Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Word Addiction

I'm obsessed with words - written ones anyway.

No matter where I go I have a book. At the first pause in whatever I'm doing, especially when I'm waiting for something or someone - I read. This gets expensive since I consume 2 or 3 books per week, on average. At night it's a review of my favorite blogs (I have cut down a bit) - sometimes I comment, sometimes not.

Then there's writing - My second MS is cracking along & I keep tweaking & polishing my first (there's always something to change - even if it's subtle - see 1st picture) & have several ideas scribbled out for others. The beach is one of my favorite editing (& reading) spots. My biggest problem is quitting at a reasonable hour to get some sleep - I get up at 5AM.

I also like to "write" messages in the sand for the kids & grandkids - take pictures & then email them. (Deb likes to spell everything out with little shells - I don't have that kind of patience.)

I first suspected that this was becoming a sickness when I started powerwashing messages onto the driveway for Jack & Belly. And then there's my blog - which isn't read by too many folks - but that's OK.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Homeowner's Associations & Pink Flamingos

How do ya like our new pink flamingos? We're gonna put them in the front yard to make a statement. OK, these guys are alive so we'll need to get plastic ones. OK, that won't work either - Deb doesn't like plastic pink flamingos.

We, like many folks, live in a community that has a 'Homeowner's Association'. It seems to me that most of these self appointed useless blowhards on these boards are typically frustrated middle management types that have no one to boss around during the day.

Our neighborhood is very nice & we live in a nice home. Everyone around us seems to do a good job on the maintenance of their property & no one, that I know of, does anything particularly obnoxious or annoying. The HOA board members have the monopoly on obnoxious & annoying. They now have an 'architectural review board' to whom all residents must submit plans and request permission before proceeding with ANY changes to the physical structure, landscaping or even colors (after genuflecting?). Helloooo....? We're talkin' about a couple doctors, a dentist, a retired broker .... no one that knows diddly about architectural features. Aaaarrghh.

The last 'newsletter' quoted one of the board members on the topic of lawns ..."I'm not expecting lawns to look like golf courses but ...." Gimme a break. This chucklehead is on a BOARD!!! Where does he come off using the word "I"? They probably all wear black robes & white wigs when they get together so they can feel more "IN CHARGE". Bunch of socialists.

It may sound as though I have had a run in with these bozos. That would not be true. Since I'm not planning to paint the house purple or add a lean to off the front porch, I probably won't. I just can't stand people that are self important, so it's time for pink flamingos.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


The back porch is our favorite place to hang out when we're home. It's where I do about 75% of my writing, where we have our morning coffee & where we have dinner (when the heat & humidity isn't too high). It's quiet, secluded & best of all, screened in.

This slithery looking character is a 6 foot black racer snake that seems to enjoy the front porch lately. Deb took this picture a couple of days ago - too bad he ducked his head as she clicked. Maybe he's camera shy. I chased him away again today. Racers are harmless, pygmy rattlers are not. This time of year, it's common to run across both species, making flower bed & shrub maintenance a little more challenging than it should be.

This is our front porch - minus the snake. It's rarely used. We always go through the garage to get into the house. The only time we spend out front is to water the gajillion plants, palm & ficus trees that Deb has stationed about. The marigolds are somewhat wilted in this picture because we were away for a week & they didn't get watered. The geraniums did OK.

Now here's a picture of what we really use the front porch for - watching the shuttle launches from Kennedy Space Center, which is just a bit south of us. This is a shot of Atlantis taking off not too long ago, taken from right next to the middle column out front.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

From The Laffin Gaff

These shots were taken from our boat "The Laffin Gaff". The lighthouse is one of our favorite places to visit. The harbor (Matanzas Bay) is usually loaded with yachts, sailboats & runabouts. The 2nd picture was taken from just inside the inlet to allow a wide angle view of 'Our Town'. Fortunately, boat traffic was light that day.

Both locations figure heavily in my YA adventure. The lighthouse & bay have reputations for being seriously haunted. (Matanzas translated means 'slaughters')Maybe I'll post some photos of the lighthouse at night - there's something in one of them that we just can't explain.

An Old Shortcut

The large heavy steel ball attached to the cable is called a headache ball (shown in both pictures). It's used to stabilize a heavy load being lifted by a crane. The story behind the nickname should be obvious, if you get hit in the head......

Back in the day - before safety was the priority, we would ride the headache ball to get to the upper floors (avoiding ladders). Standing on the ball, we would grab the cable & hold on tight, while the crane operator boomed (lifted) us to whatever floor we needed to reach. Today, I couldn't see myself dangling 6 or 8 stories in the air like that. Some would say I've become a sissy. Some would say I've become more sensible. I say, I don't want to deal with the fines from OSHA. It's a stunt that would cost at least $20K nowadays.

But if I was really pressed for a totally honest answer? I guess I'd have to admit to being a sissy.

Road Trip

Haven't blogged much - had to run to Tampa for a week to cover a project. I miss my ocean breezes - geez, it's humid here.

On the job, we're doing what's called 'flying steel' meaning the guys are running the heck out of a crane & setting beams & joists. It can be dangerous work so I'm glad I'm just the guy barkin' at everyone.

Deb decided to make the trip. I kept bugging her saying there was no sense in her staying home alone rattling around in that house. We took a suite for the week to give ourselves some space. (That was a compromise on my part.)

Our niece lives a mile from the hotel so we had a chance to meet up with Ryane and her boyfriend Ryan (try keepin' that straight) last night. They want us to go out with them tonight. I keep tryin' to 'splain to everybody that - "I Ain't As Good As I Once Was' - This old guy trying to keep up with 20something year olds? Whaddya kiddin' me? . Deb, on the other hand, seems to think she's still a 20something & keeps pace quite well. The word Paaaaaarty - doesn't do much for me, especially during the week, but I'll manage.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Matter of Perspective

This is a picture of my granddaughter Isabel. (I annoy my mother by calling her 'Belly') Something has caught her attention. She seems amazed. Whatever it is, it has her totally spellbound. Sometimes I wonder how little kids think. They don't have a large vocabulary. Their experiences are limited as are their little memories. So what 'words' go through their minds. How do they differentiate good, bad, funny, strange, etc.? Most of 'em get the big/little idea early. They usually get the names of people, pets & objects that they're around often, BUT, when there's a surprise, something foreign, something never ever seen before - what registers?

Then of course there are little boys, like my grandson Jack, pictured below - Now this is where I relate a bit better - having been one & raised two. This is how I suppose most of us boys would tend to look at things that are new. We approach things we don't quite understand, a little differently. See, understanding could be just a simple matter of perspective.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Newspaper Magnets

My oldest son Michael emailed me an article from his local paper in Pennsylvania today. I can't convert the file to post it here. His email topic was 'We always make the newspapers' & below that was a picture of my grandson Jack at some newly opened play-gym of some sort.

Mike is right - Our boys always made the papers - mostly for sports, not the police blotter. This one time they 'made the paper' was a biggie - pictures above. It's from the Philadelphia Daily News, opening day for the Phillies in 2000 & there were fights & all kinds of nonsense going on in the stands that led to several arrests. The picture shows the infamous 700 level at the old Vet Stadium where this took place. My kids didn't join in the fisticuffs or bottle tossing, thankfully.

I always bought the Daily News in the morning along with a large coffee (& cigarettes - but I've quit them). What I immediately noticed, when I scanned the headlines, were my sons smack dab in the middle of the front page. NO I did not have coffee gushing from my nose!!!

The younger one (Chris, on the left) is pouring beer for the older one (Mike in my blue jacket on the right). Christopher was born in 1980, in other words, too young to buy beer legally. Nabbed again.

It's always been a source of annoyance for Mike that little bro' (4 years younger) looks older. It seems Mike (born in '76) forgot his ID that night & couldn't purchase alcohol. No problemo, lil' brother bought the beer. He didn't even get 'carded'.

We laugh about stuff like this now, but it wasn't amusing at the time. We were never dumb enough to say 'Not Our Kids' & we didn't (& don't) condone underage drinking.

The joy of parenthood. We survived it.

I had to add to this post - if I can stop laughing long enough... Deb just told me this a few minutes ago. Mike & Chris went to the Phillies game this past Saturday. They took Jack along - his first big league game! Mike (now 31) had to show ID to buy a beer - little brother Chris - didn't. Some things never change.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Tree Out 'BACK'

I haven't posted anything since last week. My back went out Thursday night, turning to get off of one of the bar stools in the kitchen. I've been in agony for 4 or 5 days. Sitting in one place - to write, read, drive, etc, makes the pain almost unbearable. (I'm typing as fast as I can tonight.) The doc has preached surgery & injections as potential remedies, as opposed to Vicodin, Naproxin & Skelaxin, but there's a family history (my dad broke his back twice) that makes me edgy about taking either of those routes. I'll be writing about my dad in the near future.

The tree in the picture is just inside the edge of 'the jungle' behind my back yard. It's got a cool branch running through the middle on a downward trajectory that looks like a snake slithering it's way to eat some poor, unsuspecting critter below. Deb took several pictures of it at dusk a year or so ago & every pic came out with some blurry images mixed into it - & she has great cameras. We showed them to the kids when they visited & it weirded them out. One of the 'orbs' had a face in the center. I'll try to retrieve it from Deb's files one of these days. What does that mean? I dunno. They say St Augustine is one of the most haunted places in the country. Far be it from me to dispute that.

The crooked branches sorta look like how my back has been feelin' - twisted, outta wack, & kinda brittle. Hopefully another couple days & I'll be back to normal. I have a meeting tomorrow so we'll see what 166 miles of driving does to me.

Well, better quit while I'm ahead - need my ice packs.....

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Storyteller

My youngest son was born a few weeks before my grandfather passed away. My grandson Jack was born a few weeks before my dad passed away. Strange how history repeats. I hope my grandson waits a loooonnnnggg time to have kids. So here I am - JaxPop posting something about 'Dave's Pop'. (Dave would be me. What... you thought JaxPop was my real name???) Ahem...

The picture at the top of this post truly represents the beginning of my love for stories. It's an old watercolor from 1898 in a battered frame. I was just a wee lad when this was painted. Ahem... This picture hangs in a large closet in the master bedroom sitting room - where many of my books are shelved (hundreds). As much as I love this old painting, it ain't makin' it to the hallowed walls to mix with Debs 'tropicasual' decor.

It was given to me in 1980, just after 'Pop' was buried. When I was a kid, I stayed at my grandparent's house at least one weekend every month. This picture hung in his room (next to a cut out Santa that I 'colored' when I was about 3 - sentimental old codger he was). My grandparents had separate rooms - someday I'll post about that happy relationship. (Hint - it's funny.)

Pop was from a large family - 15 kids altogether & I think he was number 10 out of the brood. School wasn't a big priority in those days so at the tender age of 9 he went to work, in the coal mines no less, to help pay the bills &, I guess, to make it easier for great grandpa & grandma to continue adding to the population of the Pennsylvania Dutch community. The point is, even without the education, he was a magnificent storyteller.

It became a game. Whenever I visited, I would ask what the big guy was saying to the little chubby guy. Pop had the most twinkly blue eyes & he always started his tales with a squint. (Why do I remember that?) He never disappointed. His stories would go on for nearly an hour, & I didn't budge an inch. He loved it when I would hit him with questions because he could keep elaborating. In the end, I suppose, I've decided that the tall guy in the picture was & would forever be 'the boss'.

Years later, I started making up stories to tell my boys (I posted about this before) & a couple years ago, I started writing. A key chapter in my completed YA MS incorporates my grandfather as a character, making him the one ultimately responsible for acquiring a certain diary & map, both integral components to my tall tale based here in St Augustine. Thanks Pop - for the tales & the inspiration.

Hopefully my stories will do 'Dave'sPop' proud.

Kid Stuff

They don't make sliding boards like they used to. The new ones at least seem to offer a challenge.

Remember the good old days? Before video games & couch potato activities. When I was a kid, if you were hangin' out in the house, you were given chores to do. I'd sleep in my clothes so I could roll outta bed before my parents could think up somethin' for me to do.

We lived in a small town. There was no playgound or rec center but we had 'the woods'. The woods had a creek & part of it was deep enough to use for a swimmin' hole with vines close enough to swing & drop between the rocks that surrounded it. I missed a few times but if you acted like you were hurt, you'd be called a sissy & one of the bigger kids would beat you up to "give ya somethin' to cry about".

In the winter we skated on the swimmin' hole. Naturally, being the type to always push my luck, I ventured too far & fell through the ice one day. Dropped to the bottom like a rock, completely underwater. I don't remember climbing out but I managed. What I do remember is walking home (on skates) like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. My clothes were frozen so I couldn't bend my knees or arms. I caught the devil because I forgot to bring my shoes home. Such sympathy.

One fall during a visit to my beloved woods, some nitwit (not me) decided to build a fire next to our fort. It burned out of control so we got to meet the fire fighters up close & personal. Unfortunately for me, I was wearing a new coat, one with fake lambs wool lining which the pyro neighbor kid used to try to beat the fire out. That faux lambs wool melts fast. For my parents, a new coat was a big ticket item, so I caught the devil again. The initial punishment was bad enough, but I ended up having to wear that 'stinkin' coat for the fall/winter season. I was a 9 year old that smelled like he had a 3 pack a day habit.

It's too bad we didn't have a playground.