Spinning wheels

Restless & frustrated tonight.  I spent the day at the farm trying to make the plow truck serviceable without success.  Just as I arrived home, something broke in the rear suspension of the Volvo.  It’s still drivable but sounds awful.

I’ve spent the evening trying to get the den/camera room under control.  I’ve ended up scanning negatives and importing old archives into my current iPhoto database, but I’m still standing in a pile of clutter.

I’ll hire a mechanic for the plow; I’ll send the Volvo to the shop; I’ll find solutions for the clutter.  It all just seems like it never ends.

Bow Ties are Cool

This coming Sunday I will be participating in my first-ever charity motorcycle ride.  Every September, hundreds thousands of riders around the world don their finery, dust off their vintage motorcycles, and take a spin in the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride to raise money for prostate cancer research and suicide prevention.

Classically inspired motorcycles are welcome, so my TUx fits right in.  I’ve picked up an old tweed jacket and a new bow tie for the event.

You can see video from past events on their YouTube channel.  Tell me this doesn’t look like fun!

Please pop over to my DGR page and kick in a buck or two.  It’s a good cause.

(If you get this via email, please click the title to visit the blog.  Videos don’t come through in the email.)

From the Archives:
A Tale of Two Bathrooms

The Eastern Front is a fascinating place to work. It’s a small coastal city with colonial roots. The old part of town is filled with centuries-old buildings built very closely together, with tiny, winding streets. Many places are difficult to fit the Medic 9, let alone the engine which accompanies us.

The city sits on a peninsula, with bluffs overlooking the ocean and/or harbor on three sides. The newer sections of town contain multi-million dollar architectural marvels designed to maximize views of the water. There’s at least one castle, but I haven’t been in it yet.

And then there are the houses from the 1970’s.

We are met by white walls, funky shag carpet and dark, dark wood work. The family leads us down a hallway to the patient, who lies in bed in front of a wall of glass facing the open ocean. Rain beats on the exposed roof overhead.

Our patient insists on a visit to the bathroom before leaving, and we see no reason to deny him.

Oh my god, the bathroom! Yellow paisley wallpaper on all four walls, covering even the door and window trim. The tiny space is a psychedelic nightmare, with a brightly colored tub and toilet to match. I know I’m sober, and I’m very glad I am. As it is, my budding migraine throbs when I glance in the door. I have a new understanding of The Yellow Wallpaper after standing in this room.

As we load the patient on the stair chair and start down the hall, we pass another odd bathroom. This one consists of a shower stall on one side of the hallway, opening directly onto a bath mat in our path. On the other side a small room contains a toilet and sink, a true water closet. The walls are covered floor to ceiling in black tiles, with Japanes lillies inlaid.

Somewhere an interior decorator must be finally coming down from his acid trip.

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A Tale of Two Bathrooms
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Farewell Tour


My last shift in The City was average.  We ran a few cancellations, a chest pain at the clinic, a serious trauma, and. . .

04:00, on a small side street.  The police are already on scene as we roll in with an engine, an ambulance, and a paramedic unit.  The call is probably BLS; a woman has threatened to harm herself with pills.

No one answers the door, but we are sure we have the right apartment.  We knock, and we shout. “Ambulance!  Fire Department!  Police!”  Someone is in there, pretending they aren’t.

The farce continues for a few minutes before Bobby puts it to an end.  “OK, let’s get the ax!” he shouts as he stomps down the stairs.

And the door opens.


This is more a matter for the police than for us.  We wait on the porch while they talk to the patient.  Bobby leans on his ax and looks at me.

“You know you’re going to miss this,” he says with a smile.

By every objective measure my new job is better.  By most subjective ones it is too.  I’m really looking forward to it.

“Yeah,” I agree, shaking my head and walking away.  “See you ‘round.”

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Mrs. Mack 5o5 handed me the package with a tear in her eye.  “Open it.”

I knew what the box contained.  Inside the cardboard, wrapped in tissue paper, was a beautifully finished small wooden box. . .


In the spring of 2000, five kittens were born to a wild mother in a small feral colony not far from here.  At first we thought there were only four, as two of them looked almost identical from a distance.  We could not leave them out there.  They would live short lives and die tragically, or they would thrive and make yet more kittens.  Neither solution was acceptable, so out came the humane traps.  We caught two black and white Maine Coons, a calico, and a tiger.  (The fifth proved elusive and unfortunately did meet a tragic fate.)

It was our first experience with feral kittens.  We did a few things wrong, but they turned eventually.  They would be the first of many.

Noah and his brother Sebastian came to live with us.  Shelby did not approve, but she adapted eventually.  Noah was a sickly baby; he almost died of pneumonia in those early weeks.  He also was the more affectionate of the pair, perhaps because he required so much handling.  He became our baby boy.

P001053He was all eyes and ears.  I swear they were born fully grown and the rest of him grew to fit them.

His voice was huge.  In his younger years we would play a game in the morning while I dressed for work.  He would stand at my feet and cry for attention.  I would shush him, “quiet, you’ll wake up Mom!”  He would respond more loudly.  Lather, rinse, repeat until Mrs. Mack505 began to giggle.

Noah grew to be our kitten whisperer.  When we would foster feral kittens, he would ignore them for weeks.  Eventually he would spend an afternoon staring into their cage, and then they were done.  Turned.  All ready to go on to their new homes.  He somehow knew when they were almost ready, and he would push them over the edge.

Noah on the left, brother Sebastian on the right

In later life, Noah became closely bonded with Hal.  The two of them kept mostly to themselves and were always seen shoulder to shoulder around the house.


We came home from my Mount Washington trip to find Noah unwell.  The cat sitter had done her job thoroughly, but he just wasn’t acting right.  The vet found a fast-moving cancer.

I won’t dwell on the details.  Noah crossed the Rainbow Bridge shortly after noon on July 19th, 16 years 2 months and 4 days after being born in my father’s garage.  He was our sweet Baby Boy until the end.


“Open it. . .” Mrs Mack5o5 urged.

I didn’t need to open it.  It’s a beautifully crafted (slightly oversized?) custom box for his ashes.  I’d rather spend as little time on it as possible.  She insisted, though.

And there it was.  A diagonal partition dividing the interior into two compartments.  Someday in the hopefully distant future, Noah and Hal will lie shoulder to shoulder again.

This would be a good place to end. The story arc is complete.  It’s not the best eulogy, but I felt it was time to write something.  It turns out there is more, though.  Noah has a legacy.

It seems that all the time he spent with semi-feral Hal was a grown-up version of his kitten whispering.  Hal has never fully bonded into our family.  He’s a wonderful cat, but he has always remained aloof.  He never completely trusted us until he lost Noah.

In the month and a half since Noah passed, Hal has turned to us for comfort.  He has become more trusting.  He seeks us out for attention, and he sleeps with Mrs. Mack505.  As I wrote this, he jumped onto the bed twice, approached me, and let me scratch his ears.  I’m all teary again.  Noah may be gone, but he left us a new and improved Hal to remember him by.  Thank you, baby boy.


The other medics have gone out on a call. If cancelled, they will stay out for coffee. I may not see them again until lunch. 

The BLS crews are all asleep. Some are recovering from a rough night shift while others rest up for the marathon ahead. 

I sit in the empty garage listening to the hum of the Coke machine, the drone of passing traffic, the whoosh of planes on approach to Big City International Airport. A cool breeze wafts through the open door. Dreading. . .

Dreading the conversation I must have later today. Dreading disappointing. Dreading change. 

Yet it’s time. 

Thank you Yellow & Orange Ambulance Company. I wouldn’t be here without you. I just don’t want to be here anymore. 


I have a first-world problem.

I’ve decided to sell the TDI back to Volkswagen.  We’ve had 5 good years and almost 80,000 miles together.  It’s half as long as I had planned to own it, but the buy-back offer is too good.  I will never see as much money for it from any other source.

Many people would use the money as a down payment on a replacement and take out another loan, but not me.  I own the VW outright.  I intend to pay cash for its replacement, no matter how long it takes.  The cash will go in the bank for now.

Without the VW, we will be left with only one winter car.  Snow tires for Mrs. Mack505’s Cadillac cost more than a good used car. Even with good tires, I fear the CTS-V would be as nimble as Wile E. Coyote on rocket skates in the winter.

I need a tank.  I shopped, and thought, and shopped some more.  I started haunting Craigslist, and I found this:

IMG_0025Introducing Sherman.

Sherman is a 1996 Volvo 850 with a 5-speed manual transmission.  If you account for inflation I paid less for it than for my first car, and I love it!  I grinned like an idiot the whole way home.

Sherman reminds me of what we have lost with modern cars.  There is no Bluetooth, no traction control, no trip computer.  The single LCD display tells the time and temperature.  All of the controls are manual.  You can turn the DRLs on and off.  You have to unlock the doors with a key. (gasp!)

It still features power windows, ABS, airbags, and an air conditioner that works better than our new ones.  The previous owner did all of the important maintenance and added an iPod input.  I haven’t driven anything else since it came home.

All for less than the cost of a set of snow tires, and it came with an extra set of snow tires!

My problem seems to be solved.

(for those who missed the title: Wikipedia)

Still here haiku

lots of posts to write

but one looms large in my mind

just can’t write it yet


Minimizing in a different way today. #minsgame #minimalism #shredderI spent the day minimizing the file cabinet.  One drawer scanned and shredded.  It was a good job for a stupidly hot, humid day.


Today figured pretty high on my list of days I hope never to repeat.  We lost Noah unexpectedly. I will write in due course, but it’s too raw right now.

I’ve been frittering away the evening scanning negatives and watching YouTube.  These are taken with my new ONDU 6×6 pinhole on Portra 400 during my trip to Lakes of the Clouds back in June.

Gem Pool
Dining Room, Lakes of the Clouds
Portrait of a cold, wet hiker. 🙂

More later.

Here there be chickens

Saturday, July 16 dawned. . .well, it dawned.  The weather was nice in the Mount Washington Valley at 05:00.  The forecast was for sun and temperatures in the high 80’s.  (In the valley.)

The higher summit forecast was also decent.  It called for temperatures in the 50’s with winds below 20 MPH and “peaks in the clouds.”  That’s weather-speak for fog.  All in all, a standard July day on Mount Washington.

I departed before sunrise in an effort to hit the trail as early as possible and maximize my available time.  The Seek the Peak folks were planning a party at the trail head at 06:00, but I planned to be long gone by then.


This is Berk. She is Mrs. Mack505’s mascot and was dispatched to assist me on my hike.

Berk and I were the only ones at the Ammonoosuc Ravine parking lot.  We started out at 05:40, and we met three other hikers who had started from the Cog Railway parking cutoff. We leapfrogged on the trail for a while, but we never saw them again after Gem Pool.

The trail to Lakes of the Clouds seemed shorter than last time, perhaps because the mountain was no longer trying to kill me.  I went through all the usual emotions: this isn’t bad, OK maybe it’s tough, what was I thinking?, I’m going to die, and finally I CAN DO THIS. A shade less than 2 1/2 hours brought us to the door of Lakes just as breakfast was ending.  Channel 8 was setting up a shot, and a crowd flowed out of the hut.


The fog had begun in earnest.

Above the hut, the going is rocky but not too steep.  I didn’t mind the crowd as visibility was limited.  We hiked single file across Crawford Path, trekking from cairn to cairn.


The USFS is serious.

Another hour brought the summit.  One moment we were plodding along in the fog; the next a large building appeared.  5.04 miles, 3 1/2 hours, and there we were.


We arrived early and didn’t have to stand in a long line to take a picture.

It’s done.  I made it to the top, and all before lunch.  Before second breakfast, actually.  I left enough time for a leisurely descent, but I decided to cheat and take the Cog back down to my car.

Next year will be ascent AND descent.