Who are we? We are our stories.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Growlery - Wainscoting

"best lichens"

A couple days ago I removed an old weathered (and falling apart) fence leaving me with a pile of boards. Yesterday I cut'em up and nailed them to the wall, trying to use the ones with the best lichens on them. No, I cannot define "best lichens", but I know what they look like. This morning I ripped some pieces for the top cap. Then I drank more coffee.

Installment: Beer, coffee, lamp and 1410

Switch plate.  I really should replace the actual
switches - ivory, brown, ivory. Anal?

Earl Scruggs

Earl died yesterday. Most people probably remember Earl as half of Flatt & Scruggs playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown. He was more than that.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bookcase ... and Two Old Guys

Yesterday after we ate a couple of tacos at the Taco King I went across the street to the used clothing and furniture store to check out the possibly of picking up a bookcase for the Growlery. After all, a Growlery without books is simply a glorified shed. Well, I guess to most eyes it's still just a shed. Only now it has books.

I got lucky. I found one, $45 - perfect length and with the same ham-fisted homemade look of my desk. I believe we have a style trend going on here. Lorna and I tried to load it in our only vehicle, a Honda CRV, but no matter how I twisted it around, it would simply not go in. Jake's Pizza was just up the block. I know that both of the owners drive pickups, but alas, it was after 2:00 and they were gone to the golf course. So I carried my prize back into the store and we headed for home, hoping to borrow a truck back in Oakwood.

I walked up Oakwood Drive and the first pickup parked in a driveway was at Kepple's, three doors up the street. I rapped on the door and pulled Bill away from the last of his lunch. I also knew his late brother, Paul. It was said of the Kepple brothers, that in the end, Paul would have all the money and Bill would have all the friends. Paul was okay too, but which would you rather have for a neighbor? Bill is a good man. Last year he finally, finally gave up his volunteer job coaching the girl's tennis team. He is bright, spry and alert ... and 92 years old. Bill behind the wheel of the truck, we went to fetch the bookcase. In spite of his protestations I unloaded and carried the shelving down to the Growlery by myself. At 92, I'm giving the old boy a pass on moving furniture. And he gave the Growlery two thumbs up. 

(existing bookshelf)
Even after adding another wall of shelves in our office a few years ago and giving away books, we have more books than bookshelves. This afternoon I moved some of my books down to the Growlery. Apparently the designer of the bookshelf didn't actually measure a book. The top two shelves are pretty much useless unless your books are Zane Grey mysteries or pulp romance novels. I stuffed them in as I could, sorting them mostly by book size rather than subject. Speaking of which, they say you can judge a man by his library. If so, I am one strange man. Enough said. Also thanks to Tom Sanders for the two exquisite Japanese Garden books which showed up at my door last week - freebie, including the shipping. Tom, what can I say? You are a good man. 

For cigars I normally use an ashtray made from an end of one of my late father-in-law's worn firehoses. Recently, I've switched to the heavy glass ashtray that my uncle Harold gave me. He is about the same age as Bill Kepple, but instead of hauling furniture, he is fighting off Alzheimer's and is hopefully nearing the end of his long road.

And on that upbeat note, I'm signing off.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Black Rose of Texas

Dave Alvin - for his fiddle player, the late Amy Farris. The slide guitar on this one really takes the instrument to another level. I may have posted this before. No matter, it's still beautiful and moving.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Late Afternoon

Rust with a Steelhead Bombay IPA.
Odin (God of War), with a Brau Bros Ringneck.

Hot Jazz and Leather Bars

The old gypsy playing a little hot jazz. Check out his right hand which was crippled in a fire when he was a child.

And moving right along to the young gypsy, this morning Vincent Dominguez asked if I had the bars mounted onto his stem on the Kvale yet. See below.
Notice the thick leather top bar protector. It doesn't show up in the photo, but there is CKC embossed on the side.
Under bar stitching.
Pretty comfortable cockpit. With a Buffalo China coffee cup. ;-) 
 Also, here is a magazine article on the boys. (Vincent in the bunny apron.) Of course Erik Noren dominates the article. Erik is a talker. I think they managed to get one or two sentences out of Gypsy and the Old Norwegian. Put a quarter in Erik and he'll tell you all his hopes and dreams. Put a quarter in either Dominguez or Kvale and you'll probably get a polite "Thank you".

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Elliot Eagle

Mark Stonich emailed this photo to me last week. It's a beautiful photo taken with his new Panasonic FZ150, which proves you don't need a clumsy SLR with a big honking lens to to take great photographs of birds. 

The thing that may be more remarkable is where it was taken. Mark and Jane live in a typical middle class urban neighborhood in Minneapolis. Their home is about midway between Diamond Lake and Lake Nokomis. So okay, maybe it's not typical for most cities, but it is for south Minneapolis. Mark took this picture in a front yard of a house on the corner of Elliot and East 58th Avenue, four blocks south of his house and about six blocks from Diamond Lake. He said the house's roof is covered with eagle crap.  ;-)

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Growlery - Progress

The sign on the door.  I don't like it. I bought it at a flea market in Donna, Texas. I told her what I wanted, "As plain as possible, with a basic font." I have no idea why "The" is crooked, but then again, I paid almost nothing for it.

The bench started out as a woodworker's bench. I removed the two vises and slid it in place with the backside visible. The grinder and drill press are not anchored. The black top is a five dollar runner from Home Depot to cover the bench dog holes. That black hole under the the top is a beer frig. The bottles against the wall are the leftovers from an ale beer celebration last Friday afternoon. John Rust was there, but his sidekick, Odin, God of War couldn't make it. Lorna filled in admirably. Oh, check out the flooring, new since the previous photos.

The bicycle clamp vise is a holdover from a design project for Target Corp bicycle racks. Park Tool sent me all their clamps as samples. Unfortunately, although my employer did get the contract, my eventual design did not include the Park clamps. On the upside, between the guys at Park and the Streater model shop I have a nice table mount bicycle vise that swivels out of the way when not in use. There is a solid steel rod insert with a little stop notch to lock the vise in the working position. So, to Dan Garceau, who was head of marketing and all the other great people at Park Tool, I owe you both for the clamps and for the nice retirement gifts you sent me. Whenever you're passing through, I'll try to pay you back in beer. 

Now the really important part - the under-counter cheapo refrigerator filled with assorted very hoppy beer ... or Coca-Cola and Bud Lite for those who chose not to participate in the celebration. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring - One Week Later

When we arrived back in Oakwood last Sunday the Robins were waiting for us, the lake was still covered with ice, although it had taken on that leaden dull look that it gets as it rots away. In most years this would be precursor to a week of patches of open water and crushed ice being blown back and forth cross the lake. This year the temperatures were running into the high 70s and lake was open water by Tuesday. By Wednesday the small ducks of the northern lakes were here. I thought they were Goldeneyes, flying in small squadrons, like winged bullets shooting just over the surface. They are small ducks - very fast,  often called Whistlers for the sound their wings make cutting through the wind. Lorna said she thought they were Buffleheads. She's probably right, because I'm a little blind and was relying more on a "Blink" identification. Either way, they are close cousins and both are headed for the boreal forest lakes of northern Minnesota and Canada and need to get any jump they can get on the short nesting season. 

By Thursday the Wood Ducks were here, already nicely paired off and flying from oak to oak nervously checking the various natural tree cavities and nesting boxes scattered in backyards along the lake. This photo is a little fuzzy because I shot it from our bedroom through two panes of glass and a window screen. That has a tendency to knock down the clarity a little.

Today, one week after we returned, the Crocuses and Hepatica are starting to bloom. It's Spring in Oakwood.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ragbrai 2012

Picked up a freebie Des Moines Register in the Cameron motel.  (Note the 1410 OakWood location just above the "s" in "years".)

Albert Eisentraut: Keeper of the Flame

There was a time when there were virtually no American handbuilt bicycle frames, certainly of any quality, except for Schwinn Paramounts. And Albert Eisentraut. Albert is in his nineties 72!  (see comments) and no longer builds bicycles. If you want to read more of the long article from the 1987 Bicycle Guide and learn about Albert, follow this link to Bob Hovey's scans and scroll halfway down.
The frame above, a Rainbow Trout, is presently on eBay with a starting bid of $1,125. It is 59cm, about my size. I really want it, but I am caught between a new furnace and a swore oath to my wife regarding more bicycles. Somebody PLEASE buy it, own a piece of history, and build it up in my stead.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Birders and Birdwatchers

Lorna on the South Padre dunes looking for shorebirds. 

Addy and Lorna at Santa Ana
Most of our neighbors at the Alamo Inn were probably birders and as most of our daily outings were at birding hotpots we crossed paths with a number of other birders, some a number of times. The last week our neighbors in 202 were from England and coincidentally we met another Brit couple, Ian and Julie, at Willies BBQ and they came over to our Apartment 203 and helped us drink a nice cabernet on our last evening in Alamo. We showed them a couple of bird pictures on this blog. Julie was already familiar with 1410 Oakwood! She had caught us on a Google search of Texas birds and the Alamo Inn. A few months ago when the traffic here peaked at over 400 hits a day, I found it a little unnerving, but when I realize that most are probably sweet people like Julie, it's not so creepy.

There is a train that goes by, across the road from the Alamo Inn, three times a day. At the sound of the horn, both Brit couples rushed out in amazement to watch the train go by, counting the number of "wagons" as they passed. A big, loud, long diesel train! Something I never give a thought to, other than to piss about them as I wait at the crossing. What is ordinary in one place is exceptional in another.

Wherever the birders gathered there was a lot of discussions of where certain birds had been recently sighted, life lists, optics and cameras. Birdwatchers may be casual observers of birds, birders are not. They are intense, sometimes traveling all over the world to see more species of birds. I enjoy watching the birds behavior and I have no life list, other than in my head. Lorna keeps informal annual lists on the back of bank deposit slips.  You meet people and they are all excited by the Golden-crown Warbler sighted at Frontera, or the Rose-throated Becard at Estero Llano, and it's hard not to get caught up in the chase. For now our coin is balanced on it's edge, spinning and teetering from casual birdwatcher to serious birder. 

Okay, let's talk optics  - binoculars and spotting scopes. Some, ... no most, of the optical devices were amazing. Lorna and I both have discontinued or renamed binoculars - Lorna has a very nice set of Bausch & Lomb binoculars, made before before they spun off the binoculars to Bushnell, who chose to drop the higher end products. I have a set of Leupold Blue Ring Wind River Pinnacles, which I think are still made under another model name. I have also acquired an Alpen spotting scope and a carbon-fiber tripod - both light enough to lug. Among the passionate birders, these would all be considered very entry level. While some have Leica or Zeiss binoculars, the optics of choice are the high end Swarovskis, with an occasional nod to the Kowa spotting scopes. If push came to shove, I suppose we could afford these, but I refuse to buy a pair of binoculars that cost as much as a good used car. And the cameras? They are just silly mind-boggling.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Back Home In Oakwood

After two and a half days on the road we are safely back in Oakwood. Along the way I learned a few things. First of all, don't try to fight your way up I-35 through the San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Dallas/Fort Worth mess on a weekday. Austin is the worse traffic bottleneck I've ever seen. As one trucker warned us," If yawl take I-35 inta Austin at rush hour, yawl just stay thar forever." Taking no chances we followed the professional's recommendation and took the express tollroad. "Express" was a little misleading. It was an hour of stop, go ten feet, stop, go ten more feet.  I cannot imagine what the slow route was like.

Things were not all misery. At lunch time on day two we rolled off the Interstate ramp into the small town of Perry, Oklahoma. Lorna's cousin, Fritz goes on long backroads trips on his BMW in search of real America. As we searched Perry for a likely looking local cafe, Lorna remarked, "Fritz would just love this one." Yes, he would have. We found the Kumback Lunch, serving the people of Perry with food at the same location for 85 years. Just an offhand observation, if you survive in the food business for 85 years, you are doing something right. And they are.

This is Lorna's chicken fried steak. Mine was similar except the whole meal was covered with white gravy.

An observation to be noted later, the people in this cafe were not noticeably overweight.

Later, day two: We made good time across Oklahoma through the Flinthills of Kansas, then east to Kansas City and around, eventually running out of daylight and energy at Cameron, Missouri, where we booked a Comfort Inn for a bed. Remembering the Kumback, we asked the clerk, a frightfully overweight young man, where the locals ate. He directed us to a nearby truckstop, advising us that it wasn't fancy, but the food was good.

Nelly's Restaurant and Lounge was certainly not fancy. Like I told Lorna afterward, it was like walking into a scene of a Stephen King movie. Lit by naked fluorescents, the place was nearly full - locals and truckers - a few very large family groups and a number of couples. It looked like a casting call for Deliverance II. Men in bib overalls with t-shirt sleeves torn off to highlight the tattoos, women in too tight jeans and t-shirts, everyone in dirty baseball caps. Please understand that I am overweight myself and I'd like to think I could be at ease with almost any blue-collar crowd. I was wrong. We were very uneasy. These were not my people. Virtually everyone in the room was extremely obese. Extremely. I had just came from living in a part of Texas the U.S. government considers to be the most overweight county in the nation. Well, they ain't never been to Cameron, Missouri. It was the kind of place where even a discreet photograph would have been unwise. Instead, I leave you with the list of churches in the city of Cameron, Missouri, pop 5000. Look at it. It is an amazing document.

I could live in Perry, Oklahoma. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fiorenzo Magni

For Rev Dick,
I submit this picture of Fiorenzo Magni in Stage 13 of the 1956 Giro d'Italia. In Stage 12 Magni crashed and broke his clavicle. Tough though he obviously was, he could no longer efficiently control his bicycle and withdrew after another crash in stage 16. 

Wisdom sometime dictates withdrawal.   

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Alamo Parade

Smalltown. Horns and sirens. Bands and trucks. Elvis and pretty girls. Not necessarily in that order.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Willies Bar-B-Q

From our apartment it is three blocks south to the catholic church, turn right for six blocks, arrive at Willies to park in the baptist church parking lot. There is a sign that reads, 'Welcome Willies BBQ Customers'. One can only assume that Willie tithes.

Willies is such a blend of old, very old and fake old that is hard to sort out what is real and what is yard sale.

 After a couple of trips, that all seems inconsequential. As always, ultimately it's the food.

People chopping up various smoked meats per order, and piling it on a plastic plate with more sides and pickled jalapenos than a normal human could eat.

Oh, the elegance of foot polished floors, varnished flakeboard paneling and plastic red-checked table coverings. Somehow it all seems to come together and feel right at home here.