Yesterday, November 10th we took Tina’s cousin Sharon and her husband Bruce to visit the Marine Corps facility at Paris Island, South Carolina. This is the Marine Corps boot camp. They have a great museum of the facility, the training and the history of the Corps.
I missed my chance because it happened to be the 246th anniversary of the founding of the Corps, March 10, 1775. I didn’t take any photos.
Thursday I had a new adventure. I participated in the filming of a new documentary pilot. No, I am not replacing Daniel Craig as the next 007, although that would be enticing as long as there were plenty of doubles to do the stunts and the heavy lifting. The reality is that my friend Sherm is putting together a pilot for a documentary he is producing. Sherm wanted to make use of the Jeep for filming moving shots while he was driving his Porsche 356 through winding roads of western Connecticut. So, the Jeep is the star, not me. In reality the 356 is the star.
The day was lot of fun. The only downside is that I took the top and doors off the Jeep. The modifications were done so the videographer could get unobstructed shots. Getting to the location early in the morning was an adventure in the cold and dark. Fortunately I dressed for the weather with several layers and a warm hat. I must have appeared an odd site to the others on the road at that early hour, they being comfortable in their cars with the heater on.
Sherm hired both a videographer, Evan, and a drone operator, Tray. Both interesting young guys and totally serious about their craft. My part in this enterprise is to drive the Jeep. Something that I truly love to do. Safety was a big issue for both Sherm and I. Evan was made totally secured in place with harnesses and was in turn secured to the frame of the Jeep. It would have been bad form to have him fall in front of the 356 during the filming of a high speed closeup. And we certainly would not want to put a dent in the 356. The drone was an adventure in itself. The shots that were made with it was unbelievable. And, the technology is unbelievable and amazing in the hands of a fellow that knows his stuff. I should also mention the videographer’s technology with a gimbal mount for the camera that keeps it rock solid on a bumpy road, amazing. The camera looked like something out of Star Wars.
The documentary production is, in my view, a very large and involved project. As I understand the goal, the documentary will focus on the change of the place of the automobile in our society. For me driving was a right of passage, a car was central to my young identity. I, and many other young fellows, washed and polished them until they gleamed. We took pride in working on the mechanics and loved the sound they made and the power that was in our control. All this was central to our independence and ego. This love of cars has stayed with many of us through our advancing years, at least it has for me. It seems that automobiles are now nothing more than utilitarian tools to be used and scrapped at the end of their useful lives like nothing more than washing machines. (These are my words not necessarily Sherm’s). At least I think that is the focus and the plan. I am not altogether on board. Whatever the product, knowing Sherm, it will be well thought out and beautifully crafted.
The task we had was to gather video scenes for the pilot and possibly in the finished produce. From what I said above, one might conclude that we were putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. Inasmuch as the bulk of the prep had not yet been completed. However, there was method to the madness. The fall is the most beautiful season in New England. There is a very short window to take advantage of the peak fall color. If we did not shoot the video when we did, there would have been a year long wait for the next opportunity. That is, if one does not want to compromise and use a less colorful season. There will be few compromises here, of that I am sure. So, we were off to Litchfield County, Connecticut for a day in the fall color. In addition to the filming, it was a great time to enjoy the beauty of our state and some great companionship.
I have been in a constant brutal struggle. After years of scheming and planning; after countless hand crafted stealth devices I finally, a couple years ago, threw in the towel. I was humiliated in defeat. I surrendered to the will of a superior being. I gave up trying to keep squirrels out of my bird feeder. I would fill the feeder and cast seed on the deck. At least birds might get some of the seed left over from the overstuffed squirrels strutting with overconfidence like Ramadès retuning to Thebes. Their cheeks stuffed with the spoils of victory.
But, perhaps the battle isn’t over. Was it Yogi Berra that said “The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings”? Well this fat guy hasn’t sung his last song.
Recently I was reading an article: “What Makes Us Love the Pain of Hot Peppers? Matt Siegel WSJ Aug 28, 2021”. The article suggested that capsaicin (the stuff that makes chili hot) is a plant defense mechanism. Mammals chew seeds making them useless for plant reproduction; hince mammals do not tolerate capsaicin. Birds, on the other hand, pass seeds through their bodies allowing germination of the seeds. Birds tolerate capsaicin.
African farmers sometimes construct bricks of elephant dung and chilis. They burn the bricks the keep animals from eating their crops.
I could not find much elephant dung in West Hartford. Besides, there is an ordinance against open fires. But I do have cayenne pepper. I sprinkled a little on the birdseed. The birds eat the seeds and I don’t see any squirrels.
In truth, this is a well know cure for my squirrel issue, I just was not aware of it.
I noticed that the treated birdseed did not attracted many birds. True, it kept the squirrels away but there were few birds. Usually I note a lot of birds and that the feeder empties in a relatively short time. So, it is time for an experiment. I have put out four piles of seed:
My control with no addition
With red pepper flakes
With Tabasco added
With Cayenne added
Six hours later and neither bird nor squirrel has visited the seed. I will change the location to a place that birds and squirrels congregate.
I have noted a number of birds at work on the piles of seed. I have only seen one interloper, a chipmunk was into the cayenne spiked pile. I do not see a clear preference for any particular pile. However, there seems to be a slight preference for the non spiked pile. Second, I would guess to be the pepper flakes followed by the Tabasco then the cayenne.
Going forward, I will lace the birdseed with pepper flakes. I wonder if bears are put off by capsaicin.
Preface: I recognize that my general demeanor is that of a cranky old geezer. And, anyone who knows me understands that I embrace that image. I am afraid that you may find this post particularly cranky. My sincere apologies. I do have an excuse; I feel particularly punky as I am isolating in quarantine with COVID.
After dutifully getting both vaccine shots and continuing to mask in public places like the Lone Ranger or Superman sans tights and cape, I tested positive for COVID. Both a quick test and a PCR test were positive. I am now quarantining in my daughters old bedroom: my wife leaves meals outside the door like I am in the”nick”, and I am writing this blog post. The good news is that my fever has broken and am feeling almost 100 percent. I still have many days of quarantine left. And, yes, I plan to quarantine the whole time to assure, as best I can, that my wife doesn’t have to experience this and I don’t spread COVID around to the rest of mankind like some cranky Typhoid Mary. To make it particularly troublesome, the State of Connecticut virus trackers contact me daily. Big Brother is watching.
I recently received a note from a friend who asked if my next blog will be the humorous side of Covid. That was the best question anyone could ask. Otherwise I would have created a blog that went off on a tear about big government, big pharma, and the lousy state of the republic. What fun would that be? And I want to be especially sensitive to people who have had a rough time or who have lost loved ones to this mysterious, troubling disease.
I am fortunate on many levels: I have a somewhat mild, although prolonged, case; my wife tested negative; I have a place to hang out that’s dry; my Social Security checks keep coming; I am blessed with friends and family and, if I am really fortunate, the sun will rise in the morning. Covid shots, it turned out in my case, are not an iron gate against this virus; I do recognize that I likely would have a more serious episode without the shots.
Speaking of being fortunate, I quickly came to the realization that what makes me most fortunate are my friends and family. When I tested positive, I broadcast the fact very widely to anyone with whom I had recently connected. I wanted all to be aware of their possible exposure and get tested if they felt it to be appropriate. I also contacted others with whom I had not been in contact to let people know that vaccination, in cases like mine, is pretty weak protection. I have been tremendously taken aback by the response. I have received numerus inquiries as to how I am doing and well wishes. I cannot begin to express how very much their outreach has meant to me.
A couple mornings ago I realized that I lost my sense of smell. I had just bought some aftershave, the kind I use at the gym in South Carolina. My wife likes the fragrance; which was the most important factor in deciding to buy it. Well, I splashed it on and thought that I had mistakenly bought fragrance free – no indication of that on the bottle. I then went to the kitchen and tried to smell the jar of ground cinnamon, nothing. Losing my sense of smell is particularly troublesome to me and is turning out to be the worst part of this experience.
My son had a like experience when he had Covid a couple months ago. Losing his sense of smell was truly troublesome for someone in the wine business and currently getting certification in the field. Fortunately his loss was very short lived. I am hoping for a similar experience.
The whole politicized international response to Covid reminds me of what a very wise boss, an ex Navy Mustang, told me years ago. We were discussing a new corporate initiative from our California headquarters. We were in Pennsylvania and considered the red headed stepchildren of the corporation. They tolerated us because of the profits we generated. Charlie, the Navy Mustang, said to me “You know Bill, if you have a bunch of cooks you can have a banquet, if you have a bunch of musicians you can have a dance. But, if all you have are clowns your going to have a circus.”
Apologizing in advance for this glumb post. Hope the next one will be upbeat. I hope that I smell better in the future. (Hmmm, that statement doesn’t sound quite right.)
We are still in South Carolina for a couple more weeks. The other day I came to the realize that there are different things to be weary of here than in Connecticut. In Connecticut I am used to being mindful of bears, rottweilers off their leash, an occasional rattlesnake and brain dead drivers. South Carolina has a different list. And, the list does not begin and end with crocodiles.
A couple evenings ago we went to a small music event in our community. I took a couple chairs from the patio for the outdoor event. Afterwards, while carrying them back to the patio in the dark — there are copperheads around here! I replaced the chairs in the morning.
Yesterday we went to the beach on Hilton Head. The water is delightfully warm and the day, sunny. We go to Bert’s Beach, a bit of a hike to the beach but plenty of parking. Swimming around like a kid, I suddenly noticed that I was being attacked by fish. The fish were small and harmless but the first encounter was startling. But, there are sharks around here. A little while later the lifeguard ran up and down the beach blowing a whistle; all the swimmers left the water. There was a pod of dolphins traveling the length of the beach, (probably eating those little fish that were trying to eat me). There had been a shark reported in the middle of the pod of dolphins hence the alarm. The lifeguard said there is a half hour no swim time after a shark sighting, I wonder if that is long enough and if the great white sharks have figured that out, remember “Jaws”? I wonder how many hungry sharks sneak close to the beach without being seen. I will not be taking any midnight swims around here.
A midnight swim reminds of the time, years ago, when I was in the Air Force on temporary duty at Elgin AFB near Panama City, Florida. I had gone there to observe an experiment that a buddy, Dale, was doing. (This was known as a “Boondoggle” in the service). I arrived in the late evening and checked into the BOQ (Bachelor Officer Quarters). The BOQ was near the beach. Not wanting to let this opportunity pass, I decided to take a swim. The beach was closed until the following week but there was nobody around to stop me. It was delightful, swimming toward Cuba through undulating waves in the warm clear water in the moonlight. Then I thought, Sharks. I swam to shore. The next day Dale told me about all the huge sharks his wife had seen from the pier that was close to the base.
I cannot forget the alligators here in South Carolina. We have been warned to carry a flashlight at night when walking dog. The alligators are, evidently, nocturnal and travel from pond to pond at night. I was also warned that golfers need to be aware and not reach for that ball that is in the water and close to shore. My golf game is bad enough without having to play one armed.
Back in Connecticut I have often commented, with a degree of irrigation, that I cannot escape the sound of a motor. I venture out onto the deck and, it seems, I always here the sound of some type of engine. Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, chain saws, wood chippers, stump grinders. Every manner of mechanical apparatus is polluting the quiet. When I take a hike in the woods and stop at a ledge overlooking a pastoral valley, I would hear trucks, chainsaws or airplanes overhead. Irritating.
Yesterday morning I took dog for her morning walk. (A fellow once suggested that I referred to Sheba as “dog” or “animal” because I did not feel she was worthy of a definite article. I hardly use “animal” any more because some people that do not know me, get upset). We are currently in South Carolina. Well, when we went out the front door I was taken by the silence. I could only hear water cascading in the brook behind the house and a lone tree frog. I thought, what a delight. Then came the hum of a transformer, an air conditioner started and a car drove by. End of the magic, or was it?
The tinnitus that I experience reminds me that my hearing is not what it used to be. I should be grateful for every sound I hear. Even though the subtitles in the high range escape me these days. So, bring on the wood chippers and snow blowers as well as Mozart and Thiloneous Monk and don’t forget Johnny Cash. I am grateful for all sounds. After all, an eternity of silence is all too soon approaching.
Note: It is important to guard one’s precious hearing. Always wear ear protection in an area over 90 dB (you will know 90 dB because it is unmistakably loud, ear protection is in order before that point). Wear protection when mowing the lawn.
Spending time in our new place in South Carolina is a big change from our home in New England. With that big change comes a lot of little changes and challenges. Where is the best grocery store (there is no Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s), hardware store and fish monger? At first we are like tourists, going to the rustic and colorful local establishments. Today we went to the local farmers market and got she crab soup, it was delicious but probably not a wise purchase for someone trying to be diet conscious. It isn’t long before the prices will make me feel foolish and I start looking for alternatives. One particular guy thing that I am having to face is, “Where do I get the oil changed on the car?” This is particularly troublesome for me because I am a bit of a gear head.
Back in Connecticut the oil change issue has evolved into a social happening. I take my car over to Bob’s. Bob has a pit in his garage. I buy a five gallon jug of Mobile 1 and a Fram filter at Walmart (about $26.00 for the oil and less than $10.00 for the filter). Drive to Bob’s and can change the oil in about fifteen minutes. Bob even recycles the oil, he has a buddy that uses it to heat his garage. But, in reality the oil change process takes over an hour. We talk at length about cars, projects we are doing around the house and politics. When I am under the car I check for any other damage or issue with the car that cannot be seen from above.
I tend to be fussy about my car. Perhaps this one in particular because it is new. I do not trust, at all, the dealer in Connecticut because they have a bad service reputation.
That reminds of a story told to me by Bob about his son-in-law. The lad brought his new car to the dealership for service religiously. He would not let Bob change the oil on his new car, his pride and joy. Finally, years later he deigned to let Bob do the honors. Great effort was required to get the filter off. When it finally came off, the oil was so thick that it nearly did not drain from the filter. Seems that although paying top dollar for service, the service was seldom if ever performed. The last time I owned a new car, I also took it to the dealership for service the first couple of years I owned it. Finally I stopped. When it eventually came time to change the cabin air filter I had a revelation. To change the filter, required the removal of the glove box and the removal of a brace that had been used to support the dashboard during assembly. The brace was still in place. Without the removal of the brace it is not possible to get access to the filter. Although I had paid the dealership in the past for a new cabin air filter, it had never been replaced.
So, what to do about changing the oil in Bluffton?
I can’t take it out in the desert and open the drain plug. No, I didn’t ever do this but it has been known to happen back in the day. Besides, no desert here.
Bob’s garage pit is 900 miles away.
I would be embarrassed to let the local dealership rip me off. I would have to wear a disguise after my comments above.
I could ask a local guy. A local guy would know.
I asked Pete. Pete is working on the place next door. As it turns out, Pete changes his own oil and doesn’t trust any of the local dealerships. Pete called over the carpenter supervisor. After some in depth discussion we settled on a local place. By the way, the carpenter supervisor also changes his own oil and doesn’t trust the dealerships. It made me feel good to be in the company of other gear heads and comforting to know that any readers of this missive will understand that I am not alone with my peculiar ideas regarding oil changes. It should be noted that I was also cautioned to go over the process with the mechanic and mark my oil filter so I could make sure that the filter was changed.
So I phoned the shop and made an appointment for next week, the earliest I could get in. It was good to hear that they are so busy that I had to wait a week.
There is another extreme to the oil change dilemma. When I lived in Pittsburgh I worked with a senior engineer, Regis. Regis had the notion that one added oil but should not change it. He would keep the oil at the proper level but left it in place for as long as he owned the car. His idea was that the built up sludge would prevent oil leaks. I don’t believe I would buy a car from Regis.