greatbear: (jeff and me)
Jeff and I met 14 years ago on October 23, 2000. That was yesterday (Thursday). Until we got married, Oct. 23 was our "unofficial official" anniversary date, one we'd always celebrate with a dinner out. While our marriage date has become the "official" anniversary, we will continue to celebrate both days. Why? Well, because it's fun and nice and we get to have a special dinner in unusual places and we can get all sappy and lovey and just plain be happy. So, as has been our tradition all these years, we went out for dinner, trying to pick some place where we never had been before. As it turns out, we didn't have to travel more than about a mile from the the house to a restaurant that opened a couple years ago but one we had not explored yet, saving it for, well, a special occasion. Funny how that turned out. This new place, Sushi Tendou, turned out to be a delightful little Japanese steakhouse. The menu was packed with selections, and we were settling on some interesting things we never had before. Now, I'm not sure exactly why this happened, perhaps being a stone's throw from La Casa Mayhem, or the way that strange things seem to happen to me, but the system they have playing new age-y styled Oriental-tinged music begins playing a song very familiar to me, but one I had not heard in many years, "Midnight in Moscow," also known as "Moscow Nights." Why a Japanese steakhouse would begin playing a very Russian song in a light new age style is beyond me, and it took me a few seconds for the minor keys to register in my brain. Once that happened... I lost it.

This was my Mom's favorite song.

A little bit of history is needed. In the mid-1950s, Mom was settling into her life as an American citizen, having left stateside Army duty as a WAC during the Korean war, and starting to build a domestic life that eventually settled in Maryland not far from where I am today. She got married, Mom and Dad moving into a new home yet still remaining connected to the Army at nearby Ft. Meade. She had come a long way from her early life that began in Kiev, Russia. Around this time "Moscow Nights" was written, being initially penned in 1955 then reworked a bit to become what it is to this day. In 1956 the song was recorded for use in a documentary movie. The movie didn't get very far, but the song became unexpectedly popular. The song won an international song contest, and became popular worldwide, especially, oddly, in mainland China as well. My mother had become more than a tad homesick, as you would imagine, by the time she was settling down. Via shortwave radio, she heard the song first via Radio Moscow. A few years later, this undeniably Russian song was recorded by, of all things, a British jazz group called Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, which had a U.S. hit that peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 right about the time I was born. So now this Russian song that made a circuitous trip from Mom's homeland and eventually finding it's way to our shores as a New Orleans-style jazz makeover, became permanently attached to me as well. In 1966, when she figured I was old enough to travel, Mom and I made our way back to Mother Russia, where I was shown off to her family. I actually remember quite a bit from back then. I was very big and strong for my age, and when Mom's mother asked what she was feeding me, she told her I ate a lot of oatmeal. It was then that I was introduced to Russian oatmeal. I think it was more like oats they fed to horses. Blecch! It was also the time I was introduced to Mom's old friend Alyosha, who worked with electronics and I believe was an aerospace engineer. He also spoke English and he and I hit it off immediately. He saw my very early precociousness with mechanical and electrical things, as well as my extreme interest with things that fly. He and I made several forms of paper airplanes, flying whirlygigs and other fluttering, twisting and soaring bits made from paper. By several, I mean lots. Hundreds, maybe more. We tried different things and tossed them from the window of Alyosha's high-up apartment. I don't know how many things were "designed" and flown from that window. but the street below looked like a parade had gone by. Paper littered the area like autumn leaves. Somewhere in La Casa is a Russian kid's book that I used to be able to read quite well from back in those days, though now I can only at best fake a Russian accent. More importantly, inside that book is a paper airplane that Alyosha made for me. Alyosha and I had a lot of fun. Much more importantly, he worked with me using some of his electronic and electrical bits he had at home. He convinced Mom that I had a natural talent for this sort of thing, to the point where he was practically astounded. He urged Mom to have me pursue these interests as my vocation. It was then she realized I was not taking my toys apart just to be destructive, but I was using the parts to make my own versions of my toys. I have vague memories of a lot of things Mom and I did on that trip, which took us not only to Russia, but had stopovers in Prague, London and I believe France. I got lots of interesting toys that may have strained Mom's meager wages, the one thing I remember well was a die-cast model of James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Thunderball, which was equipped with all the awesome gadgetry as the one in the film. I wish I still had it (it'd be worth a mint if mint), it was lost or stolen soon after I had gotten back home. Mom's beloved takeaway from the trip was a 78rpm recording of the original version of "Подмосковные вечера (Moscow Nights)" on the Russian state label Μелодия (Melodiya). That record remains safely ensconced in the record collections here. My life took a turn for the better on that trip, and upon coming back to the states, we began visiting hobby stores, and it was that time I discovered Radio Shack. That, dear readers, was my heaven. As things turned out, a seemingly agonizingly long 16 years later, I took an electronic engineering and test job which was involved in the building of fighter jets and radar systems. Funny that, from paper airplanes and little electrical and mechanical experiments to this. And from Russia with love, apparently.

Fast forward to last Thursday once again. Jeff was suddenly confronted with me doing a total 180 from our happy perusal of dozens of sushi and seafood items to me having a complete breakdown in less than five seconds. It took me a while to regain enough composure to tell him why and to ease his worried look. I was being bombarded with memories too fast to sort them all out, but I began rambling with stories from my deep past. I managed to gather myself up enough to give my order to the now somewhat concerned waitress then sat there awash in pleasant memories. Jeff said it was Mom's way of joining us for our special night. He's right, I suppose, and what better way to make an entrance. We had a very enjoyable meal, and added the little restaurant to our must-go-again-especially-with-friends list. And if the initial shock and aawww from hearing the song didn't make me feel there was something more to this special night, hearing it being played once again(!) just before we were finishing up kinda made it clear.

Happy Anniversary, Jeff.

Hear the music )
greatbear: (me and mom)
For someone who has problems getting around and has to work on anything that involves standing or exertion on a 15 minute on/15 minute off work cycle, I seem to have quite a few irons in the fire. The door project spawned several concurrent sub-projects, which was actually planned for the most part. What wasn't necessarily planned was how many sub-projects ended up being spawned from this main one. The good news is I am finally putting to use a lot of the supplies I had gotten in the past. The only thing I could say that is bad about it is slows down the individual pieces of the puzzle as a whole. I don't mind this in the least, because the concurrent bits are taking less time by far than if they were done piecemeal. I brainstorm along the way, and discover ways to make things work better and build-in paths for future upgrades and easier maintenance. For example, I've had an alarm system for the house I bought all the way back around 1995. I'm finally installing it. I hid the sensor for the door in the frame, and ran the cabling for it since I had the wall apart. Yesterday I hid a conduit in the closet so I had an easy way to run wiring from the basement (where all the brains are) into the attic. So today I was able to connect the little dome camera above the door into the switches in the basement in record time. I should've done this years ago. I gave it a test run tonight, and I am beyond pleased. I have full-HD, 3-megapixel, bulbous video:

The camera does not have "night vision" using infrared LEDs as an invisible floodlight. But the automation system will turn on the light above the door as someone approaches, and if things are set to do so, a pic can be taken and sent to wherever I am, and this also starts a video recording. If it's someone I know, and they need to get into the house, I can unlock the door from across the country (or planet, for that matter, wherever I can get interwebs) and lock it when they leave. It has been a lot of fun messing with this stuff. I do the noisy work during the day, and when Jeff hits the sack early in order to get up a 0dark30, I can quietly fiddle with the electronic end of it. While everything does tie together in one way or another, if the automation were to go on the fritz, everything can work manually, and life is the same as it usually is. Having had unfortunate delays for years that kept me from doing these things earlier meant that technology has improved immensely, and not only is this sort of stuff mure capable and reliable, it's much easier to install and integrate.

Things weren't all peaches and cream, though. I hopped into the MINI to run a couple errands and I noticed the passenger's seat was wet. I then noticed the window was slightly open. Okay, no biggie, it's been raining like crazy lately, close the window. All it did was squeak and move a a fraction of an inch. I tried to lower it, and it went maybe an inch at best. Then it wouldn't go back up. Even wrestling with the glass didn't help much. So, now I have an unexpected little project. Strange that it's the passenger's side, which doesn't get used nearly as much. This also makes i the first real problem I've had with that car in over 11 years. I did have some minor problems when I first got the car that were taken care of under warranty, and last year I replaced the speakers because the ones in front failed. So today I have been drying out the car and will look into it during the weekend. Most likely it's the window lift mechanism. I would have simply parked the car on the carport where it normally sits off season to keep the rain out until I can fix it later, but the trailer is parked in the way. I'd rather fix it and be done with it.

The one thing that really took the wind out of my sails happened the other day. Since I needed to get into the entryway closet to not only install the conduit, but also do some serious cleaning and prep for the new floor. Inside the closet was a few of Mom's coats, most of which ones that I had yet to find a good home for. One of them was one I was keeping, it was a mink-trimmed coat she had gotten around 1970. She was very proud of this coat, since we were not well-to-do in my earlier years, she had scrimped and saved to buy this one thing to make her feel a bit more elegant. When I pulled the coat out, I noticed a hole. My first thought was that moths had gotten in and chewed on it. Upon further inspection I found the right sleeve has been totally destroyed by a mouse, who nested in it and chewed away the better part of the sleeve and even some of the fur trim. I completely lost it. I wanted to just throw everything away at that point. After a while I regained a bit of composure, but my will was shot and my enthusiasm for the projects was dashed. There is absolutely no hope for the old coat now, so I will cut off the remaining fur trimmings and toss the rest. I've had a fair share of "physical memories" like this ruined over the years, mostly from outside forces. And it reopens old wounds, puts me mentally is a dark, cold place, and my willingness to be outgoing and to do things becomes impossible. I eventually recover, but momentum is slow to build once again.

I am hoping that progress and my limited mobility keep improving, or at least maintain their current state. We have a lot of plans and trips for the very near future, and Jeff needs a huge break too. My work is giving me pleasure for the most part, and we could use some downtime fun.

In the spirit of my 2.8mm wiiide-angle view, it seems ol' Homestarrunner and gang are back for the first time since 2008 with a new cartoon.

Happy weekend, everyone!
greatbear: (me and mom)
Happy Mother's Day.

A mom is someone that everyone has. How your relationship with your mother (or father, for that matter) develops once you've squeaked your way into this cold cruel world just as you were getting comfortable in your underwater oasis can take many turns. I was lucky to have a mom that made sure I was never hungry, never unloved, never without a roof over my head. My father, not so much, but this is not the day for that. I literally lost my world of all my prior decades when I lost Mom. I still feel great pains of loss at seemingly inappropriate times. With spring finally putting on a show here, lots of very early memories, sparked by sights, sounds and especially scents take me instantly back to my youngest days, where I didn't have the cares and worries I have as an increasingly broken, middle-aged man. No, these little moments are tiny vignettes of days of play, of sunshine, of meals made on shoestring budgets with the utmost of care, of literally being the man of the house starting at age 5, of exploring, of learning about the world and its good and bad, of falls and spills and bicycle accidents and the best medical care ever delivered while sitting on the edge of the bathtub, of happiness, of trust, and of love. Just when I think time is being cruel and robs me of something, the ol' memory banks get triggered and I am back in my fondest of places.

I sincerely wish everyone's Mother's Day could be like this.

Pink tears

Feb. 24th, 2014 09:41 pm
greatbear: (half awake)
Why is it I can hear a song a million times, have minimal reactions to it for the most part, but suddenly have it hit me like a ton of bricks on a speeding train falling off a bridge? It happened today, and the song was Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Mind you, I've had the album since it came out in 1975. I used to play the guitar parts by recording myself on tape then following along the same way the song does at the intro, singing in my terrible voice all the way through. I know all the words. I know the meaning, which is basically missing someone or feelings of loss, as Roger Waters wrote as he and the rest of the Floyds lamenting the departure of band-mate Syd Barrett due to increasing mental breakdowns. Yet here I was, being domestic during the day and taking the opportunity to give a high-dB listening to my recently purchased Wish You Were Here Immersion box set. I had the 2009 5.1-channel mix playing while I did various tasks and cleaned the living room. When the subject song came on in full surround splendor, as "Have a Cigar" sucked itself into tinny nothingness and into the opening segment with the radio being tuned among the static, until the now famous guitar lines are found was coming from the back surround speakers, with the harmonizing "lead" feeling as if it was in the middle of the front of the room. I dropped what I was doing and sat on the Swiss exercise ball I use for my back rehab. And I sat there dumbstruck at first, slightly swaying by the all-so-familiar lyrics.

I then began bawling my eyes out.

I thought of how I lost Mom, and how I lost so many good friends over the years, even my long-gone pets. This entirely too familiar piece of music, albeit one of my favorites, took on a new life and feeling as it swept me into a totally not unpleasant trip through my thoughts. Even Snickles, who was playful and carrying on not a moment before, sat for a moment watching me staring blankly into the room with tear-filled eyes before standing between my knees and gripping my one leg in a kind of hug with his head tight in my lap for the rest of the song. He's never done that before. It might've been a painful five-and-a-half minutes in some ways, but it was wonderfully cathartic, completely unexpected and it left me with a warm, comfortable feeling for the remainder of the day. Jeff came home and I played some of the other tracks from the set, including the original quadraphonic mix not heard since it was originally released on Quad LP and 8-track. Even Jeff didn't mind the half-kilowatt plus of amplified goodness while he was making dinner. He usually tells me to turn the music down when he gets home after a long day at work. For Jeff, it was a chance for him to relive a wonderfully relaxing moment we had at Hillside along with some friends we've since lost touch with. It was a quiet night, alongside the creek that runs through the lower part of the campground. I had my iPod filled with lots of Pink Floyd, and we played this as well as DSotM at an elevated volume enjoying the solitude the moment brought us.

Ah, memories.

greatbear: (me and mom)
Today would've been Mom's 88th birthday. While time has indeed soften the edge of loss, it doesn't take a lot to bring me into that sad, cold feeling of loss. The first half of this month, in fact, once a personal period of happiness in our tiny family, with my birthday, then hers, topping off with Valentine's Day by simple fact that Valentine was Mom's first name (it's pronounced "Valentina," but an error in translation/spelling when she came to the states in the early 50s made the unique spelling stick, not such a bad thing really) makes a good excuse to have another celebration day. After all, I get Groundhog Day by dint of sharing my first name with a certain weather prognosticating furrball in Pennsyltucky, so why not make cozy wintertime hay with it? As one might expect, coupling these days of yore and the pleasant memories they had entailed with the remaining cold, grey winter and my disabilities and pain puts me into a bit of a funk. I try my best to push on, remembering all the good stuff, quietly playing records I haven't spun in decades, surrounding myself with the two little pooches who obviously sense something, and waiting till Jeff gets home. We went out for a nice little dinner at a local place, and some more minor parts had arrived while we were out that pertain to the IT infrastructure at Mayhem Acres, so while Jeff studies for a seminar tomorrow, I am down in the bowels of electronic underpinnings of La Casa putting the final touches on a new server, listening to obscure prog rock and classical and trying to keep myself composed. It's all I really can do these days, as Spring slowly arrives in six more weeks, more attention will be focused on some very important changes here and the frigid grey funk a memory.

I lost Mom nearly 8 years ago, but her birthday will always be a special day for me. I celebrate with her spirit that lives on around me.
greatbear: (forearms)
I've been digging through the archives stored in the great computers filling the not-so-hallowed halls of Mayhem finding old-ish pics of me to post on Facebook. You know, content-light meme-like prattle so popular among the hordes and such. Some denizens of the upright, hoary and stodgy Livejournal also partake, and, well, I find it easy to crosspost the same visuals with text appropriate for each venue.

Here I am with my wonderful dog Patches playing around in my living room around September of 2000. I really miss Patches, she was the most awesome companion for Mom and I, and she really understood me. There were days I was out of sorts, or things weren't going well, or I was sad or troubled. Patches was always there and knew how to make the day a bit easier to take. On good days, she would only add to the happiness in her own unique way. Every coming home from work was a tail-wagging, happy-barking love fest. So much unconditional love, but a sadly limited time to revel in it. She was a rescue, and she entered my life at 2 years old. She adjusted quickly and was a true family member. "Pet" almost seems condescending. She lived a happy 12 years with us, but the mere dozen years were far too short. Dogs are capable of such unconditional love and devotion, but it's so fleeting. It only means that every day needs to matter. Never deny your pet the love he or she so willingly gives. There will inevitably come a day when your companion is no longer with you, and, trust me, you lose a piece of your heart when they are gone. I get quite wistful every time I see a Dalmatian. I thought the effect would dim over time, and in the approximate ten years she's been gone, it's still a strong tug of the heartstrings. Even writing this entry, as run-on as it's become, had me reaching for the tissue on my desk.


Jun. 18th, 2013 12:34 am
greatbear: (me and mom)
We had a busy weekend, Jeff and I. I had planned on doing more yard work but I needed to fix the car, plus I ended up doing a lot of work on a friend's car as well. Jeff did work outside and around the house, plus made a nice dinner of baby back ribs on the grill which we ate outside in beautiful weather. Sunday rolled around and I was able to to some more stuff outside, having to take time and pull the carburetor off one of the lawnmowers because it was acting flaky from dirt inside. Jeff made a pot roast, searing it first and making the house smell wonderful before braising it in the oven. I was still outside doing all manner of things and came in later. I walked into the kitchen to get a drink and stopped dead in my tracks. The kitchen was enveloped in the aroma of the pot roast as it was nearly finished cooking, and I was immediately hit with a flood of memories of Mom and all of her wonderful meals. I quietly bawled my eyes out for a few moments, collected myself and went along with my business. Later, as Jeff was getting dinner onto the table, I told him what had transpired earlier. He said the same happened with him, he couldn't help but think of all those meals with his family. The schmoopy feelings were good ones, of course, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Funny how my rather copious schnozz tends to trigger so many memories at the most unlikely moments. Of course, my thoughts have been drifting in that direction a lot lately, I lost Mom in June nearly 7 years ago. Last night I laid in bed staring at the ceiling and I could barely wrap my head around it being that long already. Time has indeed softened the hard edge of loss, but, just like the Sunday dinner, or the blooming of the lilacs and mock orange, or seeing pictures or hearing a certain piece of music or something else entirely, I get knocked into silence with memories pouring in.

On that subject, many of you know my fondness for Pixar movies, and everyone knows most of those movies have at least one major reach-for-the-kleenex moment. A year to the day after losing Mom, Ratatouille was released and in the theaters. Named after the dish that my mom was fond of and made a lot, I worried I might get choked up while in the theater and made sure I had a pocket full of tissues just in case. But, as the movie progressed, delightful as it was, I didn't get the usual "hit" I had gotten from most of the other Pixar flicks that preceded it. Well, that was a short-lived assumption, because the scene came up where the "evil" food critic Anton Ego is served the plate of ratatouille (as confit byaldi) and has the flashback to his youth, with his mom and all the happiness and warmth it encompassed. I absolutely lost it, and I lose it every time I see that scene. The few seconds of that flashback so mirrors how I feel in such a situation.

Sunday dinner was a feast for more than the palate.
greatbear: (Default)
I hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day weekend. There is a lot happening here at Mayhem Headquarters, mostly good, some bad. I'm letting the good stuff trample the bad stuff. I know I've been a terrible blogger of late, what with very sparse updates and little interaction. I will put forth some effort to change that as well. Some ADHD bullet points:

  • Work sucks, but I am managing.

  • Jeff has gotten good news on the status of his heart health, and can safely have his thyroid removed without fear of another heart attack or severe bleeding.

  • We are slowly catching up on things that had to wait while we dealt with our various health issues.

  • We are looking forward to some quality downtime going camping in upcoming days. Next weekend to nearby Deep Creek Lake, and in a month, not one, but two weeks in PTown. We are both stoked.

  • We've been making time for entertainment and cultural outings. Sporting events, shows, concerts, and spending time with the extended family. Lots more of this is in the works.

  • There are some bummers along the way, I have to contend with a wrecked car, I'm behind on some repairs on the house and some other projects. If things keep on the current track, I'll get to them.

    I hope this finds everybody well.


    May. 13th, 2012 10:24 am
    greatbear: (me and mom)
    Happy Mother's Day, everyone.
    greatbear: (me and mom)
    Lately I've been engaging in some computer building and other related nerdery. The PC that got wrecked by the malware got a different hard drive and was nicely reborn as a workshop PC, and I actually bought my first desktop machine, as in one I did not assemble from parts. had a sale on refurbed business desktops, I picked up a cheap HP with minimal flash and glitz to use in the garage. For 149 bucks complete with Win 7 Home Premium, and a cheapass new keyboard and mouse thrown in, I figured what the hell. These PCs seemed to be all over the place at work, they go through life functioning quite reliably, and they get replaced with the latest 'n' greatest in a couple years. It's a five year old machine, ruggedly built and small. Hell, for all I know it came from my lab.

    I have the reborn PC on the side cabinet on my basement workshop toolbox. The HP is in an identical situation out in the garage. While the purchased machine came with a kb and mouse, I needed to come up with something for the one downstairs. I didn't want to use anything fancy, the sawdust and dirt would take their toll in time. I was rummaging through my collection of still-usable computer junk and found a nondescript Microsoft optical mouse. This would work fine. I notice the green sticky dot that was affixed to the left mouse button and it gave me a bit of pause. Then it hit me. This had been the mouse that was attached to a PC that I put together for Mom many years ago. I had stuck the green dot on the left button as a reminder to her which of the buttons was the "main" one. She had gotten used to using the PC, but the dot remained. The PC was repurposed later on after she had died. Sitting there and staring at the cheap little mouse with the green dot, knowing what it had been used for, left me in a hollow, silent place for a bit of time. I got choked up, I stopped futzing with the computers for the night, I took the mouse with me, cleaned the dust and smudges from the time in storage, making it look new again. I left the green dot attached, still hanging on with its now dried-out adhesive. It's a nice little reminder.
    greatbear: (jeff and me)
    *warms up transmitters, sets optimum grid and plate currents, tunes antenna array for optimum SWR as I prepare to break radio silence*

    Precisely one year ago my Jeff was in the hospital, connected to all manner of diagnostic equipment after having a stent placed in his heart due to a major heart attack. Thanks to the incredible work of so many fine folks at Howard County General as well as the EMTs, he's very much alive, comfortable at home and is sleeping quietly. One whole year passed us by already, how time flies. I don't know what I'd do without him, but I am gonna do all I can to keep him around for a long, long time.

    Jeff currently has a cumbersome cast on his right arm after having carpal tunnel and ulnar nerve duct surgery this past Thursday morning. About a month ago he had the same thing (minus the elbow thing) done on his left wrist, he has been recovering nicely from that procedure. Tomorrow he goes to see his cardiologist for a checkup of sorts, and to make some decisions regarding ongoing medicines and treatment. Next year, depending on what he learns starting tomorrow, he will have to undergo yet another procedure to remove some rather large growths on his thyroid, and possibly the thyroid gland itself. We'll tackle that as it comes. Together.

    Of course, I have been helping him out as much as I can, and even doting on him a bit too much. Yesterday I made some totally rockin' ham'n'bean soup. It was all I could do to keep Jeff out of the kitchen and try my hand at this, and he needs the rest. It was a bit of a milestone for me as well, as I basically went into all those memories of Mom making soups throughout the years, throwing stuff together from scratch and having it cook for a good part of the afternoon, filling the house with smells that dug up so many memories, and at times I had to quietly go off and quell some emotions that were trying to get the better of me. You see, the holidays, a fire in the woodstove, and home cooking remind me of how much I lost, as well as all of those wonderful days in the past. I still feel as though I am invading Mom's space, but I feel less of that as I conquer these personal barriers one by one. I am pretty certain that Mom would have approved wholeheartedly of my effort. Jeff the Chef did. There is no reason Jeff and I can't make our own wonderful memories as time marches on either. We might not be in the best of health, but we are still here, and we'll do all we can to hang around for a long time to come.

    I hope this post finds those reading well.

    *throws transmitter back into standby, but leaves the tubes aglow*
    greatbear: (old graybeard)
    Several days ago while perusing my friends list here on LJ I happened upon an entry that mentioned, among other things, seeing a certain movie while in elementary school entitled The Red Balloon. I have no idea if this is still the case these days, but back in the prehistoric epoch of my early youth, The Red Balloon, a French film, was de rigueur cinema at Savage Elementary School each year, apparently since the film won an award for top educational film in '68, right at the meat of my primary school life. As the years went on, the movie became a fond memory, as well as a cautionary tale I could relate to. The movie is set in Paris, in the mid-50s. A young boy finds a big red balloon tangled in a streetlamp, frees it, and brings it home with him while coming home from school. His mother, for unknown reasons, does not allow the boy to keep the balloon in the house, and subsequently, releases it though an open window. It is then that the "magic" begins. The boy's red balloon becomes a fun part of his life, as well as a troublesome companion in the eyes of others. The boy and his balloon become a target for neighborhood bullies as well, this plays out predictably, but with a surprising conclusion.

    I had not seen this film in decades, and pretty much forgotten about it. Having my memories jostled by the LJ post, I dove into the trusty intarwebs to find it, and voila, found a complete copy exactly as I had remembered it from my early youth. I've presented it here in three parts. If any of you remember this movie, let me know in the comments your take on it.

    Parts 2 and 3, as well as some other thoughts here... )
    greatbear: (face)
    It has been an interesting couple of days at the Interstellar Mayhem Command Station. Yesterday I had the opportunity to go with Jeff and experience something neither of us ever partaken in before. A Seder dinner. Yes, your favorite atheist sat among Jeff's boss' extended family and joined in one of their most sacred traditions. And despite the storm clouds that began to gather when I read some of the passages, no storm of measure arose, and I got to experience firsthand a religious tradition. Even popped on a kippah. While it isn't going to make me run out and convert to Judaism, I gained a bit of insight from the inside. While I was vaguely aware of what was involved and why it is done, it was actually interesting and rather fun taking part. It's a tradition as well as a history lesson that finishes with a lot of great food. I tried everything from gefilte fish to matzoh ball soup and more familiar fare such as corned beef and cabbage with potatoes as well as beef brisket and potato latkes (the familiar stuff being that which my Mom made quite often). Most of all I was honored to take part in a ceremonial dinner with their family. They treat Jeff and I like a part of their family.

    Today I got an early call from Jeff telling me that he had forgotten his daily medications which he would take into work. Since he works in Ft. Meade, I have to go through the process of having my vehicle inspected to get on base. About a month ago I got to see first hand where Jeff works and have lunch with him after taking the full tour of the brand new facilities. This time I simply dropped off his meds and he surprised me with a little lunch at the car. He was too busy to take time for lunch with me, and I expected that. Why was today such a big deal, you might ask? Well, I was born at Ft. Meade just about 50 years ago. Mom and Dad were Army, and our world centered around Ft. Meade. All our shopping, medical care, recreation and whatnot took place in and around the base. I had not been on base for probably 20 years, and ever since 9/11 the base has had restricted access. I took for granted the ability to come and go as I pleased, and once the place locked down, I figured it was a done deal, no more little visits.

    I had not been able to make use of most of the facilities since turning 18 anyway, though I had a friend that could get me into some of the places after my ID had expired. The first time I visited Jeff for lunch, I took a trip through a part of the base as I was leaving. I still remember the place like the back of my hand. Some stuff has remained unchanged, other facilities like the old troop barracks have disappeared, while some stuff is entirely new like Jeff's workplace. This time I took a different route and spent a bit more time around the places close to my youth. The movie theater, the park and lake where I spent my summers at day camp, and of course, the hospital, among other things. This time around, I broke down crying, since so many memories came flooding back of time spent with Mom, our earliest history is still there on that old army base. But I smiled and remembered all those fond memories. Hell, the place still has that "smell" that is impossible to describe, and I really felt like I had gone home again, even for the mere twenty or thirty minutes I spent driving around. I remembered so much, some of which had formed the core of my being. Even the one old pool where I went swimming twice to three times a day during the summer (and got tanned a deep brown and my hair bleached nearly white) is still there. The garage where Mom would take the car in for repairs, and where I would spend so much time begging for old parts to play with. I learned a lot there, but I remember the most how, even as a 7 year old, how I would completely baffle the mechanics with my knowledge of engines and cars and what have you. I got to take home some old part if I knew what it was. I'd come out of there with a box so full I couldn't carry it.

    While it was an emotional trip, it was a good one. What really surprises me is how "small" the place feels these days. While I had been around the place well into my adult life, my absence for all those years coupled with huge changes in my life has obviously altered my perspectives. The long abandoned commissary looks like a tiny brick warehouse compared to even a modest grocery today. But all those years ago, it was so big and rambling. Mom's ID expired several years before mine, so I got tasked to do a lot of the shopping, and I did very well I might add. Likewise the old PX, the original building is gone, just an empty space with a couple newish little trees remains, the new facility has expanded since I was last inside. Just like so much of my life, I had to become "the man of the house" when Dad left us when I was only 5. I don't regret this at all, since the independent nature which defines me and my willingness and ability to make a life for myself and my loved ones came from those early days, was fostered in a relatively small "town" that had everything we needed, and, as a found out those two recent days, still holds my early life among its streets, fields and buildings. I'm glad it's still there. I was able to go back home again.
    greatbear: (Default)
    The garden has started producing tomatoes in earnest. This evening Jeff and I gave my recently acquired Champion juicer it's first try, since I had also gotten my desired optional screen. In about 15-20 minutes we ended up with several gallons of juice! This sure beat the hell out of my old hand-cranked method by a mile. The juice itself is nice and thick but without the seeds or skins, I will begin cooking the stuff down tomorrow with the ultimate result being pasta sauce/marinara. This is only the beginning, however. The harvest of the last several days is only the tip of the tomato-y iceberg. Some of the Roma tomatoes will be frozen as they are, quite useful later on in dishes needing whole 'maters or things like soups and stews. More sauce will be made and frozen, and lots will be had in upcoming meals too. Quite a bit of the harvest will be shared with friends as well.

    The smell of tomato sauce being made is one of my favorite smells, it reminds me of late summer, and, these days of course, Mom. So I am sure I'll get a little more than wistful as my olfactory senses go into overload. That's not a bad thing. One thing I know, Mom would have loved this juicer. I hope I make her memory proud.
    greatbear: (Default)
    Aw, man, how could I forget? It's also the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back!

    I should have used Post-It notes as reminders. They also turned 30 today. I coulda used them in high school. Too late to that party too.

    As Yoda would have said to me, "That is why you fail."

    Yeah, three decades ago. I remember it well. It felt like I had the whole world ahead of me, which I really did. I was a bundle of creativity and energy. Seemed like there was nothing I could not do. And, to be honest, I proved a lot of people wrong when they would say "You can't do (x)" when I indeed knew I could. The last ten years or so has done a lot to quell the energy, but there are still times when I still admire what I can do.

    Let's see if I even make it another thirty. Or ten.


    Feb. 10th, 2010 05:16 pm
    greatbear: (candle)
    Today would have been Mom's 84th birthday. I'm trying my best not to be overcome with sadness that she's gone. Being buoyed by good memories, and keeping warm wearing her favorite sweater (it's only a little tight, actually, it was generously hand-knit) helps.

    Happy Birthday, Mom.
    greatbear: (half awake)
    My best friend had been working along with his siblings (and a bit of help from me) to get his parent's house ready for sale. Today, it went on the market. I got a text message from him tonight saying that the sign is out front and everything. His parents bought the house new in 1960 or so, and it's been very well maintained throughout the years. It never had much of anything in the way of upgrades either, most of the appliances and interior features are original. However, everything looked practically new. His parents treated me like family, I spent countless hours wrenching on cars, playing guitar and in general hanging out with John and his parents even after he had moved out after getting married. They were like a second family to me.

    Hearing that the sign went up today made me think back on those 36+ years I have known them, and the house which was always the same, a kind of memory reference point and place of constant comfort. It's soon to be gone, taken over hopefully by a family that will enjoy the house as the first and only other owners had. And hopefully they keep it mostly as is.

    I can't help but feel sad. Here is another piece of my youth that is going away. Another constant that is no longer. My childhood homes are completely gone. I've lost lots of friends and loved ones over the years. And, of course, I no longer have Mom. I can't help but feel 'shoved' further and further into the future, an unknown, while my past slowly disintegrates. Such is life, I guess, and not necessarily a bad thing. But, it still hurts, with every piece of the past being essentially chopped away, in varying sizes.

    Today, I learned the Farrah Fawcett is gravely ill as well. I had that famous poster as a teen, and loved watching Charlie's Angels. I cried a bit when I read the story. And, I felt one more presence of my past is soon to disappear.

    Life is not always fair.
    greatbear: (candle)
    This holiday is a rough one for me. It comes four days after Mom's birthday, and we had always treated it as sort of an extension of the birthday celebration and an excuse to have yet another really nice meal. So, this brings up memories of all those good times and how they are gone now. It's the same when I see other things that remind me of her, like some pictures I was looking at yesterday evening, or when I see her name.

    Mom's name is Valentine.
    greatbear: (half awake)
    When I was a wee young'un, one of my prized possessions was my Panasonic cassette recorder. I had actually a few over the years, as I literally wore them out from the use/abuse I subjected them to. I would record music form the radio, or from my record player, often with these homemade direct connection cables for the highest fidelity I could muster. Not bad for an 11 year old I guess. Aside from all the music I was immersed in, I also used to record the world around me, as well as myself. I taped phone conversations with friends. Taped the sounds of company at the house. Took it to school and taped the sounds in the classrooms and concerts and field trips. When I was not playing my music (which even then was not your everyday Top 40 fare), I was inadvertently documenting the world around me. Over the years most of the tapes were used over for some other purpose or trashed after they had worn out. But still, the countless dozens of accumulated cassettes, though they had dwindled in number, remained in my memories as bits of the best parts of my life.

    Just shy of exactly 20 years ago, after building this new house and moving things, I was cleaning stuff from my bedroom closet. A vent pipe stood inside this closet as part of the plumbing in the old place. When I had finally cleared out all the crap I noticed something shiny behind the pipe and below the floor of the closet. It was that first Panasonic cassette recorder. I thought I had lost it for good more than a decade prior, blaming it on someone walking off with it while outside in the yard or some such. I was reunited with my buddy, mostly intact and still around after several other tape recorders had taken it's place and fell aside after being worn out or broken.

    The recorder found itself mostly in storage again. Occasionally it was dragged out for nostalgia's sake or for Mom to use for playing some of her language tapes in and around the house. But my old friend stayed in storage in these recent years.

    Last month I was doing some major cleaning of accumulated cruft and junk, much of which was not touched in years. While clumsily hauling the crap from the basement, I knocked over several boxes, a couple of which spilled their contents on the floor. One of the boxes was full of those ancient tapes. I knew that one day soon, I'd have to try and see if anything was listenable. I did so a little while back. I popped four C-cells into the old Panasonic and started fumbling through the mess.

    Those ancient mix tapes sounded pretty bad quality-wise, but it did not matter. To me, it was the same as a pristine first pressing vinyl copy being played for the first time. Memories came flooding in, to those days in my youth, the good and the bad. It made me smile. A tape of me and my friend on the phone talking together, watching the same Peanuts TV special commenting on how Lucy is going to yank that football away as usual. I tried to figure out in my head what the hell made me tape such things way back when. I found more crazy mix tapes, many others which were broken or tangled and not playable. I then popped another one in and heard myself talking, then another voice which I remembered to be one of Mom's co-workers. Then I heard her voice. It was Mom talking. A chill ran down my spine and my heart leapt. I was so not ready for that. It was scary, but welcome. I sat there with the tape running but not really listening. My mind was filled with images and feelings and emotions and I began to shake and cry. I was about to shut off the tape and then it stopped on it's own. The tape was fine, but the belt inside the antique tape deck had broken. I guess it was too much for the both of us.

    greatbear: (blackness)
    Jeff is up at the bonfire, socializing and enjoying himself. I'm back at the campsite with only Kodi as company. I thought I could make it, but my thoughts and memories got the best of me again.

    Tomorrow marks two years since I lost my Mom to cancer. I still miss her greatly. This does not get any easier, but I guess I am learning to cope with the feelings of loss as the days roll on. Keeping to myself for a while helps I guess. I just want Jeff to enjoy himself to the fullest while we are here. For the most part, I am too. I just need my own space now and then.

    That's the cool thing about Hillside. It can be whatever you make it. Tomorrow morning I might talk a walk to the Memorial Gardens they have here. It's a truly solemn place, dedicated to partners, friends and family of visitors that have been lost through the years. It's a cathedral in the woods itself. Anyone who experiences it gets choked up. Or more. I'm sure I will really be in the latter category.


    greatbear: (Default)

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