The New Look

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I really like my blog. I have been away in California and don’t read or write much when I am there and I miss it. I love reading. I love writing. I love thinking. I watch what is happening in our country with Trump and  McConnell and Jordan, and Nunez making things up and yelling and repeating lies and getting their air time so all that they say is perpetuated and starts to creep into our reality and I am appalled. Does no one think? Does no one remember anything? Is our collective memory restricted to yesterday? There have been some fine human beings being questioned, credible and under some considerable pressure. They seemed seem believable during the congressional hearings. What is going to happen? Will we try to get at the truth? Or will Mitch prevail?

 

I’m done. I wanted to say this. I am trying to make my blog better. I figured out I can have a better title for it than pmurray2blog. Oh cool. I chose Making Sense of Chaos. I like it. I got a cool picture up. I like it. So exciting.

 

Now I want to start to be able to organize the materiel on it. I chatted with someone at WordPress who got me started, but I am perplexed. I cannot seem to make the menu at the top have more than one thing at time: it’s either the stuff I put under Cooking, or Martial Arts. I can’t do both?  If you could help steer me in the right direction, I’d love it.

 

Then maybe I can save the world better. It seems like we might need saving.

 

NEW DIET SENSATION Suzy’s Wistful Look Doggie Diet

yXe1iBeTRJyeULw3yQJHPAThe wistful look dog diet is not the same type most people enjoy- or don’t enjoy. The wistful look dog diet- should we refer to it as the WLDD?- requires a dog who can master the best sort of “Oh woe is me” facial expressions, ONiW4DMmRZuPzPeOpYkkkgcombined with pitiful eyes, intense staring with a starved expression lurking behind it all, but also has elements of the ultra lovable me looks and gestures that only a well practiced pup can give, with maybe a hint of “Oh were you going to eat that whole bagel and don’t you think you’re getting a bit pudgy?” to it.cqZ%NkwWQ6eymjVvh8RM1A

 

The benefits are that you get one step closer to heaven as a good deed doer, and it will increase your own longevity- plus of course saving your dog from imminent starvation. With a longer life you can have more doggie friends.vCryllQNR+CgszE4v8TGbQ

 

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, a long, healthy satisfying life, get a doggie, love him or her to pieces, and share.vTYlqK%FTLu3QGS3a0SHtw.jpg

 

Thanks to Suzy for the amazing diet idea.

Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters

d1pqaZZMSEGI%X9nyiaUVgYou remember Catcher in the Rye, I’m sure. Holden Caulfield was my hero for a long time. I tried to reread that book a few years ago and couldn’t. I’ve really changed. But I read about everything of Salinger’s that I could when I was a confused little kid and Raise High The Roof Beam Carpenters was a title I loved. This is not a book review. I don’t even remember what the book was about but it didn’t have much to do with carpentry which I found disappointing as a youngster. I was really interested in carpentry. And I still am. Which is handy because our life seems to have a lot of carpentry in it: fixing boats, fixing houses, building cabins, widgets. Do I love it all? No, you can get discouraged. Sometimes you just have to keep going with grit, just like a lot of things. I loved it all when I was a kid, though, and when I got the chance to work with carpenters and tradesmen on Cape Cod I was in heaven. Ralph Mayo, Junie Lee, Walter Murzyn and Dorie Klimshuk. Walt and Dorie both were builders. I worked with Walt for quite a while and learned a lot. He did everything except pour the foundation. Framing, siding, insulation, roofing, sidewall shingling, interior trim, floors, stairs, masonry, even landscaping- Walt had a small bulldozer that he loved to break out. No plumbing, no electrical work, but we pretty much did it all. One house we even did the sheetrock. He’d gotten a new screw gun and wanted to try it out. I still remember the quote he’d had for the sheetrock from a contractor was 1200 dollars- yes, it was a while ago. Walt decided not to waste the money. We can do it our selves, right?  Sure, Walt. It took us three weeks to do it ourselves. I earned about two hundred dollars a week, five bucks an hour for carpentry- minimum wage was $1.25.  So did Mike. So our three weeks wages were the $1200 quote; Walt worked for free and bought all the materials. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to do the work your self. A lesson I still have to learn I’m afraid. I still try to do it all. It’s kind of fun sometimes.

 

We have had a leak in our roof for a couple of years. It is only apparent in the winter when we get ice dams built up and I’ve been telling myself that that is the problem. When I put our porch on I joined the new roof to the old roof- called a valley, and I cleverly slanted it down hill to the west so it would drain. I wish I’d cleverly slanted it to the east so it would drain onto a roof that got sunshine every morning  but I had it go west where it drains out onto a section of roof shaded most of the time by another dormer.  I didn’t understand flashing too well. I still don’t. I’m not an expert. Last winter during ice dam season I  was putting another pan to catch drips in the crawl space and noticed the plywood  was starting to look pretty bad. Uh oh. Rot spreads.  I knew I had to face it and fix the leak. I knew some wood would have to be replaced which can get really pricey, and we’re tight enough for money that I didn’t want to get into a repair bill that I thought could easily go three thousand bucks. And I’m a pretty good carpenter. So I did it myself.

 

I built staging. I own a some pipe staging because every now and then I have to build a chimney- thanks Junie, but the place I had to stage is too tight. So I build staging the old fashioned way out of two by fours cross braced with boards. My wife thinks this is all the most dangerous thing you can do, more or less equivalent to climbing a mountain in a foggy ice storm at night. Maybe with a broken foot. I don’t feel that way. I like staging. Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters. So I have staging to climb onto at the edge of the roof and then I put staging on the roof. I am no longer comfortable walking a nine pitch roof, but with roof brackets, it feels safe again. And I begin to disassemble everything. I take off the shingles on the side wall so I can redo the flashing on that side that leaks. I take off roof shingles. I start pulling out the punky plywood.cC2eCVojRQSq5fTaiysFTw

Oh it wasn’t pretty.

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In fact it was pretty ugly. I kept going. I took it all out.kGdbsS5OQ%+p40TQGouMxw

 

And you make a big mess. And it all takes time, but then you start to put things back together and it feels really good. Fresh plywood. The framing was all o.k. I painted some epoxy on some parts to soak up and make it more waterproof. I replaced insulation. I cleaned up and felt pretty good.u25l0MTtSae2rXncSkcMaw

And after the plywood I put down some Grace Ice and Water membrane. I call it Bitchathane just as William Daugherty did, a terrific carpenter we know in Maine. If you work with it you’ll see why. It is very sticky once the paper backing is removed.

 

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I made great progress and was going to have it kind of closed up before the predicted rain. I put a tarp over it and thought we wouldn’t be too bad.

 

It rained hard that night. I got up in the morning and saw the first of the drips starting. Not too bad. I put a bucket under it. Then another drip popped up. And another. We had buckets and pans all over the place. I put pans back in the crawl space and towels. And we had to empty buckets. It was a long, wet rainy day. I climbed up on the roof and fiddled with things a bit- there was a small lake in the valley because I had bent up some flashing, and it leaked a lot. And we had two more days of rain predicted. Bad timing. New England in the fall. Why didn’t I do this in the summer when it was hot and dry? Right. Give up the beach to work on a roof.

 

We got a respite. The sunny day predicted for midweek showed up early, and I got up there and finished off the roof. J8BCF5xKSuyd%yiycfs1%g

Bitchathane, new aluminum flashing all along the side wall, lead where the valley meets the roof, and tar everywhere. When I first bought a bucket of tar some wag at the lumber store said, “When you open that up you might as well dive right in because that’s what you’re going to look like in a few hours.” I thought it was just funny when he said it, but he was right. When I say I had tar everywhere, I mean it. Shirt, shoes, pants, hands, hair.

 

I didn’t get to the side wall shingling, but I finished off the whole roof repair and replaced and painted the trim.eU7lNYIwQH2XQ9UvuU4RtQ

 

Doesn’t it look beautiful? How do you get the new shingles to go under the old shingles like that? You tube.

 

So now we just have to hope for enough rain to give it a proper test. And then finish up with the wooden shingles. It took about thirty hours and cost $400. I can handle that.SnGVTeKjS+2k+SDVOYLMkg

 

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I’m glad I wasn’t barefoot.

 

 

 

Owls Head Classic Automobile Auction

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This is an unbelievable trip. Time travel? Carried back to the good old days on waves of nostalgia inspired by beautifully restored works of art? You bet. My brother Mike and I used to go to the Owls Head Transportation Museum’s annual Classic and Antique Automobile auction every year. We would get a bidding ticket, Mike would stay for the entire 14 hour auction and come back to our place on Owls Head and we’d talk excited about what he’d seen. I’d just go for a few hours of previewing and a few hours of the auction, but I had a little bit of life to lead and didn’t stay there as he used to. We never bought a car. One year I had salted away a thousand dollars, and he was supposed to have done the same. We were going to buy a car at the auction and flip it to make a little money. And then the next year, inspired and with more experience,  we’d try it again with more money. That was the year I got the awful call from my sister Ginny while I was waiting for one from Mike about when he’d arrive. “Mike’s dead.”

That was long time ago. The auction has changed for me since then. It was blast to wander among these old beauties with Mike, Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys blasting in the background through the big speakers the museum put out. If it was at least nineteen feet long and made in America, Mike loved it. “Hey, Paul, look at this 62 Caddie.” Or an old Buick. Or Chrysler

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Check this baby out!PUvgp70%RWyLAHt0IpC%Hw

 

Back when cars were cars.

 

I’d be more interested in sports cars.

 

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Is there anything as gorgeous as an XKE?HXj79i0jS+CS1RNzwwFWuQ

Or an Austin Healey 3000?

 

So I’d look at the old Porsches and Triumphs and Mike at the Chevy’s and Buicks and we’d have a blast calling each other over to admire some hunk of metal and paint that absolutely transported us to another world, far far away. Newington of 1965? Our youth, when life was full of promise and seemed so bright? Some unknown place where life was lovely all the time as you rolled down the highway, a friend by your side, cheap gas in the tank, plenty of time and money. Is that the appeal?

 

 

 

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I couldn’t tell you.

 

Now I view it all a bit differently. I ate lunch that day  with Suzy at a place called Up in Smoke in Rockland, a barbecue place that is quite good. There we met Dennis Chevron- I may be misspelling his name as he said it in French and I didn’t ask him to spell it for me. He and his wife were down from Montreal for the auction and shared a table with Suzy and me and Hobbes. Dennis is 78 and quite knowledgeable about cars, a lifetime collector. I loved listening to him talk. I picked his brain about Fords and got a ton of great information. He was full of veneration for both American cars and for America. Until recently. We got onto Trump. As Canadians they have noticed such a change. They winter in Florida and feel they have to be very circumspect about talking about Trump down there. That’s creepy, right. Isn’t this America? Can’t we speak freely? I was vaguely incredulous, but of course I feel it too. I can rail about Trump to my friends and I live in a fairly liberal area. Up in Maine I, too, am more cautious about leaping into a discussion of Trump. Oh. Really. “When are we going to impeach the bastard?” might not be the way to open up a conversation with a stranger in a Republican state. The guards at the border into the U.S., Dennis noted, are no longer as friendly. He went on to explain: In a company, the employees take their clue from the leader. If it is a company of three people, and the owner is a bit grumpy about certain things, all three employees will tend to be grumpy about those things. It is the same, in a country of three hundred million. We take our clue as to how to act from our leader. Trump has had a profound impact on how we treat others. Just this one old guy from Montreal talking, right? But I agree. Completely.

 

He went on about how the American automobile transformed the world. America was the preeminent industrial power on the planet and the automobile is at the center of that. He talked, too, of how in a catholic world- he was a catholic- you were pressured to keep producing children. No child that year? You were living in sin. So you’d have lots of kids. With fifteen children none of the children has much of a chance. You start working young to help support the family and then when the worn out mother and father start to fade  at forty-five or fifty you have to take care of them. Those children will not have the same chances as the child of parents who had one or two and had the luck, pluck and wherewithal to provide an education for their children, who can then  make a real solid contribution to the world and be rewarded for it. Third world countries, and in poor areas everywhere, producing a lot of children is still a common practice and encouraged- birth control? Abortion? Nay. A great to control people. Hunger removes a lot of people’s tendency to wax philosophical. I heard on the t.v news a while ago that fifty percent of American are living at or below the poverty level. I was incredulous. I ran into a former student the other day who has been working at a local grocery store for a decade. He lives with his mom, helping her pay for the house she and her husband raised their family in. Her husband, Arthur’s dad, died in 2009. A new mortgage comp[any just took over their mortgage and has apparently decided the house is not worth enough for the new mortgage company to hold the mortgage of that size. I’m not sure of the details. Too much money borrowed on the house when the values were high back before the 2008 debacle? Anyway, Arthur and his mom,  are being foreclosed upon. He and his mom are being evicted as of September. It seems unkind and unfair. He’s a bright, hardworking clean living kid and he and his mom no longer own a house. The American dream.

 

So I waltz around looking at cars. Who buys these cars?s4CN2SqTQ4+fAl6jUJfw1Q

 

Is it truckers?30CsZWnVTxuTHONxqr%qKA

Is it retired school teachers who remember when their dad had a car like this?

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A man now grown who remembers his first date with his wife in a car like this?

 

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A man buying his wife a cool car?

 

Well yes, I guess so. There was a 64 Corvair convertible that went, at the end of the auction, for 1400 bucks. Wow! It drove onto the auction and looked pretty good. A 1995 Red Mercedes Benz convertible that looked fabulous went for $4500. That Kharmann Ghia went for seven grand. Not bad. So there are some bargains.

 

Then there was the guy who sold his Jaguar XK 150 for six figures, and he does this for a living- blue collar guy. A mechanic. And some sort of Shelby Mustang went for a quarter of a million dollars.

 

So it’s all kinds of people who show up. I bought a t shirt. I don’t know if Dennis bought anything. It’s a cool day, but I think more about the plight that America is in these days. The rich are having a blast. What about the rest of us?fGFSxtwYSfq%UnpPDZunBA

 

 

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

 

This is a fabulous book. Suzy and I were remembering how much we had liked this book a decade ago and thought we’d reread it aloud this summer. It’s really fun to read a book aloud.  This is a pretty whimsical and funny title and there is a lot of pretty funny and whimsical stuff in it, but it is about the German occupation in 1940 of the island of Guernsey, one of the  British Channel Islands close the coast of France. It gets occupied by Germans as they advance on Britain during those dark hours of World War two. World War two is pretty far away now and I think a lot of people forget. I’m too young to really remember it, but through books and movies is has been kept alive and that’s important. I think it’s especially important now as we blunder along wondering whether or not we should impeach Donald Trump. I can tell you what the people of Guernsey would say about Donald Trump. About anybody who was so unethical as the crew we are currently watching rape America.

 

We tend to castigate the Nazis. Rightly so? Some do not. Some admire them. Well in the circles I travel in the Nazis are reviled. Probably in the circles you travel in too, since you are reading. I think people who read tend to be more tolerant of differences and intolerant of people who are not tolerant of differences. The nazis were promoting dominance of a single race- the Aryan race. Ancient and proud and they were going to rule- the third Reich was going to be around for a thousand years. Get out of their way. They rounded up a lot of people and did gruesome things. Worst genocide in history? There have been others. Regimes are often brutal. The Turks- Vladimir the Impaler. Genghis Khan. The Romans. The Russians. The British? The United States- with the American Indians? Oh my. Are we all guilty? Should we all just give up because we are part of a grand horrifying regime? Is there no hope for us as humans? Can there be no room for kindness, understanding, being helpful, sharing? Is it such a dog-eat-dog world that you just have to pick up your weapon and start swinging or you’ll be swallowed alive by the giant vicious machine that is humanity?

No.

I don’t believe that for a minute. But the direction of our current administration and Senate is scary. Support the people in power- the wealthy, the corporate giants and start rounding up suspects, denigrating journalists and intellectuals, and neglecting segments of our society who are not maybe quite as valuable looking as the pretty people.

Who speaks up to prevent this blight, this continual transfer of wealth toward the top, the neglecting of children, of keeping opportunity away from large segments of our population while favoring certain other populations, of continually pushing technology and “hard data” while ignoring the humanities and qualitative data. Are we afraid to speak up. Are we afraid of being shouted down? Can there be no civil disagreement? Is subtlety a thing of the past? Is nuance gone? Is everything black or white? Is shouting “Fake news!” going to end any discussion? Do facts no longer exist? Are we all too busy to care? Do people of sense just get worn down by people who repeat and repeat and repeat misinformation?

In The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, there is a scene where two Guernsey Islanders are out walking- just before curfew- and they hear some beautiful music coming out of a big house the German officers have taken over for their use. They assume it is a German radio station. They are quite literally in the dark about the state of the outside world,  allowed two candles per household a week. Radios are forbidden on pain of imprisonment or death, whichever someone decides. Television hasn’t been invented yet, and the phone lines are cut to the mainland. All they can learn is what the Germans tell them. And the Germans have told them that London has been flattened. And there have certainly been a lot of bombers going over.

The  two islanders pause near enough to enjoy the music hungrily. At a break the radio announcer says, in English, that it is British Radio and in the background they hear Big Ben chime. Unmistakable once you’ve heard it. So they know: London still exists. It has not been flattened. It’s just German propaganda that says it has been flattened.

The two felt elated. Hope.

Germany was very good at propaganda. It was one of their weapons. Totalitarians know free access to information is devastating to their interests and so do what they can to prevent information dissemination and any discussion. Nothing like that going on now, is there? There is a little catch. A twist on it that we should be aware of. There is so much information available now that it can be confusing. How do you sort it out. How do you sort the fake news from the real news?

We all used to be taught it in school. It was called reading. Consider the source. Being perceptive enough, to smell something suspicious and then thinking about it, investigating  further, checking some other sources, but it takes discipline. And time. And there is so much really really interesting information out there, and there are masters of distraction working hard to keep it flowing, and groups of people chanting lock her up. I’ve always found groups of people chanting something to be creepy.

There is an interesting study of how people’s minds are influenced. The subject of the study is shown a series of lines that appear to be different lengths. but are actually the same length. The arrows at the end of the lines go different ways: it’s an optical illusion. So it’s a little hard to make up your mind, but you can measure it and see. Oh yes. They’re the same length. Well the experiment was in putting the person asked to decide which line is longer into a group of people who all agreed that one line was longer than the other and then seeing what happened to the person who was the subject of the experiment. Most people changed their minds to agree with the group. Really. Even though they could measure the lines.

 

Then there is the Denning Kruger Effect, Two Cornell psychologists wrote a paper in 1999 called “Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self assessments.” Pretty funny, right. The less you know the more competent you think you are?  Does anyone come to mind?

 

Does democracy preclude this? No. Of course not. That means  that a group who agrees to something for whatever reason- it’s been paid to think that, or it will be in that group’s best interests to think that, can change the mind of almost any  single person who disagrees? Changing the world, one person at a time. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Discussion. Reasoned argument. Remember? Convince with logic, not force of numbers. A powerful group determining what you think. Isn’t that groupthink? Don’t we not like group think. Isn’t that what happened to Enron in the late 90’s? Isn’t that what cults are? Have we forgotten how to be individuals?

We know it’s bad. Let’s not have groupthink.  Let’s have think. Let’s listen to each other. Let’s not put pressure on people to convince them of something or other. Let’s let people think for themselves. Let’s allow. Tolerance. Patience. Politeness. Could we have polite leaders? Would that do it? Not a bad place to start. People in power who were polite and listened? Wouldn’t that be nice. A leader who listened? Or do we want a leader with all the answers. Wait- what are the questions? Aren’t the questions important? How can you know that you have all the answers before you hear the questions? Is that weakness- to admit that you don’t know something? Or do we just go ahead pretending to know all the answers. Well you know the answer to that.

If you want a few hours of utter charm, laced with thought-provoking harshness from the past to help you think about our future and what you can personally do to change that future, I’d recommend you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. You might want to start your own literary society. Suzy and I are thinking that the Owls Head Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has a certain ring to it. We could meet on our porch and serve blueberry muffins. Join us.

 

Busy, Busy, Busy

kWVqQTNKQW24%%NEjSua9AI have loved where we live: Storrs, Wildwood Road. More the land where we are than the town, especially now that I am retired and no longer so involved with the school system and thus the community. I’m noticing though, that it is a lot of work both for me and Suzy. Are we slowing down as we age? Are our priorities changing? Inside the house we’re in a mess because we’re always going to Maine or to the Cape; outside we’re  a mess, too. Not now. This morning it is beautiful. I mowed and weed whacked for three hours yesterday, and had been mowing a few times before that so we’re not in bad shape, but it is raining and the grass and weeds are growing as I sit here not mowing. We have an orchard and two gardens that have fences, three acres of grass, two ponds, a barn, four sheds, a wood pile, over a thousand feet of stone wall, a 600 foot driveway in addition to the house.9dGRtUlWQWmbkXl4pl4qQQ

 

Just writing that makes me marvel. And Suzy and I have built almost everything ourselves. I mean we put up the walls of the house, pounded nails- Suzy on the dormer wall shingling to beat winter that first year, sewing curtains, reupholstering chairs we got from the family or tag sales because we were so broke. I’ve shingled every roof on the place, built every chimney, installed all the windows and and painted and scraped and dug and designed and fenced and trimmed and mowed and split and stacked wood: this place is us. And I’ve been proud of it. Proud of us and of our place. And now I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. Suzy and I both. We have a full and active life. I don’t want to give up sailing and swimming and  rowing and cycling and gardening.

Yesterday was perhaps the pinnacle. of it all. We had a karate testing session here in our small dojo in the upstairs of the barn. Claire, who has been with us for over a decade was testing for second degree black belt. Very impressive. Her husband Peter who has just started- not quite ready for yellow belt, but was going to participate because of the high powered guns we had showing up for testing. Steve got me started almost fifteen years ago. He was then third degree black belt. Now he’s sixth degree. We studied with Grandmaster Chuck Graham. Chuck stepped down recently as the head of the organization we belong to, American Tae Kwan Do Moo Duk Kwan, but he likes to keep involved. He was inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame as a tenth degree Grandmaster a few years ago, so he’s the real deal. He was coming up to do the testing. Stanley Heath, head of the Connecticut bunch of us, eighth degree Grandmaster was joining us, as were Masters Art Roberts and Jose Reviera. Wow, right? And Ceara is going for her green belt- she’s been really working hard, and Jonathan, working out with us pretty steadily for the past year but with many years of fencing and Capoeira and Muay Tai and most recently Shaolin Kempo was also testing. We had some spectators. How proud am I? I built the dojo. Right? I am tied up in this heart and soul. Great day. It started early. 7:30 I’m in bed pondering my dream about the old white haired man whose ancient Studebaker wouldn’t run that I’m trying to help when I hear tires on the driveway. It’s Claire and Peter. The test is at ten. They want to warm up and practice. Jonathan shows up shortly after. He wants to take a run and then start warming up. I can’t imagine taking a run first. He’s younger than I am, but he explains is getting older and need to warm up before he warms up. Ceara shows up shortly after that. Steve has warned everybody that Chuck will likely be early. Show up by nine. Well we’re all here well before nine. Steve and Chuck show a little after nine and it’s great to see Chuck. He is a bear of a man and formidable if he wants to be, but a very friendly and genuine,nice guy. We talked for fifteen minutes about his retirement from head of security at a hospital in Bethesda and his new life in New Jersey. We are planning a dinner- we’ve made a pot roast and pound cake-

after the testing and Steve is bringing beer and wine and lasagna, others brought salads and cookies. pie, cheese and nibbles. Our fridge is full and coolers have to be used, and Suzy and I are missing our usual hour of peace and tea. It’s a little nerve wracking. I’d been mowing and whacking weeds for days. The night before I mopped the mat in the dojo and cleaned things up and set chairs out. When Chuck started class about nine thirty it was a relief to finally be in my gi and part of a class. Except Chuck calls me out. I’m to line up with the masters, not in the class. Yes, he promoted me to Master level last fall. I was shocked and almost corrected him. I almost let slip, “No Chuck it’s third degree,”  as he handed me the black belt with the red stripe in the middle of it. When a tenth degree Grandmaster says you’re a fourth degree you’re a fourth degree. Who am I to question?

So now I have new perspective on the class. I am watching the stress that they are under. I see Claire as she falters in a kata. I see her mind work. Chuck throws me a question. “Did she do that kata well?” Ho! on the spot Master Murray. I, too, am tested. Claire does a really good job on Basai, and another advanced kata which I somehow failed to see. Jonathan does well, joining Claire for Naihanchi  Shodan. Ceara and Peter performed admirably during the basics where Chuck barks out commands. They  are also fine on the first three kata. Way to go Peter. Ceara gets through Needan- we’d been practicing. I am proud of them. Then some one steps- an attack and take down. Some three step sparring, then four guys around them attacking from different directions. Yes! I keep getting more proud. Steve has does a wonderful job with us all.does he feel the pride I do?  Of course I’m just standing  around looking good- not my favorite role. By noon it’s over. We line up; we listen to Chuck; we hear the promotions. Claire is now second degree black belt and she has earned it. Her husband Peter is seventh kup white belt, and his certificate is signed by two grand masters and four masters. Ceara now proudly wears green belt. And Jonathan jumps to red. We had been thinking purple but Chuck is the judge- he’s good at this. All of Jonathan’s years in other arts. We sign certificates, have the belt changing ceremonies, talk, good feelings abound. It’s over. The tension is gone, and we drift toward dinner and now it’s time to host. Steve and I are hustling to heat food. Chuck wants to eat and get going. We sit and eat and talk around the table in our kitchen, Suzy beside me. Chuck has been  involved in martial arts for over 50 years. The talk is astounding. He talks about Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee because people ask about them. He knows there are people more impressive than them. Really? Hollywood martial arts. It is two o’clock. People leave. I walk Chuck and Stanley out. It has been awesome. Everyone has been helping pick up. Suzy and I say we’ll finish the clean up. The testees all leave. Steve has to get going.  Suzy had loaded the dishwasher while I walked the first wave out;  we both polish it off.  I invite Suzy to take a walk with Hobbes and me. Down by the Fenton River. I want to decompress. I am some wound up. %JSHTVw8Tw637h+cRcAfTw

We walk. We come home. I work in the garden. I plant some more beans. I set out my watermelon plants. I weed a little. I break out the weed whacker. It gets finicky I decide to swim with Suzy while there is still sun on the pond. She swims a lot. I swim for two minutes, then I get on my paddle board. I glide around, totally cosmic. Golden sunshine streaming in across the pond in the late afternoon. The pond looks better since I attacked the phragmites with the weed whacker; we get these giant weeds all along the outside edge of our pond. “Two more hours”  I think. “I’ll lash the canoe to a dinghy to stabilize it and float around with the weed whacker and work those weeds from the inside; it’ll be all clear.” Suzy gets out after her swim. We pull the kayak down. She paddles. I paddle my board, Hobbes is not tempted to join us, but watches like the good shepherd he is. It is lovely.

We get out. Enjoying a moment.

I dry off. I dress. I put the board back.  I climb on the mower for a couple of hours of mowing.

And this morning I think about giving all this up.

Leona Peona

When I was a confused college kid the one thing I most looked forward to was coming home for the weekend and  I could leave early on Friday, hitchhiking back from UConn to Newington, to talk for an hour or two with my mom before everybody started coming home, everybody being my Dad and brother who would change the tenor of the conversation. My mom was a good listener and it really helped me sort things out to talk with her. Not so with my dad and brother who both had all the answers.

On this particular day I had wanted to come home from a different approach and so had gotten out up by Lack’s Market so I could walk down Golf Street to the country club and then down Oak Street to Indian Hill. Even then, when I was close to 20, the memories would flood back. Me n’ Kenny walking from his house to mine. Rex, the Leinhardt’s golden retriever. My brother Joe and I going up here late one night on Halloween for a little extra trick or treating and my being scared by one house that Joey just blithely walked up to to ring the doorbell. He got a lot of candy. I was still too scared to go up.  Greg Tower, on the corner of Sequin, whose younger sister Leslie suddenly blossomed.  One year she was Leslie, Greg Tower’s little sister, and then one year she was holy cow Leslie Tower, Greg Tower’s little sister. I guess you’d have to add an exclamation point. Adolescence. Then past Russell Knowles’ house, past the little secret place under the apple tree at the end of the Utman’s yard, right next to the fairway on the first hole, where Bruce, and Leigh Bacon and I all showed off for Russell that we smoked. I had inhaled by accident and fallen on the ground coughing. I came down the hill and saw Leona, our dog, waiting on the corner. What a treat. I was going to call when a school bus pulled up. Little kids were piling off the bus and Leona still sat. One little girl got off and ran over to her with her arms out wide calling, “Leona!” I continued down the hill The little girl went her way and Leona headed to our house. I followed her.

I told my mom. “Oh yes. Leona likes to greet the school bus. I let her out every afternoon.”

We had gotten Leona on the Cape one summer. We had Freda, a pup the Arcari’s had given my brother Joe because he was their paper boy. Freda was part cocker spaniel and part something else.  She was a lovable dog, too, with a vast interest in food that my mom attributed to her having been spayed. Freda would pick a single blueberry off a bush from our yard in Eastham. She’d eat a piece of an orange if you made here do a trick or two. She’d eat anything actually. She blew up like a balloon over the years. There was a time where she was so fat that she was sway backed both ways. When it rained there would be a little puddle of water on her back. We got Leona to kind of keep Freda company and to keep us kids company after we’d lost Freddie. It was in the summer and we were on the Cape- our family had bought a piece of land up there and built a big cottage- a house really. We’d spend some very happy weeks in the summer. I think our family’s happiest days. Somehow my parents had located a litter of pups and we went over- it was down by the Wellfleet Drive in theater on Massasoit Road. The mother was a golden retriever. The pups were long curly haired, and white. Sheepdog? I used to joke that the father belonged to some people who were driving through in a Packard- a  James Thurber line. We took Leona home with us. I’m not sure where the name came from. My dad and mom were both pretty clever. She did look lion like, and Leonine means lion like. Hmmm. But we thought we’d named her and we loved her to pieces. We’d take her everywhere. Freda too. Freda was older then. I remember a lady at the beach one day saying to Leona while she climbed all over Freda chewing her with abandon, “Give her some peace!” We had adventures all over with Leona on the Cape. You know, little adventures. We’d give her some ice cream from the Dairy Queen in Orleans. We’d take her for walks. We’d play fox and geese down on the clam flats at low tide. People were more relaxed about dogs back then. Leash laws? I don’t think they were invented yet. Not that we didn’t occasionally put Leon a on a leash. If we were going down to the Landing, a local market, we’d put her on a leash. I had just gotten my license, and my mom would have me drive her down there to pick up a few things. Ginny and I had Leona with us while we helped our mom shop. A woman stopped us to admire Leona and asked what breed she was. I was always ready with the joke I guess, because I said, “She’s a pure bred Golden Fetcher.”

The woman said without hesitation, “You can tell she’s pure bred.”

So we had golden fetcher jokes for the rest of the summer.

I’m not sure it was that first summer; it must have been the next, because  I was driving our 1960 Chevy Impala, that my dad got after he wracked up our 64 Buick Skylark. The one with a three speed manual transmission because my dad liked to shift. Fine by me. I liked to shift too. That Buick had a V 6 engine in it and if you were a merciless teenaged boy with no regard for machinery, you could peel out in that thing like crazy. You’d rev it up and pop the clutch and wow! Smoke and noise and all manner of attractive things. There was many a patch of impressive rubber all over town, I was proud to say. I remember an embarrassing moment when my dad brought the car in to Sears over by where West Farms Mall now is, to complain that the brand new tires he’d just bought were showing signs of alarming wear in the rear. I was with him. The salesman suggested that, if there were younger drivers, it might be due to their enthusiastic starts. My face got a little warm, but my father just said, “That’s ridiculous. It’s a little six cylinder engine.” We did get new tires. My enthusiasm for starts waned a little.

 

My dad had a pretty bad wreck in the Skylark. He got tossed out of the car through the windshield, fanny first. The car ended up in the river and my dad probably would have drowned if he’d had his seatbelt on. I used that for years  as evidence to take a contrarian stance on seatbelt usage. And it was true. He’d been drinking heavily, the reason for the crash, and would probably never have been able to figure how to get  out of a car under water. I’d read the Reader’s digest article on how to do it. You open the window to let water in until the pressure of the outside water is equalized by inside water and you can open the door and swim out. You know, in case you’re ever there. He had 32 stitches in his backside and had to sit on an inflatable cushion for the longest time. We needed a new car and we went looking. I was rooting for a VW bug, and my dad wasn’t against that- he’d had the 1961 Morris Minor convertible just before he got the Buick, but in the end we got a red Chevy Impala. 283 V-8, two speed Powerglide transmission. It was what was called a convertible hardtop. It was two door, with no pillar between the front and the back, so you could put the windows down and it was a lot of open area for the breeze to flow through, which is exactly what we were doing as we cruised along Ocean View Drive in Eastham from Coast Guard Beach toward Nauset Light Beach when Leona spotted a rabbit. She went out the window in a flash. We were doing about 25 or 30 and Leona leaped for the side of the road. When she hit she rolled over sideways about three times. She got up a bit stunned. The rabbit had escaped. We stopped and got her. None the worse for wear. She didn’t jump out the window after any more rabbits after that, though.IMG_8017

This picture is not exactly Leona. It’s Hobbes, our current dog. Leona once had her picture taken where she had so many burrs on her face that you could tell she was embarrassed to have her picture taken. Back in the day of film. I’ve no idea of where that picture is, but I had to have some picture.

 

We never had Leona spayed. I guess we thought that since Freda had been spayed and gotten so fat that we’d avoid that. She had puppies pretty young. About every dog in town was hanging around our house. I thought that was pretty cool. She gave birth to a batch of puppies that varied quite a bit. The family across the street from the Utmans- the Bartletts? had a dog named Tony, black and white. My sister Ginny used to baby sit for these guys. Don’t you know one of the puppies looked like Tony. Somebody said a litter can be the product of more than one father. I’m embarrassed to say that I do not know if that is true or not, but we sure assumed it was because these puppies varied a lot! We had to get rid of them, of course, and we did. I didn’t want to see any of them go, but I was by now a college student and not home. My mom would have to take care of them all. We decided to keep Hansel, a handsome dog- we thought part collie because of his ruff who turned out to be giant of a dog. He could put his paws on your shoulders and lick your face, just the way the Russian Wolfhounds my mom and Dad had cared for at one point in their young married life had been able to do. My Dad was 6’3″ Or was it 6’2″?

 

We had two pups left. They were over six months old now, and pretty big. I told my mom I could take them up to UConn and find them good homes. I actually had no intention of finding them good homes. I was going to keep them myself. Gretel and Gza Gza. So I hitchhiked back to UConn with the two big dogs- yes, a very different time. It didn’t work out though. I had to leave them in my room when I went to class and as infrequent as it was that I actually went to class, I did sometimes go. I was living illegally in what used to be a janitor’s supply closet in Colt House at UConn, where a friend on mine was the resident advisor. He was letting me stay there for free. Well one day the dogs were making a ruckus when I was at philosophy class. A house cleaning woman opened the door. Imagine her surprise. I got found out. I got called in the to administration, had to pay back rent. It was awful. I did then manage to find homes for the dogs. And I did then drop out of school and run away to Cape Cod where life was little more sane.

 

 

 

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Mr. Buddy Gets a Burger

 

 

 

pcmmgdkgSKirTVPzVoXZawDinner in Lee Massachusetts, after a reading in North Hampton the day before.  Mr. Buddy did not attend the reading. Mr. Buddy did not attend the dinner. Mr Buddy would have loved to have attended either the dinner or the reading or both. He is very sociable. Why did we exclude Mr. Buddy from both the dinner and the literary event? Are we cruel? Who are we to decide whether or not Mr. Buddy will attend a dinner or a gathering of intellectuals? Is he somehow socially awkward despite his proclivity to be social? Is his hygiene questionable? No. Mr. Buddy is a dog, and there are rules we humans make up about dogs and restaurants and public gatherings. We were just following convention. Mr. Buddy likes to think a lot. You ask him to come, and he thinks about it. “Some dogs come when you call them; I come when I want to,” Mr. Buddy explains. That was Mr. Buddy talking. A dog who thinks and talks. No wonder he would have enjoyed the reading. No wonder he would have enjoyed the dinner.  If only he had opposable thumbs. Well there are differences between humans and dogs other than our big brains and opposable thumbs. Dogs are pretty honest. I mean Mr. Buddy is upfront about not wanting to come sometimes, and that can be inconvenient, but you know where you stand with him. An inconvenient truth? If you want to pet him and he wants to eat, he won’t let you pet him. He can’t dissemble to save his life. He is utterly transparent. I guess that’s a big difference between a dog and a human.

So to make up for the fact that he couldn’t come into the reading or the restaurant, we bring him a little treat. He got a half a burger from Michael’s. Fair enough? I couldn’t tell you how he feels really- it’s not actually Mr. Buddy who does the talking; it’s us humans around him.  But he seemed to be pretty pleased with the deal. He didn’t say anything.

Counting Money

 

I don’t really hate pennies. Or singles. But it now costs so much to buy things that a penny seems sort of useless. A single does, too sometimes. Remember when a twenty was a big bill? My brother Mike bought a car from Mr. Utman for twenty dollars when he was in high school. The Utmans were a young, cool couple in our Newington neighborhood. Mr Utman could do the belly roll- he’s lift up his shirt and roll his stomach in and out to our immense amusement. And he told jokes and snuck out on the golf course toward dusk to shoot a few holes just like we would a few years later. Their house backed right up onto Indian Hill Country club. The first hole’s long fairway.  And his wife Nancy, was young and beautiful. I think every boy in the neighborhood was in love with her. I know I was. We were all about ten. So Mr. Utman was going to get a new car, and rather than trade in their 1950 Ford, he offered it to my brother, who snapped it up. Twenty bucks. And it was a V8. “Nuthin’ outrun my V8 Ford.” I didn’t know that song yet, but my brother Mike was some set up. He loved that car. And he was working and needed a car and gas was cheap and if the Ford broke you could fix it and it ran like hell. Mike set the official – well he said it was official and he was my older brother- Newington to Cape Cod land speed record in that car with my mother, who was thanks to us kids getting to be a little grey haired old lady by now, sitting in the passenger seat, and my mother was not one for excitement. Mike was a good story teller and it was a thrill for me to hear him tell of hitting 80 miles an hour on route 101 headed to Providence while keeping up a good stream of jokes and stories  so Mommy wouldn’t get alarmed and ask him to slow down. Four hours and ten minutes. A little over 180 miles. And you had to go through Providence back then which could take pretty close to forever because they changed the route every two or three days and getting lost was more of a probability than making it through. And he didn’t have anyone to spot the white route 6  signs with the little black arrows indicated where you had to turn as you wrestled with Providence traffic. Close to 50 miles an hour average.  You can’t reproduce that route today. 195 runs through Providence now so smooth it just isn’t the same. We got to know Providence a bit. Martin Plastics used to have a sunfish on display in their window that I would stare at with yearning. United Fruit had warehouses. Donut shops. Car dealers. Tasca Ford. I forget what it was- the largest Ford dealership in New England or the world or something. Our father taught us to curse Providence drivers. Drivers from Connecticut were so good of course. I still notice Providence drivers. They are crazy.

 

So the hippopotamus bank pictured above was my brother Mike’s. He’d save his change in it. He was pretty focused on money. He worked at Belmont Records in Hartford, and right next door was the Sound Room which dealt with stereo equipment. High end stuff. He loved that job. He was really connected to the music scene in Hartford. He met his good friend Roger at Belmont, and worked with some guy named Max at the Sound Room. Max was apparently an inventor of sorts in the stereo world. So between selling and installing high end stereo equipment and selling records, Mike was in heaven. After he’d been to college, though he felt compelled to get a real job and so ended up working at Aetna. The money was good, and he was good at the job. He had a wicked sense of humor and called his boss Pooh, and Mike made some training films that stuck around for quite awhile. But what he loved was the weekends when he could still work Saturday at Belmont and the sound Room again. That was the good old days. He drove a hot baby blue 67 Buick LeSabre convertible. Bought a 65 Chevy Corvette Sting Ray coupe. He wrecked the Vette. Drinking one night. He was o.k. I mean physically. I guess things we going on in his head though.

 

Right after high school Mike had gone in the navy for a while.  He didn’t quite make it through. I was never really sure of what went on. I was a pretty clueless kid. There was time when he was home on leave, after a stint in the hospital. Lithium as a drug. Wild mood swings. I knew something was up. But I was as proud as can be of my brother Mike for being in the navy. I still remember his service number: 598 58 58. Printed on his dog tags. I had joined the sea scouts with Kenny Peterson. Kenny’s older brother Billie was in the sea scouts, so we left boy scouts, which used to meet at Elm Hill Elementary school and you only had to be 11 to join- bunch of little kids,  to join the sea scouts. You had to be 14 to be a sea scout, so it was really cooler than boy scouts. And we wore old navy uniforms, the dress blues. We had to peel off one of the three white stripes that ran around the edge of the neck and the bottom of the sleeves.There was a flap that hung down in back, too. And we squared our hats, and you felt pretty official. And Gil smoked cigars at the meetings, and you could get chewed out for goofing up. We felt pretty grown up. Nothing like getting sworn at by an old guy with a cigar to make you feel like things were serious. I remember one lecture we got where Gill talked about how they – the adults who were helping us- could all go bowling and it would be a lot more fun and easier, but they thought they might be doing something worthwhile here and what were doing here if all you were going to do is goof off. Oh yes.

Mike  was a musician. He played violin in high school, and he was good. He was the concertmaster of the All Connecticut Orchestra. My dad bought him a fiddle built in Germany in 1758 or so, might have been ’53 and paid $750 for it. That was a tremendous sum of money in those days, right. I mean the Ford was twenty bucks. I guess he knew he was going in the navy and so when he was a  junior or senior in high school he took up the baritone horn so he could play in the Navy band. He made the band. That was pretty impressive to learn the baritone well enough so fast to audition for and make the Navy band. And he got to play for the president. Pretty cool, even if, the way I figured it, he probably wasn’t going to be sailing on a naval vessel with his baritone, he was still in the navy. He didn’t have to rip off one of the three stripes on his uniform.

 

I was talking about money. I have my brother Mike’s hippo. That’s pretty funny, right? My wife has a piggie bank, and that’s pretty cool, but this is a hippo bank. Much cooler. Mike passed away a number of years ago He was in his young 60’s. Ouch.  Kenny just turned 70. I’ll be 70 in a month. To die at 62. No. That’s wrong. That pursuit of money that Mike was so focused on kind of went awry. After he quit Aetna- how could he quit a cushy high paying job where he could have stayed for another couple of decades and retired? He said he just didn’t have the grey flannel mind. People at work got to him. So he had some kind of integrity, a dream. He worked for Sony, and Marantz and then kind of drifted- starting businesses- Frozen Red Snapper. Frozen beef. It’s disheartening to think about. Small one man operations that all went broke. He used up his entire nest egg. He’d always planned to retire at 40 and I forget the number, but I think it was 40 grand he had stashed away- this is fifty years ago when that was a ton of money- when he was working for Sony. He’d been their number two salesman, and although he worked on salary, not commission- didn’t have the confidence to go out on commission, he was doing quite well. Not now. Business after business. He’d borrow money I guess from Eleanor. and try again somewhere else. Moved to Tennessee. Things were getting tough. He asked Uncle George for his inheritance ahead of time- George was still alive and well. He started selling used cars. His feet were killing him. He smoked. He drank. He used to come up to the Owls Head Antique and Classic Automobile Auction with Aunt Eleanor.  Suzy and I have a cottage in Owls Head and it was always fun to have them come up. And boy is Mike fun to go to a car show with. Although he liked the big Detroit iron. If it wasn’t at least 19 feet long he didn’t like it. I was into sports cars, old Porsches especially. We always dreamed of buying a car together. We’d walk around admiring car after car after car with old Chuck Berry and Beach boy tunes blaring out of the speakers. You look at 62 Chevy while the Beach Boy’s Tune goes- Vroom Vroom Vroom…. dual quad four speed postitraction 409 . Oh it’s pretty close to heaven.

 

He retired from selling cars. I don’t know what he had to retire on, but he did.  Aunt Eleanor had bought a trailer in Oceanside, CA where she and Mike would go together for vacations. Eleanor had tremendous affection for Mike and she said to him that he could stay in the trailer. He said when he left that he just wanted six months in California. He asked me to try to sell his fiddle. We made plans for the Owls Head Auction and this year, I’d saved a thousand dollars up and I was going to be ready with my half of the money. We were going to bid on and buy something this year, take it home, fix it up and flip it to make a little money.

 

I remember the call. My sister Ginny called up the night before Mike was supposed to show up. Jesus. He wouldn’t be showing up this year. Or any other year. My brother Joe went out to the trailer in Oceanside. It can’t have been pretty. Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. Crackers. Beer cans. Booze? He got his six months.

 

I miss my brother Mike. You get older and you want to be around your family a little more. Your friends.

 

So the hippopotamus was overfilled. It wouldn’t take another dime. It had a quarter sticking out of it. So I got out the coin wrappers, just like Mike used to. And I spilled the change out onto the stool. It was hard to get it to come out. It was packed. I keep pennies in a little bowl, so he hippo is full of real money. And it adds up. I’d unjam it with my finger, shake it, money poured out. It took a long time to count it, roll it all up. Off to the bank. There was over a hundred bucks in that little hippo. Five Fords? Yeah, I guess so. Five Fords. The good old days. When Mike was around.QvO8Y+xYS0SmKTRuqc+WQQ.jpg

 

 

Road Trip March 2019 or Usually the Mayonnaise is in the door in the Fridge in the Winter: Life with Suzy

 

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We need to know. We love to be certain. We like to expound  and have others think that we know. We’d like them to be convinced that we know, we really know. We’re certain. We’re sure of ourselves. Confident. Positive. Strong. Part of Trump’s appeal to some is this. He knows everything. Believe me. Trust me. Do those who follow Trump relinquish their own ability to function in the world? To think for themselves? We all want to be  right. It’s a natural tendency to want to believe you’re right and sometimes we fight really hard to hold on to that belief.  Uncertainty makes us uncomfortable. If some overly confident self-promoter comes along do we always want to believe in him. The messiah? No uncertainty for us. Please. No more uncertainty. We can’t stand it.

 

The last night driving along 84, coming through Waterbury Suzy got confused. We’d been in the van for a long time. She used to live in Watertown. Her parents have lived in several houses down there, and so has she. She still has family there. She talked about it a little. Confusion about where you are. Who you are. Where you live. Where you used to live. Who you used to be. Where you’re going. There’s a line from the movie, The Matrix where one of the Agents says “He doesn’t know.” They’ve got Morpheus trapped they think, and I forget exactly which agent it is, but he’s been unplugged and is out of the loop and it really quite a creepy line- “He doesn’t know.” We don’t like to not know. Last night it happened again. Suzy didn’t know where she was. It was a very tender moment. We’d been home, she’d a long bath, with a glass of wine. We’d laughed and talked at expressed relief at being home. I got something to eat ready. We watched Rachel Maddow talk about Trump’s latest folly- they never end. We talked with our son by phone. It felt great. And snuggled up in bed, that oh so comfortable bed, with Hobbes contented, lying on the floor with his bunny and a pink slipper he’d stolen, a bit of rain starting, Suzy woke and asked where we were. Right. Long trip. She was confused. I told her, “We’re home. Storrs,” She didn’t get it. “The house we built. Where we’ve lived for 37 years. Where we raised our son. Remember?” Talk about uncertainty.

“Is this my parent’s house?”

“No, Suzy. Remember we built this place? You helped shingle it. You pretended winter was coming to make yourself work faster?”

It took a while. She got it. We’re home. Not in the van anymore. Not at her parents. It was more than just being sleepy. She snuggled in and said, “I’m scared.”

“I’m scared, too.”

“Are you?”

“Yes. I don’t want to lose you.”

Suzy and I had just gotten back from a trip down to Florida in our van. Two weeks. Shorter than I wanted. We had to barge through the berm of snow at the end of our driveway last night and it was bit dicey at times getting down the driveway. Another week in the warmth and the sunshine would have been nice: Sanibel. Island, The keys. A little diving, and canoeing.  Some surfing in Melbourne? I could have enjoyed that. Suzy was not enjoying the trip. The intrepid traveling partner I’ve had for so long was not there. She wanted to go home. She hated Florida when we were in Delaware. She hated the weather.  She didn’t know what state we were in. She didn’t know what day it was. She didn’t know where we were headed or how long we’d been gone or why we’d come. She wanted to go home. And when we got home she didn’t know we were there. Yes, I was scared. Will there come a time when she doesn’t know who I am? Who Hobbes is? Who she is?

When I was younger I heard about Alzheimer’s disease and I thought there’s a useless worry. So you can’t remember things. Big deal.

Well I see it differently now. This trip helped open my eyes, and the tender and honest moment Suzy and I had gives me hope and insight. She’s fine now. She gave Hobbes a bath last night, has been doing laundry. We shopped together, had a hamburger with a Florida tomato we’d brought back on it while we watched the news. Trump? Oh yes, still up to his antics. There is no hope for him. He’s delusional, either by choice because he has figured out a way to make his life better that way or he’s just delusional. Distract people, confuse people, con people, get your way and barge ahead all the while explaining in that annoying voice with those annoying mannerisms. I guess people who like him aren’t annoyed. He seems to think that if he says something it makes it true. And certainly we humans do get lead down the garden path by people like him. I thought we were smarter. Some of us are. Is it the end of democracy? Is democracy going to drown in a sea of disinformation, misinformation. I guess we’ll see. Alzheimer’s of the nation. Too confused to act?

I know my course of action has to be different than Trump’s. I need to be quite patient. Suzy isn’t doing this on purpose.This is just happening. She needs love and understanding and friendship and fun and good food and music and dancing and travel and swimming and sailing and campfires and stories and movies and jokes and conversation just like the rest of us. And I’m her guide. And when I get discouraged, or scared it’s not good. I’ve got a lot to learn, and I’m on it. So where do we get our information? From the internet? Will some of you who read this blog comment and will I read those? Yes. Will I read articles? Yes. Books? Yes. Talk with people? Yes. Seek experts? Yes. How about prevagen? Television ads claim it helps the brain. Yeah, I like that. A creature with no brain ground up and put in pills to help your brain. You know, the reason a news show is an hour long now is so they can show you all those ads. And on the internet, same thing, right? Where the disinformation/misinformation campaigns start. The rumor mill. Lock her up. No, I will not be getting sucked in to that morass.

 

Our van trip was not as long or as joyous as I’d hoped, but we did have a lot of good times. I’m off the pity pot that I will admit I ended up on quite few times. There were moments- anguish? Close.  But I got a lot of help. This great blue heron stopped by while I talked on the phone to Kenny and Debbie Peterson from Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine Florida. The weather had been quite cold. Suzy was upset. I was upset. I called Kenny to see if I could visit. He and Debbie were wintering in their RV in Flagler Beach, one of the resons we were there.We talked a long while. Debbie dad had Alzheimer’s. I’m new to accepting that Suzy has Alzheimer’s. It felt so good to talk. I felt less alone.Yq+yPF4ESZ6dir5tjFRolQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

At tea this morning at home was wonderful. Suzy was chipper. We talked, and laughed and planned. We had another moment of frankness talking about Alzheimer’s. I want to be honest. I want to be open. I want her to understand that I will care for her and comfort her and love her and that our life has changed in some ways, how we may be selling Storrs, building on to our cottage in Owls Head to make a simple, suitable home to ease our life a bit. We;ve talked about it a lot. But our marriage is still the foundation of our lives. We’re committed to each other. It feels so good. Frank. Earnest talk. Then I have to go out to get to the post office before it closes to pick up our mail, and when I come back it has gone ugly. Suzy is bitter. She’s upset. Her answers are clipped. One word.  Uh oh.

“You know your really hurt me this morning.”

“I can tell. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

We go back to our tasks. I’m making chicken Cacciatore for dinner. She’s sweeping the floor for the third time. I try to break the ice. “Do you want to help me make the cacciatore?”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?.”

“I have Alzheimer’s. I can’t do anything.”

I instantly regret my moment of honesty. I backpedal. I am surprised- flummoxed. “I…”

“I’m not drooling in my oatmeal. I have some memory loss. I’ve always been timid. I don’t have Alzheimer’s. You really hurt me when you said that.”

“I’m sorry. I won’t say it again.”

“I’m not drooling in my oatmeal.”

“No Suzy, you’re not.”

“You hurt me. What hurts me most is that you think  I have Alzheimer’s.”

“I’m sorry. Do you believe that I didn’t mean to hurt you?”

It takes some time for the answer to come. “Yes.”

“Do you believe that I love you?”

“Yes. I love you too.”

Are we back to normal? No. There is no normal. This is the new normal. Finding two two pound bags of sugar in the spice cabinet. Not seeing the compost bucket and going to search and finding it halfway back from the garden in the back yard near the buoys that Hobbes plays with. Helping to look for her jeans that we “left in Florida.” Leaving her doing one thing which you think will occupy half an hour and make her feel good about helping out and coming back to find her having just finished giving the dog a bath, task forgotten.

 

So we got these mood swings on the trip. My god it was good to see Kenny and Debbie and Kenny’s brother Billy and his wife Jackie. We talked and talked. Around the campfire with Sue from Newington, and Mark, and friends from New Brunswick and fellow campers. Telling tales, rioutous tales about the laundry. Jokes, Comaradery. Suzy enjoyed it, too. Company is good for her. It was hard to leave. Kenny and Debbie are off to Bryce Canyon for the summer very soon where they will be camp hosts. We said our goodbyes and thanks. The next morning was warm. We hung around basking  in sunshine, made plans to run  for Ginny’s in the Villages to see her and my sister Claudie. but first, we had to have a swim. We went to St. Augustine beach and had a glorious swim. A little cool: the wind- the water is mid 60’s. We both love it.

Suzy and I drove down following what my phone said to do along gorgeous back Florida roads, to my sister Ginny’s place, and Claudie was there, too. I was almost overwhelmed when I saw Ginny and Claude walk out of the house. Some family. Some friends. Very nice. We enjoyed a fantastic time talking with Ron and Claude and Roy and Ginny, eating pizza, having a beer. Then desert. Pumpkin bread my sister Claudie made with ice cream and whipped cream. Heaven. For Suzy? For me. vb+Vy73lT+S%VQHtPx6XoQ

Roy’s gotta go golf.

 

Then we had a few days on our own. We stopped for a beautiful swim in Crystal River at Hunter Spring. something about 70 degree water in March is very nice. Suzy prospers.MIi+vgVkRr2RxK8Iz4zRIQ Then off to our reservation at Sunset Isle RV park in Cedar Key Florida, where we had three great days/nights. Tht top photo is the sunset on our arrival. Warm weather, pot luck supper, a music jam where Suzy chickened out of playing her guitar, but came up front two times to sing with us and I played the fiddle. The next night day a canoe ride out to a key,TLN9iVvwTBqCoQb4Qkcr6Qthen a sunset  fiddler at a bar for two hours. We drank beer and danced and listened and laughed and walked back to the van happy. Then the third night, just back from a swim at Rainbow Springs, a concert at the RV park where we danced eight or ten times to oldies with Hobbes right there, once on the dance floor, but mostly being tended by other campers. Nothing short of awesome- for Suzy, too. Not just me.

 

Then it is time to head. I promised Suzy if she was not happy after our reservations were up, we’d head back. So we did. Off to Knoxville, by way of Thomasvillle Georgia. I love driving these new roads. Monticello, Florida.of9vLm+dSIuXl1N4yjPgjQ

This is a gorgeous town on route 19, out toward the panhandle end of things. I am eager to get back.

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Why not stay? Why not explore while we’re here? Because we can’t. We have to head home. Suzy is happier when I tell her we are headed home.

 

Knoxville with my brother Joe and his wife Phyllis and their daughter Stacey, and granddaughter Ariel. It again felt sooo good to be with family. here are Suzy and Phyllis and Joe on their boat dock where you can sit on the boat and feel like you’re boating because the Tennessee River is flowing by at four knots. Joe says,  “With a gin and tonic in your hand it’s cheap boating!”  Right at the dock. No fuel, no steering needed. Just sit and watch the water flow. And he can almost see his boat from their condo.eMSLvatKTnGWwXwpIiQ

 

We go out for ice cream and Joe and PJ are talking about dinner the next night at a cool Mexican place, but when we go out for ice cream I tell Joe that we had better leave. Suzy has asked four or five times where Hobbes is in the last fifteen minutes. We have to run for home. We had a great visit, but it is time to boogie. And so we do. The next morning. Late, but we head north.

 

It’s not over. I like driving. there are moments driving, say cruising down route 17 in North Carolina, almost no traffic, and you get an absolutely wonderful feeling. Like Sailing. Almost. I mean not as fun, but that feeling of freedom, of escape from the routine, of just floating, of getting somewhere sort of slowly- even if it is 65 miles an hour, with scenery  unfolding before your eyes, with your dog on the floor next to your and Suzy beside you knitting a patch for the favorite sweater she made me thirty years ago is pretty nice. Or route 19 North out of Florida and into Georgia. Or even on the interstate rocketing along at 70, with Enya blasting on the CD player. Making our way back home. Even the sight of a Confederate flag flying proudly on a distant hillside doesn’t completely break the sense wonder, of amazement.

 

We drive. We make miles. We look for lunch. Great Mexican place at exit 17,  route 81,  just into Virginia.vK46MPmwQaSn%8uaJD2DMA We use our phone to make a reservation. We rock out to our favorite CD’s. We listen to the radio. Some interesting guy about what scarcity does to your brain an deciusion making. Scarcity of money, scarcity of time. I missed the part about what the other end of the spectrum does to you: excess, the billionaires; we drove out of range. We camp we shower, we cook in the van, we sleep, we get up, we walk Hobbes, we make tea, we eat breakfast, we pack up, we make some miles. We’re in Pennsylvania. It feels like home. Only 250 miles to go. Fuel and food, so we can just drive.

 

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This place was awesome!

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Suzy divijng into a chili dog. Super Gyros. Near Bethlehem, off 78.

 

And we drive. And think. You see  things. You get ideas. You change. slowly. You think about life differently.OYeElDHzRoWvSEWAxSAKUwrV7XSjyXTk28CAuL1qhNFQ

 

You get home. And it feels good. Life with Suzy.

 

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