March 2009


Saturday dawned like most late March Saturday s dawn: with thunder and some rain.  In fact it had been raining for a large part of the post-midnight period.  But at around 8:00 am, things got weird.  It started snowing.

And I’m not talking about a flurry here; I mean huge flakes the size of ping pong balls and lots of them.  They fell onto the green grass that needed mowing and melted at first but there were so many of them that I could not see across the street.  At that rate they began to accumulate pretty quickly and this continued for most of the day.  At the end, we had several inches and our area was on the fringe of this band of freaky weather.  North and west of here they had FEET of snow. 

Usually it melts on the pavement when the soil temperature is above freezing but it fell so strongly that it actually built up a layer on the streets – kind of on top of a layer of water and so it became slippery.  Or so I heard; I saw no reason to leave the house.  We were low on groceries since we usually shop on Saturday but we weren’t that low.  We had enough provisions to make cookies.  I had purchased a new coffee maker from my friend’s shop and so I had that to try out.  We were good and there’s nothing I love more than a good strong reason to stay inside and read and do intellectual stuff all day long. 

So we did.

Yesterday, the temperature soared into the 50’s and so as I went to walk the dog I had the privilege of seeing this strange landscape of snow covered lawns and people in the shirtsleeves walking their dogs.  It was all melting so fast that there was the rushing sound of water everywhere along the streets just like the sound after a torrential downpour but instead of gray skies and rumbling thunder, there was a deep blue sky and bright sunshine.   The bright sun reflecting off the snow was almost too much to bear since I had not thought to get my sunglasses.  It was pretty unusual and I’m glad I got to experience it.  That probably won’t happen again for a long time.

I spent much of the snowy weekend trying to finish off my massive film scanning project.  At long last, I made it through my last ring binder of negatives and was congratulating myself on the achievement.  Then I discovered another stash.  I was vaguely aware of a feeling that there were some that I had not yet found and sure enough – there they were in a drawer.  About two shoeboxes full.  I started off on these as well and made my way through about half of them.  I look forward to finishing them off too and then perhaps I can sell the scanner on Ebay and recover some of the investment.

I have some black and white negatives too but they don’t scan as well.  The scanner expects color and it renders color but perhaps something can be done.  Photoshop is a wonderful thing.

I got the strangest email ever last night:  “Joe D. _____ has sent you an invitation to join Facebook to see his new photos!” etc.  Joe is a man whom I would have guessed never actually turned on his PC because he has other things to do first.  He works outside most of the time and hunts outside the rest of the time. Well, Facebook is the one thing on the internet that I’ve never pursued; mostly because it’s a website targeted at 20-somethings and I didn’t want to embarrass anyone in my family.  But I was vaguely aware that Facebook has broadened its target audience so I finally bit on this one.

Ironically, I think Joe only invited me by mistake.  Facebook has several opportunities to invite everybody in your address book and I think he must have clicked something like that by mistake.  At any rate, I got to see some cool pictures of his latest big game hunt.  Dead deer look surprisingly like live deer – except for the blood.

But there I am now – on Facebook.  I’m not sure I’ll do much with it.  It’s scary just how many people it suggests that I befriend:  Evan’s old girlfriend, several pastors from my church, old classmates, people I’ve never heard of, etc.  I clicked very few of these; basically the same people I know from linkedIn.

I don’t recall ever seeing anyone as excited to be driving as Erin is.  She wants to drive everywhere and even if we are all going to the same place, she wants to drive herself in the Escort (which we always object to).  Yesterday on the way home from school, she called to say that she needed a piece of posterboard and was stopping along the way to get it. 

And that right there is the greatest thing about having a child able to drive herself.  That’s the sort of thing that we would typically have forgotten about until about 9:00 pm at which point we’d head to Wal-Mart in a panic and have to finish a project after bedtime.  But not anymore. 

Now if only she had money.  Someday soon, she will have to get a job to earn some and will therefore have a place to drive daily.

I mentioned my excitement before about an old friend buying a coffee shop that just happens to be around the corner from my office.  When I visited it the first time, I mentioned that some of my guitar playing friends should come in and jam some time AND THAT WOULD BE OK RIGHT? He agreed – anything to get people in the door and if any other customer happened to be entertained then so much the better.

The next time I had lunch with my guitar-playing friends I suggested that coffee shop as a potential jamming spot.  At some point, they visited my friend’s coffee shop and worked out a schedule.  Last night, I stopped by there after work to listen and fun was had by all.  While they played away at one end of the store, the manager ran the coffee bean roaster on the other end of the place.  So there was live music and fresh roasted coffee all at the same time.

We were the only ones in the place.

All I can say to the people at this end of town is:  you missed a great time as well as the freshest coffee anybody is ever likely to taste unless you roast your own beans.

I don’t mean to suggest that I made anything happen; I only seek to document the pleasure I feel at seeing something come together.  I wonder how you get the word out that there’s a good time for free to be had right in our own backyard?  Not exactly free I guess but a cup of coffee is pretty cheap.  Plus, they have free refills.

I took Erin downtown to get her actual driver’s license this morning.  To say that she was excited would be like characterizing the Grand Canyon as a ditch.  She was up early and ready long before they opened.  It didn’t actually take that long; I guess we were just prepared for it to take forever.  So now she’s got her license.  I assume she’s going to be whipping it out often today to show everybody.  All her friends want to be the first one to be driven home.  That’s partly because everybody hates the bus but also because they like her.  Unfortunately (actually it’s pretty fortunate), her license is restricted to have only one passenger at all times. 

That reminds me of the time I stopped a local Quiznos and a VW bug pulled in next to me.  I counted seven teenagers climbing out of it.  I guess that’s why licenses are now restricted like this until they’re older.

I went to see Tommy Emmanuel at the Performing Arts Center last night.  He’s the most awesomest guitar player ever.  Just him and a few acoustic guitars.  Maybe in the afterlife I can play like that.

Erin rolled in Saturday night around 11:00pm.  She was full of chatter but it basically came down to this:  she had fun.  It seems that most of her time was spent blacksmithing which is about the last thing I ever expected to hear.  They were building some sort of facility with a gate and they wanted the gate to be something more than simple iron bars.  They had a design for “Jesus and the Woman at the Well” and so needed to bend a lot of iron bars to make that happen.  She and a friend apparently bent most of the bars for that project and the senior (or would that be senor?) blacksmith welded it all together.

We decided upon the spur of the moment to take a road trip last Thursday.  I scheduled two days off and then we were off.  So where can you go in a car that actually has something to do?  There are endless possibilities but we headed for Hutchinson, Kansas.

The casual reader would think:  WTF?

Well, that is the home of one of the best Air & Space museums in the United States aside from the Smithsonian.  They have an excellent collection of artifacts; not the least of which is one of the Mercury capsules that they dredged up from the bottom of the Atlantic where it had lain for nearly 40 years.  They also have a large number of spacecraft from the former Soviet Union.  Apparently, there was a traveling roadshow of artifacts and scientists going through when the former Soviet Union collapsed.  All their money and travel reservations were suddenly no good and so they ended up selling all their artifacts to the Cosmosphere for the cash to get home.  I guess everybody involved was okay with that.

We really just wanted something to do since we always have some good conversations with Evan when we’re on the road.  There are few distractions when you’re on a freeway and we did a lot of catching up and planning for the future. 

Before arriving at the museum, we stopped in Yoder, Kansas which consists of about six buildings.  Yoder is predominantly an Amish and Mennonite community and it’s obvious that a hardware store and a community market are about all that is necessary to such an independent community.  But somebody in Yoder has big plans:  they have a website and have tricked out the remaining four buildings on Main Street with boutiques and are actively encouraging tourists to stop and stay awhile.  You can’t stay that long actually since it doesn’t take that long to see everything.  That’s not to say it isn’t pleasant, only that it doesn’t take very long.  The hardware store is excellent; old-school with lots of small parts for sale and nails by the pound. They have a wide selection of oil lamps and replacement parts.  Gotta know your market after all.  There’s even a spiral stairway leading up into the loft which I guess is left over from the old days.

Yoder has an Amish-style restaurant which is really the big draw.  They have lots of high-carb stuff.  I had the catfish which was uncharacteristically served with the entire skeleton still in it.  Down south, we always get filets or random fish chunks but not in Yoder.  It took some getting used to.

It was a fun day.  Lots of driving but we had three adult drivers in the car so there was no reason to complain.

I just couldn’t seem to string all my beads together last night.  It doesn’t help when you’re met at the door with a math word problem.

Perhaps some details are in order.

Apparently it was a busy day at the house as Melissa tried to orchestrate a week’s worth of chores into a single day since she is secretly dreaming of a short getaway during spring break.  We haven’t taken an actual vacation in over two years since the kids are always doing something and we can’t quite seem to all have days off at the same time.  So when I asked how the day went, I was greeted with something like this…

“Well if Evan leaves Boston on a train going 60 miles an hour and Erin leaves New York on a train going 55 miles an hour and we buy one ticket on the last day of the month and wait and buy the second ticket on the first day of the next month to get the maximum points, then do you think we should put the car into the shop tonight or wait until the next winter solstice?”

Not exactly that but something like that.

The fact was that I wanted to go hear a friend play guitar at a coffee shop from 7 till 9 and only wanted to get dinner out of the way so that I could go do that.  We worked out the quantum electrodynamics problem to everyone’s satisfaction (meaning that a compromise was reached that annoyed all parties the least but did not really make anybody truly happy) and had dinner. 

By this time it was 7:00 and we had not yet moved from the house.  We were almost ready to head to the coffee shop when Mel came down with a stomach ache.  After waiting a bit, she decided to stay home and sent me on alone.  I got there at 8:00 sharp.

They were packing up their instruments and sweeping the floor.

It seems I had my times wrong.  It was not 7:00 to 9:00.  It was 6:00 to 8:00.  Doh!

I failed to mention that we had not  yet shopped for groceries this week and were supposed to do that afterwards.  There’s something deflating about missing an event due to lunacy and so we just dropped everything and sat around till bedtime.  Mel and Evan did in fact drop the car off at the repair shop and shoved the key through the drop box so at least there’s that.

I’m not sure it was a drop box though.  Evan said that it was less a mail slot and more of a mangled rip in the steel next to the door.  Perhaps we should call them to make sure they got the key.

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