A comfortable old friend

August 15, 2012

What do you do when a comfortable old friend gets disabled and can’t keep up appearances anymore?

Do you abandon the friend and take up with the new crowd, or do you rebuke the admonishments and stay by the old friend’s side regardless of the harassing catcalls and verbal ugliness?
Such is the decision I now face with my old friend,  the coffee mug.

Nowadays, most people who drink coffee do so out of mugs. Gone are the cup and saucer days of my parents generation. Mugs are the preferred crockery of hot beverages of all types.

I acquired this companion mug a number of years ago while riding down Route 66 in Arizona, on the way to the Grand Canyon.

We stopped for breakfast at a diner in a little town whose name I have forgotten. Well, the breakfast was so good and the coffee was just excellent.  I just knew the mug had something to do with it,  so I bought one.

It has been my constant breakfast companion ever since and I have not been disappointed in the performance of this coffee conveyance for all these years.
Recently however, because of my own carelessness, I dropped the mug and several pieces chipped off its bottom. Now the base is a little rough, and it has a ragged scalloped edge, but it still holds coffee and suits me fine.

Nevertheless, the mug and I have become the subject of comment and a certain amount of ridicule at the breakfast table. There have been suggestions that I do away with this slovenly mugness and get a new mug.

But, I like this one, why should I change? Just because it has a few of life’s dings and bumps, is no reason to discard my faithful friend to the dust bin.  When I think about it, I have a lot more bumps and bruises than the mug. Perhaps, there is talk of putting ME in the dust bin!

Well, I think I will just keep my old friend close and together we will partake the joy of java for a little while longer.


Searus Maximus

July 1, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor, Rick,  the nurseryman accross the lane, dropped off a half a dozen flats of flowers.

He said, ” Put these in your front beds, they will add some color.”
Trying to sound appreciative, I countered,”Rick, I can’t take care of what I have!”
“Have your guys put them in, they will be fine.”
Well, Fabiel and Paco put the flora in the next day and things seemed, “fine.”
Then the heat from hell hit and every bit of hell did indeed break loose.
Strong searing heat moved in, and for the last week, temperatures have been in excess of 100 degrees each day.
OK, so now, I am running water like a madman. Not even Goethe’s sorcerer’s apprentice could keep up with these plants thirsty demands. In addition, some of my young dogwoods with shallow roots are beginning to look piqued and even birds are dropping from the sky… too hot to stay that close to the sun, I guess.

Assisting the perfect fire storm, a couple of irrigation zones gave up and we had to drag out the hoses and drag and drag.

Now you could ask, why bother? Just let nature have her way. It is after all summer.
The trouble with that is Rick rides by everyday and sees the plants in my garden. The same plants he grew from seeds.

I can’t let these children of Rick wither and die while he watches.
Just drag the hose and pray for rain.


Even the vegetable garden residents seem happy to come inside out of the heat.

Like most people who have owned homes at one time or another, I have done my share of home improvement projects. Clearly, I am nowhere in the same universe as my brother-in-law, Barry when it comes to being handy at nearly everything. But, over the last 40 years or so, I have done a bit of painting, wallpapering,  carpentry, plumbing and the odd electrical installation etc.

Sometimes things went as expected, sometimes circumstances did not align and things got out of hand.

Like when I was mitering a corner for some crown moulding and sawed the miter box in half. I just never knew when to stop sawing.

Or the time I was installing a light socket upstairs while the carpenter downstairs turned the power back on. That particular event threw me for a loop.

It seems however that the big emergency issues appeared in the area of plumbing.

Like the night  I worked in vain for an hour to unclog an upstairs bathroom toilet while kids with full bladders,etc. had to go.  Finally, after calling a plumber, we were able to extract a purple plastic pig that Aimee decided to flush… to feed the starving kids in China.

Then there was the time the steam radiator key was “accidentally” dropped down a sink. With water and steam escaping at an alarming rate, I had to find the sink, take it apart and find the key to restore order to an out of control heating system that was about to blow.

All of this training however paid off handsomely this morning when after the new powder room was installed, the plumber could not figure out why the hot water faucet continued to be loose. Having known this problem before, I said let me see it. I unscrewed the fixture and pointed out to him the secret screw hidden in the valve.

“You have a Phillips head screwdriver?, I asked, “Tighten that screw and it will work.”

He did… and it did.

The young plumber said, ” Hey thanks a lot.  I learned something today.”

“By the way, were you ever a plumber?”

“Only when I had to be”, I responded.


May 17, 2012

Usually after I take Mikey for his walk, we stop at the contemplative bench for a while. It is an old stone bench that I rescued from the Brandenburg estate. I moved it (with great effort) to the nexus of the garden glade and the nature trail. Over the years, the bench has acquired an old world patina which adds to its calm aspect and meditative mood.

I like to sit there on the bench for a few minutes in quiet reflection while Mikey explores and sniffs.

Lately however, because of the gigantic Limb of Damocles above the bench, I have been contemplating less about the meaning of life or the existence of God and more about that limb falling and knocking me in the head.

Now, Fabiel assures me that the limb is solidly connected to the tree trunk and not hanging by some thin strand of horse hair. However, it is hard to think about the beginnings of the universe with the possibility of my own universe ending at any moment by some giant hunk of maple.

This bench/limb combination has become such a distraction that I have moved my contemplation activities to the rose garden gazebo. There sheltered by its well constructed Amish roof,  I am free to think to my wit’s end.

Mikey was a bit upset with the move at first, but I think he is OK with it since he discovered a mouse living under the floor.

More plumbing issues

September 23, 2011

Unless water is where you want it, when you want it, there will be inconvenience involved.

…Woody’s first rule of plumbing.


Yesterday, I was just getting over my trauma of the clogged kitchen sink affair when disaster struck again. This time about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the water was shut off without warning. My first reaction was to check the water bill to see if it had been paid. It had been and was current.

Next, I called the water company to see what was going on. Now, they have one of the automated systems that never lets you speak to a real person. Because of “extremely high call volume”  they send you to this electronic waiting room of hell. They require you to listen to their menu choices and select the topic you want. They never have the choice that I want to express to them though.

After going though a series of “security screens” that the TSA would envy, ( I was expecting an enhanced pat down through the phone at any moment), the voice said that there was indeed an “alert” in my area and the water would be off for 8 hours.

Eight hours!

There was no warning. Even with a hurricane you get a few days warning to get supplied up. But there was no warning at all.

We had a pint of bottled water, half a bottle of non fizzy, fizzy water and a few cans of diet coke in the fridge.

But drinking water was not what I was concerned about. You can live for a few days without drinking water. Besides I had an unopened bottle of bourbon and  I could always go to Starbucks for coffee if I wanted. No, I was concerned with a more critical issue; the ability to flush the toilet.

That is the area of real concern in these matters. Normally, I would have filled the bathtub for just such an emergency. But here we were caught unawares and unprepared.

The hours went by and still no water. Finally, after brushing my teeth with diet coke, I went to bed wondering what will happen tomorrow when I still had no water. Never be able to brush or flush again.

Then at one am,  the water came back on.  The bubbling and purging of air in the pipes woke me up.

I was giddy as a kid on Christmas morning, running around,  turning on water taps and flushing toilets with reckless abandon.

Ah, water, water everywhere and even some to drink!


September 17, 2011

Unless water is where you want it, when you want it, there will be inconvenience involved.

…Woody’s first rule of plumbing.


My brother-in-law, Barry can build a house with a hammer and a screwdriver.  I can’t even saw a piece of wood straight.  I once sawed my miter box in two. Nevertheless,  I like the beauty of wood and the joy that is carpentry.

I have also, dabbled with electricity and have only been knocked down once while touching a circuit that was supposed to be OFF! But the magic of electricity  continues to fascinate me.

Plumbing however is another story. Of all the home handyman projects  I have been involved with, I hate plumbing the most.

Through the years, I have learned that plumbing is always dirty and messy and inconvenient. Water is supposed to flow down hill, but when it does not, then trouble happens. Like the time I could not get a toilet drain unclogged and had to call a plumber. After a half hour and $100, he found the cause of the problem; a plastic, purple pig which Aimee tried to flush.

My most recent encounter with plumbing occurred this morning. After getting up at 5:30, I put the coffee on and was going to take Mikey outside. Then I noticed that there was water in the sink and the dishwasher had not drained from the night before. Trust me this is not good news at 5:30 in the morning.

I proceeded to remove all the crap that is stored under the kitchen sink and put a pan under the drain pipes. Loosening the pipes I gave thanks that they were the plastic kind and not those old style iron ones, or I would still be looking for a Stillson wrench. A Stillson wrench, what’s that?

Expecting a flood of water, as I released the pipes, I was disappointed that not a drop fell into the pan. No clog here. But the sink and the dishwasher still had standing water. I ran the disposal. Still nothing. The clog must be inside the disposal. All right, time for the big plunger.

Working over the sink drain I created enough suction to split an atom, but still the clog refused to let go. Finally after another attempt, that huge rushing sound I sought arrived as the water flowed into the catch pan, into the cupboard and onto the floor. What a mess, but at least the clog is gone, I thought as I looked at my soaking wet pants and shoes.

Now to clean up.

Several towels later, I was able to reconnect the pipes and restore order under the sink. Water was flowing downhill again and all was right with the world.

I settled down with my coffee and said to Mikey, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

He just put his head down on the floor and closed his eyes.

God, I hate plumbing.

I likey Mikey

September 8, 2011

This past weekend joy reappeared at our house in the form of a 2-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi.

His name is Mikey.

He is calm, playful and already making himself at home.

He comes from a long line of champion herders. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi lineage has been traced back to 1107 AD.

As far back as the 10th century, Corgis of all types were herding sheep, geese, ducks, horses, and cattle as one of the oldest herding breed of dogs.

Mikey already has his eye set on herding Oscar, the cat. Good luck with that.

This is Mikey.