’t mad, a bit overwhelmed yes, but mad? “No I’m not mad honey, I just don’t think we can go to the mountains, do a hike, and get back to Denver before 11:00 a.m.” It sounded convincing, it better, I was already walking on thin ice for mounting a smoke detector in the living room, that goes off every time I use the T.V. remote. (never mind, I’ll tell you about that later.) I’ll just bet that Ike Eisenhower and Omar Bradley never had to worrying about upsetting their wives when they were saving Europe!

It had been decided we wouldn’t go to the mountains tomorrow, instead we’ll go to Castlewood Canyon. Castlewood Canyon is a canyon cut into the prairie floor by a small creek called Cherry Creek. It has wonderful walking paths, with a beautiful stream running down through it. Its thirty minutes south of Denver, not much for Aspen, no bugling elk, but I’ll trade all that for the fact I don’t have to share the road with 40,000 other idiots on a weekend. So it was set, tomorrow morning rise up early, nice breakfast and out of the house by 8:30 – 9:00, no problem.

From small streams mighty Canyons are carved.

Up early, dressed by 6:30, made my coffee, I was ready. Operation Castlewood Canyon was underway. Seven thirty, eight thirty, nine thirty, the flotilla was loaded but my two operation commanders were still in bed. Wake me when the war is over. Eventually the troops assembled we had a lite breakfast and hit the gate of Castlewood Canyon by 11:00 a.m. We were met by sunshine, blue skies, and about 50 or 60 nature lovers with similar intention’s.

The walk was nice, took a bit of a tumble, kissed the dirt, skinned my shin, and had to sit out the war, but had a great time.

Talk to you later.

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I find words fascinating, the currency of a developed society, without them our ability to establish a line of communication, control a confrontation, or to even suggest copulation, would be reduced to a few interpretive gestures.  It’s the misinterpretation of words that I struggle with, the meaning behind the statement. Lately I’ve either been reading too much into the words, or not enough. With an estimated 250,000 words in the English language, I still manage to get it wrong 20% of the time, and I end up relying on a those interpretive gestures instead. Maybe it’s a guy thing, you tell me.

The secret to communication.

*I miss you: This is a tricky one, if it’s your mother calling on the phone; she’s calling to tell you that she misses you and would like to get together for lunch, talk about your kids, and plan Thanksgiving dinner.  If it’s your wife who says I miss you; it could mean she misses you, implying that you spend too much time at work, and she’s grateful for all the things you do or…. “It’s been three weeks big guy and I’m feeling a bit concupiscent… randy… horny”. It took a while but I think I got that one straight, it’s all in the eyes. Isn’t the English language great! I’m sure William F. Buckley Jr. would have appreciated the sophistication of a word like  concupiscent.

**I’ll take care of it myself: You must exercise extreme caution when dealing with this statement. This particular combination of words could be the most misunderstood group of words the male of the species will ever hear. Taken literally it conveys a sense of ownership or responsibility as in; “I can see that your busy watching the game, I’ll take care of it myself”. However with the underlying tone, nothing could be further from the truth. In an instant a man can go from an oblivious oaf planted on a sofa, to a simpering dolt sitting on the corner of the bed feeling a bit concupiscent, unaware he is about to enter a six week dry spell. When ever you hear, “I’ll take care of it myself”; immediately rise to your feet, ask for forgiveness, remove the light bulb, lawnmower, or pipe wrench from her hand and attend to said repair. There may still be a dry spell, but with care and a bit of groveling the drought should be short lived.

Visual cue number two.

I’m going to take a quick shower, I’ll be out in a minute: The previous statements are usually only tendered by the female of the species. The sentence we are now analyzing can be utilized by both sexes. The key to understanding it depends on the time of the day, or who used the bathroom last when the comment was made. Due to its complex nature, it must be viewed under three very different scenarios.

Scenario one; It’s 4:00 in the afternoon and plans have been made to dine out, and he says “I’m going to take a quick shower, I’ll be out in a minute”; means exactly that, and when I’m done with said shower I’ll get dressed and we’ll head out to dinner, it goes without saying.

Scenario two: It’s 10:00 at night, and you’re the first to the bathroom, the comment now means; I’ll hurry so that you can get in, wash your face, and brush your teeth, because I know it’s been a long day, you’re tired, and ready for bed.

Here’s where it gets a bit complicated.

Scenario three: The time is still 10:00 at night, however your wife got into the bathroom first. She has opened the door you jump from the corner of the bed and say, “I’m going to take a quick shower, I’ll be out in a minute.” This screams; ‘Hey I miss you,*(see statement one)! I want you, and if I don’t get a little lovin, I may be forced to take care of it myself**.’ (see statement two) Scenario three, has two visual cues that can be helpful in determining if the statement was interpreted correctly.

Visual Cue One: You exit the bathroom and the lights are out, the sound of the CPAP machine can be heard with its rhythmic respirations drowning out the sound of Peter Kater from the CD on the nightstand. The dog who is not allowed in the bedroom; has found a comfortable spot on your side of the bed. It would appear that someone did not read this blog, or you yourself misunderstood an earlier I miss you or I’ll take care of it myself; and you are now experiencing the consequences.

Visual Cue Two: You exit the bathroom the lights out out as before, but there are candles illuminating the bedroom, the smell of sandalwood incense fills the air, a fresh set of sheets have magically donned themselves over the mattress. And the dog? The dog can be heard scratching at the bedroom door, whimpering, as your wife says; “Why don’t you put him outside, this might take a while”.

Sometimes we get it right and when we do, man is it good.

Talk to you later.

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The stability of the world depends on balance, an indescribable conjoining that give certain pairings their unique qualities. Batman and Robin, Ham and Cheese, Gin and Tonic, and lest we forget Chips and Salsa. It’s the perfect example of concinnity. Have one show up with out the other and what have you got; just a man in a shiny rubber suit, or worse yet a man dressed in a red pair of tights and a black vizard.

Just another man in a little black mask.

Okay maybe I had one too many O’ Doules this afternoon, and just maybe I’ve been thumbing through the Merriam-Webster Thesaurus one too many times, but I think I could be onto something here. How many times have you been dining at your favorite Mexican Restaurant;  discussing the days affairs, sharing your dreams with a loved one, or planning the take over of the free world, only to have your train of thought interrupted by dipping your chip into an empty salsa bowl? If the plan is to serve chips and salsa, let’s at least serve enough salsa to last the basket of chips!

For years I struggled with the perfect ratio of Gin to Tonic, the problem wasn’t how to mix the perfect Gin and Tonic, that was easy. I could never get the correct number of Tonic bottles to Gin, I was forever running out of one or the other, but never at the same time; and to complicate things there were those limes,… damn those green orbs of citrusy delight. I fought it for years; buying larger and larger amounts of Gin to offset that annoying surplus of Tonic, it was spiraling out of control until I stumbled on the perfect solution. I gave up the drink. Powerful forces are at work here.

Our personnel relationships take on a sense of concinnity as well, that perfect harmony. What I am witnessing as our parents get older, is how delicate a structure a lifelong relationship can become. When healthy and young they stand solid, like a tripod one reliant on the other, repositioning themselves time and time again compensating for the uneven ground under their feet, never wobbling. But as they grow older I have become aware of their Achilles Heel, without the support of the other that tripod will inevitably topple over.

Sooner than later I know my wife and I are going to be faced with some difficult decisions  regarding her folks, and eventually it will be my fathers turn. Who has the book or the DVD, the one they hand out, the one that has all the answers? I’ve been looking but apparently in all the wrong places. I’ve asked people who have been through it and they just shake their head and make that funny clicking noise with their mouth. That can’t be good.

If it were as simple as letting Robin run around in his red tights I’d go for it, but I’m afraid it won’t be that easy.

Talk to you later.

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Dulling That Razors Edge.

It’s Yom Kippur, I’m greeted by gray skies, and I’ve embraced the world with an attitude to match. Not a very good disposition to be in when the task of the day is to ask forgiveness of those you’ve wronged. On the other hand you won’t have to look too far in your search for transgressions against those close to you. My wife and daughter saw it long before I did, suggesting that mayhap a pot of coffee would dull the razors edge.

The answer to grumpy mornings.

Coffee! I didn’t need no stinking coffee. What do you mean, I’m a bit grumpy! Rattling through the collection of decanters on the counter top, like a fiend looking for his fix I reach for the coffee, I got it bad. I turn and twist the lock that holds the top on the electric coffee bean mill, inside the familiar dark brown remains of the last processing are gone, a blonde powder has taken it’s place. Someone has been grinding flax seed in my coffee mill… again, that edge just got a bit sharper.

G-d love her, but my wife just doesn’t get it; coffee mills are for milling coffee beans, not flax seed or wheat germ. Two, three, four, I mentally count out the scoops of whole beans using my custom stainless steel bean scoop from Gevalia. I pause contemplating whether I should throw in an extra scoop to mask the wholesome goodness of the residue caked to the bottom of the grinder, but reconsider it. As a proud owner of a Vita-mix, capable of reducing three pounds of quartz (scoring a 7 out of 10 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale) to powder in 30 seconds, one would think she would have the implements at her disposal to grind two tablespoons of flax seed to dust, without risking the effects of appliance cross contamination.

Pressing the trigger the grinder spins to life, sounding like a handful of angry bees, the rotating  blades make short order of the little black nuggets. Taunting me, my wife asks me if I would like some breakfast, my heart lightens; a Green Smoothie …yeah…  I think I’ll stick to the coffee with a pinch of flax seed, I can feel my body taking on that fine fettle glow, with every sip.

Talk to you later.

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Rosh Hashana was celebrated at sundown on the 8th of September, The Jewish New Year,  start of the The Ten Days of Awe, that being the Ten Days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. I wouldn’t assume that Jews take their New Year Resolutions any more seriously than the rest of the world, but with the threat of  being blotted from the Book of Life; it is entirely possible.

Answering the call of the Shofar.

On Thursday the 9th of September, the 1st of Tishrei my repentant clock began ticking. I now have until September 18th to right my wrongs and turn my ways. I am standing at a spiritual Crossroad; turn right and make your way down the righteous path, turn left and face a severe blotting. You never get the option of going back, it’s always a choice between right, left, or the path straight ahead, which is never a considered as a viable selection either; just once I’d like to continue down the road in the direction I was going, if only to see what’s around the bend. It probably runs into a cul-de-sac lined with two Massage Parlors, a Liquor Store, and a Bail Bond Agency.

So don’t tell anyone, but yesterday I spent my time tending bees rather than casting sins into the river. I’ve got plenty of time, the 18th is seven, well, make that six days away, plenty of time before Atonement.

The honey harvest.

Outside things are slowing down, Mother Nature pumping her last bits of energy into the ripening fruit, signaling the completion of the cycle. The bees seemed to know the time as well, making their final preparations for the approaching winter. Bar after bar of honey comb, laden with golden nectar; it’s an interesting relationship the beekeeper has with the hive, sort of a balancing act between thief and curator. How much to take, and how much to leave? Take too much and his wards will perish, leave it all behind, and it tallies up as a season of expectations and observations without tangible rewards. Not the worst of out comes for the hobbyist, but we seem to be creatures looking for measurable gains. Marty the bee guy has come to terms with that delicate balance, considering the welfare of his bees over the reaping of the harvest, a lot can be learned from those principles.

My hive sat empty this year, plagued by poor timing, I got it a bit too late in the season. At first I was really bummed, feeling like I’d missed getting invited to the dance. The cool thing about beekeeping is those that have hives are so willing to share the experience with anyone that seems interested. This summer I’ve learned so much, enough so that I feel ready for next April, with bees on the wing searching for open hives, I think my chances are good that I’ll be able to acquire and care for a feral swarm.

Yup, I have six days to get my house in order, this year my focus is a little less on the spiritual, a bit more on the temple, as in; your body is G-d’s temple and it needs a new facade. Apparently fat, grumpy, and fifty is no way to go through life either.

L’ shanah Tovah … To a good new year.

Talk to you later.

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What an amazing piece of twisted synaptic hardware we have; that thing we call our brain. Sitting there minding it’s own business processing data, waiting for the day to end so it can download and delete the days packets of mindless drivel. Gigabyte upon gigabyte of clutter stored in the cortical folds of this mysterious gelatinous orb.

Synaptic hardware.

Assemble the random elements of my day, let it stew for about six hours with a meal of Meat lovers pizza with extra jalapeños; and the dreams, oh the dreams, one can have. I’d say they were just short of Peyote induced.

Take one phone call from a colleague at The Riviera Casino in Blackhawk; who was having difficulty trouble shooting a commercial ice machine. Mix in an afternoon listening to noteworthy passages  from my wifes new favorite book, The Devil Is In The Details; a true story about a obsessive compulsive woman raised in a Jewish home by Catholics, hey I didn’t write it. Top it off with a few moments contemplating what it will be like to have tomorrow off for Labor Day. Oh and don’t forget one too many slices of Blackjack Pizza with extra jalapeños, and you get a one hell of a dream.

I spent next five hours tossing and turning, as I traced out a cooling circuit that had no beginning or end. A labyrinth of  serpentine tubing that bent to and fro, foot after foot of copper tube, lacing in and out, under and over, like a seamstress  thread through the insulation that covered the pipe.  It lacked all the major components that make up a refrigeration system; evaporator, condenser, compressor, and metering device none of them to be found. For the average dream passerby no big deal, for a refrigeration mechanic this is quite unsettling.

I remember the floor in the machine room was covered with broken ceiling tiles, the kind you might see at your OBGYN’s office, or at the parent teachers conference at your child’s school. Chunks of the fibrous panels that littered the floor, were being pulverized as laborers in dust masks pushing huge plastic tubs shuffled through the room. The lighting in the place was coming from these temporary spot lights set up on tripods, specks and flecks of dust kicked up by the shuffling laborers filled the air. It reminded me of times when my Mom would dust the living room and the afternoon sun cutting through the curtains would illuminate the nearly microscopic particles that were caught aimlessly drifting in mid air.

There was this electrician assigned to wiring an electrical panel, frustrated and cursing at the  laborers as they walked by, casting pitch black shadows across his field of vision. He called me over to share an observation that he had made in the way the panel was wired. “Look at this, what the hell were they thinking?” He took out a pencil and used it as a pointer to better illustrate his point. “They wired the line voltage to the load side of the contactor, instead of going through the overloads first! They don’t have any protection here!” He was clearly upset. I could only ask “Who is they?” He looked at me dumbfounded, “The Israelis, who do you think”? Those damn Israeli electricians, the devil must be in the details.

The Devil Is In The Details.

I left the electrician to his dimly lit work, shaking his head and glaring at the laborers who had no idea they were casting shadows against the miss-wired panel. I had given up on trying to sort out the cooling system with no beginning or end. Tucked away in the shadows offered by the halogen spot lights, I spotted a door. It was the way out of the machine room, through it I could see trees and fencing, the kind they use to chord off a job-site, framed in by the metal  jambs of the doorway, the inviting view off the San-o-let. It must have been the slice of pizza with with extra jalapeños.

Talk to you later.

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