New entry in my Kilt blog 9/21/2011

Showing newest 10 of 13 posts from November 2010. Show older posts
Showing newest 10 of 13 posts from November 2010. Show older posts

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Old Fools Journal: What I Believe In

I save.

I repair.

I re-purpose.

I recycle.

I compost.

When I get shit on I scrape it off and give it to my worms. They seem to like it.

Mostly I put what I eat back into the earth one way or another. Mostly we all do that only most make it as hard for the earth to use it as possible. I have no suggestions.

I was asked recently why I refuse plastic grocery bags. On explaining I was then told that the reusable bags were worse than throwing out the plastic ones because of the bacteria they might carry. I ask this persons if she threw out her shoes everyday, or if she used the same chairs everyday and how about your automobile seats? Have you (ever) disinfected them lately? That finished the discussion. I think we can depend on that young lady to continue to throw at least a dozen plastic bags a week into the land fill. It's also unlikely she will ever ask me another question.
Attentions Kmart shoppers this is what you can do with three Kmart bags in five minutes. I made this three foot braided rope in five minutes. No attempt was made to make it pretty or uniform. With some practice and a little ingenuity it could be much better. This will make a tie up to support my tomato plants. Much better than string which cuts the plant. It can be made tighter and braided together for longer rope. It can be coiled and sewn into a braided rug. Mostly they are just thrown into the trash where they blow out and end up in someone's yard and ultimately in the ocean. When I was in Baja I saw thousands of acre's of desert littered with these bags.

This piece of rope will end up int the earth/ocean sooner or later and pieces of it will be around a hundred years after I have decomposed. At least I'm getting extra use from it.

I have been told that what I do makes no difference and on the whole that is probably right but it makes a difference to me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Old Fools Journal: Bike Hack and odds and ends or I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving too

This rack is made from an old skateboard discarded by my grandson. You don't think I ride those things I hope.
He has not yet reach the pain threshold that I have. I like having the old boards as they are strong and light.

The brackets came off an old Home Depot saw table. The kind you put a hand circular saw in. I use it in Mexico when I was building the palapa to make sized lumber. The only thing I could get down there was some really hard Mexican rough cut 2 X 5's and some rough pine from Oregon. When I say hard 2 X 5 I mean hard. We had to drill each nail hole as you could not drive a nail into this stuff. The Oregon pine came as 1" X 12'' sixteen feet long or 2" X 12" sixteen feet long. My madera dealer planed them for me and I used the saw table to cut them to sized lumber. Everyday that I worked one half day was making lumber the other half was building the palapa.

I bought the table in the '80's for $14.95 and took it apart for salvage last year. I think I got my money's worth. The braces you see here will live on as a rear rack on my three speed along with the used up skateboard. Other parts of the saw table have been used in other projects and some are still hanging around.

The rack is lighter than the cheap steel racks I've bought and I think it's stronger. I have tested it so far to 200 pounds.

The tractor trailer rig in use delivering the old pedicab frame to a neighbor. He says he is going to try to do something with it. I hope so. Discard nothing or in the vernacular of the peasants "don't never throw nothing away".
It has been wet here and with the land raping project going on next door covering us with tons of dirt and the rain I am sprouting plants everywhere. The wood laying on the tire drying is for the next cold spell.
Cute little thing but it has to go otherwise it will pry my bus apart.
Did I mention it has been wet? I tried to get a picture of the frog and the bug it was stalking. He struck when I clicked the shutter and was so quick it did not even blur. He has already forgotten that he just ate.
This is one of the reasons that children and young ladies think old men are such nasty creatures. I am in very good health and pretty strong but if I so much as touch anything with my forearms or the backs of my hands this kind of bruising occurs. It's instant and it's painful. In this case I just brushed a door knob lightly as I walked by. Another downside to old age is if there is anything pointy or sharp around I bleed. You can imagine what I must look like after a few days in the bike shed.
My independent eyeball (lower left corner) watches me and I watch it. When I stare into it's iris I can see this universe and sometimes other universes as well but when this came on the screen it's attention was instantly drawn away. I think it might be fickle but I don't know. It may have thought it saw it's god. As soon as I took the image away everything seemed to go back to normal. I hope so as "Senor Ojo Grande" and Naomi the Nutria are my companions. Neither says much.
Thanksgiving day SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) boiled a turkey in oil. It was already dead so it seemed the thing to do. I sipped Cabernet Sauvignon she brought for me and watched. If I do anything other than set up, tear down and otherwise what I'm told she gets really cranky.

This turkey is looking at the delicious turkey in the oil. I am such a cannibal. That foot looks pretty good too. I probably won't get to eat it but I have tasted it in the past and it is delicious.

The next cold snap is here and there is a fire in the stove. I am about to have some of that left over fried turkey and corn on the cob for lunch. I had the dressing, rolls and sausage gravy for breakfast. It's a real chore but someone has to do it.

There are rumors of a pecan pie later today.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Old Fools Journal: Jimmie

Jimmie knew early on that he was different somehow but being very young he just didn't think about it much. His first clue was when he noticed that flies and mosquitoes did not seem to hang around him and when they did they just kind of went away. He did not question it.

When he was around eleven years old and starting to really notice girls was when he first noticed his difference or as some would say his talent. The little blond haired delight that he saw on weekends at the library was trying to read but a pesky fruit fly kept buzzing around her eyes. Jimmie hated that fruit fly. He became obsessed with it. He stared at it and wished it away. What happened next was just the tiniest puff of smoke smaller that the head of a pin and the fruit fly was gone.

Startled Jimmie went back to pretending to read his book. Jimmie now had something far bigger to think about than puberty. He eventually decided that what he saw hadn't happened that it was just a trick his eyes had played but then he saw that the girl that had taken his heart and that he didn't even know had another pesky fly. She was gently waving her hand back and forth keeping it away while continuing to read. Jimmie was concentrating again. It took a just second but there it went again. The smoke was so small that if you were not looking right at it the instant it appeared you would never see it. Jimmie was on to something.

Jimmie was a reader so he knew that if this was true it was best to keep his mouth shut. It was one of those thing, like masturbation or his not believing what they said at church, that this was best not talked about. So he let it lie. That very day however he summoned the courage to speak to that girl. He told her that if he could sit at her table the flies would stay away as they didn't seem to like him much. She said "my name is Janie and I don't believe it but OK". The flies went or stayed away Jimmie made sure of that and she was impressed. So began a special friendship but that is another story.

Jimmie was so taken with Janie that he put the fly incident away in a corner of his mind where it went unthought of for quite a long time. Flies, mosquitoes and wasps too stayed away unnoticed by Jimmie or anyone else for that matter. Those insects just seem to know and those that didn't just disappeared. They disappeared without Jimmie even knowing that he disappeared them.

One day about a year later things escalated. While walking home Jimmie was cutting across a vacant lot that had an old run down shed. The boys had used it off an on over the years as a hide out, clubhouse and hiding place. The place was full now of very aggressive wasp. As Jimmie was walking by the door burst open and one of the smaller neighbor kids came running out screaming with a whole swarm of angry wasp right behind him. The kid ran right in front of Jimmie. The wasp divided and went around him. Not a single one one went near him. He started running after the boy thinking that if he could grab him the wasp would leave him alone and he was probably right but we'll never know. His thought now were only on the wasp cloud that he wanted to go away and they did. This time it was a large cloud of smoke. Very noticeable. The kid the wasp were chasing just kept running and never saw it. His friend Kennie who was coming along behind him did.

Kennie did not read well, did not do well in school but was a really nice guy. He was late getting out of school that day because he was such a nice guy his teacher had given him some extra work to help him make a passing grade. He thought nothing of the smoke which quickly dissipated or the wasp. He just wanted to know why Jimmie was chasing that little kid. Jimmie told the story. Just as Jimmie had thought Kennie didn't believe a word of it even though he had seen the wasp incinerated. Kennie like Janie didn't understand why he like to be around Jimmie. He just knew it was a comfortable place.

Jimmie began to practice and soon there wasn't anything to practice on. He had killed off most of the pest to the point that their breeding cycle was broken. They weren't eliminated but there was a lot less of them.

Other pest presented themselves. One of note and the scariest one of all was the pesky little ankle bitter rat dog that nipped at every kid that walked down the street. He hadn't brought blood but his bite hurt. One day while nipping at Jimmies heels he went up in smoke. This time it was different there was a smell of burning hair. Kennie saw it. Jimmie said it must have been caused by the thing that "everybody" knew lived in the culvert. Kennie didn't believe that but these days he had Janie on his mind so thinking about this was just too much trouble.

They grew up Kennie and Janie decide they were meant for each other and got married. Jimmie finish school but that didn't matter as he invented some kind of gadget that took off so he had plenty. Life was too easy. While dozing by the pool one lazy summer afternoon half a sleep Jimmie wish away a nat. Only it wasn't a nat. What Jimmie thought was a nat right in front of his eyes was in fact an airplane five miles away. It went away. It was the beginning of the end of Jimmie.

The headlines read "Mysterious Explosion Destroys Airliner". The details listed Kennie and Janie on the passenger list. It wasn't long before Jimmie wished himself away.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Old Fools Journal: Deaths Solemn Presence is a Heavy Load

This is not a picture of this particular event but is of another time in the same position performing the same duties. It is taken outside the same hatch where I witnessed the event described below. If you look closely you can see a jet approaching very close to the rear of the carrier. The pilot is only minutes from a shower or a split second from death.

In the two cruises I made to the far east there were two unfortunate events that affected every man on every ship in our group from the admiral on down to the lowest seaman deuce. This is an account of one of those events.

I have avoided thinking about this over the years and only doing so when I would happen on to these photos. Looking at them takes me back fifty years in an instant and I once again get that awful feeling in my stomach and that lingering empty feeling of despair that we all felt aboard the ships. Signing up with the Veterans Administration years ago didn't help because in the interview there were questions about what I'd seen and done and these events came to light and I was asked to talk about them. I brushed it off but the interviewer thought I should talk to the shrink. That was back when it was suddenly discovered what everyone but the government knew and that is when "people go off to war they are forever changed" and some of them don't handle it so well. I didn't see the shrink.

We all had heard the rumors of the electricians mate that used his whole body to check for voltage and suddenly became well done or the fireman (engine room crew) that fell down a ladder (stairs) and broke his neck. That didn't bother us anymore than hearing of a car wreck. They were tragic but this was different. This was up close and to every man aboard personal. Fate had no right to tread on us or one of ours.

I witnessed this particular event from start to the less than satisfactory finish. I had stepped out onto the starboard deck to go forward as was customary when the weather was calm. It's much faster and the fresh air is good. We were chasing an aircraft carrier during aircraft recovery and we were in their port quarter. The carrier was in full clear view. I watched as the pilot made his approach saw him touch down on the deck and almost instantly plunge over the side about a quarter of the way back on the port bow. It made one large splash and that was it. It was if the airplane had never existed.
The smoke flares went into the water immediately and the helicopters that were ever present during aircraft recovery were right on top of it. Unfortunately there was nothing to be on top of. From all appearances that aircraft had never existed. As you can see from the photo the sea was calm with a light wind.

There was such a emotional mixture of feeling and thoughts ,that now I recognize as near panic, caused by an unexpected instantly recognizable tragedy that I could do nothing about. The shock was like getting hit with a bucket of ice water. I ducked back below to fetch my camera and set off for the radio shack. I new that the shit was hitting the fan already and that maybe I could be of some help.Look in the upper right corner and you will see two groups of four fighters.
Click on the photos to make bigger.

As we maneuvered around the area night was coming and we were finding airplane parts. The nose cone was the largest piece we recovered. The pilots helmet, the aircraft log books and various odds and ends were all we had after searching day and night for 48 hours. In fact night was like day with parachute flares making the night into day. No man stepped out on deck without searching the sea. I don't think anyone slept.
Then it was over and despair set in. Everyone knew, of course, from the beginning that we would not find the pilot but there was always the ever present hope.

There was a lot of silent contemplation, there was a good deal of hushed conversation and then finally acceptance.

I can tell you that every man felt guilty, that everyman gave everything he could muster and not one of these common sailors went away from this event untouched.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Old Fools Journal: Borders

This is not the high rent district. This is downtown Loreto, Baja California Sur. Our yard was behind the board fence on the left (see photo below). Another 1000 feet (305M) and you are swimming in the Sea of Cortez.

It often shocks acquaintances that I am not a nationalist. I know that I come from the soil of North America and there is not a damn thing anyone can do about it. I didn't choose it, it chose me and grew me just like it grew the oak trees and weeds in my yard. I have traveled and rooted in other places and like a bamboo plant I come up everywhere and am just as difficult to get rid of. I am here now because it suits me but as a denizen of the planet Earth, as English speaking people call this temporary ball I, like the Gypsy's, resent other humans telling me where I can and cannot go.

Borders cannot be seen from space or even from airplanes. When I was flying a lot which was most of my life I never ceased to be amazed at first time fliers not recognizing the earth they live on. It was a shock to some that there were no dotted lines or different colors to tell one place from another. Animals, insects and birds do not recognize borders. Many humans do not either and I am one of them. Borders create conflict.

Borders do exist and guns are used to make sure that "they" don't get over here, get our stuff and rape us all. Death is the ultimate penalty for treading on another governments soil.

The southern border between Mexico and the USA is an example of an artificial border. Within 100 miles of either side there is not much difference. It appears to be mostly Mexican with family members living on both sides of the imaginary line defended by the Americans. Mexicans don't defend their side so much. People who want to go to the trouble travel back and forth daily without bothering with the formalities of using government approve gates. I suspect that the Canadian border is much the same.

Traveling south the cultural change is hardly noticeable. Food, clothing and automobiles all are about the same. There are fewer signs that start with the word No, you see more people on foot, the highways are a little different, not as many fast food restaurants and occasionally a different language is used. Flowers are the same color on both sides. The easiest way to tell you are in Mexico is the Americans and Canadians do a lot of stupid rude things they would never think of doing at home. Other nationalities do the same but since their are fewer of them it's not so noticeable.

Note* If a group of males are doing scary dumb things with a beer in their hands they are most probably American Firemen. If a large group of people are walking toward you in the middle of the street talking loudly they are Americans or Canadian if they are speaking English otherwise probably German. You can tell them apart. The Canadians will have on shorts in the winter and be very white. They are almost always having a good time and laugh a lot.

The most notable thing I noticed of the Mexican people is that they considered you to have the right to be, even the officials although they may require a small fee.

An example of that happened to us back in the late 1980's. SWMBO (she who must be obeyed), her teenage daughter Zena, Priscella (la Perra Fantastico) and I were traveling south out of Tecate on Carretera Federal 3 in a very much overloaded 1966 Ford F110 pickup truck. We were packed to the gunnels with loot for our place in Loreto, BCS. We were making good time and planning to take a room south of Ensenada probably in San Quintin. Just when we were getting used to the idea that we had escaped the USA one more time without getting killed or caught the left rear axle snapped clean just outside of the bearing. This was not good. We had passed the village of Espuela (I believe that's the name) and were about 30 mile south of Tecate in the mountains and on a blind curve. Ducky.
Our destination.

The F110 was the four-wheel drive version of the F100 which Ford orphaned. It was made without the benefit of automotive or any other kind of engineers and I think in a blacksmith shop. It had mechanical steering (no power) but it did have a booster on the drum brakes. That meant they didn't give out until you were halfway down the mountain. I discovered this coming out of Big Bear City, Calif on highway 18 headed north. It had a real four speed transmission with a real granny gear and my version had a retrofit 390 cubic inch engine. If I could get traction it would go straight up a cliff pulling a house. That axle was the weak link but it was a truck that was built for The Baja. If you had a hammer you could fix it but you needed a refinery to drive it.

That little photo of the bus and truck is all of I have of left of the truck. I had lots but I don't know what happened to them.
(edit, I found them 3-27-2011 see below)

I put it into four wheel drive and used the front wheels to pull me off the road and then went back for the wheel. It was obvious that we were not going anywhere until we got an axle. We set up camp on a mountain grade on a blind curve. That would not have been allowed in the good old USA. We were greeted by every passerby one of which gave us an old red dress she was carrying to the village with other stuff for charity to set up around the bend as a warning. She set one of them herself. (For those that think "dumb Mexican" when they think of Mexicans bear in mind that they understand that a red cloth on a stick beside the road means trouble ahead. The average American would pay no attention.) Then she set off to the village to get us a tow truck. Many offered help, offered water, offered food and told us that the Angeles Verdes (Green Angels) would be along later in the week. The Angeles Verdes are the Mexican governments highway assistance patrol and I'm here to tell you they are great.We had a miserable night and SWMBO was up most of the night watching for the tow truck. Several came by but when she flagged one down it was not for us. A tanker truck had gone off the cliff south of us beheading the driver and they didn't think our piddly ass problem trumped that. I found out later that there is a truck accident on that stretch of road between Tecate and Ensenada about once a week usually with a fatality.
We had a long day and with a bare minimum of stuff to camp we wrapped up in blankets. The ladies put their feet in plastic bags to stay warm. The dog didn' t care one way or another.

When morning came while I was out foraging for firewood SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) looked around the truck found what she needed and when I got back with the firewood to build a fire for coffee and breakfast she handed me a cup of hot coffee. Breakfast would be ready in a few minutes. Turns out I was just there for comic relief because she already had it under control. I think she kept me there to act as a buffer between her, her daughter and the Latin lovers that wanted to sweep them off their feet. I swear those two females could get those guys to chase their tails and howl. Priscella thought everything was wonderful with plenty of lizards to chase.
The Angeles Verdes showed up that afternoon. We had ample warning as everybody stopped to
give a progress report. We had eyes and ears ten miles ahead and ten miles back. There was no
radio just word of mouth. They surveyed the damage said "no problemo" and one staying to
guard the ladies the other piled me into their truck and off we went to the rodeo. Really. It was
the 16th of September their independence day and there was a rodeo back in the last village.
Since everyone there is a cowboy it stands to reason that the Ford parts dealer would be riding.
So this guy rides up on his horse in full regalia including the required fancy spurs and chaps and they talked. After a minute or so the cowboy gets down off his horse gets in his old pickup (spurs still on) and proceeds to lead us up the mountain on a dirt trail. We stopped at an old shack with a monster pile of rusty car parts in the front yard. They dug around for a while then pulled out an axle and said that was it. Ten dollars later we are on our way to the local welder car repair person. He was riding also but had already heard of our problem and had gone to his shop to wait for us. We needed him to fit the bearing to the axle. It didn't fit tight and that is all that holds the bearing on those axles and the bearing is all that holds the axle in the differential. The welder said this is temporary when you get home get the right one because this will eventually break. I ask "is it safe" he said with a smile "Si, maybe two week or two month or two year and pow over the precipio you". He had excellent English. In this case Si meant No.

Back up the mountain we go, installed the axle and it did not fit. Well it sort of did. Turns out that Ford in their lack of engineering had made this axle a little shorter from the bearing out to the wheel than the same truck in two wheel drive. That means it will turn the wheel and the wheel fits but the brakes don't line up. Why they did that I'll never understand and there is no one to ask as I have never found any Ford person that has ever even heard of this truck. Ford has no record of it. I know about it because I owned it for thirty years.

In this case "close enough" was close enough.

The senior senòr green angel said "no problemo" and procedes to cut the brake line bend it over and crimp it. "So" he said "fix - cuidadoso tres frenos solamente - go slow". His English was better than my Spanish and we understood each other enough to laugh at each others wise cracks. Understand we had a lot of very steep mountain driving to do in an overloaded truck that had inferior brakes to start with. Off we went with three brakes and a bucket full of brake parts.

On the other side of the mountain on the downhill grade we found the truck wreck. It is so steep there that the wrecked truck was nearly vertical. They had gotten the drivers body out but didn't even leave a guard. Nobody was going to steal anything from that wreck. It was a long slide to the bottom. The vultures wouldn't even land there. We had driven this road several times but had never really noticed the large number of wrecked vehicles at the bottom of that cliff until this time.

We made it home later that week but it took a month of drinking Tecate and Oso Negro gin to get that elephant off my chest. The final fix was done in Loreto, B.C.S by my local mechanic. I only had to pay for a four day vacation for him to go to a whore house in Constitution (the equivalent of Stockton, California) for an axle. It was all very mysterious and secretive but I knew what he was doing and I'll bet his wife did too. He was successful and came back with the correct axle. He knew about that Ford truck even if Ford did not and when he got over his hangover he fixed it good as new.

The axle and the rodeo $10.00. The welding and advice $5.00. The service the Angleos Verdes gave was beyond price and in fact you are not supposed to pay them. When I tried they refused but I impressed upon them that we had become friends and I wished to make a gift. They accepted but they only took half what I offered which was about the cost of lunch.

During that whole episode we were assumed to have the right to be there and to need help. We were not those damned foreigners we were just people. I haven't had that experience in the good old USA the land of my birth, the home of the brave and land of the free. My experiences there started in 1957 by being taken into custody for driving through Deming, New Mexico in the middle of the night. No charges could be trumped up so I was let go.

When traveling North the hardest thing for me was getting hit in the face by displays of military and police with guns everywhere. When crossing the border into California, Arizona and Texas the culture shock is terrible. Immigration and customs were rude. The traffic was aggressive, stupid and rude. San Diego was the worst culture shock I ever experienced when returning to the U S of A. It wasn't the people or the town it was the traffic and the fast pace of life there. In fact during the seven years we lived in Baja we never got over it and always felt safer traveling south where the worst drivers were just macho and stupid. You are a suspect anywhere within 100 miles of the border traveling north. Since I don't have any good stories to tell traveling north I think I won't tell any.

Well there is one. Once I ask my bride, her daughter and Priscella the most magnificent dog, when we were traveling north "should we press on or stop for the night". They told me they would like to press on but only if I would buy some chewing tobacco and chew it. I had run out a couple of months before and decided to quit. They even offered to get it for me and they had to see me put it in my mouth. I think that if I had not they would have strangled me in my sleep that night. I don't know what their problem was. They said I was unbearable but I thought I was my lovable self. It was another ten years before I quit again and that was only when I had a yard I could be chained in and have buckets of ice water thrown on me occasionally. I quit cigarettes in 1969 and that took 20 years to get over plus I started chewing. I have been a recovering tobacco chewer for over ten years now and it still ain't easy. Nasty habit. I am thankful that I never even think of cigarettes now.

Now I resent being a prisoner in my own country. The United States has surrendered to the terrorist. You can leave but you can't come back unless you have a passport. Only those with money can have a passport. When I was in High School I use to pop over the border for lunch but those days are long gone. I can't carry my pocket knife and I won't take off my shoes on command so I can't ride on an airplane and now the Airlines use government mandated gropers to feel you up. As much as I like being felt up I choose it not to be a TSA groper. No self respecting person would apply for a job like that and and I am amazed at the number of people that pay a lot of money to be groped by those goons. Not taking my picture through my clothes either. I will completely disrobe and bend over spreading my cheeks but only if the ticket to ride is free and if done in the middle of the boarding area. I want witnesses.

Otherwise any traveling I do will be non-government approved at least as much as possible.

Read about a fellow blogger's exciting experience here. His blog Paleotool's weblog is an excellent read.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Old Fools Journal: Working Bicycle or How to hack a Mountain Bike to Tractor Trailer rig and other odds and ends

My plan for today based on the weather report was to ride my bike. Imagine my surprise when it started raining this morning. Imagine the frog biters (weather prognosticators) surprise. They were busy throwing the chicken bones and discussing whether they should sacrifice a goat for a new retroactive forecast this morning. Since they didn't have a clue I decided to have breakfast and formulate a new plan using a dart board and a things to do list. Very scientific.

Breakfast was peanut butter oatmeal. I couldn't decide this morning. Indecision is not uncommon for me in all matters these days. I really like old fashion oats and eat them in every way imaginable including made into patties with fried spam and garlic and fried. I haven't tried spam and mustard yet but it's on the list. I also really like peanut butter and buy a locally fresh ground unsalted unsweetened brand. This morning I wanted peanut butter and jelly but I wanted oats too. I can't have both thought I until the old fashion Edison light bulb came on over my head. So this morning it was 2/3 cup water, 1/3 cup oats, I tablespoon peanut butter and 1 tablespoon low calory strawberry jam. It was delicious. Who says an old dog can't learn new tricks? Now how am I going to fix my shrimp for lunch? How about sauteed with onions and made into tacos?
One of my neighbors has this bike rigged to pull a trailer. He picks up cans with it and several others that he has rigged in various ways. All are salvaged.
His problem now is that he does not have a trailer.
I love that re-purposed sissy bar.
This light weight trailer, about 20 pounds (9 K), followed me home a couple of weeks ago and now it has followed him home. It was instant truck and semi-trailer.

He's 55 years old, not getting rich, does not complain much and ask for no charity. His portfolio is not affected so much by the recession as there is nothing in it. In fact like me he doesn't have one. He is, like me, affected by the artificial inflation of prices on everything. While people are getting on TV to complain about losing over priced houses they couldn't afford in the first place he continues living as he has always lived. Enjoying his grand kids and enduring the recent loss of his wife to cancer secure in the knowledge that he can get by using his own resources.

I'm sure that some of the SUVs and pickup trucks that smoke by him much to close on the road think "look at that stupid old bum on my road" that is if they see him at all. Well he is neither stupid, old nor a bum.

The banks haven't figure out how to get the clothes off his back or maybe a few patches of his skin but I'm sure they are working on it.

The dart hit "Big Hardware Store" so I guess the fates want me to get the parts to fix stuff. The first thing on the list is some kind of water resistant seal for the roof exit of the stove pipe. It turns out that my bright idea of using muffler repair sealant is a bust. The stuff I got from NAPA is water soluble. Melts away faster than clay. Who would have thought? It certainly wouldn't last long on a muffler around here because when it rains the mufflers wade in the water.

New bumper sticker: Fight poverty, Eat the poor.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Old Fools Journal: Books of Reference

I am a sucker for dictionaries, encyclopedias and all books of reference. They are not all equal. I have at last count three two volume sets, two of the large library volumes and assorted others including Hawai'ian, colloquial Spanish and a reverse dictionary. With the reverse dictionary you look up the meaning to find the word. It's very handy.
This is the latest. It's a 1957 library type dictionary with replaceable pages. It is a little tattered and the glue had let go on some of the cover but I love to play in library paste so that was easily repaired.
The pages were another story but there were only about twenty or so that needed new o rings. The place looks like some damned hippy lives here doesn't it? That's Naomi the nutria on the pillows.
As soon as I get all these words memorized I'll get a bigger one. The biggest problem with this little job was stopping to read the definitions. I can not seem to look up a single word. I have been known to forget what I was looking up while looking it up and may the head Librarian in the Sky help me if there are illustrations. With Google I can type in a single word and not get distracted at least most of the time.
For fifty three years this book served the public in the library. One day when I was checking out a book the girl working the desk said that she would check me out only if I would take this old dictionary home. She may not be a librarian but at least she doesn't throw books out. I believe she thought I was a little weird because I was so delighted.
The first definition is A and the last is zyxomma with 2006 pages of six point type in between. It's illustrated of course in the old style with 3000 illustrations. Most are line drawings. There are color plates of things where color would be important for identification such as butterflies or gem stones.
I like the embossed cover.
I don't know what happen in the thirty two years between the publishing of these two volumes. The 1957 on the left and the 1989 of the right both say they are Websters Unabridged dictionaries. Both are in six point type but there seems some difference in size. Maybe the definition of "unabridged" changed. A lot of the difference is in the appendix. The old book has a great appendix with tons of outdated and unreadable information.

Maybe I'll need a word invented since 1957 but I doubt it.

People around here don't need no stinkin' dictionaries. Anytime they need a word they just insert the word "fuck" or some derivation. A vocabulary of about 100 words plus that one seems to be sufficient.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Old Fools Journal: The Ugly American or How I Discovered Two Authors that Influenced My Life

Manila Bay at sunset.

When I was a young sailor in the U S Navy while aboard the USS McKean DD784 we visited the city of Manila in the Philippines. I believe we were there for about a week. I walked the city alone every chance I had. I remember that as a time of very deep soul searching and that is best done alone. Soul searching is about all you can do when you are have little money. I was homesick, I missed and longed for my bride I did not really want to be here even though I was helping save the world from all future wars.

The first day while walking the streets and looking at stuff I came across a bar called the "Ugly American". Big sign in English and of course I had to investigate. It turns out that it was owned, at least in part, by William Lederer one of the co-authors with Eugene Burdick of the book "the Ugly American". I had been observing some of the local color and by that I mean more prostitutes in broad daylight than I had ever seen before. Beautiful girls and boys, all small and young. Some of the boys were prettier than the girls. Everyone spoke excellent English and all were open and confident but not too pushy with the exception of one boy back at the boat landing where we caught the shore boat back to the ship. He was determined that I would go with him describing the many pleasures that I had only barely heard of. I ran like a scared rabbit. If any of these young people knew how much money I didn't have I would have been invisible.

When I first spied the Ugly American bar I knew nothing of the book by that name. Of course my curiosity was piqued so I went in looking for a cold beer to quench my thirst. It looked and smelled like any other bar I'd been in since arriving in the western pacific. It was cool and dark, there were 3 or 4 working girls at the tables near the front and a very friendly bartender that served up the coldest San Miguel beer I'd had since arriving. That one didn't last long and I ask for another commenting about how cold it was. The bartender said I could have one more cold one but any more would not be as cold. He said that the only way he could get any that cold was to lay 4 or 5 directly on the evaporator coils in the less than adequate cooler (by American standards) the night before. He put several more on the coils but informed me that they would only be really cold if left there overnight. I told him that any beer slightly cooler than room temperature would be OK (as I aged any beer that had been in the shade would be OK) but if he would get some really cold I would be back the next day.

The girls came over one by one checking me out for action but when I explained my financial situation they kind of drifted away. They all spoke excellent English and were conversational after that. They never treated me with anything but friendship but they were not free for anything else. The bartender also spoke excellent English and on asking told me the story of the bar. When he showed me the dogeared paperback copy of the book The Ugly American. I ask to look at it. I read the first few pages and I was hooked. I began to read in earnest. I tried to buy the book of course thinking that a book was not squandering my meager funds. He said no but that he would keep my marker in it and I could read some more when I returned for the cold San Miguel.

Those days I spent in Manila at that bar were some of the most pleasant time I had in the Pacific. That included visits to Japan, Okinawa, Formosa (Taiwan) and Hong Kong. All were great in their own way but I had more money in the other places except for Okinawa so it was a different experience described in a other episodes. I don't remember anything about Manila the city as I didn't go sightseeing but I remember the people, the conversations and that I really had an enjoyable time.

I went to the Ugly American bar every day that I went ashore. Times got better and I received my pay while in Manila but all I did was go to that bar read and chat. I finished the book before we took the anchor up and went on to read more by both authors. Burdick wrote some great south pacific tales. Lederer wrote more on the naivety and ignorance of the average American.

That time I spent there plays like a little movie in my memories. Why I wasn't whoring around like any good red blooded American sailor after I got my pay I don't know. I wasn't morally against it I just didn't do it there but I made up for it in Hong Kong and Yokusuka. Sailors in groups were quite often embarrassing and I didn't want to be part of that. I was, I think, seeing the world and trying to absorb it. There was plenty of partying but always without too many witnesses. Some of those stories will be left untold. Or not.
Mail call. We got mail pretty regularly when we were with a carrier. They are already lowering the mail bag here.
The only place there is room for a helicopter to drop anything is on the fantail and there is a lot of stuff back there. The aft gun mount has to be turned sideways but the hatches and depth charges were still cluttering up the deck. These guys make it look easy but this is an extremely dangerous job for the pilot and the receiving crew.
And he is away with our outgoing. I often wonder what these guys are doing now.
I will revisit this type of helicopter at least one more time but under much less pleasant conditions. I have to admit that I am having trouble putting those unfortunate events in print.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Old Fools Journal: Veterans Day

There is another post almost ready of our naval hero but today being Veterans Day I decided that instead of reading over once more of that young man who was once me but now is another person in the distant past that I would go for a bike ride. Besides as you can see it is a beautiful day sunny with 74*F (23C) and a light breeze. Look at that sky.
I had no real destination but following known light traffic routes brought me here once again. The walking track at what is called the Bayou Blue Recreational Park I believe. The sign says nothing but feet allowed on that poorly maintained walking track. No humans here so I'm going to ride on it anyway. Nobody walks here. The walking track needs to be scraped and a skateboard park put in instead. They have a ball diamond here but I've never seen anyone play ball. A bike park there would be used daily. There is another small walking track that I was ejected from a couple of years ago. Nobody walks there either. I guess I was disturbing the ants that were pushing mounds up through the cracks.
Does that mean me? Not a living soul in sight so I think I'll ride down there. I'm not treated as a vehicle anywhere else so why here. I like the colors.

I like the reward. This live oak (my favorite tree is live oak) provides me shade in the summer.
When I need some moss for decorative purposes I can get it here.
I used to see other people here before the signs went up.
They were always in the ever present pickup truck. Nobody comes here now as it would require walking a 1000 feet. There must not be any fish here as I never see anyone fishing.
Does that sign mean me. I think not. These people are too old for me. Besides an old guy with long hair that rides a bike is just too weird. The sign on the door tells me that bingo is the excitement here.
This is the smoking room for the middle school next door otherwise known as the Bayou Blue Library. These employees of the school trek over from the school to suck cigarettes in front of the library door fouling the air for the library patrons because smoking is not allowed on school grounds. My guess is that all the teachers and half the students smoke cigarettes.

This being veterans day the ladies in charge (no librarians here) in the library had coffee and donuts. Only in Louisiana would a library not have a librarian. Being a vet I had my picture taken. The head library lady's son is in Afghanistan training to be a veteran. It's a hard way to get a free donut.
My bride scored these. I get to eat one every year or so. Since I started this blog two and a half years ago I have reduce my weight by thirty pounds. Another thirty and I'll be satisfied.

All in all it was a good day for a ride. The clicking of two broken spokes didn't bother me at all. It didn't occur to me what the clicking sound was until I got home and It's a good thing. It would have spoiled a good ride. This bicycle is now grounded for maintenance and inspection. I need to source some better spokes. Breaking 4 out of 36 withing a few hundred miles with the kind of riding I do is not acceptable.

While honoring Veterans today let's not forget to honor their wives, children and other family members that keep everything together while they served. The anguish and worry they suffer is a heavy burden to bear. Their job is much harder in my opinion and they are generally forgotten.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Old Fools Journal: How I almost made it to the first grade without Fire Department intervention


Like all children I loved matches. A shed full of newspapers and old heaters and a five year old with a box of kitchen matches now doesn't that sound like fun? I can tell you that it taught me a lesson. My sister still likes to remind me of that debacle. I still get that awful feeling in my chest when I think of it and that was 66 years ago. I can still see that beautiful fire. At least I got to meet some firemen. They saved the building. I don't remember what the punishment was because that was secondary to the feeling of being out of control. It has never happened again except for that time at Mammoth Lakes. That wasn't out of control as I managed to not burn up anything but I did melt a snowbank.

Fire is what shaped humans as we are adapted to and eat cooked food. We eat everything every other animal eats only we cook it and have since the use of fire was discovered. We are more of fire than we know. When asked what my dietary requirements and preferences are I reply COOKED.
After breakfast I was inspired to fix this minimal door latch. This thing is a real finger burner and it doesn't latch well. Because I never throw anything away I have a box of springs. So while I was laying in the bed this morning trying to decide whether I was dead or not I remembered some old valve springs in that box that would probably make a good handle. So at the early hour of eleven o'clock I went rummaging.
What I found was a cord protector from an old broken crock pot that I had salvaged the aluminum, the switch and other odd bits from. This part held the cord where it entered the bottom of the pot. A little bending , a little cutting and a lot of liberal cursing (ever try to make a spring bend to your will with a hammer?) and it looks as if it were original equipment. All it needs is a precious stone in the end to dress it up a little. An emerald or a ruby would be nice but I did not find any of those in my "away" boxes.

A little hammering and prying here and there and I have a new and improved door and latch. I just love things I can fix with a hammer.

Never throw anything away. Now I think I'll set fire to the stove and have a glass of wine.