Saturday, October 17, 2015

Plant Divorce

Never been a big fan of plants.
Growing them that is.
Love to have them near me. Smell them. Watch them grow and all. But left to my devices? It ain't too pretty. So plants and I have agreed to go our separate ways. Irreconcilable differences, you might say. It was a amiable divorce. Maybe the final straw occurred when I got a new room some years back with a big window opened to the courtyard. Most years about this time, we'd bring plants off the deck, and Elenka would take them to her classroom with plenty of sunlight. This particular year, I told her I'd take some of the pressure off her and bring some to my room. I brought in about seven or so. They looked to be shaking. Were they nervous about something? And the story goes... Too much water? Too dry? Too warm sitting on the heater? Over abundance of strong sun through the glass? Anyway, by February they had all pretty much met their demise.
My heart was in the right place.
But I guess my green thumb was left behind.
In my garden, planting is no issue.
It's the tending and upkeep that lets me down at times.
As for our deck garden, I'll help get the plants from the deck to the porch.
That's about the extent of my 'fall planting'.
Anything else might be hazardous to plant life.
We've gone our separate ways. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Weather Craps

My weather report--
Dark days are on the horizon.
Roll 'em!
Here's my view from up here. September brought us plenty of 80's and even some 90's here in countryside Maine. Our venture to Austin had us entrenched in the 90's just about everyday. Back here in October, we've had a 'can't complain' run of temperatures in the 70's and high 60's. What wrong with that? However, the real Maine October is settling in this weekend with highs of mid-50's or even high 40's, if we are lucky. The month usually brings a good amount of rainfall too, but the jury's still out on that. We've been dry all summer. Looking ahead? I've heard two recent winter predictions. The Old Farmers' Almanac went on record saying another tough winter is on our doorstep. Never been a big fan of that dossier though. It seems to be always off to me. I treat it like a Archie comic book from my youth. Just for chuckles; nothing more. Another prognostication, that I heard on the radio (ya, I still listen to it) this week, was trumpeting a mild stretch for January and February of 2016.
Can I dream?
Weather in this part of the world is a crap shoot.
See me in April.
I'll know for sure by them.
Roll the dice.
Come on. 
Gimme a 7 or 11, baby! 

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Celebrating birthdays.
Justin Hayward yesterday?
Elenka today?
Well, somewhat.
Justin Hayward is the lead singer of the Moody Blues. A favorite band of ours that we've seen quite a few times. His birthday was yesterday. Elenka's is TODAY! Before 'our Justin' was born we were struggling a bit with names. We had made a list of names, of course, but weren't really set with any.  Early in that July of '86, Elenka and I were lazing around one morning watching the TODAY Show, and the Moody Blues were on. Someone was interviewing Hayward and on the couch Elenka and I both turned to each other, smiled and mouthed 'Justin'. We didn't know it at the time, but our son's name was set. Is it a coincidence that Justin the singer and Elenka the artist are back to back like this with their birthdays? I think I know. What do you think?

Today, I wish my best bud and darling best friend a very special Happy Birthday. We'll spend the day together, as we usually do, and celebrate this evening at MK Kitchen.
Much love to the most incredible person I've ever met.
You have no idea.
*Elenka is the big sister on the right here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Recycle Reuse

Do you recycle?
We do a little bit.
Since 1978 we have had a returnable bottle bill in effect statewide. There are quite a few redemption sites around the city. CLYNK is one, that is affiliated with the Hannaford Supermarket chain. They advertise that after you sign up all you do is: Bag it. Tag it. Drop it. Done. It's pretty simple. You can then put your  'returnable credit' towards groceries or as some do donate it to local organizations. I don't go this route. I take my returnables to a private company. It's fast. Cash in my hand. In and out. I'm gone.
Since April 15th of this year, Portland and some surrounding communities have initiated a plastic and paper bag fee of $0.05 per bag they use to package purchased goods. The idea behind it is to 'Bring Your Own Bag' and do your part in helping to reduce the environmental footprint. Polystyrene foam packaging is also a no-no. So, if I'm getting a cup of java on the run, grabbing lunch from a food truck on Temple Street or lugging home a 'doggie bag' from a favorite dining spot with  tomorrow's lunch, it's being packaged for me in a more environmentally friendly material. We're not the first state or city to enact these initiatives, but I think it's an easy and helpful thing to do. Although a bit of a pain at the start, it works!. Let's take care of the big blue marble we're riding on.
Besides, I detest drinking coffee out of a styrofoam cup.
Just the feel of it gives me the creeps!
... and it's not even Halloween yet.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Air Pig

Smile Pig!
Have you ever flown a dear pet across the country without going along for the ride? If not, let me tell you, it's a real TREAT! If you are flying with the animal and if the said animal can fit on your lap or under a seat, no real problem. Locate one of those soft, designer, fabric carrying cases and after throwing them about $100 you're home free. Your animal is, too. Have a nice flight! But if the said animal be a cat, dog, or other furry creature and it's flying alone-- the plot thickens.
Friday morning we put Pig on a United Airlines flight headed to her new home in Austin. ALONE. I must admit after having her in our house and in my lap for the last 2 months, it wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done in my life. Ok, let me be fair here, Elenka did most of the heavy lifting. Yelena bought the ticket ($295), and sent Elenka all of the background research on what we needed to do to get Piggie to 'fly the friendly skies'. She had to visit the vet and be checked out within 10 days of the flight. Form signed by vet ($). Done. She had to be in a hard carrying case that had food and water dishes attached to the front, a pee pad below, extra food attached to the top, arrows on the container pointing which way was up, the animal's name clearly written, the case had to be large enough so that the critter could turn around easily and when standing with ears not touch the top (we went and bought a larger one $), the locking mechanism in the front had to be metal not plastic, the front of the case had to be secured with 'removeable' cable ties (hard to find) the kind that could be taken apart and resecured and on and on. Oh yeah, we had to drill extra holes for the plastic locks. Done. Done. Done. etc. There were a few others specifications, but my headache now is preventing me from recalling them at this point. Elenka is a stickler for 'playing by the rules'. Good thing too. The Pigster is in Austin and loving it. If it was left up to me alone, our cute little Pig would probably still be in Maine, Yelena would be out 300 bucks, and I'd be in 'airport jail' somewhere waiting to be bailed out. Now, if we were flying her out of the country... don't even ask. Ever heard of a kitty passport? Don't laugh. Sheeeeesh!
This is Pig just before her flight.
Don't be fooled.
That's not a pathetic look on her face.
She's being thoroughly entertained by customers in line getting tickets.
"What's the kitty's name?"
"Where's the kitty going?"
"She looks just like my Chester."
Love you Piggie.
Miss you too.

*Elenka's photo today.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Some Liberty

As you might imagine, any state that has "Vacationland" embossed on its license plate probably sees a lot of tourists each year. One new phenomenon in our city that has cropped up over the last fifteen years or so has been the influx of cruise ships docking. I visited the City Portland site 'Cruise Portland' and found out that over 400 cruise ships, of all all shapes and sizes, have made PORTland a 'port of call' since the first of May. Most of the big ships, like the Liberty of the Seas seen here yesterday, make most of their trips in September and through the month of October. They, of course, capitalize on the fall foliage season here in the state and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. The Liberty of the Seas is the largest of the ships making port this season. Yesterday, it dropped off many of its 3697 passengers and crew of 1360 to take tours of the city's streets via trolleys, walk the Old Port and visit the many restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisines. Piece of information: we have tastes for many things here other than lobster. The tour buses were lined up too, featuring destinations like LL Bean, the White Mountains of New Hampshire and, of course, many areas where their cameras could record the splashes of color that the state is known for in October. Standing here at Bug Light, I could hear the many announcements coming across the ship's PA system. I was that close. I know them well. Having sailed many a time on Royal Caribbean ships, this early morning viewing was special.
Was I envious?
You betcha!

*After all, I had to post a ship on Columbus Day.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Square Lights

"Not One More!"
A month or so ago, I, along with hundreds of others gathered, lit candles and walked to remember friends, family members and acquaintances who struggle daily with drug addiction or who have lost the battle. The vigil and eventual walk starting at Monument Square were held to observe Overdose Awareness Day. The event, including speakers, was setup to bring awareness to the public about the growing numbers in our population struggling with addiction and the destruction and ruined lives among us. Just this past week, a family in our school district and a former student of mine committed suicide. His attempting to cope with an addiction that hounded him the last few years, I'm quite sure had a play in the ending of a 23 year old life.
With his whole exciting life ahead of him...
Two children and a loving, supportive family were not enough.
It's among us.
Seen in the faces we pass each day.
As we've all have come to recognize...
Addiction plays no favorites.
The damage done. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015


*and now with apologies to Paul Harvey...

The rest of OUR story.
After a little R&R and 'digestion' back at the apartment, we headed for an evening in downtown Austin. While on the highway, we passed the University of Texas Longhorns' practice facility and saw the team running drills for their upcoming home game. We also got a glimpse of the campus tower where in 1966 the infamous Charles Whitman, after gunning down his wife and mother, took the lives of 16 more firing from his lofty perch above the campus. We ended up on Rainey Street, an avenue of bars and restaurants made from regular houses. We stopped at Bangers Sausage House and Beer Garden, and I sampled a 'beer flight' of Austin micro brews from a selection of 104 taps and listened to a little bit of country western twang. It's advertised as having the largest beer wall in the city. I have little doubt about that. Next, it was time to get batty. We headed to the Congress Street Bridge to witness the emergence of 1.5 million bats from under the bridge. We either kind of miscalculated the time of their nighttime 'food run', or they were sleeping in for an extra hour or so. We stayed on the bridge about an hour, saw around 78 bats fluttering about in the darkness. Here's a little bit of information on bats that I've learned: (most of the bats roosting below are female; they have one baby a year; the babies are called pups; they eat 10,000-20,000 pounds of insects; this Austin site is the largest bat population in North America; they are Mexican free-tailed bats). There! You're welcome! By this time we were all starving so we made our way to the Second Bar and Kitchen. It had a small dining area outside and a much larger beautifully decorated interior that we settled in. It seemed to be a hipster haven, but that was cool. With "La Dolce Vita" playing over the bar area, we all settled for a light fare but everything was delicious. The night ended with a slow cruise down Sixth Street with the windows open to take in the loud, raucous night of music from one bar to another. It was a quite fitting way to end our adventure to Austin. We will , of course, return and take in first hand the music scene. Elenka will need earplugs, but it will happen.
Adios Austin!
Trip back to the Northeast?
Thursday afternoon via United Airlines.
Wheels up.
Zoom! Zoom!,

Friday, October 9, 2015


On our last full day in Austin, we started out by visiting The County Line BBQ on the Lake for a sampling of their legendary barbecue. After a hearty meal, we walked out back onto their spacious porch to digest. Bull Creek just off Lake Austin is just off the deck. Look what we found. There were hundreds of turtles (and I do mean hundreds) just waiting to be fed. We obliged and sat taking it all in the warm Austin sun. Each time I see turtles, I flashback to Gulliver's Field. We were baseball nuts and played on one of the three diamonds just about everyday in summer. One late summer I guess the city was running out of money, because they neglected to mow and the grass got about shin high. So what we guys do who just needed to get their baseball fix in? We brought a couple of lawnmowers from home and did the deed. Half way through our mowing, we got a surprise. Bang! The mower suddenly stopped. Eddie had hit something. He backed the machine away to reveal a huge snapping turtle. I mean big. I'd say it had to be almost 2 feet in diameter. No kidding here. I'm not exaggerating. It was a biggie. Believe it or not, other than a big scratch across its back, it was not harmed. After admiring it for a while, Eddie and I picked it up and carried it about 50 yards or so to the swamp. I went back again a few times looking for it in the water, but never had any luck.
Never saw the monster again.
You'll just have to believe it happened.
Cell phone cameras were still a few years away.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Have you ever been to San Antonio?
If so, you probably recognize this image. 
A little backstory first. I ventured to San Antonio for a 5 day technology workshop in the late 90's. I fell in love with the city and its Riverwalk. When I returned, I talked it up so much that Elenka said she wanted to go and see it for herself. So we did during an April vacation. It was a fun-filled week loaded with wonderful memories. Our only real regret was that we wished that J- could have walked through the Alamo and taken the boat ride on the river with us . He is such a history buff. Now, flash forward to last Tuesday. We were only an hour and 1/2 away in Austin. Let's do it! And we did. Visiting the grounds of the historic Alamo, trying on a Davy Crockett coonskin hat, walking along the Riverwalk, taking that boat ride and learning a lot of history of the city along the way and lunching at Rita's on the waterway, while sampling their margarita menu, what a day it was.
Always remember...
Wishing is important.
Sometimes pieces just tumble into place.
Say karma!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Dining in the dark?
Ever thought about it?
Back home, when I'm thinking about that, it's usually a cold January night, a storm is howling outside and the power goes out. Time to eat? There, dining in the darkness... with a few candles.

A week ago Monday afternoon, J&Y took us to The Domain in Northwest Austin. It's an upscale business, retail and residential center. Another way to put it is that it's a very large and extremely fancy outdoor mall. Think all the stores you'd find at your local mall and more. Hotels and condos are in the mix too. Lots of stores. Lots of glass. Yes, it had a Starbucks, and we all grabbed something. My choice: a simple ice coffee that kept me on the move. I came too late to participate in this yoga class at a small fake grass park nearby, but watching it was zen enough for me. Later, I went to my first iPic Theater. Have you heard about these places? You sit in leather recliners. Waiters are at your beck and call. The food, anything from exotic pizzas, stacked burgers and even lobster rolls is brought right to you during the movie. Fancy cocktails, micro brews and soft drinks of your choice are available too. Get this! You are also provided with a pillow and a blanket to really get comfortable. But alas, I wanted to watch "The Intern" and not take a nap.
My review-
Beer- Fine!
Free popcorn, Super!
Recliners- Heaven!
Pillow and Blanket- Nice feature.
Movie- Loved it... a different role for DeNiro.
It WAS an experience!
Dining in darkness????

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


When I bought my brand new, yellow Camaro, one of the first places I took it was to the Casco Bank at Morrills Corner to show my Dad. He walked around it, gave it the once over, shook his head and smiled. He said, "M- I've never had anything like this." Now, a little background is needed here. We're talking about a guy who had a Cobra Mustang,  a couple of Jags, multiple MG A and Bs, a beautiful aqua T-roof Thunderbird and an old black Mercedes in our driveways in my formative years. That statement stunned me. I couldn't understand it. I do now. J&Y's digs at their apartment complex in Northwest Austin is something I could never imagine living in before I was 30. It's an amazing place. Pool. Fitness Center. Community Building. The apartment itself is a far cry from the their Cumberland Avenue place. Compared to our first place on South Street, it's so much more. They are so lucky. Times have changed. Lifestyles have changed.
I can honestly say, before 30, "I never had anything like this."
Lucky them!
By the way, what I would give to have any of those cars in my driveway today.
Including that sleek Camaro.

Monday, October 5, 2015


It was Saturday.
College Football Saturday.
Plenty of games in Texas.
I didn't watch a one.
I was busy!
We broke the border before noon at Texarkana and stopped at a very welcoming Welcome Center. This big, black Toyota Highlander in the parking lot let us know we had made it. We posed for pictures in cowboy hats waving a sign that read "Howdy, From Texas!", raided the Austin area tour guide section and were on our way. We wanted to make it to Austin by late afternoon, and we were right on schedule. Along the way, we passed near Mt. Pleasant, Sulphur Springs, Dallas, Waxahachie, Waco, Temple, Georgetown along with many others. In Waco, we passed right by the Baylor University football stadium. From the highway, you could see the stands were packed. The roads weren't. We sailed! We finally pulled into the apartment complex in the Bull Creek area (Northwest of Austin) about 5:45, and Justin met us there in the parking lot with the widest grin.
Was it for us?
Maybe it was his Audi, that he missed so much!
Anyway, we had made it.
2084.8 miles from our driveway.
We drove in 13 states all told.
From 'Ayah to Y'all' in 4 pretty easy days.
It was an experience!

Sunday, October 4, 2015


As day 3 dawned in some steady rain, our plan was to attempt to run the state of Tennessee and make it into Arkansas by nightfall. After about four hours, the rain let up and it was clear sailing. Sitting on the porch a few days before setting out, with a couple of maps and a AAA TripTik in hand, our plan was to make it to the Lone Star State sometime Sunday, but once we were rolling, we both had late Saturday afternoon firmly in mind. You see, we had given my Garmin to J&Y, for their trip seemed a bit more convoluted. Besides, I swear to the Almighty, give Elenka 10 minutes with any foreign road map, and she has most twists and turns committed to memory. She's a map genius! She had written the routes in each state down in a notebook and that was pretty much all we needed. Smart phones with GPS's be damned! Really, our trip wasn't complicated after we got into Pennsylvania. It was pretty much a straight shot through most of the states. This day took us across the Volunteer State via Routes 81 and 40. Some beautiful mountains off in the distance to the left and right kept us company throughout the day. Our path took us near Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis (hello Elvis!). It's a very pretty state, and we did find that 1.83 a gallon for Unleaded Regular somewhere in our day. In late afternoon, across the border into Arkansas we went. Little Rock looked like a nice landing spot. Justin found us a good room rate near the highway, and we settled there for the night.
Subs for dinner.
Day three was history.
Tomorrow brings the final push.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


*with apologies to Pee Wee Herman.

We were off!
When you know what's ahead, there's no need to panic. We pulled out of our driveway at about 10:30 AM last Wednesday, and our 'big adventure' was on the road. Our first night was all planned. We stayed with Elenka's sister Judith and her husband Anthony in Bloomfield NJ. We've been to their place so many times our car could have driven us there on its own. We spent an enjoyable and restful evening with them at their home. The next morning, we got an early start topping off the tank and grabbing a couple of coffees at Dunkin Donuts. Heck, we were in Garden State Parkway traffic by 8:30! We really made out quite well though. A little on the Parkway and a little on Rt. 78 heading into PA, and that was about it for any heavy traffic the entire way. My corn back home is still pretty green compared with this crop at our first rest stop. By the end of this our second day, we had driven through 11 states: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and into Tennessee. It seems like a lot of driving, but we really didn't push ourselves. The second night we spent, just after we had crossed the Tennessee border, in Bristol. We got settled in our room, and then headed just a short drive to get some tacos. The car was loaded with the kids' stuff, so we travelled light, one small suitcase and two backpacks. Oh, yes, I almost forgot. We did have an audio book. It was a big one. John Irving's Until I Find You, all 35 1/2 hours of listening pleasure. We love Irving!
So, that's it.
Life on the road to Texas
Day two in the books.

Friday, October 2, 2015


I love to drive long distances.
Elenka, not so much.
This is our our story.
The ride is free. 
Come along.
Well, some of you might remember that last month Justin and Yelena packed up and headed to Texas. Austin to be exact. They had to transport two cars to the Southwest, and we really didn't want them to take both cars at the same time. Two drivers in one car was a safer way to go; we told them. They were not taking a direct shot to get there either. They first traveled right down the East coast to Florida to visit Babka, Justin's grandmother and took a few assorted side trips. After about 17 days or so, they and the red WRX were finally settled in the Lone Star State. After talking them out of taking both cars at the same time, I suggested that Elenka and me could drive J's Audi to Austin for them. I was game from the start. Elenka had her doubts. We had both been to Texas before but never driven from Maine. 
There's a first time for everything, you know. 
So, last week we did. 
Over the next few days, I'll take you along on OUR ride.
Free up some time and come along.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Theme Day- Shelter

Today, October 1, 2015, is Theme Day across the CDP (citydailyphotoblog) world-wide community carrying this month's theme of "Shelter". Yes, I thought about beach umbrellas, canopies, homeless centers, bus stops in the rain and even lean-tos from childhood, but one type of shelter has been occupying a lot of my mind these days. What do you think it is? If you thought my new plywood floor woodshed, you were correct. Yes, I wish I could dwell for a few more weeks in 90 degree days, but I'm a realist at heart and like the ant in Aesop's "The Ant and the Grasshopper", I do so know winter days are lurking on my doorstep.
So the woodshed photo is a perfect way to relay this concept.
Take 'shelter from the storm', my friends.
No, Dylan didn't restore my floor.
But good friend Curt did.
Stupid Grasshopper!