Saturday, January 13, 2007


I actually listened to the Prez's recent speech about his future plans for Iraq. As a rule I don't do that. He has a voice that gets on my nerves. Or is it his policies that do? Anyway, I usually find something else to do when his mug comes on the screen. But this time I listened.

For 20 minutes or so he rambled on. A lot of words came out his mouth. But essentially he only said this. In order to win in Iraq where mistakes have been made is to throw more troops at it.

On some level this makes sense I guess. I am just having trouble finding that floor. Seems we could throw our entire population into this fray and the Iraqis would still be at each other, us, and anyone else in the way.

We opened up a Pandora's Box when we took down Saddam. Now we cannot get it shut again. A paltry 21,000 US troops will not change that. I think this fire we set will have to burn itself out.

I did take note of his somewhat backdoor acknowledgement and responsibility of the "mistakes made". But nowhere were specific mistakes even mentioned. Rather than admit the invasion was a cluster fuck from it's inception, he focused on the importance of establishing a stable government in Iraq. Well, we may not have liked Saddam, but he did have a more stable hand on the tiller there than we seem to have now.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Some Plans Work Out

In an effort to beat the winter slug I usually become by this time every year, I vowed in October to do anything to avoid it. I created an arbitrary winter max weight limit. I assumed that in order to keep at or below it, I would have to stay busy. I did create a couple of rules. Everyday I had to do one thing that would eat at the long list of home projects that have been festering for several years now. And I had to ride my bike at least one day a week.

I'll be damned. It seems to be working. I have averaged slightly over 2 rides a week now for 8 weeks and the lack of snow has allowed me to gussy up the property like it hasn't been for 15 years. And I am solidly below my max weight limit. I have not felt this good in January in 10 years.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Weird Weather

This past Tuesday in honor of keeping with the early Spring Clean up, I decided to remove some of the uglier lawn ornaments from view in the front of my house. The 1940 homebuilt trailer seemed like a good place to start. I dug it out of the ground it had taken root in, filled the one flat with air, and loaded her up with some tires and barrels. Happy as if I had a brain, I hooked my 3/4 ton Chevy to her and hauled it all to the lower 40. It's not really 40 acres. Hell, it ain't even 2 acres. I just call it that.

Anyway, I get in position to back the trailer through the pines and snake it back to the pucker behind the house. I notice the tires of the truck seem to be denting the yard more than usual for the dead of a Maine winter. But what the Hell I thought, I'll just throw it into Lo/Lo 4WD and be gentle as I punch the fuel to it. Just as I backed it off the yard, yeah, it dropped to the transaxle. Not mud on top, but 6 inches down, it was a bog. 2 hours later, blisters on my hands and much cussin to go with them, I dug the truck out and skedaddled. Left some serious trail damage in my wake.

That was Tuesday. Tonight, the damn ground is brick hard. 2 days of below freezing wheather has stiffened everything right up. I'm guessing that mess I created out back will be there in all it's glory until April now.

Yeah, weird weather alright. Damn Al Gore for inventing Global Warming.

This Non-Winter

This non-winter we are dealing with this year is beginning to grate a bit on me. It is nice to be able to continue yardwork I normally ignore in the Spring and Summer when all I have time for is beating back the lawn. I have more hours in the yard in the last month than the last 3 years total. I have made a difference. The 60 foot long 6 foot high pile of brush on the north border of my property is testimony to that. I have ridden my bike more than in winters past. I am not looking this gift horse in the mouth. I am taking advantage of it.

But there has to be some payback. The other shoe will fall at some point. The longer this unusual wheather blesses us, the stiffer the price. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. And that is why I am nervous. That is why I actually would like to wake up to a good foot of white crap some morning. Might make me feel Life is back to normal. Or at least heading in that direction.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Perfect Sunday

I asked around and had no takers. Everyone had an excuse not to go for a Sunday ride in the woods. Keith had to go to Conway and snowboard on almost no snow. Brian had some bogus excuse that he was cooking a big feast for his signifigant other's birthday. What's up with that? Does it take all day to open a can of beef stew and toss a bag of Ho Ho's on the table for dessert.? And big baby Dave the water guy did not want to get his bike all yucky on the frost thawed trails. Bunch of whinin wusses, the lot of them.

Looked like I was riding alone this first Sunday of January 2007. It did not seem right. I had to hook up with someone local. The Sun was supposed to out and the trails could be handled without studs. Unatural for this time of year here in Maine. I was bound and determined to take advantage of it.

Then I remembered Dave the Punk. He had kind of dropped out of our local riding scene when he bought that new house in Alfred. All of sudden home improvement became more important than riding. Imagine that.

I gave Dave the Punk his name. The man is 56 or 57 and he rides like I did when I was 30. There was no way around it. He rode like a smart ass. Always ahead of me and able to converse on the toughest uphill like we were sittin around just shooting the breeze. I knew a ride with him was a spanking for sure. But I called him anyway.

Part of me wanted him to say no. He ended that hope with a quick, "Sure, I can get away for awhile". So now we fell to hashing out where to ride. He suggested an in town loop out of my shop. I was tired of "in town". That was all I had been doing for the last month and a half. But I did not want to make a road trip out of it either. I had to be in front of the tube at 1:00 PM sharp to watch the Pats take on the Jets. I thought about my home area, but the recent warm wheather and rain out the wazoo had turned the trails to mud slogging struggles that made me hate the ride.

I suggested I meet him at his house and ride from there. Alfred was chock full of trails just like any other town in this area. He seemed thrilled. He could show off the trails he had discovered in his area.

Being on CRUM time, I was my usual 1/2 hour late. I just could not get my ass in gear in the morning. Then Dave had to give me the grand tour of his new home. Damn it was big. Not a small room or low ceiling in the huge 2000 sq ft plus house. And he had a barn and a huge equipment shed to stash all his outdoor toys. I was immediately envious. I made myself feel better by thinking that at least I had 2 fireplaces and he only had one.

I knew Dave was not one to call an hour in the woods a ride. When he went out he liked to be out there 2 or 3 hours at least. Me, especially in Winter physique, liked those short excursions to break a sweat or two and then back to the barn. But this was his ride and even if I missed part of the Pats game, I was bound to be the good guest and tough it out.

The ride basically followed some local ATV and snowmobile trails. Nothing really technical or single tracky. Expecting brutal mud conditions, I was pleasantly suprised. Some mud, some water, but for the most part the trails were hard and packed. Good riding conditions.

What kicked my butt was the hill after hill routine with no recovery in between. Lots of short and sweet climbs followed by short and sweet downstrokes. I was amping over the line in about 20 minutes. And Dave the Punk just slow strokin next to me like he was crusing a bike path at Cape Cod. Damn him. I hung in and at about 45 minutes into it, started to get with the program and really enjoy myself. Some of the downstrokes had some mild pucker factor and made my eyes water.

Two hours later we were back at his house. He looked and acted like he had done nothing but get up in the morning. Me, well, I was pounded. El toasto. Damn him.

I wanted to get home ASAP, so I did not buy into the usual post ride re run of the ride. I said thanks for the ride, had a great time, and I left. I had not looked at a clock, but knew making kick off would be close.

I cannot abide parking a nasty bike. I have to park em clean. Just a habit I picked up 20 years ago and never lost. I like starting every ride on a clean bike. So I had to stop at the shop and wash my ride. As I rinsed it off, I re-ran the ride through my mind. Then I thought of the game I was about to collapse in front of. And I grinned. No more perfect day has come my way in a long time.

Friday, January 05, 2007


There is a danger in reviewing previous blog entries before I begin a new one. Oftentimes, the pearl I want to expand and expound upon gets lost when I digest my previous drivel. I had something in mind to write about this morning. Really. But it's gone now. Retreated to some dark dusty corner of my brain. Either that or it became bored and left.

Just what is it that creates the human need to hang as many letters before and after their names. Other than ego inflation, all I can tell is they are like the feathers and coloration of birds. People of letters stick together.

No better example than the announcement by the radio host of everyone who was anyone at Gerry Ford's Funeral. By the time he had finished with all the honoraries in someone's name, I often lost track of who the Hell he was referring to.

"And taking their seat right now is The Right Honorable Doctor of Letters Edward Elitem, BA, DA, FA, LLF, HGT, LB, BMW, Blah, Blah, Blah"

In the meantime 10 other people of more importance snuck in, sat down, and then started nodding off before the guy was finished with ole Edward.

On our night ride last night I asked if anyone had heard about the construction worker who saved a dude by protecting him from a subway train with his body as it roared over them. No one had. And oddly, other than the initial report I caught the other day, no mention anywhere on TV.

What is up with that? This is one of the most amazing feats of heroism I have ever heard of. This guy deserves more than his paltry 15 minutes.

Obligatory Pet Comment
Fernando El Gato is a large nuetered tom we have lived with since he was a wee one. He was one of the many kittens my wife would bring home to foster for a local shelter. Right out of the gate, Fernando stood out. His fur coat reminded us of a Gateway computer box or a cow if you will. Names like "Gateway" and "Moo" were considered.

When I went through the names of our other 8 little wastes of feline fur, I noticed no acknowledgement of our hispanic neighbors to the south. This would not do. So I set out to find the name that would fit Fernando.

At the time, the Tour de France was going full bore. Plenty of Spanish riders to inspire me. But none had names that worked for me nor for Fernando. There were Juan's, Pedroe's, and Jose's. I would try one out on him and he would just look bored as cats only can. Then I remembered one of my favorite pro cyclists from across the pond. Pedro Delgado. Knowing Fernando was underwhelmed with Pedro, I tried a host of names with El Gato tagged on behind. When I called out, "Fernando, Fernando El Gato", he came running. I always thought that was kinda cool.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dead & Buried

I am sure most of us know Gerry Ford is dead and now buried. At 93 and while still drawing breath, he was the oldest living President. Now I guess he is one of the youngest dead ones. Doesn't seem fair. Something happens beyond his or anyone else's control, and he gets knocked down to the bottom of a new pack.

I listened to all the pomp and circumstance on NPR as Gerry was eulogized in DC. The high point for me was all the choral groups there singing "America the Beautiful". The hairs on the back of my neck stood up at attention. Far and away the best song about America ever. Should be our anthem. Not that war mongering, impossible to sing piece of garbage we have now.

Anyway, the radio guy did a very good job bringing the funeral services into my garage as I did garage stuff that AM. Not being distracted by anything visual, I had to create my own visualization based on the sounds only. The sounds of the Honor Guard as they removed the casket and then slow marched the body into the National Cathedral made me think immediately of my own father's burial at Arlington many years ago. And while he did not have mortars fired in his honor, their sound brought back the 21 gun salute at Arlington like I was there in person. And Dammit, I shed a tear for my dad and then for Gerry.

RIP Gerry. You too Dad.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Another Man's Junk

I am a packrat. A life long pack rat. And today I divested myself of some packed junk that was acquired over 20 years ago. It was an odd feeling tearing down some piles instead of building them up. I thought it would be more emotionally draining. Oddly I feel better for doing it. Oddly I felt more empowered with each thing I threw onto that junk man's trailer.

It all began because of a crumbling wall. A much needed renovation project in the basement meant I had to find a home for some of the acculumation that was in the way. But because the junk in the basement was mostly keeper stuff, I had to make room for it out in the shed. Which meant that some room had to be found in the shed.

The shed is a temporary metal building I built in 1985 out of scrap wood and old metal roofing. It was to be but a brief repository for all that good stuff I brought home whenever I found it. I filled it by 1986 and buttoned it up tight. The light of day had not shone on the wonderful recyclables inside for over 20 years. And yesterday I cracked it open.

With only a vague memory of what I had jammed inside, I was actually excited at the prospect of rediscoverying the lost treasures I had felt important enough to stack and and pack inside. Just what prizes would I pull out and would I be able to part with any of it? My expectations were under-whelmed by the reality.

The other man's junk I had lovingly packed away as my treasure had gone full circle over these last 20 years. For the most part, it had all turned into or decayed into junk again. Why I felt stashing 50 to 60 empty plastic 5 gal buckets was a good idea is beyond me. And just what was I going to do with that full size hang it on Main Street street light? I would have had to score a 30 foot telephone pole just to hang it. The 10 or so truck tire tubes puzzled me. A few old bikes, some rugged steel tables, many buckets of bolts, screws, nails and scrap metal all kind of mixed up with a wide assortment of lumber chunks. There was no rhyme and obviously no reason behind this inventory. A mad man had created what I found inside.

So I emptied the building out. I spread everything over the side yard so I could really evaluate it's worth to me now. 3/4 of it was placed on a local trash guy's trailer and the rest I put back inside. I had more room than I needed for the stuff from the basement.

But the clean up bug had bitten me. Most of the stuff I removed from the basement went on the trailer also. Not satisfied with just that, I started looking at the lumps up against the house that had started as orderly piles of good stuff and were now unrecognizable pucker plantings springing from rotted blue tarps. 5 more bikes and over 100 bike wheels went onto that trailer. Some of the piles were so old, saplings 5 inches at the butt had grown through the frames of the bikes and the spokes of the wheels.

When the Sun finally went down, I had filled that 25 foot trailer 5 foot high and the yard seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. I had accumulated this stuff so effortlessly. Getting rid of it was not. I am toasted. When I close my eyes I see junk. Individual pieces and massive piles of junk. I will most likely re run the whole day in some bizarre comedy in my sleep tonight.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year Dear

2007 has had a rough beginning here in Acton. My wife wakes up before me. She is always the one to discover any overnight presents our elderly dog, Bernice may have left for us on the carpet, in the kitchen, or any path that sees high traffic. So she finds a reminder that January 1, 2007 is just another day day in the life. Happy New Year Dear!

After cleaning up after Bernie, she tosses both dogs outside to hopefully have them continue their morning purge outside and not inside. As she steps onto the front step, the ice from an overnight dousing causes her to lose her footing. Up, up and away. Down hard on her hip and elbows. That left knee that has been a pain is screaming bloody murder now. Happy New Year Dear!

Then I wake up. Bright eyed and bushy tailed from one of the most complete night's sleep in a long time, I am a happy camper and full of good cheer. "Happy New Year", I shout as I make my way to the kithchen.

The death stare I met as I came into the kitchen should have clued me in. The silence that accompanied that stare should have emphasized the point. But I was happily clueless. It was not until the words, "Your Dog", left her lips did I begin to catch on. Too late. I had led with my chin.

Bernice was not"my dog". She was usually "our dog". She became "my dog" when she did something wrong. Apparently I took over responsibility for her actions when they were performed under the blanket of darkness and in secret. I never agreed to this arrangement. It was assigned to me. It was not fair. But there it is. Life is not fair.

I dropped into the sympathetic spousal mode quickly. Ahh, that's awful sweetie pie, I wish I had found it not you routine. I did not know about the falling on her butt thing yet.

"Why did you not put sand down on the walk?" Uh oh. The other shoe just dropped. I was now handily caught and about to be disemboweled. I could feel it coming. I had no escape. My role as scapegoat for a day was about all I had to look forward to now. Happy Flippin New Year!