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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Gas and Good Neighbors

On my way home the other day, I was startled by Uncle Si Robertson shouting “Hey! Hey!” As I was alone in the Jeep, this was even more surprising. The greatest amazement was the fact he was yelling from my shirt pocket.
With the swiftness of a woodchuck ascending a hill, I realized my phone was receiving a call. I cannot honestly say my phone “rings”. It chirps, warbles, beeps, honks, plays music, vibrates and talks. But it doesn’t ring, unless I choose the “old phone” tone, but, that is so 20th Century.
Seeing my Lovely Bride’s name, phone number, and photo of her with Ike on my screen, I promptly activated my turn signal, pulling safely onto the shoulder of the highway. Only after coming to a complete stop, shutting off the engine, and engaging the hazard flashers did I answer the call.
Actually, I swiped the screen, tucked the phone beneath my chin, dodged a semi, and said “Hello.”LB is quite considerate; she was letting me know her presence was required at a meeting in the middle of the county at 5:00.  She also had a meeting with some residents of her ward and others at 6:30. Therefore, dinner would be YOYO…You’re On Your Own. Which was fine; I recently successfully completed a week of bachelor-hood.
What struck my interest was the topic of the resident’s meeting; offensive smelling gas from one of their neighbors.  This promised no end of amusement to my permanently stuck  pre-teenaged brain. Eagerly, I agreed to attend this meeting in her absence. The tone of LB’s voice conveyed her slight surprise. Typically my participation in such events consists of avoiding them.  Like a root canal, I would prefer to not partake.
The sense of hilarity heightened upon learning the meeting was to be held at our local library. The irony, the juxtaposition; it was just too much!  Add the Mayor, Fire Chief, and Service Director to the mix; and I could barely contain the giggles.  All this because of someone’s olfactory assault upon the neighbors!
When LB said people were upset because of “a real bad gas smell”….well, I nearly swerved across two lanes of traffic while trying to control my laughter.
My warped little mind conjured up images of some poor soul relegated to a diet of sauerkraut, baked beans, and hard boiled eggs due to an extremely rare gastric malady. Gas-X has no effect whatsoever.
They guzzle baking soda and warm water in a vain attempt to buffer the inevitable reactions which only contributes in causing the expansive results to be more voluminous, to the chagrin of all.
It was with such anticipation that I sauntered into the meeting room.
Imagine my profound disappointment when I realized the topic of discussion centered upon an old abandoned natural gas well. Talk about a letdown.
The evening was not a total bust, however. Actually, I found it rather interesting. You must realize, though, I consider reading “Geology of the Great Lakes” to be moderately light reading. I find the antics of Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian tectonic plate shifts, the boring consistencies of glacial scouring, and the resultant topographical features quite entertaining.
The vast majority of people don’t realize the expansive geological reach of the Lakes region. Without boring everyone to tears, I will simply state Eastern Ohio is the Western edge of the Appalachian Ridge. Our lake shore consists of steep cliffs, with primarily narrow rocky beaches at their bases. And, in keeping with much of the Appalachian region, we have coal, oil, and gas. Along the eastern basin of Lake Erie, and under her waters are vast reserves of natural gas. In fact, Erie’s Canadian waters are dotted with scores of producing gas wells.
From the mid 19th until the mid 20th Centuries, our city was a rural township. Gas was rapidly becoming a viable heat and light source. As a result, wells were being drilled with abandon. Sadly, with the passage of time, many of those wells became just that; abandoned.
Eventually, steel and iron pipes which have been underground for decades become corroded, and ultimately fail. This was the catalyst for the meeting at the library.  Gas, from an abandoned well was seeping from a rusted pipe. As the gas percolates through the soil, there is a definite odor. The neighborhood would be permeated by the odor of gas.
The Fire Chief helped to allay fears of a cataclysmic disaster by reassuring those in attendance natural gas is flammable only in concentrations of 5 to 15% of the atmosphere. It also requires an ignition source. Essentially, the chances of a very narrow band of concentration outdoors, with an source to set it off simultaneously are rather remote.
Eventually, a plan of action was arrived at, tensions and worries were greatly reduced, the group departed, and a big stink was avoided.
All without a giggle or a guffaw.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Bachelor

I have had a somewhat different lifestyle the past several days.

No, we have not moved into a tent, we have not hit the lottery, and I am still waiting for the Publisher's Clearing House people to show up with the big cardboard check and balloons.

However, my Lovely Bride has been in Virginia visiting our daughter and her family. Our Grand-daughter, Gwen, was to have her tonsils removed. She made it very clear this could not be done in the absence of Grandma. Heeding the Unwritten Laws of Grandmother-hood. LB headed South-east; stopping to pick up our son-in-law's Mother as well. Gwen wound up with the Grandma BOGO. 2 in the same trip.
Meanwhile, I have been living the Life of Riley.

Having never really been a bachelor ( we married between my sophomore and junior years of college), I could scarcely contain myself.
The first night LB was gone, I came home from work, took the dogs out, fed the dogs, took a look at the menu she had left me, and fixed myself dinner. I managed to accomplish this task without filling the house with smoke.
Following dinner, I wandered into the TV room to watch those programs my Lovely Bride would rather not view. You know; those guy programs; things like a bunch of goofy people trying to find Bigfoot lurking in the linen department of Wal-Mart in Northern Oregon. Or, a bunch of goofy people racing about a bunch of swamps trying to catch alligators. Of course, there is the ever popular program of a bunch of goofy people trying to cut down more trees than a second bunch of goofy people.
I settled in on the couch, remote in hand, anticipating an evening of mindless viewing. I awoke to the sound of Ike expressing his urgent desire to be taken outdoors. It was 10:45. I stumbled up the stairs, took the dogs out, got them fresh water, made my way to our room, and turned in from my exhausting evening of sleeping on the couch.
The second night, though, I was determined to really let the wild and crazy flags fly. I arrived home from work, same routine with the dogs, dinner, etc., EXCEPT... that night I grabbed my guitar and headed out the door for (wait for it).... church worship team practice! How crazy can it get?

I returned about quarter to nine, repeat routine with dogs, only now.. as well as watching TV; I also started a load of laundry! I know, I know... it is pretty hard to believe. And... I even separated the colors from the lights. Yes sirree... I know how to have fun!
Friday, I met some friends for a fish-fry at one of the local churches. You know what I did?
I went back for seconds on the baked cod! Oh yeah, baby!!

Then, after the fry, I came home, took care of the dogs (do you pickup a pattern here?) then changed to go up to our daughter Shannon's and Eric's home for a backyard fire with my best buddy, Jim O. I really pushed the envelope this time; I left my phone at home on the charger!! No texts or calls for me!! Take that!!
Talk about crazy times! There I was, with my daughter, son-in-law, two grand-children, and my best friend of decades; who has served on Deacon Boards with! It was so wild, we called it a night about 11!
The weekend arrived...certainly, this is the time for wild and off the wall stuff. Saturday morning found me arising about 6:30, in order to (guess what) take care of the dogs, have breakfast, then depart for a day of adventure and intrigue. At 8:25, the Jeep turned into Shannon's drive to rendezvous with our grandson. We were spending the morning partaking of Easter egg hunts. It doesn't get much nuttier than accompanying a four year old to one of these! And we descended upon TWO of them! I nearly burst with giddiness upon seeing the Easter Bunny!

After returning said grandson to his home a few hours later, I stopped home to …. yeah, you got it.
I also did more laundry, then off to get a birthday gift for our granddaughter Delaney who was turning 10.

Following a stop to our daughter Char's house for Delaney's birthday, I then set off for an evening of excitement and merriment. I was attending a fund-raiser for our local library system.

You have no idea the zaniness, mad-cap antics, and behavior of a roomful of librarians! It was absolutely incredible! I know this may come as a complete shock to many of you; but did you know, librarians actually partake of adult beverages? And... they even dance!
They danced in the most uninhibited manner to songs such as “The Chicken Dance”, and “The Hokey-Pokey”. When the Polka Pirates played “There is No Beer in Heaven”... well, the crowd went absolutely berserk! I saw one librarian, whom I have known for many years, shamelessly take off her shoes!!
Finally, eleven o'clock found me coming through the door. Yeah, dogs, steps, bed time. Sunday morning I awoke raring to go.... off to church. I spent Sunday afternoon hanging close to home, getting ready for work on Monday.
In the midst of all this ribald activity I have managed to feed the fish twice a day, water the plants, get the mail from the box, take out the garbage, pay the bills, get up for work, go to work, stay at work, come straight home from work.
I have discovered several interesting things as well. I have had a hard time sleeping. I miss hearing my Lovely Bride's gentle breathing beside me. I miss reaching over to stroke her side or arm; content in having her beside me . I miss giving her a hug when I come in, discussing our days, and hearing of all her many busy activities.
All in all, I guess I would have made a pretty lousy bachelor.
I even put the seat back down....sigh.....

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Home Opener

One of the benefits of being the trophy spouse of an elected official is accompanying my Lovely Bride to various events. Typically these occasions entail fund-raisers, civic functions, or recognizing well-deserving members of the community.
The usual progression of events following our arrival soon finds LB engrossed in conversation with constituents, elected officials, or new hopefuls to the political arena. I generally become caught up in the swirling back-current and eddy of people which is observable in any such event. Eventually, I find myself in the company of the other trophy spouses.
It ain’t such a bad gig; as I am one of the few males in this select group. We commiserate with one another about the rigors of being arm-candy. Patiently, we await our cue; “I wouldn’t be here if it were not for my______.” Individually,  we set down our drink, smile and wave.  And the paparazzi…you have no idea!
However, there is one event I eagerly anticipate the entire year. I can be loud, boisterous, express my opinions, eat with my hands, and no one is appalled or offended
See, our town is home to a minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Every year, the owners of the Lake County Captains graciously invite the local city officials and others to join them in their loge for the Home Opener.
Finally, an event I can understand.
Typically, I am somewhat befuddled with usual event conversations regarding matching State grants, zoning ordinance restrictions, whom is running for what, and inter-city tax reciprocity. I listen attentively, nodding my head in assent, or frowning as if deep in thought at the appropriate times. Meanwhile, I am wondering if the clutch in my Jeep is starting to go.
I have also discovered a fun (for me, at least) interjection to these discussions. While mustering my most concerned look, I will ask “And how does that make you feel?” It is great! Most people launch into a lengthy, impassioned diatribe. Meanwhile, I am estimating how much clutch parts are going to cost me.
Opening night, however, finds me an integral part of the conversation. Batting averages, earned-run averages, strategy of the sacrifice bunt, pitching rotations, and the most recent unbelievably bone-headed, blind-as-a-bat, what-game-is-he-watching call the umpire made, I am part of them all.
Let the others find refuge in the warmth and comfort of the loge. Three of our grand-children and I came here to watch Baseball! We opt to park ourselves in the blue plastic stadium seats on the loge balcony. The back of the seat in front advises to keep your head in the game and be alert for foul balls. With a masterfully balanced plate of hot-dogs with Stadium mustard, a burger, odds and ends, and with a frosty example of the Pennsylvania brewer’s art in hand, the four of us settle in.
Being an early April evening in Northern Ohio, the weather is perfect for football. First pitch temperatures in the low 40s; augmented by 20 MPH winds whipping off Lake Erie are much more conducive to a Browns game.
Undeterred, we burrow deeper into our coats. Following the National Anthem, I was proud to pass along some time honored baseball traditions to a new generation.
They learned quaint sayings such as “Hey Batta-batta-batta! Hey Batta! Swing, Batta!” They also learned “Open yer eyes, Ump!”, and that ever popular “Hey Pitch! Try throwin’ toward the plate!”. The grands also learned “Gee, Officer…. I didn’t know dumping Cracker Jacks on the people below us was frowned upon.”
(Incidentally, did you know Baseball, and its derivatives (kickball, softball, et al) are the only sports in which the defensive team has control of the ball? Oh sure,… I know someone somewhere is proclaiming “Cricket! What about cricket?!?”  Yeah, technically, they are correct, but we are talkin’ baseball here.)
During the latter innings (as an aside, cricket also has “innings”, whether one or more, the term is plural) of the game, after the loge crowd thinned somewhat, and we could no longer feel our toes, we withdrew to the warmth. It was very fortuitous we did so.
Usually, Peter Carfagna, the owner of the team, is surrounded by friends and well-wishers; except this time. The man was alone, watching the game unfold. Seizing the opportunity, I approached to express my appreciation for thinking of us. As well as talk baseball.
More than a discussion of hits, runs, and errors; I got a rare glimpse of the heart of an owner. His face lit up when I mentioned the article highlighting the Captain’s new starting pitcher. He shrugged; “Tonight wasn’t his best outing, but that is baseball. Each new batter, each pitch can become a brand new game. Besides, we have 140 games to play yet.”
We discussed the open-endedness of baseball; there are no limitations imposed by a clock. Each play can encompass any area of the diamond; not regulated to progress toward a specific, fixed goal. The conversation wended around greats of the past, future legends starting out today. Eventually, the topic came to the topic of scouting and recruiting, the support the Indians provide, and our mutual love of the game.
Peter’s face beamed while discussing the large number of Captains who have received the call up to The Bigs.  He grew wistful looking beyond the pristine diamond and bright lights, watching games and championship victories of the past.
Peter turned toward me, a smile on his tanned face. “I am so proud of each of them. My wife and I think of these boys as family. I am proud to have been part of their development.”
Our conversation broke off as another guest came along side. We parted with a handshake.
I watched as he was steered across the room to meet another official, this time a State Representative. Peter glanced over his shoulder, to reveal the face of a man who would be perfectly content to be sitting in a stadium seat with a mustard covered dog, a cold beer, and be talkin’ baseball.