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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Loss is Not Logical

It's probably some inherent facet of human design that we search for meaning in times of personal loss.  That loss could be the death of a family member, a beloved pet, some remembrance of our childhood, or even the end of a long friendship.  At least for me, there has been this desire to somehow, at least initially, try to make some larger sense out of the losses I have experienced.  I write that last sentence full of the knowledge that what I have experienced in the way of loss likely pales in comparison to that of many others.  This noted, I have been an abject failure in my trying to understand loss.

Then someone smart told me something in four words that brought me some sense of understanding:

Loss is not logical

Loss doesn't follow a neat, predictable set of rules that can be analyzed, re-engineered, and re-assembled then placed into a nice little and understandable box that we can put on a shelf when we should be done with it.

Loss is messy.  It lingers.  It has a terrible habit of being open-ended, sometimes seeming as if it will never end.  It overstays its welcome and lives rent-free in our heads.  There are examples of it in my own head where in spite of my best efforts at understanding, it can become, at times, pervasive.

Loss for me sometimes "leaks out" in the form of very vivid dreams.  These aren't what I'd call nightmares.  There is no violence.  There isn't even mourning.  In fact, oddly enough, these kinds of dreams for me almost always involve doing the most mundane of things.  Think traveling with someone long gone.  Visiting with a long-ago friend.  This is, I suspect, the heavy reality of loss that (what I believe to be) my logical mind is utterly incapable of discerning, no matter how much analysis I put forth.  What's left?  That would be what dreams are, namely a kind of biological cleaning of our mental cache.  

John Steinbeck once sort of described this very same idea...much better than I ever could...when he wrote:

"It is so much darker when a light goes out than it would have ever been if it had never shone."*

That light could be a brother, a pet, a friend, or even a place.  The specifics matter far less than just the sense of void that is created.  

So what's the answer?  Where's the solution?  In short order, that would be "nothing" and "nowhere".  I think we just learn to live with the loss, and it becomes a part of us.  Some of us may even view this through a lens of faith, that kind of abstract thing where, in the absence of any real proof, we still believe in something.  I admire faith, by the way.  Well, make that what I consider to be genuine faith:  That which is not driven by or about obedience or fear of punishment.  If faith were only about obeying a higher power, then dogs would be our role models.  Fortunately, that's not the case.

So in the end, what have I accomplished in this posting?  I'd say a solid "not much", other than to maybe nudge myself away from a lifetime of viewing the world through a lens of logic and instead giving myself permission to just experience.  This all sounds so very simple...when typed...but yet still so very difficult.


(*) From The Winter of Our Discontent

Sunday, January 15, 2023

I Found A Picture of You...

"I found a picture of you, oh-oh
Well, it hijacked my world at night"
(The Pretenders, Back on the Chain Gang)

If you are a consumer of The Facebooks, you no doubt see these challenge postings, whereby someone posts something and then asks others to do the same.  I really enjoy these kinds of things, by the way.  Well, more precisely, I really enjoy seeing pictures, and it's neat to learn about others I've met or interacted with over the years.  In a world that seems ever so large, complex, and harried, these small acts of connection can, I think, help re-ground us.  At least for me.

The above noted I don't do these kinds of things very often.  That's less about a refusal on my part and more about the fact that, well, I don't get asked to participate.  Trust me, that's not a cry for attention on my part.  I don't have a thousand Facebook connections, so the odds just don't align to make these kinds of things happen.  That makes the times when they do kind of neat.  As such, I was invited to participate in a photo-sharing challenge.  I make it a policy to not reference other (private, as opposed to public) people in these postings, well outside of special occasions, so I'm not going to mention names.  What I will say this:  The person who nominated me is someone I have an incredible amount of respect for, and I am honored that she thought of me.   

This particular challenge involves posting photos that "bring me joy", without any explanations.  This really is a challenge for me (pun intended) for two reasons:

  1. I struggle with a concept like "joy".  Struggle as in "what does joy really mean"?  How would I know if something "brings me joy" in the first place?  Now reading this you may think "what the heck is he even talking about?", but it's a genuine thing for me.  In a way, I don't process very strong emotions well.  I know where this comes from...a childhood where a premium was placed on not expressing myself very often.  
  2. I also struggle with not being able to describe things.  It almost goes against my nature to not write about things like important pictures.  In a way, I'm using this blog posting to kind of circumvent the rules of the challenge itself.  Yes, guilty as charged.
So, how do I find pictures that bring me joy if I'm not sure what joy means?  Well, I ended up not dwelling on the word "joy" and instead thought to myself "okay, what pictures can I find that have some deeper meaning to me?".  That was easy.  The next step is going through the 10,000+ digital photos I have on file.  

I actually came up with a strategy of sorts:  This is a 10-day challenge, so I decided to pick an underlying theme for each day.  For example, the second day was about my daughters when they were younger.  Day 3 was about some of the vehicles I owned.  Day 4 was about JeanLuc the cat, who meant the world to me and helped me, in a very real sense, get through one of the most difficult times in my life.  Finding JeanLuc pictures to share was a mixture of fond memories and sadness that he's not here with me now.  To the extent that anyone can actually love something other than another person, I loved JeanLuc.  

Today is Day 4, and I'm still thinking about the theme.  Rest assured though, there will be a theme.  I literally can't do the whole random thing.  It's as if my mind is always trying to create some sense of order in everything I do and around me, so the idea of just randomly posting photos seems nearly impossible.  Emphasis on "my mind", as I think an ongoing theme of my life has always been the idea of my trying to make some sense of the constant, bordering on chaotic, noise of thoughts in my head.  As a side note, that's also a damn fine explanation as to why I've never had a really good relationship with sleep...getting that constant noise in my head to quiet down takes some work.

Finally, these postings are shared publicly on Facebook, so if you want to see them, just view my profile.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022: Time

 Can you teach me 'bout tomorrow

And all the pain and sorrow running free

'Cause tomorrow's just another day

And I don't believe in time

(Hootie and Blowfish, Time)

Seeing as though this is New Year's Eve, and my regular gig of being off the grid at Ricketts Glen State Park fizzled out, I think it's appropriate to reflect on the year that was (or will be, depending on when someone happens to be reading this).

Time
One of the things that became very apparent to me over 2022 is that my very perception of time is changing, literally right before my eyes.  You see, in the past, things like seasons took forever to change, and some seemed to last forever.  Now?  Things seem to be changing in the blink of an eye.  What where hot summer days seem only like yesterday, and their return will seem like tomorrow.  I'm smart enough to understand that the actual passage of time is, relatively speaking, a constant.  What's actually happening is wholly inside my head, and I'm not sure whether this is a good or a not-good thing.  Time, as they say, will tell.

Communicating
I've come to understand something about myself that probably requires some work, specifically in the area of communication.  What might this be, you may ask?  Well, outside of my wife, I probably spend more time talking to my cats than I do my fellow humans.  They have the advantage of either being very good listeners or are even better at pretending to listen to me.  While either way works for me, this may be a sign that I need to get out more often.

Indestructibility
I am increasingly becoming aware of the fact that I am not, in fact, indestructible.  This is another thing requiring something of a sea change inside my own head.  One must understand that over the years I have been something of a walking accident waiting to happen.  In addition to THIS posting, over the decades I have managed to gash the top of my head, filet my leg with a box cutter, stab my hand separating frozen hotdogs, shatter a drinking glass while cleaning it (and shredding my hand in the process), fracturing ribs after slipping on ice and probably a few other things that I won't share (out of fear that I will sound even more ridiculous).  Shy of encasing myself in bubble wrap, I just need to be more careful out there.



Tolerance
There are many things I seem to tolerate less and less as the years go on, such as cruelty to animals and bullies.  It's to the point where I really can't elaborate much more on this point, as it is actually starting to bother me just thinking about the subject.

Health
In 2023 I will turn 59 years old.  Clearly, as I sit and type this, my physical health needs work.  For example, I have the diet of an 8-year-old that hates vegetables and has uncaring parents.  In addition to making grown-up food choices, I also need to exercise more.  Yet though, there has been some progress.  I have spent more than a fair amount of time over the past several years focusing on my mental health.  With a lot of work, I think I have made some progress.  There is still work to do...to be honest, there may always be work to do in this area...but it feels like some of the things I've struggled with for a very long time are now better managed.  

Persistence
I only have one superpower:  Persistence.  While clearly not as cool as the ability to fly or having lasers shooting out of my eyes, I'm still grateful for the gift.  It has served me well.

* * * * * *

My wish for all of us in 2023?  To remember that life is short and time is fleeting, so it's time for more kindness, less conflict, and less fanaticism...about everything.


Monday, December 26, 2022

All this, and a bag of chips

It's been an eventful few weeks.

First, my right hand went from this...

...to this......to this....


The actual healing process continues.  This was an entirely self-inflicted wound, in the truest sense of the word, resulting from my failure to wear work gloves while handling lumber.  Whatever my co-pay ends up being from the surgery will be worth it.  I will note that Dr. Culp and his staff at Geisinger in Pittston were nothing short of terrific.  My only complaint, if you want to call it that?  Getting the stitches out was a bit of a trial, but again, I basically did this to myself.

Second, there was COVID-19, where I went from this...

...to this... .

...over the course of about 3 weeks.  The ironic part was that I had an updated vaccination the Sunday before I actually got sick.  The actual sick part wasn't all that terrible and maybe lasted about 5 days.  As someone with asthma, I was a bit worried about having this negatively impacting my breathing, but all things considered, I did okay.  It didn't actually impact my sense of taste either.  Ditto for Ms. Rivers, who got sick around the same time I did.  As to where/how we got sick, well, we think it happened around Thanksgiving.  

Lastly, we had my taking a bit of a tumble down some steps last Wednesday.  Where "little tumble"
actually means landing on my hip, then my elbow, and then my head.  I now have the honor of having the largest bruise I have ever actually seen on a human being.  It's literally bigger than two of my hands put together (and I have giant lobster-claw-sized hands).  The brush burn on my head actually hurt more than my hip, and if I were a betting man, I'd say there was a mild concussion at work.  Again though, I consider myself lucky in that it could have been worse...and my bruised hip deserves credit for breaking my fall.  

All of the above though is trivia when you think about it.  Life is the ultimate contact sport, and I'd rather suffer some of the inconveniences of trying to live life to some degree of fullness and getting hurt (once in a while) than the alternative, namely sitting around and turning into some kind of gelatinous pile of physical, mental and emotional goo.  I sadly see that alternative all too often, and it truly makes me sad.  All of us have reasons to live, all of us have talents to offer the world, and all of us have important work to do.  If that results in a scrape, a bump, or a bruise the size of Rhode Island, well so be it.  

In the sum total of our lives, the actuality of getting hurt (physically or otherwise) is always less dangerous than what happens when we take no chances.  

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Profundities and the News of the World

"The phone, the TV, and the news of the world"
(The Pretenders, Back on the Chain Gang)

I love the song Back on the Chain Gang by the Pretenders.  For years though, I thought that one of the song lines was "Proundities and the news of the world".  As noted above, it's not.  I confess that I like my wrong version of the lyric better than the actual one.  Anyway, I don't have any profundities to share, but that has never stopped me before.

The song Back on the Chain Gang is about grief.  Specifically, the album came after two members of the band (The Pretenders) passed away tragically.  You can read more about the song HERE.  This comes, also, on the heels of my listening to a few videos about the life of Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett.  More than a few songs by the group, such as Wish You Were Here, are about Syd, who left the group and spiraled into decades of mental health issues afterward.  The conventional wisdom is that Syd "freaked out" after repeatedly taking the drug LSD, but from what I've learned (backed up by interviews with Pink Floyd band members David Gilmour and Roger Waters), it's more likely that he suffered from schizophrenia, which the LSD only made worse.  Not exactly, pleasant stuff, I know, but these things come to mind as I think about some of the things that have happened, and are happening, in my life.

I know that last phrase is, shall we say, a bit on the "loaded" side, and I'm going to apologize in advance for not being particularly direct.  That's part of the balance that has to be maintained sometimes in life as we try to weigh our own need for expression vs. a genuine desire to not make things worse.  I'm going to try and walk that line.

In this time between the Thanksgiving and Christmas, I often think about past holidays.  Now at the time, as I (and really all of us) experience these things, it's never clear how important they will become to us in the future.  Every parent can relate to this, as we collectively measure the memories of our little children against the realities of now-functioning adults who are busy creating memories of their own.  For me, while some of those times were very stressful, for a variety of reasons, I would pretty much give anything to see my daughters, as those long-ago little girls, at Christmas one more time.  

I also think about my late brother Chris quite often around the holidays, and in most respects, I would never want to go back and see him again around the holidays, at least not as an adult.  For people that struggle with mental health issues, the holidays can be very difficult.  That can be far easier to discern in hindsight than it is in real time.  Part of that struggle ends up with those loved ones who end up bearing witness to that difficulty, over and over again, in their collective memories.  

Lastly, I am okay.  As I've written in the past, in sometimes visceral detail, I'm fully aware that my fate ends up being the observer, "that which survives".  I am grateful for that survival instinct, for that ability to step back, shake it off, learn a bit, and move on.  And end up writing stuff like this.  Like any talent though, it's never free.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

After the Ball, 2022 Election

It's been an eventful month or two since I last posted, so this might be one of several entries over the next few weeks.

Side note:  For additional reading, you can also check out this cross-blog posting written with Ms. Rivers.

First up, we have an election that was, and while no election ever left everyone happy, I think a majority are glad at least about the results of the Pennsylvania governor's race.  For the benefit of the uninformed, that race was between the existing Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and state Senator Doug Mastriano.  The results are:

While I am happy with the net result, the sad underlying reality is this:  Over 2 million fellow Pennsylvania residents voted for a man who basically embodies the very notion of Christian Nationalism.  You can read more about the candidate HERE and HERE.  Now I get not necessarily liking Josh Shapiro; on a good day, he is about as engaging as a plain English muffin (untoasted, without any toppings).  However, he has one major advantage over Doug Mastriano, in that he doesn't want to impose a religiously-centered government in Pennsylvania.  That comes from the candidate himself, by the way.  From the Guardian article previously linked:

As a state senator in Pennsylvania, he said women who violated a proposed six-week abortion ban should be charged with murder. Mastriano frequently attacks trans people and has said gay marriage should be illegal, and that same-sex couples should not be allowed to adopt children.

From a speech he gave (as quoted in the New York Times, and other sources):

The separation of church and state was a "myth" he said.  "In November we are going to take out state back, my God will make it so"

From an interview given in 2018 (quoted in the Rolling Stone article):

The hosts asked Mastrianio if gay marriage should be legal. “Absolutely not,” he answered, citing the Old Testament. “I’m for traditional marriage. And I am not a hater for saying that. It’s been like that for 6,000 years,” he said, invoking the Bible: “It was the first institution founded by God in Genesis, and it needs to stay that way.”

One has to wonder what other biblical mandates Senator Mastriano would seek to impose on others.  

Anyway, I don't know how someone can defend these stancesIt also makes me somewhat ill thinking about the fact that I probably have social media connections who agree with these ideas.  In the end, though, better people prevailed, but not by nearly enough.  We still have a society where someone who trades in fear that is white-washed with religious zealotry can attract a large following.  My hope is that younger generations will help right those wrongs.  

I could also comment on the Pennsylvania Senate race, but I won't (much).  Suffice it to say, the miracle cure snake oil salesman and New Jersey resident doctor didn't win.  And he was defeated by a man who suffered a stroke.  That says a lot.  Oh, and one more thing:  The man who had a stroke, Senator-Elect Fetterman, is an outstanding example for anyone who suffers from a physical setback, such as a stroke*, but nevertheless keeps moving forward.  That's nothing short of inspirational.

Post-election, and it goes without saying that no one likes a sore winner, but with so many viewing politics through a sports-team lens ("Your team sucks!", where "team" is either Democrats or Republicans), that exact thing is bound to happen.  So be it.  Elections, like life itself, have a certain shelf-life, and that which is won today will be lost tomorrow.  What really matters is the larger direction our society is moving in.  Are we going to govern based on fears (of immigrants, of the LGBTQ community, of the Jews...and the list goes on) or are we going to start with the underlying assumption that we all have inalienable rights, without (many) strings attached?  Where "all", by the way, includes those who are not just like us?  

Finally, and to touch on one issue in particular, by all means, be vigorously anti-abortion if that's your passion, but don't assume that your passion gives you the right to make decisions for others.  For example, I wish no one had an abortion, and that those kinds of decisions never had to be made.  However, that's not living in the real world, and I find it repugnant that a government can impose such a deeply personal decision on a woman.  Abortion bans end up being an example of a big, intrusive government at its very worst, which is a bit of irony that (supposedly) small government individuals such as Senator Mastriano can't seem to grasp.


(*) I have a tiny bit of skin in this game, as because of any underlying heart issue, I am considered as having a greater risk of stroke.  It's something I'm working on addressing, but I will confess that the characterization of Senator-Elect Fetterman as being cognitively impaired due to his stroke made me angry.  Political campaign rhetoric aside, you can learn more about stroke risks and support for stroke survivors at the following links:

Stroke Risk Factors

Community Resources for Survivors of Stroke


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Cross Posted - Carroll Boys Blog "Update - Notes for After Our Passing"

This was something that Ms. Rivers and I collaborated on recently.  You can also link to the original posting HERE.

* * * * * *

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Update - Notes for After Our Passing

It has not been quick or easy to make our final arrangements, but we are trying to get it done to minimize what you and the girls will need to do.  For a couple years, we periodically visited cemeteries (per the original post in 2019, we have specific criteria).  I like walking around cemeteries, probably because I grew up immediately next to one.  We ended up choosing the West Pittston Cemetery, which works since it has many trees, small animals, a view of the mountains and as a bonus for me is near the Susquehanna River.  (Although it was annoying that a lovely tree quite near our plot was cut down shortly after we bought it.)

Then it took a over a year to get a monument, probably because we wanted unique stuff.  We started at a Dupont monument business, since the Carroll headstone at the Wyoming Cemetery was purchased there.  After picking marble and sending pictures of a mourning dove (happy first sign of spring, for me) and an entwined eternity and heart symbol, there was no further response to our inquiries.  The problem may have been that we wanted special, multi-colored marble from India, and during early phase of COVID-19 it wasn't feasible to get it.  So we started again with Pesavento Monuments in Scranton, and this time decided to get locally-sourced marble.  Eventually after months of follow-up emails/calls, the design was set, order finalized and grave stone was placed in July.  Here is the result, which we are pleased with:


Now we go "visit ourselves" every so often during walks in the cemetery.  However, we are not done yet - still have to arrange more stuff with Metcalfe-Shaver-Kopcza funeral home.  

As more practical information, we each created a Death Box which is supposed to have useful information to help with estate work.  So far, mine includes account/website passwords, and a few letters.  We did minor embellishing to decorate the boxes - but the letters are not sticking well.  Steve's is supposed to say "Steve's last waltz", and mine is supposed to say "See ya on the far side banks of Jordan" (pretty much, that's a song - I suggest listening to the Carter Family version).  Here's what they look like, with sleepy Oren & Rambo nearby.


In other news, Theresa Caputo, the Long Island medium continues to post videos on YouTube.  I'm still watching those, and also found Allison DuBois (a medium who has worked with law enforcement) who even more compelling.  Fascinating stuff!  So maybe there is an afterlife!!  

Steve's Two Cents

Ms. Rivers asked if I wanted to contribute to this posting, and while I mostly don't take writing topic requests, I'll make an exception in this case. 

 

First and foremost, I just don't know.  As in I don't understand the whole "hereafter" stuff.  In some ways, I suspect that is at least partially a case of avoidance, as in I don't want to think about death and what happens next...if anything...so I'm basically just going to ignore it.  That, however, flies in the face of my desire to live a more or less ordered life.  There is also a very practical reason why, as noted by Ms. Rivers, we're doing this work:  We don't want others burdened with it when our mortal coils expire.  I've seen too many examples of people passing and leaving a whole heaping serving of work for others to figure out.  In my book that's just plain wrong. 

 

Second, and to repeat, I just don't know.  Now I admire those with faith in a life after this, including Ms. Rivers, who insists that there will be many concerts...and cats...in Heaven.  Mind you I have tried to (intellectually) understand this, but there is a gaping flaw in my approach to this overall topic.  That flaw, however, is that faith, by its very definition, is having a belief precisely when there is a lack of evidence.  It does not play well with my attempt to intellectualize the hereafter and is therefore basically doomed to fail.  The thing that I've relied on all my life...my ability to process the world through logic and reasoning...is also the thing that stifles me.  At some point, I'm hoping that changes. 

 

Third, while I don't know about some things, I do know that it makes sense to have a final resting place in death that somehow exemplifies the kind of life I've tried to live.  As noted by Ms. Rivers, trees are important.  I like trees.  I also love the idea that squirrels and rabbits will be doing their small animal things on top of our remains.  There's something simple and wonderful about life continuing at the very same place where life has been marked to an end. 

 

Finally, yes, I am quite tardy with creating content for the poorly named "Death Box".   See the first point, as I suspect that part of this is all about avoidance.  I am, however, reminded of what John Lennon noted in a song... 

 

"Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" 

 

...so, the balance is to continually work on having a good life while also planning on what happens when there is no life to be had.  I'll get there, eventually. 

Friday, October 14, 2022

Alex Jones, Dirty Wad of Gum

In an editorial published in today's edition of the Scranton Times-Tribune, radio personality Alex Jones is described as a "provocateur".  You can find that editorial HERE (warning, paywall).  The "provocateur" is in the news over his latest court loss.  One of the many related story links posted is below.

https://www.reuters.com/markets/rates-bonds/alex-jones-faces-long-odds-hiding-assets-after-1-billion-sandy-hook-verdict-2022-10-14/

As a side note, the Howard Stern Show has made some of the best parodies of the "provocateur".  Here's a sample:

 

Anyway, in case my response to this editorial is removed, I've decided to capture it here.  Now in fairness to the Scranton Times-Tribune, I've rarely, if ever, had a story comment taken down.  Just in case though, and for the sheer joy of noting again just how horrible of a human being the "provocateur" really is, I've included my editorial comment below.

A "provocateur"? Wow, that's rich. How about this instead: Remember that time when you stepped in gum that was laying on the ground, and hours later, after taking your shoes off, discovered the flattened wad with all matter of detritus stuck to it? That dirty wad of flattened gum has more value than "provocateur" Alex Jones.
Yes, by all means, Mr. Gum Wad has a "right" to say what he wants. That includes, as horrid as it sounds, literally tormenting parents who had their LITTLE CHILDREN MURDERED. What he doesn't have though is the "right" to be from the consequences of his words. As a parent, I want this "provocateur" to have no wealth...and no peace...no shelter...until the day when he truly feels, if that's even possible for a wad of dirty gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe, a 10th of the horror experienced by these parents.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Close-Up Time

This space has a long, rich history as it relates to posts about October, and while I'm not going to re-hash what has already been written about before, I can't help myself but write something appropriately themed for this current month. 

Moving on...

I usually "close up" the backyard at the end of October, but for some reason, it just seems to make sense to do that earlier this year.  And so it goes, with this weekend being filled with a lot of colder weather preparations.  I still have some of the front flowers in the ground, but they are definitely on borrowed time.  My marigolds have already made their way to the yard waste container, but in all fairness, their fate was sealed while we were on vacation in Maine, having been halfway water starved.  There are still things yet to do, such as closing up the gas grill, but that will come.  My only real deadline is November 17th.

Segue to the hand story.

After two doctor visits, with the second being to a hand specialist, it's been decided that I need to have surgery on my right hand to remove a cyst that apparently isn't going anywhere on its own.  This is truly a self-inflicted wound, as it comes after I managed to spear the palm of my hand with an inch-long shard of pressure-treated lumber.  I will note that I own about 5 pairs of work gloves, none of which were in use when said shard speared my hand.  Anyway, while I took out the shard, either part of the wound did not heal properly or there is some small piece of lumber still in my hand.  Or both.  Regardless, I either get this cyst removed or kick the can down the road a bit until it gets worse.  The former seems like the smarter move, which is pretty ironic given the fact that this whole mess is the result of a dumb move.  Either way, on November 18th the cyst and me part ways.

Looking back over the years, I can point to maybe a dozen other battle scars (figurative and actually) resulting from my home improvement and other (mis)adventures.  One of my "Greatest Hits" included the time I managed to filet my leg, which I was using as a makeshift table to trim ceiling tiles with a boxcutter.  Most people would have regrets over such things, but me?  Nahhh...I think of them as souvenirs.

Road Trip.

Call me crazy (see above for a good reason), but I've wanted to take a trip down the area of the southern anthracite coal fields for a while now.  See THIS POSTING from 2015.  That trip happened last Sunday, with my brother Rich.  The weather was pretty terrible for a trip, so I didn't take much in the way of photographs, although we did have a great lunch at the Lost Mined Brewing Company and Restaurant in Shamokin.   You can link the place HERE.  Of course, no trip to Shamokin would be complete without a visit to the town's most important place, Dunkin Donuts.

That clip, and especially the outstanding contribution of Mr. Dutch Smith (skip to 1:30 in the video) is nothing short of a classic.  No legal work was performed during the trip.

It was nice to spend time with my brother, and I was left thinking about how it would have been fun to have Chris (as in my late brother) come with us.  That's the thing that is hard to explain to someone who has not lost a sibling...namely, the times when, just out of the blue, you really and truly miss that person.

And finally...

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the following about this corner of the Internet: Sometime in September, I went over 1 million page views.  You can link to my very first posting, from October 27, 2008, HERE.  I'm not going to claim this as any kind of accomplishment, but I will take this opportunity to thank those who have taken the time to read what I've written over these past 14 years.  While my output has dropped pretty significantly over the years, I still enjoy this, and who knows what the future holds.


Sunday, September 4, 2022

Picking Up Leaves

I recently bought a small, 20-volt battery-operated leaf blower to compliment the massive gas-powered Toro model I usually use for stuff around the property.  I also have a gas-powered Husqvarna leaf vac that only gets used about once a year, as I end up looking like a coal miner by the time I've finished using it (i.e., it spits out a lot of dust).  Anyway, with that gear in mind, Ms. Rivers commented that, with the new leaf blower, I will have less time to spend outside picking up leaves using a bucket and the greatest tool I own...a $3.00 plastic pick-up tool from Harbor Freight (link HERE).

This last piece of leaf pick-up technology is shown below.


Picking up leaves (and other yard thingies) using this combination of gear is, quite frankly, exceedingly inefficient.  In fact, it is ridiculously inefficient.  There is an almost "Fool On The Hill"-esque  quality to the activity.

Well on the way, head in a cloud
The man of a thousand voices
Talking perfectly loud
But nobody ever hears him
Or the sound he appears to make
And he never seems to notice
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

This is pretty much an activity I engage in most days, March through November, so if you are ever in West Pittston, Pennsylvania just driving around one evening, you're likely to see this ungainly guy (me) wandering around with a bucket and a blue stick-like thing.

So what gives?

Simply put, this really isn't about picking up leaves, sticks, or other yard detritus.  The actual end-product of the buckets-full-o-plant matter is only a by-product of a sort.  This is about me having a seeming excuse to 1) Be outside on a nice day, and 2) Be alone with my thoughts.  I feel, in an odd sort of way, at peace when I am picking up stuff.  It feels as if I have some measure of control over my world, even if that world is confined to just a yard in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  And for the record, the worse the day I have, the more I look forward to picking up yard stuff, one bit at a time.

My bucket detail work isn't just a bad-day kind of thing.  Good days warrant it as well.  In fact pretty much any day when it's not raining (or snowing) and about 45+ degrees fahrenheit outside is fair game.

I do have a more upgraded metal pick-up tool, but it's just as much fun to use the $3.00 model.  The only downside to the $3.00 model is that it has a limited shelf life, meeting its eventual demise via cracked plastic parts.  I always have a few spare ones on hand, by the way, for just such situations.  Over the year it has not been uncommon for me to buy 3 or 4 of them at a time, just to keep a supply on hand.  They are also quite handy for picking up the odd thing that falls behind the dryer every once in a while.  

They say you can't really buy happiness, which is probably true.  But for $3.00 I can buy some measure of contentment though, which seems like a really good deal.