Playing Timpani on the Fourth of July!

Here’s a picture of my daughter Lexi and her friend Connor trying out our new timpani (kettle drums) during our Fourth of July cookout. New timpani? In the back yard? Does this require a little explanation?

Last Sunday, Allysen was scanning our town email list, and she came across an unusual item: Things being discarded during clean-out of old school building, including this, that, and two kettle drums. “Do we want kettle drums?” she asked me. “Why not?” I said, and we hopped into the trusty Ranger to go take a look. Sure enough, two old but serviceable-looking copper kettle drums were beside the dumpster. Soon thereafter, they were in our back yard.

I played snare and bass drum (and clarinet) in my high school marching band, but I haven’t played any kind of drum since then. Maybe it’s not too late! These didn’t come with any sticks or mallets, so I popped into our neighborhood drum store. The owner, having worked with the schools, knew all about these drums. He said they were good ones (if in need of some repair to the base of one), and he made a call to confirm for me that they had indeed been put out for anyone to take. He was sold out of mallets, unfortunately, but the local guitar store had some that would do for now.

And so, for the Fourth of July, I called upon our guests to hum the melody of the theme to 2001, while I expertly (?) played the prominent timpani part: Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. Maybe a new career for me?

Next challenge: See if we can fit them through the door into the basement!

Middle Eastern Adventures (Vicarious)

posted in: adventures, family, travel 0

Daughter Lexi has returned after nearly a month racking up countries on her passport. She flew in from Qatar, which she got to from Egypt, via Greece, and before that Israel, via Turkey, via Algeria, via Italy! Did I miss any? The amazing thing is that she met up and stayed with friends, or friends of friends, in almost all those locations. How is that possible? She saw the Vatican, visited mosques, celebrated Easter in Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and visited a family outside of Bethlehem. We were following her progress on Google Maps/Earth at one point, and I was amused to see “Manger Street” running through Bethlehem. I wonder how many “Genuine, Original, Tested and Approved by Baby Jesus Mangers” there are.

This kid builds more bridges than the WPA. I am in awe. I am also deeply relieved to see her back home.

Here are a few pix she shared with us:

Antalya, TurkeyAntalya, Turkey

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

Lexi in Jerusalem

Parthenon, Greece (but you knew that)

Pyramids, Egypt (you knew that, too, right?)

“So, I Just Washed My Clothes in Plant Food?”

posted in: family, humor, quirky 2

Apparently so. The above was the plaintive cry of the daughter I will call Pip, when she heard me ask the daughter I will call Mouse if she knew what was in the detergent bottle sitting next to the washing machine. The bottle clearly said Arm & Hammer Free & Clear detergent, and I had no reason to think otherwise when I picked it up off the floor and put it on the shelf. A day or two later, I went to use it—but when I shook it, I thought it felt like water, not detergent. So I put it back down on the floor and made a note to ask the troops.

A little time passed. When I finally asked my daughters, Mouse said, “Oh yeah—that’s for you to water my plants while I’m away. Don’t worry—it has plant food already added.” And that’s when Pip, listening in disbelief, realized what she had just used to launder her clothes.

Plant food! Water for plants! Labels, people—this is why God gave us labels, and big black markers! Caramba!

(Wondering: How can people who are so smart…?)


My Sister Nancy Loses Her Fight with Cancer

My sister, Nancy Carver Adams, lost an astonishingly brief battle with lung cancer Monday night. Her death came as a terrible shock. She was not a smoker, and it was the flu and pneumonia that took her to the hospital, where the cancer was discovered. She had only just been diagnosed a couple of weeks ago—and had started immunotherapy a few days before. The prognosis was uncertain, but we thought we might have her for another year or two, anyway. An issue had developed of fluid buildup in one lung, but it was being managed, she thought. She was emailing and texting family members just a few hours earlier in the day. And then, in the evening she stopped breathing or her heart stopped, and they were unable to bring her around. She was gone, just like that.

This came as a shock on several levels, beyond the obvious. Our brother Chuck was diagnosed with his own cancer last fall, and has been on a chemo regimen that has us guardedly hopeful. Nancy and I were most concerned about how to support Chuck and his wife Youngmee through a tough period. We had no inkling that Nancy also had cancer, and that we’d lose her in such a blindingly short time.

Nancy was my half-sister, my father’s daughter from a first marriage. I didn’t grow up with her, but we started to know each other around the time that I was finishing high school, and over the years, we developed a real brother-sister relationship—partly because she was so determined to get to know her emotionally clueless younger brother. She and my mom became quite close, and I think that helped.

Nancy had two lovely daughters, Karen and Lyn, both of whom have families of their own. She also left behind a much-loved husband, also named Chuck, an old high school friend with whom she reconnected after the death of her previous husband, and married just four and a half years ago. They had not long ago settled into an extended care community in Florida, where they could relax and enjoy their golden years.

Life can be cruel that way.

I’ll be attending the funeral in a few days with my own family, and look forward very much to reconnecting with hers. That part’s good.

Here’s Nancy with my brother Chuck and me, at her wedding in 2012.

Chilling in Miami

Here’s a pic of my brother Chuck and me, shot by Chuck’s wife Youngmee. I’m on a brief stopover in Miami, en route to Puerto Rico. Chuck looks well, despite having started a second round of chemo, which we are hoping and praying will keep him going for a good long time to come. Echoing hopes and prayers would be welcome.

And here is Youngmee, with the two adorable and extraordinarily energetic new puppies Jahng and Tntn.


Yes, by the way, another round of Ponce Chronicles is coming up, as we strive to complete the renovation and update work on Allysen’s family’s house. That is, we’ll be doing another round of work. I probably won’t write too much about it, as I’ll be trying to focus what writing time I have on the book rewrite, which is coming along pretty well.


The Move Is Done!

finished-shower_20160915Allysen’s mom is all moved into our downstairs apartment. That actually happened a couple of weeks ago, but we’ve been so busy working on things that didn’t get done that I haven’t gotten any of it written up. I know I sort of promised to tell all about it in the Arlington Chronicles, sequel to the famed Ponce Chronicles—but you know, I don’t think that’s going to happen. For weeks, we were flat out focused on getting the bathroom remodeled, the old five-layers-of-linoleum kitchen floor ripped up, the newly-exposed old hardwood floor (and all the rest of the apartment’s floor) refinished, old cabinets taken out or repainted, walls and ceilings painted, tripping hazards removed, electrical work done…jeez, just listing this stuff is giving me flashbacks. And here I had finally stopped dreaming about caulking and painting….

finished-bathroom_20160915During the planning of the floor refinishing, Allysen asked the floor guys to redo the stairs going up to our second floor apartment. Which is great, but the polyurethane stuff reeks forever, and we used the back stairs for two weeks while it aired and hardened. Then, just as we were starting to use the stairs again, I realized that the floor guys had forgotten to recoat the risers and side panels. They came back to do that, and gave a third coat to the steps for good measure. Can’t breathe! Back stairs for two more weeks! But those steps are going to outlast us… as soon as we can start using them again.

our-stairs-refinished_20160928You may be unsurprised to learn that I did not get a word of writing done during that month (six weeks?). I am now angling around the manuscript that was going so well in July, trying to size it up and decide if it’s really mine. It looks sort of like mine, but also sort of different, and I’m not sure anymore. But I think this is where I left it, so it probably is mine. I’ll work on it and see how it goes.

We’re still not done. Tomorrow the plumbers will be here, and the next day the electricians come to upgrade our service. Maybe if I cover my eyes, they won’t see me.

Anyway, Fay is all moved in now, and she likes it here. Three cheers and a frozen margarita!

Best Father’s Day Ever!

How about a ride in a restored Stearman biplane for Father’s Day? Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

The Collings Foundation is a national organization that restores and maintains historic aircraft and automobiles. One of their locations is west of Boston in Stow, Massachusetts. They have a hangar full of gorgeously restored airplanes and race cars, including early biplanes, a World War II Avenger, a race car once owned by Paul Newman, a Rolls Royce Phantom, and lots more. They only open to the public a few weekends a year, and Father’s Day weekend is one of them.

T-6 trainer at Collings Foundation

Avenger at Collings Foundation_med

Stearman coming in for low approachThey also offer rides in a pair of Stearman biplanes, and a T-6 trainer, taking off and landing from a lovely grass airstrip behind the hangar. We arrived late, but not too late for Allysen to hustle me over to the table where they sold the biplane rides. Yes, I could still get a ride.

I actually hold a private pilot’s license, but it’s been many years since I’ve flown, owing to a discrepancy between the cost of flying and the family exchequer. But really—a chance to fly in an open cockpit and feel the wind on my face? Not to be missed! (Alas, due to a nonfunctional intercom between passenger and pilot, I did not get a chance to take the stick and rudder. I would have liked that.)

Allysen took what video she could from the ground, and I took what I could from the cockpit, fiercely holding onto my cellphone, lest it go flying on its own. This is what I culled from our efforts. Let me just say, it was fantastic. I have the best family in the world.




Seeing Backwards Better

My latest “spare time” project has been installing a rearview camera on my trusty Ford Ranger, a.k.a., the Landshark.  When we were in Puerto Rico, our rental car had one, and we quickly came to wonder how we had gotten along without one all these years. The truck, especially with the cap over the back, has limited visibility when backing up, and I’m just grateful I’ve never backed over anyone, at least that I know of. On our return from PR, I did some research, and bought a kit with a camera for the back bumper, and a replacement rearview mirror that has an LCD screen hidden behind the mirror surface—a clever solution to the lack of any good place to put a screen on the dashboard.

The installation was, um, considerably more finicky than I had expected. And I’m used to doing things like patching new electronics into the fuse box, having already done that with a new stereo and subwoofer, a year or two ago. The lack of any instructions with the kit should have been a sign. But Crutchfield has a pretty good tech support department, and I muddled along, buying ancillary parts and tools along the way. I enlisted daughter Lexi to help with the splicing and soldering and wiring, and she got to crawl around under the truck, spitting out rust while stringing cable along the frame from the back of the truck to the cab. Hey, I’ve been there and done that stuff, and I didn’t need the experience! But that wasn’t the hardest part. No, the hardest part was aiming the little camera that came with no provision for adjusting the aim!

In the end, I got a camera that works, sort of, though not nearly as well as the factory-installed models. The little distance guidelines that you see in the view are weirdly and erratically inaccurate, for one thing. I called the manufacturer, and to their credit they are sending me a couple of alternate types of camera at no cost, so I can see if I can get better results from one of them. Stay tuned.

Here’s Lexi, helping me check the view in the camera. This is what you get when you hold a camera up to a rearview mirror, to take a picture of an LCD screen showing the image from a camera at the back of the truck, with the subject’s face about an inch from the camera lens. Don’t back up!

(Don’t worry; the engine wasn’t running.)

Lexi in rearview camera

And here’s the idiot whose bright idea this was:

Jeff in rearview camera

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