Sunday, October 17, 2021

Signs of the Times

 A few weeks back. Dozed off for a little over an hour, waking up late evening. A bit drowsy, but right off the bat noticed that it was a heck of a lot darker than usual. Pitch black actually... ? Hey, that's it - the nearby corner street light, which always provides a bit of "nite lite" window illumination, is out. Get up and hit the wall switch. Huh - ceiling light is out. Navigate a dark hallway. Another wall switch. Kitchen light is out, too. What time is it? Don't know, oven clock is out. Fridge ain't hummin'. Open the door. Feel around in the darkness and grab a bottled water. More shuffling about in the black. Glance out a back room window. Live up on a hill with a view across the north end of town. Looks like everyone's in the dark. Yep - power failure. Make our way back through the sanctum. Along the way grab a flashlight stashed on a hallway staircase for just such circumstance. Take a walk outside. A half light waning Gibbons Moon casting long dark shadows. It's still as a tomb. Not the slightest breeze. You could have heard the heavy breath of death's reaper thru all the quiet. Figured we'd at least hear a bit of automobile traffic along the near distant highway. And where is... anybody? Considering our usual bent for isolation, this is f*k'n great. Light up a stogie.

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About ten minutes knockin' back the ambiance and it suddenly occurs to us - did we just sleep right on thru the biblical prophesied Rapture, portent to the dreaded apocalyptic end times!? "Hey - we were home! Was sleepin'!! Didn't hear ya' knockin'!!!. Calm before the storm? Aww - that's crazy thought. 

A car rolls by and it's back to reality. Didn't recognize the driver. Too dark. Some "hip hopper". Face obscured by that black hood and the darkness. Wow - that's a nice V-12 Cadillac wagon. Black on black it was. Popular for hearses back in the day. Surf rods, too. Long pause at the corner stop sign. Reverse lights come on. Hey - he's commin' back. Wouldn't mind checkin' out that ride.

Next door neighbor steps out onto the front porch. "What's goin' on?" Finally, a bit of humanity.

Power outage it is.

The driver shifts it back in gear and makes a right thru the sign, and down the hill.

None the less - a bit bizarre.

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Last responder

Broadened our thoughts, though. Next morning got back to work double-nailing and gluing the joints on that Ark we started piecing together month's back.

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Sunday, September 12, 2021

Gotta' Love September II

For us, start of annual trout season - 

A bit washed out, or light from heaven beyond? Considering that one interpretation of the word "tenkara" = "fishing from heaven", we'll accept the latter. It was yesterday.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Gotta' Love September...


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... sure she's smilin' - upcoming old school drag racing at Keystone

Brilliant "cammed up" Van Halen drum intro here:

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These guys are good - one more:

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Sunday, September 5, 2021

Stuck Between The Good Guys And The Bad Guys

 "Maybe there's only one revolution, since the beginning, the good guys versus the bad guys. Question is, who are the good guys?"

- Bill Dolworth /'The Professionals' (1966)

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NY State Attica Prison

Day time bill-paying job. Sometime around '89-'90 we were tasked with meeting the authorities at New York State's maximum security Attica Prison with regard to planned structural repair and renovation to an area of the main lockdown. We were cautioned ahead of our visit that our scheduled access could be delayed or possibly cancelled because of some current inmate discontent. In 1971, Attica Prison had been the scene of the "bloodiest prison riot in United States history" (aka: the Attica Massacre). Aftermath the riot had become highly controversial with the majority of the violence attributed to the tactics of the prison guards and law enforcement involved in quelling the uprising. The revolt in the first place was motivated by poor prison living conditions and treatment of inmates. We were actually pretty familiar with the riot, having used the uprising as subject to an assigned "current events" report back in high school.

Immediately upon arrival our team of three was informed that inmate morale was at lower than the usual low. The majority of the population was staging a worker strike attributed to poor prison living conditions and treatment of inmates. The small number of inmate non-participants were being subject to harassment and beatings. Everyone had to be on the lookout for flying molotov cocktail-esque combination urine and feces concoctions. Subsequently, the entire lockdown was on lockdown. After about a half-hour conference amongst security, it was decided to go ahead and let us proceed. We were assigned two prison guards, each armed with shotgun and sidearm. Didn't appear to be the most competent.  We were screened for weapons, meaning we didn't get any ("f*k that" we each thought). 

We were led for probably ten minutes through narrow corridors separated by "KEEP LOCKED AT ALL TIME!" doors then down a dimly lit winding stairwell. Railings and landings secured by chain link fencing so no one could be pitched overboard. It's a bet that the need preceded the application. Another dimly lit corridor. Eventually we arrive at our destination, a basement level mechanical dungeon somewhere deep within the bowels of the prison. The dripping foundation walls purpose to our visit only adding to the dank ambiance.

About a half hour into our business and all of the sudden the insufficient pendant light fixtures flicker and dim then go dark for several suspenseful seconds, then back on. We're lookin' baffled at each other, then all glance double baffled over to the guards. They're lookin' back at us triple baffled. One guard (joking?) comments "Don't worry until you see us running"...!?. The other heads over to "Check upstairs" via a nearby wall intercom - which he finds doesn't work.

Considering that we're unarmed our only resort is Naked Kill*. Between the three of us we have at best a 3/4 drive long handle ratchet wrench, a 3/4 drive long handle breaker bar and a couple screw drivers - couple makeshift clubs and "shivs".

Don't know what our "security" was thinkin', but from then on out, if any real trouble would have broke out we knew where we were gonna' first get two shotguns, two sidearms and spare ammo.

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We really didn't wanna' meet any of these guys (unarmed)

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Small collection of confiscated prison "shanks" 

*Ref.: 'Shibumi' (Trevanian/1979) - Hoda Korosu (Naked Kill): A martial arts discipline that trains in the use of ordinary things as instruments of death. Brilliant novel by the same guy who wrote 'The Eiger Sanction'. Been a while, but do recall that the hero, assassin Nicholai Hel, cut one guys' throat with a credit card. Always thought that would make a good American Express commercial - "Don't leave home without it".

Saturday, August 14, 2021

A Broadsword and a Cross of Gold

A previous day of heavy showers and the Lower Yough is staging a solid Class IV. It's several decades before the first inflatable pink flamingo of recent mania thrashed the slots, drops and holes of the Upper Yough. There was still a bit of "here be dragons" mystique associated with paddling Youghiogheny River whitewater. Back then it was recommended "If the rivers running high, greater than 4ft OPG*(Class IV), head on up to the Middle Yough, Cassleman or Laurel Hill Creek (all Class II/III)". Nowadays, it's "If the rivers running low, less than 4ft OPG (Class III), head on up to the Upper Yough (Class IV/V). Better yet, just go to the Upper Yough. Gotta' love progress...

...we're too far left. F*k!! Missed the eddy turn. Now we're sideways, sweeping left, swiftly, directly toward the upstream face of infamous Dimple Rock. Innocent looking enough - it's set there for eons, a treacherous stone bulkhead to all things drifting river left. A submerged undercut can and has entrapped errant boaters, a few fatally. We couldn't have f*k'd up any less perfect. Port side of the raft slides up the pillow, starboard side drops below water level. A split second and we're swamped with a pounding three hundred gallons of river water. Full crew tossed starboard. The raft is levered into a momentary vertical pin on the rock face. The four of us are tossed ass over elbow into the drink. Textbook. Dimple Rock smiles.

A quick dunking and now, caught in the flow, sweeping river right. Kicking and paddle jousting through a pinball field of shallow boulders. Scanning downstream. Where's the raft? Spin to look back upstream. Here comes brother Howie sweeping in for the recovery. How the f*k did he stay in that boat!? I latch on to a vice-grip right hand and am yanked over the tube and damn near clean out the other side of the boat. There's some adrenalin pumpin'. Howie's holding control so I grab a plastic jug bailer and begin scooping river by the gallon from the swamped craft. Sh*t - where's the backpack!? Must have forgot to tie it down last stop. F*k - that means there went the car keys!! Where's those other two guys. Spot Wild Bill riding it out river right. Don't worry about him for the moment. He's solid. Besides, he'll hike back up river two or three times to do it all again anyway - downing a cold Bud each in-between. 

Spot ten year old Strongman Matt several hundred feet ahead downstream. He's riding out a series of successive haystacks that at this water level I know is giving him a good dunking between brief gulps of air. We can't drown him. First time in the whitewater. His mom will never let me forget it. Howie and I put it in high gear. We don't reach 'em until the end of the run, regardless. All told a swim of around 550ft of swift water, small drops, shallow rocks, small to large waves. Paddle in hand, he flips the backpack up into the raft and climbs aboard - all smiles. Wild Bill seconds behind. All caught up.

"Where'd ya' find that?" 

"I had to really swim to catch up to it - another second and it would have been soaked and gone under. You didn't have it tied in. Hey Bill, you goin' back up?"

"Oh Yea!! Let me bump a beer first!"

Solid from day one.

 *OPG - Ohiopyle River Gage

Dimple Rock claims another

A young Matt and Howie - Lower Yough

Wild Bill, Howie and Randy - stormy day on the Lower Yough
Randy stylin' the latest in rainwear

Strongman Matt - some solid open boating - Lower Yough


Now'days like to occasionally head out to the lake to paddle some laps on the SUP for exercise. It's 1.8 miles/lap. Try to at least get in two laps. Between 28 to 32 minutes per lap depending on mood and effort. Personal best is 22 minutes paddled once just to see how fast we could do it. Once is enough.

Last summer, Strongman Matt had just moved back east permanently from Vegas. The cancer which was wracking 'em pretty good in tow. He wanted to come along one afternoon, to come along.

"Bring another board". 

Stand Up Paddleboarding is a pretty low impact workout, but a workout none-the-less. We always dial it up to at least the "minimum maximum", operating in the red zone.

We're relaxin' in some beach chairs along shore. He'd paddled around with his dog, Koji, a bit. Keeping within vicinity. Physically he didn't appear to be in condition to do a whole lot more.

"Hey Matt - I'm gonna' do a lap around the lake. Takes about a half hour. I'll be back directly.


A little over twenty minutes and heading into the return home stretch, maybe a quarter mile distance, puts you back in site of our "spot". There's Koji, leashed to the bumper and layin' under the vehicle in the shade. There's Matt's empty chair. Where'd he go? Look about. He's not out on the lake...???...

Come drifting into shore. Still no Matt. Never look behind. No reason to. Look back, he's been following behind the whole time. I'd cranked it up a bit, too, to get back around quick since he was waitin'. It was an extra effort, to say the least.

He's cruising along, radio headphones, listening to tunes or whatever he had dialed in.


Go big or go home

You'd arrive to visit and always try to come up with some words of hope and encouragement, which never came. Most times check out an old Eastwood film. Maybe a Formula 1 Race. No moanin', cryin', bitchin' or feeling sorry for himself. May complacently describe to ya' how he had to remove or replace a two foot long tube in himself while ya' set there squirmin' in your chair. Solid as ever. You'd leave questioning you own strength and faith, not quite sure of who is the most ill.


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Saturday, July 17, 2021

Duck Diving

Came across this image while recently wasting time prowling about on-line:

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Big wave surfer and otherwise all-around waterman Kai Lenny 'Duck Diving' an SUP... !!!

That is all the more impressive to us after spending an early morning a few years back getting our ass totally handed to us numerous attempts while trying to paddle out into the beach breaks at California's Huntington Beach - we would have probably had better luck trying to paddle thru a collapsing brick wall. To our credit it was our first (and only ever) surfing experience - first time in the Pacific Ocean as well.

This is a typical surf break (later) that day - Strong Man Matt (foreground) paddling out - he did fine - had quite a bit of east coast surfing experience from a summer or two of working in Maryland's Ocean City. He had given us a pretty cool photo from the time of himself riding a wave with a pod of Dolphins breaking around him - searched high and low for it, but can't locate it. It'll turn up.

Matt a bit impressive. All the good rental boards were out so got stuck with these longboard-style boards with a wide blunt nose. Matt commented as well that they were a bit tough paddling out as they weren't as hydrodynamic as the shorter boards he was used to. Said they rode good once on a wave but were a bit thick and tough to edge. Never found out. Can say that they were light and didn't hurt (much) when they hit ya' on the head while getting rolled and washed back onto beach.

Viewing the afternoon beach and wave action from the Huntington Beach pier. For the time being the only way we personally were getting beyond those breaks with a surfboard was by jumping off the end of the pier (thought about it).

Here's an early morning (around 5am) image from the same spot of a guy with the right idea.

An image we like from a day later at Malibu's Surfrider Beach. Just there for the day hanging out. Didn't try catching any waves but those low, gently rolling barrels appeared a lot more forgiving.

Oh well, was't expecting much of a performance - been thru it all before with other physical endeavors we've since become somewhat of old hands at.

Hey - next life

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Happy 4th America

Go ahead...

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... make his day