Friday, March 26, 2010

Another Year Older

More people are reminding me that today is my birthday. I don’t make a big deal about celebrations anymore. As I get older I can understand better how reflecting on life can be so satisfying.

It was back in February 1985 I first began to seriously journal the day to day events in my life. I think I was inspired by the book “The Children of Pride, a true story of Georgia and the Civil War” by Robert Manson Myers. This book was complied from the letters of the Jones family where they chronicled their everyday life.

A trip to Rochester with my friend Don resulted in such a bizarre chain of events I had to record the day. That led to nearly 10 years of paper journals recording my everyday life.

Working production as a “shop rat” on the GM factory floor was a mind numbing existence. Every work day I was in contact with people whose only claim they existed was the work they accomplished at the plant. They had no outside life. I realized early on to keep my work and personal life separate and pretty much private. Most of my co-workers could not comprehend my life when I would share bits and pieces with them.

In 2001 I was introduced to a journal site where I could keep an on-line journal. Once again I began to document my everyday life. This time there was a twist: being in cyberspace meant others had access to read my writing and interact with me. For the most part I stay away from politics and religion and try to keep my rants to a minimum. My journal there has some 1,207 entries. I can spend hours reading back and reliving those recorded days.

It was through writing that journal I gained the confidence to attend college for the first time back in 2003 when the opportunity arose.

It was over a year ago I got sucked into Facebook and I started an E-blogger account to share selected journal entries on my page. This is frightening in a way as my private journal is not Google searchable, where-by the E-blogger account is. The first time I had an entry appear in a top ten search when doing a Google search for “fire hydrants” kind of unnerved me! That kind of explains how off the wall my life is…I’m not changing….(as if I could!)

Reflecting back on time and my life I reach into the past to a “theme entry” from my early days of internet journaling. I like to think my writing style has improved since I first posted this nine years ago. My thoughts are still the same …..

Time-The Theme of the Week

Friday, February 09, 2001

Time is a gift we are given at birth. How we use it is our choice. It can be a curse or the greatest gift we can be given. I personally do not regret the passing of time, and the inevitable aging. The end result is the same for us all no matter what. Ten years ago was a watershed in my life. It seemed that the AIDS epidemic had reached it peak. Every other week there was a funeral, memorial service, or news of a death. There was a list I kept of friends who succumbed to the virus. When the list got to about 50 names, I could not add to it any more. It just hurt too much to look at it. I saw so much courage and bravery in those dying people. Through them I learned what was really important in life. Believe me it is not driving a fancy car, or living in a fancy house.

There was a popular humorist at the turn of the century, Cal Stewart. He went by the name Uncle Josh. He was the rube who was always getting in over his head in the big city. In an interview he gave those many years ago he stated, “When I get to the pearly gates and meet Saint Peter, I want to be remembered by the laughs I gave to people rather than the heartaches." That is pretty much how I try to live my life.

Monday, March 22, 2010


My mornings usually start by first feeding the cats and then putting the kettle on to boil to make coffee. Waiting for the water to heat up I’ll do a “compare and contrast” of the temperatures between my hometown Lockport, NY and my current home in Tuscaloosa, AL. Lockport clocked in at 36°…Tuscaloosa was barely ahead at 37° this morning. Today looks to be another rainy, chilly, gray day. When will this miserable weather turn around???

Chance interactions with people can have a profound influence on your life. When I first met Bob from Michigan in April 1998, he instituted a chain of events that forever changed my life. His philosophy on life he summed up in one word, “enjoy”.

A few weeks ago I was working on the front yard. One of my neighbors John stopped by to visit. His wife just retired and he will be retiring soon. We were comparing our “bucket lists” (things we want to do before “kicking the bucket”). As we were talking the light bulb went off in my head. My good friend Louis is headed to California in April. He was tempting me on making another trip out to join up with him to do a road trip camping out and meeting up with friends.

I was just out visiting San Francisco in February…how can I justify another trip across the country so quickly? Rationally I can’t: except to say it would be a hoot to road trip with Louis and meet up again with our menagerie of friends.

I was telling John, “You will never be any younger or healthier than you are right now. If you want to do something by all means go and do it!” I took my own advice and booked my flight to Oakland, CA. Louis will pick me up at the airport and we will camp out as we travel up highway 1 to Eureka, CA. There we will join up with friends. From there it looks like hiking and camping in the Redwood forest.

For all the years I scrimped and saved for my retirement, it can now be hard for me to spend some of that money. I think it is like some people who grew up during the great depression; they were so afraid of being penniless they regretted spending money on “extravagances” or treating themselves. My dad was like that. One Christmas my sister gave him a woolen scarf from Scotland. Dad never wore it because it was “too good” to use every day. When we cleaned out the house I found it buried away in a drawer. I use it all the time. It is a constant reminder to me to live for today and to ENJOY.

My little Dagney also enjoying Dad’s old scarf!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rainy Sunday

Sunday morning: gray, clammy, with a steady rain falling.

Yesterday was a warm sunny day which was spent working outside. Debbie needed help configuring her privacy fence in the back yard. I was under the impression from talking to her mother Sheri we were going to be adding additional fence sections involving new posts to set, stringers to run and prefab panels fitted. I needed to see the job before making any plan of action. I’m used to doing this type of thing working on my own. I get wigged out doing jobs like this for others. Once I realized what they wanted to accomplish, I explained to them how we could just scab on fence sections to the existing privacy fence.

Greg and I got three sections of the heavy fence and four 2x4’s at Blowes. We had to load up the lumber onto my truck just outside the garden section. It was a beautiful morning. I admonished Greg as we loaded the panels, “Be careful and don’t scratch up the bed of my fine truck!” This lady looked over and saw the beat up bed of my truck and just broke out laughing! We always make somebody’s day!

It was awkward as I had initially had no idea of what I was getting into. There were no tools to speak of except for what I brought over. I was sadly missing my level, square, and other miscellaneous oddball stuff. I’m so used to having the tools I need on hand; I naturally assume all homeowners have at least the basics on hand……. It made for a less than perfect job, but Debbie and Sheri were pleased. That was all that mattered…..

I spent the rest of the afternoon working in the garage. The plants stored there for the winter were moved outside. Sadly, my ancient rubber plants did not survive the prolonged subzero temperatures. I cut all the dead growth off and am taking a chance to see if new growth will appear. The ferns were raggedy but will hopefully fill out. The linage of these ferns can be traced back to Dave D who used to live across the street from me. He bought the original fern from Plant City, located in Buffalo, NY in 1982. God only knows how many times I’ve divided those plants over the years.

There was a bit of life in the surviving spider plant. The original spider baby came from my mom back in 1976 and graced my first apartment. Those plants are pretty much indestructible, so I’m not too worried about it not being “recalled to life”.

Another cold front is behind all the rain. Temperatures are going to fall back into the 30’s. UGH!!!

This past week has been that for projects. My last phonograph acquisition project is finally in the home stretch. In June of 2009 I purchased a phenomenal record cabinet. It was originally made as a base for a Columbia cylinder Graphophone which had a 6” mandrel. This was a configuration that was only in production a few short years. Record cabinets and Graphophones of that style are very collectible.

The Graphophone I had to put on the cabinet was not “correct”. It was a style BKT. The “T” denotes a backmount horn on a common BK Graphophone. It had a gear change to play 2 & 4 minute cylinders, and a “plunger device” that when pressed would pop the record off the mandrel. A two minute cylinder has 100 threads per inch, while a 4 minute record has 200 threads per inch. The reproducer to this machine used a special needle that would play both thread pitches adequately. This was typical Columbia engineering, things done on the cheap. It all sure looked pretty, but performance wise it sucked! It was a happy day when I sold the thing on E-bay and it got shipped over to France!

Here is the listing picture from my E-bay listing. It is a beautiful/rare machine.

The machine to put on this special cabinet was acquired last fall from a collector in Mississippi. It is a Columbia model BF. The base has scallops that match those in the record cabinet. I originally wanted to turn up a backmount assembly to add to this. That would entail drilling into the back panel of the Graphophone. I decided against this course of action and to just use a “front mount” horn instead. I acquired a beautiful flowered horn at the Orlando Phonograph Show in January. I just needed to turn up a crane for the thing.

I had the right style crane for this many years ago. Back in the 1980’s I drastically thinned out my collection. I swore I would never have a front mount machine taking up room in my house again. That crane I sold at the union phonograph show for $50.00 back in the day.

I finally found the right crane on E-bay some 25 years later at nearly four times what I sold my crane for! That crane was delivered Friday. Friday afternoon was spent doing the installation of the crane to the Graphophone cabinet. On this style cabinet, it is real easy to splinter off the flimsy scallop on the base if the weight is not supported and distributed properly.

The worst is now done. All that is needed is to do a cleaning of the motor, a final polishing of the crane and cabinet, and getting the right connector from the reproducer to the horn. I can easily live with the thing as it now stands….

Columbia BF with flower horn, front mount crane, displayed on the serpentine cabinet.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bedroom Eyes Circa 1900

I just turned off the radio. The news was so depressing, but the weather report was the straw that broke this “camel’s” back. The cold temperatures and gray skies are in the forecast for the foreseeable future. I can’t remember the last time there was an entire morning of unbroken sunshine. I know for a fact I have yet to enjoy working in the yard just wearing my Utilikilt and a tee shirt this year. I’m so sick of layered clothes, sweatpants and sweatshirts.

I need to get my trip to North Carolina documented. I got on the road last Thursday the 11th. We did not row as the river was nearly in flood stage from all the rain. The current was fierce.

I headed east on I-20 towards Atlanta about 5:20 a.m. Since I was out of rush hour I took a chance and did not take the 285 by-pass around Atlanta. Traffic was not that bad, but driving conditions were dreadful. It poured rain making the conditions perfect for hydroplaning. The speeding trucks blasted my Dakota with spray making visibility nearly zero. I hate driving under these circumstances. The further north I got on I-85 the better the conditions got. Finally I drove out of the heavy rain. For the rest of the trip I would only have scattered rain showers to drive through.

I poked at a couple antique malls off the interstate. I knew there would not be anything of real interest. It was just an excuse to stop and stretch my legs.

I arrived at Matt and Jen’s about 5:00. It was so good to get out to get out of the truck and relax on their front porch. Made contact with Billy. We made plans to meet at Mickey and Mooches for dinner. This is a wonderful “high end” steak house. The food is top shelf.

We were held up in traffic so were a bit late in arriving. I wore my new black Utilikilt which made quite an impression. Poor Leroy can just shake his head at my fashion sense! We always request the waiter "Twan" that Leroy can't stand! He was not working that night! Damn!!

Normally I get the steak here. The special of the day was Barbequed ribs which are supposed to be out of this world. I broke with my tradition and got the ribs. I was not disappointed.

Friday was set-up at the show. I met Billy at Leroy’s. We had to ready Leroy’s Jeep Cherokee to load up a music box that was stored in Statesville. We unloaded crap out of that vehicle we loaded in on the last trip in 2009! We drove to Statesville for lunch and the pick-up. There is a wonderful “dive” called The Alamo. This is a low cinderblock building with a very bare-bones interior. The grease smell permeates the structure. The good part is there is no smoking inside the place now. It is beyond my compression North Carolina passed a no smoking ordinance.

The best bet at The Alamo is the burgers. Bill and I each got the cheeseburger and split a side of onion rings. The burger was huge and greasy: topped with cheese, onions, cole slaw and mustard. It was so messy and GOOD!!!!!

From here we drove to downtown Statesville to pack up a rare music box that Leroy was going to try and sell. The split back seat was jammed in place so it was a real pain to pack.

From here we drove back to the show to unload and set up. It is a much better location over last years show. That show had a tiny gate and an even smaller display set up. Who knows how this show will go over…..

I’m not in the market to seriously buy anything so I took my time getting to the show Saturday morning. Fortified with a Starbucks and a scone I braved the 20 mile drive to the show.

Leroy was not in sight at the 9;00 opening leaving Billy and me to demonstrate his overpriced music box. Years ago when the market was hot, on a good day he may have gotten 9k for this piece. The case style is called "Rookwood" which had painted scenes and flowers on the cabinet. Today in a nearly non existent market he wants 11K. I know we will be loading it back up! LOL!

The show was death, as I had expected. I doubt I’ll do this again if they hold it next year. I was reminding Charlie, the dealer across the aisle from us I did my first Union, IL phonograph show 30 years ago in 1980! My God, I remember that show like it was yesterday. That was the trip I called in sick to the plant from the road. It was from the payphone at the rest stop just into Ohio from the Pennsylvania state line. I was working afternoons. I had a miserable job then grinding fiberglass cases. I left for the show Thursday night at midnight after my shift ended and I had taken a shower at the plant. I dialed the number and the call went right through to the plant security. Soon as they picked up, the operator cut in with, “One moment please. Please deposit $3.25 for the first three minutes.” After depositing the money to the accompanying dings and dongs I was able to say I would not be in for my shift Friday because I was sick! I could hear the guards chuckling in the background! I copied down my “call in number” as proof I contacted the plant in regards to being “sick” and continued on to the show.

It is memories like this that life is made from: The small inconsequential things that at the time they happen you hardly pay attention to. ……

Charlie had a slew of extra pictures he was using for a book he is putting together. There was one picture in the pile I zeroed in on. I had to have it. Charlie gave it to me… What a great guy. It was my project to get it framed up Monday. Now I’ll always associate Charlie and the dreadful show to the history of this picture.

Charlie seated, Billy standing on left. Me seated on the right.

It is nearly impossible for us to realize how the primitive phonographs 100+ years ago were the cutting edge technology. At first glace you would think the boys in this picture were enamored with the music they are listening to. Close observation reveals there is no record on the mandrel of the Columbia AT Graphophone. I think they are enamored with something besides music….. those sure look like bedroom eyes to me!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cleaning Files/Coxing/Roofing/500,000 Meter Mark

The temperatures are still in the 20’s in the early mornings here. Today it was warmer at 4:30 a.m. in my hometown of Lockport, NY (33°) over Tuscaloosa, AL (27°) However, it is SUPPOSED to warm up to the high 50’s later on in the day.

Speaking of my hometown Lockport, NY, this summer they are having an Old Home Week celebration similar to one held back in 1910. Buried in my files I knew I had an old flyer from that event. I needed to dig it up to post on the event’s Facebook page.

Using that mission as an excuse, I sorted through my filing cabinet. The forgotten stuff I turned up was amazing. One file I had not used in MANY years was my Mileage Plus from US Air. Southwest is my Airline of choice anymore. In that file were the remaining coupons of AirScrip I never used. This was the settlement of the airline industry for fixing prices in the 1980’s – early 1990’s. I checked on the “Internets” to see if these had any value left some 15 years after they were issued. I was so surprised to find they are now worthless!

Also in that file was the receipt for a plane fare to San Francisco from August 1991. That ticket cost $393.00. Using one of my favourite internet tools the comparative value calculator That $393.00 in today’s dollars would be:

$621.25 using the Consumer Price Index

$570.28 using the GDP deflator

$669.99 using the value of consumer bundle

$655.67 using the unskilled wage

$788.54 using the nominal GDP per capita

$947.16 using the relative share of GDP

To think that I can fly to San Francisco round trip using the internet to work out fares cheaper than I could 19 years ago is pretty amazing to me.

Another file I found was my master packing list and invoice from Atlas Van Lines from my move south in March 1997. I had my packing boxes colour coded and numbered for different categories. The content of each box was also listed. I had stopped actively journaling at that point of my life, but just seeing that paperwork brought back such a flood of memories. Someday I’ll get that part of my life documented.

I was successful in turning up that elusive paper. I wish it were in better condition. It was folded up inside some vintage sheet music I purchased at a flea market many years ago.

Thursday morning it was 28° when we took out the sweeps. I was not scheduled to row, but filled in as a cox last minute. I coxed the “Clean Sweep” with mostly new rowers. I learned how to row and cox in a “port rigged” sweep. This means the “stroke seat" (#8) is on the port side of the boat. The “Clean Sweep” is starboard rigged where-by the stroke seat is on the starboard side, which changes everything around.

The stern and bow pair are supposed to be the most experienced/lightest rowers. As usually happens when I cox, I had a strong stern four and weak bow four. Rotating through drills when the bow four would be rowing it would be so frustrating trying to keep a point. The river was still full of floating debris to navigate around. Trying to give some coaching advice and keep the sweep on course gets very nerve wracking to me.

Thank God for Will, who is an experienced rower. He rowed stroke seat and was instrumental in making sure I did the right calls and had the right positions doing the maneuvers to keep on course. Normally the rowers in the bow are used to correct the position when doing drills. As the cox, I’m responsible for the safety of the boat and the eight rowers. It is a scary sight to look down the sweep and see oar blades all over the place. We survived and docked in one piece.

Off the river I headed to Roger’s house to help him and Tim install a metal roof to his shed project. I arrived at 9:00 a.m. I’ve never worked with this kind of roofing. All I know about it is that it must start out square and perfect from the first sheet. Any discrepancy shows up real fast.

This shed turned out to be one of those “mushroom projects” that just went wild. How I wish I had my camera to document the work we did and to show the site. It is hanging on the side of a hill.

It was an all day job; we did not put the tools away till 4:00 p.m. Had we used regular shingles the adventure could have been done in no time.

On the way home I stopped at Publix and got a steak and a bag of onions. I needed a treat. I broiled up a nice juicy steak smothered in onions and butter. I slept like a baby after that meal!

Today I need to do double duty on the Concept 2 at the “Y” since I missed yesterday. There is a challenge going on for the month to row 5,000 meters a day to be eligible for a daily drawing. I missed yesterday so I’ll have to row 10,000 meters today!

By doing the 10,000 meters today, I’ll be over the 500,000 meter mark: half way to one million meters!!!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cold in March

The past weekend was glorious in that the temperatures got up into the upper 50° range. Ever the optimist I turned on the water to the outside shower. Saturday night I “curb shopped” a chrome shower caddy. My old one was pretty well rusted out. You never know when something you need will turn up!

Sunday afternoon was perfect to cut out the dead ferns and clean out the raggedy flower beds. We all met at the boat house at 4:00 for a row. We had enough rowers signed up to take out two eights. I have been coxing the past few sessions; it was heaven to be rowing again. Hunter coxed/coached us. We did drills down to the steel mill, spun the sweep and rowed back all eight. We have not done that in a long time. We played around bumping the rates up and down. The crew was pretty lopsided. I was the only guy rowing starboard, while Melissa was the only woman rowing port! It was a good workout!

I went directly to Gary’s for a dinner invite. It was a fast change into my Utilikilt in the parking lot. He fixed up a wonderful salad, chowder, and bread. Em and Jim from Birmingham were there along with Paul and Terry from Gordo. I had them all going telling stories of my latest San Francisco trip.

Utilikilt in San Francisco.

Winter will not leave. Rowing was canceled this morning out due to the cold temperatures and the rain. Rain I can take when the temperatures are fairly warm, but you get in the 30° range and things can get bad.

I was headed out to the “Y” for my workout shortly after 10:00 a.m. The mail had been delivered early and on the porch was my heart rate monitor watch! YAY!!!!

I had to unpack it and try and figure out how it worked. I’d done some research on line as to optimal heart ranges for different levels of activity. My goal is to work as much in the anaerobic range as I can. According to my calculations that is between 155-166 beats a minute for my age and fitness level.

There is a strap that goes around the chest with the monitor which broadcasts to a watch type contraption. I did a vigorous walk to the “Y” keeping track of my heart rate which stayed in the 111 beats range.

The Concept 2 was the perfect test. There is a March Challenge to row 5,000 meters a day. By erging at least that distance you are eligible for drawings every day. It is just a motivational gimmick to keep you in training!

After doing some warm-ups it was time for the test. I set the readout for 5,000 meters and took off. A few months back I broke the 20 minute mark for the 5,000 meter distance. Monday I did that in a little over 21 minutes. Today I worked intervals of giving it Hell for at least a minute every five minutes and cutting back in between. I put the watch on the machine so I could see the readouts.

Going all out had my heart rate in the 156-160 range. There were a few times it was above 166. That is not sustainable for any time for me yet. Having all these “bells and whistles” makes working out all the more fun!

I did not start out to beat time today, so I was kind of annoyed at myself when I realized in the second half of my workout I could have broken the 20 minute mark had I busted butt harder in the first half. As it was, I finished at 20.25.04 not too shabby…..

Today has been gray and clammy. The cats both have full bellies and are curled up asleep on the bed.

Before starting on this entry I was checking back to research the weather for this time of year as recorded on my journal. This past winter has definitely been the wettest and coldest in the history of my blog here going back to 2001. I ended up reading months of entries killing a few hours.


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.