Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Looking Over My Shoulder (In more ways than one)

I've been dragging my feet again.  Seems like there's never enough hours between trips to do all the stuff that needs say nothing of the stuff that HAS to be done.  Little things like spending 5 hours shoveling the driveway last week.  My shoulder still aches from that one.  I must be getting old...I've pitched snow and every other material that would fit on a shovel by hand since I can remember what a shovel was, now it hurts.  You know what I call this blog: "Adventures in Middle Age"...well, this middle age crap is not much of an adventure sometimes.  I wish AARP would take me off their mailing list so I wasn't reminded all the time.
Another milestone is coming up next week but I'll just let that one go by without much comment.  It's one of those 'as soon as you turn 50 you have to do this' things that have suddenly crept up on me.  I don't even want to think about it.

Billy Connolly describes the process so much better than I could anyway so I'll let him take it from here...Parental Guidance Suggested!

I can't wait.

In the meantime, I actually have been busy doing stuff around the Ponderosa.  One example:  I finally got around and wired the first and second level for sound over the last couple days.  I missed having music playing all the time and that was one of the things that'll make this house my house.  It wasn't absolutely necessary but it sort of feels more like home.

Chasing Monster Cable through the walls and figuring out series/parallel wiring brought back memories of building speaker arrays back in my DJ days.  I built up a set that could bring on auditory destruction and possible hemorrhages at short range.  I miss those big stacks of but they were a little much to keep for a home stereo when I got out of the business so I let them go.  Wish I hadn't.  There's a whole population of future scions of industry and government that will never hear high frequencies or possibly much of anythng else because of that gear.  Those tweeters sounded like bacon frying at 120 decibels when you got too close and having your head six inches from the cabinet with everything in the red was definitely much too close.  It felt like icepicks in your head to me so I rarely ventured out front when I was really on the sliders hard but the drunk and foolish couldn't feel their eardrums disintegrating and so partied up close and personal with the cabs every time.  I saw extensive future sales of Miracle Ears down the line every time we played one of the Greek houses.
The highs and mids were factory but I built the bottom ends from scratch out of used 3/4" plywood, sawing away after hours at the Buildings and Grounds shop I worked in at the time.  They were cut from some old Altec Lansing A-7 'Voice of the Theater' plans I scrounged up somewhere and took most of a winter to cut, screw, glue and sand.  They were always pretty rough looking in plain old hardware-store flat black even when they were done but I loaded them up with new Peavey Scorpions that moved enough air to rattle the frat boys' piercings and pushed a pair of 1200 watt Crowns to the limit driving them.  It wasn't to unusual to have stuff shaking off the walls in the early evening followed by visits from Campus Security before it was over.  Even from my perch out of the line of fire behind them, my teeth would vibrate sometimes.  It was impossible to play records anywhere near the lows without cutting way back on the equalizer to kill the feedback through the tonearms.  How anyone could be out front for four hours at a crack was beyond comprehension.  I loved those babies but they were huge and even a house as big as Old Drafty just couldn't handle the mass.  It was a bad day when I sent them down the road.

In hindsight, I should have kept at least a pair of my secondary system's SP-2s and a CS-800 to fill in some of the corners of the living room had I known how everything would shake out.  That old 20/20 thing...
After all the head-scratching and wire stringing this week, I've got it sounding pretty good for what I've got these days.  It ain't too bad but that pro gear was the stuff so the glassware and wall hangings will be safe.  Eventually though, I'll get the place set up so I can zip the lid off the turntable case at the drop of a hat and 'put the needle on record' like old times.  It won't be the pounding of the frat party days but it'll do.  The neighbors are going to hate me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Enough Already

Now it's back on the trainer and back off the feed bag.  The scales in the bathroom scolded me yesterday and the ones at the clinic where I had my physical only confirmed the bad news.  I've become significantly more massive since I went on the Enola job a few months ago.  The hours are different on this run and the mileage considerably longer and as a result, I've pretty much stopped working out.  Comfort food and I have also obviously become much too well acquainted.  Now comes the payback.  I was really slamming the weights and 'mill at the crew hotel up in Saratoga but this trip is quite a different ball game so I've fallen by the wayside more than I care to think about.  Besides, we tend to get out of there as soon as we're legally rested which means sleep fast and saddle up again without much extra time to fool around.  Then there was the holidays...

I tried to keep up the pace for a while on the new job but the gym in the hotel where we stay is pretty sparse and the treadmill has a deck that's harder than sidewalk so it hurts my knees to run on it.  There's also a communal 'fridge and microwave in the exercise room with the resultant continuous foot traffic in and out.  It sort of breaks up any attempt at concentration and makes your workout kind of like running laps in the lobby of a Burger King.  You're trying to be good when some guy strolls in and nukes two dozen wings and half a pizza then pauses to watch Oprah on the big screen while he gnaws it all down to bones and wax paper.  In the meantime another yahoo ambles over and chats with Mr. Sausage and Pepperoni about what's good at the nearby sub shop while his leftover apple pie from McD's warms up.  Picture yourself in Planet Fitness if they moved it to the food court.  To say I had a hard time staying on-task is putting it mildly.
As I was running with this sideshow going on, I got thinking of the idiot who wound up in the bed next to me when I was in the hospital last that's another story:  I've probably told this one before...or not...

I was on a zero-food restricted diet for over a week prior to surgery which in and of itself isn't all that bad once you get over the hungries at the beginning.  The bad news came when in the midst of not eating anything that couldn't go in the tube in my arm, they imported some sort of Hatfield/McCoy type with a broken hip and an appetite the size of Ohio to be my roommate.  This skinny guy with a traction rig couldn't get out of bed but he certainly could and did eat everything that didn't eat him first.  He must have had the metabolism of a nuclear reactor to demolish the food he did, lay still for months and still not weigh more than 160 including all the rods and screws holding his lower extremities together.  It was an awesome thing to behold.  He destroyed the hospital menu first then sent two of his kin out for more vittles.  They passed the end of my bed on the return trip with about four bags each full of delicacies from every fast-food joint in a six block radius.  I'm not much on greasy burgers and deep-fried anything in the best of times but when you haven't had a morsel in days, everything smells good.  I was in agony trying to block out the sound of lip-smacking and trough-wallowing, not to mention the scent of eau-de-french-fry that came through the privacy curtain.  They repeated the ceremony about five times in the first day alone.  I was convinced that if I heard one more chorus of, "Did you try the cheese fries honey?" or "How about some more nuggets Sweetie?", my ears would bleed.  I could cheerfully have murdered them all if I had had a way to get loose from the IV.  I figured I could plead insanity or self-defense and no court in the land would convict me.

Worse yet was the flip side to all that chowing down.  After the menagerie trotted off in the evening to tend the still or whatever, the bottomless pit in splints started whining for the nurse to bring him a bedpan.  By the time that stunning performance came to a noisy and pathetic close, the poor floor nurse was gagging and I was close to strangling myself with my own heart monitor.  I vainly hoped my ailing gall bladder would simply explode so I could die quickly and never, ever again experience such olfactory misery.  I wished repeatedly for firearms to use on either him or me.  At the time, I didn't care which.  Requests to ship the bum back where he came from got nowhere for another full day until Chris reached the end of her rope and lost her cool with the head nurse in a very vocal fashion.  This is one of her specialities when the going gets tough and it's usually spectacular if not always effective.  This time it was both.  In pretty short order (no pun intended) after the blast, I was suddenly moved out to a suddenly available room down the hall to spend the duration with another patient in straits similar to my own ie., no food unless it would fit through a needle.  I left the reddest of the rednecks to consume himself to death and digest in peace for all I cared.
The rest is another tale.

But I's a good story (it even happens to be true) but only a sideline to where I started and convincing evidence that I have the mental focus of a squirrel these days.

Where was I...oh yeah; As I was saying before I so completely distracted myself...

I usually feel better when I'm working out a lot so I'm endeavouring to get motivated again.  And since spring will undoubtedly show up and the salt will eventually wash away...I'd like to not start from scratch when I hit the road with the Trek this year.  Getting passed by 6th graders on big-box mountain bikes and the local beer can guys towing shopping carts is pretty humbling so to avoid any such embarrassments, it's time to get back at it.  I've got a Tour to get ready for.

I better stock up on tires and hope I have only one gall bladder to lose.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Looking Out My Back Door

2011 drifted in last night and I didn't bother to stay up to meet it.  I hardly ever do...I usually flip the calendar and head for the sheets pretty early.  Must be getting old...oh wait a minute...I am old.  At least that's what the kids tell me.  I prefer to think of it as aged like a good wine or maybe just getting old but the fact is, New Years reminds me of passing days and so I have a tough time being happy about it.  It may be socially unacceptable to feel that way but the fact is, it's just a plain old hard time of year for me.

About the only good I can find in it is that it's the end of the holiday season and as such, hopefully things will return to semi-normal.  Or at least  as close to normal as it ever gets around here.
I've said before that the whole mess from about Halloween (it used to be Thanksgiving but the retailers decided we needed a longer season to shop) straight through to New Years is pretty depressing to me.  The days are too short and the nights are too long, people get strange, there's a weird expectation that all the world suddenly becomes wonderful because it's December and you're supposed to be happy dammit.  The whole thing wears me out but at least it's over for another year.  I wish it wasn't that way sometimes but there it is...

I did get up early today on 1/1/11 for some reason.  Chris was still sacked and both kids spent the night at friends houses so it was just me and the four-leggers.  It was pitch dark off the porch but I threw the pooches out anyway and nuked some of yesterdays coffee while they made the rounds of the back yard.  I like getting up and around in the zero-dark-thirty hour unless I've been out working all night and see it from the other side.  It's usually peaceful and watching the light creep in from the east clears my head for the day.

It actually was pretty warm out there this morning considering it's now January so the dogs weren't in a big rush to get back to the door and my toes didn't freeze padding across the deck to unhook them from their run.  A quick poke at the fire in the basement and back to my new spot at the table in the kitchen had dawn sneaking up on me out of the fog.

I've decided one of the things I like most about our new place is my current perch by the back door.  All the years we lived in Old Drafty, I kind of hung out at the table in the big dining room with a streaky double-hung view toward the road.  Here I can see the slope of the back lawn across the deck and watch the world get brighter over the trees on the hill.  I'm farther from the highway traffic and facing due north so I don't hear much except the 'fridge kicking on and the water pipes pinging as the boiler warms up.  The cat prowls around looking for something to eat or hoping to make a break for it when the screen door opens but other than that, it's mostly very still.  In that kind of quiet, I can only hear myself thinking.  You never know where it'll go from there.

By now the morning was in full swing and my spouse appeared with an empty frying pan and a pout on her face looking for me to make an omlette.  I can do omlettes and it seemed like a good way to get the year underway.  I managed to not scramble the eggs and if I got some shell in there, she was kind enough not to mention it.  We eventually got moving and tore down the tree, gathered up the Christmas stuff from around the place and stuffed it all in bins to hide till next winter.  It's official after that...the Holidays are done.

Now it's back to watching the computer for approaching trains and planning around the crew callers but that's what I know.  It's back to the on-call grind until I have some real vacation time in April and I can turn off my cell again.  I'll make it I think.  And if sometimes I can stop for a while in the morning and look out the back door, I think I'll be alright.