Saturday, April 23, 2011

Inspiration or Perspiration?

Most often when I type something here, it is the result of some flash of creative light that danced along the synapses and landed in my consciousness; not so today.  Today I'm here because it's been a while and my faithful readers (both of you) will begin nagging me if something doesn't appear soon.

So here I sit in our favorite room, glancing at our wooded vista through the seven large windows that cover the two exterior walls.  Carol is reading; two of our cats are wrestling on the floor; Elvis, my main cat, is stretched out on my lap with this computer resting on top of him.

The newest addition to our outdoors is the nearly completed carport, more appropriately labeled camperport,  attached to my barn/garage a hundred feet away.  It will shelter our Roadtrek when it isn't "trekking."  Less visible, but no less important is the addition of electricity to the barn, real wiring, not the hundred foot extension cord that served as my power source for the past twenty years.  As one of the builders remarked, "Now you'll have to work out here."  I'm looking forward to it.

Well this session isn't very inspired, but there it is.  My "desk" is getting restless so that's all for now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Monday, Monday (It was when I started this)

The beginning of another work week for the folks who are productive members of the American Tribe.  For those of us who ceased producing years ago, it is just another day.

Our two youngest grandchildren arrived with their mom yesterday afternoon.  It's always a treat to have the little people (Miranda - seven, Danny - four) in the house.  Our other grandkids are teenagers, great kids but ... .  These two are still excited about visiting their grandparents.  After they got settled Danny and I went outside with a jar of bubble soap.  We tried letting the gusty wind make bubbles for us but that didn't work.  I blew a couple just to make sure we had a good mix, then Danny took it on.  He had an inordinate amount of difficulty blowing a bubble, which confused me until I noticed that he held the bubble ring so that his breath was actually expelled below it most of the time.  Seeing this, I moved his hand lower to which he responded by lowering his head.  I raised his head and up came the bubble ring.  We couldn't seem to coordinate the two.  Finally, he smiled and shrugged,  "I guess it doesn't work," he said, handing the jar to me and walking into the house.

The Millrock Writers reading Saturday evening was well-received by a small but attentive audience.  The selections my compadres read were excellent, and we sold five books.

4/20 -
Mama Wanda and the magic little people left for home this morning.  The house is quiet.  My main cat, Elvis, has reappeared from his "Fortress of Solitude" somewhere in the basement, where he stays while the youngest grandkids are here.  The other two braver cats hang out in view of Miranda and Danny but just out of reach.

On top of today's grandkid news, Phoebe passed her driving test today.  Our second licensed driver in that generation is now on the road.  Watch out world.

Enough for today.

Friday, April 15, 2011


April is dragging spring along kicking and screaming, but it's coming.  Croci have been up for about a week and their little buddies - lavender colored tiny blossoms - are prolific near the tree stump outside our bedroom window.  A couple of daffodils  are blooming in the woods and the pileated woodpecker that hangs around our neighborhood showed up this afternoon to bug-check our wild cherries.

I am back with the human race.  The congestion in my chest has eased, my head is as clear as it ever gets and I feel pretty good in general - still a little tired but hell, I'm old; I got a right.

I spent some time this afternoon tidying up the short story, Sit Anywhere for a reading tomorrow night at the Empire State College Residency at the FDR Library.  We, the Millrock Writers, are the evening's entertainment.  It should be great fun and perhaps we'll even sell a few books.

Work has begun on the extension to my back garage.  It is a shed roof that will shelter the Roadtrek camper from the weather.  I would have liked to put it in the garage but the door opening is nine feet high and the machine is nine feet seven inches so it goes beside the building.  I was hoping to have a fully enclosed area behind it that I could use to store tiller, mower, and snowblower but the machine is just long enough to make that impractical.  Looks like a separate storage building will be next.  I love being a homeowner.

I'll let you know how the reading goes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

David and Goliath

Over the past twenty-four hours I have succumbed to a hacking chest cold.  The microscopic critters who invaded my space without permission have beaten me into submission without so much as raising a cilia (do viruses have those?)  I am chilled, coughing with reluctance because it hurts, and generally feeling like shit.

Their power to level a being millions upon millions of times larger than they, is humbling.  That said,  I am able to devote time to writing without feeling guilty about chores left undone - my silver lining in this germ-filled cloud that is my brain.

My primary cat, the ever-present Elvis, is demanding my full attention by: 1) nudging the laptop to try and move it out of his way, and 2) failing that, reaching a paw out to swat my cheek.  He's now falling back to regroup - one wonders what plan B will entail.

I mentioned fever to Carol, expecting sympathy.  A frown and the simple word "And?" reminding me in her own loving way that things like ADVIL or TYLENOL are in order.  She brought me two A's.  No sympathy.  Since she reads this, I must admit that the soup and toast she brought me for dinner was just right.

Elvis is back, time to sign off.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Being a Grownup

Maybe that's what makes travel so very relaxing - no real responsibilities.   Someone will feed us and make our bed while we enjoy roaming around and seeing the sights in whatever place we light.  It's kinda like being a kid during the summer: eat, sleep, play then do it all over again the next day.  When we're home, things always need doing.  And we are the doers.

I find myself being inordinately lazy for the first week or so after being away.  Is it just settling back into the routine of home-life?  Is it being overwhelmed by the mountain of chores?  Whatever "it" is, I don't feel comfortable in my skin until the period passes.   The paradox here is I feel the need to be home after about two weeks away.

Trying to sort that out led me to cats.  I feel like we're imposing on our neighbor's friendship by saddling him with the daily feeding of our herd.  The longer we're gone the stronger that feeling grows.  The imposition is large because they are indoor cats, hence there is a litter box to clean at regular intervals.  Kinda like asking someone to watch your house and, by the way, scrub out the toilets every other day.  It always amazes me how much waste three felines can produce in forty-eight hours.

I didn't start this intending to discuss cat crap, but that is one of the grownup chores that face me regularly.  Others are laundry - we produce a remarkable amount for two people, automobiles - two need inspections this week, one of them a tire rotation also; then come volunteer activities, and hobbies.  Home repair and maintenance are added to the mix, as is yard work.

And finally we have no one to feed us and make our bed.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Home is Where the Todo List is

Our first full day back home and everywhere I look is something that needs attention.  I need to tighten the legs on the dining room table, call our plumber to fix or replace the slow-running kitchen faucet, clear winter's debris from the yard, etc.  Each room I enter presents me with a neglected chore.  So many that I must make a list in order to keep track.

A list ... aye there's the rub.  Carol has tried patiently these many years to promote list-making, her favorite ploy - "It will feel so good to cross things out as they're completed."  I've tried, I really have.  I make a list of things that need doing - or I start out doing that at least - then somehow it morphs into things I'd really like to do: around the house, in the yard, to the cars, finally becoming so long that I can't find a convenient place to hang it.  Instead I shove it in a drawer.  I'll bet you can guess the rest.

Tomorrow I'll start a new list.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Painting my Yacht

Yesterday afternoon we walked along the shore of Matanzas Bay to the marina just south of the Bridge of Lions.  On the street side of the walkway a miniature golf course lies cleverly hidden among groomed hedges.  On the water side, many millions of dollars worth of yachts are tied up to the marina docks.  The largest is probably a hundred feet long, the smallest maybe twenty feet.  Almost all are white.  Is there some significance to that or is it just the least expensive marine paint one can buy?

I think if I had a hundred foot long yacht, I'd paint it burgundy.  I remember the custom automobiles popular in my youth - cars from the forties and fifties, nosed, decked, chopped, channeled, and painted with innumerable coats of burgundy laquer (those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, find a guy in his mid to late sixties and ask.)  The Rod and Custom Magazine photos were drool-inspiring.  Yeah, burgundy with white trim would be perfect for my yacht.

As evening approached, we wound our way through the cobbled streets to Pot Belly's Cinema Plus, a funky little four-plex just across Granada from the Lightner Museum.   It is a hard place to describe - think pack rat heaven.  On the left as one enters the "lobby" is a display case with a couple of hundred PEZ dispensers of various themes.  Straight ahead is another, very large display case containing "collectibles" - everything from dress swords to bedpans and whatever you might think of in between.
We saw The Fighter in Cinema Four, alone.  I asked the proprietor about the lack of patrons after the show and he assured me it was fine.  The film had been there for eight weeks with better than expected attendance.

Before I leave this funky little place I have to add a bit to its description; it is one of only two theaters I've attended in the US that serves food with the movie.  One can buy sandwiches, soft drinks, wine and beer
and enjoy the film while eating.  The other was also in Florida.  I think it's a terrific idea and am surprised it hasn't cropped up elsewhere.  Okay, maybe it has, but not in Tom's world.

We left our retreat relaxed and reluctant, but ready to be home.  Our flights were uneventful and I sit writing this in Barnes & Noble in Poughkeepsie while my spouse discusses the latest reading with her No Boys Allowed book club and I sit in a corner out of sight.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rainy days and Mondays

Yesterday, our thirtieth anniversary, was another beautiful day in the nation's oldest city.  In the morning we (yes me, too) attended a yoga class - Yin Yoga.  It was just hard enough for me to work up a sweat, though I don't think anyone else in the room did, and today some of my body parts are wondering why I didn't do it sooner, while others are questioning whether I should have done it at all.

After lunch at Cafe Cordova in the Casa Monica Hotel we shopped for an ankle-length dress for Carol because I told her she'd look great in one.  Shopping with Carol is always an education, and an exercise in  patience.  At first she decided the dress needed to be cotton.  Every dress except one was rayon, and that dress allowed the wearer to display substantial cleavage, a feature the love of my life lacks.  As we shopped along St George Street, Carol mumbled something about maybe rethinking the rayon issue.  She said it several times while rejecting rayon dresses.

We finally found a shop where the mostly rayon dresses were more to her liking than the other hundred mostly rayon dresses we'd looked at.  I think the primary reason was that we had to walk into a lovely courtyard in order to get to it; secondarily they were the most expensive dresses we'd seen [Note from Carol: The dresses were also of higher quality than others we'd seen].  I bought the one that we both liked and she wore it to our anniversary dinner at Collage.  In my absolutely objective opinion she was the best looking woman in the room.

Today, Tuesday, we are experiencing the dregs of the severe weather system that hit Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana yesterday.  Heavy rain this morning with thunderstorms, a tornado watch, but it moved quickly through without any damage in our area.  The western sky is clearing a little so we may be finished with it.

I wrote most of this at a Starbucks in St. Augustine Beach, near where our daughter Laura used to live, while my yoga junky wife attended yet another class.  Afterward we had lunch at Diane's, a combination health food store and organic cafe.  We had great sandwiches and drank carrot, apple, ginger, lemon juice - it tastes better than it sounds, and the ginger adds a nice bite.  Carol says it sounds good, too; her actual statement "It's four flavors that I love."  My response "I love many flavors that I wouldn't combine in one drink."  Like I said, it tastes better than it sounds.

This is our last full day in St Augustine this trip; tomorrow we leave from Jacksonville around noon and travel back to the frozen north.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

St Augustine Morning

Yesterday's trip began at three-thirty am when we hauled ourselves out of bed to make a six am flight out of Stewart Airport that would take us to Jacksonville, Florida.  From there we drove to St Augustine, and the St George's Inn to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary with a short holiday.

Saturday in this town is a zoo.  It seems like every church bus in Florida brings a group here, and every Harley Davidson club within 200 miles shows up; which makes for a fascinating mix.  Lots of bars open to the air with live music, young folks playing  guitars - recognizing that since I'm nearing seventy, the term "young" encompasses an ever broader age range.

We walked the city for an hour in the afternoon, napped, dined in the evening at a small cafe that specializes in gelato and paninis, then spent an hour listening to a jazz duo on the porch of the Casablanca Inn, with the lights of the newly renovated Bridge of Lions in the distance.  All in all a lovely day.

I rose this morning just before sunrise and stepped out on our balcony to view the morning and the deserted promenade, illustrated in the shot above.

Morning yoga, an afternoon walk on the beach, and a trip to the top of the St Augustine lighthouse filled a good part of the day.  It is now five-thirty on a sleepy Sunday evening.  I'm relaxing on our balcony listening to live music coming from the patio of Cruisers Grill, just across the promenade.  My love just brought me coffee.  Life is good.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Long Time Gone

I spent last weekend with my two sons, Kelly and Jason.  Spending time with Kelly is not news, I visit his home in southern Louisiana several times a year.  Spending time with Jason, however, is a whole other thing.  By my best guess it has been a dozen years since I have seen or spoken with him.  The kicker here is that he lives just across the river in Dutchess County. 

Our last contact was in my driveway when he came over for a reason I can't recall, maybe to show me a car he'd bought.  As he was leaving, he said that he was getting married in October.  I congratulated him.  He said it would be a small wedding.  I said good.  Turns out I wasn't invited. His mother and her husband were.  I sent a wedding present anyway and received a card - almost a sympathy card - from his new wife, apologizing.  I have had no contact with him since that day in the driveway - until this weekend. 

The occasion was Kelly's fortieth birthday celebration, a day learning to drive a race car at a Louisiana track.  Jason participated in the program, though he is an experienced race driver.   It was a great day for Kelly and I managed to get a lot of photos of them driving. 

The evenings were strange.  Jason and I talked very little to each other.  He offered helpful information when I mentioned my Miata leaked a tiny bit of transmission fluid.  We traded opinions about retirement benefits with Kelly, but not much else. 

He will be forty-five in October.  He has been divorced for several years.  I celebrated my sixty-ninth birthday in February.  I will be celebrating my thirtieth anniversary with Carol, my second wife,  April 4th. 

Somebody once said, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference."  That seems to be the case here.  It was both happy and heartbreaking to see him in person after so many years.  I may never see him again.