This year it’s personal


I started riding in the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride three years ago simply as a lark.  It was a chance to hang with cool people and oggle their bikes, while nominally doing something useful.  It’s not that different from the origin story of the DGR itself. But this year something has changed. In the past 2 years I’ve lost friends both to cancer and suicide.   This needs to stop. Please consider sponsoring me here.  All funds go to the Movember Foundation to pay for male-specific cancer research and mental health support.  If not the DGR, please consider giving where you think it will help. Talk to the people aorund you.  Don’t let depression and suicide sneak up on you.  Be there for your friends and coworkers. And for my Brothers in the fire service, WASH YOUR DAMN TURNOUT GEAR.

Testing

The WordPress app is back!

I had planned to blog much more, but then something in the backend of the blog “upgraded” itself and the WordPress app stopped talking to it.

Tech support suggested a few things; none of them worked.

After a few more mandatory upgrade cycles I’m back!

Now where to begin?

Internet Obscurity

I’d just like to note that for the first time in (forever), my How to Hack. . . post from 2009 has fallen out of the number one spot on this blog.  Maybe the early-2000’s GM crowd has finally given up and installed Bluetooth.

I am also no longer on the first 5 pages of Google results for “notes on wasting time.”

I’m off to have fun with Kiddo while slowly sinking into internet obscurity. #winning

Alton, Beverly & Western

It’s been a crazy summer despite our best efforts to keep the schedule in check.  Beth’s school ran almost two weeks late because of weather, and her new one starts a week earlier that the old one.  This means the summer was three weeks shorter than usual.

The regular horse show schedule hasn’t let up.

Three weeks ago we lost a cat unexpectedly, followed by an uncle equally unexpectedly.  This week one of the horses became suddenly, life-threateningly ill.

I’ve been neglecting the blog.  I still haven’t written about my awesome new car.

Life goes on.  We are adapting to the loss of Clara.  We’ve scheduled flights, hotels, and vacation time for a funeral halfway across the county.  The horse is recovering well.

I’ve still found some time to play with friends.  Last weekend was steaming at Mike Wells’ Alton, Beverly & Western Railway.  Enjoy!

Four random men

“We deal with sick people all day long with detached efficiency, but when it’s one of us, the reality of our vulnerability hits home. This job has a way of making us feel invincible, untouched by the sickness and suffering that surround us daily. It seems inconceivable that one of our own may have succumbed. . .” —Lt. Michael Morse, Rescuing Providence

In the past year I’ve lost two friends to job-related BULLSHIT.  Last December I lost a friend, brother FOOL, and good Jake by his own hand.  We don’t know what drove him over the edge, and we didn’t see it coming in time to do anything about it.

Earlier in the year another friend and all around good guy succumbed to cancer.  Again, it wasn’t caught in time.

We do what we can.  I try to pay more attention to the mental health signs of those around me.  I push more to make sure we mitigate the stresses of the job as best we can.  We are more aware of the cancer risks of firefighting, and we take stronger measures to mitigate them than ever before.

It’s too little, too late for my friends.

I’ve buried my share of retired firefighters; men who lived their lives ahead of mine.  In recent years I’ve begun to bury contemporaries.  I used to love the sound of bagpipes, but lately I’ve felt that I could happily go the rest of my life without ever hearing Amazing Grace again.  I’m done.

Today I had occasion to be on top of Mount Washington, and I experienced this: (turn up your speakers)

A beautiful July afternoon on the roof of New England, and four random men nearly brought me to tears.  The pain came flooding back, and I stiffened to attention as I crumbled inside.

But I rebounded.  Beautiful song, beautiful place, beautiful day, with my family by my side.  This experience may never dull for me,  but I will go on.  Thank you, gentlemen, whoever you are. I needed that, and I will be OK.


PSA:

Clean your gear!  Wash those coats and hoods. ‘Salty’ gear isn’t cool anymore.

If you need help, ask for it.  Reach out to someone, anyone.  This job will eat your soul if you let it.


(Standard Disclaimers apply)

Car 1160

With a clang and a hiss and a squeal, Connecticut #1160 departs the platform at Seashore Trolley Museum this morning.

There was a time when I volunteered here every week. I never had a bad day. I’ve not been able to keep it up, though.

This spring I realized that was four cars ago. I was driving the 1996 convertible which we sold in 2001. It was also before I was a parent who owns a small business. I guess I have an excuse.

A Skilsaw?

Ideas float in my head but will not come out.

All should be peaceful on the porch.  The clothes dryer hums softly.  The sprinkler waters the strawberry patch while FeistyCricket calmly watches for squirrels in the trees.  A jet drifts overhead en route to Big City International Airport.

There’s so much to write about.  I have an amazing new car.  I attended a memorial function for a friend last weekend.  I worked a fatal MVC this week.  Sebastian’s health has us worried; he’s declining but still happy.

The scanner yaps.  My day job babbles about running two calls at once.  Two lieutenants and a captain all respond to the same service call.  The dispatcher is being obtuse.  Both roosters let loose at the same time, and my neighbor is doing something with his Skilsaw.  I still have chores to do.  

There will be no zen this evening.

Low Hanging Fruit

I have many posts floating around in my head which require work.  Here are a couple of easy updates.

Yesterday was Family Day at CVRTC.  After the picnic, I took a new member out for a spin on the M9 then returned to Fernald to catch a ride on the A3.  Weather was sunny and hot and fabulous.  Enjoy a quick clip:


Today I finally ‘finished’ the motorcycle, at least for now.

The most striking modification is the paint.  I had the tank done in dark red, with old-school Suzuki badges.  The side covers are 2016 black with sliver decals.  The rack is by Manracks, the fly screen is from WeBike Japan, saddlebags are from the local army surplus store.  Bar end mirrors and an LED tail light complete the package along with a mustache decal from the DGR.

Here’s a shot of its original incarnation for comparison.

2015-10-19 15.15.43

I’m very happy with the result.

I haven’t ridden much this spring.  Time has been taken up with the new car, but that’s another post.

Detox and other updates

It’s been over a month since I announced my latest electronic detox on this blog, so an update is very overdue.

As before, it did not take very long for me to realize that my goals were too ambitious. While there was not a panicked flight back to my iPhone, my flip-phone adventure only lasted a couple of days. The main driver this time was my podcasts. I found that I missed having my own audio in the car. While there are alternate methods to get podcasts into the car, they all involve increased complexity and run counter to my goals.

What I did instead was to limit my iPhone. I removed every app I don’t regularly use, and I made sure all social media went with it. Twitter was the hardest, but after a few days I didn’t miss it.

Eventually I installed Instagram again. I realized that the people I enjoy the most from Twitter are all my photographer friends. I can follow their work and interact with them on IG. I find it much more manageable and less time intensive than Twitter ever was.

So I consider the experiment a success, even though my iPhone is back on my person. I’ve re-evaluated how I use it and brought a measure of control back to my life.

—–

And then there was the pine tree.

Two and a half weeks ago, after the big storms had passed, on a randomly windy night, we were jarred from bed at 23:07 by a tremendous crash. My initial thought was that one of the neighbors’ houses had exploded.

Approximately 40 feet of tree broke off the top of one of our pines. It struck the corner of the house above Beth’s head and broke apart. One piece passed over the peak of the roof, destroying the side steps and part of the screen porch. The rest scraped down the side of the house, poked a hole in the back steps, and flattened one end of the garden railway. Along the way some part of it put three holes in the roof.

We are still cleaning up the mess, but I’ll have campfire wood for years. I shall immolate its corpse for my pleasure.

—-

I think there were other things I needed to write about, but that’s all I can remember at this moment. The intervening weeks have been busy. It’s almost 22:00 and I have to work in the morning. More later.

Saturday

The hum of the refrigerator. The steady drip of snow melting on the roof. The intermittent creak as sunlight warms the bones of the porch. The click of the thermostat on my space heater.

No bleeping, dinging, or buzzing phones. No television or YouTube. No scanner, no pager, no IAmResponding alerts. No voices, no footsteps, no hum and clank of laundry.

Only the occasional jingle of Cricket’s tags to remind me I’m not completely alone this morning.

Back later; my book is calling.

 

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Saturday status: sunbeam.

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