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.


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.


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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Lowell photowalk part 1

As mentioned below, on Saturday I had the good fortune to join a couple of photographer friends on an afternoon’s photowalk around Lowell, MA.  I chose Lowell as the mills provide interesting light and shadows, and I had never been to the National Park there.

IMG_0876I brought two cameras and three different films.  These shots are on expired FPP Retrochrome 320 in a thrift-shop Minolta Maxxum 5.  They were home developed, and my chemistry seems a bit exhausted.  The results were very grainy but have an interesting look.

Lowell photowalkLowell photowalkLowell photowalkLowell photowalkLowell photowalk

Lowell photowalk

Here I go again…

It’s been a long week here at Mosquito Hill. We’ve had two major storms in less than a week, both of which caused serious disruptions. The MH compound is served by a municipal electric company. The local guys do a great job of maintaining the lines and keeping the lights on; however, there’s not much they can do if the transmission lines coming into town fail.

Which they did.


I am not a fan of National Grid right now.

We quickly learned something unexpected about our technology. Our cell carrier has virtually no redundancy in our area. The moment the power grid failed, their network became unusable. We still had service, but nothing was getting through. (This morning, 36 hours after power was restored, I received a bulk dump of 28 texts from during the storm.)

Meanwhile service with the OTHER major carrier was fine. I sat at work watching my partner tether his laptop to his phone while I could not send a simple text to my wife.

We resolved to change carriers as soon as we possibly can. Due to contracts and fees that may take a while.

Hold that thought. . .


I went on a photowalk today with friends. We discussed our experiences attempting to limit the volume and influence of social media in our lives. One friend has had great success. He has carried multiple ‘dumb’ phones as experiments, and he has reduced his social media profile to Instagram only. I kind of envy him.

I have tried a dumb phone before with disastrous consequences, but I rushed headlong into the change with no backup or warning. You can probably see where this is going.

On the way home this afternoon I listened to my phone ding and boop with multiple alerts which I don’t need to answer. I’ve reduced them as much as I can, yet still it demands attention. A plan was hatched.

So I’ve done it again. I bought a prepaid dumb phone on my new preferred network. This time I didn’t deactivate my iPhone, but I plan to park it in a drawer. I will check it for important incoming calls or texts twice a day.

My goal is 30 days with the burner. I quit Facebook by staying off one day at a time. I hope to do the same with my attention-sucking, twitch-inducing smartphone.

Wish me luck!

It’s definitely not Kodachrome…

I spent a bit of time in the darkroom this afternoon, organizing and labeling the film stash. Clockwise from top left: slide films, black and whites, C-41 color, and a few oddballs like chromogenic B/W and infrared. Plus that one random reload in the antique Kodachrome can in the lower left corner. I wish I could remember what it was.

Off to the fridge with the lot.