Category: family

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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. . .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

Turning goals into reality

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For years I have had a soft goal of climbing Mount Washington.  I have summited numerous times, but always by motorized conveyance.  I have driven it more times than I can count and ridden up the tracks propelled by both steam and BioDiesel.  It is a wondrous place.

On foot I’ve climbed as high as Tuckerman’s, and I have lunched at Lakes of the Clouds.  I’ve just never finished the deed.

I have planned in the dead of winter to train and hike and complete it. Maybe this year. . . 

No more maybe. No more dreams.  I have signed up for Seek the Peak in July.  I’ll be hiking the mountain with thousands of other people to raise funds for the Mount Washington Observatory.

Please consider sponsoring me here.  A buck or two is all I ask.  See you on the summit on 7/16!

Minimizing experiment

I’ve just returned from 9 days away on vacation with the family.  You may not have noticed I was gone, and that was deliberate.  Aside from one Instagram slip-up, I tried not to post that I was away from home.  The photo above is of everything I brought, with the exception of a light jacket.  (The shoes are included merely for size reference.)

The vacation was great. I need not share details here.  The packing was an experiment, and it worked fabulously.  I packed light and chose fabrics which were easy to hand wash and hang dry.  I brought along my phone, my Nook, a notebook and a few favorite pens.  I planned one camera and 5 rolls of film; at the last minute I caved, added a second camera, and doubled the film.  Toiletries, a charger, and my CPAP rounded out the ensemble.

It was wonderfully freeing.  It has inspired me to keep downsizing at home.

I missed my dog and my cats.  I would miss my laptop if we had been gone much longer.  I need a car.  I’m unwilling to give up my steam engines or my photography equipment.  Aside from that I think I could live without the rest of my stuff.

Food for thought and inspiration. . .

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It was also interesting to note the sheer volume and mass of STUFF that other people carry when they travel. The theme park entrances had long lines of people waiting to have their bags inspected as I strolled past with my camera in hand. Our entire party breezed through 2 airports with one small roller bag each.

It’s not supposed to be about judgement, but it’s hard not to feel pity for folks who feel they cannot live a few days or hours without all those things.

Whoa Emmett!

Long before I knew her, Mrs. Mack505 had a habit of naming her cars.  Since we’ve been married, each of our cars has had a name.  Some have gone on to have nicknames, and nicknames for their nicknames.  The current fleet consists of Emma, Connor, Hans, Featherstone, and the Batmobile. (Plus a pair of motorcycles which might or might not be sometimes known as Bert & Ernie.)

About a decade ago, my truck was new and nameless.  As we were leaving Fryeburg Fair that October, we watched a draft horse loose in the workout area.  He tore around at a trot, dragging a sledge in circles behind him, with his owner running behind shouting, “Whoa Emmett!”

Big, strong, kinda slow but unstoppable.  We had a name for my truck.

Emmett stayed in the family longer than any other vehicle.  We patched and repaired, repaired and patched.  My mechanic and especially my body shop guy had visions of boat payments every time I called.  I still loved that truck.

Last month, as I was coming out of a store, I noticed rust on Emmett’s rocker panels.  It’s a common failure mode for GM trucks of a certain vintage. I bent to inspect the decay, and put two fingers through the floor of my truck.

140,000 miles. Eleven and a half years.

We had vowed we would keep it until it became cost prohibitive. I feared the day had come. I took it home, sat on the front steps, and stared at it. Part of me felt like I was losing a friend. In the last eleven years we had driven the entire East Coast together, mostly with some sort of trailer in tow.

It’s only a machine, yet the decision felt almost like deciding that it was time to take a beloved pet for that final trip to the vet. Emmett had known only me and the Mrs. since the day he left the factory.

Eventually logic triumphed over emotion as it must always (except in politics,) and I put Emmett up for sale. We did some cool things with the money, and now we only own one truck like normal people. Here’s hoping Emma lasts just as long.

Week 17 -Amtrak

I continue to shoot for my 52 Rolls project, but I have not found the time to develop much.  These are posted as Week 17 while I catch up.

Anticipation

Beth was excited about riding the Acela for the first time in her memory.

Disappointment

Then it broke, dumping us onto another train in Old Saybrook, CT.

 

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Rescue

Train #173 to the rescue!

Grand Central Terminal
Times Square

Camera: Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic

Hey, it’s an adventure!

Simplify. The modern mantra. We have too much stuff, too many demands on our time. Our family has joined the cause, sending things to the thrift shop and pledging to be less busy.

Mrs. Mack505 has a horse show this week. It’s in Syracuse.  School ended yesterday, I was scheduled for a 24 hour shift today, and we all need to be in Buffalo on Friday.

I managed to swap my 24 for three overnights.  It means I haven’t slept at home since last Thursday and I’m exhausted, but I don’t have to arrange care for Kiddo today.  One issue solved.

Driving 2 cars to Buffalo so we can drive home separately on the same day seems at least silly and perhaps stupid. I hit upon the idea of a jaunt to NYC for Kiddo and me. We will spend a bit seeing the sights before hopping another train to BUF.  Another win.

We get to ride the Acela and see New York. It’ll be a great adventure!

Uh huh. Sure.

The Acela broke south of Providence. We crawled as far as Old Saybrook, CT before being transferred to an already-full Regional train. We will get to NYC 2 hours late if we are lucky.

I sit here in a single seat next to a Buddhist monk, typing as we putt across coastal Connecticut. Kiddo sits across the aisle playing Subway Surfer on the iPad without a trace of irony.  I wonder where my simplicity went.

But hey, its an adventure!

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Week 16 – Requalification

Every spring I take one day in April to go to Seashore Trolley Museum and renew my driver’s license.  It’s a little boy’s dream.  I get to play with full-scale antique trains.  There is no such thing as a bad day behind the controls.

Of course I brought a camera.

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The City of Manchester was the directors’ car of the Manchester, NH street railway. It could also be rented out for parties.
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I did much of my initial training on the snow plows. They were converted from old Type III cars by the Boston Elevated Railway, and they are incredibly easy to operate.
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Morrison Hill Station. This building originally stood on the Portland-Lewiston interurban line.
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A rare portrait featuring yours truly. Thanks, Herb.
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Northampton Station was transported from Boston to Kennebunkport via barge.
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There’s just something about these old trackless trolleys.
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Tower C and the Library Crossing.
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The Loop.
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Modern trackless trolleys still operate from Harvard Square in Cambridge.
Center-entrance car #1227 from Cleveland. I had a (very small) part in the restoration of this car.
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There’s just something about a Walter.

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SHOOT MORE SLIDE FILM!

Camera: Leica M3 with 50mm Summicron

Film: Fuji Velvia 100

Processed by Old School Photo Lab and scanned at home.

Week 21 – Recital

Skipping ahead to the present. . .

This week was Beth’s year-end band concert. She and her classmates did great.

I packed along my SX70 and my Instax Min 90. I figured there wasn’t much point in trying to get shots of her across the crowded auditorium, so I concentrated on portraits.

The SX70 was loaded with expired Impossible PX680 with an ND filter.  I didn’t expect much from the film, but I did get one decent portrait of Ericka and Beth.

The Instax did a more predictable job.

All dressed up
Beth & Jasmine

After the show we always go to the Agawam Diner for pie with friends. Jasmine’s brother Walter had never seen an instant photograph before and was mesmerized by the Instax.

Walter

Happy Birthday

Fifteen years ago, a lonely unwanted cat gave birth in a wood pile.  The days were warm and sunny, and she soon brought her 5 charges out to frolic in the fresh air.  She never allowed them to stray very far from her side because the world is a big scary place.

We began to notice them around 6 weeks of age.  Momma was smart and protective and would spirit them away if we got too close.

But we have a humane trap.

They were tiny, scared, and fierce.  There were two dark longhaired Maine Coon-ish ones.  One was the self-appointed leader and protector, hissing and biting; the other had huge eyes and ears and was sickly.  The only female was a cute orange calico.  The fourth was a shorthaired tiger who looked completely unrelated.

The fifth kitten was too wily for the trap.

We read about taming feral kittens, and then we went about the process. There was lots of cuddling and hissing.  It was the start of something big. Hundreds of kittens have passed through our home en route to loving homes of their own.  The feral colony is managed and thriving under a private trap/neuter/release program.

  
Sebastian, Noah, Arminta, and Bullwinkle J. Moose all turned 15 today. Happy birthday guys!

Letting go

Yesterday at work I broke my $1000 pen.

The backstory:

Two years ago when Jasmine was sick, we made multiple visits to the emergency vet.  These usually involved an overnight stay and a scary bill.  Each time I signed, I kept the pen.  It was my own small rebellion against her illness.

Over time I accumulated a collection of cheap plastic pens in an assortment of colors with the vet clinic’s phone number on them.  They came to be known around the house as my $1000 pens.

Most have disappeared into the depths of desk drawers, but the light blue one became special.  It complemented my uniform nicely, and it became my spare pen for work.  It has spent most of the past year in my shirt pocket or my day bag.  Yesterday I broke it.

My instinctive reaction was sadness.  This was Jazzy’s pen.

I quickly realized I was looking at things the wrong way.  These pens are a symbol of the darkest time in her too-short life.  Keeping them around doesn’t preserve her memory.  It preserves the memory of her tragic illness and death.  While I want to remember and cherish her, these are not the memories I need.

I disassembled the pen tonight.  I salvaged the spring to use as a strain reliever on my phone charging cord.  She always was good at relieving my stress.  As I find the others, I will do the same with them.  I may have spent the cost of a good used car acquiring them, but it is time to let them go.