April 29, 2011

I need to create a New Mexico Bucket List

Most people are probably familiar with the Rob Reiner film “Bucket List” with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. It is the story of two terminally ill men who leave a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die. I admit up front I have not seen it but do want to. I also admit that I am not saying I want to create a list of things to do before I die.

Rather, both Mrsfabp and I see our lives right now as an adventure, an adventure in many different parts. After the parts about our childhoods and school years and early adult lives, we found each other. Some may even say saved each other. And then the real adventure began. Living together and getting to know each other was one. Deciding to leave NYC and move to the country was another. Deciding to have and raise two great kids was another. My own medical issues, still another. And now, we have an opportunity to take part in another adventure, together, and are raring to go. The plan to retire to New Mexico, away from our families, friends and the place where we lived the last 30 years is not one made lightly. It is a decision born of much thought, discussion and chance, wrapped up in enough emotion to power a small city for weeks on end. But it is our decision, one we have not taken lightly.

One thing that really drives us right now is the chance to explore. I am not comparing us to Columbus or da Gama but really, when one thinks about it, this is a trek into the unknown. We won’t have to barter with the natives (though we might) and we don’t have to worry about storms at sea but still the intrigue and lure of a new culture is so very exciting. This is why I think I need to create my own bucket list for the adventure, to make sure that I see what I want to see and experience what I want to experience, along with mrsfabp, my life partner. I’ll miss my family and friends and even New England at times but I don’t want to miss this adventure either. Next post, I will start my own New Mexico bucket list…Time is “a wasting.”

April 28, 2011

It’s sort of a funny story…

So, I had this realization today, after something that has happened dozens of times over the last few years. It made me chuckle a bit. Wonder if you might get a chuckle out of it too.

I have an office in a program building but have to go to another building several times a week for meetings and the like. This meeting building has 3 floors and 3 parking lots. The handicapped parking place is near the ground floor entrance and that is where I usually enter. I use a wheelchair to cover the long distances within the building from place to place and so I used the elevator to get from the first to the third floor. Often, when I arrive at the building I will run into colleagues and we will be talking together about the issues de jour. When I get on the elevator, they turn and go up the stairs. We arrive at the third floor at approximately the same time and often times rejoin the conversation. This seems strange to me. Are they afraid to ride the elevator with me? Self conscious about my disability? Health nuts? Are they just so set in their ways they don’t even notice the incongruity of this situation?

Common sense says to me that they would ride up to the third floor, continuing the conversation, but on dozens of occasions, this has not happened. I can only remember 1 or 2 times that people have done this out of maybe the last 50 times I did the 3 floor office meeting. It seems sort of funny to me. At first when I was thinking about this, I started off thinking it was a bit rude, sort of like talking on the phone when we are having a face to face meeting. Sure sometimes the phone call has to be taken (I do not overestimate my importance to others) but to me the generally polite thing to do would be to tell the phone caller you are meeting with someone and will call back later. In the case of the elevator, I would think that the polite thing to do would be just to step into the elevator and continue the conversation. But as I thought it through, I just don’t think it is rude but I’m not sure what it is. Anyone have any thoughts about this or similar experiences?

April 25, 2011

Why so serious?

You have had one of those events, one that leaves you in a cold sweat, dry mouth, shaking all over, nerves frazzled to the bitter end. Maybe you have witnessed a car accident, a close call for you. You white knuckle the steering wheel, your breath shallow and forced, as you wait for your heart rate to return to something a cardiologist can live with. Maybe you have witnessed someone being hurt or injured and the thoughts that that could have been you make your antiperspirant work overtime. Well I had one of those times this Saturday when we put our home on the real estate market.

Our agent saw our house about 2 months ago for the first time and gave us a list of things to do. We spent much of the last 10 weeks painting, cleaning, planning, remodeling, repairing, decluttering. and generally working ourselves into a frenzy. She came back on Friday night and was astonished at the transformation- then gave us a new list of things to do. She returned on Saturday, thick pile of forms and papers in hand, has us sign and initial enough places to wish I had a shorter name and left us a sign and a lock box for a house key.

It is done. Things are falling into place. There still is so much to do, I find it sort of depressing that all we do is talk about things we need to do, phone calls to make, items to purchase and check lists to create and cross items off of. But, it is done. They say the first few weeks are the most important and our realtor has a plan in place for us but I will fight the urge to get worried or depressed or give up hope. I will not count the days or hours or minutes. I will paint the needs to be painted, clean the needs to be cleaned and call the needs to be called. I will continue to make my life clutter free even if my mind continues to be uber-cluttered. I will hope for the best.

April 11, 2011

Why is this?

Why is it that the thought about moving creates the need to get a dog? Let me explain the connection in my life.

Mrsfabp has been almost whining that when we get to New Mexico she wants to get a dog. Not a manly type dog like Irish setter or Labrador, but one of those whiney little fur balls, the kind that constantly yap, sit on your lap and weigh less that a good loaf of wheat bread. No, not a rat dog, one of those terrier mix things with the fuzzy faces. Just what I need, one of those crumb runners, constantly under foot, nipping at my only ankle, interrupting the quiet. Needing to go out, riding in the car, going to the vets for every sniffle. I don’t get it.

CollegeBoy is planning for his future and will be in Manhattan this summer. He wants to go to work there next year and get an apartment, maybe in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn with his girlfriend, MissNicole. No sooner had he revealed this plan then he started talking about a dog, a boxer they both fell in love with. They have pictures, are picking through craigslist for an apartment that is dog friendly, have a name, Bomber (good one I admit) and even have made some sort of doggie babysitting arrangement with a friend Matt down in the city. I just don’t get it.

Look, I’m not an anti dog person or an anti dog people person (is that alliteration or what?) I had a dog all the years I was growing up. Lots of our friends have dogs. Our friends in Las Cruces have a plethora of them, a gaggle of yappers, a house full of hounds and that is fine. But as I always said when my friends were starting their family, the best part about your kids is that at 9 pm I go home and they stay here… Look, I’m old, tired and getting ready to retire. A nice kitty cat is all the companion that I need after Mrsfabp. And quieter too. For me there is nothing better than sitting with a cat on your lap, listening to it purr and snore. If it was a dog there would be drool to deal with and God knows, doggie farts. I really just don’t get it.

(NOT an incredible representation of Mrsfabp and myself, just a clip art!)

Sorry folks, I’ll stick with my kitty and be happy…

April 8, 2011

A few thoughts about Karma…

Instant Karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you right in the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon your gonna be dead
What in the world you thinking of?
Laughing in the face of love
What on Earth you try'na do?
It's up to you
Yeah, you
-John Lennon

I am not a superstitious person generally. I think of myself as set in my ways, unwilling to change routines unless I have to, a bit routinized but sometimes I wonder. This comes up right now because of the start of the baseball season, my favorite time of the year as related to the NY Yankees. Living in Massachusetts, heart of Red Sox nation, has led to lots of teasing as related to this. However it always leaves me a bit queasy to do so and I generally only partake of the tease with good friends, and gently.

Two stories…

It is 1978 and I am working to save for graduate school in a group home on Lon Island. Most of the kids are inner city kids from the Island, hard core. The program director is a die-in-the-wool Staten Island born, Yankee fan. All through the spring and early summer we lived through a disappointing season fraught with injuries and underperformances. Then in mid summer, with the New Yorkers 14.5 games behind, the fortunes started to change. We began a ritual where each night all the kids and staff watched the games together and the well behaved during the week got the special treat of watching the Friday night game in the director’s office and got to stay up late to do it. By early September the lead was 4 and they faced each other in a four game series, with NY winning all four by a combined score of 42-9. Kids were running around the house squealing about the “Boston Massacre” and the Yankees returned to and won a second consecutive World Series. Even until the very end of the Boston series, I never assumed the Yankees would win and did not rub this fact into others.

In 2004 the Yankees collapsed in the playoffs against the Sox but only after I had confided to my son that I felt bad for the Sox after game three, a rout by the Yankees, putting them up 3-0. They lost the next four games and went to the series themselves. I blamed myself for this moment of weakness. There is nothing more to say. The karma got me, I don’t know what I was thinking.

So this year the Yankees are off to a good start and the Red Sox have yet to win a game in this young season. They play each other today. I have been very careful about my chiding of certain Red Sox fans, friends, but making no attempt to stir up the karma. I do not want to get knocked right in the head…

April 6, 2011

Time is limited...

I knew this time has been coming, for a long time.

Our son, CollegeBoy is finishing up his junior year of college in the next six weeks or so and we have not visited him at school in more than a couple of years. We see him, he comes home for his vacations and breaks and during the summer but we’ve always talked about going to see him there. A few weeks ago, when he was home on winter break and helping out with the bathroom remodel, I realized that my time with him is growing short. Soon he will be going to Manhattan for a summer internship and the usual 13 weeks of summer time having him home, will be reduced to just three. Who knows at this point when our house will sell and we will answer the call to move to Las Cruces. In his senior year he will get home the usual times but I expect he will be starting a job at some big Ad Agency in the summer and he will move to Manhattan or where ever his fancy takes him

This makes me sad but I must say I have been preparing for it for a while, maybe ever since he was born. Seeing him laying there in the bassinet, I’m sure I thought that one day he would be an adult and live away from us and so I have always thought of our time as limited. It’s just one of those things that dads do with their sons. Dads are protective of their daughters and work hard at relationships with their sons.

So we are going to visit him in 10 days and I want to spend as much time as possible with him. He has all sorts of plans – pizza with his roommates and friends that we have heard about but never met. Watching a Saturday afternoon baseball game over some beer and maybe some wings and talking about our team and our expectations. A visit to a brewery that he has been raving about for a year. Our annual Easter meal together. Last Christmas we all talked about how that could be one of our last Christmases together in out house, all together. We will celebrate holidays together in the future; they will just be in a different place.

I know we will have a really good time, all of us, his mom, his sister, his girlfriend, but in some ways this is the start of the big goodbye. He is getting ready to start on a long, rewarding journey. We are getting ready to say our goodbyes. But not just yet.

Soon, but not for a while yet…

April 5, 2011

Tangled up in Brew – Homebrew Update: Blue Canary Cream Ale SKUNKED!

Whenever you talk with anyone who has brewed their own beer before, there are several truisms that will be expressed. Oh, there is the usual about how good it feels to craft your own beer, how good, fresh it tastes as well as the sense of accomplishment one derives from doing wheat the big boys do, only better. One other truism is that you will fail at least once in your goal. Well after hitting homeruns our first 3 times with Blue Canary Cream Ale, our last batch, sampled Saturday, is a strikeout. Pure and simple, it is a FAIL.

What we have now is about 4 gallons of skunky beer. It has very good aroma, very nice golden color but tastes terrible. This is what I think happened in this attempt. As mentioned in this post, we were trying a new way to do things, using a mini tap rather than bottling. The issues that cropped up during the process were myriad but one stands heads above the others.

We brewed 3 weeks ago and everything seemed to go well. Temperature and time were spot on but when it was time to pitch the yeast, we had a choice as the kit provided two different ones. We had done dry yeast before but had ordered a smack pack (you activate it 3 hours before pitching by smacking the bag) and both came. People are always commenting that they don’t provide sufficient yeast to do the job in a timely manner and many propagate the yeast ahead of time to build up the number of microbes. So, I figured if some is good, more is better and I pitched both yeast packages. After a week of fermentation, it looked and smelled good and we put it into 3, 1.5 gallon tap bottles, sealed it and waited 14 days.

The new tap system is a converted home tap from Coors, put together by following internet instructions. Two days before tapping, the first bottle went into the fridge to cool down and let yeast sentiment settle. The day before tapping, I went to attach the tap in order to allow the CO2 to fully infuse in the beer and we had a problem as the new tap leaked. I had failed to properly close the tap as a plastic pin, there to hold it closed when tapping, slipped past the hole it needed to lock in. This allowed it to leak a lot (my kitchen still smells like beer) but also blew out the rubber gasket rendering the tap useless. We poured off a couple of glasses from the bottle and noticed right away, a darker color. This is not totally unusual. However a taste revealed it to be very yeasty and not flavorful at all. This was not a cleaning/sanitizing issue, common beer making problem, as the beer smelled great and looked good and fermented in the same manner as before.

So we will try and use this beer in a beer bread recipe to see if it works for that and might try some other beer respires if the bread works. We will order the parts for a new tap, purchase another cream ale kit and try again.