Friday, September 28, 2007

I should be dancing (yeah!)

Okay, I think that it is a function of you can't always get what you want. Of course, since I am unable to walk, I of course do not dance. Yet it is something I'd love to do. Perhaps I think more about this when we have our typical Saturday Night Feast (get it?), when two of the boom box FM stations are programmed for Disco (97.5 and 107.9), one to Big Band/Swing (90.1), and one for oldies (102.9). All of these have songs that are so danceable...
Disco would be the best for this. I never really appreciated the genre in its day, as when I was in college I fancied myself as more of a rocker, so avoided most of those songs. Today, though, I really like this style, so it is no longer a guilty pleasure. It is that dance beat that makes me want to move right now. Even if this is not your style, I would defy anyone (with legs, anyway) to not dance to Boogie Wonderland by Earth Wind and Fire:

"I find romance
When I start to dance
In boogie won-der-land.
Dance, boogie won-der-land, etc"

John Travolta danced great in Saturday Night Fever. However, I would like to dance to other styles as well. I really enjoy all those old movies with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire that involve those wildly choreographed dance sequences. The music is different, but any catchy tunes from the Big Band or Swing era can be danced to without much provocation. Astaire sings and moves and taps so effortlessly:

"Steppin' out with my baby
Can't go wrong 'cause I'm in right
Ask me when will the day be
The big day may be tonight"

I would love to move like this! I like lots of old songs. One of my favorites is a rollicking number called Well Git It (made famous by Bob Crosby, Bing's brother).This song moves so fast, I love it as a dance tune. Alas, I do not think you can add an audio link to Blogger. In fact, when he kids were little and had their birthday parties at home, we used this song (or Modern Love by David Bowie) as the musical chairs song...what a riot. The little kids had to move fast for that game with that song. We banned Pop-Goes-the Weasel from birthday parties - too slow.

Early Motown had a great dance beat in so many songs ("Sugar pie honey bunch...I can't help myself"). Being able to dance does not affect my quality of life per se, but it would be nice. When I hear something like Disco Inferno ("Burn baby burn") I at least move and sway in my seat...If I were suddenly able to dance, I would probably be a dancing fool, maybe an obnoxious dancing jerk. Heck, I'd even like to learn the nuance of Polkas or the Chicken Dance).

However, I will leave now with the sage advice of the Brothers Gibb:
"You should be dancing, yeah
you should be dancing, yeah"

Home is where the heart is

Though I wasn't been born here, CT is my home state. It's where I spent the greater part of my 52 years, so it is home. I spent much of my youth contemplating a move to somewhere different (Atlanta and Minneapolis were possibilities when I was 22), but I remained in this state. I met my love here, we have raised our children here, some of my family are still in this state.

If opportunity beckons in some other part of the USA, why didn't I move? As the events have unfolded in my life, the reasons for being here include the personal: the kids' grandmother, aka: Gooma, lives 15 minutes away, to the practical/mundane: the house is configured for the wheelchair including the kitchen and bathroom, 36" wide doors everywhere and ramps galore. And I like where we live, the neighborhood is quiet, and the town is okay, despite the political machine that runs the town (and we all know that all political machines perpetuate their existence first, the taxpayers second. But what city/town doesn't have a local government like this?).

So is the grass greener elsewhere? You might think so. One of my sisters and her husband arranged a job transfer from CT to Charlotte a few years ago. Saw a picture of their house, and you hear what they paid for it, you are suitably impressed. Yet, they are coming back to the state next month - I suppose that cheaper real estate might not outweigh the pull of your family. But real estate costs are only a relative indicator of desirability. As expensive as we think the area is, there are far more expensive places: Long Island, DC area, California come to mind. Someone who attends our church has moved here from the Bronx (or is it pronounced Brawnnx, Lynn or Joan?). They think real estate around here is priced quite reasonably. So it's not that.

Is it the weather? I'm not big on winter and snow, but there are colder and snowier places like upstate NY, Minnesota, Montana. Of course there are warmer places like Phoenix and LA. But that isn't it either. I think that people are comfortable with their families, friends and known surroundings. The grass looks greener (not our turf, though), somewhere else, sometimes. Yet this is our home. The other places are for visiting. I've visited parts of 33 states (I'm including a change of planes in Atlanta to cover GA), two provinces of Canada, Bahamas and five European countries. I'll live in CT and when I mint my millions, I'll purchase a wheelchair accessible RV and visit more.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Purses, etc.

The picture on the right, modeled by the lovely Patti, could possibly be described as one of the following:
  1. A pocketbook
  2. A purse
  3. A yarn bag
  4. A support device for my right leg for driving my E-150 van.

I describe it as number 4 on the above list. But others in this domicile, notably the aforementioned strawberry blonde, Patti. She thinks that it is a man's handbag, really. When I brought it home, she took just one look (like the song), and I thought she was going to fall on the ground she was laughing so hard. She thought it looked like a man's purse

I guess that on the face of it, she has a point. Witness the close-up on the left. First is the material. I do not know what the old-fashioned material is: Is it a brocade? Is it damask? Let's just settle on this being a material that would not look out of place on your grandmother's sofa (or divan, as my Grandma V. had). I'll set-up the problem that necessitated the purchase of this handbag purse yarn bag. When I am in the driver’s seat, my legs flop outward and are splayed. My left leg is held in a comfortable position by the door, but I need to support my right leg or it is terribly uncomfortable. I filled the bag with foam and batting, and use it to support my leg against the console.

I went to A.C. Moore, the big box craft retailer, and I like the store, even if I'm not into scrapbooking. We purchased a pine pie cabinet there, Kid2 painted it an antique blue, and it looks good. Anyway, I really went in for a pillow and couldn't find one that would work, but in the yarn department, I saw this. I thought it was perfect, and brought it home to stuff. I have told Patti that this bag will never leave the van, except for this picture shoot. I do think that the bag might look a bit incriminating to the uninitiated (who couldn't understand the workings of Ralph's logic anyway...Neanderthals!)

I did buy something that FedEx dropped off earlier this week. It is a saddlebag for my wheelchair. I got this thing to carry the stuff I need (sound familiar?). This thing most closely replicates a genuine yarn bag handbag. Now I understand the relationship between Patti and her handbag, because I do the same thing when rifling through the bag: “Where’s my phone”, “Where’s my (insert expletive here) keys”, etc. Man purse, indeed!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Feeling caloric

I am trying to pay attention to my calorie intake. This is not a diet, but an attempt to keep track of my intake and see if I might lose weight. The problem with counting pounds, or more specifically being able to weigh myself, is that I can't stand and cannot get an accurate weight (I couldn't tell you what I weigh now.

Therefore, the next best thing for me to do is count calories. I want to be able to be honest in noting all that I eat and to be consistent in tracking it daily. I'm hoping the total for the day is 2000 or less. I figured Monday at 1575, but today at 2150 (ouch!). It was probably the Coors Original Beer (144 calories). I am generally rounding up the numbers if I'm unsure of the actual, so the actual count might be less. I suppose that I need to eat more apples, bananas and pears...

The methodology I used is to add the calories of all the items we used, total them and divide by the number of servings for my calorie count. I made a frittata yesterday, so the measurement went like this:

Two eggs, large: 75 calories each, 150 total, 75 per serving
One baked potato: 160 calories total, 80 per serving
Two Tbsp. Butter: 160 calories total, 80 per serving
One Oz Cheddar: 115 calories, 58 per serving

The mushrooms, 2% milk (1 Tbsp. only) and Basil leaves added 15alories. Add gape juice (8 oz, 160 cal.), whole wheat toast (2 slices, 180 cal.) and Shedd’s Spread (1 Tbsp., 60 cal.). This made yesterday’s breakfast total 675 calories. Is this good? Should it be less?

I bought the book at Barnes&Noble, and am using the calorie counts in this diary and a couple of good calorie count web sites. All in all, this will be a reasonable test of my integrity!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Phil and Marty (redux)

Some may have seen this image early in my blogging career. Some may have not (you may consider that a blessing). At any rate, the notation on the back of the photo says Phil 3 and Marty 2 - what are they scoring? I have no clue as to the identity of these erstwhile gentlemen, where the picture came from, or anything else about them. The quite intriguing thing here, of course, is the outfits. Really. The vaudeville hats, the two-tone Buster Brown shoes, the four button jackets. I'm guessing the late forties, but have no obvious point of reference. Just an odd and unique view of two individuals who may have been or who might be now:
  1. Investment bankers
  2. Aging hippies
  3. Grandparents of many
  4. Unabombers
  5. CIA operatives
Eh, who knows. I have to believe that their grandparents are the perpetrators of the desired and dreaded 'stylish' look. Oh, two and three-year-olds don't really care about about what they are wearing for the offending photo shoot. Providing of course that the following don't have said photo be shown in their teenage years to the following:

  1. buddies
  2. bullies
  3. prospective girlfriends
  4. military recruiters

But to show that I am not making light of these siblings, I voluntarily offer my dress Far be it from me to offer sartorial tips to Phil and Marty when you catch me in my 1961 (I think) Easter 'suit' they purchased at Alexanders or wherever in the Borough of Queens. I don't know if doinky quite sums me up here, but hey - my knees are no more knobbier than those of either Phil or Marty...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Steubenville - the gift that keeps on giving

I have found yet another piece of my heritage. I scanned this gem today, and really like this shot. It really is from another place and time, the note on the back of the picture says it is about 1920, when Grandpa was 18, and I believe it is Steubenville. He is the second from the left in this photo, and he looks fabulous what a 'snazzy' outfit (may as well use 1920's vernacular as well). People dressed up for the photographer in those days, not like today where people wear the least wrinkled tee shirt for the shoot. If you expand the picture and look closely, you will see the chain for the gold pocket watch I as offered once (if I did not ever smoke, but of course, I could not accept it in 1972 when I smoked Marlboro Menthols). The neighborhood has the look of a 1920's steel and coal mining town, ramshackle. And of course, mill and mine workers were not paid well before the unions arrived. I cannot imagine they considered themselves as poor. Notice that everybody dressed in their nicest outfits for the photographer, for church, for any special event.

Grandpa was an iconoclast, he could not work for the 'boss man', especially in a mine or steel mill. Dirty and dangerous work was not for him. Physical work was okay, but he wanted to control his destiny. In fact, although from the hills and hollers of rural West Virginia and with only an eighth grade education, he was very refined, a thinker, a highly intelligent man. He looks like a real gentleman above. Like Steubenville's most famous son, Dean Martin, he was someone who was not ever going to work in a pre-OSHA steel mill that probably looked like the pit of Hades when steel was produced then.
I never met the other people here (L-R): Half-sister Essie, his mother Lucinda Yoho (she was mostly of native descent, Cherokee is only a guess), and James, his father, who was killed in a mill accident in 1927. It is the things about this picture that are most intriguing: Did they own or rent, did they have a car, did they even have a radio (first commercial radio broadcast in 1920 on KDKA in nearby Pittsburgh), anything about life in 1920. I am not living in the past, certainly not my past. However, any historic photo just makes me more and more curious…

Monday, September 10, 2007

Smile, and the whole world...

It has been a good weekend. The [Red] Sox are still 5 1/2 ahead of the Yankees (3 for 4 against the O's). The Patriots won big. On Friday, I arranged a job interview for Tues. Bought a nice Hawaiian shirt at Kohl's for a measly $9. Social Security has the right to remain silent. All good things. But the best part of the weekend is being together with family for a 50th birthday party for my sister Sharon. We picked up Kid1 at school, figuring the food at the banquet place might be an improvement over the University's cafeteria. And Patti's mom came with us (I treated her to a rum gimlet). There were as many of the family as there is in CT. And it was a very party arranged by brother-in-law Bob. Here birthday girl enjoys the wonderful printed prose on this card.

But as readers have probably have noted I don't seem to smile for pictures so well. I guess that I don't pose well with others...ah, but I am smiling in the picture to the right. Laughing, actually at the party. So miracles do happen.

And miracles of miracles, Kid2 does more than flash a smile, he too laughs well. His HS senior picture looks really good. He has his mom's good looks, he only looks more like me to the extent that we don't smile all that much for posed pictures. You will note that Patti and Kid1 do smile plenty and have lovely smiles. We all enjoyed ourselves at the party.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Government in Action

I am back in my skirmish with my favorite giant government agency, Social Security. I think that my issues with them may be ending this month (if I'm lucky) or just a bit longer than that (if I'm not). I have alluded to this before, but SSA (the three letter swear word for Social Security) claims that I have been overpaid to the tune of a high six-figure amount. I have been attempting for years to get the agency to reduce this overpayment amount to the correct amount, which is much lower. That said, I had contacted the local constituent services office of our US Representative, and asked for their help. Apparently, they had contacted my nemesis, the local SSA office. I received a call last Friday from the rep I last spoke with on Aug. 2...and in our phone call, the snippiness I received in person was gone. She sounded very contrite, almost nice - when will I present my offer for a possible compromise settlement. I thought by next Friday. A few minutes later, I received a call from the Reps office. She was nice, but must have put the fear of the almighty in the SSA office. A comforting thought (for me, not SSA)...

I have prepared a one-time settlement offer. The fun part on this offer it is on page 4 of a four-page letter...pages 1-3 are a reiteration of every screw-up and violation of protocol SSA has engaged in from Feb. 2000 to Aug. 2007. It can be cathartic to be able to slam your nemesis in writing! I cannot run to eliminate stress, but I can let off steam by writing a rebuttal. Patti is the professional writer in these parts, and it sounded very good to her. I even pointed out to them that I attribute my Ulcerative Colitis to them (when you receive an incorrect invoice for a six-figure amount, you get systems were badly out of control...), and the meds to help to fix the problem are $300 per month out-of-pocket. Just thought they should know.

I will deliver my SSA-795 Claimants Statement to SSA tomorrow, about 3:00...why then? It may wreck the weekend of whoever at SSA has to deal with this letter. I will forward copies to my US Rep's office in New Haven via registered mail. If this offer is accepted, I will be very satisfied. The sad thing here is that I can recite SSA forms by heart, especially the SSA-561-U2, SSA-632-BK and the SSA-795 come to mind. I probably know many SSA rules better than the fools who work there. I need to get a life, or a fat Steak-au-Poivre and a fine Bordeaux. Alas, I'd better get a job to afford that:>)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Adam and Sue and Steve

This has been a nice weekend. The star of the day on Saturday is of course little Adam Michael at his Baptism. As some of you know, he was born premature in February, three months early at a svelte 2 lb 12 oz. Everybody understands that preemies have a much better chance than even 20 years ago, but when it is closer to you, it's very easy to doubt. My niece Sue and hubby Steve are really nice people, but as the saying goes, do you believe in miracles? If you you have faith, hope and the belief that your prayers will be answered (and I do), miracles will happen. And his parents will tell you, he is a fighter, which is great. Shall we raise our glasses (any beverage is okay): To Adam, to Sue and to Steve - We all wish for nothing but the best for you all... you are a wonderful family.

Since the Baptism and reception was near Hartford in Manchester, we were able to pick up Kid1 for the event. We were able to get a couple of shots of the family at the church. Looking over the three of us is, I guess, St. Bridget. I don't pose so well for staged pictures I guess (no smile). However, I don't always see Kid2 in a smile that often either. Is this a guy thing? I can't say, but even minus the smile, we had a really good time that day. Kid1 was supposed to work four hours on Saturday, and four on Sunday, but was resourceful enough to agree to work eight on Sunday. This way we could enjoy the dinner afterward, all four of us opting for the prime rib. Haven't heard from Kid1 since after her eight solid hours of helping students move stuff into the dorms. Yet another fine outing for our clan.

At church there is a new family there, and the five year old girl made an inquiry: "Why do you use a wheelchair". I said "I can't walk". She said "Okay". It made sense to her. Kids are so resilient, what's with grownups anyway?

The rest of the weekend was uneventful, often dealing with food. Chicken grilled outdoors for yesterday, and today it was squash tomatoes, limes and fresh garden oregano. Along with pan-fried halibut, and fresh tomato and cheddar salad. The best of the summer. And as out tomato supply dwindles, there is a roadside stand in nearby Orange with thousands of beautifully ripe tomatoes ($2.00/lb), summer squash, zucchini, peppers and pickling cucumbers. I should start counting calories this week, and fresh vegetables are a pretty yummy way to try to control weight. It has been a good weekend.