Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Some looks you never lose. This young smartass posing for his obligatory team picture is my father at I am guessing about age 14 or 15. The location is Sewickley, PA and the year around 1919. His father, my grandfather had been dead 5 or 6 years at this point. Blocked colon or something similar considered no problem for todays Medical Magicians.

I remember this look as a kid and as an adult. When contemplating mischief or a particularly biting and snide remark, he would often pump up with a look that looked just like this. I learned to hate this look when it was aimed in my direction. I had either said something considered stupid, done something considered stupid, or just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I loved my dad. But I hated him for finding my stupidity as a lad, though I eventually came to love him for doing it. His insistence that I get it right, whatever "it" was has served me well these last 55 years.

He grew up basically without a father. Grand Pa Macrum died when he was 8. His world was one ruled by women. An older sister, Helen, a Grandmother and his mother, Elisabeth all made sure young Bobbie was toeing the line. I have no clue how this affected his life overall, but it must have had it's impact. He referred to it on a regular basis.

My dad was not perfect. He was a lifelong functioning alcoholic, was married 3 times (once to a real looney tune who ended up having a good excuse - a brain tumor) and smoked right up to the day he dropped dead in the kitchen. He and Mom were exchanging humorous comments about some Today Show segment while they enjoyed their morning coffee. My mom let loose with some funny remark. He chuckled, clutched his chest, stood up and dropped dead at age 75. At least he died laughing.

His third wife was my mother. Married her when he was 45 and she was 35. I was born unplanned when he was 46 and had already raised 2 other children. Well sort of raised them. His second wife Dorothy the Whacko, packed up the kids in the 1940s while Dad was dealing with helping the Marshall Plan to re-make Europe in our image and moved to Mexico. It would not be until the 70s, that he reconciled with my half siblings. I am a bit hazy about this. I think it's how it panned out though.

His life was filled with sadness. Yet he was one of the funniest people I ever met. A wit that often hurt but was always razor sharp. His timing often perfect.

Even with all his faults, he rose steadily up the ladder in the Army Air Corp and then later the US Air Force, retiring with one star on his shoulder. He set the bar high for himself and often wondered why others did not follow suit. Suffering fools better than my Mom, he had a way of getting the best from those around him. A natural leader.

I miss him often and wish I had not been such an asshole the last time I saw him. I know he would hold no grudge, but still our last get-together was marked by harsh words from both of us. We were both half in the bag and stupid words fueled by alcohol were exchanged.

Just a few thoughts and moments spent remembering someone who helped me become what I am and finding some regret that I may have fallen short of his expectations.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tipping Point

I was looking for some inspiration. The thrilling and fun filled life I have lead could fill volumes. Just re-read my piece on sump pumps and you would have to agree. Mike is one exciting dude.

But does it have to always be about me? Should it always be about me? I am sure if I looked hard enough, I would find something, someone who is pushing the edge as hard as I am. Afterall, there are 6 billion plus other souls on this planet. 6 billion stories just waiting to be told. 6 billion people struggling to get through the day.

I sit here and contemplate this number. 6 billion people. 6,602,224,175 to be exact as of July, 2007. As hard as I try, I have trouble getting my mind around this number. All I can do is imagine the planet as a 5 gallon bucket filling up with BBs. And while some may contend the bucket is already overflowing, I can't go there. 40 years ago, I remember a doomdays prediction that once we hit 5 billion it was all over. We were done. Used up and waiting for that great species ending event to finish us off.

Yet here we are. 6.6 billion souls rubbing shoulders, exchanging fluids, and breaking bread. And the hammer still has not come down. Apparently Mother Earth has a greater capacity to deal with crowds than we thought. But wondering how much longer she will is certainly beginning to take center stage.
According to this site, the World's population grows at the rate of around 3 people per second. That's 180 people per minute. 10,800 more mouths to feed per hour. In a day, 200,000 plus mothers have fulfilled their duty dropping 259,000 babies onto the planet. Even if these numbers are on the high side, it is without a doubt a signifigant uptick every day.

In case numbers of people are hard to imagine. Here's another fact that drives home how crowded we are becoming. 6.6 billion people gives us a worldwide population density of almost 113 people per square mile. Alone this figure might also be a ho hummer. Compare it to the 67 people per square mile in 1970 and I think the increase becomes more telling. It is indeed a small world afterall. And getting smaller all the time.

It does not take much of a leap to understand that a tipping point is in our future. At some point, there will be an adjustment. It won't be pretty.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sump Wars - Third Time's the Charm

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Forget my numerous attempts to hook you up with a catchy opening. Too much time spent on where to begin about my sump pump seems way over the top. Finding the right combination of words that would draw you in like flies to poop is I have found, hard to do when the subject is sump pumps. I finally gave up. This is not a sezy subject. And as you can see, I am obviously not conducting rocket science here. But for those of you interested it was gonna start something like this ........

Imagine if you will. (my apologies to Mr Serling, but he can't care too much, he's dead fer chrisakes) A machine, a mechanism nurtured and powered from oil fields afar. A machine entwined and dependent on the grid. That network and morass of wires and poles stretched across the fields of grain. When in use, someone somewhere knows it. When in use it takes a toll if not in flesh , but hours of hard earned labor are used up in order to ensure it's continued presence in our lives.

Life would get by without this device. Yes, Life would go on. But Life is made a small amount easier to take because of it's existence. Some creature comforts are enjoyed by the folks who use this machine connected to magic conceived by Man in his quest to make Life more comfortable.

This is a humble contraption, toiling in the dark dank underworld locations found in cellars and basements coast to coast. It may never be needed, but when it is, this machine is everyone's best friend. When it fails to deliver it's reliable services, what was once taken for granted is now a pain in the ass.

These tireless and forgotten machines do not warn or give a heads up when they decide to cease operations. They just stop. The rest of Life is put on hold until they can be persuaded by cajolement or fear of fire and brimstone to........................................

See, it was gonna be deep and insightful. Words of wisdom found the hard way. But let's get a grip here folks. It's about my sump pump. Another g-d-ed gizmo I can't live without, but sure wish I could.

The problem is obvious. To control the millions of gallons of ground water that run under and often through my basement every year. The solution, punch a hole in through the concrete floor, put a pump in that hole in the floor, hook some pipe to it, and pump the water outside. Straight forward. No serious mental gymnastics required. You would think even simple minds would be able to deal with it. Assuming I am of simple mind that is. Apparently when concerning myself with anything of a hydrological nature, I fall short of the tag, "simple mind". My only consolation is my genius ole man failed also. But it would be 45 plus years before I figured it out. I assume it would not have taken him as long. Dumb and dumber.

The last great upgrade of our subterranean water control system was in the 1960's when my ole man put in a new sump pump, some new 1-1/4" black plastic pipe and stuck it out of the garage wall a few inches. (Remember the "sticking out a few inches" thing. It will become of paramount importance when the light finally came on.)

Water found it's way to the sump hole and the pump pumped it out. The floor of the basement was always wet from late January to the end of April. At least the floor guy knew the realities of basements in Maine. He tilted the floor toward the sump hole. Most of it anyway. Water came in for free each year, and each year we paid $50 a month to pump it out.

Seems that pumping the water out of the house right next to the house is not a good idea. Especially if the ground being saturated ends up being a catch basin which then reloads the ongoing water assault going on so busily under the floor, against the walls and up through drains. A few inches of pipe just won't do it as it turns into baling the boat from the bow and dumping it into the stern. A closed system fountain like folks buy down to Home Depot in the Spring for that front yard makeover they have had on the drawing board for years now. You know, the one they always wanted to plant next to that Sister Mary of the Bathtub Shrine they erected with love so many years ago.

Number than dumb I exercised this futility for 25 years. Continued the same path to stupid started so long ago by my smarter than average dad. When finishing some re-construction in the basement last year I thought, “Hey, look at that sump hole. I bet I could improve it. Make it better, more efficient and clean up that mess of pipes and clamps.”

So I did. Pulled the pump. Dug out 40 years of silt. Filled three 5 gallon buckets. Dumped in some stone and made a nice little brick base for the pump to rest on. Cleaned up the pipe routing and then sat back. Pleased with myself, I went outside to watch my overhauled water management system perform its magic.

“Hmm”, I thought as I watched the water spew out and pool next to the garage. “I wonder where that water goes that’s higher than the floor of my garage? It sure don’t seem to be draining much now does it? Uh, I wonder where it goes?” Then I scratched my sack and sucked on that pesky piece of gristle from supper and spit. “Maybe I oughta try to get it farther from the house. Like get it to where gravity will take over and remove it from my life for good. Or at least until next year.” Scratched again and looked like I felt. This Eureka moment was long in coming. Number than a pounded thumb.

So I pieced together some old plastic pipe to the stub sticking out and 75 feet later I had the water harmlessly running down the drive. I guess I should be grateful that it only took me 25 years to figure this out. The basement has stayed relatively dry and the damp held at bay. But once again proving I am not the sharpest tool in the shed put a damper on my self satisfaction.

Okay. We have the water under control. It is now this winter. The Winter of 07-08. My slapped together patchwork of pipe and hose is in place and ready. Even did a dress rehearsal and ran the hose into the sump hole just to make sure everything was working as planned. November and December ran their course. My solution was working. My basement had never been drier.

And then two days ago while nursing that first cup of coffee and contemplating a day outside shoveling snow, blowing snow and what to wear, I heard the sound. A muffled groan of machinery not being allowed to do what it was supposed to do. A machine was in pain.

It only took a moment to find the problem. My wonderful new water diversion scheme was not diverting much and complaining because it couldn’t. Who knew how long that pump had been pumping up a dead hole? But for the cold groundwater that was creeping up to that over flow point, I am sure there would have been smoke and the smell of electricity on fire. I knew immediately my wonderfully conceived water dispersal network had fallen victim to the sub zero temps. Somewhere in the patchworked and jury rigged mess of pipe and clamp some water had frozen. Plugged up. Constipated.

Quickly I hooked up what peices of pipe I could find to create yet new drainage away from my home. It froze up before night fall. Damn! No more pipe. My Sunday afternoon was now shot. Instead of relaxing watching the NFL network and all that important just have to know what's up information about the upcoming Super Bowl, I sat in my truck for an hour hoofing it to the closest Loew's and that emergency fix I know I would find there.

1/2 hour of floundering back in the plumbing section successfully filled my cart with three 25 foot sections of flexible sump pump hose at $12.49 each, a variey of clamps and a few connectors to turn those 3 lengths into one 75 foot curefor my water woes.

Here's to hoping the thrid time is indeed the charm.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Lady in the Green Hat

I was done helping Bobbi get her booth set up. All the displays set in place and all 40 hundred baskets hung out for sale. My job was done. I had 8 hours to kill before we had to pack it all up and head for home. Hopefully with some extra jingle to reinforce all that hand labor and love she poured into her basket making business.

Bobbi wove a beautiful basket. But so did many others. These craft fairs she had decided to jump into were not those church bazaars and local flea markets she cut her crafting teeth on. She was in a bigger pond now. Juried fairs. She had to be accepted by her peers. She had to be more than good with her hands. It was another clique. Talent opened the door. Playing well with others mattered more. How she related and interacted with the head honchos of the guilds probably carried more weight. It always comes down to egos, politics and butt kissing. Intangibles like jealousy and envy often closing the door instead of opening it.

So here I am wandering the aisles early before the doors open to the public checking out the handmade efforts of aging hippies, talented grandmas, and crusty old boat carvers chewing on unlit pipes. With only a couple of crumpled singles and some change in my pockets I cruise by quickly. I am not buying, I am on a re-con mission. A multifaceted re-con mission. First priority is to spot and count all other basket makers and make a quick assessment of their work and prices. Next to see if some of her crafting friends are there and where they are. And finally, I am on the lookout for something to bring home. Some handcrafted item we cannot live without. Hopefully cheap, bought as the crafters are closing and tearing down their displays. That's always the best time to hit them up.

Returning from my scouting trip, I report in. Does she need to hit the head before the madness begins? Can I get her a drink? No? Okay, I'm going for a ride.

I head out to the Dodge Caravan and untie my bike from the roof rack. Find my helmet, gloves and shoes. Give the tires a squeeze. And then I ride. I have no clue about where just know I need to check back in by 10 AM. Not because I was told to, but I know it's the right thing to do. So with a 2 hour limit, I head down the road, the street or down the trail off the back of the parking lot. If I have been here before, I find a new direction to go. If I haven't, I pick a direction and go there.

Countless crafting events passed in this manner. For 12 years my wife plied her weaving trade. Now she weaves numbers. But that's another tale.

One of the few trinkets we picked up was a stained glass piece by some crafter I cannot remember. I fell in love with this piece of art the moment I saw it. Was it the Hat? The tasteful treatment of nudity or the pose the subject exchanged against the light from outside? I am never sure. My senses always get a lift though when I look at the Lady in the Green Hat on a sunny winter day.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Grumpy Gus

This is Bob. Bob has been with us now 12 years or so. He was such a lovable little bundle of yellow fur when my daughter picked him out over to the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk. He is still lovable, but he picks and chooses the moments he feels lovable. Catch him having a bad hair day and Mr Man, you better have the peroxide handy.

Bob is the crusty ole patriarch in our family of 7 cats. He rules the roost with strict indifference to the crew of youngsters below him. They know to leave him alone. Even Stub, our manic mutt, gives him wide berth. When Bob feels lovey dovey and begins to rub up against her, she freezes with a panicked look and waits for Bob to complete his between her legs rubbing ritual. He is just as likely to give her a swat upon completion of his rounds as look at her.

Don't get me wrong. I love this little fur bearing jerk. He is a member of my family. But he's still a jerk.

Bob's bad tempered ways may be what has allowed him to live as long as he has. He is one of our outdoor cats. Our outdoor cats usually don't make it more than a couple of years. Bobcats, fishers, fox and coyotes all lurk just beyond the edge of the yard. Combine the good ole boys who drive their pick ups too fast on our road and what we have is a very unfriendly cat world out there.

Most of the cats we allow outside can be counted on to show up at least for supper. When the Sun is riding high from Spring til Fall, Bob will only come in when his hunting expeditions have come up empty. Bob has been MIA for days, sometimes a week at a time. The first time he turned up missing, I spent hours combing the brush for him. And each time a Brier ripped into me, I vowed I'd kill him when I found him.

Eventually we learned to deal with his absences. He has so far always made it home. Not always in the best of shape, but he made it. Shredded ears, open sores, and fur missing from his tail. Bob has had some narrow escapes I am sure.

Now that Bob is entering the ole fart stage of his life, he doesn't wander as far or stay out as long as he used to. He now can be counted on to show up for supper usually. And now, we do not let him back out at night. It's tough on him but tougher on us. He will pester anyone who even comes near the door to let him out. His plaintive whining can get to you.

But my wife laid down the law. She is fed up with losing cats. We have lost far too many now that the coyotes are back. I have no proof it is the coyotes, but the uptick in missing cats coincides with their re-emergence in our area. I wonder though if it is not the bobcat who has made our property part of theirs. About 3 years ago I began finding bobcat scat (a pile of pine needles over poop) in the same spot on a regular basis. This animal is very precise. The spot is exactly in the same place everytime. And what is possibly unerving when thinking of cats and their well being, is that the spot is only about 30 feet from the house.

Yes, Bob has proven he is a survivor. He has come to grips with his enviroment and mastered the techniques needed to stay alive. His world is a very tough neighborhood. Bob's bad attitude has served him well out there.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


What goes on in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but while in Vegas doing that which should stay there, they request that you use the proper inflections when uttering their state's name out loud. Only a notch below taking the Lord's name in vain, pronouncing Nevader wrong can get the unprepared poor slob from away into hotwater. More than just a few folks in Nevader are a tad touchy over what they view as serious disrespect.

It is such a big issue out there, Google popped up with 183,000 hits when I typed in Nevada, Pronunciation. There are websites dedicated to tracking how many of our pop icons and pols mispronounce it. They definitely seem to have their panties in a bunch over this. Some opinion piece on even suggests that visitors learn how to say it properly before they think of stopping in for a visit.

When Brian Williams, News anchor extraordinaire of NBC mispronounced it, the local NBC affiliate was inundated with angry emails. Some threatening to never watch that station again. It became such a big deal that during the recent Democratic Debate, not one candidate mispronounced it. Some it seemed took extra effort to emphasis their grip on the name. Barack said it like he was practicing a new language.

The issue seems to be whether it is Nev-ah-duh or Nev-aa-daa. Apparently Ne-Vaa-Daa is the choice of the local populace. Gotta tell ya that this seems a silly thing to get riled up about. Especially in a state that prides itself in encouraging visitors to let their hair down and do whatever they want as long as they drop a boatload of cash before they leave.

Maybe I never noticed their displeasure on my many trips through back in the day when I drove over the road. I was raised by a mother who had been born and raised in California. She probably embedded proper pronunciation at an early age. I cannot remember saying Nevada any other way than the way the locals do. Maybe it came naturally, maybe not. Anyway, I never had any citizen of Nevada correct me.

Which brings me to my point here. Well maybe just an observation or even a consideration. Take your pick.

What about the poor Mainer who visits that state. In Maine, many kids are raised with a speech peculiarity that has always made me chuckle. But I am sure the huffy folks in Nevada would not find it so endearing. Words that end in "a" often come out of the mouths of Mainers with an "er". Words that end in "er" often end up with an "a" instead. Say a Mainer was in Nevada and wanted to play some cards. He might ask innocently, "Say, I hear you folks here in Nevader have some wicked good Pokah games. Could you give me directions?" He might just be scolded instead of being told to take his first right and the Casino is on the left.

So to all you Nevadians( if that is how you call yourselves in plural sense.)get a grip fer chrisakes. Do what we Mainers do. Use the speech of folks from away to identify them and do not correct them. It's easier to keep an eye on them that way.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

RSS This

Lofty Celtic tunes turned up past sane fill my brain as I attempt to make sense of the last hour in search of a better grip about just what RSS really means. Another computing mystery I would attempt to unravel and solve. My ensuing pain can be blamed on Carlita. She got me fired up. Planted the seed that would make my morning one experienced frustrated and when I came out on the other side, not much closer to the truth.

Okay, Clannad turned up loud certainly did not help me concentrate. And my always behind the curve ways had to hinder progress. But I stuck with it. I hung in there while words I had no idea of what they meant attempted to fill me in on concepts so foreign it might as well been sanskrit. I might just have a better chance with sanskrit.

RSS - Thanks to those enigmatic Wiki folks I finally figured out what the letters stood for - "Really Simple Syndication". Might be simple for for someone out there. But this about as close as I got to having a clue.

Atom this, Aggregator that, Syndicate and Feedburn it all immediately put my mind into a funk. Befuddled and lost before I even started, I stepped into another section of the Blogging Jungle. Without a blogosphere map or Internet compass, I allowed Google to steer me through this evil land only computer geeks wearing bad ties, short sleeves and pocket protectors can safely navigate without a guide.

And even though Google treated me kindly, was polite and helpful, I came away battered and bruised. Emotionally traumitized, I gave up trying to understand. RSS was now relegated to that filled past capacity mystery bin in my mind. I did not have to understand as long as I believed. Faith alone would make it work for me. The Feedburner site assured me even a dumass like me could and would benefit from all the features and perks found inside it's guts. I would become a blogging giant in no time.

I had no real concept of what RSS would, could, should do for my blog. I took the leap of faith, joined the masses and signed on the dotted line. I'll figure it out later......Right. If it adds some zip to the blog and makes other folk's visits a more pleasurable and smoother experience, then great. Regardless, I have filled the promise to myself to not let this blog sit getting stale. And even if I was the last to tie into the newest and greatest, I was at least moving forward. A tweak here. A tuck and fold there. A work in progress.

It's just that the more I accept without understanding wears me down. Makes me know the World is definitely moving faster than I am. Each fall from the turnip truck takes a toll. Hurtling toward the abyss would be easier to take if I had some clue as to the how and why.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Big Hair

I truly enjoy re-connecting with music I have let gather dust for a prolonged period. Old favorites ignored for a couple of years tend to sound like new music again.

Music by the B-52s was some of the first music we bought strictly on CD. We own no B-52s on vinyl. Along with Eric Clapton's "Unplugged" CD, we began our traumatic transition from the old turntable mode to the new read music with a light beam CD mode. I was skeptical to say the least. The albums "Wild Planet" and Clapton's "Unplugged" CD convinced me that CDs were a definite improvement over the reliable but delicate record with the music violently pressed into a piece of plastic. CDs were clean, unsullied, pure sound.

I learned to have faith that light could be turned into music. But to this day I still have trouble getting my mind around the idea. As far as I am concerned it is magic. They just won't admit it. They make it seem it was developed through hard work and research when all it is is some VooDoo doctors shaking rattles made of bone and hair over a dead chicken as they conjure up a spell someone found in a dusty moldy old book from the Dark Ages.

No more scratches, clicks or skips. Or so I thought. It was not until much later we came to know the anquish of CD skip. Way worse or at least equal to the auditory torture of a record skipping over and over again. Especially painful when experienced with the volume turned up to wow.

I can remember buying my first B 52s CD because I liked the big hair on the ladies on the cover. Doos that took me back to 1966, 8th grade and a girl named Carol. I had spent 3 weeks or so finding the backbone to ask her to some Junior High dance. I was awkward and clumsy, but had been assured by good friends she would say yes. Now that I think about it, the women begin molding us right out of the gate. As soon as those hormones get fired up, we are lost. I cannot remember where I got the idea to go to a dance. Hmm.

Just like the many Proms over to Oxon Hill High, we would dress to the nines, wear or supply a corsage and the ladies would spray copious amounts of Clairol heavy duty high performance hair spray to keep their Doos riding tall and proud. I remember Carol seemed to have gained a few inches on me when I stepped into their foyer so her Mom could fawn over us and take the obligatory pictures they would have a good laugh over in 15 years or so. All scrawny 5'8" of me standing there adjusting my heavy rimmed glasses next to some blonde amazon who had been 6 inches shorter when I saw her in school earlier that day. Then I noticed the spiked heels and outrageous pile of hair on her head.

I remember sweating profusely. I remember clammy hands. I remember feeling self concious in clothes and shoes I seldom wore. The tie my mother hooked me up with and made sure was just right. I remember the zit I shouldn't have messed with before heading out to impress Carol. The panic I experienced in front of the bathroom mirror when I realized popping it had not been a good idea. After completing my crude manipulations, it had grown to the size of Mt Fuji, all angry and red. It didn't help that it was right in the middle of my forehead either. I remember wanting to be somewhere else.

My mom waited out in the car. I followed her specific instructions. Helped Carol on with her wrap. Opened the car door for her. "And fer chrisakes be a gentleman". That one might be tough, but I was willing to give it a shot. The ride to the John Hansen Jr High gym would have been quiet but for my mom's tendency to keep her lips moving as long as someone was within earshot. Damn, my mom could talk. I am sure Carol responded politely, but all I remember is wishing my mom would suddenly go mute. Be struck by some force that rendered her incapable of speech.

When we entered the gym, I was taken aback. What had been just the place I took PE in had been transformed. Streamers, balloons, and huge paper crepe sheets over the 10 foot windows. And everywhere - Big Hair. Every girl there had either a beehive piled high, or some monstrosity packed to the roof behind rock hard bangs. I was scared of these women. They were no longer the girls I picked on at lunch. They had all been changed into women. Well, in my 8th grade mind they had mutated into something to fear.

So we stood around awhile. Carol hooked up with some girl friends and they giggled over near the stage while me and the guys schooled together near the back door looking fearful and uncomfortable. Like we all wanted to bolt into the night and escape this madness. Finally a very bad band started to rock and Carol grabbed my hand and led me to the dance floor. Siff legged and with a classic white boy grip on the beat, I did my best to not embarrass myself. My only solace being whenever I watched another couple they looked as awkward as I felt.

I noticed none of my tough guy friends were present. The Big Mac pants, BanLon shirt, Chuck Taylor sneaker crowd who used Brylcreem by the bucket to make their Elvis hair stay in place were all hanging out in the parking lot smoking butts, farting, and making fun of us wimps who had been corralled into taking some girl to the dance. Yeah, they were tough. No prissy girly dancin thing for them.

In the beginning I wished I could join them. Afterall I had finally been accepted after a few fights and after I made the basketball team. But something happened. I finally got the rythmn, danced my way to some comfortable place with Carol and I ending the night having truly enjoyed ourselves. We even slow danced a few times. And I didn't panic.

A seminal moment? One of those early coming of age moments? The fact I still remember that night would indicate it was.

Monday, January 14, 2008


So I am sitting here with the cats this AM. We are all looking out the window. I am sure they are doing what I am doing. Wishing they were out there and not in here, But it's snowing a couple of inches an hour out there right now. Periods of horizontal snow cause me to reflect on the wonders of oil heat and waterproof steel roofing, while just for a moment forgetting the expense.

Okay, I am safe and dry, mostly warm and out of the elements. Any thought of a normal Monday routine shot in the butt. My day was supposed to exist out there and not in here. Guess I should actually pay more attention to Kevin Mannix at 6:30AM instead of hurrying to pump that first cup of coffee into my system. Oh well. Shift gears. Find other things to do.

Instead of watching all the closings at the bottom of the TV screen which is my habit on days such as this, I continue to stare out the window. Hoping for some clue about what to do. What to put my idle hands to and keep my sorry ass out of trouble. Sure, there are serious projects gathering dust. There is always something to clean, straighten, or move up to the attic or out of it. But I see no reason to refrain from my years long policy of walking around the hum drum chores that are always there and give me comfort as I ignore their presence.

So staring at the snow I search for inspiration. But nothing is forthcoming. Suddenly, the word "tire" comes into focus. Why I would think of tires while watching snow at first puzzles me. Then I remember that trip to the Manchester Airport to drop Lis for her flight back to college and I know what this Monday is all about.

My wife's new Ford "Focus" came with tires meant for the drier and hotter climes of the South. They proved on that drive through blinding snow at dark thirty in the morning they were not up the task of handling snow covered roadways. I felt as if I was driving on ball bearings. It was a white knuckle trip both ways.

And what did I do this morning? Sent my sweetie on her way to a client on those same damn tires in the same damn conditions. A quick phone call determined she had indeed not ended up in some ditch with airbag deployed. Those damn things are expensive.She was fine but not particularily happy about her drive on unplowed roads. She quickly agreed that today, I should focus on her "Focus". Find her some tires that had a snowball's chance of making it through the rest of this winter's Hell.

Intermission - While I research what tires she actually has on the Focus

A couple of hours surfing the World Wide Web, 2 or 3 phone calls to local tire guys and I am now brought to speed anyway. Seems the Ford "Focus" offers 2 different sized rims depending on which Focus you have. Naturally our SES uses the more expensive and less supported 16" rim. Combine the tighter wheel well requirements because of the larger rim and we are reduced to but one size tire. A 205/50R - 16. Great. Not much to pick from. Making matters worse is the OEM tires are supposed to be the cat's meow for all season tires. I guess if they have an Eye-Talion name, the price goes up and the wow factor kicks up a notch. Pirelli tires that should have stayed in Italy. Southern Italy.

I found some Dis Slavic winter sneakers. A smidgeon taller but I have been assured by the experts they will work. Problem is dealing with swapping them out each season. Maybe buy some new rims and mount em up. Then just swap complete wheels twice a year. All I know is today is a day I longed for the good ole days when the tire world was a much simpler and straightforward world to navigate. Radial or bias. New or retread. Easy Peasy.

Today the retrogrouch that lurks just below my surface came up for air and I vented my spleen. All this new high falutin tech we have to keep up with is way more complicated than it needs to be. I spent a good 20 minutes bending some tire guy's ear about how stupid it was to design a car that placed such tight limits on what tires were usuable. I imagine he was glad to hear me say good bye. Today I would have gladly taken simple over hip, that's for sure.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Oh, the Irony

What do you say to your wife when she catches you visiting the local brothel? "Sorry Dear, won't let it happen again." Or maybe just try to conjure up the mischievous little boy grin that made her heart melt years ago? Transgression forgotten as soon as your lips curl in that special way.

This fellow in Poland had a different answer.

Who knew what reason, curiosity or need made him visit that house of ill repute. Unfortunately for him......well maybe fortunately for him, when he went in for some extracurricular fun, he came upon his wife working hard between the sheets. He thought her day job was just taking care of the zucchini at the local market. Apparently she enjoyed the cultivation and harvesting process also. Probably another case of saying "Yes Dear, go get a job" while cracking another beer and reaching for the Doritos as Poland's national football team took on some club team from the UK on the Telly.

Another sad domestic story plays itself out on the other side of the pond because a husband cannot abide his wife working. A marriage of 14 years is on the rocks just because another man wanted get his off. Damn zippers. Men are so insensitive.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Looking for Excuses

Okay. My first blogging goal of 2008 has already been shot out of the water. I conveniently ignored my cast in stone slacker traits when I promised myself I would post at least once every day. I convinced myself that like so many of you out there in the blogoshere, I too could show some respect to the idea of rigor and discipline. Instead I proved quickly I am just the opposite. Born a loose dog, will die a loose dog. I take no pride in being a slacker. But someone has to be the benchmark others can easily rise above.

Oh well. Might as well get blowing those resolutions out of the way early. That way I can move along as usual rather than trying to acheive unrealistic acheivements from an underacheiving soul. Over reaching has never been a high priority I guess.

Oh, I fool myself on a regular basis and will have short spurts of energy and focus that might fool someone who did not know me and had just met me during the instant of my manic period. When it comes to fooling all the people some of the time, my "some of the time" is but a brief moment, a hiccup in the overall time frame that has made up the minutes of my life. Always quick to jettison the good intentions for the slacker reality that lurks just below the surface.

I come back here somewhat bedraggled with a hung dog look. I avoided posting for several days trying to come up with a viable "My dog ate my homework" excuse. The fact that I was under the weather was true, but did not have the legs to justify such a lengthy absence. So, all I will say is I was not in, not available, or just not feeling particulary creative or gregarious. I fell into a funk.

Now that that little embarrassment is out of the way and I have publicly self-flagellated, I can now offer up my new and improved blogging goals for 2008.

For 2008, I will attempt to better my best previous yearly total by at least 20%. That means I will have to post at least 164 times this year. Not quite a post every other day. Seems a reasonable compromise considering my proclivity or call it my tendency to bite off more than I can chew. Sounds good. We'll go with that goal.

Now to the one yearly goal (notice I have stopped calling them resolutions - goals gives me the out of saying upon failure, "Well, I gave it my best shot". Resolving indicates nose to the grind stone with no wiggle room) - My 2008 blogging goal is to post on 165 different days.

There, I have said it, promised it, and offered up my assurance that I might just do this thing. Maybe an uptick in overall posts might just punch up the quality a tad to mediocre or maybe readable anyway. Logic would indicate quality would improve if I write more. But then Logic is a word I know the meaning of but often have trouble translating it and applying it to anything I do. I generally prefer the circular route. I am never far from where I started that way.

There you have it. My first and probably not my last self-recriminating post of this new year. I will attempt to not make this a habit. But as they say, well, I say it anyway, Old habits die hard if they are bad ones.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


When I opened my eyes three hours ago, this thermometer registered closer to -10'F. It is now 8:30 AM EST and we have warmed up to 2 below 0' F. With the wind that is stirring things up out there, my guess is we are in the negative 20s with the wind chill.

Quite the contrast to yesterday when I was shoveling snow in my shirt sleeves. It is so cold that even Bob, our cat who lives to live outside, has decided that indoors is the place to be today. He barely looked up from the comfort of the quilt when I went in to take this picture of "Arthur". Stubby has been out 4 times for a total of maybe 3 minutes. Long enough to take care of business and scoot right back here.I imagine at least 2 of her expeditions were just to make sure she had been right the first two times. And to score a biscuit for being a good dog and not running off with that bad influence, Buttercup, the neighbor's yellow Lab.

This temperature is nothing unusual here in Maine this time of year. Whenever we get into a cold spell, I always think about how folks from the past dealt with this. Not the Pilgrims or the Vikings, but homo sapiens when we all lived in caves before fireplaces, coal, or oil were invented.

I'd like to think I have a clue how it was. I have done some winter camping in tents and cooked over open fires in negative degree conditions. But being bundled up in warm technology and using 20th century equipment to defeat the cold is a far cry from what they must have done to deal with such harsh conditions.

But cold is cold. No matter if you are parked in a below 0 down sleeping bag or wrapped up in Mastadon fur blankets. The air feels the same. Frozen nose hairs and lungs aching had to be conditions dealt by both of us.

Just figured I would share what I think about that.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Who to Blame

I have tried to find accurate records for our local snowfall this winter, but have failed. Seems all the anal retentive types like my dad was regarding weather are taking a breath and laying low. All I have is my own imprecise total. A total compiled by looking outside, seeing where the top of new snow is relative to the piles of old snow. Add in serious discussions and considerations by my wife and we have agreed that so far, the Winter of 07-08 is back on track to the winters we both remember from 20 years ago.

Now I do not want to assume our tally is the final word. So I ran it by my crusty ole fart neighbor, Bob, while he was out with Tar, his crusty ole fart dog. Bob felt, and I have to agree, that my total was low. He figured another 10 inches at least. So, after meticulous and accurate estimating and after consulting with local experts, we have decided that Sam Page Road in Acton, Maine is well over 50" total snowfall for the winter. So far.

My snow blower would agree with this but probably contend our final amount was on the low side. If I cared to listen to it beyond it's whining when I attempt to run it through the hard pack from the town plow at the end of the drive, I might be more considerate of it's opinion. But as most us of do, I only listen to my machinery when it refuses to work for me.

Because I do not want to jinx my thus far excellent relationship with the Ariens sno blower, I will say that so far, it has stepped up and done what it is supposed to do without any complaint. With the exception of the occaisional shudder and binding at each end of the drive, it has moved the snow out of the way.

Which brings me to why I even started this post.

Just who do I blame for this untimely uptick in snowfall? Who is to blame for my having to buy more gas to feed my sno blower? I mean, the way we seem to be fired up about the weather of late, I figure this recent turn has to be someone's fault. Since no one wants to step up, I guess I'll just blame Al Gore. He has broad shoulders, he can handle it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Sounds of my Youth

With no appreciation for how I got here right this moment, I have been sitting at my computer surfing, commenting, burning CDs and generally taking this whole computer era for granted.

And then I stumbled upon a recently ripped and saved CD "Mother Ship". A compilation of what some audiophiles consider the best and greatest of Led Zeppelin from back in the glory days of Rock. 24 songs that wrap up and define just what Led Zepplin was all about. IMO, it misses the mark. Their albums should be played from one end to the other. But that's just me I guess.

I immediately began to dwell on how I fell under their spell. An album bought from the back of a local record distribution van while the driver was re-stocking the 8-track rack in the store and gas station I pumped gas at. Filled folks cars with 29 cents a gallon gas for $2 bucks an hour at the pimply faced age of 17 in 1969.

I liked the cover. So I bought it. $3.00. Brand new. Pure undamaged virgin vinyl. I had no idea of what to expect. Only that the record guy said to play it loud.

And loud I played it. Blew out those puny bookshelf Radio Shack speakers after Dad gave me one of his old amps and I hooked them up. Had to use headphones for a few months until I could scrimp and save enough scratch to buy some used Dynaco speakers. That's when I really learned what loud music could do to the hair on the back of my neck.

I smiled as I strolled through this scrap of my past. The nasty words shouted up to my room to "turn that damn crap down. Now! Not in a minute or when the bleepin song is over, but right now!" And then not a week later I convinced my father to listen on headphones, Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown" so he could finally get on the stereo bandwagon. The long hair classical music he favored had not embraced the "stereo" revolution as quickly as had RocknRoll. He hated the tune, but the next amp he built had 2 channels and 400 watts per channel of screamin power. He finally understood. Mono drooled, Stereo ruled.

My connection to Led Zeppelin might have stopped there. A dedicated fan who could not wait until a new album came out or they came over to tour. They would have been relegated to the pile of rock groups I supported through my purchase of music and tickets to concerts.

And then I became a truck driver. I had no clue how this would ultimately begin a relationship with them that affected the rest of my life. But it certainly did.

Another driver I knew and worked under as his helper had gone to work driving for a sound and light company out of Dallas, Texas. Showco was their name. I ran into him at some truck stop in North Carolina a year or so later. He was driving this fine looking brand new White Freightliner cab-over in front of a sweet Matlock drop frame furniture trailer with air ride suspension. The whole rig was all white with circus type logo "SHOWCO" on the doors of the cab. And underneath in black bold letters - "Not for Hire".

Ron was definitely cool. And he knew it. I knew it too. We sat down in the trucker's lounge and shared a meal and later back at his truck, a toke. He seemed suprised I had moved up to driving. I told him his departure from Advance Moving and Storage opened the door for me to step up. And as much as I missed our time together moving folks and their shit, I was glad he was gone. I was making some serious jingle now.

He told me he was on McCartney's "Wings Across America" tour and that he was the lead driver in a convoy of 10 trucks. He was headed to Atlanta I think. As he was well aware of what I was doing having just left the same business a year and a half previous, I basically just sat mute and listened. Those tales of drugs, sex, and Rock n Roll were all true he assured me. It was crazier than even he could have imagined. I remember being enthralled and in awe of this man. He was living my dream. Or at least living the dream I had after we parted ways.

The rest of the summer of '76 rolled by. I beat the highways up and down the East coast hauling people's furniture from one home to their next home. Sometime in late September, I came back from a run and my room mate informed me I had to get in contact with Ron ASAP. The message was a week old. So I called Ron. Could I be a plane in a day or two? Showco needed some more drivers. Specifically for the upcoming WHO tour. The trucks had to have two drivers each. They wanted no problems getting to the widely spaced gigs across the continent and Canada in the short 3 week period of the tour run.

I had stopped listening or only heard key words. Could I be on a plane? The Who? 3 week tour? I sat stupid and silent. Ron had to ask me if I was still there. I remember mumbling something about giving notice and it might take me a week to get it together. He wouldn't hear it. I had to be on my way to Dallas in 2 days tops. Or forget it. I remember I had enough sense to ask if this was just a temp job or what. He assured me that I would live to tour again if I could handle it. He was their number #1 driver. He had control over who stayed and who didn't.

I quit my job that day and was on a plane the next day.  In less than 48 hours I was on my way to LA as Ron's co-driver with the necessary sound equipment to bring the WHO's sound to thousands of crazed, drugged and drunk rock fans. And I was doing it in the nicest tractor I had ever sat in.

The next 2 plus years went by in a blur. I started out full of piss and vingar and finally burned out in the winter of 78/79. Ron had been right. Absolutely the craziest lifestyle I would ever experience.

I suffered and survived ELO's breakneck paced 75 show tour in 90 days. I relaxed on Led Zeppelin's more leisurely jaunt across the country. Genesis, Black Sabbath, The Kinks, Nazareth, David Bowie,..... Damn, I can't remember all the groups I drove for. It was basically a 2 year job without weekends off. Always another stadium, hall, arena, old theater at the end of each run. I lived out of a suitcase and collected hundreds of hotel keys. I witnessed my father and mother breaking bread with David Bowie backstage at the Old Garden in Boston. I watched a guy die of an overdose in front of me out behind Oakland Stadium. I had been tabbed by some Grateful Dead ligger and the experience still hangs in my mind as one of the all time oddest experiences I had while tripping.

With the average life expectancy of a Showco driver being 6 months, my 2 years moved me up the ladder very quickly. At one point, I had number 2 seniority but lost it when I briefly quit for a couple of weeks because I thought I had fallen in Love. That was the only 2 weeks I really had off in 2 years.

It was the week in the Oakland County Michigan lock up on cocaine possession charges that finally woke me up. But then I had always been one to need rude awakenings to shift gears and move in new directions. I gave up Coke. I gave up Jack Daniels. And I gave up Showco. Moved back to Baltimore and then Maine and here I sit, a survivor.

But I carry with me memories that will never fade. Memories unsullied by inebriation or chemical alteration. Standing next to 20 foot stacks of speakers, gazing out at 60,000 wild eyed music lovers. Backing up the spiral drive into the belly of Madison Square garden. Watching helplessly as unhappy Pittsburgh fans pummel my truck with empty bottles and rocks. Damn I learned to hate Pittsburgh. St Louis was not far behind.

My time at Showco was something I did. Time spent in the pursuit of a good time in whatever time I had available. I lived on the edge and pushed limits. I will never forget this dream I lived, sometimes hated but was never bored with.