The Pipes Are Calling

One of the more difficult problems I have nowadays is giving up a lot of the household maintenance jobs I used to do myself.  Given my new physical limitations there are a lot of jobs I can’t do any more or I can no longer manipulate the tools it takes to get them done.  Good example:  I have some balance issues so Rosemarie won’t let me use the nifty 12-foot ladder I bought for the tall ceilings in our new home.  I didn’t bother to ask about the circular saw.

Meanwhile, we’ve had a few plumbing issues that I would have normally fixed myself had I not become a little disabled.  So, I hired a plumber.  My few plumbing projects turned out to be estimated over a thousand dollars.  Well then, it was time to prioritize so I had the plumber do only one job and that was replacing two leaky water valves feeding the faucet on the kitchen sink.  The bill for that was $285 and I still had an electrician coming in another hour to do some rewiring.

All this was a rude awakening as I pondered the cost of getting everything on my to-do list done.  Part of the kitchen sink issues was the faucet itself.  It’s one of those high arched faucets with a single lever at the base.  The latter is busted.  The entire unit needed replacing.  “Ca-Ching” goes my mind.  If the two valves the plumber replaced were $285 and a new faucet of this type runs $200 or more, how much more will the plumber charge to remove the old one and install the new one?  Hmmm.  I decided to punt for the evening and deal with my little dilemma in the morning. 

To know what’s involved with the faucet challenge you need a little background info.  Both Rosemarie and I have had spinal surgery.  That, along with old creaky bones seasoned with arthritis, have limited our ability to crawl inside the cabinet under the sink, then maneuver into a position that allows full view of the hoses going into the bottom of the faucet and…and…and then being able to manipulate the wrench and other tools necessary to do the job, PLUS inform 911 that one or both of us are down and can’t out of the cabinet let alone get up from the floor. 

Nonetheless, we made the decision that we would attempt to do the faucet job ourselves. I’ll tell you right away that we accomplished the mission.  Was it easy?  Welllllll, it took half a linen closet of towels, not to soak up water but to cushion my body and prop up my head while I squeezed myself under the sink.  Rosemarie, being the RN that she is, slapped tools in my hands as needed, positioned and held the above-surface parts of the faucet and asked me a thousand times if I was okay.  

So out of our adventure under the sink, blossomed an idea that any of us are free to pursue.  I am sure you are familiar with the “For Dummies” concept that has sold millions of instructional books and video presentations.  Well, as I had to pre-plan how I would attack my faucet challenge, including exactly how I was going to get in and out of the cabinet, work my arms and head around the various pipes, hoses and garbage disposal, and then have a way to get myself standing again once the job was done—all these elements had to be taken into consideration for my age and physical limitations.  Wouldn’t the same be true for all kinds of tasks for people in my stage of life?  Hence, why not take the gazillion “For Dummies” projects and rework them “For Oldies?”   There’s a huge senior market just waiting to re-open their household job jars if they just had a little help with the details…and someone to slap the tools in their hands.

*****


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Picture This

I’ve been purging again. Every few months I declare war on the gazillion files I’ve stored up in my computer. I begin by engaging in a ferocious frenzy hitting the delete button. My photo folder came under special scrutiny this time and while I went through it ruthlessly, there were some pictures that screamed “keep me.” These are ones I’ve taken that turned out better than I expected, or had some personal worth. I like pictures that manage to pry an “ahhh” or a smile from those viewing them. Knowing that I am a very average photographer, these pictures may not impress anyone, but I thought I’d post them here for the sake of sharing if nothing else. At least it’s better than being a captive audience when a a co-worker brings in a thousand vacation pictures. BTW, if you click on the first picture they should all appear in a larger format.

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HOOK, LINE & SINKER

I am not much of fisherman.  In fact, I am not a fisherman at all.  Considering I live in Florida, one of the fishing capitals of the world, I am suitably scorned by my fellow Floridians.  First of all, I am prone to get seasick.  Put me in a drifting boat swaying vigorously in 3-foot swells and toss in the aroma of fish bait and, yep, you will find me hanging over the rail in no time.  Meanwhile both my wife and especially my son would go fishing 24/7 if they could.

Occasionally, I will go with them when they go fishing from the shoreline or dock.  I still won’t fish myself.  I’ll take a chair and something to read and otherwise occupy myself by asking every ten minutes if it’s time to go home yet.  I must be a bit of a nuisance since most times Rosemarie will let me off the hook (pun intended) and not insist I go.  Last night, however, in a moment of temporary insanity, I agreed to join the party.  It was a last-minute excursion that no one had planned for but the evening weather was good and the promise of a nice sunset lured me in (another pun intended).

Our destination was the S.S. Jolley Bridge, so named for Seward Stokley Jolley, the honorable Collier County judge who warmed the bench through the 1940’s and 50’s.   I am told we will fish from under the bridge where the prospects are good.  Now, despite its gleeful name, this is a credible bridge that spans the Florida mainland near Naples over to Marco Island on the state’s southwest shoreline.  That’s Rosemarie waiting for the big one under the Jolley Bridge.

I’ll be kind and not turn this posting into a long, dragged out fishing story other than to say our trip was cut short by hunger.  Rosemarie caught a footlong snook that was too small to legally keep but long enough for a Subway Footlong, I thought.   My son, meanwhile, snarled his line in the rocks and I was blocked from getting a nice sunset picture by a not-so-quaint Marco Island Marina.

The fun part–or should I say the Jolley part–of our abbreviated fishing trip was that I got a few pictures of the nice March weather we’ve been having.  These I will hastily send to my niece.  She’s sitting at home in Denver…in a blizzard.

*****

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When it Brains, It Pours

When you get to be my age, you will have accumulated a huge stockpile of memories along with endless databanks full of both useful and useless information.  You will not run out of storage space because the human brain holds more than any amazon warehouse.  Should you later wish to retrieve any of this historical stuff…well, watch out, you could be up all night.  Case in point…

In the wee hours last night, while poking around on the Internet, I happened upon a reference to the 1950’s Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls. I Googled it and wound up watching the entire movie.  It was a great piece of nostalgia for me and instantly triggered a bunch of memories:

  • I saw the movie when it originally came out in 1955.  I was 10.
  • 1955 was the year my father bought his first brand new car, a red and white Chevrolet.
  • The ’55 Chevy was the car I would eventually learn how to drive on.
  • Back to the movie…we had the soundtrack for it and I used to play it over and over.  In short time, I knew the words to every song.  I didn’t know exactly how well I knew the words to every song until I started singing along as I watched the movie last night.  It is incredible how the brain can store information that goes unused for over 65 years and then, when stimulated, can poop it out flawlessly.
  • Anytime someone in the family was out of order, namely me, my father would sound his warning by quoting a song that famed Broadway musical actor, Stubby Kaye, sang in the movie…Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.
  • The movie starred then young entertainers Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Vivian Blaine and Jean Simmons. Damn, there all dead now.
  • It was cool to see a bunch of then-new vintage cars in one of the street scenes, especially a DeSoto.  I could identify all of them without hesitation.
  • In the movie Marlon Brando sang the song, Luck be a Lady, but it was Sinatra who made it one of his iconic hits through the rest of his singing career.
  • The movie is set in a big city that implies New York. Brando takes Simmons on a dinner date…to Havana!  They make it roundtrip, including dinner and a bar brawl, in one night!  In 1955, one-way flight time from NYC to Havana was over 8 hours.  Go figure.    

Believe me, I could go on, but these are just some of the random thoughts that swirled through my memory banks as I watched this one movie.  The point is, when one looks back at any one event in his or her lifetime, it can unleash an endless pile of tumbling dominos as one memory leads to another.  No wonder I didn’t sleep much last night.  What a kick.        

*****

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OLD TOOLS

I had in my hand today a hammer that has been in my toolbox for as long as I can remember having a toolbox.  And before my toolbox, it was in my father’s toolbox.  And, given the hammer’s appearance, I have little doubt that it also once resided in my grandfather’s toolbox as well.

For someone who struggled to pass Wood Shop in 7th grade, I strangely have an appreciation for good tools.  Over the years of home ownership, I have accumulated quite a few.  I didn’t realize until lately that my tools are like little time capsules.  Each has a story or more to tell. For many, I can trace back to their origins, often recalling the project I was working on that led to their purchase.

I’ve also accumulated a collection of drills, all different sizes.  Most are the newer battery-charged models which are handy to use without having to hassle with a cord.  Nevertheless, I regularly go back to my 1960’s vintage plug-in-the-wall Craftsman power drill when it comes to the tougher jobs that easily wear down the newer drills.  It turns faster and has a lot more torque, perfect for making holes in a dense piece of wood.  That reminds me of something I learned from my father.  He taught me that a good tool will always make the job easier and the results so much better.  Accordingly, I often splurge on tools abiding by the assumption that you usually get what you pay for.

One of my prized tools is actually a paint brush. Ironically, I don’t think a drop of paint has ever touched it.  It’s a very thick brush as you can see in the picture.  I believe the bristles are made of horsehair.  It’s very old too, perhaps one hundred years plus.  It’s mostly been used as a brush for cleaning who-knows-what.  My father used to cut my hair when I was a kid.  When he was finished, he would brush the hair off me with this brush.

I have only a few other old tools that have been handed down through the family.  Most of their value is sentimental.  I am sure my grandfather probably wouldn’t even remember his hammer or paint brush.  No, they had to survive a good number of years to rank the level of appreciation I give them.  Perhaps they will rattle around in the bottom of a toolbox belonging to someone in my immediate or nearby family…or perhaps not.  I sense the same for me!

*****

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THE BLOCK IS ON!

I’ve had writer’s block before but never this bad.  It’s like my curiosity got up and left for a winter vacation.  I thought about rewriting the U.S. Constitution since so many people in Washington are having so much trouble understanding it. Then I thought it was stupid of me to think I could do a better job than the Founding Fathers. True, I am a father, but I have absolutely zero experience in founding.

Next, I thought about some of the DIY projects I have stacking up around the house.  I was thinking maybe I could record myself doing them and start up a help channel on YouTube for others who are facing the same kinds of tasks and could use some expert advice.  That wouldn’t work too well either since I’m no expert in any of the manly skillsets like hammering, sawing and grunting, although I have been known to rip off a pretty good belch (hah, you thought I was going to say fart!)

I’ve written eleven books (the term used loosely) since I retired a few years back.  I never contemplated being the next Stephen King, but I did enjoy working on most of the books.  Writing, like jogging, is a lonely sport.  There is no team unless you are trapped in a cubicle at a marketing or advertising agency.  What I liked most about my writing was that I rarely knew where I was headed.  I am a bit of a rogue scribe. I don’t outline or think chapters ahead when I write.  Much of the time what is happening to my characters is as much a surprise to me as it is to my readers.

So here I sit with the ultimate writer’s block. I can’t come up with a substantive blog posting and I not only don’t know how my next story ends, I haven’t the slightest idea how it begins.  Here, help yourself:

Once upon a time…

*****

Blog Note:  The two video trailers for ANCHOR and DEAD LETTER that appear to the right are working again!  I apologize it took so long to repair them given that at least 30 million of my followers have been patiently waiting to view them.

*****

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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I WANT TO BE A BOY AGAIN

Last week my wife and I received the second of the two injections of the Covid-19 vaccine.  We had to drive two hours for both the first and second shots.  We would have driven much farther if we had to.  What a burden lifted from us.  We are both in our mid-70’s and have enough sidebar ailments to make us easy targets for the virus. 

True, I have been pre-occupied thinking about the Covid-19 virus and the horrors it could have laid upon Rosemarie and me.  At our age, death has become a relevant topic, much more so than in thoughts past.  So what to do?  Think happy thoughts, of course, add in some nostalgia, then sprinkle in memories of events and people.  It’s what I did two years ago in this posting on my blog.  I found it worth a second read…maybe it’ll catch you in the same way… 

MKKIDI want to be a boy again when I felt secure and taken care of and all I had to worry about was doing what I was told, trying my best at school and trying not to break anything.

I want to be a boy again when I spent hours playing outside.  I would pretend I was a cowboy or a soldier or just about anything I wanted to be. I want to ride my sled down the back alley that sloped enough to get you going so fast you worried about a car coming in at the very end.

I want to be a boy again when I was dropped off at the Saturday matinee and there was a Duncan Yo-yo contest before the  movie got started.  Sometimes the winner got a Schwinn bike which was a pretty  big deal.  Then we watched Looney Tune cartoons and a feature movie like a space adventure with Flash Gordon. And then we had to wait a whole week to find out if Flash escaped from the Martians.

I want to be a boy again when TV was a wonder and only a few families on the block actually had one. The hour before dinner they showed the Howdy Doody Show and Clarabell the Clown always soaked somebody with a seltzer bottle. And after that was Stagecoach Theater and you hoped dinner wasn’t ready early or else you’d never find out if the bank robbers got away and what about the rancher who had all his cattle stolen and rebranded so he couldn’t prove they were his.  But then, you knew Hopalong Cassidy would figure it all out and the bad guys would be hauled off to jail.

I want be a boy again when things weren’t already built up, but being built.  It was when we’d get our wagon out of the garage and go up and down the blocks above us where the new houses were being built.  All the workers had gone home so we could go through the wood framed rooms and look for empty soda bottles. Each one was worth two cents.  If we were lucky, we’d find a quart bottle.  Those were good for a nickle.  We’d take the bottles to the Acme supermarket and rake in our haul, then spend it on candy before we left.

I want to be a boy again when I came down stairs on my birthday and there was always something colossal like a new bike or a trip to New York.  One year among the presents was a white shirt with all the airlines’ logos on it.  I wanted to be an airline pilot and this shirt was the first article of clothing I ever gave a hoot about and when I wore it I was an airline pilot.

I want to be a boy again and go to summer camp and ride a horse, sail a boat and learn to swim. On Friday night we’d watch a movie while sitting on a blanket in a grassy area and have a Hershey bar with almonds.  We watched an old movie projected on a stretched out bed sheet.  When the movie was over, we marched back to our cabin in single file holding a flashlight to light the path.

I want to be a boy again and look at the big pictures in Life Magazine when it arrived each week. I also watched the mail slot in the front door for whatever prize I got for sending in the box tops from breakfast cereals.  At Christmas time there were a half dozen toy catalogs that came in he mail and you’d spend hours going through them, circling the toys you wanted. Then every August, Popular Science Magazine would have the coolest of the new cars on its cover and the car was always loaded with the latest technology.  The mail came in the morning and during Christmas it came twice a day to keep up with the greeting cards everyone sent to each other.

I want to be a boy again when we always did something on the weekends as a family, whether it was a road trip to some farmer’s market or shopping at the new and only enclosed mall where every fall we got new clothes for school. Or we’d go to a museum and I was bored or to the zoo where I wasn’t.

And I want to be a boy again so I can be with my parents once more, in their prime when I thought they were the smartest people on earth. Just about everything they did was for the benefit of my brother and me, although we had no idea at the time. They made sure we got the basics and more and when we didn’t appreciate it and acted out they taught us about guilt and discipline.  We learned to balanced the two.  I remember rare occasions being spanked when I really did something major, like dropping the F-bomb when I was eleven. I had no idea what the word meant except the older boys playing basketball in the schoolyard said it a lot so I wanted to be cool like them…but not after I said it once to my Dad.  But mostly, I want to be a boy again so I can tell my parents how much I loved them, how much I miss them and just once more could we have dinner together.

I want to be a boy again so I have no responsibilities except to follow a few rules, share, and don’t hit anybody. It was when I didn’t have to worry about money or my children or my wife and a bunch of other grownup stuff.  It was when peace of mind was more present than it would ever be for the rest of my life and I had no idea at the time how cherished that would be.

I want to be a boy again so in a few years I can fall in love with my Rosemarie all over again. Young love is a stage of life like no other in that it consumes your whole being and your emotions will be at a level of sensitivity never to be experienced again.

I want to be a boy again when life was simple, life was easy, life was happy and thoughts of it all being over were somewhere else far, far off in the future.

******

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CAPITOL

When I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1969, my wife and I had been married a little under two years.  She was pregnant with our daughter.  My body, meanwhile, was bursting with a different kind of excitement.  I had a new, dream job at a radio station soon to initiate an all-news format in the nation’s capital.  I was 24 years old.

I had been to Washington only twice before for brief, one-day visits.  That’s all it took—I fell in love.  I actually felt it was some kind of destiny that brought me there and made it my new home.  I usually don’t believe in that way of thinking, but there was just that kind of feeling I had.

I was in awe as I wandered from one landmark to another–sites I’d seen on television were now right before me.  What I found incredible was how easy it was to tour the This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is doors-3.gifbuildings. It was as if there was so much respect for these institutions that security was not a concern.  Case in point: the front doors of the U.S. Capitol building.  You’ve all seen this side of the Capitol.  It has that long, steep flight of steps leading up to the entrance that opens into the great rotunda.  The doors feature bronze sculptures showcasing the life of Christopher Columbus.  Traffic is too busy through this passageway when the building is open, making it impossible to stop and view the doors. The doors, however, are totally visible in the evening after the building is closed. 

When I had visitors from out of town, we’d all go see the doors.  I would park my car along the curb at the bottom of the steps. We’d all get out of the car, I’d wave to the guard and tell him we were just going up to see the doors and he’d smile and wave us on.  Sometimes we walked around to the other side to see the outrageous evening view all the way to the Washington Monument.  When we were finished our tour, we’d go back down the steps, wave goodnight to the guard and drive off.  Can you imagine that?  We stood at the front door of the nation’s Capitol, free to roam around at will and no one bothered us.

In the next ten years that I lived in Washington, my exposure—and close it was at times—to all the glitz, all the glamour and all the very serious elements of how our country runs, left me with a deep appreciation for our democracy.  Likewise, my interest in the history of our country went to a whole new level.  Washington will do that to you.  And that is why I do not know how to feel this night after watching an ignorant and disrespectful mob invade the Capitol.  Yes, I feel insulted and hurt, even embarrassed for my country, but it is so much more than that…and none of it feels good.

*****

 

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So Long 2020

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