Sunday, April 29, 2007

Carbon footprints and such

To be truly honest, I do not like air pollution. I really don't. I hate the idea of airborne particulates entering my nose cilia and by extension, my lungs.

So am I a gross polluter by driving such a gas guzzler, generally by myself? This barn of a vehicle is a 1998 Ford E-150. I purchased it because the E-Series Ford full-size vans are reputed to be very reliable, and as someone in a wheelchair, I need a reliable vehicle to get around and not get stranded. For me, reliability mattered the most. Of course, this vehicle empty is at least 5,400 lbs, about the same as a rear-wheel drive Tahoe or Expedition. The best real world economy that I get is 17 MPG. And I drive a 56 mile round trip to work M-F.

So per most of the enviros, as the sole occupant, I am emitting a HUGE carbon footprint. The result most enviros want is a huge tax on vehicles like mine (and large SUV's as well) that supposedly emit such a footprint. If I had to pay > $6 per gallon for gasoline, I couldn't work where I do. I paid $3.05 today ($58.00), and this hurts, but is at least manageable now.

I do somewhat resent that I would be penalized for driving a vehicle that suits my requirements. There are only two types of vehicles that will accommodate a rigid frame wheelchair: a full-size van modified like mine or specially modified minivans. The minis would average abous 22 MPG on my commute, but the enviros would probably consider this excessive as well. Why do I drive this far? Because as I have found, there is a certain predjudice against wheelchairs, and I Want to work...I'm not complaining, I have to try harder. I've had this position since Jan, 2005, and am happy to have it. The company is enlightened about dealing with a person's ability, although it
is 28 miles from home. And be advised that yesterday, I passed the CT Emissions Test!

I then ask, should I care about my large carbon footprint?
I can't care, because I want to work and this is a great opportunity. I only have 125,000 miles on the van, so it will last awhile. In two years, I can think about a Grand Caravan or Sienna modified and reduce my footprint. Really if I could walk, tomorrow I would buy a new Nissan Versa, the funky hatchback with a manual transmission and 36 MPG. Stop dreaming, Ralph :>)

Friday, April 27, 2007

It is raining and cool today, and with the magic of digital photography, I'll warm up a bit. Here, Kid1 is relaxing after dinner on the patio, Nothing like a serious carmelized marshmallow after an outdoor meal. Note that we use charcoal...for a better grilling. I know that there are two ways to grill, and a gas grill is cleaner, with more even heat. But with charcoal there is more smoke and soot and burning odors in your clothes and hair. What more could a guy want?

This one is rather unremarkable, taken (per a roadgeek's request) along I-95 in Providence RI...except that I-195 is our exit for the Cape...and we are 60% of the way there by now!!! Of course, we traverse many garden spots such as Swansea...Best travel news this year is that the dreaded Sagamore Rotary before the bridge to the Cape is being replaced with freeway style ramps...If you've not travelled any of these circular gems in the Commonwealth of MA, consider yourself blessed!

Hyannis is on Nantucket Sound, not the direct ocean, so no real waves. However, the water temp is 73 deg F in the sound. Drive 20 miles to the ocean in Orleans, they have huge waves but really cold 58 deg F water...pick your poison. Kids 1 and 2 are relaxing! Of course, the older timers are trying to keep out of the sun. I'm glad that there is a K-Mart nearby, so we can chuck these floats for ones that will hold air :>) I say that the town of Barnstable beaches are really nice, well guarded, family friendly and have beach wheelchairs and the lifeguards have helped me to get into the chair and have pushed me onto the beach.

Finally, every resort area has good Ice Cream. This is the Four Seas in Centerville, and I think that it has been here since the 30's or 40's (that old neon sign dates the place a bit). Great ice cream with absolutely no ambiance outside. The first mint chocolate chip I've seen that wasn't green (tan). Delicious due to copious amounts of butterfat. I've seen this place mentioned on the History Channel...the crowds here attest that this is good. There are other good ice cream places on the Cape, such as Katie's in Hyannis and the Sundae School in Orleans. We should try them all.

(It is still raining and cool at the end of this post)...As they say, think warm thoughts..

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Another year in the scheme of things

It is a new year and some may say I'm neither prettier nor smarter, but merely older (you won't hear that from me). Remember, age 52 is the end of the 52nd year, not the beginning! But as I mused before, these B-days are always good days. I don't think or feel old (older, maybe) but I have run into younger people than me who seem older.

The F.O is treating me to dinner at a local red sauce restaurant. To me, anyone can celebrate anything over a heaping plate of linguine covered with sausages or meatballs, and the owner's homemade red wine (tastes a bit like Paisano). And how can you miss on the crushed red pepper flakes and freshly grated cheese on the pasta? I'll even nibble around the edges of the hot peppers on the salad.

Of course, I remember the first time I was treated to a birthday dinner by the lovely Patti was in 1985. The restaurant was then called the Olde Birmingham, housed in the ca. 1870's Birmingham National Bank. Patti reserved one of the tables along the wall with the high backed chairs. And the vault was the red wine cellar. That was the nicest birthday I'd had, and of course, my 30th.

The only difference this year is that Kid1 won't be here but at school. We can celebrate this again after school ends. Call it my 52.25 year old party.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ageless (in my opinion, anyway)

Well, it's my birthday shortly, and this semi-ageless one will be the ripe age of 52 (years, not eons). I really am not that concerned about age, as every birthday beginning with the 'dreaded' 3-0 has been better than the one before. Of course I and the F.O. met just before that milestone, and being in love tends to make one forget about such superficial things as growing "old"...

Every B-day starting then was better (or at least different), such as Age 31 (married), age 34 (Kid1), age 36 (Kid2), age 40 (wheelchair), age 50 (my present job). Age per se can not determine if you are happy, and it shouldn't.

I note that I "wear my age well", y'know I think that I look younger than my age. But why is that important in itself? Why do some want to eradicate most if not all signs of age? No lines means that you have never smiled, laughed or been deep in thought...why eliminate signs of living? I figure that as you age you have more experiences which means more knowledge that you can use and more importantly impart to others, especially to Kid1 and Kid2.

Enough philosophizing about this...Being with my family, all birthdays are special...Let's hear it for the boy man geezer!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Calling all Performing Artistes

We don’t do this enough, so Patti, Kid2 and myself saw live theater on Saturday. We saw To Kill a Mockingbird and it was wonderful. I am slightly embarrassed, but I never read the book or saw the play or movie until this production. As Patti and myself are season subscribers, I was happy to see something new.

The production was at Center Stage, which is less than ten minutes from our home in CT. The proprietors/directors are Fran and Gary, and I’m always amazed to see the level of detail applied to any play or musical they produce. And the acting is superb, more so when you consider the players are talented non-professional actors. But the actors respond so well to their direction that the production is seamless. It looks professional, and this holds true for the three children’s parts, especially the Scout character. All acted beautifully.

And, the stage was in the middle of the floor and because the seats were arranged around the stage as they were, the show was intimate and there were no bad seats. In November, they staged Requiem for a Heavyweight with the stage in the middle (to evoke a boxing ring?) and it was equally unique. Many of today’s roles were played by the same actors in Requiem.

Not having read the book, I think I knew how the trial would end, but not how the play ended. The show is so good that it held my attention. In fact at the end of the show, the actor who played the Mayella character said she wanted to meet me because I must have been following the show so intently even this actor noticed that. I guess that this isn’t new for me. After Requiem, an audience member who was sitting on the other side of the ‘ring’ came over after that show, and said that she noticed that I was really into that play.

Kid1 and Kid2 have seen way more on Broadway than I: Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Les Mis, and Phantom. Kid1 had also seen The Producers twice. I have only seen Les Mis on Broadway in 1988, pre-wheelchair. I know that to get around NYC best, you really need the use of the subways and taxis, both inaccessible to me…I’ll make it happen sometime :>) But don’t look at B-way as the only thing as there is good regional and local theater (and even schools, as Kid2’s drama club did a great production of A Streetcar Named Desire recently). Any live production will do.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Where's Ralph (is it my turn to watch him???)

I have been looking through my widely scattered archives, and I found another bit of history from the early days in Bayside. This is from the first time in Queens (1956-1958) at I think 204-07 35th Avenue.

At this time in 1957, Grandpa (Ralph), Grandma (Agnes) and Aunt Terry were taking me and my older sister to Manhattan that day. There is a sequence, and I'll post them when I find them. Grandma and Terry are dressed in their finest dresses and stylish hats and gloves, grandpa a suit, and Michele a dress and hat. Can you imagine people dressing up to go downtown today? I believe that we took the subway, and perhaps the Staten Island Ferry.

The next picture is also from 1957 as well. They were taken on the observation deck at the Pittsburgh Airport. In the first one, Grandpa (Ralph I) is to the left and Dad (Ralph II), flying back to NYC, is on the right. Notice how people also dressed up to fly in those days. Even Grandpa dressed up to drive dad to the airport! Grandpa looks great in that suit, BTW.

I probably got my appreciation for aviation around that time, hearing about that trip from my dad and the UPI travel/crash stuff when we lived in Bayside the second time. If you are wondering (and the First Officer surely isn't), the TWA plane is a Martin 404 powered by the legendary Pratt&Whitney R2800 piston engines (legendary to a confirmed airgeek like me at any rate). Everyone today hates the minor bumps that pass for turbulence in a jet today, but that plane probably never flew more than 12,000 feet, and that was a turbulence magnet bouncing in the clouds.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Best to You this Morning

The First Officer knows this very well, but for those unawares, I really like cold cereal in the morning. Ever since I can remember, I have been a fan of these golden flakes or whatever shape.

I think that I picked this up from Grandpa...He was a cereal nut, but he liked to mix cereals, like Special K with Puffed Wheat or Wheaties with Puffed Rice, things like that. Growing up, I think that I ate more cereal in Bayside and East Hartford than the rest of the family combined! Well, not that much.

Much of what I like today I ate when I was younger, such as the pictures suggest and Rice Krispies, all Chex flavors, Wheaties, Raisin Bran, Kix, Shredded Wheat and Special K. Probably others I've forgotten (horrors!) as well. For all unsweetened cereal, I add honey and 2% milk (I think that the F.O. is shaking her head when she reads this).

And there are new cereals I will try many. In the cabinet now is Honey Bunches of Oats and they're quite good (no honey needed). I'll try anything. And what about all those defunct brands? Does anyone remember Post Crispy Critters from the mid 60's? I didn't think so! I remember the TV ad song "The one and only cereal that comes in the shape of animals". How about General Mills Triples? From the late 80's until about 1999, this was a sort of knockoff of the famous crisp rice cereal, except the cereal included blue and red kernels. It was great, but the general decided to drop the brand...oh well.

I'll eat eggs that are in an omelet or scrambled (no fried, soft or hard cooked, or poached), or pancakes or waffles, but cereal's number one for breakfast. The F.O. gave me for Christmas 2006 a Tony the Tiger bowl, spoon and juice glass...which I use often. Should I write an Ode to cereal? Suggestions are welcome!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine

I.m still waiting for warm weather...we've had this stupid Nor'easter since late Saturday and 6-7 inches of rain and it's only 40 outside...well, I want warm weather. I, like many at a particular age, do not want my life to speed by but I am starting to think more and more about vacation time in August. Usually happens about now.

For the past few years, we go to the Cape (Cod), and stay in the heart of Hyannis. We usually stay at a motel right in the center that has (1) wheelchair room and is in walking/rolling distance of every restaurant on Main Street. One of my favorites evokes an English pub (with 20 oz. British pints of beer only $4.75) and pub grub. And many places with the best clam chowdah anywhere (and, this is Red Sox territory on the Cape). And a Mini-Golf place on Main St, in which I can play nearly all 18 holes in my chair). And a genuine French bakery where you can get a genuine baguette for breakfast for $2. We (Captain, First Officer, Purser and Second Officer) really love this place, and hope to still keep the tradition even as the urchins grow up, and they're still game...College or not.

Another late summer treat is when our home grown Roma tomatoes and Basil are fully grown. I keep thinking about my favorite summer salad with sliced Roma's, fresh Basil leaves and Mozzarella tossed with a bit of oil and Balsamic vinegar with a touch of salt & pepper. Chill this or about 3 hours, and serve this dish on the patio with some grilled Portuguese bread and a crisp Sauvignon Blanc...I see some bloggers probably in SoCal, and pine for your weather...I don't want to get older too quick, but my favorite summer things are so worth waiting for! Hey, it will be 70 (F) this Sunday...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Somebody Else's Past Today

I've had this picture in my files forever it seems. And this is the question: Who the heck is Phil and Marty?! The note on the back says Phil is 3 and Marty 2. Unsure of the date, but I believe it to be how much, I don't know. There is something about the suit short set, straw hats and two-tone Buster Brown shoes, but I sure can't describe it...can anyone?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

My Namesake

My given name is Ralph I. _______ III, I was named for my grandfather, Mr. Ralph I. _______ of Steubenville, Ohio by my father, Ralph II.

Grandpa was as unique as you can imagine. He was born in St. Marys, West Virginia in 1902. What he didn't have was much formal education (8th grade), but had more innate intelligence than most people I have met. He repaired police and fire radios in a 30+ mile radius of S-Ville and got his license in 1934. Given the day, he actually leased equipment...common today, but rare, I'm sure, back then.

Three interesting things about him. For the first, remember that Ralph was an honorable and honest man in all his dealings. When I was 16, he implored me not to smoke. He said that if I didn't ever smoke, he would give me his gold pocket watch (I'd guess from about 1920). I had smoked by the time of this offer, and couldn't take it. Remember he was honorable...he expected me to be as well.
The takeaway: Your reputation for honesty is important, don't squander it

The second was something that he told me when I was in college: "Ralph, never do anything half-assed". In his eloquent yet simple Ohio River Valley logic, he meant for me to do my best.

Finally, he probably had the only national edition of the Sunday New York Times in Steubenville at his news stand on 4th Street. He'd let me read it first sometimes, but his rule was that I had to put it back in the order I found it, section by section. He didn't have the education, but he never stopped learning...

Grandpa passed away in 1981. I wish he could have been around to meet the First Officer, and she him as well - they would have hit it off so well. Honestly, I probably have almost as many little kid memories of Ralph as I do of Bayside when I was young. Few know it, but I am proud to carry his name...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Kid's Transition

I read a blog today that reminded me of my youth, and this one was about the Cleaver family. And things like this bring back all sorts of good memories. Mostly when Jerry Mathers was 'the Beav', my family lived in New York City, more specifically 203-11 42'nd Avenue in Bayside, Queens. We were in a nice 3 Bedroom apartment in a neighborhood of apartments and single family houses on 1/4 or 1/8 acre lots. What do I remember?

- There were lots of TV stations to watch on our honey-blond, swivel base DuMont TV: Channels 2-4-5-7-9-11-13. And the TV repair guy to fix it about once a month.
- Towering suspension bridges like the Throgs Neck (opened in 1961), Whitestone and G.Washington
- Long vehicular tunnels.
- My mother let us (in pairs) go around the neighborhood. We'd get a nickel from our parents, and we could walk to a candy store/ soda fountain at 202nd St and Northern Boulevard to buy candy. The only hard rule was that we were forbidden to cross Northern Blvd., a terribly busy thoroughfare. Even at age 6, I agreed with that good rule.
- And of course, the subway. When I was 5, I had a skin condition that required me to see a specialist in Manhattan. My mother and I took the express subway from Flushing and I still remember the stops: Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights (remember that one from the Car 54 Where are You theme?), and Astoria before we got to the City.

My father got a better job at United Aircraft and we moved into the burbs in E. Hartford, CT in early 1963. Besides the second bathroom, which was an improvement over the apartment with six kids, it started out differently:

- There were only 2 TV Stations (3 and 8)...Unless you had an UHF converter box or a TV with UHF
- Forget about great suspension bridges and tunnels, the CT River wasn't wide enough
- Being in the burbs meant you had to get driven to any retail..too far to walk
- No subways!

This didn't mean life was bad, far from it. I had my own un-shared bedroom at least until my brother was born in 1964. And it was great having a brother after 5 sisters. It's just that at age 5-6, growing up in New York everything was so immense it was impressive to a little kid.

Later after we moved, I started listening to WDRC-AM 1360 and acquired a taste for top-40 radio in 3rd grade. Oddly enough, today we listen to WDRC-FM 102.9, an oldies station, and it is remarkable that I hear songs that remind me of 1963-64. I recently heard California Sun by the Rivieras, Glad All Over by DC5 and any early Beatles songs like I want to Hold Your Hand. Is my memory too good? I remember so much from an early age from Bayside...I should probably write it all down before I get too old and forget! I'm not really a fogey at (almost) 52.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Here a me, There an ow, Everywhere...

I grew up a dog person, with Boris, Maggie and Tasha. Boris was the best of a nice bunch, he would always pick up a gift to offer you when you got home. All 3 were pretty loyal and enjoyed being skritched. I like doggies!

So how did we end up with a felinus obnoxious? More precisely, Sir Humphrey of the Uplands? Well, being a guy, I wanted a big oaf of a dog, big and loyal. This is diametrically opposed to the first officer's view of the ideal caninus obnoxious, a small lap dog. How do you bridge that gulf? With a compromise known as a cat.

I have a friend who had at the time had 8 cats, and Sir Humphrey showed up at his house. Humpo had a collar, and they let him in. In no time at all, Hump was picking a fight with the Alpha male in that house. we were asked if we'd like a cat, so we said okay.

He is a good cat: doesn't claw drapes or furniture or walk around food on the counter or table. A 'keeper' I was advised by a cat person. He even sleeps on my corner at the foot of the bed, although he becomes a "fur slick" at least 4 times larger if he gets really relaxed. I find that I don't have the heart to kick him off the bed, so I attempt to sleep in the most convoluted pretzel shape so as to not disturb him. You wouldn't do that to yours, would you??? I shudder to think of my sleeping problems with a 100 pound Yellow Lab at my feet...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Am I Flighty?

What is this fascination I have with planes and airliners? I'm not sure, but when I was really little (1960-1962), my father was a travel writer for UPI in New York City. The 707 jets were new, and my father often travelled abroad and my mother would haul all 5 (at the time) kids to see my father off or return at Idlewild (now JFK) airport. I loved watching planes at an early age.

My father was also the resident plane crash expert/writer at UPI. One bad crash he wrote about was a mid-air over NYC between a TWA Constellation and a United DC-8 in 1960 (I was 5). My mother told me this story that we were outside the day after, and I opened my arms (like a plane) and I crashed into a snowbank saying "I'm a DC-8!" Now a 5 year old doesn't understand the protocol about these things, but that might have seemed cute in an offbeat way, I guess.

Fast forward to our domicile in which we have resided for the last 16 years. Saturdays in the summer, we grill on the patio, drink wine, and (at least I) watch airplanes...Many flights flying east from JFK to Europe fly over our house. About 10 years ago, we counted at least 35 planes during the course of the meal. I often comment that "Here comes the bar cart (on the plane)" or something inane like that. I like watching planes.

I have flown with the wheelchair on Continental, Southwest and Delta and all were fine. It i s a unique procedure to board the plane, but once I was bumped into first (spinach lasagne and free wine) instead of coach (peanuts, maybe, and $5 Beer). I can get the bulkhead seat which has more legroom, one of the many advantages of the wheelchair :>)

The thing I like best about flying is knowing that you are in a heavier than air machine flying through the air...

I do have other interests...really...stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chain of command?

  • I don't know how long I can keep up this pilot-in-command stuff. You know, like I'm the Captain, the first mate is the First Officer, kid 2 is the Flight Engineer and kid 1 is the...Purser??? I'm reaching here, aren't I?

  • I really don't bark orders here...this crew (myself and the first mate) is a true partnership / collaboration / friendship...And we have so much in common. When we met on 1/30/1985, check out these similarities:
  1. She was/is a writer, as was my father
  2. I was a Buyer, and her father was a Buyer
  3. We both drove VW Rabbits ('79 auto, '82 4-speed)
  4. We both shot pictures with a Pentax K1000
  5. We both like red wine
Cool, wasn't it! But through the years, it's even more...we think alike, we like the same art, houses, landscaping, whatever...I always said I'm sentamental!

  • It was nice to see kid 1 this past weekend. I took her back to school (1 hour), but we stopped at an old Hartford area diner (with a large neon sign) for breakfast on the way. My choice was a bacon and cheddar omelet and kid 1 had a ham and cheddar omelet, rye toast. and fresh diner coffee. Fat? Cholesterol? Calories? Caffeine? Who cares! Nothing like a big diner breakfast sometimes
  • Tomorrow is kid 2's high school band warm-up concert for the band trip to Philadelphia in two weeks. We love these events. He started with the piano, played sax, and really likes the marimba (piano has a keyboard) and learned the trombone for the James Bond theme they'll be playing...and the music director is fabulous, and a wonderful teacher and motivator. Why do kids have to grow up???
Patti will be giving lessons in adding graphics, blog links, etc. I want to blog every day. I can't say if blogging is therapeutic, but I like it!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Cleared for the Approach

I'm not really an 'airhead' in the endearing dopey way. The air in my head needs to be replaced with facts, stuff or whatever interests me. Can't stay empty for long!

I am a boomer, married for 20+ and father of two, who muses about all sorts of things, perhaps some offbeat. I'd like to blog about these things. What has convinced me to take this plunge is that the main love of my life is a writer who has taken a plunge into the blog, and really enjoys this.

My intersets are all over the place. As you may know, "Cleared for the approach" means you are lined up with the runway, landing flaps set, gear down and barring any mistakes...

But I like all wheeled conveyances such as my Pride 1103 Jazzy wheelchair, my Ford E-150 Club Wagon and the first officer's Hyundai.

I love to cook, as our kitchen has been modified to fit my personal wheeled conveyance (lowered counters, range, sink, etc). Chicken Dijon with a crisp Pouliiy Fuissé anyone?

I can speak about the Interstate highway system in CT with anyone...even if they don't care!

I have many interests...And I like to learn new things...And I like to talk with interesting people.

"Oh Its a Blogger's Life for Me..."