Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cool Pictures From a Tough Time

My list of things to do this week had an entry which said "PODs Ahead," which sounds like some kind of alien attack plan. But it's actually a note to get some advance Pictures Of the Day posted. As I was searching around the hard drives for some interesting materials, I ran across the first 3000 or so pictures that were taken with our very first digital camera.

There's some fun pictures in those files, and that's mostly what you'll see as the Picture's Of the Day for the next week or so. But looking through them also brought back some difficult memories.

One of the very first pictures we took with that camera was the very last picture we ever took of our beloved West Highland White terrier, Jenny. That very day she got hit by a car. That was also the same day we signed the agreement for our ill-fated lease of the Colonial Theater in Laconia.

The day after that was my birthday, and also Easter. William was so sick that he spent the whole day sitting in my lap, mostly asleep, while his big brother and his cousins hunted for Easter eggs. Danny was too young then for the hunt, being only a little over five months old, and only two months past his original due date.

By the end of that summer Brooks Cinema Corporation had collapsed. The following January I started work at the National Passport Center, and Karen worked at Dunkin' Donuts. For pretty much all of 2004, I worked from 3:30 to midnight, and she got up to go bake at Dunkin's at 3:30 in the morning.

Things are better now, but the first decade of the 21st Century has not been an easy one for The Brooks Bunch. But we did add two wonderful boys to the family, Karen got her degree in interior design, and I discovered an affinity for acting on the stage. And one thing that has not been lacking in our family these past ten years has been love.

If I have one great hope for the next decade, it's to recapture some of the creative spirit that marked our daily life at the beginning of our marriage. The spark is still there, if we can just blow it into a flame.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My New Wheels

Here it is, the new Subaru (and in this shot it actually looks new). It's actually about 13 years old and with my commute it will be passing 200,000 miles in about two weeks. It's a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback LTD wagon, a fairly expensive car in its day, with some interesting equipment including heated seats and mirror defoggers. It's dark blue, except for the hatch which is dark green. As some point the car was in a rear-ender and the hatch was replaced.

But it runs better than the Astro van has in a couple of years, and gets at least 60% better mileage if the road trip I took with the boys is any indication.

We drive up the west side of the Lake, and then over to Ossipee for some ice cream at Bobbie Sue's, which I was afraid might not be open. Bobbie Sue's makes great ice cream, right on the premises. Danny had chocolate with a cherry on top (because they didn't have cherry vanilla today) and William had Oreo ice cream with M&Ms sprinkled on top. I had banana, which isn't like any banana ice cream you've had in the store, because it has no flavorings, just fresh bananas. (Heavy sigh of satisfaction.)

The kids wanted to stop at the Nick, the local play park, on the way home, There was a big barbeque in progress for one of the girls' lacrosse teams, and Danny and William knew many of the players from school, so they got involved in a massive game of tag. I think they'll sleep well tonight.

There are plusses and minuses to the Subaru Legacy. On the plus side... well, the plus side list starts with "it runs, it isn't falling apart, it was cheap enough to buy without borrowing," and just keeps getting longer. It's comfortable to drive, gets much better gas mileage than the Astro ever got, and the kids are comfortable riding in it, a very important item because they ride with me a lot.

Also it has an outside driver's side door handle, something which has been missing on the Astro for several months (although the routine of getting in from the passenger side, or leaning over to open the window so that I could reach through to the inside door handle made for some wonderful comedic moments).

The minuses are few, and easy to fix or live with. It has no CD player. With two hours a day of commuting and my love of recorded books on CD, this is something I'll have to remedy as soon as I can. Fortunately the radio that's there is not the original, so it should be easy to replace.

I'm also going to miss my great cupholders, my outside temperature readout (especially in the winter), and the remote-unlocking doors. But not all that much,

Overall I'm thrilled with my luck at finding a good car at such a good price. If it only lasts a year it will have been a good deal, and if I can manage to squeeze two or more, it will have been a solid bargain!

The Astro has been with us since William was a baby, and took us across the country to New Hampshire. Will I miss it? Not really. It's served it's purpose, and I no longer need a big van, and although I at times had a love/hate relationship with the van (and it's designers—don't ask), I have to admit that it certainly paid it's way for the 220,000 miles we put on it (in addition to the over 20,000 it had when we bought it in 2001).

But I'm ready for something smaller, cheaper to run, and more nimble.

Besides, it looks kind of cute sitting next to Karen's Subaru Forester wagon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Farewell, Astro

Well, in truth, I haven't said goodbye to my van yet. It's sitting where I had to leave it, somewhere along Route 11, waiting for me to find the title, make the proper phone calls, and have it towed to the junk yard.

It wouldn't start when I tried to leave work on Wednesday, and Karen had to come and rescue me (I love it when the lady rescues the knight). I managed to start it Thursday and started to limp it home. But it started making a very disturbing noise in the region of the left front wheel. On closer examination I discovered that some of the lug bolts had sheared off, and only three of five remained.

I found a place to park the van, and decided that I couldn't safely take it any farther. Today I took the day off work to shop for another car. Fortunately I found one, and I bought it, registered it, filled it with the stuff from the van so that the van can be taken away, and even got the new car put on our insurance. Busy day! Pictures of the car to follow.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Caption Confusion

I don't know why, but lately I seem to be getting the wrong caption under the Picture Of the Day, or the wrong picture in the wrong day, or something like that. The practical upshot is that you either get an old picture, or a new picture with an old caption, or an old picture with a new caption, any of which would be confusing. I know I'm confused.

Which is probably why this is happening. But I will try to do something over the weekend to lessen the confusion and fix the problem.

I should at least maintain the illusion that I know what I'm doing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Normal Life

For the most part, we don't live anything that I would consider a "normal" life. We live in a house that is under construction, with only one shower serving five people, no flooring anywhere but the kitchen and the boys' bedroom. Karen and I work conflicting hours, and hardly spend any time together, despite the fact that after almost 22 years of marriage we actually like spending time together.

But we try to make life seem normal for the boys, and on the score we get a lot of help—from the boys. After four years of living in a house that was always for sale, never getting to decorate in their own room, not even posters and their own artwork, and having to dash off on Saturdays while someone showed their house to a buyer that was never going to buy, even living in a construction zone seems to feel fairly normal to them.

This week, in part of our attempt to make the house feel more like home, Karen and the boys started planting a vegetable garden in the front yard. We are hoping that the fence discourages the worst of the raiding critters who took away most of our pondside garden a couple of years ago. 

Dad stayed out of this save to erect the fence and set up the wood box to contain the dirt, uh, soil. Letting me touch anything that's meant to grow is a disastrous mistake.

The garden consists of broccoli, cauliflower, onions, strawberries, yukon gold potatoes, lettuce, garlic, and grapes. Might be some other good stuff in there, too, that I don't remember, but if it survives we are in for some good eating.

We also have raspberry and blackberry bushes on the property, and a pair of apple trees, although they have not blossomed this year, and may not. But we are not planning to leave this house anytime soon, so there will be time enough for apples.

Construction projects on the house are not coming along so quickly.  We though that we would get more done when we moved into the house, but the problem is that now, having moved all of our possessions into the house with us, we have to move a lot of things around anytime we want to put down flooring or put up walls or hang a ceiling. It makes everything take a lot longer.

And then there's that whole "normal" life thing, too. With our schedules, and my theater work and the boys activities, and the fact the despite the inconvenience we are at least getting by with the new house the way it is, construction kind of gets pushed farther down the list.

This summer, perhaps, that will change. Karen is taking some time off to be with the boys, and so a lot of their need to be out and about and doing, and to spend time with Karen, will be satisfied and then we can spend more of our weekends, those that Karen has off, to work on the house one room at a time.

Meanwhile we keep plugging away. Today we took the boys to the park so they could play, and we happened to meet two very good friends of theirs (and the friends' Mom, who is a good friend of ours), and everybody had even a better time than we expected.

It makes the day short, though. With the return to work looming, and a rehearsal tonight (tough show, but tons of fun), there wasn't time to work on anything in the house today.

I've been trying to rearrange my studio space so that I can get back to working on the piano and guitar, but there isn't quite enough space, because I'm still using my old computer desk, which is much too big both for the space and the computer I'm currently using.

Karen's been trying to spend more time on the computer so she can learn some new architectural design programs and get better at staying in touch with people, but it's been hard for her to find the time (and energy with her crazy schedule) to keep on.

But lest I complain too, much, I'm a lot better off than I was a year or so ago, when we were rushing to move out of the old house and didn't have time to breathe, let alone accomplish anything. If we can keep that trend going, perhaps this will be the year we finally get back on track.

And if not, we have each other. Nothing that had happened to us has changed that.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I know how to juggle. Really. I can make three balls seem to float through the air in a pattern between my hands. With some practice, I could even regain my ability to juggle hoops and clubs.

Juggling life is an entirely different matter. Perhaps it wouldn't be to hard if I had only three things to juggle. I've always been good at three. Add more, and I start to drop things.

Like this Website. I try to keep it aloft, but once in awhile I drop the ball. But I promise to try to pick it up as often as I can.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Boys' Day Out

Beautiful, sunny, warm day to start the month of May, so the boys and I decided to go out. I was going to take the bikes, but William's has a flat in front and for some reasons I can't push air through the valve. I'll have to fix that another day, though, as I couldn't bear to waste time repairing bicycles when there was such great weather to take advantage of.

I bought some Lunchables at the store and we went to the park called the "Nick." There was a soccer game in progress, so William and I watched that while we ate. Danny was watching the kids play on the equipment. But soon after lunch was over, William and Daniel and some other kids had put together their own kind of soccer game (with a big inflatable ball and lacrosse goals on another field) and that kept them busy for more than an hour.

Despite all that they had enough energy to go for a walk with me along Bridge Falls path. The boys climbed some rocks, and we walked along the path from the parking lot next to Foss Field to Route 109, next to Blacksmith Printing. Rather than turn back, I decided to turn onto Route 109 and walk past some of the buildings there. Danny noticed an old, broken-down waterwheel next to a currently vacant building (which used to house, among other things, a Moe's sandwich shop), and some broken tree stumps in the river bed behind the building.

When we got back to Back Bay, we ran across some scouting friends, and it took me awhile to pull the boys away so we could take care of grocery shopping and get home.

Tonight we are going to stay out late to see a wonderful group of young people stage Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors." Perform It! is a company of home-school students who put on a different Shakespearian production every spring. The last one I saw was "As You Like It," and I was enthralled. Also lucky enough to have since shared the stage with a couple of actors from that show.

Speaking of matters of the theater, I begin rehearsals this week on "Unnecessary Farce," It's going to be a lot of fun, partly because the play is amazingly funny, but also because the cast is made up of old friends, people I've performed with in other Village Players productions. I'm really looking forward to it.

But as for today I have lots to do before we go out, and so it's time to sign off.