Monday, December 29, 2008

"If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."? :~{

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Grandpa's Christmas Wish
Lyrics by Will Geer - Grandpa Walton
Grandpa's Christmas Message

What is Christmas? It is a time when some of your dreams come true. Every year it roles around and takes you by surprise some of the time, especially when you’re as close to a 100 years old as I am. You Can’t be time for another one, but there it is with all it’s hope and joy and the promise of the wishes granted. I bet you wonder what I wish for. What could an old man wish for? Maybe you think I would wish to be young again. I don’t want that. Being young is a painful thing. Being young and in love to boot, which most young people are, is even more agony. I’ll tell you what I wish. I’d wish for the power to return some of the love that’s been given me. I’d wish the time and place for all that giving could be commemorated like the heart I carved on the tree around your Grandmother’s and my initials. I wish too for more days to my life. Time...time to give to children some of the beauty of this Earth that has been revealed to me. A drop of water is a wondrous thing.

A spade full of earth is a kingdom in itself. A cloud is worth watching as it passes from one horizon to another. A bird building its nest is as wondrous as men building the Pyramid, and any green thing that grows is proof that God exists. It all comes into focus at Christmas. It is a tender time. We grow cautious because we open ourselves to love. We exchange gifts, but what those presents really say is "I love you." It makes some folks uncomfortable to say or hear these words. Maybe it’s because they’ve never learned the secret of the given heart. There are more takers than givers in the world. People, communities even countries spending their time grubbing and rooting for the goods of this earth like pigs after acorns in the Fall of the year. This is a country with a given heart and I pray it will always be so. It’s a good country and it’s part of our strength, something that we brought with us as pioneers that we can share with the fellow who is down on his luck, with those who suffered calamities: with the loss of their homes or land or their hope. This is a family with a giving heart. You children may squabble and bicker among yourselves but you’ve been taught to love and to give, and that’s the greatest present your Momma and Daddy could have given you. So take pleasure in the trappings of Christmas. Be merry like the songs say. Revel in the tinsel and the glitter and the sparkle and sing the old songs for all the joy that’s in them and the memories they bring back. But to touch the real Christmas, to feel the true spirit of the season, look to your own heart and find all the secret treasures that they’re there to give. There is one wish that I make every year. I never said it aloud before, but I’ll tell it to you now. I wish for all the seasons I have known, endlessly to come and go; the dogwood Spring, the watermelon Summer, the russet and gold of Autumn. I wish for Christmas to come again and for each of us to be here again next year at this time...together, safe, warm and loved as we are at this moment.

-- Blue Ridge Publications

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go.......

Well at least if you live in our neck of the woods. It started snowing again this morning about 0800. The weatherman forecasts another 6" which if true, and right now at the rate the snow id falling, will give us 18' in three days.

Yesterday the young man from next door was walking up the hill by our house while I was shoveling snow off our drive way and said to me; "Mr. rel this is too much snow."
I replied; "This much snow just increases my Christmas spirit."
Ryan walked on shaking his head, and I'm sure thinking to himself, Mr. rel is loosin' it.

When I was growing up here, snow and snow shoveling were part and parcel with Christmas. I used to earn most of my Christmas gift buying money by shoveling snow at .50 cents a side walk and .75 cents a driveway. I used to start praying for snow right after Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Nellie's.

My being on vacation for the last three weeks of December is allowing me to see the snow through the eyes of my childhood. I don't have to drive the slushy, now covered roads to and from work. I can sit inside warm and cozy and watch the birds at the feeders and meditate on the white crystals floating down to blanket the earth. Thoughts like: I'll wait 'til the snow stops this afternoon to go out to shovel. I wonder what birds do to protect themselves from the element. I think I'll goggle that and see how they survive in these extremes of weather. I'm going to get those Christmas cards done this afternoon. Better start wrapping presents and not wait 'til Christmas eve like you always do. Going to meet Lynn and Char for dinner tonight at Little Italy. And so on and so forth. Which reminds me, we went out with the OR folks last night and had a wonderful time. I was well behaved; I drank 3 glasses of red only.

Last night we were to meet Randy, Mem., Marty and Brenda at the The Place at 1700 for a Holiday toast. We were not planning to attend the main party later at the K of C. Quite a few others showed up to the Place, and April and Tisha cajoled us later into joining the crowd at the main party.

An unanticipated but a wonderful surprise was the arrival of Steve, Ruth-Ann, Jessica, Jesse, and Emily! (Ruth-Ann) is not in this photo

Justin, Amy, April, Tisha, Lauri's hubby, Lauri. Marty front with Giants Jacket.

Maggie in front, Mem-Ann's Randy with finger pointing talking to bartender.

rel buying the next round.

Deb, (those Tom & Jerry's will get you everytime), April, Randy Jesse, Emily, and Jessica.

Sharon-Jo, Kim, D.

Amy, Kim I., April & D., Marty, Judy, John and Kiri.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

The weather's back!

snowToday: Light snow likely this morning...then snow this afternoon. Snow may be heavy at times this afternoon. Snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches. Highs around 19. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow near 100 percent.

Cloudy. Snow likely until midnight...then a chance of light snow after midnight. Total snow accumulation of 4 to 6 inches. Lows around 2 above. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 70 percent.

What do you think about residential water meters?

Back thirty years or so ago, I became the mayor of our little village. It wasn't a position I actively sought, but one that I was strongly encouraged to seek after I had made my intentions known that I intended to run for a seat on the local school board.

The microcosm of politics, played out in small town America.

Sitting around, shooting the bull with fellow volunteer firefighters one evening, I mentioned that I was considering running for a vacant seat in the upcoming school board election. Someone suggested that I run for mayor. I said no, I wasn't interested in being mayor, and besides Kenny was running for re-election, and he was doing a good job wasn't he? And after all, he too is a member of the fire department!

That's just the point said my confrères; "Kenny wants to decrease the amount of money the village contributes to the running of the fire department."

"Why is that", I asked.

"He's pissed that we're going to send some members to become EMTs and that will do away for our need to have Ken teach the Red Cross first aid course. He's been a Red Cross instructor for years and he thinks there is no need to move up to an EMT status. So basically he's holding our funding over our heads to make us kowtow to his wishes."

"Wow, that's too bad," I said, "but I'm no politician and I don't know shit about running a village government, or what a mayor does, even."

"It's all politics rel, school board, mayor, trustee, they're all elected positions, so really it's all politics."

"I don't know guys, I think school board is more my speed."

"Listen rel, run for mayor against Kenny, everyone in the fire department will vote you. You'll win in a landslide. That will send Kenny a message and at the same time you can preserve our allotment. It'll only be for two years rel, after that you can run for school board. Hey, it'll give you more leverage to win a seat there. Whadda ya say bud?"

" Well, OK, since you put it that way, I'll give it a go."

What does all that have to do with water meters?
Suffice it to say, I was elected to the office of mayor and I did preserve the economy of the MVFD. As mayor I also had considerable influence over whether to install water meters or leave the water billing at the former flat rate system that had been in use since Moses was a teenager.

In those days, thirty years ago, I was an idealistic, fair play kinda guy. I made a piss poor politician, but I like to think I made a good two term mayor. I was the epitome of transparency in government. I also believed, and still do to this day, that the leaders of government have a duty to make their relationship with the citizenry a we, we arrangement as opposed to the, all too frequent, us-vs-them philosophy.

State law states that a water department must be self funding. It allows the general fund of the municipal budget to lend money to the water department in cases of a shortfall in the water departments funds, but that loan must be paid back, preferably in the next budget cycle if not before.

The former mayor and the mayors before him had been subsidizing the water department out of the general fund for years and never paying it back. Now you may think that that is a fair thing to do; no one was complaining. It was and is against the law. Anybody want to be fined or go to jail even? Not me, no thank you!

What to do? Easy enough, raise the flat rate to ensure that the water department takes in enough revenues to pay it's expenses and, if your smart, you'll charge a little more so as to build up a capital reserve fund to cover unanticipated emergencies.

Ok mayor, let's get down to brass tacks. It's your responsibility to prepare a proposed budget and then bring it to the board table to be discussed and wrangled over by yourself and the two trustees, one of whom is in charge of the water budget.

I noted that our village of ~500 or so residents had a high number of older and retired folks. So for comparisons sake I looked at the fairness of charging Mrs. Erikson, or Harold Thomas, the same amount for water as I, a young family man with a wife and three children. Or how about my two next door neighbors who also had young families and swimming pools; one, an in ground pool.

I thought it unfair to charge a one person dwelling, housing a elderly person of limited and fixed means $150.00 for water and to say it was fair for me and those like me to pay the same.

Another point of importance to this discussion is the geography of the village; we are situated on a rock ledge with very little soil depth for 2/3 of the village, meaning that a large percentage of our water lines were unable to be placed below the frost line. We live in a place of frigid winters. In just the five years that we'd been residents of the village we'd had a major waterline freeze-up every winter. To say that the delivery system had been sorely tried and was in a sad state of repair would be a gross under statement. The point; the system had many points of leakage. Citizens were paying for water they weren't even using.

We decided to install water meters to solve these two problems; pay for what you use and identify how much treated water was being lost to the ground. This decision was subject to permissive referendum to which no one submitted a petition.

Harold Thomas used 3000 gal of water the first year after the meters were installed, Mrs. Erikson a little over 6000. rel and family used over 30,000 gals. The neighbor with the pool; 60,000.

I think water meters are a good thing!


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Thursday, December 18, 2008

partlycloudy The weather has been canceled for today.


Partly sunny. Highs in the upper 20s. West winds around 10 mph.


Partly cloudy. Lows around 7 above. Light and variable winds...becoming northeast around 10 mph after midnight.

Got up before light, 0500, a little late for me, but we stayed up, later than usual last night, decorating the tree. The Waste Steam collectors changed their pick-up day for our neighborhood. Not only that, but they changed the time of pickup. I got the trash out to the side of the road by 0510 and I swear he was hiding around the corner, 'cause in 15 minutes the trash disappeared.
It's not nice to fool mother nature, and it's not nice to screw with old folk's heads by making them change their routine. They picked up trash on Monday mid-morning for years. All kidding aside, they do come quite early, which is not a problem for me. I don't like to put it out the night before in case of rain because the paper bin is open as is the can bin. Not a big deal if the plastics and cans get wet but the paper gets darned heavy when wet.

A note to my sister Julie: I'm having a great vacation!!!!!! Enjoying every minute of it. Most everything I write here can be taken as tongue in cheek or for entertainment purposes. The dent in the car was disconcerting but hey, really, in the greater scheme of big deal.
Just so you know, I haven't been this excited about starting a new adventure since our first trip to France. Change is what keeps the mind young and exercise does the same for the body. I'm lovin' life sweetie!!!!!!

Friends and family, some of you will recognize this amiable young man, but for those of you who do not, let me introduce you: This Is Joe Basta, my life long friend and owner/operator of Basta's Flowers in Ogdensburg, NY 13669. Drop him a note, say hello and mention that I sent you.
This is the same Joe of the Roma tomato plant story. If you're a mind to read that story on a very lengthy post you will find it by clicking here.

The above photo was taken down in the bowels of the business. You'll remember that the day before yesterday, I forgot to return last year's centerpiece left-overs and so I had to return yesterday to complete that errand. It's more of a pleasure to visit the shop than a chore; I always stay and chat with Jane and watch how the bevy of girls can do at least two things at once and still carry on a coherent conversation with a customer. Something neither Joe nor yours truly have yet mastered. I did in fact have other shopping to do at the shop and that included purchasing a white poinsettia. This will be the first year in eighteen where a poinsettia will survive the season in our house; Cinnamon, our recently deceased Siamese cat, use to eat the leaves incessantly even though they made him deathly ill and he'd puke all over the carpet. Put the plant somewhere where the cat couldn't reach it, you say? This is a cat that could jump from the floor to the top of the refrigerator just to play catch with me.

Bonnie, Shannon, and Sean stopped in and I offered to give my unsolicited advice on wedding flowers but my offer was declined. Shannon and Sean will tie the knot this summer at the house by the river.

One short story: Joe relayed to me an incident involving an un-named individual (HIPPA you know). It seems that this un-named individual had entered the local hospital sometime in the past as an adult presenting for a circumcision. When he awoke in the recovery room, he discovered a lg. red ribbon festooned his well wrapped member. His surprise was that, a nurse of calm, quiet, demure reputation was the only one in attendance. The gentleman asked his friend Therese if she could shed any light on who perpetrated this joke, but alas, she could only shrug her shoulders and nod in the negative.
So if anyone can shed any light on this mystery, please say so in the comment section.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This, that & the other thing.

With the recent paper chase I've been on; getting my CV and credentials out to placement agencies. Together with the season's attendant errands, shopping trips, and decorating the house inside and out, I think that I'm losing my mind. For the time being at least, I think I've relocated it, but feel sure it'll get misplaced again. For instance, yesterday afternoon, after numerous trips to the 'Burg for varied and sundry tasks, I was off again to the FedEx office at Rothel's. I had just come back to the house, from the Village clerks office, to pick up D.'s left-over remnants of last year's Christmas center piece which I had offered to drop off at our friends, Basta's flower shop, to be refurbished. While home, I rushed up to the computer to check to see if any emails from Staff care had arrived. Seeing none, I went back down stairs to leave for the 'Burg.
D. "What are you looking for rel?"
rel: "I can't find my brief case, I thought I set it down right here by the table."

Back upstairs I go to look around; nope, no brief case. Downstairs, into the backroom (entryway, former summer kitchen, coat room, etc.); no brief case in sight. I step back into the adjacent kitchen, sighing and looking terribly perplexed.

D.:" rel."
rel: "Yes."
D.: "What's this on your chair?"
rel: "Thanks!" Sheepishly~

I get in the car, the one I scraped the telephone pole with and put a nice dent in a couple of hours ago, and head for town. Nine miles down the road, a thought pops into my head: You forgot the centerpiece fixin's dumbhead!!

I get to Rothel's and give her the packet that needed to by sent out. Then I take it back and remove all the sheets that don't need to go (30 pages from a previous document). Everything copasetic now?

I start to leave and the girl at the counter says, " Aren't you going to take your brief case. "

Whatta ya think? Mind misplaced?~~~ Yeah, me too.

Now, You may all remember my friend Joe Basta from the Roma tomato story from this past summer. Well suffice it to say, that when I stopped in to Basta's on my way home with intentions of ordering a new center piece, Joe was just getting off the phone with my dear wife, and says to me, " D. said to tell you that our conversation shall stay between her and I." It was the ear-to-ear grin that was so disconcerting to me. Anyway, I'll be going back today to bring the remnants back to be refurbished.


I was reading a news piece this morning on the MSN page about Bobby Jindal. You know, the thirty-seven year old, whiz-bang Gov. of Louisiana; the one the media has put the kiss of death on by recognizing him as the next Republican president of the USA. (2012 or 20016). I'll have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel by then, so I really don't give a s......... rat's ass.
Your point?
Oh yes. This isn't about Gov. Jindal, but rather a saying that he likes to use frequently, or so say the media prophets. I know little about the Gov. and Don't mean this to be a comment about his character in anyway. It's just a comment on my reaction to the phrase, no matter who says it:
~Once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity ~

I have a dislike of the phrase, once-in-a-lifetime-opportunities. (OIALO) The phrase immediately creates a feeling of mistrust in my mind and my gut. I envision flim-flam characters, mountebank's if you will, trying to sell me a bill of goods. Whenever I'm told this is a OIALO, I either hang up, if it's a telephone solicitation, or say no thanks X 5. Salesmen trying to sell insurance door-to-door like to use that phrase.

Opportunities come and go, but the important thing to remember is that they always come. If it's a OIALO, it probably isn't worth spit to you.

If a women approached me and offered herself for a OIALO, I'd first say, "no thanks" and further more you need to see a doctor to see about getting a cure.


The morning's paper today says that Governor Patterson is pissing off everyone in the state. Well, they used the word upsetting, but in reading the article I know the reporter was thinking "pissing off". I could just tell, believe me. That headline, and the article screamed to me: Thank God!!!!! Finally a governor who takes his job seriously. One who actually wants to be responsible and send a message to his constituents; we've been irresponsible long enough; it's time to pay the piper and no one, I mean no one, will be exempted! YEAH for you Governor Patterson.

Oh, and as an aside, but believe me a very loud aside; Don't appoint Caroline Kennedy to the almost sure to be vacant NY senate seat just because her last name is Kennedy. Sure, let her throw her name into the hat, this is America, where we don't have royalty or dynasties, but have her print her name as C. Liebfraumilch. How much consideration does she get then? Appoint a democrat? Sure, of course, but not for their name alone.


Last but of utmost importance, in fact, I think it's a story worthy of tomorrow's front page cover story.

rel Helps Save Local Hospital From Financial Failure

By resigning his position on the staff of said local hospital he has single handedly offset this quarter's $285,000.00 shortfall by 75%, possibly salvaging 20 additional layoffs this Christmas season.

Today's second section's headline story:
CHMC Laying Off 20 On Jan. 5.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

You Are An ESFP

The Performer

You are a natural performer and happiest when you're entertaining others.

A great friend, you are generous, fun-loving and optimistic.

You love to laugh - and you like almost all people equally.

You accept life as it is, and you do your best to make each day fantastic.

In love, you are a smooth talker and incorrigible flirt.

While you get into relationships easily, you don't tend to stick around when times get tough.

At work, you do well in groups. You keep everyone laughing through difficult tasks.

You would make a good actor, designer, or counselor.

How you see yourself: Capable, fair, and efficient

When other people don't get you, they see you as: Incompetent, stubborn, and silly

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dreaming of a Bigger Penis?
Too bad!
You won't find it here.

The capriciousness of Mother Nature.

Because of her faithful reading of this blogger, I'm dedicating this post to my long time friend and former co-worker, Therese.

Here it is Sunday morning and already we've had a full to the brim weekend, and there's more to come. The day is overcast, dismal and around 31 F. The Sunday Advance News is leaning against the back door waiting to be brought in and perused.

Let's go back a couple days to Friday the 12th of December. We awoke to one of those magnificent picture postcard mornings that mother nature paints for us from time to time. The weather has been in the deep freeze for a week and so the river is giving up her heat stores rapidly. The heat rises in the form of steam or condensation if you will. as it floats above the river and drifts toward shore this mist coats the flora and it then freezes and this frost-white coating is the paint with which Mother Nature captivates our romantic/aesthetic nature.

We clicked off some photos, through the backdoor window, of the frozen rain encrusted trees with their attendant wildlife visitors; Mr. squirrel, the bluejay clan, a cadre of gold finches, one starling (who ever heard of one starling in the yard?), two morning doves and the dozens of sparrows and juncos. A greeting card scene in the making.
BTW, did you know that there is a paucity of acorns nationwide this year. What's up with that? It's never happened before, or so they say. I wonder if that means we'll have a shortage of squirrels next year.

There were errands to attend to and groceries to buy, so we loaded ourselves into the car and made our way down Main street toward the river. After stopping to pick up our mail at the post office (no mailman delivery in our village) we continued down the street toward Wrights Marina and to Library. I was driving slow to appreciate the scene unfolding from the freezing mist rising up from the river. As we moved past Tucker's and just before Holleran's old homestead, I peered through the mist and was taken aback by the eerie splendor displayed before my unbelieving eyes: Old Man's Island, enshrouded in frost, rising off Chapman point like a ghost ship was glinting with reflected early morning sunlight. It took my breath away. Then to only add to this wondrous scene I noticed the pines and hardwoods similarly painted white and the panorama was complete.
Heading around the corner toward Spillman's I was hesitating with the accelerator and D says, "forgot your camera didn't you?"
Reaching into my right side coat pocket, I extract my camera, while D. continues: "I brought mine!"
I continue to the top of Chapman Hill turn right on the short cut to the fire hall and down Morris street to the river and pull up in front of the library and out we get. Trudging through the snow we make our way down, to the left of Wright's, and start taking pictures of the scene.
If you'd like to gaze at at even better shot of Old Man's Island through the mist go to D.'s blog, click here:

Then it was on to the 'Burg to the mundane task of daily living. Oops, "Let's go down to ACCO drive and get some pictures of the moisture rising off the river, like clouds drifting upward", says D..
"Mais oui madame, mais oui."

Mother Nature did and outstanding job of pleasing our visual senses, don't you agree? But some times too much of a good thing changes one's perspective. With shades of "ice storm '98" the north-east coast of the U.S. was hammered friday with a nor'easter and an ice storm reminiscent of '98's, leaving hundreds of thousands folks without power. Our daughter and her Josh, who leaves for Iraq this next Wednesday, live in East Greenbush which was/is without power. Their home is heated with electric heat and has no reserve source of heat . They are spending the weekend in a motel that does have power and heat. So you see, Mother Nature pleases with one hand and spanks us with the other.

"ice storm "98.

OK!, (Thanks Alvin) next stop; ATM, then Wally's, P&C, Sunoco, and back to the homestead.

While D. was baking apple muffins and making peanut brittle I was diligently filling out the credentials packet for Staffcare, the locum's agency I'm hoping will keep me employed for the next 4 months, so I could fax it to Clay before the end of his day in Dallas. I don't have a home fax, so it was imperative that I get to the village clerk's office before 1500, when Sandy was going to close up for the weekend. Whew, I made it there by 1435.

Earlier in the morning while reading the Journal I noticed the movie theater was showing "4 Christmases and asked D. if she'd like to go see it. She looked up the trailer online and it seemed like a light comedy, just what we needed to lightened the mood after a stressed filled week.

The evening itinerary was initiated immediately upon my return from the clerks office: drive back to the 'Burg, go to Memories to pay her for the Pizza party she organized for the OR on my behalf, then to Leigh and Karen's to chat a spell and give Karen her birthday gifts and the apple muffins, then the movies, Little Italy for a late supper and back home. We stayed at Mem Ann and Randy's for a half hour, kibitzing about the events of the week. At Leigh and Karen's we met Karen's Dad and Step mom who are staying with until tomorrow. We sipped espressos and talked of various things, including my desire to go to Malta. Leigh loaned me some books he'd gotten from when he Karen and the Bigners went to Malta back in their Navy days.

Off to the movies and a humongous bag of popcorn, no, make that two humongous bags of popcorn. One bag shared would have been more than enough. The movie was funny in many places but also sad and too true to life in others. While I liked the show I can't say I felt uplifted when we left.

Little Italy was warm and the wine, garlic pizza, and antipasto salad were divine. Joseph stopped by to greet and wish us happy holidays.

That was Friday, are you exhausted reading about it? We fell into bed shortly after arriving back home and I was asleep in seconds.

Saturday was no less busy and full.

At 9 AM I met my brother at Donut King for breakfast. We talked about the events of the week and what's the plan for Chritmas. The sneaky little duffer paid the bill when I was in the men's room.

Still working on my credentialing packet, I went online to take the NYS mandated Infection Control and Barrier Precautions course. I think I'm current (we have to update every 4 years) but rather than take the chance I went ahead and completed it and now it's on file with the State. It took me a total of 3 1/2 hours to read the course material and take the test, but we interrupted the task for an hour to drive over to Maryann's and get our Christmas tree (D. says it's akin to a table top tree. Mare's trees were less than attractive this year, she got screwed by her supplier. So we trimmed one down and I think it'll do fine, we'll just put only 1/2 or less of our ornaments on it. ;-)

After taking and passing the test, I started filling out the credentialing packets for two other locum's agencies and some licence applications until D. yelled up and said it was time for me to get in the shower and get ready to attend Bonnie and Dick's Christmas party.

Who are Bonnie and Dick? They are the folks, center rear, in the above beach photo. This is the photo on their Christmas card this year. We spend the summer living next door to them at the river house. The rest of the people are their children in-laws and grand children. They are a remarkable and fantastic family; just down home good hearted people and blessed with and abundance of artistic talents. They are no less adept in the field of business. Every Christmas they throw a party and invite the entire north country. Bonnie's house, a beautiful old Stone structure any time of the year, is worthy of a special edition of Better Homes and Gardens. I kid you not, Martha Stewart would drool if she ever came to Bonnie's party. The catering by Kathy is just right to set the festive mood.

This is one of the three trees Bonnie decorates each year for the party. This picture was taken at last year's gala.
Let me rephrase that. This is one of the three trees on display in Bonnie's home.

Lots of friends, a festive spirit with plenty of reminiscing and good will exchanged. Therese and I chatted in front of this tree last night. Her husband,Chuck, says she is a faithful reader of this blog. I'm grateful for all my readers, and to all; commenters or readers only.

Merry Christmas and a New year full of promises fulfilled.

I've probably left something out but I must leave immediately for a twelve o'clock meeting at Karen's to map out the Philmont trek for next summer with our Venture crew.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Uneventful events of an eventful trip; the flight home.

Sitting in the full waiting area at gate 39, sipping coffee and reading the morning paper, I was anticipating a first boarding announcement any moment.

"Passengers at gate 39, there is going to be a slight delay in boarding flight 7739," said a female voice through the p.a. system.

I'm thinking, damn, we haven't even started and it's started. The flight plan home had been worrying me since I'd purchased our round trip tickets through Expedia 6 weeks ago. The flight down had been perfect: first flight of the morning out of Ottawa to Chicago and a 2 hour lay over before a mid-morning flight to San Antonio. Crisp, clean, and smooth, like a Swiss watch.

The flight home was a little more convoluted and left zero time for error, i.e. delays. A nine-thirty flight to Dallas, then a 40 minute period to change planes and go on to Dulles in D.C..
An hour in D.C. and a airline change leaving for Ottawa at 1650. A sketchy weather forecast, three changes were, in my mind, a prescription for disaster.

The female voice continues: "The maintenance crew has detected an odor of something burnt. We're going to wait twenty minutes while they search for the source."

I'm thinking: twenty minutes is cutting it too close for comfort, but still possible to make the Dallas to Dulles flight.

Female voice in sicky-sweet southern drawl: "If the maintenance crew can't find the source of the smell we'll book you all on the next flight." When these things happen, I always ask myself; would you want your mother to get on this plane?" I muse: why no, I'd rather put her through all the bullshit you're about to put 177 people through. I mean if she were alive she'd be 89, no cell phone and little if any tolerance of disruptive incidents in her plans. No lady, don't even go there.

Oh, and the next flight only serves to delay our problem 'til Dallas where we'll land well after the Dulles flight has left.

Two women in the seats in front of us , maybe fifteen feet away, sisters I think from the similarities in their looks, are conversing ominously. One is sitting, the other , standing in front of her, facing toward us, whispers to her sister but loud enough for us to overhear: I just checked at the counter and there are only 10 seats on the next flight to Dallas, so we'd better get in line now.

PIA voice over p.a.: "They still have been unable to locate the source of the offending odor. In the event that we may have to cancel flight 7739, would all the passenger form a single line starting in front of the desk and to the left, there will be three of us to help you get rescheduled. If the flight is canceled, I'll walk down the line and pass out an 800 number that you can call, if you have a cell phone, to make rescheduling arrangements."

While standing in line, I say: "Well, I guess we won't get home 'til Sunday." I soon learn that, really, our situation is dwarfed by the number of passengers who are going to miss their international flights out of both NYC, and D.C. Some folks are able to get good assistance like the young woman directly in front of us who, within 5 to 10 minutes was able to get a seat on a direct flight to NYC and that would salvage her overseas flight plans. However the man next in front of us, after three calls with many holds, was unable to get any satisfaction. I'll give him credit for keeping the lid on his boiling emotions.

The voice is now a face, with Ashley Banfield glasses and a form fitting leather jacket, with a pleasant smile. As she peels a slip off the pad of slips with the afore mentioned 800 number, she repeats: Call this number, and someone will be able to assist you rearranging your flights."

I nod, smile reluctantly, and say thank you.

The female voice on the other end is friendly, and professional, showing serious concern. Within 15 minutes and three "holds"(good thing I charged my phone last night!) this well seasoned and practiced airline professional succeeded in getting both of us in adjoining seats on another airline's direct flight to D.C. and we would arrive there only a few minutes later than we would have originally, so we would still be able to catch our original flight to Ottawa. Hallelujah!!! She asked me for a description of our checked luggage and what tags were on them and if our address was on the tags. She assured us that there was ample time to retrieve them and get them on the United flight.

I repeated back to her the directions she had given me to insure I knew how to proceed from here. She acknowledged that I had it right. The rest of the story is mundane with two exceptions:

Because we were changing airlines and it would appear like we had just purchased our tickets just prior to flight time a red flag comes up for TSA the red flag is four SSSS's printed on your boarding pass. This is a special code that entitles you to be locked in a glass cage until an agent can escort you to the area where they will pat you down and search and test everything in your carry on. Not all that bad as they were very courteous, professional and fast.
Sometime during the flight to D.C. it dawned on me that we'd only have forty minutes to catch our flight to Ottawa, if we arrived on time. Since we'd be changing airlines and had no pre-issued boarding passes we had been instructed to go to the ticket counter in D.C. to get our boarding passes. I'm thinking: get off the plane, make our way out of the gate area and back to the united terminal, get boarding passes, come back through security and then get to the proper gate to catch the flight; no f'n way!!!! I don't know if you're familiar with Dulles, but some times you have to take a bus from one terminal to another. I decide that are only chance is to go to the gate and plead our case to the agents there and hope against hope that they can check us in and issue us boarding passes, otherwise we'd spend the night in D.C., because, I found out later, this was the last flight to Ottawa this day.

We arrived a few minutes early, the next departure gate was only 2 gates away, maybe 200 feet. There were two agents in attendance and no one in line to delay us in seeking their assistance. The next 20 minutes was a little rocky, not unpleasant but shaky. Finally, after a phone call by the second more experienced agent, he printed out our boarding passes. We sat down only long enough to hear; passengers at gate 3 for Ottawa can begin boarding now. Whew, whew, whew.

I know I said only two exceptions, so I lied. There is one one more exclamation point to this journey.

We set down in Ottawa 30 minutes early. We were so early that they had no crew available to help the pilot park and so we sat on the tarmac for fifteen minutes before parking and deplaning.
That was no issue. The temperature was 25 F. we moved through customs and immigration quickly, and proceeded to the baggage claim area.

You knew this was coming didn't you? You just knew it! Yup, you are 100% right: our luggage was in absentville.
This is not the first time for us. We're old hands at lost luggage. However we've always gotten it that same night or the next day at the latest. It's now Saturday evening, the 6th of December.

Monday 8 December, afternoon at 1700,

Our luggage was delivered, intact and evidently well searched. Nothing was missing.

You see rel, you always worry over the most insignificant of things.

If only we'd taken AMTRAC

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.

Jack Kerouac.