31 December 2014

Happy Anniversary Baby, Got You On My Mind!

It's raining in Phoenix...
A nice, steady, easy rain. The ground here, (they cover most of their yards here with pea-gravel) seems to be smiling as it slowly sips what the sky is offering. We've now been here over a week and this overcast sky has the first clouds we've seen since our arrival. (While I'm writing this the sun is attempting to take control again.)
My son calls weather here "Ground Hog Day"...
Sixty-ish degree days followed by 40-ish degree nights. Several nights this week have dipped below the freezing level, but with 15% humidity and virtually no wind and proper preparation, motorcycle riding is still reasonably comfortable. We intended to ride today. Mom Nature and liquid sunshine changed our minds.
Sunday's forecast is 64 degrees and sunny, so we're takin' a raincheck.

New paragraph, new thought:
On December 31, 1980, I was invited by a friend to accompany him to a New Year's Eve party.
We were met and welcomed at the door by one of the most stunning females I had ever seen.
We've been together since.
Thirty-four years. Life has put obstacles in our path but we both know how to do the "Ask Abby" analysis-
"Is your life better WITH him/her, or WITHOUT them?"
The answer to that question makes it easy-

I cannot imagine life without her.
I think I'll keep her so long as her "Ask Abby" result is the same as mine.

Our son is home from Manila, Philippines where he has been mentoring others to do their jobs more efficiently.
He's leaving Friday morning to return for three months, leaving us here in this nice home to deal with the "Ground Hog Day" weather.
We intend to make the most of it, spending as much time on two wheels as we can.
Bring your bike. We have room in the house AND the garage!

Happy New Year to you all.
Be well.
Ride safely.

30 December 2014

"Cruisin'... On A Sunday Afternoon". (And Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. Too.)

I've never been on a Cruise Ship.
Sara Jean and Big Bubba took a Caribbean cruise last year and came back raving about the experience. I'm not at all sure I'm interested in cruising to Haiti. I know damn well I'm not interested in cruising to anywhere in MEXICO since our Marine Sgt was maltreated there.
So I've set my sights on a couple cruises I know I'll enjoy, while bein' educated and entertained at the same time: Alaska's inland passage, and locking through the Panama Canal.

I just got off the telephone with an agent. We're interested in a "Princess Cruise Lines" tour to Alaska. We've heard their food is GREAT. We want a room with a balcony. Beyond that, I'm Sgt Schultz-

Room. Board. Entertainment. Gorgeous scenery. Exotic locales. Exotic boat.
Ya gotta add it all up to understand how the total cost comes into play.

I'd appreciate your input.

29 December 2014

Signing The "Blank Check"

Your child comes to you and says, "I want to join the ARMY".
What would be your reaction?
I think the answer to that question for me would be an initial knot in my stomach accompanied by a sense of pride.
Fear, at the thought of the possibility of losing my child in defense of the country.
Pride, that my child would feel the tug of responsibility that he/she needed to don the uniform like Dad and Granddad did to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America".

Now let me tweak the scenario a little bit to get your reaction after one minor change:
Your child comes to you and says, "I want to be a Law Enforcement Officer".
Would you get a knot in your stomach-
Or would you, like me, immediately run to the commode to throw up there?

Hope and Change?
I don't think those words mean what he thought they mean.
How do we find ourselves in this MESS?

10 December 2014

Pokin' The Hornet's Nest:

I know history.
I know how our "Greatest Generation" Allies gathered information to save the lives of men storming the beaches at "Juno", "Omaha", "Sword", "Utah", and "Gold".
I know I WOULD NOT have been comfortable with the tactics used to get that information.
I also know those tactics saved millions...

Let me emphasize that: MILLIONS of lives.

The gathering of intelligence is a nasty business.
When intelligence agencies fail at their work, thousands can die either jumping from burning buildings or being crushed in the collapse of those structures.
Our intelligence agencies must be STRONG, and must be able to do things that make most of us uncomfortable.

Regular readers know I'm dismayed with the direction our country is taking.
I blame it on Dianne Feinstein.
I blame it on Nancy Pelosi.
And I question whether or not Harry Reid has enough testosterone to qualify as an actual male.

There is a term, The "Pussification of America".
Al Qaeda does not give a DAMN what Dianne Feinstein thinks.
And until we realize that, we're screwed.

Where is OUR Margaret Thatcher?

09 December 2014


In 1958 my parents bought me a (made in Chicago, IL) Schwinn bicycle to use while delivering "The Indianapolis News".
I know it was financially stressful for them to buy the bike... I heard Mom and Dad talking about it.
It cost $70.

Yesterday Sara Jean and I went shopping for a bicycle to give as a Christmas/Birthday gift for one of our neighbor's kids.
We ended up purchasing her a Schwinn. I was surprised at the low price. I was also surprised at the "Made in China" label.
No bike in the store was made in the U.S..

29 October 2014

"Fender Stratocaster"

The title of my post is the title of a program I recorded that was on "Palladia" channel, thinking my friend and guitar nut Phil would enjoy watching with me if he stopped by to spend the night last week. I had no idea what to expect from it, except that it initially aired in 2005 and was recorded in London.
Phil didn't make it through to visit, so I fired the sucker up yesterday just to see what I had recorded.
It turned out to be something different than I had hoped. I hoped it would be Joe Walsh, Eric Clapton, or some other guitar genius talking about their talent and how "Fender" had motivated them to excellence. Instead, it's just three hours of folks on stage doing various Rock hits, most of which include someone doin' something with a guitar at some point.

"The Crickets". Hank Marvin. Some  unidentified guy with fingers moving across the strings faster than should be allowed by law. Neat stuff.
I turned on the Bose sound system, cranked it up, and went upstairs to do a few chores while listening.

Who's that?
She sounds familiar.
Singing a jazz number, I don't really care for the tune, but she's got a good voice...
Wonder what she looks like?
I go to the railing and look down to check.
Brunette. Voluptuous. Eyes like Sophia Loren. Meat in the right places on her bones.

Amy Winehouse.

27 October 2014

Buggy Whips

If the title of my post confuses you, let me explain.
Until the early 1900's, when you wanted to deliver milk, move across country, or simply take your sleigh "over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house", you probably used a vehicle powered by oats and hay. Some of those powerplants did their jobs without an octane booster. Some needed a little extra help. That little bit of help might have been supplied by a device that looked like a stick with a length of leather shoelace attached to it.
When engines of one sort or another replaced horses as powerplants, many workers toiling in factories designed to produce Buggy Whips suddenly found themselves unemployed.

I still have the Buggy Whip's cousin in my home. It's called a "landline" or "hard wired" telephone.
If you know my name, you can still look me up... I'm "in the book".
And that's the reason I've continued paying the bill to keep the landline. For years, while I had my own little helicopter business, it was a valuable tool:
"Hey, let's call Greybeard and sign little Jimmy up for helicopter flight lessons."
And they did.
To this landline we added an answering machine and a copier/printer/fax machine.

Over the last two weeks that phone has rung approximately four times a day.
We screen ALL our calls on that line through the answering machine. Here's the way these calls have sounded:
First, there's dead silence for three seconds. Then we hear, "Hello!  We're calling all conservative republicans to action to defeat 'Blah blah politician or policy' in the upcoming election."
Here's what's irritating-
Those are the ONLY calls we get for the money we're throwing at that "Buggy Whip".

We're getting ready to spend several months away from the Great White North.
Funds we spend on that device could take me and my bride out to a nice dinner a couple times a month.
Much as I hate to no longer be listed in "The Book", I think it's time to de-Luddite, don't you?


24 October 2014

"I Wish..."

More and more I realize how fortunate I was.
Though my Father and me weren't really close during my formative years, he was THERE.
And by "There", I mean he came home from work, read the Indianapolis Times and Indianapolis News, and waited for Mom to put dinner on the table. At that time he, Mom, my sister and me all sat around that table, ate the meal, and TALKED.
The meal? It was never fancy. Sometimes it was cornmeal mush and beans.
But in all my growing-up years I was NEVER hungry.
Dad was there.
Way too many kids these days cannot make that statement.

Conversation around that table was what you'd expect...
Dad's job as a lineman for the Indianapolis Power and Light Company was not without risk. Sometimes we'd hear stories about someone being hurt. Once it was about how difficult it was to lower an acquaintance's body from the utility pole.
We may not have been close, but Dad was THERE, and I knew, because of his WWII experience, and the fact his coworkers had died doing the same job he did, he was a willing to take risks others would not take... a hero.
He was someone who deserved my attention.

Dad was THERE putting beans and biscuits on that table, and I listened not only to what he said but what he didn't say.

I heard him say, "If I had stayed in the ARMY I'd be retiring now."
And from that I inferred, "I wish I had looked farther into the future and had taken a smarter course."
How many kids today could benefit from that lesson?
How many adults today would have better lives if their Fathers had been sitting across from them at the dinner table?

Dad was there. Mom was there.
And their relationship, though FAR from perfect, reminds me of the Foster Parent ads we're seeing and hearing on our media today...
"You don't need to be perfect to be a perfect parent."

We didn't have much, but we had MORE than enough.
How long before we realize kids need PARENTS...(that's PLURAL folks), to be THERE for kids?
Our train is off the track.
Let's get back to the basics and get back on the right course.

23 October 2014

Car and Driver

I'm what "Car and Driver" magazine would call an "Enthusiast"...
I pretty much love all cars. I LUST after cars I'd like to own, and at least tolerate and try to understand vehicles like drastically lowered pickup trucks that make me scratch my head in wonder why anyone would do that.
I cherish the memory of my '68 Oldsmobile 442 and the good times I had in it, driving in such ways that I have no right to still be among the living.

That 442, a "muscle car",  heavily influenced my thoughts toward our latest new car purchase-
A Ford Taurus SHO.
Seven-hundred horsepower Dodge Challengers and 500+ horsepower Camaros tempted me, but they eat premium fuel by the boxcar load and their rear seats are pretty much useless for entertaining guests you'd like to keep as friends.
We needed a new car. We needed something practical. But I wanted something with cojones.
The SHO fills that bill nicely.

There are 353 horses lurking beneath that hood.
It prefers premium but will run just fine on 87-Octane... just expect lower performance when the engine control computer realizes you've put it on a low-carb diet.
It gets 25-or-so miles per gallon.
And it has a back seat that can't be considered cruel and unusual punishment.
We're still trying to figure out how to use many of the gadgets this car has that can do "stuff" for us. One of the first things we sorted out was the SHO's ability to parallel park itself-
Push the button designated for this purpose. Turn on the turn signal to signify where the car should be searching for a parking spot, right or left side. When the car finds a spot it likes it will signal you to STOP on the center Nav/Phone/Climate/Entertainment display. It will then tell you to engage reverse and slowly depress the accelerator. Keep your hands OFF the steering wheel so you don't cause the system to cancel the parking process. Sit back and watch as the car's sensors back the car perfectly into the available space.
It's freaky to experience.

Now, as an "enthusiast" I'm thinking of the future...
Google already has self-driving cars operating in California, I've heard. Watching our car park itself has made me realize we're just a few steps from that technology (and more) being used widely around the world.
What happens to those of us that enjoy driving our cars?
How long before human mistakes cause accidents that will legally be considered negligence on our part?

I miss my old Olds 442.
But more and more, I'm the old FART that pines for the "Good Old Days".

22 October 2014

Hillary in '16

So, what's goin' on?
We've got the accelerator on the floor and we're headed for a crash, THAT'S what's goin' on!

Like you, (I hope), I watch a lot of stuff on TV to educate myself.
Unlike so many of my fellow citizens, I DON'T think Jon Stewart is a good source for current events.

The other day I watched an interview of Peter Thiel, who was instrumental in creating Facebook and actually founded PayPal.
Peter is obviously a brilliant dude. I like it when I find that geniuses agree with my thoughts.
Peter thinks we're headed for BIG trouble.

In the interview, Peter also made a comment that I've been thinking about for some time now...
Basically, he wants democrats to sleep in their own feces.
For those not so quick on the uptake, here's what that means:
The economy WILL collapse. Progressives are the reason the economy WILL collapse. Virtually all democrats are progressives.
It WILL happen.
Let's try to insure that a progressive is in office when the world goes to Hell, so the history books, (written mostly by progressives), will have to do the wildest tap-dance we've ever seen in order to put lipstick on this pig.

It took a "Village" to get us into this mess.
Let's make Hillary the Mayor of the village so she can try to fix it when the chaos starts.
Vote HILLARY in '16!

22 August 2014

In The Toilet

"You've not updated your Blog in quite a while",  my friend said.
Yeah. Obviously.

In many ways it's been a tough year+ for the Old Man.
I retired January of 2013.
My business partner of 26 years died Spring of 2013. His wife had no interest at all in picking up his work, so we sold the business.
My Mother died a couple months later.
I was Trustee of her Estate and had to fight a battle with an insurance company to get what we deserved. Then I had to fight with my own family about spending money that belonged to others
When a parent dies and there's suddenly "found money", families that have never been really close can be destroyed. 'Nuf said about that.
This Spring we sold the Condo we've owned in Destin since 2000.
So, there have been MAJOR changes in our life.

I LOVED my work.
I HATED what was happening in my industry.
Government regs intended to make things safer/better... WON'T do any such thing.
Lawyers are making it tougher to do the job well while covering their own asses.
It was time to quit.

We've been traveling.
We bought a new car. I may Blog about that soon. (Ever own a car that can park itself? We now have one.)

Oddly, the biggest reason I haven't written here is because I'm dismayed at my fellow citizens.
I rant and rave about what is going on politically, but I'm finding many of my neighbors are Marxist/Socialists/Communists and are happy with this "Fundamental Transformation".

I'm watching as many of those I respect in the military are "Getting their fill" of the B.S. and are getting out. At the same time, the Obama administration seems to be purging the ranks of military leaders who don't agree with his "Fundamental Transformations".
If you want to destroy this Nation, how would you do it?
How does that differ from what this leadership is doing?

I'm feeling beaten right now my friends.
And frustrated. And dismayed.

I love this country.
I love my like-minded friends and will defend them to the death.
But more and more, it looks like I may have to do just that.
"No Justice! No Peace!"

God be with us.
I hope I'm WRONG.

24 May 2014

Ignorance, Or The Presence of Evil?

Long-term readers are aware of my frequently-updated post "The List".
There, I ask WHY entertainers are willing to alienate fully HALF the folks that might be interested in buying their produce by openly expressing their political views.
Do they have the right to do it? Certainly.
I, and millions before and after me have put our lives on the line for these misguided souls' right to openly illustrate their views (which, if allowed to come to fruition, would quickly put a stop to their ability to openly express political views).

The post immediately before this one is an example.
On "AXS TV" I watched a show called "The Big Interview", hosted by Dan Rather. The evil Mr. Rather was interviewing members of the band "Crosby, Stills, and Nash" individually and as a group.
During the individual David Crosby interview, Mr. Crosby profusely thanked Rather for his courage (HA!), in continuing to promote the truth. (!!!!)
Rather nodded and tried to act humble.

One of the very first things I did when I got home from Viet Nam was buy CS&N's first album. I played it on my new (bought while I was in Viet Nam) stereo system as loud as I could without incurring the wrath of neighbors.

But they'll not get another dime of my hard-earned cash.
How did we get here?

18 May 2014

"Low T"

We men are told beyond a certain age we lose some percentage of our "Man Juice" yearly.
I have no doubt that's true, because I see both physical, and emotional evidence of it almost on a daily basis.
I'm not physically as strong as I once was.
I don't have the stamina I once had.
My physical attributes are changing. (We won't dwelve into that anytime soon.)
And the thing I, and those closest to me, see most readily is the change in my emotions.
I cry at some of the most ordinary, beautiful things in life.
Present me with something MORE than mundane, and I may be impacted to the point of speechlessness. (Giving up my POW/MIA bracelet bein' a prime example.)

I just watched Crosby, Stills, and Nash on "The Big Interview" with Dan Rather (Gag!) on AXS Tv.
Rather asked Nash about how he was motivated to write songs and he told THIS STORY in his own words.

I'm glad you weren't near.

I'd have been embarrassed.

16 May 2014

"But It's A Dry Heat"

We're now in a Phoenix suburb called Gilbert, Arizona.
We're indoors in air-conditioned comfort, watching "The Five" on television.
Ambient temperature outside is 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
People familiar with this area will try to convince you this heat is bearable because the humidity is so low...
"But it's a DRY heat."

Yeah, it is. Humidity is 8%!
But an oven is also dry.

If you are outside in this "dry" heat, you literally feel like you are cooking.
How did anyone ever live here before the invention of Air Conditioning?

11 May 2014

May 2014- On The Road Again.

We loaded the truck.
Now that our son is FULLY settled in his own home, (which also happens to be newer, bigger, and nicer than ours), we decided to make room for more STUFF at our house by taking all his STUFF to him. Where will he put it all? That's HIS problem, not ours!

Old Tonka toys. A container of "transformer" toys that probably cost as much as a month's groceries.
Books. Videotapes. The bed of the truck contains 20 years of memories. It'll be interesting to see what ends up for sale on eBay.

"Preflight" the truck for the trip:
Changed the oil- It takes 10 quarts and two containers of STP!
Check the tires- Air pressure and general condition. The rears are only a few months old. The fronts are gonna be a concern... they still have good tread on 'em, but the previous owner lived in Palm Desert, California and the heat there has taken its toll on the sidewalls;
Weather cracked, I hope they give me the same amount of warning the rears did before I changed 'em. I'm bettin' they'll make this trip and last through the summer so I can buy new in the Fall.
Coolant level is good.
Windshield washer reservoir is full.
Headlights, wipers, turn signals and brake lights all okay.
GPS and Sirius XM on board.
Let's light this fire and get on the road!

Headed West at 0930, that's actually early for us. We always have good intentions but ALWAYS seem to find last minute things we forgot that MUST be attended to before departing.
We checked the weather and it looks like smooth sailing all the way.
A full tank of diesel, a cup of hot coffee in each cupholder and Lucy navigating, (that's a joke! She sleeps ALL the way...) we're on our way.

Two hours into our journey, Sara Jean asks, "Is that a siren I hear?"
"I don't think so", I respond. "I think that's alternator noise in the radio."
And it was. A few minutes later the "GEN" warning light came on.
Battery voltage still reading 13 volts, I shut down all the unnecessary power users and took the next exit off the Interstate.

At these times your mind races...
"What's the best way to handle this?"
I considered my options-
If the alternator is shot, I could do what I've done in the past- stop at an auto parts store like "AutoZone", and buy an alternator. Purchase the parts there and they'll loan the tools to do the job.

We're on a busy arterial street, there SHOULD be an AutoZone here somewhere.

Instead, a Guardian Angel intervened-
Just ahead on the right I see a big sign indicating there's a "Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep" dealership, and their Service Center is in the rear. We pull up and I go inside. This is a BIG, BUSY place...
There are FOUR service writers!

I approach the closest one and he asks, "How can I help you sir?"
"We have a minor emergency. We have motel reservations in Amarillo, Texas for tonight and we have an electrical problem in our truck."
He says, "Wow. Well, we'll get to you as soon as we can, but that may be an hour and a half or so."
"Beggars can't be choosy", I respond.

I go back out to the truck and try to start it, thinking if it'll start I may still act on my "AutoZone" option. Nothing.
And I mean when I try to start the truck I get NOTHING...
No click. Nothing.
It's only then I notice when I open the door the dome light doesn't come on. This truck has two batteries... can they both be THAT dead? I pop the hood, start poking around, and find a loose cable to the primary battery. I have Sara Jean hold that cable tight to the terminal and open the door...
The dome light works! I turn the key and the Cummins roars to life.

After 30 minutes the "technician" comes out and I show him what I have discovered, and ask him if he can also hook up a multi-meter to the system to insure the alternator is still working.
He drives our truck into the service bay and raises the hood. In twenty minutes he's finished.
Ninety minutes and $89.96 later, we're back on the road.
When I review how this unfolded I realize, IF we had first encountered an AutoZone, I'd almost certainly have bought a new alternator- $$$$$$$, and that would not have solved our problem.
We arrived at the Amarillo "La Quinta Inn" at 0030 hours, tired, but happy to have more than half our trip behind us.

Do you believe in Guardian Angels?
When I review my life experiences believe me...
I have ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT they exist, and mine sometimes works overtime!

30 April 2014

I Feel Naked

She was the Lifeguard at the Officer's Club swimming pool.
I was the Officer's Club manager.
She was almost 5' 2" tall, weighed 104 pounds, and looked good in a two-piece bathing suit.
We talked.

Spending the summer with her folks in Savannah, her full-time job was teaching kids at a school in Alpharetta, Georgia. She was smart, funny, and cute as a newborn pup.
I asked her out. She allowed as to how that might be fun.

It was June of 1972.
For it or against it, most everyone in the country had decided the way we were prosecuting the war in Viet Nam sucked, and wanted our troops to come home, including several hundred Prisoners of War.
I had noticed an outfit called "Viva" was offering bracelets with the names of P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s designed to bring attention to their plight. I mentioned this to the Lifeguard, the gal that would later become my 1st wife, and she replied, "Let's get two of the same name to wear!"
So I put a check in the mail for two, requesting they have the same name on both.
Two weeks later they arrived. I put hers on her wrist, she put the second bracelet on mine.
We both vowed we would not take them off until our guy's status was determined.

Keeping the bracelet on my wrist was sometimes a struggle;
At my annual flight physical with the ARMY, the technician giving me the EKG would invariably say, "Take that off", pointing to the bracelet. And after I explained that wasn't gonna happen, most of them would acquiesce and wrap the bracelet in tape, then continue with the procedure. There was never a problem.

One summer day in 1982 I was mowing a lawn for a friend. The temp that day was in the 90's and the humidity was almost that high. Finished mowing, I was hot, sweaty, and covered in dust and grass clippings. To rinse off I dived into our pond.
Instantly I realized the bracelet wasn't on my wrist. Under those circumstances the bracelet would have held a little residual heat, but this time my wrist felt instantly cool.
I panicked, retraced my steps and couldn't find it. I gave up the search and started to walk away, but something in my head said, "Take another look".
I walked straight to a Honeysuckle bush attached to a fence in the rear of the yard and there it was...
The bush had reached out and grabbed my bracelet!
I put it back on, and in 42 years that was the ONLY time it was ever off my wrist.
Now and then I'd do an internet search to see if I could find any news about my guy.
It always ended up the same; they had found bones/DNA from his navigator, but nothing on him.

This week I searched again.
They've officially declared him K.I.A.. I was shocked to see one site even reporting they had found his DNA at the crash site. More importantly, that site had comments from his nephew, including a home town. Another search netted me a phone number, I called and left a message.
The nephew called the next morning. We talked for half an hour about his Uncle, the war in Viet Nam, and my experiences there. I told him of my intent to not remove the bracelet until his Uncle's status was determined, then to send it to a family member. He told me the report they had found DNA was not true. Still, he's been officially declared dead.
The nephew was excited to hear I'd send the bracelet.and gave me his full address.

I removed the bracelet yesterday and boxed it up for its journey.
It's like a part of my body is gone. Washing my hands, I always bump-bumped against the bracelet to remind me it was there.
Now every time I wash my hands I'm reminded.

Forty-two years.
Well over half my life.
A spot on my wrist needs a tan.

I  can only hope this brings peace and closure to this hero's family.

25 April 2014

Selling. Reluctantly.

"You guys are welcome to stay a few days in our condo."
We left home late, and arrived Destin at about 2 A.M..
We grabbed an adult beverage and went out on the balcony. Overcast... no light at all, we couldn't see much. BUT...
We could hear the murmuring of water hitting the beach and could smell the sea.
We finished our drinks and, worn out, retired to bed.
In the morning we returned to the balcony and our jaws dropped...
We were separated from the beach by old highway 98, but the view was absolutely breathtaking!
Sugar white sand. The water ranged from deep emerald green to aqua in color.
Where can we sign up for more of this?

So we went to the manager and asked, "Do you have a list of people who would like to buy when units become available?"
She answered, "Yes, and I'd love to see some new, YOUNGER faces around here." She recorded our phone number. I expected a call in a year, maybe two.
Three months later I answered the phone and heard, "The unit next door to the one you stayed in is for sale. I've talked with the owner and the price is reasonable. Act NOW!"

But "reasonable"?
Try as hard as I might, crunching the numbers didn't make me comfortable with the purchase.
So, knowing they had the money and might be interested in a second unit, we called our friend that had generously allowed us to stay in their unit those months earlier...
"We can't afford it. If you want the condo, here's the number to call."

"Would you be interested in owning half of it?" they asked.
And the answer to that question put me smack in the middle of my comfort zone.
That was April of 2000. Together we bought the condo with the gorgeous view of the Gulf, put a solid week of sweat equity into painting, wallpapering, repairing, replacing old appliances;
All intended to make the place attractive to add to a rental program so others would pay the bills.
At least that's how it was supposed to work.

In 14 years, the place has never fully paid for itself.
Oh, don't take me wrong...
We've LOVED owning it.
We've loved the idea that at some point in "the future", we'd be able to come spend Winters here, away from sub-zero temps and snow plows running up and down the road.
But every time we came down to spend time here we've had to bring a hammer, screwdriver, and a paint brush. The blinds inevitably have been screwed up by renters. The carpeting ALWAYS needs minor or major cleaning.

In 2005, if our crystal ball had been working, we could have sold the property for three times what we paid.
But our crystal ball at that point was just an interesting piece of glass. The market pretty much collapsed and the value of the condo returned to just about what we paid.
But it has slowly, surely, been going up since.

And then came the anxiety.
Our country is changing. Our economy is changing. Seemingly EVERYTHING is changing.
I don't like what I see.
As much as I love being here looking at that gorgeous beach, I think having money in hand to buy things we might need in case of "trouble" might be more important than owning a piece of property most of a day's drive distant.

We burned the mortgage two months ago.
We have what appears to be a solid contract for the condo.
The sale won't make us rich, but will put some money in the bank and, almost as important, will take the worry/expense of always having to fix something renters have broken off our shoulders. 
This week we're spending what may be our last week in this second home as "owners"...
The table where I wrote the first post for "Pitchpull"  in April of 2005 will no longer belong to us.
Our sadness is somewhat tempered by the fact that money in the bank will allow us to come rent here most anytime, anyplace we want.

And we DO still LOVE Destin.
We'll be back.

10 March 2014


Yes... "Springbutt".

Not familiar with the term?

You may not be familiar with the term, but you certainly have seen "Springbutt" in action.
Let me set the scenario for you:
You're at a seminar or class you MUST take. You may be an expert in the subject matter.
No matter, you have to be there for whatever reason. Some would call it a "ticket punch"...
The fact you've attended the class clears the way for you to either continue, or progress. Maybe even be promoted.

Pro pilots have to do this all the time. FAA requirements force them to constantly train. Annual check rides. Semi-annual refresher rides. Computer-driven academics on survival, weather, instrument flying procedures...
Sometimes the work you have to do is the same work you did last year, the year before that, the year before that, the year...
You get the idea.
But ya gotta do it for whatever reason in order to keep the paychecks flowing.

So I was in this class devoted to keeping me and my fellow pilots SAFE.
There were about 40 in the class. I was sitting next to a contemporary I had known for 25 or so years.
Up front, in the second row, was Mr. Springbutt...
An enthusiastic new CFI who had just accrued enough time to get a job with one of our local helo companies.

Every chance he had, Mr. Springbutt would raise his hand and interrupt the person providing the information most of us were being "refreshed" with, because we had heard it a thousand times.
Mr. Springbutt wanted to share "How his company was now doing it", or a method he had learned that might improve the way the rest of us were doing our jobs.
Each time he'd raise his hand, I'd glance at my friend seated next to me, just in time to see him roll his eyes.
As hours droned on, the rolling of eyes began to be accompanied with a sigh.
There was no question, my buddy was beginning to be tired by Springbutt's interruptions...
The sooner we got outta here, the sooner we could have an icy-cold brewski in our hands!

But the information from the second row continued to be forthcoming. Springbutt was VERY impressed with himself. More eyes rolled. Sighs throughout the class started to be more audible.

At the break before the last hour of class my peer had had enough. When I saw him working his way toward Springbutt I followed along in his wake.
My buddy introduced himself to Springbutt with a smile and asked, "How much time ya got in your logbook?"

"1600 hours".

"My friend, I have more time in my log than that at night, in a 30 degree right bank, in a light mist with 1 mile visibility! Please, no more questions or suggestions."
I had difficulty stifling my guffaw.

Springbutt stayed seated the next hour.
And the cold beer tasted wonderful.

25 February 2014

In The Rickshaw

We see it in movies. (My wife and I watch a BUNCH of old black-and-white movies, so this image may be more vivid for us than you)...
Coolies or slaves slogging across the sand in some desert, carrying a potentate or otherwise VERY Important Person in the curtain-shrouded chair.
Or sometimes the chair is on wheels, pulled uphill and down by some extraordinarily fit Asian, taxiing some foreigner to an important meeting across town.
The person being transported is taking advantage of work being done by others.

I can't help being philosophical here.
Those of us living comfortable lives today are "In that chair".
And, depending on your age, that chair was pulled by your parents, grandparents, or great-grands.

They watched as their world grew unsettled.
It's easy to just deny evil is in your neighborhood, and that's just what they did...
Starting in 1933 they watched and hoped...
Ignored the fact that rules laid down to prevent another conflagration were being ignored.
Ignored the fact that other neighbors were suffering as essential energy sources were being gobbled up by belligerent forces.
What did it matter? The light was at the end of the tunnel...
Beer was back.
The worst of the depression seemed behind us.
Chamberlain had the right idea. "Smart diplomacy" had saved the day and avoided war.
Until it didn't.

And then our parents+ got their noses bloodied. It was no longer possible to ignore what was truly going on in our back yard. And correcting the problem was going to be UGLY...
Uglier that it would have been had we just seen the problem and corrected it earlier.
But they shouldered the ugly task and suffered greatly.
And corrected the problem.

We've been riding in the Rickshaw they provided for years, enjoying relative peace, prosperity, and freedom.
We've all heard over and over the old saw, "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it".
I think most everyone believes the saying to be true, but the lessons I glean from my historical studies may not be the same lessons you learn.
And there's the rub isn't it?

I'm scared to death of what I see on the news these days.
I'm even more scared by the feeling I'm surrounded by a bunch of Neville Chamberlains.
I hear drumbeats.
I see folks that bear a striking political resemblance to evil people our parents ignored.
As we now reduce the size of our military, I remember the U.S. in the 1930's and remember how our population and resources came alive after about 1940, at great cost, until we could fight without one hand behind our back.

I fear the Rickshaw ride may soon come to an end.
I fear the tools our enemies have at hand will make this conflagration worse than anything our parents could imagine.
I HOPE our citizens learn from history before it's too late.

God be with us.

05 February 2014

When Parents Die

I'm ready to pull my hair out.
It wasn't supposed to turn out like this. We planned. We solicited advice from "Experts"...
Set up the machinery so things would go smoothly.
Still... this is a fiasco.

When my Dad retired he cashed out his retirement funds, all in Company Stock, and scared Mother to death. Indianapolis Power and Light Co. had always been a solid investment. But new regulations were just over the horizon and things were changing dramatically at the company.
Dad had a funny feeling. My parents sold the stock and put the proceeds into a "Single Premium" life insurance policy. That decision turned out to be one of the best my Dad ever made...
Within two years the value of IPALCO (Ameren) stock dropped 90%.
In retirement Mom and Dad lived happily for nearly 30 years, able to travel and do most of what they wanted without being restricted by money.

Dad died in 2003. Within a year, Mom had a minor stroke that impacted her vision. No longer able to stay in the lakefront home she shared with Dad, we knew big changes were in store for her.

For three days my Sister and her clan worked frenetically to sort out the "stuff" Mom HAD to have, then organized and had a Yard Sale to dispose of the rest.
Working, I couldn't be there, and I was glad to have the excuse. But I wasn't spared the stress of this change...
We put the house up for sale thinking it would move quickly. Ha!
The bubble in real estate had burst. Folks looking at the house offered "Fire Sale" prices. One prospective buyer hired a house inspector to look the place over. His list of things that had to be repaired was disheartening. Sara Jean and I drove 10 hours round-trip several times over the next months to spend my time off work to paint, do carpentry, clean, and tinker to make the house sell-able.

"Luxurious Senior Living" read the sign...
Sis got Mom situated there and started a new chapter in Mom's life.

An empty house is a nuisance. Insurance companies don't want to insure them. I had a Dickens of a time finding a company that would cover it for catastrophes... for a shocking premium.
The house sat empty for the better part of a year before it sold.

But let's get back to the money...
When Dad died we took the advice of one of our "Experts" and hired an attorney to set up a "Living Trust" for Mom. We then took the proceeds from the life insurance policy Dad bought with his retirement funds and bought an annuity, naming Mom's Trust as the beneficiary. Of course, the Trust laid out instructions as to how Mom's estate was to be handled in case of death or incapacitation.
Smart. Simple. Painless. Right?

Mom died late in June of this year. I've been struggling with the annuity company since.
I'm about to pull out my hair.
It's almost as if they think the money is theirs, not ours. After much struggling, cajoling, and finally threatening to hire an attorney and sue for damages, they issued a check to the Trust last week.
Then I had a hassle just finding an institution that would take those funds so I could pay Mom's bills.

We're finally on our way. When the checks for the new account arrive I can finally pay Mom's final bills, a full eight months after her death. What remains will be divided up as per instructions laid out by the trust.
But I have to wait until the I.R.S. gives me a green light...
They have to have their pound of flesh before we can finalize Mom's wishes.

I have a suggestion for you all, dear readers:
Give ALL your stuff to your loved ones while you're alive.
Save those you love the chaos.


31 January 2014

The Pied Piper

They sure don't make 'em like that anymore.

And maybe that's a good thing. One of the luxuries we allow ourselves since we retired is movie-watching. Since we feel our country is a force for freedom, good, and the general betterment of all our neighbors, we like the old movies more than the new crap being put out by Hollywood socialists these days. Before we'll go plunk down the better part of a Twenty dollar bill at the theater, we'll make ABSOLUTELY certain it won't offend us. (We went to see "Lone Survivor" last week and, although we can't say we "enjoyed" the movie, we were glad we saw it and hope the movie's success will force movie-makers to make more that portray our true heroes as heroes.)

But since we've vowed not to line the pockets of those trying to destroy our country and our way of life, we're boycotting certain movies we'd otherwise like to see; "Captain Phillips" with Bozama-supporting Tom Hanks being first to come to mind.
So instead of watching new films, we generally find ourselves plunked in front of the little box, lap covered with a bowl of popcorn, watching many old GREATS on TCM. I first look to see how many "stars" the movie has, meaning how good critics thought it was-
Four stars indicates a "must see". One star means you might consider scrubbing the grout in the kitchen floor while the movie drones in the background.
Anything over 2-1/2 stars is further investigated by checking on who is in the movie. Names like Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, Frederick March, Joan Crawford...
They get bookmarked for recording. There are now 24 of those on our DVR and the hard drive is now so full, the machine sometimes notifies us we don't have enough space to record another.

Since you've seen the photo of Bogie above, I suspect you're ahead of me here...
Portraying the military as heroes, and showing God-fearing people as normal isn't the only thing that has dramatically changed in movies today.
Virtually ALL of the male leads in these classic movies is a smoker.
Some of them, like Paul Henreid in "Now Voyager"  romantically offer a nicotine delivery device to their co-star.

My Father died of lung cancer at age 81. He smoked for almost 70 years, with me nagging him to quit for about fifty of those. Truly an addict, he continued smoking even after his diagnosis... even while he was carrying a portable O2 device on his hip. At his death I was simultaneously crushed at losing him, and furious with him for denying his family the years he might have lived had he quit.
But every time I see Paul, or Humphrey, or Robert Mitchum light one up, I can see my Dad and others of his generation watching them on the big screen, thinking "how cool is that?", and "the gals will think I'm cool if I can just be like Bogie".
It's no wonder so many of those stars, and our parents, died of tobacco-related diseases.

And this brings me to the indirect point I want to make-
Movies influence thought AND behavior.
The CRAP being put out by Hollywood has the same power on us today as those old movies did on our parents and grands. Much of the reason this incompetent (and, in my opinion ineligible) man was elected was because the populace was spoon-fed the propaganda that our country was evil and needed changing, on the big AND small screen.
And remember this...
Every time you go to a movie starring Tom Hanks, Cher, Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda, or their ilk, you are reinforcing that propaganda machine.

Don't do it.
Vote with your feet, AND your $$$$$$$ ! 

14 January 2014

Evolution and Technology

That's a likeness of the first real motorcycle I owned- a 1963 Harley-Davidson Sprint "H", made for H-D by the by the "Aermacchi" company in Italy.
At 250cc's it was Harley's attempt to compete with Honda in the small-bike market. I owned the bike a little over two years, putting 9,000 miles on it in that time. You'll hear many of my fellow bikers bemoaning the fact they didn't keep their first motorcycle. Not me.
Oh, the bike was fun to ride and reasonably dependable. And at the time I bought the Sprint the technology it used was about equal to most Hondas it was trying to compete with.
I still think about this little bike and smile, realizing how far technology has advanced in 50 years.
It had one cylinder, and vibrated so badly the license plate cracked and fell off.
It leaked just a little oil somewhere on the left side of the engine, insuring my left boot and pantleg would never rust away.
It had a manual fuel shutoff valve beneath the gas tank. If you failed to remember to turn it to "off" when you got off the bike, you were likely to find that fuel had syphoned down into that horizontal cylinder. If that happened, when you flipped that kickstart lever down to try to fire the bike up, your efforts would be futile... the cylinder would seemingly be seized, because liquids are NOT compressible. The only way to start the bike would be to remove the spark plug, kick the engine through a couple times, then replace the plug to start the bike. If the bike had been sitting overnight with fuel in the cylinder it also required an oil change, because fuel would have seeped past the piston rings into the crankcase, diluting the oil. (As a 16 yr. old kid, I found myself in this position more than once.)
Most bikes today come with "on demand" fuel valves... they only provide fuel to the engine when the engine is running. No more fear of "hydraulic lock".

To start the bike you inserted a big, metal and plastic key into the top of the headlight. Turning it one click to the left would turn the headlight on.
If you lost the key, a 3-penny nail would suffice in place of the key, but turning the headlight on would be problematic. (I think many old BMW motorcycles used this same system.)
Bike keys today are like cars... individually purposed for individual bikes. Turn the key on, and the headlight comes on automatically.

The old Sprint had drum brakes front and rear. Most bikes today come with a disc brake on the front. Many have a disc, (maybe two) on the front, and one on the rear, (as does "Pizza Bike", my Moto Guzzi).

Electronics have revolutionized motoring, both in cars AND motorcycles.
Like automobiles, many bikes today come with traction control and anti-lock braking systems.
Ignition systems are also electronic.... no more points and condenser.

Those 250cc's would propel that bike to 80 mph... plenty fast enough to safely run with traffic on major roads. But the Hondas it was to hopefully compete with would run off and leave it breathing hard. (I once was embarrassed/outrun by a beautiful little two-cylinder Honda 160.)
Many 250's today will tap 100 mph. Some will actually exceed it.

As my first step into motorcycling after I'd been riding the wheels off motor scooters for a while, the Sprint served its purpose.
But I sure am glad technology has taken much of the irritation out of motoring in general.