This Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal

Saturday, October 7, 2017

His Eye Is On the Sparrow

Facebook people are famous for posted stories that leave the readers wondering if the events happened for real or are just pure fabrication. This is one such story but for what it is worth, I’m recording this event in the first person. This drama occurred in the late morning of October 07, 2017. In a way I wish I had pictures to enhance this tale but I’m old school and don’t carry my phone with me 24/7. There are times you just live life as it happens and go with it all. This was one such time.

I was annoyed to start out with as I began my computer work. The local NPR station has stopped broadcasting the archived “Car Talk” programmes for a news annotation show. At 10:00 a.m. this new show started with a run-down of the weeks dreadful news they would be rehashing. The radio was turned off and I went to my trusty Pandora station instead.

I have been meaning for over a month to make my hotel reservations for the upcoming brick swap in Little Rock, AR. I contacted the main convention hotel which is located right near the heart of the action. The man at the front desk informed me the room block was filled and no other rooms were available. The hotel was sold out. DAMN! came to the rescue and I was able to book a comparable room at the same rate and still be in close proximity to the Brick swap. I was working on printing up Google maps of the area as I don’t like to put my full trust into the GPS.

While all this was transpiring Holly came tearing through the cat door into the back study. She was at her breakneck speed which means “something is up.”

I caught a glimpse of her as she ran into the hallway and realized she had something in her mouth. Cicada season is pretty much over so I prepared myself for the worst.

Holly has a stopping & resting spot in the hallway on the bottom shelf of the carved Victorian etagere. I was able to free a little green bird from her mouth at this point. This poor little bird was inanimate and I was afraid his time would soon be over.

I cradled him in my hand and carried him to the front porch. Checking him over I could not see any blood or puncture wounds. His left wing was not at a “normal angle” his left foot was pressed tight against his body. This bird was so docile and let me pet him with my index finger. He messed with his wings which resulted in that left wing looking a lot better. I cradled him on his back so I could pet his front a bit. Changing his positions, I could feel his feet moving a bit.

He seemed a lot more alert. I placed him on the stand made from a water meter cover and sewer pipe. This little guy just stayed put. There was no way I was going to leave him alone with Holly still outside.  

Mail was hanging out of my mailbox. In the mail was my statement from Fidelity with the monthly report of my managed investment accounts. I was separating these account statements for easier filing. I was happy to see how well these holdings are doing.

Looking over my statements I kept one eye on my new friend as he moved a bit more and looked a lot more alert. He perched on the edge of the water meter cover and took off in flight.

The pure unadulterated joy I felt at that moment has been too rare in my life lately. With all the nasty happenings going on this respite was just what I needed.

Seeing that little bird have another chance at life meant more to me than the increase in my portfolio.

I’m breaking my rule and will post this to my Facebook ahead of my early morning check ins.  I hope this will bring a smile and perhaps a bit of happiness in these dark times to my friends and family.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Grandfather Clock History

The house has been quieter than usual. The grandfather clock has only been running sporadically for the past few months. It has been ten years since it was last overhauled. Just oiling the pivots as I’ve done for the past year to keep it running is not a good idea as the accumulated dirt and oil form a gunk which can really wear away the steel pivots over time. It is time to bite the bullet and get it overhauled.
I promised my niece who loves this clock a detailed history. Like everything I own it has quite the story behind it.
The year was 1972. I was attending Watchmaking School in Lancaster, PA. John, Jerry and I shared an apartment just down the street from school on Chestnut St. Today I see the students around my moving in with U-Hauls full of furniture and every creature comfort and think back to how spartan we lived. What a compare and contrast.
I was supporting myself working for a supermarket. Mom and dad paid my tuition and tools while I paid for everything else. I did not have a vehicle then. I witnessed how much it cost my friends to drive and could not incur that kind of expense. Blue laws were still in effect leaving Sundays open and free. Once I discovered Renninger’s Flea Market and Schups Grove in Adamstown, PA I was there every Sunday. So much for attending Duke St Methodist Church. I would make the journey either on my 10 speed or by hitchhiking. It was about 20 miles of potholes on the old route 222.
This part of PA was an antiques capitol in the 1970’s: The stuff that would turn up. A good friend John from school was in the antiques trade through his mother and uncle. Being a dealer he told me he could get me into Merrit’s Antiques as well as Fred and Dotties. These concerns were huge antique importers selling only to the trade. There were container loads of clocks and English furniture imported into the US during this period of time. Thank you Google: Merrits is still in business. Fred and Dotties was liquidated in 2015.
One of the main style differences between English and American grandfather clocks is in the case proportions and woods used. Many of the English clocks were fabricated of oak with mahogany accents. In American clocks the center section is narrow. In English clocks this part of the case is usually much wider. In the 1970’s clock collecting was in full gear. These English clocks were not held in very high esteem by “A list” collectors.
I found my clock at Fred and Dotties and paid the dealer price of $300.00 for it through John. He needed the receipt for some reason so it worked out well.
This clock was typical in that it had been run to death. The plates needed to be bushed and the pivots needed attention. This initial restoration grew to be a group effort with my classmates. The back center wheel pivot was pretty much worn to half its original size. Richard capped it off and turned a new pivot. The hands needed new mounting holes which Richard also made.
I had learned enough to where I wanted to preserve the original finish on this clock. There had been a few nasty coats of varnish applied over the years. Rubbing it down using 0000 steel wool brought back the original finish.
Pictures were not a priority at this point of my life. There are only a couple photos documenting my life on Chestnut St. This is one:
In the spring of 1972 I moved to a shared house. There was not a lot of furniture and big stuff so my friends Dave, Jim and Bob helped me to move “on the fly” and just carry my meager belongings. I can still see Bob walking on Chestnut St with the clock case over his shoulder and people snapping pictures from the passing tour bus! From the old apartment on Chestnut St to my new digs on North Duke it was just a little over a mile.
In October 1972 mom and dad made the drive to Lancaster. They returned to Lockport with the back seat taken out of the 1965 Chevy and the tall case clock riding out the trip from the trunk all the way to the front seats. That Thanksgiving of 1972 I was able to get the clock set up and running on the landing which would be its home for some 22 years.
The passing of life that clock witnessed. This picture is from XMAS 1972. My sisters got dressed into their wedding dresses and my niece was the flower girl!
After cleaning out the homestead after mom’s death in 1994 the clock had a place of honor for two years in my “Lockport house” before being moved to Tuscaloosa, AL. It was in October 1996 I filled and moved a U-Haul with my antiques in preparation of the transfer south. It would take nearly two years before that transfer materialized.
Over the years the clock developed a bad lean forward. After retiring from Corvette Assembly in October 2005 I had the time to finally attend to my collection.
Digging into the clock case I discovered the problem. This was not a piece of furniture built in the league of Duncan Fyfe or Thomas Chippendale. The animal hide glue had let loose and the tiny nails holding the moldings to the case were snapped through. The case was reglued and nailed back to where things needed to be. Hopefully that repair will outlast my lifetime.
The clock has had this place of honor in my home since October of 1996. That is almost as long as it was at mom and dad’s house.
The clock dial was filthy when I first got the beast. It got a gentle/safe cleaning back in 1972. The Numbers were always faint and are even more so now. I’m putting out feelers on having the dial restored. The bulk of the painting is fine and I don’t want to have an amateurish job trying to touch it up myself. Looking close I can see where there were once outline rings around the numbers.
Researching out pictures for this entry had me going into forgotten picture files. I always get a smile when I find a long ago picture of my old “goober boy” Stumpy.
This picture was taken in March of 2006. I had just acquired my first digital camera. Stumpy was soaking up the late winter sunshine in the backyard. He was helping me to restore the Morris Chair which is another story…

Friday, March 3, 2017

Adventure at UAB

I began this entry late Friday morning in the backyard squinting at the laptop screen in my backyard after returning from Em’s house in Birmingham. Naturally the deck chair was in the full sun to be toasty warm. Holly was on the patio rolling around. What bliss… Then I thought to myself, “You asshole! You just put yourself through Hell with a melanoma and here you are in full sun exposure!”
I’m now in the shade, Holly is on “backyard patrol”, and my Pandora station is softly playing. Life is good…

I drove to Em’s house in BHAM Wednesday afternoon so to save me a morning drive on Thursday. I first called UAB to make sure they would operate as my sinuses were going crazy. My teeth had been aching Monday which is a sure indication of a sinus infection. The pain gradually subsided Tuesday and was pretty well gone Wednesday. There was no fever and the discharge was clear. I was told by the nurse practitioner from my symptoms I should be set to go and not to worry.
I could not understand why Em was making such a big deal about being careful on the drive over. It was not till I arrived at his house I realized the reason for his concern. He had the weather news on which was giving reports of heavy rain, wind, and hailstones. There were horrible storms passing all around. The worst of the storms hit away from Em’s. The rain hit pretty much when I pulled into his driveway. I don’t know if this falls under the category of “Ignorance is bliss” or “The devil takes care of his own!”
I just enjoyed seeing Holly tearing across the backyard at full speed as Daggy and Stumpy used to do. We are both happy! Back to my entry….
If there is one thing I have learned in my almost 65 years, it is how you must be on top of things that have a direct impact upon your life. Em and I arrived at UAB in plenty of time Thursday morning for my surgery. The check in was where my papers indicated, right across from Starbucks. How good a grande would have tasted! I gave my information the “admittence lady”. She opened a book asked for my birthday and then she handed me my surgery paperwork and gave me directions. I told her I first needed to have dye injected in Nuclear Medicine located in Jefferson Towers. She looked closer and realized her omission and gave us directions to the Towers. (When I was being prepped for surgery one of the nurses told me how sometimes they get people in my situation all prepped and ready for surgery only to discover they had never been sent for their dye injections!)
The tech giving me my “Nuclear treatment” was so nice. He informed me of what was going down and apologized on how I’d be feeling discomfort. He needed to do four injections just under the first skin layer. He was very good and I was not really under that much discomfort. I’ve got a pretty high pain tolerance and did deep breathing to get me through. Then I was under a scanner to take pictures of the dye. I’m not claustrophobic which was a relief to him. This process can take some time. He told me he has had horrible experiences with some people. I explained to him I realized he was helping me and I would not do anything to make that job any harder.
Em and I returned to the admittance desk to get the paperwork for surgery. Surgery was on the 7th floor. I did not have to wait long before I was called in.
The nurse doing my history and vitals explained how he was being trained on this floor; his normal spot was in the emergency room. I told him of the stories I’ve heard from ER friends and what a battle zone it can be. He laughed and said how different it was in surgery. Kim was overseeing his charting which is all done on computers now. This is a far cry from the clipboards hanging off the patient beds in the old soap opera “General Hospital” days of the 1960’s.
They finished up the charting history questions with:
Kim: Is there anything else we should know about your medical history?
Jamie: Well, at my last physical my doctor told me my veins were too close.
Kim and Trevor: Very puzzled looks..... Your veins are too close??
Jamie: Yes, My Dr told me I had very close veins!!!
That really made them laugh!!
My operating Dr arrived and I had to explain what was going to happen as a procedural “check and balance”. I explained the impending operation the best I could. I lamented as to how nicely the original incision healed up only to be dug out again! The Dr smiled and agreed it had indeed healed up nicely.
The last thing I remember before surgery was the anesthesiologist saying, “Now I’m going to give you something to make you very happy.”
Coming to after the surgery I felt like I was flying and was so toasty warm under a number of blankets. I did not want to wake up.
Em came back after my recovery and I prepared to leave. The Dr had told him after my surgery all went well and only one lymph node was removed. He would not go into detail saying how they must wait for the biopsy results and he would discuss it with me. I’m very encouraged the results will be good. I will know the outcome March 14th.
This episode of my life can’t pass without a “Jamie moment.”
When I packed my back pack for this hospital adventure I wanted to have loose comfortable clothes for “operation day.” I had washed my heavy sweatpants with pockets so I could hold my vital information cards along with a loose fitting pull over sweatshirt. Clean socks and boxer shorts were also packed. On surgery day I needed to have on freshly laundered clothes after showering a third time with the special anti bacterial soap.
When Em pulled into to the pick up area I was wheeled out into the parking deck. When I stood up from the wheelchair to get into the car I felt a big draft. Instantly I realized I was wearing the sweats that split up the crotch when I was painting the brick shelf. OMG I was horrified. The entire crotch was ripped out of these pants. I was so distracted I never realized it getting dressed at Em’s or putting them back on again at the hospital! Em was laughing saying how he told some of the nurses and receptionists how sad it was I had to dress in rags!!
You have to be able to laugh at yourself. I like to think some people got a smile or chuckle from my dilemia. I know it made me and Em laugh!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hospital Overload

I was all set to document my day Tuesday evening the 21st. The evening was damp so I lit the gas logs, set up the laptop, and settled into the Morris Chair. Holly climbed on board for huggs and loves. A purring cat giving head butts and licks was more important than working on a journal entry. I fell back on Scarlett O’Hara’s mantra, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
Contentment with Holly:

Tomorrow morning is here. Turned off the news and Pandora is streaming my soothing “Cowboy Celtic” station. The coffee is dripping through the 1940’s aluminum Wearever drip coffeepot. After I pour my first cup, the cast iron frying pan will replace the kettle on the burner and my home fries will start cooking in lots of butter and onions. Another typical day: How I relish my morning routine.
There is a favourite movie that always entertains me even though I know pretty much every line of dialogue. It’s a 1934 “B” movie called “City Limits” with great action and amusing dialogue.    City Limits       In the beginning plot development, a newspaper reporter is masquerading as a Dr for a story. The hypochondriac sister latches onto him and says, “Doctor, I’ve had two operations and let me tell you about my incisions!” That line got used a couple times yesterday by me….
I left the house at 8:00 a.m. to drive to the Kirklin Clinic in Birmingham, AL. My appointment was not till 10:40 but I was going into unfamiliar territory and would rather be early than frantic and late. The directions were easy enough to follow to the parking deck. There was not an empty space till I hit the 6th floor.
I’m out of my element in Hospitals. I only hit one wrong reception desk searching for the proper one to check in. I was way early but explained how I had a good book to read and it would give me time to clam down. The reception people would rather see people early than late I think!
My first blood pressure was 135 which was very high for me. It had to be from the stress of the drive and all. UAB is the medical teaching hospital branch for the University of Alabama. The real technical division of UA is in Huntsville where all the space research is going on. The “football division and everything else” is in Tuscaloosa.
Once I was checked into the system things just flowed. Everyone was so kind and encouraging. That means so much when you are uncertain and worried. After going through triage one of the Dr’s pupils entered to do an assessment. Everyone is so young!
I had copies of my lab reports “just in case”. I have to say after I researched those reports on line I felt much more assured. The Dr arrived and checked where the growth was removed and felt my lymph nodes. The growth was small at 1.55mm, but it was over the 1mm threshold of not spreading. He explained the procedure I’m to undergo which is to inject dye and then remove more of the skin from where the growth was taken out to do further testing for melanoma. The dye will be traced to the nearest lymph nodes which will be x-rayed and biopsied as needed. This is the course of action I had read about on line. The Dr told me this was caught early enough I had a great chance the cancer had not spread and if it did he did not think it could have progressed far. Surgery is scheduled for Thursday the 2nd.
There is another screening process for surgery. I lucked out and was able to get a slot that afternoon which saved me an added drive to Birmingham.
When I had my blood pressure done again it was down to a more normal 115 over I forget but that number was good! There is such a protocol to go through. I have never had an operation where I have been totally out. I made sure it was documented I have caps on my front teeth. Aunt Fran had one of her teeth broken off during an operation for kidney stones, but we are going back to the very early 1960’s.
I had my last nurse practitioner laughing telling mom and my GP Dr’s stories. Being an army nurse mom only took us kids to see the doctor for life or death situations. The NP said that is what her kids tell her! I also told her how I had to explain to my GP that when I start to get that white fungus or whatever on my toenails, I just apply Vicks Vapo Rub and it clears up almost instantly. She was laughing as I said how good it makes your feet feel and smell.
Speaking of my GP, when this is all over and done with I’m going to send him a letter of thanks. Basically he saved my life. It was through his insistence at my first physical with him that I went back to my dermatologist. He explained that flaking skin on my scalp was not just dandruff but instead actinic keratosis. I had written that annoying flaking skin off to being annoying dandruff and not pre cancerous skin growths.
It was through my yearly dermatology examination this melanoma was diagnosed. It is hard for me to imagine how my life has changed in only two weeks. There is a down side in that after the surgery I’ll be limited for a while physically. This will drive me crazy as I have a lot of bricks to move!! But I need to follow doctor’s orders so when I tell people, “Let me show you my incisions” they are looking at something pretty!!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Last Day on the California Zephyr

I slept through the major stops at Salt Lake City and Reno. There was another major scenery change as we approached the Sierra Mountains.
Early morning shot from the lounge:
Back on the platform: This was to be my home for pretty much the rest of the trip.
Truckee, CA. It is funny how I need to use the train stations to pinpoint where-abouts I am as I route out my pictures. Being the last car on the train I was never able to photograph the station placards. Google images is a godsend to match up my pictures to the stops on the timetable!
Getting into the Donner Pass:
Hanging off the side again!
Snow on the peaks:
View going forward:
Time to move!!
Safe again!
Love going through the snowsheds:
Still Climbing:
Looking down over a bridge:
Interior shot of snowshed:
This tunnel marks the high point of our crossing the Sierras.
We are headed down now. Valley of the North Fork of the American River:
We had to wait on a siding to let the delayed Eastbound Zephyr pass:
No mountains:
Rick in Sacremento:
Steve and Rick:
Flatland and straight track:
Carquinez Strait Bridge:
Approaching Emeryville when my memory card maxed out on the camera. Did not want to leave the platform to down load it to my laptop. The scenery was not that majestic anyway. Had to do a fast packing of my bag as the stop in Emeryville was not long at the station before the car was moved to a siding.
Mezzanine/social area of the HI Hostel in San Francisco:
Labatt Blue bag in the private Hostel Room:


About Me

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Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States
Retired auto worker who can now spend too much time restoring his 1922 Bungalow Home. I'm involved in a number of varied activities from collecting bricks to rowing with a masters rowing group. This blog is to share different aspects of my life on my Facebook page. I've kept an on-line journal for eight years.