Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wings of Freedom

I was sitting in my office Sunday morning when I thought I heard a four-engine aircraft flying overhead. We occasionally see and hear planes from Logan Airport here, but this was a propeller plane, not a jet. I asked D. whether any local fields housed such craft, and she directed me to check into Beverly Airport. Their website listed the "Wings of Freedom" traveling air show, and Sunday was the last full day.

Among the planes listed for display and tours was a Boeing B-17. This has special significance to D.'s mother, whose brother, Sergeant Hugh Jennings, was killed in 1942 when the B-17 he was riding in crashed on a training flight in Idaho. She wanted to see this one, and so did D. So did I. It was a beautiful day to be outdoors; making the choice between working and heading over to Beverly was easy.

There was a large crowd on hand to see the B-17 "Flying Fortress" and B-24 "Liberator" heavy bombers, P-51 Mustang and Vought F-4U Corsair fighters and T-6 and Stearman (biplane) pilot trainers. Flights were offered (at budget-busting rates) as well as the inexpensive tours inside the B-17 and B-24. We opted to join the long line for the B-17 walk-through.

"Walk-through" is something of a misnomer. Space is at a premium inside these warbirds; most of their bulk is filled with hardware. It was impossible to spend any time inside without thinking of what the crews of these planes experienced under combat conditions. Taking a moment to steady oneself and look around was not an option for those brave men.

Time and the mass of people worked against getting good photography, particularly of the planes' exteriors. Those shots I liked ended up being of details, with people cropped out.

One of the B-17's four Wright "Cyclone" engines

The bombardier and nose gunner's bay

Bombardier's position from outside, with nose gun turret below

The last photo struck me as having a bit of WWII-vintage LIFE magazine feel when converted to black & white.

I know where the B-17 and B-24 are kept when not being sent off to air shows. Their "home" field will be having an event in October, and D. and I are considering heading over for that. There are several other noteworthy aircraft in the collection there, as well as some significant cars.

Just can't get enough of these. I've been fortunate to have seen B-17s and B-24s in flight -- the number of survivors in flying condition is pitifully small, so such opportunities are rare -- and am always ready for more. I'm ready to take many more photos, too.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Can you tell which of these lamps cost me $19.95 last week at Home Depot and which was free yesterday at the Transfer Station (dump, to you)?

Designer lamps...oooh, shiny!

I didn't think so.

Actually, I can tell the difference: the Home Depot lamp has a clear power cord, while the freebie's cord is black. Also, I had to assemble the Home Depot lamp.

Neat, huh?

In real life -- as opposed to artificially posing for the camera -- they stand in opposite corners of the Nerve Center. I suppose I don't need both, but I like having them and, when we find a comfy chair for D. to use for reading or just being in the room with me, we'll each have a light to use.

I have no idea where we'll get the chair. Might be at a furniture store, or it might be at one of the resale shops around here.

Or it might be at the Transfer Station.

I love this place!

PARENTHETICAL FRESH-TRICKS-NOT-LEARNABLE-BY-ELDERLY-POOCHES THOUGHT: I had a lamp exactly like this one in the last place Where I Used to Live. Thought it was cool then, and still think so. I'm attracted to design-y stuff, even when it's cheap. Especially when it's cheap. Got it at Home Depot, too. For $19.95. It's probably in some stranger's low-rent pad now....

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Changing the subject...

...from what I originally intended to write. I planned to put up a post about our attendance at this week's Town Meeting here, as the governing system seems to have been devised by the settlers who came off the Mayflower. I thought it'd be quaint.

I blame Horatio Alger for this. Some of the stories in his boys' books mentioned town selectmen, most often as a dour, Puritanical and steady bunch. Our selectmen -- there are three women on the board, but they are also selectmen -- don't quite fit the bill, Alger-wise.

But the Town Meeting, held twice a year, is at least a place where the citizens come together to vote on the town's major issues, and that is a welcome change from the elect-'em-and-forget-'em mentality of many cities which, at least where I lived, led to corruption, atrocious debt, and a lot of just plain nonsense. Here, about two percent of the population showed up, and the discussions and voting made for a lively (and long) evening.

Still, I deleted two attempts to write in detail, because there was a fair amount of lunacy involved at times, and at more than one point the whole thing started to smell of politics. Politics -- even small-time politics -- interests me, but also angers me, so I decided not to go there by subjecting you to a full (boring) description.

Let's just say that, whether through an outbreak of common sense or just plain luck, a couple of issues I cared about as a local voter were handled properly.


Didn't they appear on "America's Got Talent" a couple of seasons ago?

I herewith present The Garden Report:

We had decidedly mixed results with our efforts to grow foodstuffs this year. We planted tomatoes -- a can't-fail crop -- along with broccoli, carrots, cantaloupes, cucumbers and pumpkins.

First, the total failures, broccoli and cantaloupes. The broccoli grew nicely, but didn't, well, broccolize. Nice plants, but nothing remotely edible. We got cantaloupes, but they were tiny and grew so slowly that we knew they'd never mature, and the bugs got at 'em.

Carrots were no great success either. They grew, but not much, and when we finally yanked them out we managed, by very careful slicing, to get enough for D. and me to enjoy  them in one dinner salad. One. Out of the whole season. Pfui.

Cucumbers did better. We got several, and one or two more might be edible before the season sputters to a close. Tomatoes also grew, but we tried two varieties (li'l bitty ones and huge-O Atomic Tomatoes) and, thanks to the bees spreading pollen around haphazardly (we think), ended up with a lot of mutant fruits. Some never ripened.

Our First Tomato -- each of us got one yummy bite....

Let it be said that the cucumbers and tomatoes were delicious, as good as I've ever eaten. We used both in a number of salads through the summer, and made tomato sandwiches with the monstro 'matoes. My disgust with store-bought fruits and veggies will no doubt increase to exceptional levels through the winter.

Roll on next Spring, when we'll try it again, taking certain steps -- starting the growing season sooner, separating tomato varieties, possibly choosing different crops, and so on -- to improve the product.

And the pumpkin? The jury is still out. We have one, not as large as expected, but turning a nice pumpkin-y color. We have hopes it will be ready for Hallowe'en, but that's more than a month away and no one is certain it'll actually make it.

Much more interesting (and non-controversial) than the Board of Selectmen and the Town Meeting!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Breaking News -- World Headquarters Now Open!

Yes, with the hanging of some art on the walls, my plush office suite is now complete! Well, except for another bookcase or two, a chair for D., a floor lamp, and other trivial items....

But the Big Stuff is in place: Walls, flooring -- nice heavy-duty tile* -- and all the other must-have items.

Take a look:

The Control Center

The panther on the wall is one of the animals D. created for a local church's float in the Sandy Bay Fourth of July parade. Another, an okapi, is on the wall of her workshop. They were too cool to dispose of when the float was dismantled.

Otherwise, it's the usual stuff: A desk (built from a dining table someone discarded at the dump) holds computer and printer. There are bookcases on the left wall, and another will go against the right wall. The chair is pushed to the side so's you can see the floor tile (installed mainly by D., like everything else from floor joists to wall studs, drywall and ceiling tiles). Looks quite nice with the Castle Path walls, no?

The side wall

Here, you can see bookcases, a utility cabinet, my keyboard (a gift from JohnO) and the "art" we hung on the walls, namely six of my favorite prints from the "shoes-on-a-wire" photo series I made back in 2006-08. Makes the room feel more comfortable.

The other two walls are still bare, but we have some potential decoration for them as well. I have a very neat photo D. took, plus a painting done years ago by a family friend. One or two other photos and a piece of sheet music from the 1920s may get framed and hung as well. So -- since it's my office -- might my autographed photo of Russ Meyer.

I love my office. Not just because it's a relaxing place to work, but -- this is much more important -- because D. put so much work into it. Can't really adequately express my appreciation for that!

* Ironically, the stuff that looked best was down in the low-price stacks at Lowe's (or was it Home Depot?). The fancier the tile, the less it fit in to the Grand Scheme....

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Schooner or later*

Today was the Parade of Ships at Gloucester, part of the big Schooner Festival. D. and I went, arriving early so as not to miss the flotilla in action.


Sadly, the weather was not lovely: Overcast skies and and a high-humidity opacity to the air made photography problematic. I shot 99 photos -- D. took something like 120 -- and very few pleased me.

But the ships were great.

That's the old Tarr & Wonson Paint Factory (a local landmark) on the opposite shore left
The best of my pictures responded to the black & white treatment. I like this one, as it doesn't really look so much like 2011.

But the organizers put a bit of a damper on the picture-taking fun by not banning powerboats while the schooners were sailing around the bay. I deleted a lot of images simply because, for me, seeing those modern fiberglass lumps amid the sailing craft just felt wrong.

Yes, I did have little mental flashes of zipping through the ships with a WWII PT boat, all three big Packard V12 engines at full cry, but that's just me. Can't afford a PT boat anyway. And torpedoes are too expensive to fire off just for laughs....

A very enjoyable Sunday morning. I got to see -- and photograph -- some neat ships, came back with a handful of good photos, and D. came back with some better shots, one of which can only be called capital-A Art.

* Those who also read D.'s blog will notice she used the same title. I howled in outrageous outrage when I saw it, whining that I was going to use that title. It's a case of great minds thinking alike, as both of us left the event thinking of using it. Hmpf....

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Just My Type

D. and I hit a couple of yard sales around here this morning. There was nothing specific on the "look-for" list (although I was, as always, hot for books and bookcases, which weren't on sale today), but it was a lovely morning and a bit of wandering seemed like a great idea.

One of the sales was, well, interesting. It was an everything-must-go "estate sale," which meant we could wander through a house filled to the gunwales with knick-knacks and objects of all kinds, plus three or four well-fed kittycats lurking to see what all the fuss was about.

And I bought something:

Initially, I mistook it for a label-maker

It's a Simplex Typewriter, Model 1, vintage 1892 (so one info source says), nestled in its original box. It would be difficult to imagine a simpler device: the operator inks a little pad below the "keys," turns the type-wheel to the desired letter and pushes the lever next to the wheel. The wheel moves automatically, and there's a latch that allows it to return at the end of each line.

By modern standards -- even then-current standards -- it's pretty basic. A standard sheet of paper won't fit, and the stop-and-add-ink routine would get tiring in a hurry.

I look at it as a kind of primitive Blackberry on which people of that day could tap out their "text messages."

Later versions, it is said, added lower-case letters. In any event, the Simplex Typewriter was gone by the early 1920s or thereabouts. They were produced in huge quantities, and apparently many survive.

So why did I buy it? It's neat and I like it, that's why. Also, the seller initially named a price that was roughly the sum I would have offered, and reduced it quickly when I hesitated. Without haggling, I thought it a good deal.

And I like toys.

Besides, one cannot be a writer without owning a typewriter. I will from now on mention the little Simplex to anyone who questions my bona fides as a writer....

Friday, September 02, 2011


Have I ever mentioned how much I love books?

Didn't think so....

One of the saddest aspects of my forced move from Where I Used to Live was the loss of my library. I managed to grab a few tomes during the hectic and unhappy evacuation but, as I later found out when the great friend who stored them for me shipped them to Sandy Bay, a number of prized books were still lost.

On the bright side, I have begun to replace them. I bought a few while in Texas, mostly minor works high in amusement value. That helped, and I almost needed a small bookcase when I settled in here.

Things are looking up. I'm discovering that this area is a treasure trove for fine books, and the sources are most unlikely: one is the Transfer Station (dump, to you), which has a small building in which are displayed books people would otherwise throw away. I've found some excellent books there; for space reasons, I've even left some behind that I would otherwise have glommed because they weren't either books I wanted to replace or books I really wanted to read.. I've taken a few idle-reading novels that might end up back there, however.

Likewise, the local supermarket has a table set up by the Animal Aid Society where one can grab whatever's there and leave a small donation. Good source, but inconsistent.

The other major suppliers have been a thrift store, a church's annual sale (not just books there, but all kinds of goodies) and the library's book sale.

Between them, I've scored pretty well, replacing lost books either directly (in one instance, a superb two-volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt, Volume One got lost and was replaced at the church sale) or with others covering the same subject matter.

It's what you might call "a start...."

Oh, I have a long way to go, and will soon be consulting my online sources for some books I want/need. A few will soak up the spondulix -- I'm not ready to shell out 500 scoots for a two-volume work I'm desperate to own -- but some appear to be far less expensive than I feared.

Next: records (I lost all those, too). A start has already been made, thanks to the transfer station (D. found a copy of the original disc of Songs by Tom Lehrer there!), and there's a record store in the next town that is crammed to the rafters with good/odd/downright weird records. We've grabbed a couple there, and will soon head back for more.

This all may take a long time, but I'm no longer so antsy about Instant Gratification. Besides, in my new and somewhat busier lifestyle, I'm not able to devote countless hours to reading as I used to, and already have a backlog of interesting stuff to peruse.

PARENTHETICAL IT'S-DEEPLY-WEIRD-OUT-HERE NOTE: I present, without comment, an unedited copy of a news item that appeared yesterday in the local paper under the headline "Police find no injuries, damage in Bridge Street mishap: MANCHESTER -- A resident who backed his car into a bush on his Bridge Street property called Manchester Police to report the accident Wednesday at 6:50 a.m. According to the police log, however, officers found no injuries, and the vehicle wasn't damaged."