Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Spider Bites, Revisited

My sister so graciously sent me into a fervor when she mentioned spider bites that itch are really spider eggs. I looked it up and she's wrong.

Spider Bites Defined

Okay, according to an online source, what I have is definitely spider bites...

Symptoms of Spider Bites

The bite is often painless and the first sign may be cramping abdominal pain. The abdomen becomes hard and boardlike as the waves of pain become severe. Breathing is difficult and accompanied by grunting. There may be nausea, vomiting, headaches, sweating, twitching, shaking, and tingling sensations of the hand. The bite itself may not be prominent and may be overshadowed by the systemic reaction.
Those are my exact symptoms. I figured it was either a head cold or heroin withdrawal. However, I know for certain I haven't used heroin since I was attacked by the spider. But what constitutes withdrawal? If I've never technically used heroin can it still be withdrawal? Can you withdraw from something you've never done? Can you catch withdrawal from contact with a hobo? Should I now be worried about that? Should I get on methadone now to rule that out?

I better head down to North St. for a proper fix. The first one is still free, right?

Over and Out,
Old Coot

Get the Whole Story Here...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Weekend Update

Raining on my Parade

The other night (Friday, I believe) I decided it was just plain wrong of me to leave the faucet in my tub dripping. I opened the access panel in the closet behind the tub in search of a shutoff valve, and found none. Why would someone put in a shutoff valve next to a fixture? The genius who plumbed my house had zero foresight. And I know he wasn't a real plumber because the pipe joints are sloppily soldered, the sign of a real novice.

Off I went to the basement in search of the nearest shutoff valve. Unfortunately for me, the plumbing in the basement is a rat's nest of kluged-together plumbing remnants. I'm sure the way they planned the job went something like this:

Cletus: Okay Vern, we have 12' of 1/2" flexible tubing, 8'3" of 3/16" hard copper, 13 elbows, 7 tees, a gallon of solder and a hair dryer. How much you figger we can git done?
Vern: I'd say the whole thing.

And that's how they did it. There are so many pipes running this way and that, that had they planned what they were doing would have been unnecessary. But I'm a little ahead of myself here.

While looking for shutoff valves for the shower, I came across a wet spot on the floor. It wasn't coming in from a wall, the dehumidifier wasn't leaking, and a cursory inspection of the nearby pipes came up negative. I even smelled it, thinking it might be cat pee. Nope, this was water.

Then, a drip landed on my head. I gave the pipes above me a thorough look-see and there was water on my gas line. "Ruh-roh". "Please be condensation, please be condensation." It turned out it was the pipe above the gas line that was leaking; I was mildly relieved. What sucks is that it's not a solder joint, but right smack in the middle of the pipe. I peeled back the asbestos-looking pipe wrap to find a series of small corrosion spots on the pipe. One was leaking and the others looked to be not far behind. I put some emergency leak stopping wrap over the pipe which succeeded only in making it drip further down. Damn!

Since it was late, there was nothing else I could do. Without a trustworthy shutoff valve anywhere in the house, I had to turn off the main line to avoid the inevitable pipe burst in the middle of the night.

Until I get a chance to replace the corroded pipe (and redo the shoddy work the last guy did), I have to plan my water usage so that I can turn the water back on, do what I have to do, and turn it back off again. I do NOT want to come home to a burst pipe!

OH, and while I was inspecting the plumbing, I walked through a spider web and the spider jumped on my head. He may or may not have gnawed on my arm and stomach, but I have a few wicked itchy bites from something.

Autumn is Close

The weekend wasn't all leaking pipes and spider bites, it also served as a perfect weekend for bike rides. On Friday I awoke late (recall that I was out on the town until the wee hours of the morning), had breakfast, read a magazine or two in the sunshine, and headed out for a bike ride. My company for this ride had not set ass on a bike in weeks, was undoubtedly tired and hung over from the previous night's debauchery, and had probably not eaten a decent meal all day. Tired, hung over and hungry makes for a bad ride for everyone because you become the weakest link, the person I have to wait for every 1/8th mile.

I try to be forgiving, but at times it's hard. The worst was that when I planned the ride, it was assuming an average speed in the area of 16 MPH. That's slow, but how most group rides go. A 40 mile ride should take about 2.5 hours. However, at 13 MPH with frequent breaks, the ride quickly escalated to nearly 4 hours. I hadn't packed any sandwiches and was getting really hungry and cranky by the end. Lesson learned? Probably not. I prefer company to speed, so the next time I want company I'll probably suffer again.

On the positive side, I did get to take a 4 hour tour of the rolling hills of northern Berkshire county. With the leaves getting ready to change, it was quite the scenic ride.

Over and Out,
Old Coot

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Friday, September 21, 2007

A Fine Cuppla Days

Good morning Cooterinos! It's Friday, it's my "day off" and I'm sitting here digesting chocolate chip pancakes and sipping freshly brewed coffee. It's been an exciting couple of days: some good, some bad, and some pedestrian. Before I go into any of the details, I'm going to hook you up with a piece of photojournalistic gold...

Pardon the poor image quality, it's a photograph of a newspaper photograph. In the center of the picture you can see your favorite one-time triathlete "El Guapo" running from the kayak to the shore moments before I began the last leg of The Josh - the run. Note the chiseled legs and cool Curious George Astronaut cycling jersey. In the lower left is my Entourage, HECOW, waiting with my running shoes, socks and a towel to dry my dogs.

Post Pre

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift. - Pre
A friend of mine recently lent me his copy of a book entitled Pre. It's the story of one of the world's best runners of all time, Steve Prefontaine (affectionately called 'Pre') who took the world by storm during the 1960s and 1970s. He could have easily been considered arrogant, but in reality he was just confident. His story is incredible and inspiring.

In Pre's world there were no limits. He went to the Olympics knowing he could never out kick (sprint) the world's best at the end of the race, so he turned up the heat the entire race, forcing his competitors to abandon their race strategy and just hoof it the whole way. He came in 4th that race, but the fact that a young kid from Oregon could make the world's elite runners run his race because they respected his ability is incredible. After all he didn't care who was the fastest, he wanted to see who had the most guts. One of my favorite quotes is:

A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.

After reading about his life and running career, I was inspired to stride to more than mediocrity in my running and bicycling. The night before The Josh I decided on my game plan - to race each leg like it was the only one I was racing. Basically, I wanted to see if I had the guts. From my excitement after the race (in my last post), you can see that I had the guts. I may not have won, but it was certainly a better effort than I thought I was capable of.

Riding with the Big Dogs

After my stellar performance in The Josh, some people at work who constitute what I consider an admirable section of Berkshire County's cycling community realized that I'm not a tourist in their world. I was invited to ride with one of the better cycling clubs on Wednesday night and gladly accepted.

My friend (coincidentally the one who lent me Pre) told me beforehand not to be intimidated. Intimidated? As long as I was riding with the "Fast and Friendly" group (as opposed to just "The Fast Group") I had every confidence that I'd be able to keep up, no problem. I had no problems whatsoever. We averaged 20 MPH over 30 miles, often cruising for extended periods at upwards of 27-28 MPH, and I was right there with them.

I now get nods from the cyclists at work.

Guts in the Woods

Last night, at our weekly Thursday Night Run, we were standing around the parking lot bullshitting when one guy asked if we were going to break last year's record. He said last year, the week after The Josh, we (by 'we' I mean he and some other guys) ran the course in 41:55. To put it into perspective, my personal best is probably 45 minutes, maybe high 44s. It later occurred to me how strange it was the he remembered that one run and the time they ran it in.

I was definitely up for the challenge. I hadn't eaten much yesterday, had drank about 5 sips of water and 4 cups of coffee, and my legs felt like lead. Work had shat upon us though, so I had anger on my side. We set off at a blistering pace (for the trails anyway) and I was going to beat that record!

Through the first two miles we were right on pace to beat the record, but by the third we had lost a full minute. Apparently dehydration and a lack of proper warm up were coming into play. By the fourth mile we were two minutes behind and we hadn't seen the front runner in quite some time. But at the last hill I got my second wind and was cruising.

I emerged from the trail at 41:15, a course record, but over a minute and a half behind the "winner". In fact, the first three of us out of the woods broke the record. Yup, we're a force to be reckoned with.

Third Thursday

After the run, we headed to the Crowne Plaza for dinner. It was Third Thursday in Pittsfield and North Street was filled with all sorts of things to do. We dined on lobster and gator Jambalaya. $10 for a lobster, you can't turn it down.

After dinner, we meandered down to Spice where there were rumors of a Brazilian band. When we got there, they had the front of the restaurant opened up to the street, the band was jamming and people filled the sidewalk and spilled out into the street. People were partying and having a great time, and it was the most eclectic mix of people I could have imagined. I've never seen anything like that in Pittsfield.

We ended up staying there until 12:30 AM dancing, laughing, mingling and having a great time. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Over and Out,
Old Coot

Get the Whole Story Here...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'll Claim Success

As many of you have surely noted, but have yet to find time to comment on, the Josh has come and gone. It was not without much fanfare and celebration, and unfortunately I haven't had the time to fill you in on the details.

Most Importantly Feature

Before I get into it, what's most important about this competition is that I placed 4th out of about 20 in the Ironman Kayak division. Considering my boat was one of the slowest crafts out there, I am very pleased with my performance.

The Racing Heart

The first thing I should mention is that aside from block parties as a kid, this was my first bike race ever. Like most people, I get plenty nervous before any race, and this was no exception. What I found interesting was my body's response to the excitement.

As we lined up at the beginning, I kept an eye on my heart rate monitor (HRM) noting that it was at 90 beats per minute (BPM), about 40 BPM above my normal resting rate. When the guy got on the megaphone to announce that there were 5 minutes remaining until the start, it shot to around 140 in the blink of an eye. Thank you, adrenaline.

What I liked about lining up for that race though, was that I didn't feel outclassed one bit. The way I saw it, I was just as good as everyone else out there. And as they say in the trade, "Trust your training".

Wear Your Eye Protection

I always ride with cycling glasses, no matter what time of day. I have an inexpensive pair of glasses that came with three sets of lenses allowing you can change them to suit the time of day. For me, I find that the orange lenses are perfect for all conditions. But that's neither here nor there. Over the course of the summer, I have been hit in the glasses by stones, June Bugs, crud and untold mosquitoes and gnats. Until Sunday I never really appreciated what they did for me...

There I was, riding up and down the hills of southern Berkshire County in a pace line, hugging the center line. Mere feet to my right was another pace line of equal length, roughly 30 cyclists. We were cruising along at a good clip, but I was certain I could go faster. The guy ahead of me kept looking around to the left like he was going to make a break for it, and I down-shifted to get my cadence (pedaling speed) up to be ready to take off with him when he went. He looked once, he looked twice, and on the third look he fired off a snot rocket. The chunky end of his nasal explosion was sent careening off my glasses.

At first I was stunned at what had happened. A guy literally blew his nose in my face, and it bounced off my glasses. I can't even begin to imagine what it would have been like if I hadn't been wearing those glasses. Best case scenario I would have had snot in my eye; worst case I would have been taken off my bike. I plan on writing the company to thank them for their product.

Climb Does Pay

After a summer of cursing the hills of Berkshire County, I was happy to have been training in such an unforgiving landscape. With each hill, I was able to easily drop scores of other riders who were less prepared for the climb. Often I would "jump on the wheel" of another good climber and we would end up in a smaller, faster pack. Ultimately we had a group of about 20 cyclists with which I finished out the race (leading them, of course).

Three Separate Races

Although this was technically a triathlon, I treated it as three completely independent races. Instead of saving energy for the next event, I just gave 100% to everything and I couldn't have been happier. The funny thing about cycling is that no matter how tired I get during a ride, I always have the energy to mow the lawn, go to the grocery store, do laundry, and so on afterwards. I knew 100% wouldn't leave me too tired for a measly paddle around the lake and a quick 6 mile cool down run.

Eyes on the Prize

The paddling portion was pretty uneventful. After an hour and a quarter of speeding along at 20+ MPH in a pack with 60 other guys and gals, paddling a kayak at 4.5 MPH seemed pretty lame.

At first I was right alongside a guy from the Thursday Night Runs (we'll call him Jeff). I wanted to get ahead of Jeff because he's a faster runner than I am, but after the first lap he pulled ahead. After that, I just kept thinking about getting to the end of it so I could get on with the run. Once I reached a mindless state of oblivion, the paddling just flew by and before I knew it I was bearing down on the beach.

From about 200 yards out, I could see HECOW standing on the beach waving his pink hat. I fought for position against a clumsily steered canoe and hit the beach running. HECOW followed me up to a clearing on the hill, handed me my socks and shoes one at a time, offered some words of encouragement and I was off.

The first mile or so I took it easy to find my stride and fight off the cramp in my ribs. Once I felt good, I picked up the pace and one by one picked off other runners. Sure, a few people passed me but I was starting to feel it on the hills. Besides, I still had to catch that Jeff guy.

Every time I thought I spotted his bright orange shirt, I would slowly reel "him" in only to find it was someone else. My goal was to get about 10 yards behind him, match his pace, follow him until the end and dust him at the finish. I must reeled in the wrong person 4 or 5 times only to never actually catch him. Oh well, it gave me a reason to push the pace.

When I passed the boat launch, I knew there was about a mile left until the finish line. I made a visual list of people I was going to beat in that mile and proceeded to reel each one of them in. According to my plan, my last victim was going to be taken out at the last minute in an all out sprint. I didn't want him to have a chance to out sprint me, so I waited for the perfect moment, then POW, I kicked it into overdrive. I passed that guy like he was standing still and by the time I hit the finish line I was running full tilt and had a good 75 yards on him. Poor guy, I almost feel bad for him.


The End Result

After 38 miles of racing (plus 12 miles for my warm-up ride), I finished feeling like a million bucks. My official time was 3:09:14, an excellent finish for my first time. My goal was to finish in less than three and a half hours, with my stretch goal at three hours even. Under 3:10 was pretty damn good. When I looked at my splits, I was really only one or two (well, I guess three) minutes off my goal for each leg of the race so I have no complaints.

The best part was that even among my regular riding/running crowd nobody expected that I would do so well. When my pack came in on the bike, people told me they were watching the riders come in and someone goes "Holy shit, is that (Old Coot) out front?" Yup, riding with the big dogs. As a matter of fact, one of the big dogs asked me to come ride with them tomorrow. Check!

Maybe next year I'll find myself a paddler and just do the bike and run legs. A good canoeist/kayaker should be able to pound out a killer time, and I'll have the whole summer (hopefully I won't be injured like I was this summer) to whip myself into even better shape. Until then, I have only running races to hold me over.

See y'all at the Fall Foliage Race!

Special Thanks

I'd like to give a special thanks to HECOW for being "The Entourage" for me. Not only did he show up early on Sunday morning, but he performed all Entourage duties to perfection and with enthusiasm. And don't think I'm not going to get you to enter the race in one way shape or form next year.

Over and Out,
Old Coot

Get the Whole Story Here...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ode to Feta

Despite the myriad vegetables spending the prime of their lives in the bottom drawer of my refrigerator, this evening I was set to sup on a big bowl of cereal. As I pictured the sweet, sweet red peppers just rotting I was overcome with guilt and changed gears.

When in Doubt, Shish Kebob

After hemming, hawing, hemming again and finally hawing one last time, I opted out of stuffed red peppers, favoring shish kebobs. In retrospect I guess I could have grilled the stuffed peppers but at the time I didn't think of that. The prospect of spending any amount of time in the kitchen with a 400 degree oven had me reaching for the cereal box, so I went with the kebobs.

If I was going to grill vegetables, I was going to empty the fridge of all veggies. This meant red peppers, onion, portobella mushrooms and russet potatoes. The potatoes would be wrapped in foil and grilled while I assembled the 'bobs; rice twiddling its thumbs on the stove (rice, why are you so slow?). I always estimate 45 minutes for baked potatoes, and I always wait 15 more minutes for them while the rest of the meal gets cold. Tonight was no exception.

During the final plating, I reached into the fridge for the sour cream to top my potato. What sat beneath the sour cream was a container of crumbled feta. I applied a generous portion of that to the vegetables, placed a dollop of sour cream on the potato and sat down to eat. After a quick reflection of things I was thankful for today, I took the first bite.

OH MY GOD, everything was so good. The veggies, rice and feta made for a smörgåsbord of deliciousness. The potato with sour cream, salt and pepper cleansed my palate between bites. Everything was perfect, but the feta made it even perfecter. Jebus that shit was tasty. So tasty in fact, that I sat right down to tell y'all about it.

Feta Cheese, why are you so delicious?

You Can Learn a Lot From People's Trash

I went for a run this morning around the Josh route in the humidity and threatening thunder clouds. What's great about that route this time of year is that everyone is out getting in their last minute training, and I ran into people I know before, during and again after the run. The boat launch on Stockbridge Bowl in September (or any summer month, really) is a Mecca for finely tuned (and less-than-finely tuned) triathletes.

After the run I walked down to the water to look out on the lake and eat a banana while I cooled down. The water was perfectly calm save the tiny ripples following the handful of man- and woman-powered boats on the water. Mmm, mmmm, mmmmmmm. If it weren't for the humidity, the 72 degree air would have been oh so sweet. As it was, it was only regularly sweet.

I finished my banana and when I tossed it into the trash can I made a keen observation: "Dang, that trash looks funny". Not funny ha-ha, but strange. Then it dawned on me that it wasn't filled with the McDonald's refuse and empty beer cans you normally find in public trash cans, but rather orange and banana peels, Gatorade bottles, yogurt cups and some vitamin enriched water product containers. Yup, this place is frequented by healthy folks. I added my peel to the mix, slugged some water and set forth to mingle with some finely tuned athletes.

Yet Another Request

While sitting here typing my memoirs, I got a phone call from a woman with whom I run/bike. She had picked up a book on tape by the name of The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson. According to her, somewhere around middle age he left civilization, hiked the Appalachian Trail and now writes books. The reason she called was to tell me that she loved his books so much and that if she just tried a little she could believe they were written by me. As you know, in my small running/biking/paddling circle I've developed a bit of a fan base and she's probably #1 or #2.

Folks, I think opportunity may come a-knocking one of these days in the form of a check from Random House. It's too bad my company will have to close when I leave, and a thousand people will be out of work. That place can't run without me. Oh yeah, and I'll have to close my blog because otherwise none of you would have any reason to buy my book.

Over and Out,
Old Coot

Get the Whole Story Here...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fun is Free

This morning I enjoyed my blueberry pancakes and coffee with Jack Johnson, specifically Live at Bonnaroo, playing in the background. This specific album has little snippets mixed in with Jack et al talking about the songs, performances, the band and life in general. At one point, one of the guys was talking about the parallels between performing on stage and surfing (they're just laid back surfer dudes) and he put it simply: Fun is Free.

As luck would have it, years ago two of my favorite people were throwing a Bonfire and BBQ Party and the invite came on a Stella Marrs postcard bearing just that phrase. That postcard has adorned my refrigerator - front and center at eye level - ever since.

In the last few years I have shifted my focus in life away from worrying about stupid shit to what's really important - Fun - and that card serves as a daily reminder.

Enjoy the day.

Over and Out,
Old Coot

P.S. If the fine folks at Stella Marrs don't want this low-res picture displayed I will gladly remove it or replace it with a link to your site. We here at Old Coot Productions ® don't want to step on any toes.

Everyone else, please visit their site for all of your postcard needs. They have some great products.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

What to Do With My Day Off?

I awoke this morning to the sound of a garbage truck doing its thing in the proximity of my house. As garbage trucks tend to stop at every house, this one did its thing for quite some time. Fortunately my trash has been out for two days because of Monday's holiday so I was able to simply roll over and resume my beauty sleep.

One Man's Trash...

For the first time in my life I took the trash out the night before, saving untold minutes of anguish, and untold lives as I would not be driving to work roadrageously.

As a result of replacing all of my windows, I was left with quite the stack of old windows. As far as old windows go, there isn't much wrong with most of them so I hate to just trash them. The other option is to build another house and reuse them. Off to the trash they went.

Yesterday morning (which is normally trash day) I went out to get in the car and noticed the windows I set out were gone. Sweet, someone wanted them. So I let the car idle for a minute while I went back in to retrieve another set. Sho nuff, when I got home those two windows were gone too. Since trash day had been moved out one day (remember the holiday) everything else sat there untouched. It would be picked up on the morn.

At this point I'm pretty psyched. At the rate of one set of windows per week it would take over two months to get rid of the whole stack. This morning I thought to myself "Self, if every time you put out windows someone comes and takes them, maybe you should put out all the windows and none will be picked up with the trash" so that's what I did. Wouldn't you know the only one remaining is broken anyway, so it hardly counts.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Running Errands, Running

I spent most of the late morning and early afternoon running errands. I felt very accomplished, as some tasks had been on the list for a while. A few weeks ago I came across a box of magazines I didn't even know I had. The addresses on some made it clear that I had moved this box twice without ever re-reading a single issue. Does anyone re-read magazines anyway? Off to the transfer station with those.

The last chore was to swing by Family Footwear to pick up some new road shoes. I should be honest here, buying running gear is never a chore. I spent some time last night online selecting just the pair I would buy, which of course they didn't carry, but the guy who helped me was very knowledgeable as far as running shoes go. He's been there as long as I've been shopping there and he's always been able to help me find what I need.

I went back home with my new pair of Nike Pegasus shoes and decided that despite the 90 degree heat and humidity I was going to test drive my new kicks. A quick change of clothes and I was on the road. It was one of those runs where every 10th car is being driven by someone I know, so I felt like a celebrity, putting one fist in the air every few minutes. ECOW passed twice and she's always good for a honk. It was a good run.

The Cookie Bowl

After that unplanned run, I had to load up the boat and head over to Stockbridge Bowl for the Cookie Bowl, a canoe/kayak race with cookies for prizes. I was turned on to this race by one of my buddies from the Thursday Night Run. Since I had never heard of it, I assumed it was some rag-tag race with a dozen or so boats. I assumed wrong.

The parking lot was loaded with cars by 5:15 when I pulled in. I don't know exactly how many boats were there, but I would say 75 is a safe estimate. This was no rag-tag bunch either; some of the boats likely cost more than the cars they rode in on. In case you aren't amazed, keep in mind these boats still require that you paddle them. Shit, some of the paddles people used cost more than my boat.

About 2 miles into the race I was hitting the wall. "How the hell am I gonna make it the rest of the way around the lake, then do another lap?" That's when I slipped into a rhythm, zoned out and pulled that boat around for a 72 minute finish.

For most of the race I had these two girls in a canoe on my ass (figuratively, not literally). At first I tried to chat them up, but they were concentrating on going in a straight line and unresponsive, so I just kept to myself. At the end they tried some bullshit and made a break for it, trying to pass me. There's no way I was going to let them draft off me for nearly 6 miles only to get beat in the last few hundred yards. In a blistering (at least on my hands) speed I left those hoes in my dust. Or steam, spray, whatever. I gave it another shot to chat them up, thinking my now-bulging arms would have them swooning, but they weren't having it. Eh, no skin off my teeth.

The best part is that the woman I drove there didn't listen to me when I said "I'm going to put my race number over here, let's not get them mixed up", when she put them together in one of the boats. She assumed (making an ass out of you and me) that her number would be lower because she got it first, and we ended up with the wrong numbers. As a result, she placed first in the Women's Open Kayak division, earning herself a bag of homemade cookies. Of course, I earned those cookies because they gave her my time (about 15 minutes faster than hers), but whatever.

I ate the cookies.

Cooldown Lap

After the race, we went for a cooldown run in Lenox. It was a great night: low 70s, lowish humidity and a gentle breeze. We ran the back roads which is like running out in the country, a peaceful route at any time. I fell victim to several calf cramps (hmm, maybe I overdid it today) that slowed me to walk a number of times, but it was good anyway.

Now, it's time for my beauty rest.

Over and Out,
Old Coot

Get the Whole Story Here...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

What I Did During My Summer Vacation

Well, I don't like to admit it but I think the bulk of the summer is behind us. I don't know why I always have feelings of regret at the end of the summer, as if the fun I had wasn't the right kind of fun, but this year is no exception. Like you had to do in elementary school, I'm going to give a brief (or not-so-brief, we'll see) synopsis of what I did during my summer "vacation" so maybe I won't feel like I missed out on anything.

Construction Projects

Early this summer, or maybe it was still spring, I started in on some summer projects.

Replacement Windows

Tired of the annual ritual of plastic-ing my windows only to have the plastic rip off, blow in or fall victim to the curious claws of a cat, I decided it was high time to replace the OEM windows with something a little more contemporary. Plus, I wanted some of those fancy features you see in movies - opening, closing and staying put. Glass that reaches all four sides of the window sash without cracks or holes is also something I looked for in a quality window. As it turns out, you can order exactly that from your local box store.

Like Dave Matthews says, the first step is hardest of all. That first step was measuring the window openings and placing the order. The fact that all of the windows measured the same (unlike my bedroom windows that were almost all different by just a little) instilled confidence. I sat down with the guy at The Home Despot, placed my order and signed 13 agreements stating that whether the windows fit or not I owned them and they could not be returned. Even though I had thrice measured them, I returned home with tape measure in hand to give them a few more spot checks. Yup, 62" tall and 34" wide.

A few weeks later I got the call (conveniently after I just returned home from HD) that the windows were in, so I cleaned out my car and drove over. The windows fit exactly in the back of my Lesbaru, and I carted them home to unload in the garage.

Over the next few weeks I got all of the old windows removed, new windows installed, and surrounding trim re-cut to fit. A fresh coat of paint (which I have yet to apply) will have them looking better than new.

A Big Ole Deck

In the middle of the window project, I also lent two hands, two legs, a strong back and a little know-how to Jeff in the design and construction of his deck. We spent a few weeks of weekends digging holes, framing, decking and building railings. In the end he was the proud owner of a 16x20 deck, which replaced the rotting platform formerly adorning his sliding door.

The previous "deck" was your basic 8x8 platform serving only as relatively safe footing when you stepped out the door. The weathered surface had more splinters than paint and looked only slightly better than a set of pallets strewn on the ground. The new deck features a new gas grill, a patio set and probably some flowers next year. A job well done if I do say so myself!

I Went Out with a Real Live Girl

Yeah, believe it folks. AND, it was more than once. AND she was/is pretty. I didn't go public with it in case it didn't work out. Since this is the first you're hearing of it, you can rest assured that it didn't. I won't go into details because it's all history at this point, but let it suffice to say being nice (but not too nice), charming, dashingly handsome, interesting and interested (but not needy) resulted in the standard, tried and true method of ending any relationship no matter the length - The Complete Blowoff.

Ladies (and gentlemen too, I guess), The Complete Blowoff is fine for some situations, but if the person invested a decent amount of time and energy in you, the courteous thing to do is at least send a text message with some reasoning so the other person can learn something. "I can't respect a guy who drives a Lesbaru, beat it" might work. "You're too good for me, I'm going back to my heroin junkie ex-boyfriend" is a good one. Even "Not my type. Best of luck, hoser" would be infinitely more helpful than abrupt silence. I'm not bitter, I'm just saying.

P.S. Those jeans make your ass look fat.

P.P.S. Ha ha, just kidding; there's nothing wrong with the jeans. It's the fat that makes your ass look fat.

P.P.P.S. Seriously I'm kidding. Your ass looks fine. Back to the good stuff.

Yardwork Aplenty

I wasn't as active in the yard as I have been in years past, but that's what I get for paying dues all of those years. The trees are already trimmed (or felled), the lawn is already thick and green and the gardens are at least defined.

Don't get me wrong, nobody would ever come to my house and say "WOW, would you just look at that beautiful yard!" Yeah, the lawn is nice but the gardens are pretty shoddy. This past weekend I decided to give up on the front garden and plant grass around the few plants and shrubs I have been able to keep alive, so next year should be even better.

What I did accomplish though is slight but non-trivial. I planted some perennials next to the side door (Beardtongue and some flowery "mounds" to the left and Creeping Juniper to the right) and a few larger plants in the soon-to-be extended lawn area.

In the backyard, I burned up the large year-and-a-half old pile of evergreen branches, the pile of pallets, the box of wood scraps (including the box itself), construction debris and myriad other combustible items. Just this past weekend I got to work burning the remnants of a pine tree I cut down a few years back. It's taken some time, but it's finally dry enough to burn. Let's hope there are no scorpions living in that pile!

All Work and No Play...

What would summer vacation be if you didn't play outside? Any time I found myself inside, I would hear my mother's voice of yore asking "What are you doing inside? It's the nicest day of the year." You were right back then and you're right now, mom. I spent as little time in the house as possible.

I'm sure I've bored all of you to death talking about riding my bike, running and kayaking. In reality I didn't do as much running or kayaking as I did last year, but I did a whole bunch of biking. Part of that was due to a hamstring injury, and part of it was due to the great enjoyment I got out of riding my bike. I'll have to check, but I think I've clocked somewhere in the vicinity of 1,200 miles on the bike this summer, and I'll still be riding until the snow flies (and maybe even after that). I wouldn't be surprised to tip the scales at 2,000 miles by summer's end.

I Took a Real Vacation

Considering my disdain for any trip longer than a weekend, and further away than Buffalo, it practically required an act of God to get me to take a real vacation. As you all know, that vacation was to Japan to visit my sister. In addition to the whole picking a date, buying plane tickets, planning and re-planning the logistics thing I also had to acquire advanced permission from the US government to re-enter the country. This permission was granted in the form of a long-awaited US Passport. I'd like to thank the terrorists for making this as difficult as possible.

The vacation was everything I could have hoped for and more. I was refreshed, invigorated, cultured and by the end, ready to be home. That my friends, is a what you look for in a vacation. It helped that all I had to do was get to Japan and my sister took care of everything else, including but not limited to: day trip planning, meal selection, telling me what I'm doing wrong, correcting me for walking up to the wrong side of the car and talking to strangers for me.

I won't recap the whole trip here, you'll have to read some of my archived posts to get the full flavor. It was a great way to expand my traveling repertoire to include foreign travel. I've got experience and a Passport on my side now.

So folks, when you put it all on a piece of paper it seems like I did a lot this summer. I didn't mention that I extended the Lenten season and kept the TV off, or that I read several lengthy books, magazines, and a users manual or two. All in all I'd say I had a pretty good summer. I encourage all of you to take a few minutes to reflect on your summer vacation and hopefully yours was pretty damn good too.

Here's to Autumn!

Over and Out,
Old Coot

Get the Whole Story Here...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Parents Weekend

I apologize to all of you who have been sitting at your computers all weekend hitting the refresh button on your favorite web browser, hoping, just hoping to find something new on this here blog. I'm sure there was plenty to share with you, but I was busy entertaining ye olde folkse.

Much Ado About Nothing

Okay, I'm going to claim ignorance here and admit that I don't know what "Much ado about nothing" really means, but what I mean is "I did much nothing". I can at least safely say that I know the saying doesn't mean that. If you don't like it, you try coming up with witty headlines day in and day out.

Anyway, aside from the two times my dad fired up the old laptop for some Freecell, it stayed powered down. I have to admit that not checking your e-mail(s), blogging, or browsing in general for a few days is pretty nice. Don't get me wrong, I'm not canceling my DSL any time soon, but it was nice to take a break. I didn't even look at my phone for the whole weekend either (status: no messages).

Instead, we spent the weekend cooking, eating, sunning ourselves in my new lawn chairs, watching my dad pull weeds, making coffee and we threw a campfire in for good measure. I even picked up a few plants (shrubs) at Whitney's Farm, as well as some delicious homemade pies.

I won't get started on the scam that is the autumn shrub sale. Suffice it to say that it excludes every shrub they sell. They even had the sale sign prominently displayed with a plant that it explicitly excluded. It might as well have said "This Plant is Not On Sale". Oops, guess I got started on it.

Sunday Driving a La Bike

Actually, it was all weekend except Sunday but I went for a couple of nice bike rides. The first was Saturday morning with a guy from my running/riding crew. He had just done some mega ride last weekend up in the Adirondack's, so he whined the whole time. Meanwhile, I'm in prime hill climbing shape so I barely even noticed the hills.

The ride was slated for 30 miles over to NY and back. After 20 miles I was about warmed up and raring to go. He was tired and ready to be home. Somehow I talked him into taking the long cut back under the guise of avoiding the mountain on Rte 20. It would add about 10 miles and in reality, any way we went there was a mountain between us and home. Instead of taking Rte 20 we swung a north and went up Rte 22, then back over 43 past Brody Mountain. In the end it was a nice easy-paced 40-miler.

I got my first glimpse of the new windmill on Brody Mtn (or Jiminy Peak, wherever it is) that morning. It is truly awesome! Hopefully I can get back out there to get some pictures for y'all so you can appreciate it's splendorousness. I don't know what the naysayers are complaining about, I think it looks wicked cool up on the mountain, rotating ever so slowly.

After my folks left on Monday, I fired ye olde internette machine and saw that there would be a bike ride in 45 minutes. That was it, I cleared my schedule (of planting bushes), changed my clothes and hauled ass to the meeting spot. If I had a spot to put my camera I would have brought it, because we'd be going right past the windmill again. Damn, another perfect day for photographasizing windmilles and I couldn't bring my camera.

In short, yesterday's ride was also awesome. Not only was the weather perfect but my mood was also perfect. I finished up and felt like a million bucks. A quick change of clothes and I set to work planting my new bushes. They look like a million bucks too; ahh, a perfect day.

Bathroom Matters

Every time my family gets together, a toilet gets clogged. Usually we can blame my sister, but this time she wouldn't be there. In preparation for the visit, I had been giving the toilet extra flushes every day, trying to keep it limber. The toilet had also been doing calisthenics of its own, in the shape of a leaky valve that kept it running every few seconds. I was NOT about to touch that before having company (since I only have one bathroom), but now I have to get to it. I'll keep y'all posted. Between that and the leaky tub I almost feel guilty with the water I'm wasting.


Well, that's the news from here. I'll holler at y'all later.

Over and Out,
Old Coot

Get the Whole Story Here...
"Something inside of me just said 'Hey, wait a minute, I want to beat him.' and I just took off." -Pre