Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Sleeping Porch, Pandemic Style

 A bit more than six years ago I posted The Sleeping Porch,  describing a bit about one of the functions of  our front porch — click the link if you want to read it.  In light of the lifestyle dictated by COVID-19, we have temporarily repurposed it.  The futon is back in sofa mode, and we have rearranged the six chairs.  The result is a socially distance compliant conversation area capable of providing safe space for up to six people.  It still works well as a place for us to eat and hang out, and I've even set up a portable writing desk that can be removed and stored in seconds.


But sleeping would involve more reorganization than either of us are willing to undertake on a regular basis so, no sleeping on the porch.  We can toss the blame onto COVID-19, our current scapegoat for anything that's abnormal in our lives.

COVID-19 is way more than an inconvenient viral infection; it can be deadly and has been to 210,000 folks in the USA and counting.  So, we are vigilant with: masks, sanitizer, hand washing, social distance, and mostly staying home.  Some things that make me sad now are:

1) I'm a hugger, and I've been unable to hug anyone except Carol.

2) I've been unable to visit family safely.  I miss them.

3) Regular breakfasts and lunches with friends no longer happen.

4) Our family reunion was cancelled.

5) Hudson Valley Shakespeare season cancelled.

6) SOS Triathlon cancelled.

7) So many other events also cancelled.

8) Things that were simple: haircuts, massages, resort weekends, aren't.

Is there an upside?  Maybe the fact that our crazy president is getting publicly crazier by the day to the point that, having caught the virus, he's still trying to downplay the very real danger it presents.  That's not an upside, since it will cost some of his acolytes their lives.  So, there is no upside that I can identify.

Wait! Wait!  There is an upside!  At least for me.  This forced isolation has helped me tend to things around our house that I've been avoiding.  I've actually been finishing projects I started years ago!  Well, let's not get too excited Tom, you still have three novels in the works that have advanced somnambulantly in the past several months.  All this time available, and not much writing.  And there are still many, many things I've been avoiding that are awaiting my attention.  So it's a tossup.

Until next time.

Namaste.



Saturday, September 5, 2020

Ken Nolan 11/1/1943 - 9/4/2020

 How to eulogize my brother?  I've puzzled about it, sometimes in teary sadness, sometimes with a grin or chuckle remembering a funny incident.  I've been busying myself all day trying to let the words form and reform before I wrote them down.  It's time. 

There was an article in the Oneonta Star some years ago calling him a Renaissance Man.  He was.  Mason, teacher, writer, inventor, politician, judge ... he was all that.  And more.  Husband, father, grandfather, volunteer firefighter, hero, friend to most, enemy to very few and never by his choosing.

When we were growing up, he always claimed to be the dumb one among the five siblings, actually among the three oldest: me the firstborn, Ken, a year and eleven months younger, and Maureen, his twin and five minutes younger (something he never let her forget.)  The other sibs, Mary and Martha, were eight and twelve years younger than Maureen — kind of a second family.

Ken went from a fun-living fourteen-year-old to a person intimately aware of his mortality, in just a few minutes, when the 1957 Chevy in which he was a passenger almost made the left turn from Route 23 in West Oneonta noto Otsdawa Road.  It hit a massive tree head on, totaling the car and driving the shift lever into his left eye, destroying the optic nerve and fracturing his eye socket. 

9/5 His obituary tells the story of Ken better than I can.  It was sent to me this morning about 8:30.  Here is an excerpt from the Oneonta Daily Star:



  




GILBERTSVILLE - "The Renaissance Man" Kenneth "Ken" J. Nolan passed away on Sept. 4, 2020, at home with the love of his life, Barbara, and family members at his side.


Born Nov. 11, 1943, in Jamaica, New York, to Thomas and Violet (Mahnken) Nolan, the Nolans moved to Gilbertsville, avillage Ken loved so very dearly, in his youth.

Ken graduated from Gilbertsville Central School with the Class of 1961, before graduating from the State University ofNew York teachers college at Oneonta. Ken also earned college credits from Chicago Tech and the College ofTechnology in Utica.

A proud union member, Ken joined the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsman Local 57, Oneonta, in 1964. In 1975, he formedthe Ken Nolan Construction Co., a business specializing in restoration, operating until 2010. His proudest restorationprojects included local stone walls, fireplaces, bridges and schools. Ken was a Master Mason (26 years) with the LaurensLodge 0548.

In 1978 Ken began his (official) teaching career as a guilding trades teacher at the BOCES center in Masonville. Many ofOtsego County's finest craftsmen learned their skills from Ken. He was a member of SUNY Delhi's advisory board. In 1990,he was commissioned by the state Department of Education to help author the vocational education math program for thestate's curriculum. His teaching career lasted 28 years, when he retired from the Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES in 2006.The dedication plaque he received upon retiring read, "You made a difference."

On Sept. 23, 1997, Ken saved a moving bus full of students from crashing into the Susquehanna River when the driver suffered a heart attack. When interviewed about his heroic deed he remarked humbly, "I don't see why it's such a big deal." It was a big deal, but he wasn't a person who needed or accepted praise from anyone.

His keen attention to detail encouraged him to develop and invent two unique grout compressing and finishing tools. Both of his inventions were patented, and on a third he obtained a document of disclosure. Ken published five original books, including a collection of construction manuals still being used today. Ken also enjoyed sculpting in his free time. His most recent mixed media piece is on display at the Dunderberg Art Gallery in Gilbertsville.

In addition to being a loving husband, father, teacher, business owner, author and artist, Ken was also a committed public servant. An original member of the Gilbertsville Fire and Emergency Department, he joined the squad in 1962. He served as fire captain and was Fireman of the Year in 1987. Ken was a member of the Gilbertsville Rod and Gun Club for 20 years.

During his 12 years as town of Butternuts supervisor he pushed the state to test a potentially toxic waste dump in the town.Ken also served as the town justice for 12 years and the president of the Otsego County Magistrates Association. He was proudof his role o"iciating 56 wedding ceremonies. Most recently, Ken served as mayor of the village of Gilbertsville; securing critical infrastructure grants and local government aid.

Ken lived a truly selfless life. His selflessness continues after his passing; Ken donated his body to The Anatomy GiftRegistry to help others yet again. His actions spoke louder than words, and his words will always inspire action. He is leaving a legacy that generations of Nolans will be proud of and will honor. Family was everything to Ken-dad-grandpa, and he will always be everything to his family.

Good Bye Little Brother.💔


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Remembering and Wondering

A couple of days ago, on my way back to New Paltz from Oneonta, I saw two empty hay wagons in a hayed field.  It's not uncommon to leave them in a field close to the next field to be harvested.  What caught my attention and triggered memories and questions, was the fact that they had high metal sides.  They were more a cage than what I knew as a hay wagon when I worked the fields.  The design allowed a baler equipped with a sort of catapult to toss the finished bale into the wagon instead of dropping it on the ground to be picked up by a worker and tossed to another on the wagon who would arrange the load as it grew so that it was both stable and full.  The container wagons received the launched bales any way they came, leaving gaps and filling the wagon with far fewer bales than their hand-loaded ancestors.  The advantage was that the only person needed to load the wagon was the one driving the tractor that hauled the baler.  

That triggered memories of my high school summers in the hayfields, sweating, shirtless, and itching from hayseed and chaff.  Usually there were three of us, one on the flatbed wagon and two feeding him bales from either side.  The pay was a dollar or two an hour, not a bad wage for  the latter half of the fifties, and it included a sumptuous lunch, and iced pitchers of switzel when we emptied a load in the barn.  By evening, exhausted after marshaling six, seven, eight hundred bales or more from the field to the barn loft, we collected our pay, hurried to whatever stream bordered or divided the farm, stripped and dove in, leaving a mass of hayseed and chaff floating on the surface.  Nobody went out to party after a day like that.  We went home and ate supper then went to bed.


Those three workers have been replaced by machines. 

Wondering

Here I get to sound like all the other old codgers talking about "These kids today!"  

Maybe because I live in a college town, in a neighborhood populated by teachers and professors and their kids, maybe because there's some major difference in how kids manage their social lives, I just don't know.  It doesn't seem to me that many of them are looking for summer work.  Most of my friends through high school went looking for lawn and gardening or handyman work between haying sessions.  It gave us another source of income and wasn't nearly as hard.  I don't know of any teens in my hood who are out asking if they can mow a lawn, weed a garden, clean up the property, or anything like that.  As I said, maybe it is the college town vibe.

I kinda had to muse about that some.  enough for now.

Namaste. 


Friday, July 31, 2020

Elvis Has Left the Building

Eighteen or nineteen years ago we got two kittens from the SPCA.  The energetic little guys went about a week before we were able to come up with appropriate names.  The tuxedo kitten’s mask and wide eyes reminded me of the legendary masked swordsman so he became Zorro, although Bandit was a possibility because he stole any glove or sock he could find.  Our small Holestein patterned kitten had a birth defect that caused his butt to swivel when he walked — he became Elvis.

As they grew, Zorro proved himself to be pure cat: treating laps with disdane, rejecting catfood he once liked, leaping onto dressers and counters with no preparation, seeming to levitate in mid-stride.  I used to call Elvis my dog: he came when I called, his breath smelled bad, and he farted.  The last two traits abated when we found an appropriate food.  Though he and Zorro spent time together, former cage mates at the shelter, they had different interests — Zorro dropping stuffed toys into shoes he found lying around the house, or placing the toys in compromizing positions — Elvis occupying my lap while I wrote, or stalking his tail, or proudly ferrying one of his favorite stuffed toys from room to room announcing his arrival with vocal feline pride. 
Elvis definitely matured into a people cat, though young children sent him into hiding.  His favorite adult, my older daughter Laura.  My lap was his preferred location until she arrived on one of her visits from Rochester, at which time I became extraneous.  No one else ever came close to that relationship.   
Elvis hated car rides, probably because the only destination was the vet.  He would howl in the carrier snd pretty soon literally lose his shit!  Common routine on our arrival meant walk in and hand the smelly carrier to the vet tech waiting at the door, sit in the waiting room until it was our turn then meet Elvis, clean and damp, in the exam room with the vet.
Today was different.
Today he nestled in my arms as Carol drove to the Gardiner Animal Hospital, his final journey.  No howling.  No loose bowels.  He watched out the window, occasionally turning to look at me, a question in his eyes.  The hardest thing I had to do then was hand him through the car window to the waiting tech.  We broke eye contact finally as I released him and they left.  This damned pandemic kept me from being with him in those final moments, so I waited.  Tears came.  Finally the tech returned and, with condolences, handed me a sturdy cardboard box. I opened the coffin-like lid and touched my old friend.   Elvis is buried in our cat cemetary alongside the other six who have brightened our lives over the thirty-four years we’ve lived here.  As many as five at the same time.   RIP my friend.  July 30, 2020.





Wednesday, May 6, 2020

What's in a Name?

A few years ago we named our RV.  I wasn't permitted to call our new Roadtrek Adventurous an RV within earshot of my Flower Child Wife.  Reluctantly she agreed to the term Camper, though I felt silly using that term for a vehicle with a full kitchen, a bathroom, and a TV hookup. Even her sister said "You can call it a camper as long as you don't call what you do, camping!"

Things stayed that way until I came home one day with a life membership in Sam's Club, complete with a Life Member Tag attached to the back of the 'Camper'.  Knowing resistance was futile at that point, FCW retaliated by attaching an adhesive name tag next to the Life Member logo, filling in  SAM under 'MY NAME IS:'.  She then added several other attachments: 'I am Sam', 'Uncle Sam Wants You!', 'Green eggs and Ham'?!, and more.   It was kinda fun to see the protest materialize.

We then decided all our vehicles needed names.  (We are two people with four vehicles, including Sam.)  Carol's Plug-in Hybrid Prius became ELECTRA, my Subaru Forester became JOHN HENRY, and my 1992 Miata became JAZMINE, because FCW thought I should give it a sensually suggestive female name.

Some things have changed since we started naming: we sold Sam (the RV) and bought a camping trailer, soon named MOCKING JAY (it's a JAYCO), and the forester went to our daughter Laura,  replaced by a new Honda Ridgeline named THE HULK because it's big and green (a shade called Sea Mist Green, that looks more gray than green.)

What can I say?  Doing this kind of thing amuses us old folks.  No apologies.

Until next time, stay safe and be patient,

Namaste



Saturday, April 18, 2020

A Different April

Carol and I married on April 4th 1981, a sunny warm day, perfect for a small ceremony on our front lawn.  Every year since we've managed to spend at least a couple of days away from home, sometimes very close when our three teens were in New Paltz rather than with their other parents, but always away — until this year.  We made our reservation for a three-day weekend at the Emerson up on Route 28, one of our favorite places.  By the week before our away time they had closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.   Every other possibility also closed.  So we spent our anniversary at home.  Our only excursion was to a tiny

Scenic Hudson Park around Coxsackie, far enough north of Pandemic Central (NYC) to have been occupied by only one other person on our anniversary.

Our anniversary trips were, with the exception of years ending in zero, no more than a day's drive from our home and located where we could park our car and leave it for the duration of the trip.  For several years we were able to recall where we went by year, but that soon fell away, followed by whether we went a certain place on our anniversary or another time.  Some universal truths about our trips: nothing is generally open tourist-wise in early April, April showers are real in most of the northeast, and libraries are a great place to spend a rainy day.  Some of our more memorable trips have to do with an unusual location, event, or circumstance.  Here are a few:



The Provincetown Inn - which may have been our first anniversary trip.  I saw a NY Times ad offering rooms at the inn for $75.  I immediately called to try and book a room for Friday thru Sunday.  When I made the reservation and prepared to offer my credit card number I said, "That's $75 a night, right?" I was told the $75 was for the entire stay!  Turns out they had to stay open because their indoor pool was used by Provincetown residents, so booking rooms was basically helping pay for the utilities.

A Honeymoon hotel in the Poconos.  Our room had a round bed, mirrored ceiling, and a hot tub.  We spent at least one afternoon in a paddleboat on the lake bordering the golf course, rescuing golfballs from the turtles.

A BandB in Saint Michaels, Maryland on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake.  I bought Carol a pair of silver dolphin earrings from a craft shop and she bought me my first Tilley Hat.  We attended a high school talent show where the emcee announced that a sophomore girl would sing her signature song "Me & Bobby McGee."  No fifteen-year-old should ever try to imitate Joplin!  We did enjoy the show, but when we were back at our digs, Carol realized she'd lost one of the earrings.  Next day we left our address at the school office and bought a second pair, assuming the first was lost forever.  A month later we got it back with a letter thanking us for attending the talent show!


Several more are popping up in my head as I reminisce, but I think that's enough for now.

Until next time,
Namaste



Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Days of Whine and Ruses

I've had this title sitting in my blog files waiting to be expanded for a long while.  Actually I've started so many times, I've lost count.  I think it's partly because much of what fits is musing about the state of our government, our people, our world.  We are inundated with biased data from both ends of the political, moral, and ethical spectrum.  What can we believe?  Notice I used the word 'data' instead of 'information'.  One of the problems we face with the onslaught on our senses from media: whether social, print, or emails, is that we are experiencing what others have done with a piece of data rather than being exposed to the raw content from which we can make our own determination.

We are now in the throes of a pandemic, COVID-19, a coronavirus that appears to have first attached itself to humans in Wuhan, China and is now everywhere on our planet but Antarctica.  There is never a good time for something like this to rear its microscopic head, but this is an election year — a presidential election year!  And this election is about removing perhaps the most constitutionally destructive administration this young country has ever known.  The level of mendacity spewing from our current president is unfathomable!  The fact that he appears to have a loyal following is even more so.

That brings me back to the idea of data vs information.  Our local newspaper had a front page piece a week or so ago, wherein the author stated that COVID-19 was at least ten times more lethal than the ordinary flu.  That was the primary content of the first sentence!  There are several problems with that, not the least of which is it promotes panic.  One problem is that it's a bogus statement taken from an uncertain sample.  Problem two is, there is no ordinary flu.  If there was, we wouldn't need to devise a new inoculation every year.  Problem three is that it sensationalizes the situation (the author calms things a bit later in the piece, but how many people actually go past that opening sentence before panicking?)  That is an example of the problem.  We let someone else interpret the data for us. Is it because we're too lazy to do the research?  (insert a shrug here.). I wish I knew the answer.

I leave you with this:
The Peter Principle and COVID-19.  Paraphrasing the Principle — people rise in their careers until they reach their level of incompetence.  An encyclopedia containing that definition would be accompanied by DJT as an example.

Namaste.



Monday, February 24, 2020

Another Trip Around the Sun

On February 16th I completed my 78th year on the planet. At this point I have officially lived to a greater age than any of my known male ancestors.  It feels significant to me, probably because I had my doubts that I would reach this age.  Within my extended family - uncles, cousins, and such - it has no significance because several have lived longer, some are still alive.  Anyway, it's a 'personal best' so Happy Birthday to ME!

We have begun a tradition; for five of the last seven years we've vacationed in Cedar Key, Florida for a couple weeks leading up to or including, my birthday.  I'm not sure how many iterations of an event are needed to qualify as a tradition but I'm declaring our Cedar Key vacations traditional.

Let's chat a bit about vacation, the word, not the actual event.  It appears that we Americans have some confusion with term.  For example what does the phrase "working vacation" mean? It is surely an oxymoron.  Vacation is what one engages in to escape work for a time.  Another word that tumbles into our American version of vacation is activity.  'Vacation' and 'activity' are mutually exclusive terms in my lexicon.



To me a vacation is a time of rest and relaxation, of sleeping in, of meandering when the mood strikes, of watching an osprey high in a pine, breakfasting on a mullet, of typing words on a screen, of just being in the moment.  An activitie requires planning, demands that one spend time or money or both, is in some way scheduled: either because it is organized around the presence of a particular person or thing, or because it involves connecting with one or more other people.

In simplest terms, vacation is a being thing, while activity is a doing thing.

Until next time, Namaste.




Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Pursuing Perfection

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!  Though the last of those three heartfelt wishes to all you patient readers is on time, the other two are examples of my pursuit - procrastination.  Throughout my adult life I have been a fairly effective procrastinator, though not perfect by any measure.  This decade I mean to change that.

I'm reminded of Jimmy Carter's recollection of his first meeting with Admiral Rickover.  When Rickover asked the new Ensign whether he always did his best at the Naval Academy, Carter answered "No." Prompting Rickover's second question, "Why not?"  Since I'm pretty good at procrastinating without putting any effort into the act, it's reasonable to assume that, with a little work, I could be much better.

First of all, this is my Christmas letter (or Solstice, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa ...) so I'm already on my way as an olympic class procrastinator!  See, I'm starting the new year right.  Second, I started this letter at about six this morning.  It is now past two-thirty.  How'm I doin'?  Third, I interrupted this to begin neatening up my office - a process that promises to occupy most of 2020 - does that somehow (the interruption) count as procrastination?

Since this is the first holiday (see list above) letter I've ever written, bear with me if I deviate from acceptable norms ... Let's see ... news of the year ... Oh yeah, I visited the ER in January and again in May, January for tripping over my bike on the way down the bike shop stairs - concussion and large gash in my leg from the pedal, May after fainting while making morning coffee - concussion and finally recognition that one of my heart meds was trying to kill me.  It's now listed as an allergen in my comprehensive health record.  Carol had cataract surgery on both eyes November and December, you know of course those are not the names of her eyes (I had to say that) but rather the months in which the surgeries took place.  She loves the results.  I think that covers the medical history part of the year.  On to family.

Our three kids Laura, Wanda, and Kelly are doing very well as are their spouses.  Now the grandkids: Phoebe is wrapping up a bachelor's degree and will soon be an RN;  Phil graduated from Syracuse with a Chemical Engineering degree and is now in Madison Wisconsin working for Epic;  Nick got his MBA from UL Lafayette and is working in Baton Rouge and living in Lafayette with our two great-grandkids, Suri and Jaxon.; Miranda is fifteen, a sophomore, and still heavily into her gymnastics (she spent the week before Christmas in the Bahamas at a gymnastics meet);  Danny is twelve and very interested in singing and acting.  He auditioned for the Chamber Singers in his middle school and was accepted.

Carol and I spent the first half of February in Cedar Key, as we have the last several years.  Oh! Oh!  I forgot! The morning we left on that trip south, Carol slipped on the ice and fractured her wrist. (That should have been in the medical section, sorry.)  It got tended to when we arrived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina because she didn't believe it was that bad, until the pain told her it was.  Anyway, when that happened, we had the car all loaded and the bikes mounted on the rack so, at her insistence we headed south to Joan's.  About the bikes, Carol was unable to ride so her bike lazed against the porch rail of our cottage until I loaded up for the trip home.  Other than that mishap we had a very good two weeks.

Wow! I wrote a lot of stuff.  I guess that's how these letters are supposed to go.

Until next time ...

Namaste.