Reaching Out

So, last night as I was leaving the parking garage where my car rests every night, I found my self wondering what I would be writing about next. A few thoughts rolled through my head as I opened the door that leads out onto the street and I saw something that made me smile. I don’t know the back story, or indeed, if there is one at all. It just caught me by surprise and gave me a bit of hope, I guess.

As I stepped into the sunny spring afternoon, I saw a couple of archetypical skater types coming down the street. Low slung, baggy pants, chain wallet, chin scruff, hats with perfectly flat brims, rotated a minimum of 45º from forward and sporting a variety of dark arm and neck tattoos.

The road is pretty flat there and actually climbs just a little bit. They were pushing along, tiny wheels grinding away on the left over sand from an icy winter. No sooner had I noticed the duo coming, then up from behind them came a woman on a bicycle. She was about forty five-ish, wore a kind of geeky helmet and riding gloves. Her bike was of the kind owned by an enthusiastic and committed bike rider; the type you would see riding in the rain. It was even fitted with panniers. Judging by her clothes, it was fairly obvious that she was on her way home from work somewhere in the office buildings of downtown.

As she passed the first skater, she flashed big smile and quickly put out an open hand. Skater number one missed the hand but having seen the missed opportunity over his shoulder, skater number two reached out and carefully caught it. Her big smile spread like an electrical charge down her arm and up his. His sullen, tough guy visage broke into a look of pure glee as they quickly zipped past me, hand in hand, far ahead of his buddy now, who was feverishly kicking at the ground, failing miserably to keep up.

Perhaps she knows these guys. Maybe one of them is her son or one of his buddies. I have no idea. Honestly, I don’t care to know. It was such a great little vignette to catch, I don’t want to spoil it with details. I just like seeing the unexpected. If it can include people being nice to each other, so much the better.

Was it a foolish move on her part? Perhaps. All sorts of thing could have happened, even if she does know them. Still, it’s great to see folks from different walks of life reach out and enjoy a moment.

I love where I live.

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Proving Grounds

So today was the first big day for this new dad of two. For the first time, I was the sole care giver for the kiddos while Action Girl went back to her employer for the fist time in months and months so she could pick a schedule to start working in about a week and a half.

Let me say that first, I rather pride my self on being able to multi-multi-multi task and manage time and resources very well. It’s what I do every day at work. At work though, the machinery and product rarely poops its self, then runs around shrieking and trying to escape. To be fair, neither do my kids (mostly). Short Stack is far too happy go lucky for that sort of behavior (again, mostly) and Lulu Belle is still in the “Where you put her is where you’ll find her” stage. Mostly, Short Stack wants to play with his trucks and Lulu Belle wants… well, if I knew that, I’d be in far greater demand with young parents with new babies. Let’s just say that her main interests are eating, sleeping, pooping and “urping up”.

Action Girl was out the door by eight and I was determined to make a showing of not just competency, but Super Dad levels of ability. I really bent my self hard into the job and worked my buns off; not for the bragging rights, but rather to show how badly I wanted to earn an “A+” WITH a Gold Star and smiley face. I think I made it.

The kids and I had a good time. Actually, mostly Short Stack had a good time. he has trucks to play with and used them well. Lulu Belle was cranky and barely slept. I finally got her down with a bottle, a fresh diaper, the baby swing, a pacifier, and “The ABBA Gold Collection”. Hey, when it comes to crying babies, what ever works.

When Action Girl came home at about 12:45, she got out of the car, looked at me, cocked an eyebrow and said,”Well, how did it go?”

I took a deep breath…

“Our internet connection is now fixed, the dishes are done, the baby bottles are sterilized, the laundry is folded and put away, the lawn is watered, the kids are fed, they have fresh diapers on, the trash went out, I reconnected the plumbing in the front yard. Short Stack is covered in sun block and is playing with trucks, Lulu Belle isn’t having anything to do with napping so she’s in the swing seat with a pacifier listening to ABBA.”

That got me a great big hug and a kiss!

“I guess dinner’s on me, huh?”
“Nah, I’ll bring home pizza”. Hey, if you’re putting your all into it, you might as well go for broke. I’m picking the toppings though!

Memento Mori

Nothing fun or or humorous today, I’m afraid. Just a post about a day and a man, very important to me.

Memorial day, in my mind is second only to Armistice day. What ever your feeling are on the topic of war and regardless of what ever war you are thinking about, this is a day to remember those who, as Mr. Lincoln put it, “Gave the last full measure of devotion“.

What ever your thoughts are about the conflicts this nation has seen, this is the time to remember them and their passing.

And so, I will tell you the briefest story of a man whom I never met and know only a little about.

His name is Henry Metcalf and he was born in Keene, New Hampshire, in 1833. At the out break of the Civil War, he signed up with a volunteer outfit that was assembled in Cheshire County and left his trade as a printer to fight for the North. He rose to the rank of Captain and was one of the thousands who found him self on the fateful battle field at Gettysburg. On the second day of the battle, he was ordered down into the Peach Orchard with his men, far from the union lines. It was a foolish order from a glory grabbing general that got them there. It was an exposed position with little cover, but those were the orders and so that’s where he was.

As Captain Metcalf and his men came under heavy fire from the Confederates, the battle line became disjointed and broken. A lower ranking General than the one who sent them down there, ordered Captain Metcalf to straighten up his line. Henry moved along and through his men and repositioned them to better hold their ground. Once the men were where he wanted them, he turned to his commander and spoke these words: “How’s that, General?”

It was the last thing he said. A moment later, a bullet struck him in the head, killing him instantly. Soon after, the Peach Orchard position was abandoned as unholdable and the remaining men retreated back to the Union lines.

Captain Metcalf’s body was returned to Keene and he was buried in the Washington Street Cemetery. His resting place is marked with a stone made of white marble. If you go there looking for it, you could easily miss it. Time and acid rain has scrubbed at his name and most markings on its surface. Many are blurred into total obscurity. Some are still just legible.

[Photos added a couple of days later]

I know what it says though. When I was younger, it was easily readable and my father and I found it one day. My Dad spent a lot of time researching Henry, and found out everything I just told you. Later, we went to the Peach Orchard in Gettysburg and stood near the spot where he spoke his last words.

He was a soldier, doing his duty. He never came home to live a happy life. His work went on with out him, as did his family. He wasn’t anyone of real historic note. Just a man doing what he felt was his duty.

I feel that it’s my duty to remember him. So today, I’ll talk about you, Henry. I never knew you. You are not kin to me, but you are not forgotten. I’ll visit your resting place and make sure that you have a flag on your marker this Monday. We owe you that much. Requiscat in Pace.

Fleeing the Madness

Well, this is the Thursday before it all begins. The hoards are at the gate and will be parking on the azaleas by this time tomorrow. Good thing I don’t have any azaleas! Stupid hoards!

Memorial day weekend is upon us and what that means on the coast of Maine is that all the summer folk will be here to open the shutters of their vacation homes, sweep out a winter’s worth of dust and spend the evenings shivering on their porches, pretending that the warm weather is here. It’s not, but hey… “A” for effort!

We live in a fairly picturesque little place. We’re near a good sized city but still have the rural feel of old time, small neighborhoods. The road in front of my house is dirt, but in twenty minutes, and with out a car, you are in the middle of a kitsch filled shopping Mecca. Where else are you going to be able to buy your lobster hat? “No where”, if you’re fortunate.

This time of the year is always a bitter sweet affair for us. On the one hand, seeing the closed houses open up again and the lawns fill with badminton nets and squealing kids is pretty great. The entire place comes alive and is used to its fullest. On the other hand, this is our home. We live here not only in the fun, warm, green season, but through the dark, snowy, freezing winter as well. We get used to having the run of the place. Short cuts made running through empty yards is lost once the families return from their southern habitations. We know the place better then them! It’s ours! Or… not.

The harsh reality is that the summer folks probably know my area better than I do. They come for the summer and spend their days climbing over every last rock, searching every bit of beach and relaxing on various porches enjoying the long summer nights. We work. Though I’m here all the time, I rarely get to take in the pleasures of my surroundings. That’s not a complaint! It’s just life. When I have a good weekend, I work on my house. When we have vacation time, we go away… Like this weekend, for instance.

By this time on Saturday, the little market where we buy our necessities will be awash in lost looking visitors “from away” trying to find the gin and shampoo. If you can hear over the shouts of “Honey? Did you find the toilet paper? What? They only have THAT kind?!”, you might be able to catch the sound of an audible eye roll from those of us who call this place home.

But hey, let’s not get to high and might here. It’s a beautiful place, where we live. It would be stingy to try and keep it all to our selves and to be honest, it’s kind of fun to watch so much life get injected into our otherwise sleepy little corner of the coast. I’d be lying if I said that we didn’t like the money they bring, either. SO, I’ll keep a smile on, help folks with directions and explain many, many, MANY times how to get around here. Well… I figure I can hold the smile until at least until the end of August. Then all bets are off.

But… in the mean time, I’m locking the door, stuffing the family into the Subaru wagon and we are skipping out on the start of the madness that will descend. Hopefully we’ll be long gone before the masses show up and start double-parking their gigantor-mobiles on the main drag and and complaining about the smell of the seaweed rotting on the beaches (“Ew! Don’t they clean that up?”). We’ll go and visit my folks in New Hampshire and let Short Stack go run around in the same yard that I pounded down, all those years ago. I think it will be a fun time.

I sure hope the store there carries the type of toilet paper I like. I hate that other stuff.

“Honey? did you pack the rum? WHAT?! Well I hope they have it here.”

Peanut Butter and Fluff

Ah, the white puffiness that brings back the halcyon days of running barefoot through the grass, flying kites in the spring breeze and calling up friends and seeing if they can come over and play. Wait… Those weren’t the halcyon days, it was last Thursday.

Either way, this stuff always makes the day a little bit better and puts a gooey smile on my face. For some of you, this might be a strange and unknown substance, and since I’ve heard tell that might be a regional thing, please allow me to introduce you… to Fluff.

Fluff is what happens to marshmallows when they spend too much time tanning at the beach. It is, in essence, frothy marshmallow in a jar. It is sticky, it is sugary and can destroy a piece of Wonder Bread if improperly spread, reducing the mangled slice into a rolled up, shredded mess… wrapped lovingly around the knife.

As a kid, I remember the frustration of being so close to having my coveted peanut butter and Fluff sandwich yet watching the entire assembly operation turn into balls of bread and white goo stuck to every surface in the kitchen. It rarely ended well.

This is where the secret superpowers of MOM came in. Moms can make a PB&F sandwich with no difficulties what so ever. I think it has something to do with secret meetings that the attend at night when they think you’re asleep. Your mom went to, right? That wasn’t just mine? You know… with the hoods and chanting. No? Hmm.

Whatever enabled her to make the sandwiches, I didn’t care. All I knew was that it was like getting lunch and dessert all at once. Usually, with chips! How can a kid have an issue with that?

These days, we don’t stock Wonder Bread in the pantry. No real loss, in my book. My secret to spreading the ooey-gooey mess that I love is “wheat bread”. It holds up better to the Fluff and detracts form the nutrition free experience not one bit. The sandwich pictured above is my secret “Second Breakfast” that will help me make it through the ten o’clock hour today and hold my healthy lunch off until one-ish. I work like a dog all morning, so I use that to justify the sugar. “What ever helps you sleep”, right?

If it were my lunch though… I think I’d be tempted to hunt down some Twinkies for after!

Mmmm… Twinkies.

Goofy questionarre.

Ok, So against my better judgement, I’ll succumb to Caveblogem’s request and do this “what kind of a man” are you survey, originally published in Esquire.

I will preface this by saying that not only do I never (and I do mean NEVER) read the magazine, even when found on waiting room tables or abandoned on public transport. That, and that I try very hard to stay away from lists like this partially because I have little faith in those who assembled the list but mostly because I tend to score very differently than I actually am in the flesh. The reason for the latter is my love for minutia. I almost always look like I’m either A: A royal smartypants, or B: Lying.

The truth is actually somewhere in between. I’m not such a smartypants by I do know awful little about an awful lot. That give some people the feeling that I know more than I actually do and some of these folks will call “foul” when they ask some bizarre and obscure question about a subject I know some but not much about. In essence, I know when the Ming Dynasty was, but please don’t ask me about the individual Emperors. I have no idea.

So, In an effort to make this more honest, I’m going to add some clarification on some of these points (mostly in the manner of snarky comments. I’m good at those). The way this works is that I’m supposed to bold face things I can do and leave the ones I can’t in normal type face. Then I’m supposed to pass the mantle off to two other unsuspecting individuals. The problem being that most of the guys I know via blogs have already done this quiz. So, I’m going to throw this right overboard and tap Inmate1972 and Jimsmuse and see how much of a man these ladies are. My apologies in advance. Aaaand… off we go!

1. Give advice that matters in one sentence.
2. Tell if someone is lying.
3. Take a photo.
4. Score a baseball game.
(Though I have no idea why I would –TP)
5. Name a book that matters. (Just ONE?!?? That’s hard –TP)
6. Know at least one musical group as well as is possible. (Not in any depth –TP)
7. Cook meat somewhere other than the grill.
8. Not monopolize the conversation.
9. Write a letter.

10. Buy a suit. (Totally at the mercy of the shop people here –TP)
11. Swim three different strokes. (Though only three –TP)
12. Show respect without being a suck-up.
13. Throw a punch.
(…but I’m more of a grapple type –TP)
14. Chop down a tree.
15. Calculate square footage.
(I do this quite often for work –TP)
16. Tie a bow tie.
17. Make one drink, in large batches, very well. (Drinks should be made one at a time –TP)
18. Speak a foreign language.
(German… Badly –TP)
19. Approach a woman out of his league. (And do what, exactly? –TP)
20. Sew a button. (And a seam. I have my own sewing machine –TP)
21. Argue with a European without getting xenophobic or insulting soccer. (I know europeans who can’t do this. Lots of them, actually. –TP)
22. Give a woman an orgasm so that he doesn’t have to ask after it. (You know what? After seeing that scene from “When Harry met Sally”, I’m not going near this one. –TP)
23. Be loyal. (To what? –TP)
24. Know his poison, without standing there, pondering like a dope.
25. Drive an eightpenny nail into a treated two-by-four without thinking about it.
(Actually, I like to think about what I’m doing when I’m swinging a 22 ounce Estwing hammer. –TP)
26. Cast a fishing rod without shrieking or sighing or otherwise admitting defeat.
27. Play gin with an old guy.
(If you can give me a refresher –TP)
28. Play go fish with a kid. (No refresher needed –TP)
29. Understand quantum physics well enough that he can accept that a quarter might, at some point, pass straight through the table when dropped. (Is THAT where all my quarters went?!? –TP)
30. Feign interest. (Oh, yes. Absolutely! –TP)
31. Make a bed.
(Into a…? –TP)
32. Describe a glass of wine in one sentence without using the terms nutty, fruity, oaky, finish, or kick. (“Hey, this is really good!” –TP)
33. Hit a jump shot in pool. (Don’t you do that in basketball? –TP)
34. Dress a wound. (for dinner? –TP)
35. Jump-start a car (without any drama). Change a flat tire (safely). Change the oil (once). (All too often. –TP)
36. Make three different bets at a craps table. (Yes, but none the house would take. –TP)
37. Shuffle a deck of cards.
38. Tell a joke.
39. Know when to split his cards in blackjack.
(That’s debatable. –TP)
40. Speak to an eight-year-old so he will hear. (Megaphone. –TP)
41. Speak to a waiter so he will hear.
(See #40)
42. Talk to a dog so it will hear. (They just seem to run away with the megaphone. –TP)
43. Install: a disposal, an electronic thermostat, or a lighting fixture without asking for help.
44. Ask for help. (Always smart if you need it. –TP)
45. Break another man’s grip on his wrist. (The Estwing can come to play on this one too. –TP)
46. Tell a woman’s dress size. (Just guess LOW! I’m not that stupid! –TP)
47. Recite one poem from memory. (Or several, even. –TP)
48. Remove a stain. (Helllloooo bleach! –TP)
49. Say no. (No. I mean “Yes”! Wait!… crap! -TP)
50. Fry an egg sunny-side up. (My preferred way! –TP)
51. Build a campfire.
52. Step into a job no one wants to do.
(More often it’s crawling into a job no one wants. And it often involves bugs and spiders. –TP)
53. Sometimes, kick some ass. (Not lately, thankfully. -TP)
54. Break up a fight. (Hammer, again. –TP)
55. Point to the north at any time. (That’s “up”, right? Kidding. –TP)
56. Create a play-list in which ten seemingly random songs provide a secret message to one person. (Perhaps at one time. –TP)
57. Explain what a light-year is.
58. Avoid boredom. (Zzzz. What? Oh. Sorry I wasn’t listening. –TP)
59. Write a thank-you note. (Not as often as I should though. –TP)
60. Be brand loyal to at least one product. (Companies don’t get my loyalty. Period. –TP)
61. Cook bacon. (Mmm. Bacon –TP)
62. Hold a baby. (VERY often! –TP)
63. Deliver a eulogy. (Not often, thankfully. –TP)
64. Know that Christopher Columbus was a son of a bitch. Your understanding of your heroes must evolve. (Most heros were. –TP)
65. Throw a baseball over-hand with some snap. (Not a lot of need for that. –TP)
66. Throw a football with a tight spiral. (See #65 –TP)
67. Shoot a 12-foot jump shot reliably. (See #65 and #66. –TP)
68. Find his way out of the woods if lost.
69. Tie a knot.
(I’d hope so! Good grief! –TP)
70. Shake hands. (NO DEAD FISH GRIPS! Or hand crushers, please. –TP)
71. Iron a shirt.
72. Stock an emergency bag for the car.
73. Caress a woman’s neck.
(Which woman? Seems like she’d be very relaxed by now. –TP)
74. Know some birds. (Steve, Bob, Ed, Margaret and…. OH! Robert! –TP)
75. Negotiate a better price. (I hate haggling. –TP)

So, there you go. Off to you, ladies!

-TP

New dad, old friend, only brother

A quick entry for now. I’ll expand on it later tomorrow, but I wanted to seed it today.

As of 1:17 PM EST, my good-as-blood brother, The Doctor is a father for the first time. His Daughter and wife are doing very well and I got a great phone call from him today around five-ish with all the details (weight, height, etc).

As I said, I’ll expand on my thoughts tomorrow morning, over coffee. I just couldn’t let the day slip away with out saying “Welcome” to her and wishing the happy parents all our love.

We can’t wait to see her!

[following text added the next day]

The Doctor and I have been fast friends since the third and fourth grade. I’m actually one year his senior but he’s always been about a grade level ahead of me so it somehow works out. Both of us are only children and for what ever the reasons were for a eight and nine year old, became each others de-facto brothers. In fact, we often have referred to each other as “My brother”. The only real thing that kept us from spending just about every waking moment playing together was the fact that we lived on opposite ends of town with the added bonus that I live in the valley and he live on top of Mt. Everest. Actually, it’s called Chapman Hill, but to a non-driving nine year old, it was much the same. In both cases, Sherpa are involved. Just that in my case, the Sherpa are my parents.

When ever possible, were are at one of our houses together and having a blast. Being “only-ies”, we were used to self entertainment and more than once, what ever parents were around would feel compelled to come and check on us, since they hadn’t actually heard either one of us say or do anything for the last hour. What they usually found was both of us engrossed in our own individual project. Usually something like painting a lead figurine or working on a model or playing on the computer. We’d both be off in our own world and having a great time, but totally independent of the other. Our folks used to find that fairly amusing.

That’s not to say that we didn’t like collaborating. Far from it. To give you an idea of how close we were as kids and how strong our friend ship was and still is, I will give you an example so bold that it will make some of you go “Wow!”. Other’s might not get the significance, but I can’t help that.

We pooled our Legos together in one pile.

We both had a lot of Legos, but together we ruled the Lego universe. For those who don’t see what that means, I’ll just say this; once you put your Legos in with someone else’s, there is NO hope of figuring out who’s is who’s. AND WE WOULD DO JUST ABOUT ANYTHING TO GET MORE LEGOS!

That’s the kind of friendship we have.

Well, we grew up, went to schools, got married and moved away. The Doctor went off to Cornell and then to Dartmouth, got his Royal Smartypants certificate and now he studies how to save the world from infectious diseases. I went off to my own college experience, got my Fairly Smartypants certificate and tried to save the world from Third Graders. We stay in touch mainly through email but try to get together a few times a year.

So now, he has a baby girl. It’s amazing to think back to those days of playing GI Joe’s out in the woods and building secret Lego bases in the couch cushions and to now think about our growing families. Action Girl and I have two and now The Doctor has one as well.

The fun part will be when we can finally get together and all our kids can play with one another. Our daughters are only 6 weeks apart and Short Stack can lead the bunch on adventures in the yard. It’s going to be great. The thing that I really hope for is a comment that The Doctor made last year about maybe finding work here and moving to the area. I know it’s a huge long shot that he could find something in his field here, but the thought of having my best friend and brother living across town, not to mention our kids knowing each other well, is just too good not to wish for.

Who knows… maybe some new infectious disease research center will sprout up down town. I can only imagine the uproar over that! However, you can bet that I’d be the one standing opposite the protesters, cheering on cholera!

Welcome the the world little kiddo. You haven’t met me yet, but you have an uncle who will do anything for you.

Now where’s that box of kazoos and the drum set I’ve been saving for her?

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