Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor Day Weekend - Part 2 - Stone Wall Progress

This is today's (half-day of work) accomplishment:

Oh, my.

It kind of looks like five different people worked on this - all using their own amateur "technique".

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Putting The Labor Back In Labor Day

Stone Wall "Repair".

Yesterday Leon and I removed the loose stones from the wall by the garage. It is a 5 foot high wall that had apparently come down sometime before we bought the house and the home owner just stacked the stones up haphazardly without any mortar. There is a section that didn't fall down and it is still held together with mortar.

The mason wanted $9,000 (that we don't have) to re-do the wall and stairs. I'm sure it would have been beautiful.

This is what I would like it to look like:

But we are amateurs and we work with what we have. The wall that is still in place with mortar is slightly bowed and so we went with it and brought the wall around with a slight bow shape back to the stairway.
This is what we accomplished today, but unfortunately we  only got about two-thirds of the job done. 

We'll be back at it tomorrow morning or Monday morning...not sure my old body can do this two days in row. And the part yet to do means naturally hoisting big rocks to a higher level than we did today.

The Intact Part OfThe Wall Is On The Lower Left

Who Needs a Health Club Membership
When You Can Get A Concrete Workout?
We've Got About Another Foot And A Half To Go

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wickham Park - So Close to Home

Sometimes we don't even know what's practically in our own back yard. This place is just a 30 minute drive from us.

Wickham Park in Manchester, Connecticut has some very nice gardens. We were there for a Lambda Car Club Meeting and I took a very quick tour of the park to see a few of the gardens.

The English Garden was closed for a private party, but here are a few pics of some of the other gardens.

The pics were taken hastily and unfortunately do not do justice to the landscaping, color, arrangement and variety of plantings.

I'll have to go back when I can stroll and take pictures at my leisure.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Report - Gossip by Christopher Bram

A summer read, Gossip by Christopher Bram kept me awake, which is all I ask of a book.

I read the book in four days - a near record for me.

I chose this book because I have read Christopher Bram before, namely, Father of Frankenstein, (which became Gods and Monsters in its film adaptation) and Hold Tight, a sexy thriller set in 1940s New York male bordello with a young Navy man and lots of intrigue.

(Note: Unfortunately for authors nowadays, you can buy a used book on Amazon for pennies.)

Gossip is set in New York City also (and Washington DC) in the 1980s. It was written contemporaneously and some of the references to computers, chat-rooms, telephones and media seem very dated and almost silly in view of the rapid developments in technology since then. But the story has substance.

Christopher Bram is not only a masterful storyteller who uses words with an efficiency that leaves no sentence superfluous, but he's also an insightful creator of characters, almost all of whom are drawn in complex dimensions. You glimpse their inner thoughts while seeing and hearing their outward actions and words.

The story is about Ralph, a gay liberal, onetime AIDS activist who gets involved with Bill, a closeted, Republican, DC journalist who's about to publish a trashy, anti-feminist expose about Hillary Clinton and Washington career women. Ralph finds himself "sleeping with the enemy" and is both perplexed and intrigued by his own attraction.

The story takes a turn a bit past the half-way mark when things get a bit like House of Cards - power, politics, homophobia, Christian fundamentalist religion, illegal activity and gay activism all come together to morph into a mystery novel. The author reveals psychological insights into each character and demonstrates the power of unrelated circumstances to produce something akin to existential chaos in an individual's life.

Gossip is just a good read.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Even The Beach Boys Ain't Who They Used To Be

Thanks to our good friends Joyce and Robin who bought us tickets, we got to go to a Beach Boys concert today (Sunday August 18th) at a very nice outdoor venue - Indian Ranch in Webster Massachusetts.

The Ranch is actually a campground/resort (we didn't stay there) on "Lake (see photo for the name)" which, back in our school days we learned meant "Lake You Fish on Your Side - I Fish on My Side - and Nobody Fish in the Middle" which of course is an approximate translation of the Nipmuk words. You can google it if you are curious. Now they call it "Webster Lake" - it almost touches the Connecticut border.
The Name Was Too Long For My Camera
and I Couldn't Back Up For a Wider Angle
But back to the Beach Boys concert. One thing about the Beach Boys music is that it is fun and happy music. The Beach Boys were singing about girls, cars and surfing before the Beatles came to America, before Vietnam was a daily news story, before we noticed that the world was going to hell.

Unfortunately for us gay guys, they were/are very straight and their music was/is very straight. It is so obviously straight, and that they play to a straight audience; that being there at the concert one realizes the depth to which straight people dominate our social discourse and our culture. But I digress again.

We gay boys were coveting surfer boys while the Beach Boys were crooning over the Surfer Girl. But, at least for some of us, the music touched us even though it made us feel both sexy and a little confused at the same time. (I just googled various permutations of "gay fans of beach boys" and came up dry.)

There were other articles that popped up including those that talked about the Boys' politics and their split up and divergent tours.

We saw Mike Love (who has the license or legal right to use the trade name "Beach Boys") and Bruce Johnston who was an early, but not truly an "original" Beach Boy.

Of course they were good, had good backup singers and instrumentalists and they sounded "original" to my ears. At first, I almost thought they were lip-syncing to their old music.

They had just about everyone up and dancing, clapping, singing along. I must say I enjoyed it.

But when they sang "Don't Worry Baby" I got a little emotional. Under my sunglasses my eyes got a bit moist. Crazy, I know, but why?

I was 16 when that song came out. I bought the 45 and probably played it a thousand times. I have difficulty describing the emotions of a 16 year old who knew he was different and did not belong to the world that was occupied by the adolescents he knew - a boy who did not belong to the world of Beach Boys and Surfer Girls, but who felt a deep, empty longing to belong...for some reason those old emotions got a bit of a stir. Silly me.
Except for Mike Love, the Boys's Outfits
Were Not Very Beachy
(actually a few looked like they shopped at Wally Mart)
And now, at sixty-six, I am dealing with this age thing...seeing the Beach Old Guys singing and being all fun and nostalgic while trying to recognize some kind of continuity between youth and old age, between past and present, between the person that I used to be and who I am now...

The concert was a hoot, but I was seeing it all with a philosophical eye: aging bodies dancing and singing like we were sixteen again, like age was/is, at least for the moment, just a joke, a meaningless transformation, a jest of the gods, an illusion. The grey, the wrinkles, the flab, the waddle, the liver spots...just a disguise for 16 year olds, incognito.

I'd say the majority of those in attendance were over fifty, many in their sixties (like me) and seventies.

Mike Love is, what 73 years old now? Not a Beach "Boy" by any means.

We are all in this boat together. A boat that takes us on a voyage where we lose our youth, our hair or at least or hair color, our strength, our complexion, our posture, our hearing, and eventually our health and our breath.

We are all on this boat together.

For a few moments this afternoon, it was the "Sloop John B."

Surfin' USA

Friday, August 15, 2014

Today's Bounty and Concrete Steps

"What earth has given and human hands have cared for...."

But even loving care could not prevent the blight....
All My Tomatoes Have Early Blight
There Is No Saving Them Now
The Rest Of The Garden Is Doing Well
And The Flowers Are Nice Too

The concrete project was finished a few weeks ago; a little rough, but at least the steps are now even - all close to 8.25 inches rather than the previous 7, 8.5, 9.5, 8, 9.... The last step was a challenge: it is on a sloping driveway so Leon suggested this solution. Not sure a building inspector would approve, but I'm claiming this was a "repair" job under someone's grandfather clause.
Now I have to finish repairing the stone wall to the left. That will be a project for which I will need Leon's muscle - we have collected a number of heavy stones from the property up in back of the house. They will replace some of the smaller rocks.


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