Tag Archives: recreation

When It Rains It Pours

The day before yesterday I bought a flaring tool. A ruptured brake line in the Jeep needed repair and I couldn’t find mine, tools still in ~70% disarray since the move…

Overflowing Pool
Not my pool, but you get the general idea. That sucker’s FULL.

So yesterday it rained. All day. Relentlessly. It rained and rained and rained. Then it rained some more. And I didn’t work on the Jeep. Come nightfall it rained. Thursday turned into Friday and it kept raining.

In Florida it doesn’t matter how much it rains. Remember the genie in the 1996 movie Aladdin and the King of Thieves? “Sand… It’s everywhere, get used to it.” The sand just soaks up rain like… well, like sand.

It works great except, duh, where there’s no freakin’ sand! The driveway doesn’t soak up the rain, but it drains into – you guessed it – sand. No problem there. Then there’s the pool. Uh oh, the pool’s full of water, the same stuff that rain’s made of. And pools don’t automatically drain, no siree, they contain. So this morning I found the pool full – TOO full – of water. Close to overflowing, it was, so much water that the skimmer couldn’t skim. Up until then I had no idea that it was possible for a pool to have too much water. Live and learn.

It took about two hours to lower the water to the correct level.

Later in the day I formed a piece of brake line and installed it. I was about to begin bleeding the system when… uh huh… it started to rain.

They Ruined The Beach Bar!

A few years ago we discovered the Beach Bar. In nearby Asbury Park, NJ on the south side of Convention Hall it was a fun place to just drop in, hang out for munchies and a couple of cold ones. Can’t say how many times it was the destination for a quick, couple-of-hours-to-kill motorcycle ride.

Yesterday we took a ride down, the first time this season. It just might be the last. Huh?

It’s ruined. The atmosphere is, well, gone. Where to begin…

In the past, the first thing you’d see were the potted plants and trees, even a fake palm. Gone. Now just a sign announcing SECURITY and ID requirements. The outside seating, once tall tables and chairs, now replaced by low, slouch-style plastic seating. It’s comfortable enough, I guess, but encourages sleeping, not socialization. What’s worse, the view from the low seats is now dominated by railing, not ocean and beach. We went for their Sangria, once pretty good, but they no longer offered it. We quickly switched to beers. We were hungry for a little lunch but no, there was no menu, no food for love or money. Time and again I saw people sending one of their group out to the boardwalk to bring food back. The experience was a total disappointment – except for our server, who was competent and attentive.

Now, I’m not shy so I asked around. (I won’t give any clues about who I talked to; most were candid and deserve to keep their jobs.) It turns out that management changes had brought a series of changes. Employee protests had fallen on deaf ears. It’s as simple as that, a story we hear all too often. Was it just too early in the season? Nope, this is it. How’s business, overall? Okay, but not like it was – and trending downward. Any hope for change? Any hope for better drinks? Any hope for food? Those I talked to had heard it all before – from customers and fellow employees alike – but it just didn’t matter.

Only 4-5 weeks into the season? Could be trouble. Bummer, that.

I had a look at their Facebook page just now. The contrast between last year’s activity and now is like night and catfood. Yeah, that different.

I’m afraid I can’t, in good conscience, recommend this place anymore.

We left, much quicker that usual, to find nourishment elsewhere in town.

Well, That’s That!

We’re done with the business of vacationing – for now. Very relaxing stuff. We’re among the lucky ones. These days, the trade rags keep telling me, many are forgoing relaxation because they feel they can’t – or shouldn’t – get away for one reason or another. That sentiment is hogwash, I say. You need a break. Otherwise the stress will rob years from your life…

Pam, at this very moment, is likely doing triage on her inbox. Probably a thousand messages there. I know her office is short-staffed this week and that’s probably not helping matters much. She’s made a point of completely unplugging from the goings-on at the office during her time off. An excellent decision, IMHO. For gone are the days when The Company gives a shit for its human resources and it’s merely correct to make the relationship as reciprocal as possible – without compromising one’s own values, of course. It’s easier said than done. And most people don’t even try, often for economic reasons. That’s a discussion for another time.

The kid’s back in school. Today’s the first day of his last year of high school. Besides his backpack and lunch he carries his angst. At that age everyone has their share of angst, maybe more than their share. I hope he can see through it and do well in his classes. He doesn’t understand – yet – that the complexities of life rise exponentially soon after that segment of life moves from present tense to past tense. He’ll look back at these times and remember them with words like ‘simple’ and ‘easy’ and ‘free’. Maybe even a bit of ‘regret’. No, he doesn’t know that yet. He can’t. Angst is a powerful drug.

It’s quiet here. Nothing but the sounds of the intermittent rain, the landscape crew in the distance, the hum of the computer fans. Gone are the noises of… recreation and relaxitude.

My desk has a backlog of crap and not a little bit of clutter. The overflowing tray of stuff for the shredder, same situation with the bin of recyclable material. The list of stuff I should be doing is a mile long. A bit more of this coffee and I’ll be ready.

Guitar Addition

Ah, that kid o’ mine sure knows how to push my buttons!

He wants my guitar, my beloved Splatter Strat, that I bought back in 2004. (I recently wrote about some modifications I made to it – see Supercharging the Stratocaster.) He can’t play, but he wants to. I’ve told him over and over that he can use it any time but he wants it nearby, not where I store it. So every time he sees me eyeing another axe he goads me: “Go on, just buy it!”

He knows.

Well, the other day, just shy of 7 years since I bought the Strat, I bought a limited run Les Paul Studio 60’s Tribute.

Gibson Les Paul Studio 60s Tribute
Limited run Gibson Les Paul Studio 60s Tribute in Worn Cherry Burst.

Damian’s birthday’s coming up, Pam and I reasoned, and with a month or so before school starts it’s a good time to help him establish a practice schedule… I gave him the Strat with two conditions: I could play it when I wanted and he’d give me first dibs if he considered getting rid of it. We threw in a VOX Pathfinder 15R and a bunch of other goodies. He seemed pleased.

As am I. Oddly, I was originally looking for the Les Paul Studio Faded because of the outstanding reviews – not to mention the price and availability – but when I played the two side by side the choice was clear. Wow, those P-90 pickups were white-hot. Needless to say, it helped that Pam really liked the finish!

It’s taking some getting used to. The first thing I did was change the strings to my favorites and get into the requisite setup. Amazingly, it took almost no tweaking at all! The action’s just a tad higher than I prefer but only the tiniest bit. I think I’m going to try to get used to it. The sound is, well, like a Les Paul.

Oh, and Damian? He’s been practicing some every day. His fingers hurt but I’m pushing him to increase his session duration. He’s listening, which is good.

Eventually he’ll not only look like a rock star, he’ll make noises like one, too.

81 Support Party

Dingo's Den
Dingo's Den in Clifton, NJ during the day, photo found on the Web.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Coming off the Garden State Parkway, Pam and me had followed the GPS through a maze of dark residential streets. We rounded the corner onto Van Houten Avenue to find the street in front of the Dingo’s Den choked with bodies and motorcycles. This tiny place was hosting the Hells Angels Winter Party?

We eased the truck past, found parking several blocks away, walked back. A passing outbound girl warned that it was “very, very crowded and hot” inside. “As long as the beer’s cold,” I thought. We pressed on.

Inside was packed. And loud. But service was good and soon we were in the back near the band, beers in hand. It had been quite a while since I’d been in a club like this. Dark, dirty, jammed with people, fleeting smells – some recognizable and some not –  and seriously loud. The kind of loud that required shouting over, and even then… I missed it. A lot.

We only had the time to take in two of the four bands. Ghost & the Big Sky was first. Very good, tight drums & bass with competent guitar work. Then Trailer Park Mafia. Their 70s/80s metal renditions were instantly familiar. They did a blazing version of Motorhead’s Ace of Spades.

Soon enough it was time to go. Somehow, the outside world seemed much, much quieter.

Hailey’s Harp and Pub

Last night I attended the first annual whiskey tasting at Hailey’s Harp and Pub. It was a huge success!

Pam still reads a pulp newspaper and it was there that she spotted the ad. She thought that our friend Will (also a whiskey enthusiast) and I might enjoy the nearby event and offered to drive. (Can’t beat that, right?)

About 30 of us convened in a back room of the pub to eat, sample whiskeys and converse with Whiskey Master Kevin Loser. Our host (and pub owner) Chris got the evening going with a few stories and jokes while the first of some 7 whiskeys were poured. Kevin took over and began with a high-level description of different whiskey types and common distillery operations. Each new pour was introduced with a great deal of detail. Between tastings, plates of finger foods appeared, prepared by chef Johnny O’ to compliment that particular whiskey. Delicious!

I already had varying degrees of familiarity with most everything we tasted, save one – the Redbreast. The 12-year-old didn’t impress me but it was followed by the 15-year-old which was simply outstanding. A triple-distilled pure pot still whiskey is unique. A Web search will bring you lots more information about the whiskey, here’s a good place to start.

The pace of the event was good. The hours passed quickly and afterward we had a pint in the pub proper, taking in some live music. Chris spent some time hangin’ with the three of us, talking. (Nice touch, spending time with the noobs.) He runs a nice hands-on operation and customers know him by name. The house was packed – normal, I’m told.

Hailey’s has a great atmosphere, everyone made us feel welcome. It’s someplace I’ll definitely try to visit more often. Besides, I want to explore their menu.

Language Analysis, Anyone?

Pam‘s not much of a gamer but she plays The Sims. Has for years. Started with the first one, now they’re up to The Sims3. Quite a piece of software that is!

If you’ve played (or watched it played) you know that it’s a chatty game. That is, those simulated entities never shut up. Some of the sounds are universal. Babies crying, sounds of disgust (“Ugh!”) and so on. But conversationally they seem to have a language all their own.

I was wondering about that. First, does what they say have any consistency? By that I mean, say, when one of ’em is hungry and mentions it, do they always say “oot grickle mem sitto zerk!” (or whatever that incomprehensible jabber is)? I don’t play, but I asked Pam and she said she thinks they might – but admitted she never paid attention.

By extension, if they do ‘speak’ with consistency then has anyone out there worked out the grammar? Is there anyone on the planet that can speak Sim?

Why not? There are people that can speak (and understand) Klingon. The ‘net delivers example after example of people that clearly have an abundance of free time. So why not?

Karaoke

Last night I enjoyed a new experience and, well, it led to some rather unexpected results. I visited a karaoke bar!
Okay, go ahead, label me deprived or something. The fact is, it’s been more than a few years since I stopped hanging out in bars for the sake of just hanging out. The activity just doesn’t hold a whole lot of appeal for me. Sure, I did my share of it back in the day but I’ve usually got way better things to do with my time. So almost every time I find myself in that environment I learn something. And karaoke… I guess it’s a trend that just passed me by.
Here’s my basic interpretation of how it works. The establishment primes its customers with alcohol while playing loud music. I think it has to be loud so that everyone needs to shout to converse. It gets the voice primed. The alcohol serves as lubricant. Then they open the mike. The operator (or MC, I guess – what do you call the guy who guides the show?) sets up the songs and works the equipment. He seemed to have the ability to mix the song’s actual vocals back in so that more reserved participants would have a little help. Lyrics are displayed on strategically placed video monitors. Available songs could be chosen from a large binder – a couple of them, actually – that could be found on the bar. The night progressed and the lubricity rose, with mostly predictable results. A couple of people were actually pretty good. Most were not, but all were entertaining to one degree or another.
Before you ask, no, I didn’t take the mike at any point, which was probably a good thing for the other patrons. I must confess, though, before the night was over I did peruse the binder of songs. The lubrication, in the form of a few Coronas, was working as expected. Had I found some Zappa I might have given it a whirl. And that leads right into the unexpected results I mentioned earlier.
Time and time again I was surprised – astounded, actually – by song lyrics. Everything I knew was wrong! Top-40, metal, didn’t matter. Stuff I kind of thought I maybe sort of knew? Nope.
I’ll never listen to music the same way again.
There’s one tune that I hear kinda regularly on the satellite station at the gym. It sounds to me like they’re singing about making and eating some kind of soup. I guess I’m wrong about that one, too.

Last night I enjoyed a new experience and, well, it led to some rather unexpected results. I visited a karaoke bar!

Okay, go ahead, label me deprived or something. The fact is, it’s been more than a few years since I stopped hanging out in bars for the sake of just hanging out. The activity just doesn’t hold a whole lot of appeal for me. Sure, I did my share of it back in the day but I’ve usually got way better things to do with my time. So almost every time I find myself in that environment I learn something. And karaoke… I guess it’s a trend that just passed me by.

Here’s my basic interpretation of how it works. The establishment primes its customers with alcohol while playing loud music. I think it has to be loud so that everyone needs to shout to converse. It gets the voice primed. The alcohol serves as lubricant. Then they open the mike. The operator (or MC, I guess – what do you call the guy who guides the show?) sets up the songs and works the equipment. He seemed to have the ability to mix the song’s actual vocals back in so that more reserved participants would have a little help. Lyrics are displayed on strategically placed video monitors. Available songs could be chosen from a large binder – a couple of them, actually – that could be found on the bar. The night progressed and the lubricity rose, with mostly predictable results. A couple of people were actually pretty good. Most were not, but all were entertaining to one degree or another.

Before you ask, no, I didn’t take the mike at any point, which was probably a good thing for the other patrons. I must confess, though, before the night was over I did peruse the binder of songs. The lubrication, in the form of a few Coronas, was working as expected. Had I found some Zappa I might have given it a whirl. And that leads right into the unexpected results I mentioned earlier.

Time and time again I was surprised – astounded, actually – by song lyrics. Everything I knew was wrong! Top-40, metal, didn’t matter. Stuff I kind of thought I maybe sort of knew? Nope.

I’ll never listen to music the same way again.

There’s one tune, maybe some kind of rap, that I hear kinda regularly on the satellite station at the gym. It sounds to me like they’re chanting about making and eating some kind of soup. I guess I’m wrong about that one, too.

Kelsey Charity Run – 2009

The Kelsey Charity Run on Father’s Day was a non-run, a wash. At literally the last minute we headed over to Bridgewater for the usually-pleasant ride through Somerset County. Arriving a bit late, we were directed to park on the street leading down to the picnic area. That’s unusual, we usually fill the fields, and I thought it was just overflow due to lateness. But no, the fields were empty – waterlogged – and the street easily accommodated the bikes that showed.
A photographer from the local newspaper was shooting the line as I parked. I’m on the right alongside my Dyna, Pam’s in the background on my right (straightening her helmet-hair). There are other photos from the paper as well as a short article.
It’s always fun being in others’ pictures, and this year we made it onto the official event Web site’s pictures. Pam and I are on the right, walking toward the camera looking at each other.
So, the ride itself never actually happened but we had a good time anyway eating, drinking and listening to the bands. With the wet Spring, we’ll take anything that doesn’t leave us soggy!

The Kelsey Charity Run on Father’s Day was a non-run, a wash, as it were.

At literally the last minute we headed over to Bridgewater for the usually-pleasant ride through Somerset County. Arriving a bit late, we were directed to park on the street leading down to the picnic area. That’s unusual, we usually fill the fields, and I thought it was just overflow due to lateness. But no, the fields were empty – waterlogged – and the street easily accommodated the bikes that showed.

A photographer from the local newspaper was shooting the line as I parked. I’m on the right alongside my Dyna, Pam’s in the background on my right (straightening her helmet-hair).

Street Parking Only
Street Parking Only

The myCentralJersey.com site has many other event photos as well as a short article. [links died]

It’s always fun being in others’ pictures, and this year we made it onto the official event Web site’s pictures. Pam and I are on the right, walking toward the camera looking at each other.

Walking the Vendor Line
Walking the Vendor Line

So, while the ride itself never actually happened we had a good time eating, drinking and listening to the bands. With the wet Spring, we’ll take anything that doesn’t leave us soggy!

Off-Season

Let’s face it, there’s not much reason to hit the Jersey shore in the middle of the winter. But that’s exactly what I did the other day.

Since I had business nearby I decided to visit Asbury Park and see how preparation for the upcoming summer season was progressing. It wasn’t! I expected to see nothing but asses and elbows, but found a ghost town instead. The only action was in the old Paramount Theatre, where preparation for a Tom Jones show that evening was underway. The roadies paid us little mind as Pam and I wandered around. We wanted to have lunch but everything was closed. The town seems poised to lose yet another season and in this economy that just might spell doom. Too bad.

We continued south. I thought it might be fun to take the Jeep down the barrier island. I was surprised to see the Island Beach State Park was charging a five dollar entry fee. (“All year, every day,” the attendant confirmed.) It didn’t seem worth it to drop a fin simply to drive in and out so we circled back through Seaside Heights. The town was a flurry of activity, plenty of local contractors busily sprucing up for the season to come. We wandered the boardwalk a bit. It sure is a different place midwinter!

p2270013

By then, I was out of time. I finished some business in Eatontown and continued back into the central part of the state. It was almost like returning to civilization. Almost.

OS/2

OS/2
OS/2

I was cleaning off my desk today, picking up some of the clutter and carting it down to the basement archives when I ran across this sheet of stickers that made me smile. It got me to thinking…

Some months back I was participating in a discussion of old operating systems and talk turned to OS/2. I decided then that it might be fun to try to install Warp in a VM for goofs. Back in the dark ages even though the bulk of the install was from CD you needed to boot the install from floppy. It took some searching to find an old laptop that still had a working floppy drive, but find one I did and soon had the required floppy images.

It didn’t matter. The install failed.

That was under VMware Server 1-point-something-or-other. I soon learned that VMware didn’t support loading OS/2.

Oh well, it could have been fun.

When Pain is Good

My body hurts. All over. Oh, it’s not a debilitating pain, and I’m not sick or injured. No, this is perfectly normal. You see, I joined a gym. And gaining strength comes with a nice side order of pain. So it’s good.

This story goes pretty far back, way back to when I traded working with my body for working with my brain. Even though I was young, the responsiveness and strength of my body, which I’d come to take for granted, had begun to fade. I tried to fight it. I tried exercise, even bought a weight set, but I didn’t have the self-discipline to make it work. Then, a new gym was opening right up the street and they sent around some promotional material. I went in to check it out. I remember being floored by the price tag, but ended up giving in to their hard-sell tactics. One aspect seemed to make sense: the significant cost would push me to work at it, rather than waste it. And it worked.

After about six months my wife joined me – another chunk of change every month – but work at it we did. We gained strength, our bodies changed, we stopped getting colds and stuff, and a whole host of other benefits. Three or four days a week, maybe three or more hours per session, had become our routine. Yeah, there was pain then, too, but we grew accustomed to it, even learned to enjoy it. We did this for years, moving to a better gym when the first one folded.

When Pam was pregnant with Damian she continued to lift – with her doctor’s blessing. “Your body will tell you when to stop,” he said. She continued with the machines and free weights until about two weeks before giving birth. Pretty incredible. (It’s worth noting that she was home from the hospital in less than 24 hours, too – a tribute to the amazing shape she was in.)

With a newborn in the house life was very, very different. Time – for *anything* – was immediately in seriously short supply. Did I mention the sleep deprivation? We tried to keep fitting the workouts in, but it just wasn’t happening. After some months of membership dues essentially thrown away we cut it loose.

In the years that followed I’ve made quite the number of starts at getting strong again. Despite the weights, leg machines and a top ‘o the line StairMaster climber, it simply hasn’t become habit.

So now, more than a decade and a half later, it’s time for a fresh start. I’m please to report getting past the extremely frustrating feeling of being unable to do even ten percent of what was once easy and routine. The every-other-day ritual is becoming normal, and feels damned good. Stuff hurts.

But it’s a good kind of hurt.

Zappa Plays Zappa

I’ve been a Frank Zappa fan since I encountered the Freak Out album back in the late sixties, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him live many, many times. Last Thursday night I saw the Zappa Plays Zappa show at the Blender Theater in New York. [ed. In 2009 the Blender Theater was renamed the Gramercy Theater.] You can read more about the ZPZ tours here.

You Can't Fit On Stage Anymore
YCFOSA card front

This was my first visit to the Blender. It’s small and intimate, capacity of maybe a few hundred, tops. The stage was tiny, too; Dweezil and the band really had to squeeze themselves in and there wasn’t a whole lot of space to move around. This tour was all about smaller venues, and that’s where the tour name came from: You Can’t Fit On Stage Anymore.

back
YCFOSA card back

Dweezil’s playing has really matured in recent years. His blistering guitar work was spot on. It’s reported that he’s put an incredible amount of effort into these concerts and it certainly shows. I was very pleased to see Ray White (of You Are What You Is, among other favorites) in the lineup. And Sheila Gonzalez, who I first saw on the earlier ZPZ DVDs, was nothing short of excellent. One song after another, they pumped out hit after hit nearly non-stop for almost three hours. The set list was a fantastic mix of stuff both ranging from Frank’s early work to the more recent. I was blown away by their rendition of Billy The Mountain – something that I’d never heard live before. The time just flew by!

Dweezil Zappa
Dweezil Zappa after the show, hangin’ on stage talking with fans

After a generous three-song encore Dweezil hung by the stage talking with fans and signing stuff, smiling all the while. I joined the group and thanked him for his work, for bringing Frank’s music to us, and collected his autograph on the back of the card.

This show came with a couple of extras, too. About two-thirds through the show they drew a number and gave away a Hagstrom Super Swede guitar! The winner was pulled onto the stage to collect his prize. Dweezil asked, “do you play the guitar?” “No, but I’m gonna learn!” “Well here, let me help you get started with your first lesson.” They plugged him in, cranked it up, showed him where to put his fingers and he banged around with the band for a minute or so. Oh, man, do I ever wish that I won that! I play a little, so it would have been a real treat – um, for me, definitely, but probably not for the audience. The other ‘extra’, which I haven’t downloaded yet, is a fully-mixed mp3 of the show. Can’t wait!

All in all, an excellent night of fantastic music. If you get the chance to attend one of the concerts of this tour I absolutely, positively recommend it.

Wildwood Rules

We spent some time in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey this summer. It was soon apparent that the sheer number of rules and signs and warnings would make for some fun images.

The effort began in our suite and widened from there. The final image presents an opportunity to learn something about conservation, erosion, and the New Jersey shoreline.

Images are here. Have fun!

Time Off

I’m afraid that the blog has suffered lately. Postings have just not been happening. Some might be thinking that this one has gone like the other personal blogs I’ve started in the past: left to die of neglect, interest lost.

Actually I’ve been merely recreating with the family. My son’s been off from school, naturally, but my wife’s taken a load of time off as well to de-stress and recreate. So I’ve dropped as much as I can in order to participate. And there’s quite a bit to do here in what’s arguably the densest area of the country!

Well, that’s behind us now, and it’s time to get back to work.