Thursday, August 27, 2009

Awe Over the Internet

We had a great row this morning. One drill was just upper body emphasizing on the “swing out” of the oar. We concentrated quite a bit on this working up to using heavy pressure and bumping up the stroke rate. It was just like being in a race again! That old adrenaline was really pumping! Our coaches Alison and Jason will be out of town Friday night. Alison said we could have an uncoached row if I would put it together and cox.

Once again the impact of the internet has made itself known to me. It was about 8:30 a.m. I put out a “cattle call” for rowers to sign up on a first come first serve basis. By 1:30 p.m. I had enough people signed up for the row. While the rowers were filling my in-box with e-mail I was working spread sheets and sending out e-mails to my set-up and tear-down crews for the upcoming run. It just boggles my mind how this is so easily accomplished: E-mail going all over the world in a flash still amazes me!

My old computer sound system was in a pile in the corner. I had a Phillips screwdriver handy so I tore into the offending sub-woofer. Sure enough, the foam was all disintegrated on the speaker. First the foam goes on my truck headliner, and now my speaker! I miss the clarity of my old system. There really is nothing to refoaming a simple speaker such as this.

Google was first used to find different sites selling kits along with detailed instructions for refoaming speakers. These sites have pretty hefty prices for foam blanks and “special glues” to attach the foam to the speaker cone and frame. Knowing the right search words I went to E-bay. Bingo!! I found a supplier of the proper foam at a fraction of the specialty sites. The seller also had advice to use Arlene’s Craft Glue instead of the fancy glues touted. I’ve used this glue on many occasions and it sounds good to me!

I ordered new foam for this project instantly paying using Pay-pal. Things don’t get much easier. My last e-bay bargain was bought and paid for Sunday night, mailed out Monday, and delivered to my doorstep Wednesday morning! The defective cox-box was mailed out Tuesday afternoon and delivered to a suburb of Philadelphia today (Thursday) at 8:05 a.m. The progress of the delivery all tracked online. I don’t think I will ever be passé at what the internet entails. I’m constantly amazed at how my life has changed for the better since becoming computer savy.

I owe that to my best friend Joe. When I was living with him back in 1997-98 waiting for my transfer south he guided me in acquiring my first computer. The rest is history. Had it not been for him, it would have been years before finally broke down and joined the real “Tech world.” I can’t fathom where my life would be today without the computer. I know one thing: I would not be posting journal entries on-line!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Technology Overload

Things have a way of building up till your head wants to explode. For this past week, such events have been my life.

The first trouble appeared on my horizon on Thursday of last week. My flat screen computer monitor was getting slower and slower at restarting up from sleep or shut down mode. It finally got to the point to where it would tick and tock like my grandfather clock. It progressed to there it would take two minutes of ‘ticking” before it would turn on. Then it just went into “ticking mode” and the screen stayed blank. I’ve been told it is most likely capacitor problems.

Without an internet to research, I went to Wal-Mart early Sunday morning for a cheap monitor. All they sell now are widescreen monitors. I decided to get a decent sized one priced at $149.00. I took the smaller $98.00 first choice monitor out of my cart and replaced it with the more expensive one.

Get home and hook the new monitor all up. I also changed out my computer sound system. My first Gateway purchased back in 1998 was supplied with a wonderful Boston Acoustics subwoofer and small satellite speakers. The last month the sub woofer developed buzzes and rattles. The sound system that came with my Dell computer system circa 2002 was vastly inferior, but I saved it just the same. That is now hooked up.

That new monitor was horrible. I’m so used to my old square screen. It drove me nuts to see everything all stretched out. When something is not right it just grates on me. My last good nerve was worked, I packed it all up and returned it to Walmart Monday morning. I’m from the old school and always feel guilty about returning anything I buy. A woman ahead of me was trying to return something she had bought last year!

There was no trouble, I got a full refund. I went back and got the cheaper $98.00 monitor.

It is still not the equal to my old monitor, but I guess I better get used to it. A search on line only brought up one or two models that are still made like that old one.

Our rowing club bit the bullet and ordered two brand new Cox-Box units. Technology hit again. The new models have a “new and improved” connection for the microphone unit. Bingo, the old mikes are not compatible with the new units. Long story short, we ended up purchasing two brand new complete units at a cost of over $1,200.

I was designated in procuring these needed additions to the club. The units were ordered last Tuesday morning, and arrived VIA UPS on Friday morning. We were not able to row Friday evening due to thunderstorms. I had the units all charged up and ready to go for our Sunday afternoon row.

My heart sank when one unit would not work on our sweep. It just emitted static and crackling noise. Jason our coach thought it was not charged up all the way. I KNEW I had charged it, but we will see.

This morning I unhooked the charger from the unit minutes before leaving for rowing practice. The readout showed “full charge” for two days.

We go on the water this morning and that damn box is making so much noise the cox could not make her voice heard above the static. I’ll be the one to return the unit to the manufacturer. How much aggravation could that be??

I called the customer rep on the 800 number. I have spoken to her in the past. She told me to go on line and I can get a return authorization number. All I have to do is fill out the form on their website.

I did not have a good feeling about this. I was right. There was no way to get a return authorization for warranty service that I could find. The deeper I got into the form the more they wanted to charge me on the charge card number I was required to leave. I tried three times to submit that form and each time I was unsuccessful. That would not have been so bad, but with each failure the form was totally erased.

I just sent out an e-mail to tech support for their input as to what I should do. For something that was defective from day one, they are the ones who should be kissing my butt……

After my rowing Sunday, I was all set to cook up a nice juicy steak . There was a message on my answering machine from Billy. For my long distance I use my Sam’s club calling card. This entails punching in lots of numbers. I was too wore out from the row and the malfunctioning cox box to even think of passwords and phone numbers. I still have a ton of minutes left on my cell phone so I took the easy way out and called Billy from my cell. All I had to do was check my “phone book” and hit the green button and the number gets dialed automatically.

Billy was telling me about his latest adventures when my land line phone rang! That was a first for me!!! It was our friend Leroy!! I let Billy go and chatted with Leroy. I will not go into detail, but Leroy is one of those people who will drain you of every ounce of positive energy you possess. By the time I hung up I was totally drained. All thoughts of a nice steak were thrown out the window. Instead it was the old stand-by of a peanut butter sandwich.

While shopping for the monitor I figured I would get more minutes for my trac phone. My minutes carry over, but my time expires in a couple weeks. Wal-mart no longer sells trac-phone cards!

All this new technology is well and good, but these minor frustrations that build up and up are what cause people to snap. The best therapy for that is to burn paint. Let me get back to the propane torch and scraper… I got paint to burn….

I just took a picture of the paint removal project for this entry. What a nice surprise to find pictures of Daggy and Stump. Animal pictures always cheer me up. This shot of perfect relaxation was no exception. It brought me a much needed smile!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Early Days, Milkshakes, and Workouts

Thursday was an intense rowing practice. I was one “tore up boy” when I headed home from the river. Later on at the “Y” I did not kill myself on the Concept II rower like I usually do. I just did two sets of 3,000 meters at constant pressure and pace. I’ve been trying to eat more as my weight has been dropping since I seriously started training back in May. If I weigh myself at the Y without my shoes I’m down to 150.

Growing up I had such an inferiority complex. In High School for some reason I was constantly placed in gym classes with upperclassmen. Always being the smallest, scrawniest kid does not do much for your self esteem. I was getting established in my apartment and job at GM in 1976 when I read an article in the Buffalo Paper about a new fitness center that had just opened. It was not a sweaty gym, but a space with machines and even live plants! It was a Nautilus Fitness Center, which at the time was the cutting edge of work out machines.

I weighed out at the time at around 135 and was still self conscious. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I checked the place out and tried a three month membership. That turned into a year membership. As luck would have it, I hit a special where-by I was able to get into a program with a “lifetime” yearly renewal fee of $49.00.

In the late summer of 1984 the center began a program with personal trainers. The yearly fee was somewhere around $800.00 a year. I was pretty solvent and signed up. Three times a week I worked out with a trainer. The guys told me I was about the only one who signed up with the program to see it through. I would always get them laughing telling them I was so cheap, I was going to get my moneys worth if it killed me! They were good in that they pushed me to exhaustion doing “negative” repetitions. I know they got a sadistic pleasure seeing me suffer. I’ve felt that same rush myself coxing when pushing on my fellow rowers when they are beat! Working with those trainers back then instilled techniques I use to this day.

That fitness center closed in September 1985. Fortunately it happened just at the end of my contract so I was not out any real money.

After the move to Alabama my life was so hectic the last thing I had on my mind was working out. It was not till January 2006 I realized I had to do something. Gary had the gang out for one of his wonderful dinners. On the way home I stopped at the Winn Dixie for a few items. They have a huge scale at this store. I stepped on it and was horrified when the needle stopped at 173. I had never been that heavy. I witnessed too many of my contemporaries going to seed after they retired: that was not going to happen to me.

Not long after I got hooked up with the local Y and got my weight under control and a work-out routine became part of my life.

It took the Regatta last April we placed 2nd at to get me seriously working out again. That coupled with the fact the economy and my pension future is so uncertain. Being at the Y five days a week clears my mind. I’m not obsessing by worrying about things I have no control over.

This damn internet will never cease to amaze me! I just finished up this entry and got to thinking of the Oster blender my mother purchased in the early 1950’s so she could make milkshakes to fatten me up. There was never much discussed about my sickly start in this life. Looking back in hindsight, it could have been a really bad time in my parents lives they did not want to relive. I will never forget an old neighbor telling me at a funeral 20+ years ago how she could still hear my constant crying as mom would rock in the rocking chair trying to get me to eat and be quiet.

Convulsions caused me to be admitted to Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. I remember my Aunt Fran saying how her heart broke to see me hooked up to all kinds of wires and machines. The cause was vaguely referred to the baby formula I was fed which was deficient in vitamin b.

Using Google I tracked down the article “Association of vitamin B6 deficiency with convulsions in infants” published in 1954. Finally I can understand what happened to me in those early months of my life.

I still have that old blender. When I go shopping today I think I’ll stock up on some ice cream. It’s time to make milkshakes again!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The World Has Gone Mad

My journal entry starts out with a copy and paste from earlier entries. I am really upset. When you read to the end you will understand.

Friday, July 11, 2008

This morning started out entirely normal as far as I was concerned. Stumpy woke me up at 3:00; I let him out the back door and went back to bed to await the clock radio going off at 4:00. Right on schedule the alarm went off. The house was still kind of stuffy so I opened the side door to the driveway to get some cross flow ventilation. This door way is a favourite spot of Daggys to sit at and watch the world go by.

I had just put the coffee on the stove when the motion light was triggered in the driveway and I saw lightbeams flashing around outside. I ran to the side door to investigate. Three Tuscaloosa policemen were in my driveway! They had seen the open side door and investigated. Sherri is always screaming at me for having my doors open like that. I assured the officers all was well here and even invited them inside if they wanted to further check. They seemed distracted and left rather abruptly.

I just got off the phone with Sherri. She had just watched a news report on the 6:00 p.m local news program that pretty much explained everything. At 3:00 a.m. there had been a double stabbing on a little dead end street just around the corner from me. Apparently a door in the house was unlocked allowing this burglar access. The family dog alerted the residents; the startled scumbag did his damage and fled on foot. The husband was stabbed in the stomach, and his wife suffered a cut on her hand. The intruder was later apprehended not far from my house.

This really upsets me. I always lock my doors at night, but when Stumpy goes out in the early morning I leave the back door cracked open so he can get back into the house. The backyard is fenced off and private, but that security was shattered hearing this latest news. I hate that feeling of being a prisoner in my own home. As the economy sinks further into the doldrums such incidents will only increase. I don’t want to be one of the statistics…

August 12, 2008.

This afternoon was the arraignment of the assailant who stabbed two neighbors a few weeks ago in the early morning hours. This incident has had a profound influence on me to where I now keep the doors locked pretty much all the time and leave the front porch light on all night as well as the light in the backyard at the back door. The neighborhood association wanted to have a contingent of neighbors there. For my own curiosity, I wanted to see in the flesh the creep who destroyed my illusion of safety.

There was a good crowd to hear the testimony. I could feel myself choking up and shaking as this woman described how she discovered this man in her living room and tried to fight him off. She suffered knife cuts on her hands requiring some 17 stitches to close, and had a large section of her hair pulled out as she was being mauled.

Then her husband gave testimony how he heard the scuffle and went to rescue his wife. He was stabbed twice in the back and once in the chest. Even in the darkest situations there is a bit of comic relief. This man was asked to recite what he said to his assailant. He was very uncomfortable, but relayed the obscenities spoken that early morning. Some matronly ladies were sitting ahead of me and I watched their jaws literally drop!

The clincher was when the police gave their testimony. This scumbag was picked up on my street shortly after all this. He was walking on the street still wearing his blood soaked tee shirt. He admitted to the entire thing on tape. It looks pretty open and shut from my point of view. He was found guilty on all three counts. If I remember right: one count of attempted murder, and two counts of manslaughter.

By the time it all was over the rain was pouring down. Thankfully a neighbor gave me a ride back to my house so I did not get soaked twice in one day.

Since then it has been a steady easy rain. This is the most precipitation in one time we have had in many months. There was a short break in the rain that gave me the window of opportunity to spread Epsom salts around the shrubs. They work wonders on my front hollies.

I ended up skipping lunch, so I treated myself to a good supper. I cooked up a mess of garlic smashed potatoes and broiled up a steak smothered in onions. The house smelled so good with the garlic and onions cooking!

August 18, 2009

What I assumed was an open and shut case was far from it. In my E-mail today was this letter from our neighborhood association.

“There will be a competency hearing for the man that attacked my
husband and me on Monday, August 31 at 9:00 a.m. in Judge Almond's
courtroom. I have been told that we need to have as many people as
possible in attendance to show support for our case. The defense is
trying to claim that the man that attempted to murder my husband and
me (remember that he faces TWO counts of attempted murder) is so
incompetent that he should not be incarcerated but rather should be
"treated" by the Department of Mental Retardation. The district
attorney has not been able to find any other case where this has been
considered. The alternative for this man's treatment if the defense
wins is to either house him at Partlow or to have him receive
treatment out-patient. If the defense wins this hearing, the decision
will set a very dangerous precedent for other criminals that may be
found to be mentally disabled. I am asking for you to consider
attending the hearing so that Judge Almond can see that the community
as a whole strongly disagrees with letting a man that has attempted to
murder innocent individuals be allowed to escape punishment through
the prison system.

Thank you for your consideration and support.”

This is crazy. You better bet your life I will be there in that courtroom to support my neighbors.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to Burning Paint and 1989 Remembered

Where has the month of August gone? I must be in a masochist mood. After years of procrastination I finally started work on the front porch columns. Eventually I will put a “faux sandstone” finish on these. There is too much peeling paint and build up to even think of painting over the mess. Since these columns are made from cement, that acts like a heat sink making burning the outside paint very time consuming. The smell of the propane torch and burning paint brings back years of memories of doing this miserable job.

My last entry got me researching back through my paper journal from 1989. What a year that was. Reading back through those adventures and now having the hindsight of years of following other peoples journals and blogs: I think I can honestly say my friends and life are anything but the norm.

My old house in Lockport, NY was a great place. I cut my teeth in restoration working on that home. It was located just a few blocks away from Clinton St hill. This was the Rt 78 truck route through my city. In 1989 a total reconstruction project was undertaken to rebuild this street. It was a major pain for the city traffic flow to have this street blocked off for the months it took for the work to be done.

It was nice for me as that halted the constant truck traffic on my street. Joe and I would make forays to check out the progress of this endeavor. The roadbed was totally taken up. Dumped on the sides of the street were piles and piles of “hill bricks”. These paving bricks have a bevel on one edge. When this bevel was placed against the full side of the adjoining brick it would make an edge for traction.

Joe and I got bricking down to a science. We would wander around the detour signs, sort through the piles of bricks, and stack the best ones. Then our friend Randy who had a full size pick up would help out moving them to my house. At first we tried to be clandestine about this. We would be doing this fairly late at night around 9:00 – 10:00 p.m. There was all kinds of foot traffic enjoying being able to walk in the street without the aggravation of the heavy traffic. People were pushing baby strollers, couples were holding hands, and kids were running around with abandon. It was an almost festive atmosphere. We used to pretend we were in “bombed out Berlin” walking around the rubble. What a special period in time.

July 29, 1989 was a Saturday night. I did my ushering at Artpark. It was Dave Brubeck that night. When I got home Randy stopped by in his truck. I changed into old clothes and we loaded up and moved two truck loads of bricks.

We cleaned up, picked up some beer and headed over to Joe’s house on Niagara St. Noreen was present. She is a story unto herself. We unwound on Joe’s front porch enjoying the brews. We could hear the action from the Niagara Hotel, just down the street. This old hotel dates back to Lockport’s early years. It has always been a nasty dive place for as long as I can remember. The hard core drinkers always frequented this place.

It sounded like too much fun, so we all walked down to investigate. The bartender thought we were from Canada because we tipped!

There was the usual bizarre crowd out. A little fat guy was putting the make on Noreen. This big German girl with “green teeth” and body odor approached Joe: “You dance with me!” she bellowed as she dragged him out on the dance floor. Noreen, Randy and I are laughing our butts off. It does not take much to make Joe gag; the looks on his face are priceless as he tries not to wretch.

The next thing I knew this girl pulled a repeat performance on me and had me on the dance floor. I understand now why Joe was in such agony. She was nasty. It was Joe’s turn to laugh with Noreen and Randy! Joe had told her I was really interested in her, I had mentioned it when we walked in. That liar!!

I was able to break away and walk the six blocks home. Too much action for this boy!

This is another example from the past showing how bricks had a part in defining my life. I would not have it any other way.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mundane Life=Contentment

I don’t know what we did to deserve the summer we have been enjoying. The nights have been so delightfully cool. My central air conditioning has been inactive for over a month now. Things cooled off enough to where I actually slept under a sheet last night and had little Daggy curl into my chest around 3:00 a.m. When Daggy gives loves in that fashion, it is the harbinger of a good day.

Debbie called at 5:15….. she was too beat to do our morning walk, and had to be in the shop at 8:00 for some “clients from Hell”. That gave me the excuse to cook up a batch of red potatoes and onions into the homefries I love so. Nothing smells as good as a mess of onions cooking down in real butter in a cast iron skillet.

After breakfast I watered down the plants in the front and back yard. Stumpy was napping on the front porch in the wicker rocking chair. It was so comfortable maneuvering the water hose wearing just flip-flops and my Utilikilt! The bird feeder got filled and the “Flintstones” limestone birdbath was topped off. That birdbath is quite shallow, it does not take a lot for the water to get splashed out: it gets a lot of use in the hot afternoons.

My great grandmother on dad’s side loved birds. I just checked back through some of her old books to identify the brown bird that has the best time splashing around in the water. If I’m right this happy guy is a Brown Thrasher. I get such a kick out of those birds in the back. Mercifully the cats leave them alone. They are old enough to it is not worth the aggravation for them to hunt. They would rather sleep!

My Ron had the best saying when we would work in my backyard in Lockport. He loved gardening so. We would spend all day messing in the back. I’d be working with bricks and flagstone while he would work over the plants. When finished we would sit back with a glass of “yard wine” and soak in the work we accomplished. The bees would be all over the honeysuckle, the birds would be flying over head, and “Kittybelle” the cat from behind me would stop by for a visit. Ron would say, “Jimmy, I love your yard, it is so full of LIFE.”

"Kittybelle" enjoying a treat of milk. I loved to spoil this little girl!

Enjoying "yard wine" Joe, Jamie, Ron, David: Summer 1989. Ron died of AIDS just about three years after this picture was taken.

When I sit back now a days with a glass of wine in the same manner, I know I’m not alone. Ron’s spirit is everywhere. According to the medium I saw at Lillydale, he is happy I’m in Alabama, but is exasperated at my fussiness with my bricks! Another one of his sayings was, “That Jimmy is like a squirrel in a cage, he just keeps going round, and round, and round!”

My mundane routine is my reward for the years spent in the factory. I am happy: Life is good.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reflections Back to The Bowman Technical School

Louis was in Lancaster, PA this week. I lived there for some 2 ½ years attending watchmaking school. He sent me photos of my old school which is the catalyst for this entry.

The world was such a different place when I was trying to plan out my future back in the late 1960’s. I really did not seriously apply myself to my academic studies back in my high school days. I planned to eventually join the ranks at the GM plant of my hometown, but I wanted more. I had always been fascinated by all things mechanical. I still have the coo-coo clock that survived my earliest repair attempts.

Doing research with my guidance counselor I figured that if I learned how to repair watches and clocks that would be a great sideline. Having such skills would always be an asset.

At that time in history mechanical watches were still the bell weather. Hamilton Watch Co was located in Lancaster, PA. They were still cranking out first quality mechanical watches, but were at work on opening up the digital field. In May 1972 Hamilton released the first digital watches to the public.

There were still a number of trade schools offering watchmaking courses. I decided upon The Bowman Technical School in Lancaster, Pa. Google is indispensible for locating information. However not everything is out there on “the internets”. Sadly there is scant information on my old trade school. Doing a quick search of my files I found this old folder from 1971 which gives a good overview of my old school.

There was no set admission date to start the watchmaking program. You worked doing projects under the guidance of fantastic watchmakers. The first of the month was the usual admission date if openings were available.

I spent the summer of 1970 touring Europe on my 10 speed with the American Youth Hostels. Returning in late August, I opted to begin my studies October 1st. That way I could work at the Burger Chef for the month of September, recover from two months in Europe, and accrue some money before heading out.

There was no such thing as dormitories or student housing. The school had some connections placing students in living quarters, but there was no real obligation to assume responsibility for students living arrangements. My mom and dad were not “helicopter parents”. I packed up a suitcase and flew out on Allegheny Airlines to Lancaster with no idea where I would live. I was about to start a new chapter of my life

That first month was spent learning the basics of filing and finishing metals. Many of those early projects ended up as tools I use to this day. The school opened at 8:30 in the morning, and closed at 5:00 in the evening. It was pretty much like going to a job. There were no set classes. It was individual instruction.

Pretty much everyone at the school worked on the outside. There was a Burger Chef Drive In located out on Millersville Pike. It made sense to stick with what I was familiar with. I boarded the bus, which took me out to the Manor ShoppingCenter. The restaurant was right near by. I knew I would be walking back into town. I also stopped at the Weis Supermarket and applied for a job.

While waiting for a permanent job I hired out with a temporary job service. I’ll never forget the weekend I worked at the Lancaster Newspaper putting together the Sunday Edition. I had to keep this ancient machine filled with the woman’s pages. I can still see the headlines of that section; "The Working Mother" by Mary Jane Lane.

The supermarket called me and I hired in working the produce department. This turned out to be a godsend. I never ate as healthy as I did working that area. My favourite trick was in the summer sectioning watermelons. When cutting the watermelon in half, if I twisted the huge knife just right, one half would have a little hollow right in the middle. The other half would have a raised portion. I would shave that off and enjoy the “filet”: the sweetest, sandiest part of the fruit. They never caught on!

My first few months were Hell. I did not know a soul; I was totally on my own in a strange city. Gradually I made friends and my schooling began to make sense.

If I remember right the tuition was $75.00 a month. My parents took care of that and I paid all my living expenses. I still have a “budget” where monthly I used to balance to the penny every cent I spent. That is where I learned the value of the dollar and how to save and hoard!

The 1960’s and early 1970’s marked the end of many eras. I was taught how to clean watches the old fashioned way; first using cyanide, then soap and ammonia, a quick dip in alcohol to remove all the moisture, and finally drying the parts in boxwood sawdust. We used to dip our hands in those chemicals and think nothing of it! Changing out the solutions entailed just dumping all those chemicals down the drain of the old soapstone sink. There was a door right by the sink that had a “roller towel” for drying your hands. The EPA put an end the cyanide and indiscriminate chemical dumping.

There was a widow lady near by who took in boarders. For seven months I lived in a real boarding house. How many people of my generation can say that? Better yet, how many people today even know what a boarding house is?

My watchmaking education has served me well. I don’t work on watches and clocks much anymore, but back when the economy was falling apart in the mid 1970’s and early 1980’s that sideline kept me above water and solvent. I’m able to keep my personal collection in repair which is fine with me. The problem solving techniques involved in diagnosing mechanical watch problems I have applied in many aspects of my life.

Here is a street view of the school building. The bottom floor originally housed Bowman's Jewelry Store. The second and third floors housed the classrooms. The third floor was for watchmaking, clockmaking, and hand engraving. The second floor housed jewelry making and a large lecture room. The seating for the room was cast iron and wooden seats similar to what was used in turn of the 19th century schools. Back before WWI there was an observatory at the school. The shell is still there.

The doorway to the right is the entrance to the upper classrooms. My workbench was on the third floor at the far right window. This was a prime spot as the floor was pretty solid and there was no foot traffic. The floors were so shakey, it was not hard to have a project destroyed by a heavy footed person jiggling your workbench as you would be doing a delicate job.

The stairway going up to the classrooms. How many times did I transverse those treads....back then the walls were painted a medium green. It was the green I was to live with my entire Lockport career at GM. It was that puky green that hides dirt, but never looks clean.

The corner clocks were run by this clockworks proudly displayed in the right show window. A miniture version of a tower clock. Sadly this is no longer operating, but at least it is in it's original location.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cash for Clunkers/Claustraphobic Condos

Where to start?? Saturday morning was spent working on our sweeps at the boat house. We had a great crew of people show up. One of the new guys has done a lot of work with kayaks. He brought some unbelievable cleaner and polish for the fiberglass hulls of our sweeps. This sweep we call the I &C now shines like brand new. We also were able to remove stylized "G" the insignia of the University of Georgia, who sold us the sweep. I had the idea about after that capitol G adding "irdle so it would look like our sweep was named the Girdle! Trish set me up perfectly when she said, "Why on earth would you want to name this boat the Girdle?" I shot back with, "Because it takes a lot of little tugs to get it into it's slip!!!" I know I'll pay for that one down the road!!! It is considered bad luck to rename a boat, so I think our sweep will forever be known as the I&C.

In the afternoon I left early to Beseemer, AL. We were having a pot luck dinner with a rowing club out of Birmingham. I got on the road early so I could check out some thrift and surplus stores not far from the party site. I checked these places when Louis was visiting but they were all closed up on the Sunday we were there.

There was not much I was interested in any of these places. Louis explained that when the economy is rotten these places really get picked over. When times are flush, people donate more and shop these stores less.

I had “Googled” directions from my house to the party. I pulled out the printed “close up map” and directions. Damn, I had the directions backwards, from the party site to my house! If I’m right I’m only one exit east of where I should have exited I 59/20. The main road the thrift stores wereed on parallel the interstate. I head west a few miles to find the other exit.

I’m still not sure if all this is right, these roads all merge without any signs. My atlas is at home and the paper fold up Alabama map from the welcome center is pretty worthless.

A Wal-mart store was nearby. I pulled in there and headed to their book section. Sure enough, there were the maps of Birmingham. I was able to ascertain I was correct so far and my destination was very close.

I arrived right on time at 6:00. For once I was not the first one there. For my donation to the pot luck I brought a pan of “baked Corn”. That is always a crowd pleaser.

This rowing club is mainly scullers rowing single boats. From what I can pick up, they are all pretty well uncoached. They are trying to also get a permanent location to store and house their boats. They scull in a lake that is surrounded by private homes that is not too receptive to the lake being used in this way.

One of the members was raving over my corn dish and wanted to know what was in it. I explained it had: 1 can kernel corn, 1 can crème corn, 4 oz sour cream, two beaten eggs, 12 oz corn muffin mix and (here comes the kicker!) two sticks of melted butter. She tried to stifle a horrified look at all the calories from the butter!! LOL!! No wonder it tastes so good!!

After supper there was a brief business meeting. This club wants to sponsor a regatta this fall and kind of wants us to help out. OMG!!! They are so unorganized. I don’t think they have ANY idea of the work effort and planning involved. We handled it very diplomatically so as not to get committed.

Sunday morning I did some research on turning in my truck for the “cash for clunkers” and replacing it. According the Government website my truck is rated for 19 mpg which is 1 mpg over the 18mpg listed to qualify as a gas guzzler. I wanted to check into a Chevy Colorado with a four cylinder engine which has a base price around 17,400.

Jammer went with me to kick tires. There were tons of the huge trucks, but precious little of medium sized like mine. The Chevy dealer had one Colorado, 5 speed manual in white. It was OK, but the bed was shorter than my current Dodge, and truth be told it did not have the features my truck has.

The Blue book value on my truck is around $3,000. I figured if I could get $4,500. through the program that would be a good incentive. But, to spend that kind of money on something I don’t NEED at this point in time is pretty crazy, no matter how good a deal. I just needed to satisfy my curiosity in the matter. I’ll be hanging on to my old truck for some time to come! With 130,000 miles it is still getting broken in!

Heading back home I stopped at an open house for some new condos. An old building was rehabbed from the foundations up. These have to be seen in person to be believed. I found this listing that was posted on Craigslist of all places! The two bedroom unit they focus on has a doorway to a tiny outside balcony. The adjoining unit also has an identical doorway/balcony. These two units are the only units of the six that have access to the outside! The entry ways are from an inside hallway, there are NO WINDOWS! There is no parking for the building, and no access for garbage disposal on site. Boy, talk about planning ahead! I don’t think it will fill up very fast!

Sunday evening was a great row. We had enough to take out two sweeps. Jason coxed us through drills down to the steel mill. We spun the boat and rowed all eight the 5,000 meters back. That is the most we have ever done in an eight. At the end of the row Jason had us gently row with our eyes shut. This makes you concentrate on the sounds of the oars catching and releasing from the river, plus the sound of the seats going forward to the catch. What a great exercise. It was the first time we had attempted this drill. Jason coached in a soft melodious voice to listen and go slow on the seats, and above all to listen…. It was almost like getting hypnotized. The constant motion of the oars, sliding on the seat, and lapping of the oars nearly had me under!

Once we got back to the dock Jason explained how that is nearly universal to happen on the first time. Once you become familiar with the drill it is easy to have your mind wander.

This morning got off to a wild note. Debbie and I were enjoying coffee on the porch after out morning walk. A light brown lab was running loose. I know the dog; he belongs to one of the students around the corner. Traffic can get wild on my street. He nearly got hit racing across my street. We figured he got called home.

Sitting at the computer checking my e-mail I hear Stumpy let out a yowl and he tears over the chain link fence. That dog is still running loose. He is a friendly loveable dog, rolling at my feet and licking my hand. The rabies tags on his collar are from my vet, so I know he is well taken care of. The boys in the house are not home, or will not answer the door.

The dog comes with me to my backyard. I pen him up, and write a note to put on the boys door so they know where their dog is and to keep him safe and off the street. I’m returning home: just as I pass the outside corner of my backyard fence I hear the dog howl. I run in the back to find Stumpy with the upper hand holding this poor dog hostage in the corner of the yard. I don’t need this. I grab Stump from behind and hold him at arms length to get him into the house. He is not happy, and squirms and twists and gets some good digs into me.

My hands were pouring blood by the time I dropped Stump in the back room. The scratches were cleaned out with soap and once the bleeding stops, Neosporin was applied. I went to check on the dog once I was patched up and he was gone. I went to his home and saw the note was off the front door. Hopefully his owner retrieved him: So much for getting a “Thank you” for looking after his dog. I’ve heard the impact of dogs getting hit on my street. It’s a horrible sound you never forget. I never want to hear it again…

After a traumatic morning Stumpy is enjoying a nap under the truck in the driveway as I type this out. Nobody messes with Stump's turf!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Five Mornings on the River

This past week has been pretty hectic. I’ve been on the river every morning with the “Learn to Rows”. Today was their graduation, so to speak. It appears that 8 of the 9 participants want to stay on with the club. This is awesome news!! Hopefully there will be enough guys to flesh out a “Men’s Master” racing team. A number of the new guys have a competitive edge to them.

Wednesday there was not enough people to take out two eights. With only one sweep going out, we had to take one of coach’s launches back, and return the oars from the oar tree to the boat house. Will, Trish, Laurie and I were just standing there with Mitchell who was going to cox the cancelled row. We were so disappointed in not getting out on the river. We were the only ones around; I got the brainstorm… “Who wants to take out a four if I can get the OK?” Everyone’s face lit up: I tore off down the ramp to the dock to plead our case with the coaches. Only experienced rowers and coxes are allowed uncoached rows. It is a safety issue. I felt like a little kid asking mom for permission… “Alison, can we take out a four with Mitchell as the cox/coach?” We are experienced rowers so Alison gave us the OK!

I felt a twinge of guilt as we pushed off the dock thinking of the other rowers who left early. Oh well, you have to grab at opportunity which is what we did. Rowing a four can be tricky; it takes a bit more skill to keep the boat set. We had a great row doing drills to concentrate on improving techniques that plague us. I was rowing starboard which is not my strong side as far as technique goes. I used that opportunity to work out things I was doing wrong.

With the exception of “intramural soccer” back in 1966 I never participated in organized team sports. Being one of scrawniest kids in my class did not put me in demand for inclusion for any teams.

I find it so ironic that a sport that is totally dependent upon teamwork has nearly taken over my life! I saw the greatest tee shirt the other day which proclaimed: Rowing, if it was easy they would have called it baseball. Crewing out you develop a closeness and bonding with your teammates. You are rowing as a unit, not as an individual. Your crew is only as strong as its weakest link.

Now I’m working out at the Y five days a week to make sure I’m not that weak link.

Ted sent out this picture taken from one of the coaches launches this morning. It displays another reason why I’m out on the river every opportunity I can get. It’s the best seat in the house to witness a summer sunrise.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Sunday Evening Row in Pictures

All this week the “learn to rows” are on the water learning the basics of rowing. We “veteran” (I’m loath to call myself that, there is still so much I have to learn) are interspersed through the sweep in the key positions. I really enjoy helping out the new rowers, remembering back to how lost I was when I was just starting. There is a selfish side to all this also: I pick up so much from these basics. Because we are doing the drills so slowly, I can try to concentrate and incorporate some of the more advanced techniques I need to bone up on.

My friends who have been reading this journal of mine have witnessed how rowing has become a real passion in the past year. What a change this sport has made in the quality and richness of my life.

Our coach Alison got some fantastic shots from the coach’s launch of us during our Thursday morning and Sunday afternoon rows.

This entry will be a photo essay of our Sunday row.

You can’t have a rowing session without first scratching Luna, Alison’s dog behind the ears! Such a special dog in so many ways.

The coach’s launch gets down the ramp and into the water with basic human muscle power.

The sweep is carried down the same way. The bulk of the distance carried on shoulders.

It is then hoisted up and overhead and finally rolled into the water.

Getting my oarlock ready for the oar. I was scheduled to row bow seat, but got switched to the 4 seat on the port side. It is a big help to be able to row either side of the sweep.

Everybody is all set, lean away and push off from the dock

I’m rowing port side in the 4 seat position. Easy rowing across the river

Rowing upstream on the 6’s: What a great and varied group of people.

Rowing downstream on the 6’s.

Rowing downstream all 8. We were in the last third of the row when this shot was taken. This is when you are most vulnerable to mess up from being tired. You can tell there are not a lot of smiles on our faces!

It takes a bit of experience to row all eight and keep the boat steady. We would row all eight for a minute or so and then rotate out pairs. The pairs rotated out are alternated so everybody gets a break. Due to having to navigate around a mess in the river, Dianne our cox, forgot to rotate out Robin and me. Poor robin was in agony and made her feelings known. I pipe up, “It’s all right we don’t need to rotate out, we’re just getting warmed up!” That perky response got lots of feedback!!!

Poor Robin in agony.

The sweep got turned around and gently taken in. It takes quite a bit of skill to bring the sweep in, clearing the old tug dock first.

The last thing to get put away is the coach’s launch, again brought up the hill by muscle power. It is fun to try and do wind sprints hauling this beast!

Jason is real good about picking debris out of the river and clearing away floating logs and branches. This was Luna’s lucky day; she got herself a new tennis ball that was floating along!


Luna with her new toy.

I was drenched and worn out from this workout. I needed more for supper than the leftover Progresso soup that was in the ice box. I splurged and stopped at Publix on the way home. I got me a thick juicy steak. It was seared in the cast iron frying pan where I first cooked a mess of onions down in a lot of butter. Then it was broiled up in the toaster oven with a lot more butter. To hell with cholesterol!!!!

I always think of my dad whenever I enjoy a good steak. That was his favourite food; he believed if you were sick, a rare steak would fix you up! I sure felt fixed up after that royal meal! What a way to end a pretty much perfect day…..

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Five Years Ago: August 1, 2004

It is so hard for me to believe that August 2, 2004 was my first day of work at the Corvette Assembly Plant. All those early Bowling Green Entries were lost at my on-line Journal when the site was hacked into. Fortunately, I always do my entries first in Word, save them to my hard drive, and then copy and paste to my Journal. I was reading through those files tonight which inspired this entry.

It was Sunday August 1st,2004. I had the truck packed with my mattress, box spring, computer, boxes of utensils, and finally my old Morris Chair tied to the top of mess. It looked like a load the Beverly Hillbillies would have packed. My destination was first to Wayne and Julie’s place in Portland, Tennessee. Julie transferred to the Corvette plant in the late winter. I’ll store the big stuff at their place for a month until my condo opens. The first month in my relocation will be spent at the Hometown Suites.

Being gone from my house meant I was pretty well forced into installing an alarm system. I left my home at about noontime, setting the alarm. Daggy and Stump knew something was up, but had no idea they would be locked up in the house till Saturday morning.

I was still worried sick about my Daggy. She had been unwell through June losing nearly half her body weight. After some frantic visits to the vet and lots of tests, the conclusion was; she just stopped eating her cat food. I switched to Science Diet and she began to eat again. I was so afraid she would go into relapse with the stress of being locked up and alone.

I was numb from the uncertainty of my future and the guilt of deserting Daggy and Stump doing the 270 mile drive to Wayne and Julies. At least I have friends to help, and I will know some of the people at the plant.

Julie’s mom was visiting for the summer. She is so nice, we had a great visit. Julie had fixed a wonderful meal. Once I got the truck unloaded I felt a bit better. I called the Hometown Suites from her place to let them know I would be arriving a bit late.

I was so stressed out I could not even taste Julie's wonderful dinner. I hate being like this. I left before the sun went down so I could get back to I-65 before dark. It was only about 25 miles from where I got on the interstate to the Hometown Suites at exit 22.

I checked in and got all squared away with the manager. I was able to scrounge up a dolly and moved the boxes from my truck to the room. My stomach was tied up in knots from the stress and tension. I HATE feeling like this, but I had no choice in the matter.

It was just another adventure in my life…….

What a change five years later. Instead of being stressed out I am now luxuriating in my little home. The doors and windows are open wide. A thunderstorm just passed through so the air is cool: the cicadas singing. Daggy just strolled out the side door to join Stumpy in rolling around on the dry sections of the driveway under the carport.

This everyday life in the safety zone of my home is my bliss. Let me post this and the I’ll pour out a glass of my box wine and join the cats….


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.