Archive for the ‘memories’ Tag

04-24-2016 Journal – Around the Campfire!   2 comments

I’ve been complaining for months about wanting warmer temperatures and yesterday I got my wish. We had a gorgeous day in the mid-sixties and it was sunny without a cloud in the sky.  The cat and I even managed an hour on the deck to work on our tans a bit.  It was incredible.

How do you end the perfect day?  Always a good question I suppose. After my better-half arrived home from work we discussed just that. It was the perfect night for a bonfire to start our Spring and Summer seasons off properly. Before dark I spent a few minutes preparing.

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A  bonfire while being really great also gives me a chance to rid myself of wood scraps collected during the winter months in my workshop and from the garden repairs and upgrades.  The wood was cut and we were ready to go. Next I built the fire and lit it up.

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The darker it got the better it became. We sat quietly enjoying the warm night and the good company.  The sky was showing some light from Portland a few miles away which offered up a photo or two work keeping.

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As we fed the fire it became really cozy and intimate. No vehicles noises, no kids playing and screaming, just peace and quiet.

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The smell of burning firewood took us both back to past years around similar fires with family and friends who are no longer with us.  The heat of the fire on my face was just the best.  After a few hours we shuffled off to bed feeling good about each other and life in general.  We left the fire with some regret.

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SPRING HAS OFFICIALLY ARRIVED

11-14-15 Journal – Pre-Christmas Blues!   Leave a comment

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I’m already on my third cup of coffee this morning and that good old caffeine buzz I’ve come to rely on has yet to rev my engines.  I have a lot of errands to run today and need some serious motivation to get them all completed.  The blessing is that my better-half is working which will keep her out of my hair (what little I have left) to prepare for her birthday dinner tonight.  It’s difficult to get anything secret done around here and over the years she’s forced me to become even sneakier  than usual.

She loves being surprised and each year that goes by it get tougher and tougher to come up with fresh ideas.  I’ve purchased her a few gifts which I’m sure she’ll like because I am “The Man” when it comes to giving great gifts.  As much as she likes being surprised I like doing the surprising.  I can’t go into too many details because she reads this blog looking for clues.  I’ve learned to be very careful in keeping important information as secret as possible.

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She’s been feeling a little depressed coming into the holidays since it’s the first ones since the passing of her Mom.  She’s usually a Christmas fanatic going totally bonkers with decorations and general X-mas silliness. She needs something to get her into the holiday spirit and I’m hoping we’ll  have our first snowfall soon. That’s always been a kick-start for me and I think it will be for her as well.  She’s also a shopping machine and quite possibly a few hours out in the crowds on Black Friday will help too.

I understand how she feels because I went through the loss of both my parents in the last eight years.  My mother was a Christmas lunatic too and it’s still difficult to have Christmas and not think of her and my dad and Christmases past.

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The saving grace this year will be the grandsons.  Christmas has always been for the children and once the tree gets decorated and the kids come to visit, chattering on and on about Santa and reindeer, she’ll be just fine.  They own her completely and a few smiles from them will make all the difference in the world. Then she’ll go crazy the last week before Christmas trying to make up for lost time which is what I’m hoping for.

Truthfully I’ve been a real Grinch for many years about Christmas but having the boys in our life is changing all that. I hope we both can find the holiday spirit once again.  I’d love to have that feeling on Christmas morning like I did when I was eight years old.

It can’t get much better than that.

05-22-2015 Journal – Memorial Day!   2 comments

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‘Remember’

With the Memorial Day weekend looming we can all sit back and watch the television programming meant to honor those service men and women who have paid the ultimate price.  Being an Army veteran I hesitate to participate in the required litany of praise, sorrow, and remembrances that seem to be mandatory these days.  As a vet I never expected praise for my service because it was the right thing to do, for me.  I wanted to pay back a little to the country that kept me free.  It’s more comfortable for me to celebrate the holiday in a private manner without all of the hoopla. 

I had a number of friends who proudly served their country but never made it home and I remember them all too often.  I have no need for making some sort of holy pilgrimage to "The Wall" in DC to stand and sob and leave tokens. I’ll fly my flag with pride in silence, remember my lost friends in silence, and try to live my life in a way to make them proud.

So there’ll be no sad stories here because I prefer to celebrate this day my way. It takes special people to voluntarily place themselves in harms way with the fear of dying a real possibility, especially these days.  Nothing saddens me as much as the people in this country that have never served and criticize those who do.  Waving a flag and watching fire-works displays twice a year leaves me flat.

I’m looking forward as most people do to the Summer months but using Memorial Day as a spring board for that seems a little disrespectful, to me. Make a contribution to the Wounded Warrior Project, quietly remember the fallen, kiss your children, and live your life to the fullest. That’s the best way to remember them because they died so you could.

Let’s make flying the American flag the only dignified display required for celebrating this day.

IS YOUR FLAG FLYING?

05-04-2015 Journal–My Not So Exciting Life!   Leave a comment

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‘Owwwww, That Smell”

What do you consider as a day in your life you’d never forget? Is it the day you found a $10.00 bill in a parking lot or is that day you had the best sex of your life? I’m sure that all of us have a few of those memorable days we enjoy looking back on.

Early in my life I decided that the reports of an afterlife were just so much hokum and I needed to approach my life in a manner that reflected that thought.  If this existence was all we’d ever have then I needed to aggressively pursue those things I really desired.  If I didn’t obtain them and experience them now I’d never get another chance.

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I left home for college, then quit college , joined the Army, went to Korea, fell in love, returned to the states, became a cop, got married, hang glided, sky dived, and bungee jumped. Moved to New England, became a businessman, joined Greenpeace, left Greenpeace, started a business, adopted a son and became a long distant cyclist.  Stood on the summit of Mt. Washington in a thunder storm with my hands in the air and a prayer on my lips. Became a pretty decent racquetball player, got divorced,  sold my home and moved to the coast. Bought a house on the water, bought two ferrets, and partied for two years. Lost my job, sold my house, and moved to Maine.  Bought my first digital camera, got a job interviewing criminals, bought another house, met the love of my life, and settled down. 

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Sounds like a pretty strange and wonderful life so let me tell you what I did yesterday. On a damp and crappy day I spent an hour and a half standing in and shoveling compost.  To misquote Robert Duval in the movie Apocalypse Now, "I just love the smell of compost in the morning."  There’s nothing quite like the smell of rotting organic material wafting into your nostrils and making your eyes water.  It’s sticks to your shoes and later in the day you may even find a few small chunks in the folds of your clothing as a further reminder.

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I’m now officially adding that job, COMPOST SHOVELER,  to my endless list of dumb-ass jobs and even dumber-ass accomplishments that continue to keep my life so interesting.  I guarantee I won’t be looking fondly on today’s task in the future but my memories of that smell are permanent.

‘Live Your Life’

04-29-2014 Journal Entry – Life in the Vault!   1 comment

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I mention my better-half in this blog often.  With Mother’s Day approaching I thought a salute to her would be appropriate.  She’s raised her three children, seen them graduate from college, and watched as they moved on with their lives.  She is and should be proud of such a major accomplishment.  Now since her nest has emptied it was time for the next stage of her life with me to begin.  It was time for both of us to readjust to a new and different style of living.

As I’ve gotten older I find myself looking back and reminiscing at odd times.  I have many wonderful memories that I reflect on occasionally and that was always part of my master plan.  Growing up I decided early on to build an archive of memories that I could enjoy after I was too old to create new ones.  I always pictured myself sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of my home looking back at all the fun I’d had in my life.  I looked forward to the day I could mentally relove any number of women and remember them as being even better than they actually were.

My normal approach to living was if something looked interesting I just jumped right in and tried to experience it.  Why not? I was slowly filling up my mental filing cabinet for use after my retirement. It made for a pretty cool life all in all but there were many bumps in the road as well. That was to be expected and those not-so-great memories also made their way into my mental “vault”, to lamely quote from a few Seinfeld episodes.

As a young and middle aged man I saw life in my sixties as something totally different from what it actually turned into.  When I was thirty I felt twenty, in my forties I felt twenty-five, and in my fifties I felt thirty-five.  It was in my mid-fifties when I first met my better-half.  I’d heard the term “better-half” used for years by others but I just thought it was something people said to convince themselves they’d found that elusive soulmate we all search so diligently for. Little did I know that I would all of a sudden become a real believer.  One can never know when that thunderbolt will hit but OMG when it does, it really hits hard. Things haven’t been the same since we met and I’m all the luckier for it. I felt like I was sixteen again both mentally and physically which was more than just a little scary at first.  But I adjusted.

I was forced into retirement much earlier than I ever thought possible thanks to the downsizing of the state government here in Maine.  I was afraid my master plan had been seriously compromised. Now I’m sitting on that famous porch of mine with my better-half, my cat, her grandson, his parents, and all of the new memories we’ve been creating over the last decade. The vault is full to overflowing, I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and I see many more terrific years ahead of us.

Of course, I’m writing this to brag a little but also to let all of you know that life can be good regardless of your age.  My fantasy now is to sit on that infamous porch when I’m In my nineties and hopefully remember the things I’m experiencing today, tomorrow, next week, and next year.  I imagine I’ll be feeling like a man in my sixties then which should be a weird and amazing turn of events. It’s incredible how our minds work  to help us to adjust to these constant life changes.

It will happen to you too . . . . . . .  Wait for it!

AND A HUGE HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO MY BETTER-HALF.

11-29-2013 A Look Back!   1 comment

According to Socrates “an unexamined life is not worth living”.  I agree with that to a point because there are times when looking back has truly restorative value.  It clears the mind by allowing us to revisit simpler and sometimes happier times.   The post that follows is me looking back and remembering how different things were not so long ago.  I’m not saying they were always better but in some cases they definitely were.  Read on and enjoy a short but detailed visit to my early childhood.

Way back…

I’m talking about hide and seek at dusk, sitting on the porch. Hot bread and butter, eating’ a super-dooper sandwich (Dagwood), Red light, Green light, 1 2 3.

Chocolate milk, lunch tickets, penny candy in a brown paper bag. Hopscotch, butterscotch, Double-Dutch, jacks, kickball, and dodge ball. Mother, May I? Hula Hoops, Sunflower Seeds, jawbreakers, blow pops, Mary Janes, and running through the sprinklers. The smell of the sun and licking salty lips.

Wait……

Watching lightening bugs in a jar, playing slingshot and Red Rover. When around the corner seemed far away, and going downtown seemed like going somewhere.

Bedtime, Climbing trees. A million mosquito bites and sticky fingers. Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, sitting on the curb, jumping down the steps, jumping on the bed, and pillow fights.

Being tickled to death, running till you were out of breath. Laughing so hard that your stomach hurt. Being tired from playing …. Remember that?

I’m not finished just yet…

What about the girl that had the big bubbly hand writing? Licking the beaters when your mother made a cake. When there were two types of sneakers for girls and boys (Keds & PF Flyers), and the only time you wore them at school, was for “gym.”

When nobody owned a purebred dog. When a quarter was a decent allowance, and another quarter a huge bonus. When you’d reach into a muddy gutter for a penny. When girls neither dated nor kissed until late high school, if then. When your mom wore nylons that came in two pieces.

When you got your windshield cleaned, oil checked, and gas pumped, without asking, for free. And you didn’t pay for air, and, you got trading stamps to boot! When laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box.

When any parent could discipline any kid, or feed him or use him to carry groceries, and nobody, not even the kid, thought a thing of it. When it was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents.

Not done yet . . .

When all of your male teachers wore neckties and female teachers had their hair done, everyday. When they threatened to keep kids back a grade if they failed…and did! When being sent to the principal’s office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited a misbehaving student at home. Having a weapon in school, meant being caught with a slingshot. When nearly everyone’s mom was at home when the kids got there.

Basically, we were in fear for our lives but it wasn’t because of drive-by shootings, drugs, gangs, etc.  Disapproval of our parents and grandparents was a much bigger threat!

Decisions were made by going “eeny-meeny-miney-mo.” Mistakes were corrected by simply exclaiming, “do over!” “Race issue” meant arguing about who ran the fastest. Money issues were handled by whoever was the banker in “Monopoly.”

Catching fireflies could happily occupy an entire evening. It wasn’t odd to have two or three “best” friends. Being old, referred to anyone over 20. The net on a tennis court was the perfect height to play volleyball and rules didn’t matter. It was unbelievable that dodge ball wasn’t an Olympic event.

The worst thing you could catch from the opposite sex was cooties. It was magic when dad would “remove” his thumb. Scrapes and bruises were kissed and made better.

Nobody was prettier than Mom.

IT’S NICE TO OCCASIONALLY LOOK BACK

10-07-2013   Leave a comment

I’m not much of a sports fan and watching sports on TV has no attraction to me whatsoever.  I’ve always had better ways of spending my time than watching almost anything sport related except for possibly one thing.  I will occasionally  watch professional golf. Over the years I played a lot of golf with my father. He introduced me to it at age 13 and I played regularly for more than twenty five years with him, his coworkers, and my friends.

This week was the Presidents Cup Tournament and I didn’t watch the entire match but did waste away a few hours vegging in front of the TV.  It took me back to the days when my Dad was still able to play and the fun we had competing against each other.  It was a nice trip down memory lane for me.   As I was watching I began to remember caddying for him in a number of golf tournaments sponsored by his employer and the many pranks I pulled on him while doing so.  With that in mind I did a little searching and found the following stupid caddy remarks which will make any golfer smile.

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#10

Golfer:    "I think I’m going to drown myself in the lake."

Caddy:    "Think you can keep your head down that long?"

#09

Golfer:    "I’d move heaven and earth to break 100 on this course."

Caddy:   "Try heaven, you’ve already moved most of the earth."

#08

Golfer:    "Do you think my game is improving?"

Caddy:    "Yes     . . . . You miss the ball much closer now."

#07

Golfer:   "Do you think I can get there with a 5 iron?"

Caddy:   "Eventually."

#06

Golfer:    "You’ve got to be the worst caddy in the world."

Caddy:    "I don’t think so . . . .That would be too much of a coincidence." 

#05

Golfer:    "Please stop checking your watch all the time. It’s too much of a distraction."

Caddy:    "It’s not a watch – it’s a compass."

#04

Golfer:    "How do you like my game?"

Caddy:   "It’s very good – but personally, I prefer golf.

#03

Golfer:    "Do you think it’s a sin to play on Sunday?

Caddy:   "The way you play, it’s a sin on any day."

#02

Golfer:    "This is the worst course I’ve ever played on."

Caddy:    "This isn’t the golf course . . . . We left that an hour ago."

AND FINALLY #01

Golfer:    "That can’t be my ball, it’s too old."

Caddy:   "It’s been a long time since we teed off, sir."

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Most people think golf is such a very serious pass-time but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  With my Dad and other co-workers it was hilarious at times. I’ll offer this one story and then call this posting finished.

My father was a big, strong, and determined individual.  He was known for his long and accurate drives and could get frustrated  when he was having a bad day.  On one particular occasion he walked to the tee on one of his favorite holes, teed up, and hit the ball so far in the woods it couldn’t be found.  Up until that time it had been a close round but with that shot he lost the match. He proceeded to take his driver, twirled it around his head, and threw it as far as he could into the trees. He then walked off cursing and swearing and never looked back. 

For months afterward as we all played golf on that same course we laughed our asses off every time we came to that hole because his bent and twisted driver could be seen in the top of a nearby tree.  It was just so damn funny. The best part of the prank occurred more than a year later at his retirement dinner when his buddies climbed up that tree, retrieved the club, had it bronzed and mounted on a plaque, and gave it back to him as his retirement gift.

How can you not like golf with good friends like that.

09-04-2013   3 comments

Today I’d like to talk about retirement. Being retired has it’s pluses and just as many minuses.  You have the all the time you’ll ever need to do just about anything you’ve ever wanted to do. You have a type of freedom you’ve never experienced before.  The main thing missing from the mix is motivation.  Having that much time on your hands can lure you into closely examining your entire life, both good things and bad.  You can also fall into the trap of second guessing every bad decision you’ve ever made and make yourself crazy. That’s the worst and most dangerous thing about retirement.  If you can’t find a way to control it you just might become one truly miserable SOB with no friends or close relationships.

My transition to retirement has been a challenge to say the least.  It’s took me almost four years to make the changeover to where I could maintain a level of happiness and calmness about my life, my aging, and my relationships with others.  There’s no longer room for self-recriminations, whining about old mistakes, and rethinking of failed relationships.  As they always say "Life is too short." I’ve been able to make peace with my past life and I’m ready for the next phase.  I still spend time thinking about my childhood and my childhood friends many of whom have passed but it’s no longer a painful process and has finally become just a plethora of fond old memories.  I sat down and started making a list of certain things I do miss from those days and the following are just a few that quickly came to mind.

  • Spending a summer weekend at my grandparents house so I could attend the local carnival which came to town for just one week each year.  It was a big deal for that small town and all of us looked forward to it all year long.
  • I miss my childhood friends and knowing how to pretend. We had more fun using just our imaginations than we’d ever have had sitting in front of a TV playing a video game. Believe me, I’m not biased against video games at all.  I’ve been a member in good standing with  X-Box and Microsoft for decades. Imagination always offered me much more in the way of entertainment value.
  • Playing catch with my best friend for hours and hours.
  • Spending my summers playing baseball and roaming through the woods and streams near my home.
  • Playing with friends on and in the Allegheny River. Jumping from bridges, rowing an old bathtub across the river, being escorted to shore by the Coast Guard for being in places we didn’t belong.
  • Spending quality time with both of my grandfathers.  I miss them both everyday.
  • Eating baked potatoes with the family cooked in the ashes of a bonfire in the back yard.
  • Eating fresh apples stolen from a nearby orchard. They always tasted so much better when you could run faster than the owner who was chasing you.
  • Sledding with all of my friends in the hood of an old car. Ten of us flying down the hill together with no fear of anything.
  • Skiing with friends on skis made from barrel rungs. We couldn’t afford real skis. I never skied much further than twenty feet anyway before I fell on my ass and rolled down the hill laughing all the way.

That’s just a few of the many memories I love reliving.  I’m no longer pissed off that I can’t do most of those things anymore, I’m just happy that I had a chance to do them at all.

08-18-2013   1 comment

Today I’m going to tell you a story that is true. I’ve had a few moments in my life that deeply affected me but this one more so than many of the others. I’m going to tell you this story in as much detail as I can remember and then when I’m finished I’ll have a few more comments to make.

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It’s 1968, it’s summer time, and it’s very hot here in Korea. It’s 5:00 am, the best time of the day to avoid that hot and sweltering heat of the day. I just finished walking a little more than five miles to reach  this valley which is very isolated.  I’m in the northern part of South Korea just below the DMZ.  I’ve been hearing stories about this place since my arrival in Korea with most of the information received from the elders of the village where I’ve been living. I’ve traveled here to see for myself if the many stories of ghosts and apparitions are really true.

I walked the length of this valley before sun rise and have begun climbing into the surrounding hills so I can have a more panoramic view of the entire area. I’m about 300 feet above the floor of the valley sitting on a huge boulder. It is  unearthly quiet, not a single sound to be heard, and there’s a dense fog rolling through the valley not much higher than 10 feet from ground. I’m just high enough above the fog to be chilled by the light breeze and it sends a shiver through my body. No more than 15 years ago a battle took place in this valley and it lasted for days. It will never be known just how many soldiers died here but it was hundreds and hundreds. It’s something of a memorial to the Korean War that everyone would like to forget since the battle included both North and South Koreans, Turks, and Chinese.

I’ve been told by the village elders who lived through the Korean War that this battle was a massacre. The dead were stacked four deep in places and the carnage was indescribable. Within days of the completion of this battle hundreds of Korean villagers with help from others were tasked to bury the dead. In accordance with Korean tradition the bodies were placed in a sitting position on the ground with their legs crossed and arms folded across the chest and then covered with a mound of dirt. It took many days and hundreds of people to complete the burials and it was something none of them would ever forget.

So here I sit on my boulder as the fog slowly dissipates. I can just see the tops of the hundreds and hundreds of mounds filling the valley as far as the eye can see. The fog intertwines in and around the mounds almost like water and as each minute goes by the fog lessens and lessens until the mounds are fully exposed. I climb down from my perch being careful not to slip and begin my walk slowly and quietly back through the mounds. I picture in my mind each of the bodies contained within the mounds and it’s almost like they’re talking to me. I’m not frightened by this experience but I’m certainly affected by it. I can feel the moisture on my skin drying and I turn around quickly because I can feel a presence near me. All I see are my solitary wet foot prints meandering in and around the mounds and nothing more.  

I can picture the battle as it may have occurred and I can almost hear the rifle shots, mortars, the yelling, the screaming, and the dying. I saw no ghosts but I felt the presence of every person who died in that valley on that day.  They seemed to be clustered around me wondering in their own minds what could have possessed me to come here. I’m not sure why myself but I’m certainly glad I did.

Many of the villagers living in this area are of younger generations and remember little or nothing about the Korean War. I only know what I’ve read in books and stories I’ve heard from a few of the career soldiers with whom I’ve been been assigned. It was an ugly time where many ugly things occurred and then were forgotten. As the years go by this place will slowly disappear in the minds of the locals as things like this have been forgotten thousands of times in the past. There’s no big and fancy wall with the names of the dead posted. There is no map to show the tourists where to go and see these mounds, take a few pictures, and then return home with stories to tell their friends. I firmly believe that the great majority of people killed here in this valley had families who never knew when or where their father’s, son’s, and husbands died. 

I’ll never forget this valley, this day, or any of them.

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I hope you were able to picture that valley as it was during my short but intense visit.  This was just one of many places in Korea where terrible moments occurred causing much death and destruction.  It amazes me that a country can rebound from such devastation to become the beautiful place it is now.

08-13-2013   Leave a comment

I’ve been sitting around for a while today trying to compile a list of five men and five women that I really admire.  What does it say about me that I can’t get it done.  I refuse to use celebrities or politicians because that’s just plain ridiculous but not many names are even making my short list.

So far my list of admired men consists of just one, Max Ehrlich.  I’m positive you know nothing about Max. He was as eccentric as they come, independent, smart, funny, irreverent,  and most importantly my favorite uncle.

He was a good old boy who worked hard all of his life.  He was badly injured in a work place accident at a young age and was pensioned off by the company for a few hundred dollars a month.  Did that slow him down?  He picked himself up and restarted his life and did it his way.  He knew almost everyone within a hundred mile radius on a first name basis and was what many servicemen would call a “first class scrounger”.  He retrieved items through salvage and resold them to his acquaintances.  If you needed something he could find it quickly and sell it to you cheaply.

For years he was considered the “black sheep” of our family because he refused to conform to what the family thought he should be.  He was funny and irreverent and made my mother and her side of the family just cringe every time he spoke.  I managed over the years to spend time with him because he was on the down-low, a friend of my dads.  Many times during the Christmas holidays when I was seven or eight  I remember riding along with him in his truck to deliver presents to some of his friends.  It wasn’t until years later that I discovered what those presents were.

After I joined the State Police I was assigned to an area that included his hunting camp and when time permitted I would stop and visit to check the house and property.  One sunny Sunday afternoon I pulled into the camp and while checking the house heard laughter from the back yard.  I walked around to where he had built his homemade swimming pool and there was Max at age eighty skinny dipping with what he called two young honey’s, both in their sixties.  I was speechless until he walked over without a stich on, patted me on the back, and introduced me to the girls.  We all laughed till we cried.

He passed away a few years later shortly after his girlfriend of some fifty years died.  My mother was one of the executors of his will and she soon discovered that good old Max had almost a quarter of a million dollars in his accounts.  No one could figure out where it came from until they began to clean out the garage at the hunting camp.  Above a hidden door in the ceiling they found a large still and all the necessary equipment for bottling.  We later found out from two of our other elderly uncles that he had been making moonshine for decades.  That was the presents the old goat and I delivered at Christmas time.

He’s still the only guy on my list and if I ever think of four more I’ll let you know.  I still miss that SOB.