Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Yep Merry Christmas. I was raised a Catholic boy here in WNY and we said Merry Christmas. I cannot remember any Jewish families in this town but I didn't get out much besides school and the friends I had on the street. I do recognize that there are other holidays celebrated at this time of year and I would use some other greeting besides the generic Happy Holidays but that would be lazy. I am gonna be lazy because I don't really know the proper spelling for Hannukah so if I screwed it up then sorry but, Happy Hannukah. Kwanza? yeah well I'm not too well versed in that so I'm gonna skip it. And what would a Druid say for Winter Soltice? Or a Wicken say for whatever they celebrate?

I find that the whole controversey over what people say as a nice greeting for this time of year and the reaction that people have if you don't get the right one. Hey if someone says Happy or Merry or Good or what ever take a second and say thanks or substitute with your own Happy or Merry or Good whatever. They may be just being nice. I respond in kind normally especially if the greeting is delivered with some enthusiasm. If it's some store reply following the taking of your cash well I just say thanks.

Here in WNY a small town had a huge melee over the placement of a manger or creche in the village square on public property. There were letters to editors, emails to TV stations, public protests and the like. So the mayor made the call to invite any other relegious sect, cult, denomination to place there holiday symbology in the same park. Well the Wicken were the only to reply with a Pentagol. And with that the fur flew. People drove there pickups over the Wicken symbol, spray painted the manger, made a big mess. OK so the manger (on wheels) probably should not have been on public property but it's really the way people chose to react that makes me laugh about how self-righteous and sensitive we have become.

AH well, the Manger moved to the grounds of a Catholic Church, the truck driver was ID'd because of the choice of paint and wheels on the truck and all else settled down as it was before. Well I guess the mayor will not be running again Oh and they stopped saying Merry Christmas at City Hall.

Go figure.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Out sourcing gets a new face

OH this one could not be passed up. NBC Nightly News just aired a story about Monkeys taking over Delhi. 20,000 plus monkeys are over running the city and were even the cause of the deputy mayor falling to his death while trying to fend off monkeys on his balcony at his home. They even broke into the defense ministry and scattered secret documents throughout. What a world.

Small town America

Ok, I admit it. I made a choice to stop here for a while and stay here for a while and I got what I paid for. I grew up here on a little street off the main drag. It was a simple life, surrounded by woods, an old railroad track bed, a creek and plenty of other kids up and down the street. I was the big clumsy kid that stank at sports, was fair at school and had one ambition, to split from here as fast and far from here as I could. It took a couple of attempts but finally with the help of the US Navy I made a clean break.

I would come home for leave when my folks were still alive, would do things around the house for them and not really venture out very much. The town had changed and not just in my eyes. Industry had died, the railroad had pulled out, the economy was in the crapper. I had to travel to the next town for a meal or a movie and to another town for a beer with people from all over the area. This town just didn't have much of a draw nor did it invoke any inspiration to stay and enjoy anything.

Now I look around and see some pretty angry people, living meager lives and staying around for something. The biggest industry in town is the casino. Haven't been there, don't plan to go. I could get the same results by giving away $20 to some random stranger and it would take less time doing it. This does not describe all the folks here, but it sure includes a lot of them. The angry people don't care about their neighbors, go out of their ways to do crappy things, greet pleasantries with scowls and grunts and in one case curse me out for politely asking one old geezer to move his car out of my driveway. Oh he was parked there scratching off his lottery tickets and could give a crap about where he was or who he was affecting. Well my response through gritted teeth was not so polite and I regretted it because he was a geezer but sheesh.

I know that this is not my first unpleasant day here nor will it probably be my last but come on people.

There are some great folk here though. My boss, My brother and his family, my landlord and the owner of my favorite restaurant, The guy who made the threshold for the back door of the museum, Angie at the post office, some old friends from school, and the hot female bartender with the fantastic posterior. There are more I am sure but, they are somewhere behind the conspiracy theorist, crabby old guys, the jerk who parked behind me on purpose and the endless number of welfare breeders who clog the line at the supermarket trying to get the foodstamp card to work.

Well at least there is an ample supply of hardwoods and it's kinda scenic.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More Snow

Yep we keep gettin it. Light snow, crunchy snow, freezing rain, sleet, it just keeps coming. This apparantly is one of the heaviest snow years in many years and I am lucky enough to be here for it. The doors returned, it's time for more photos of the Rail Museum. Built in 1912 this building survived the BR&P RY, the B&O, 20 years of abandonment and many face lifts. I am starting to refinish the floors this January. yep sanding em down to the bare wood, restaining the oak and fir floors and slapping a new coat of finish over the top of all that. When all this melts we are back to the chimney, repacing the soffets and facia boards and gutters. Then I'm out.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Skewing Around

Jim makes it a point to upload photos of his recent works and of nagging me to do the same. Well here they are... from 09:30 to 16:30 I stood in a cold basement here in Western NY with my winter jacket tightly zipped making sacrifices for my art. OK I love turning and can't in my crappy little apartment so I work in my brothers basement in an unheated former coal cellar. I can't put a heater in there because of all of the sawdust, polishes and green wood. A firey potential mess. So with my handy skew and mini-lathe I shivered my way to creative superiority! I love the skew chisel. A much misunderstood tool as far as turning goes.

In case anyone who hasn't done any turning on a lathe wants to know... the greatest invention to come to wood turning is the skew chisel. Sure you got your bowl gouges which are really awesome, the roughing gouge which starts the whole process and then various scrapers that make life pretty darn easy in some cases but the king bufoo of all is the skew chisel.
With what other tool can you make a perfect globe, a half dome with a hollow underside, various beads and coves, All this with the wonderous skew chisel.

Friday, December 14, 2007


OK Ladies, Girls, Women, fellow human persons of the female persuasion, or what ever you prefer to be called or referred to as. Here it is in a nut shell.

I am tired of being the friend. I am not another female, don't like hearing your deepest darkest secrets, don't want to hear how much like a brother I am. It's old. I am now declaring that even though I am a single nice guy it does not mean that I am not looking at you like the hungriest man on earth eyes up a cheese burger. Yep! I'm looking at ya! Anybody got any ketchup?

What has prompted this? Why is Mr Understanding Safety Guy suddenly looking down your shirt? What could be bothering this once Nice man? It happened again and I'm sick of it. I had the occassion to assist a family of friends the other day with some pretty rotten stuff and I heard that phrase from the corner of the room... "What a nice guy." followed by "He's so sweet"

Ok I was not doing any of this for attention, did not intend to "land a honey" for being a decent human being, but Come on! IF I am such a decent man then MAUL ME right then and there. If you are married then be married and don't tell my family that I am a threat to your marraige. And if you are single then walk right up and plant one on me.

For the last few years that I had been in the Navy I was always asked "Why aren't you married?" Many times by single women who worked with or for me (big taboo if I did not answer politcally). Well here's the reason...

I was too nice to leer at you before this. Had too much respect for women to avoid telling them what I really wanted to do with them (instead of talking about how they feel).

MR Understanding Safety Guy is now officially dead! I am going out for a beer and some grub and to Oggle a female bartender until she sweats from the laser beams that shoot from my eyes.

For those of you who may be offended and want to comment about what a schmoe I am becoming, Bring it on. Try being 47, single, in a small town, healthy as a horse and skilled in many things but can't pull a bird with a 15 foot net. Get the picture?????

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Contractors... Sheesh, can we hold people hostage with our skills any more adeptly?

Part of my self assumed duties in the Rail Museum is to deal with contractors. Finding them, managing their quotes, tracking the jobs and authorizing payment when the work is complete to MY satisfaction. OK I got some skills but there are some things that I just don't want to do because they are beyond my skill level. I can build a cabinet, put in a hardwood floor, refinish fixtures (wood fixtures that is) but I will not do plumbing, electrical repairs, masonry nor anything to do with metal forming or welding. Just ain't got the chops.

I have to find these people and get them to give me a quote in the first place. This is painful because it requires them to put down the doughnut and make their way to a potential job site. And following the consult which takes all of maybe a half hour of their day, there are some who want to charge me for their time.

Next comes the fun part... After working their bid into the budget and getting approval from the city, I have to actually get them to the job site. Now if you are relying on your skills to get paid, does it not behoove you to show up and actually do the work? The last guy missed the first appointment, did not work up a quote, did not do a follow-up with me to say there would be delays... Nope he went to Florida for vacation for a week instead. Followed by a trip to Atlantic City for another week, and when he finally did show up (three days after his equipment was delivered for the job) he found out that the job was too big for him to complete with the equipment he had. He and his crew used the man lift to haul a chunk of our broken chimney off and LEFT! He has not been back since except to collect his manlift in the dark of night.

Today I had a pair of real craftsmen in to complete a job involving repairing our main entrance following a fire. Yep we can get people to destroy the place but fixing it is another story. Well after taking the job in September I called the supervising contractor to get the doors every Monday, Then Every Monday and Friday. Then every other day including the weekend. Well the doors arrived yesterday after 5 false starts and though they were well made and rather beautifully done, not everything arrived for the installation and these guys were acting like I was bothering them. Hey I even bought doughnuts to get them there. Well for the last two days I have hosted these prima donas as they short cut the door frame, did a sloppy job of trimming the doors and cut the doors too wide for the opening. And today they actually asked me when they were gonna get paid as they packed their trucks after the sloppy unfinished job was left in their wake. Well The hardware is not in the doors, they wanted to leave a shim holding the transom window closed with a nail, didn't puddy the nail holes in the trim nor caulk the door frame. Paid???? "If you get your shit together and finish some simple no-brainer crap then maybe I will think of signing off the job so you can get paid." They did put the transom window hardware on but the rest is still unfinished and I had to nail into my hardwood floor to keep the doors closed. Did I mention they have had the doors since the fire in July 2006? AGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!! is contractorcide a crime or will I get off on a technicality?

Maybe a creed or an oath is in order for people to qualify for a contractor's lisence.
We who have skills should not take money for a job we are il-prepared to do.
We shall ensure we are prepared with the proper materials and tools to complete the job.
We shall take pride in our work and let it show in the end results.
We shall create, repair, finish or cobble our projects to the best of our abilities.
We shall take responsibilities for our mistakes and correct them without incurring additional cost to our customers.
We shall humbly accept criticism from those who we serve. And if they are right take action to correct what our customers find wrong. And if they are inccorect we shall explain the discrepancy and ask if they would like us to correct them for a fair price.
We shall provide a bill and ensure we accept pay when it is available and not because we over extended ourselves or need to pay for our next job with money from this one before we complete it.

I do not believe the customer is ALWAYS right but they sure get the right to have an opinion if they have the check in hand.

Ok boys and girls if you got a skill and the confidence to use it for cash think twice before you tread down this path. It's a lot of responsibility and you should be fair and responsible to the customers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Greatest Generation

Making comparisons between my and my parents generation aren't easy, not pretty nor particularly comforting. I have heard a number of stories from them regarding sacrifice and why we really had no real family heirlooms. They were farmers and steel workers. The average backbone of American society during the Depression and World War II. They lived their daily lives through the tough times, cut corners when they had to and did what was necessary to help the country prevail through those difficult times. They saved newspapers in bundles, turned over gold and silver items, turned over spare tires and lived through rationing. When times were really tough on the farm and the food bank needed the live stock my Grandmother, a widow herself, made a chicken last for her 6 kids for a week. She baked bread, made chili sauce and her own ketchup, put up preserves and canned vegatables for leaner times. And she sent all her sons off to war. Three of the four returned home though they were wounded but one never returned. Those kids became my uncles and father and carried on the traditions of conservation and preparation for the worst.

Now where are we...? and worse where are our kids? I have only myself to make the comparison to them directly but I see where the rest of our society is going. Let's try an experiment. Let's take the kids to the toy store this season, have them pick out their favorite toy and then buy it. Take the toy over to the Toys for Tots bin or the Salvation Army or what ever help those in need thing that is at the local mall or Superstore and have them drop it in the bin. How much argument do you expect to hear or how much explaining do we have to do. I plan on taking this experiment to my nieces and nephews just to test their character... Wanna play too. Keep an eye out for the results and let's share what happens. I know times are tough for some folk so keep it small, simple and within budget. I'm not talking about a WII of Playstation III just something they really want that you can afford. I have done this before and after the tears there can be some pretty interesting discussions and opportunities to provide history lessons. BTW clean out the closets... there are folks out there that can use the dusty stuff that you don't use, can't sell nor want to keep around anymore.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Things we do for fun

There are certain things we do for fun. Nonsensical things. Silly things. Things that have no real outcome other than enjoyment.

The things that make us feel like a kid again.

Riding a bike. We can claim it's for exercise but for me it's about feeling like we are going faster than I could ever imagine.

Throwing a snowball. Not at anything in particular but just picking up some powder, mushing it around in my hands and giving a good Umpf! while flinging it as hard as you can.

Holding a door for a nice old lady. Not for any other reason than your parents told you it was the right thing to do.

I think most people have forgotten these simple pleasures and replaced them with self importance and seriousness that can be put aside from time to time. Today a co-worker brought his 10 year old to work and I watched the look on this kids face as we did just those things. He was thrilled to throw a snowball, grinned like a gleeful little kid when I nodded approval as he held the door for an older lady who came in to buy a calendar, and just about lost his cookees giggling as we ran and skidded on the ice outside the museum. His dad was there too and had just as much fun.

I would hope that you all will take the time to play just a little for the sake of doing nothing else but playing. No charts to measure caloric burn, no clocks to time our duration of activity, no measuring devices to see how far we throw, how fast it goes or measure the splat pattern of the impact site.

And for those of you playing the game... Enjoy before that snowball melts, that bike rusts or that nice old lady has to grunt like a linebacker trying to open that door.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

He's not in dis stove

My good friend Jim has pimped me in his blog and as it is a cold night and I am avoiding work it's time to set the record straight.

The Actual routine from Bugs and Thugs goes something like this....

All Right Rabbit. Where's Rocky? Where's he hidin?

He's not in dis stove.

Oho He's hiding in the stove eh?

Now look would I toin on da gas if my pal Rocky was in deir?

You might Rabbit. You might.

Well would I trow a lighted match in deir if he was in deir?


All Right Rabbit you've convinced me, We'll look for Rocky in the city.

I am not a crushingly large individual, Did not thunk John Lennon for his specks, have shattered a couple of noses with my hands behind my back and will drop everything if a slinky hot red head roams into my line of sight. There is only one thing that will make me drop everything faster and that is a cool foamy glass of John Smith's Extra smooth.

You too can make Kailu pig if you have a pork butt, 5 bannanas, aluminum foil, liquid smoke and naquida.

Thanks for pimpin me Jim... tell your Son Head on a plate. He will drive you mad for hours saying it. It just sounds funny

Lake effect snow... well it is wet anyway

Well I understand the science of Lake Effect Snow but I thought you had to live near a lake to get the full effect. It skipped Buffalo (right on the lake) and made it's way south over the hills and dumped 24 inches in that many hours. Here in what is normally a quiet little river valley town that gets a dusting once in a while. We got dumped on. I hadn't bought a shovel yet because it never really gets this bad this early. I used a pine plank to push a path out of my apartment and down the outside stairs to street level. Used the same plank to push a pile off the RV and tamp down a path to the Jeep. Found my way to work and found I could not get into the building without wading knee deep through drifts. I never even got out of the Jeep. I put it back in gear and went to the hardware store and bought a shovel and a bag of rock salt.

Did I give in to the power of winter weather? Hell yes! It's cold and wet and though the snow fall is light fluffy stuff, it piles up! I got a better work out clearing snow from the stairs, the walks, the entrance and the parking lot and found that one of the doors leaks and it snowed inside! only a small amount but back to the hardware store and a few pounds of weather stripping for indoor and out door use and I got the leak plugged. Worse than plugging and shoring a leak in the flooding simulator. Hey they could turn off the water if it got outta hand there.

And it didn't stop there... it kept snowing, The city plows forgot us and it was off again to open the entrance to the parking lot, clear the city sidewalk that leads to our building and then clear the deck on the freight house in case I had to go in there. And why do you ask did I have to do all this pushing of snow for the last two days... I am the only one who can! I ain't complaining about that (the snow yes, the need to shovel nah) because the other guy is 79 and still kicking.

Work will set you free is what I used to tell my Sailors. Well baby I am free! I like to work and like that I can again.

Enjoy the photo and see if you can name the building, When it was built and what it's original purpose was.

What a way to start the day

Have you ever had one of those mornings that start out bad and lead you down that dark path for the rest of the day? Today I did the snow thing and at the end noticed there was a truck parked behind my Jeep. Ok there is a business right next to where I park so I figure it's gonna happen once in a while but this was placed directly in my path and while I was shoveling. The sniveling weasel purposely parked there to make some kind of point about my parking in a small patch of grass right next to the building. Well being as nice as I can be and because Weasel-man was in the store of an old family friend I politely asked if that was his truck and informed him that he had blocked me in. I mean I was really polite. Took a lot but I did it. Well then came the reason for the parking job.... He declared that he was coming to this place for 8 years and did all that he could to avoid blocking my driveway (an asphalt pad that houses the RV now) and that the place where I parked was obviously (insert business name here) property. OK that was totally uncalled for but out of respect for my friend I swallowed hard and only said "Well things do have a way of changing now don't they?" I have to tell you I tasted blood! My eyes bugged out my eyebrow went north and I put on my best I am gonna eat your liver smile.
And the day just got better. Everyone I ran into had some kind of axe to grind. in my direction. By the end of the day as I roamed through the local super market I ran into another of the lovely locals and got sniveled at again. Well that was about all I could take. Oh did I mention that these all were Man-bitches... This one got the brunt of the day and I invited to show him what his liver looked like! Ok it was a little over the top but Man-bitches piss me off. and a day loaded with man-bitches makes me see all kinds of red. There I feel better now!
Man-bitches beware. I am not happy and it's still snowing!!!!

Monday, December 3, 2007

What was I thinking???

Ok so here I am in my small apartment in the Southern Tier town of Salamanca. It's snowing a lot. I mean a lot! There is at least a foot of accumulated snow on the ground, the porch, my RV and my Jeep since I came home from work at 6PM ET. So you may ask why this is an important detail...
Well 22ish years ago I left the boosom of my family and headed off to boot camp in Orlando Florida. It was August, hot, sticky and it rained on and off for the 8 weeks I was there. I slimmed down some 35 lbs, learned what it was to be part of a team and took a lot of crap. Then off to tech school in Pensacola Florida for 8 months and it was still hot but got mild and then hot again before I left for Southern Spain where I experienced more heat, more mild, and more heat. Can you detect a trend here?
Iin the 22 years of Naval service I saw my share of weather. Japan (Northern Japan) was like this and I was pleased to leave that behind me when I went to Hawaii, Virginia and then London. Ok London got cold but there was no real snow and though I spent a Christmas in Prague where it snowed I had a pretty mild three years troopin around Europe and the UK. Then San Diego.

And after all that heat and my retirement I bought the RV and vowed to follow 85 degrees for as long as I could take it. Well the AZ summer came and 115F and I decided to head back east to good old Salamanca NY and here I stayed. It was fun, inexpensive and I got me a job. Well now it's cold and call me a woos or a baby if you like but I am yearning for 85 degrees again and if I can dig myself out in time...

Ah who am I kiddin. I am in training. I want to feel the cold again, run from the car to the house like there is Christmas waiting every day and get warm again. Now if I go to work tomorrow I am gonna have to wear one pair of foot wear and change to another but hey it's all a part of it. Stay warm out there and hope the power does not go out. I got electric heat man!