Rain, Wind, Home Depot, and Barry Manilow

It was a very rainy, and windy day here in River City. That not totally true because it’s not really River City, it’s still St. Helens. But, the town resides on the western shore of the Columbia River, where it flows north from Portland to Longview, so it’s also known as River City. Just thought I’d share that with you for clarification.

This morning at church Diane, her Mom, Jean, and I provided all the snacks for the coffee hour after the service. My job was to carry the bag of food to the basement then get out of the way until I was called to do something. That moment came as soon as everyone, all 30 of them, had made their way through the line once. Then Diane and Jean abandoned me, leaving me alone with two very hot coffee pots, decaf and regular, trusting me to not burn anyone. I did them proud by not doing that and I even got a little cocky and poured left-handed. Though I’m sure I’ve done it before, I have no memory of it. I even did an old trick I’ve used, not overly popular by most of the recipients, by filling Nancy’s cup to the tippy top, so full that picking it up bordered on dangerous. I didn’t burn her, though. That trick I developed while in the Navy aboard ship. Invariably, when someone fills their cup with coffee, someone is waiting right behind to fills theirs. Having the pot already in your hand, it’s an accepted practice to fill the cup of at least the next person in line. When it was me doing the filling, I poured them a heaping cup full. Really. Heaping full. If you fill a cup all the way to the top, and look at it sideways, it almost looks like the liquid is above the cup rim. The fun part at sea is watching the person ask you to stop well before it’s full, but continue anyway. They never once pulled their cup away, but allowed me to fill it all the way up, calling me some pretty creative names as I calmly put the pot back, and watched as they did their best to get the cup to their lips without spilling anything. Consider, too, that the ship is moving all the time. Sometimes in predictable directions. To their credit, everyone who had the misfortune of having me fill their cups in the Goat Locker (Chief’s Mess) never spilled a drop. That comes from experience. They also learned quickly to just wait until I put the pot down so they could fill their own cups. I guess what I did may be construed as mean, but I treated it like a training session.

Once the church was all cleaned up and locked, we dropped by the house to let the dogs out for a bit, then headed to Longview for an expensive visit to Home Depot. I got some baseboard wood, and shoe moulding, and Diane got paint. I think the way she picked it was to look at the price and go for the most expensive thing they sold. Of course, that’s untrue. We had previously agreed on the Behr brand, and the color, so it was OK.

Wood, in case you didn’t know it, is no longer cheap like it used to be. That’s true for everything, I know, but here in the Great Northwest, where people grow trees for a living, you’d think wood might not be so expensive. But, it is. Kinda makes me want to get a big saw and start making my own lumber, but we don’t have our own trees so I guess that wouldn’t work. I don’t know where this is going, so I’m shifting gears ..,

Diane was sad that her new iPhone didn’t have any music on it. Specifically, Barry Manilow singing “All I have to do is dream”, for her alarm clock. All of that music is still on her old phone, which is now mine, but there’s no way to transfer that information from one phone to another. Music must be added from iTunes, as in the iTunes on the computer from which it was originally added. At least that’s my understanding. If there’s another way, and you know what it is, I’m interested in hearing about it.

The problem, you see, is that we replaced Diane’s computer not long ago because she fussed about how long it took to do ‘stuff’, and it was always doing something she didn’t want it to do. And, a crucial bit of software needed for updating Windows XP self destructed so the computer was missing the daily critical security updates needed to keep the gremlins away. Her new computer is Windows 8 all in one Samsung with a touch screen. She’s getting used to it, but it tends to give her fits once in a while, too.

The old computer is in the basement, so I paid it a long visit so I could snag all those songs and put them on her new computer. Actually, the last two old computers, plus about 12 hard drives of questionable vintage, two laptops, and three monitors, were scattered around just waiting for me to find the time to see how they work now. Having a goal in mind made checking them much easier because not having one allows my mind to wander a bit and I tend to just take them apart. That’s why there are so many old hard drives lying around. They came from old computers that I’ve acquired over the years. I tore a couple of the hard drives apart to get the excellent magnets out of them just for fun. They are pretty powerful. I heard that it really hurts if you sandwich you ear lobe between them and let go. It’s true. It hurts a lot.

Anyway, the old PC booted right up but, guess what. I had apparently removed all the music from the computer. There was no iTunes, there were no tunes, period. That was true for the other old PC I found. So, I got busy checking all the old CDs lying around down there, looking for anything that had “Music” written on it. I found a few, but nothing with Barry Manilow.

In a panic, I felt the walls closing in on me because I couldn’t find Barry. Then I remembered the CDs we own and actually found them in a nifty little rack that’s hidden in a corner with all the kids toys and games that never get used. A quick search led me to a Barry disc which had the correct song on it. I was saved! I rushed it to her computer with the secure knowledge that I wouldn’t have to sleep on the porch, which pleased me because it’s a bit chilly out there. And wet.

The import went really well after I discovered how to open the CD tray on her computer. There’s no handy little button in the vicinity of the drive to push for it to open. Finally, in iTunes, I discovered that it’s simply a matter of pressing Ctrl-E on the keyboard. Good to know. She now has 154 songs on her computer, and sync’d her phone so they are now also available for her to use.

She can’t, however, stick her new phone it the little Bose speaker base I got her for Christmas a couple of years ago because, Apple changed the adapter on the new phones. Nifty, huh? They have adapters, I know, but we don’t have one of those, yet.

This afternoon I also had a wonderful conversation with Gretchen, one of my co-workers while I was employed at PGE. We worked together for many, many, many years. Well, maybe only many, many years. It was good to catch up on what’s going on with her and her family. I know she’s one of the 4-5 people who read this so I must let her know that we talked for 42 minutes and 43 seconds. I know that because Diane’s phone told me so when we ended the call. That’s not a complaint or criticism, just a fact. So, Diane’s phone is now properly broken in.

Here it is, almost 10 pm, and we’re picking up a friend, Mary, at 0600 in the morning to deliver her to PDX. She’s going on a Panama Canal Cruise. That’s the next cruise Diane wants to take because she’s always talking about it. When she does, I point out that I’ve already done that, in 1967, and it wasn’t really a big deal. It’s just really narrow in spots. But, it would, I admit, be interesting to do it again.

I must really quit, and crash. I’ll let you know how tomorrow goes.

Just for fun, here are some of the pets hanging around this place. There are lots of iguanas, too. Big ones, too. When they hear the click of a camera, they come running to get their reward. We don’t know what that is, however, so we just depart quickly. there are a few around that are 3 feet long and they are very homely looking creatures. I was going to say ‘ugly’, but I’m not sure if they have internet access or not, and don’t want to get into trouble.


Hot Tub, Weed Whacking & A Water Show

Saturday afternoon, once I got over my coffee induced nap, it was determined that I should do something around the house for a change. Specifically, attempt to resurrect our empty hot tub and make it work. before draining it a few weeks ago, it was flashing a variety of error codes at me that I had to research on the internet. One of them indicated it thought there was no water in the heater, and another one thought it was overheating. Conflicting and confusing, so I just unplugged it and drained all the water. Then, yesterday, Diane indicated that it would be good if we could use it once in a while which was code for ‘get off your butt and FIX it!’

So, I grabbed a bunch of wrenches, some screw drivers, and went down to see what I could see. Not being familiar with hot tub innards, I was in for an educational experience.

First, I removed the outer plastic pealing, revealing all the fun stuff inside, most of it covered with spray foam insulation. I was concerned about spiders because I’ve found a few pretty big ones lurking around the tub which would have just made Diane’s day had she encountered them first. She doesn’t, ever, because I’m always the first one there just for that reason. Oddly, I didn’t see one spider once the sides were removed. I was happy for that because I’m not particularly fond of them, either. I just don’t scream like a little girl when I see them, like Diane does.

I studied the tubes, hoses, and heater for a while, then decided to undo the only two screws available for me to turn. It was the cover for all the electrical connections, and the heater tube. Interesting stuff. None of it made any sense to me so I just started disconnecting things from the circuit board, and plugging them back in. It’s a trick I learned with computers – sometimes plugs get tired of being plugged in all the time and just quit working, from boredom, no doubt, and unplugging them and putting them back kinda wakes it up. Then it works. Like magic.

I put it all back together and turned it on to see what would happen and soon discovered that nothing had changed. It doesn’t heat properly and the 64 degree water wasn’t quite warm enough for Diane. I discovered, however, that running the jets, over and over, heated the water up, and eventually topped out at 84 degrees before I called it a day and went to bed.

During this time I fired up weed whacker and set about using it in the back yard. Diane gave me free reign with only one stipulation – that I pick up ‘all the crap’ I cut down on Friday afternoon. Those would be offending rhododendron branches that I just cut and left laying in the front yard. Also, there were more in the back yard, as well as clippings from an un-named kind of bush that served as a test run for my battery powered hedge trimmers that I didn’t think worked. It’s been sitting un-used in the basement for two years. Who knew?

So, I cleaned that all up, and caused little pieces of grass to fly all over the place, and discovered some new species of plants growing in our ‘flower garden’ that I didn’t know we had. It was exciting to have time to do that. It was pleasing and made me very tired. I sweat a great deal so had to take another shower. With soap this time.

We didn’t sit long before deciding it was time for bed.

This morning, on the way to church, we stopped by Dan & Jennie’s house so I could turn their water heater back on. I worked a bit on Friday and turned it off because the kids had gone camping for the weekend at Big Eddy in Vernonia. Seemed like a waste of power to have it running, especially when I was turning the water off and on. The little work I did was to make sure the sink was level and secure it firmly to the wall. Still lots more to do, but it won’t happen until Monday afternoon. That’s because I get to go to the VA in Hillsboro bright and early tomorrow morning to find out how long it’s going to be before I go completely blind. I’m told it could be many years. Maybe I just need new glasses. I’ll find out because this visit is actually my annual checkup, not for the diabetic retinopathy test results. Though I’m sure that will be discussed. More on that later as I learn more.

Just in case it’s a bad diagnosis, I’ve been practicing braille. That’s not easy to do when you can’t feel anything with most of your finger tips. Most of my practice is on bathroom doors, and the ATM drive through. Regarding that, I’ve always thought it was silly to have braille at ATM drive throughs. I mean, how could a blind person possibly find that useful? I have this vision of a blind person driving up to the ATM with, perhaps, their cane sticking out of the driver’s window, or just sticking their arm out waiting for it to hit something. Then, when that happens, they feel around until they find the braille instructions, pull out their ATM card, stick it out the window, and drop it on the ground, like I do. Then, since they are alone, they have to get out of their car and search for the card. When they find it, they don’t get back in the car, they just face the machine and reorient themselves, finding all the various openings, and swipe their card. Since the ATM doesn’t talk, they have to swipe their card both ways to ensure the magnetic strip is facing the correct direction. Again, since the ATM doesn’t talk, they have to guess at what’s on the screen, unless they signed up for, and took, the ACLU sponsored program that explains everything a blind person should know about every possible version of ATMs world wide.

Eventually, they get their money, but they have to go on faith that what they got is what they requested. ATMs are almost always honest, so it’s probably correct.

Then they get in their car and drive off, running directly into the person in front of them who didn’t find it necessary to move along like a normal person should.

OK, I know. It’s not nice to make fun of blind folks, but I’m really not. I’m making fun of ‘situations’ where someone finds it necessary to cater to their ‘needs’ even if it’s dumb. I’ll tell you right now, when I go blind, Diane’s going to do all that stuff, not me. Just like she does now. I’m not allowed to use the ATM.

After church, we went to Zhens for some great Chinese food. We love that place, and I’ve talked about it before. Today I made a suggestion to our waitress that, considering the enormous size of their portions, they should just serve it in take out containers and save the need for washing plates. The problem, however, is that, since the take home container is totally full after eating, they’d have to serve the other part on a plate, anyway. Really. Here’s proof …


After lunch, we took a trip to the St. Helens water front to see what was going on. Happily, The Maritime Heritage Festival was still in progress, and we got to watch the waterski show. From the car.


What fun. I got out and went down to sit with an older gentleman on the rocks. He was taking lots of pictures. I learned that he has a little shop in town where he sells postcards that have his photos on them. They are all from the Columbia County area. Gotta look this guy up and see what he’s got.



We must have been there for an hour, or so. During that time we watched more than a few cargo ships go up and down the river, and watched the sternwheeler, Portland, sail up the Columbia, heading back home, no doubt. Very picturesque and peaceful.


… and, here’s some of the routine traffic that transits the river past our quiet little corner of paradise …


Thinking about comments from at least two of you, I did some research on the internet about publishing written works. There’s a lot of info out there about doing it and I’m absolutely sure most of them require a fee in association with their TGTBT offers. You don’t get that data until you provide your email address, which I didn’t. TGTBT, by the way, is my newest acronym for Too Good To Be True. It’s not original, just shorter. I’m sure there’s info out there for free, too, and I don’t have a problem with people providing information for a fee. It’s business. I might just use an Apple app I found that allows me to publish to iBooks. I’ve had it for a couple of years, so maybe it’s time to check it out.

First, however, I need something to write about. Sitting down to write a story, something with structure, is difficult. Nothing I do has structure, writing or otherwise. And I lie a lot. So, I’m limited to fiction. Being limited it difficult. Now all of this is a quandary.

The pie is done so I have to quit. It’s a cherry one. My favorite.

Labor Day

So, it’s another Labor Day Weekend – that’s LDW, not to be confused with LDS which isn’t a day of the week, at all, but related to a specific day of the week.

As I tippity type, we’re roaring down Highway 30 toward Portland, then on to I-84 with a semi-ultimate destination of Hood River where we will meet up with Bill & Carolyn who will guide us across the Mighty Columbia River (MCR), through White Salmon, Washington to Terry & Lisa’s farm in the woods near the foot of Mr. Adams. We’re going there for their annual picnic to feed the bees. A gala event.

We stopped to pick up Jean, Diane’s Mom, Carolyn’s sister, so, like normal, I’m in the back seat surrounded by all the toys that I could fit into my computer and camera bag. I’m good back here. The women, as older women tend to do, talk non-stop so having them both up front facilitates that process of communication and allows me to do whatever I want. Here, all alone, in the back seat, as if I just don’t exist. Oh, once in a while one of them will toss me a token question to let me know they know I’m back here. All alone …

In order to participate in this gathering, I was forced, at the point of a potato peeler, to make my World Famous Potato Salad (WFPS) as an offering to the picnic god, and whatever bees choose to participate.

Right now we’re passing through the Lintton industrial area, site of a long ago world’s fair, now home to hundreds of fuel tanks, warehouses, about 1700 miles of railroad tracks, thousands of containers, and a McDonalds. Oh!, and a Starbucks.

Yesterday, to kick off the weekend, Diane made me work in the yard all day. Most of the time was used to clean a few year’s worth of gangly weeds from the area next to the garage. One weed was world class, about 7 feet tall. Now they are all gone to the burn pile. It’s good to have that cleaned off because it’s the source of dirt I need to level out the area over our septic tank where the fire pit is going to be located. Regarding that, I’m toying with the idea of using natural gas instead of wood for the fire pit since, like, the source is right there, you know? But, I probably won’t because I don’t want the septic tank to explode. Something to ponder …

Another task yesterday was to load all the plaster, that I removed from the closet while fixing Diane’s bath tub drain, into my old truck and take it to the dump. Cost me $20. During that evolution I determined that the truck’s engine is only running on about 6 cylinders so 2 of them are just pushing gas out the exhaust pipe. Guess I’ll have to fix that one of these days. I’d do it soon, but I just spent a long time changing plugs, and other stuff, so do’t want to rush into it.

Now I’m going to quit because we’re on I-84, heading east, and I need to hang on.