Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sixty Years of Fantastic Four

Quite a few years back. Was doin' some work related research at a public library outskirt of Washington, DC. Wallowing through the isles of books our eye happened to catch the title of a particular volume of interest, Comic Book Prices For Collectors, or somethin' like that. Immediately pulled it off the shelf and grabbed a chair. Was a big comic book fan as a kid and had a big box of old comics, say circa 1958 - 1967, stashed away at the old homestead back in PA. Exactly 500 as we recall last count, had been years. Mostly Marvel Comics ranging from late 50's favorite war, horror and monster tales right into their early 60's transition to super heroes beginning with 1961's Fantastic Four. 

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Totally unknown to us until we picked up issue #5 off the revolving wire comic rack at the local newsstand. After getting home and reading it ten times over, all the while scrutinizing Jack Kirby's brilliant artwork panel by panel, we immediately resolved to seek out issues #1 through #4. Not hard to do back then. The newsstands only kept the current months comics shelved, to be immediately replaced when the next months issues rolled in. The now "back issues" gone from the newsstand for good. There was an Outlet Store (junk shop) in town. They apparently picked up much of the surplus comics from the distributors, newsstands, grocery stores and such. That was the place ya' went to for the back issues - no Amazon, eBay and such back then. They had several large cardboard boxes of comics along a back wall. No order or organization. Considering our recollection of the size of the box of our 500 count, those boxes must have contained 800+ assorted comics. We left with issues #1 through #4 in hand. A fifth forgotten purchase gave us the stores usual bargain price of 5 comics for 25cents.

For the five FF comics alone, lets look at the values indicated in that aforementioned library collectors price guide for modern collectors pricing:

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With that issue #5 listed at $10,000 - sounds like we got a heck of a deal back then - all five for 37cents. And that doesn't include the other 495 comics in that "box up in the attic" which we knew included first and all early issues of titles like X-Men, Daredevil, Hulk, Sgt. Fury and Howling Commandos and Avengers to list a few.

Hightailed it back to PA that weekend, first stop the old homestead. Took the second floor staircase two stairs at a time - the attic staircase three. Top of the staircase and a quick scan around the attic. Other than a few old suitcases and Christmas decorations, the attics bare. Back down the stairs five at a time to search out mom. 
"What happened to everything in the attic??!!"
"Oh, I gave all that stuff away a few years ago - what are ya' lookin' for sweetie?"
Somethin' to strangle her with.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

What Not: 5.14; Dumbell Pullovers; Mr. Paxton

 ... 5.10 is what 5.8 used ta' be...                                                                                                                        

... 5.12 is what 5.10 used ta' be...

... 5.14 is what 5.12 used ta' be...

... just sayin'...

Old school images - a "Good-man" and Strongman Matt - two strong "dudes" back in the day
Better times before the sport was absorbed into "pop culture"


After many years, recently ran into an old buddy who worked out regularly at a small garage gym we had back in the late '70's. Nothin' fancy - solid bar and dumbell free weights, one store-bought bench along with another home-made bench or two and home-made cable machine. A ton of plates and dumbells. Our boy Derby had a father-in-law who was a pretty good welder/machinist. Along with the benches he'd fashion some heavy plates from pilfered sewer manhole covers (hey - look what we "found"). Derby, primarily a power lifter who regularly benched 400lb+ again set the standard. Workin' out heavy even the smaller guys were soon benchin' 300lb+, including smallest guy Dale who probably weighed 165lb soakin' wet. If ya' didn't get your workout in early before all the boys arrived forget it. It always turned into a strength contest after that. Always had a good time there.

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Hero of the day, 'Arnold', crankin' off some heavy cross-bench dumbell pullovers at Golds Gym, CA. Think that only one photo of our gym ever existed. No idea what happened to it.

Flashback to great times - our boy Rick is preppin' for a few sets of cross-bench dumbell pullovers. He's got the bar beefed up - 80lbs. "Hey Rick - watch the (screw) collars on those dumbells, they been workin' loose pretty easy of late".... "Don't worry 'bout me - I tightened 'em up! And double checked 'em!!". Three reps into his first set and full extension - first he get's the collar off his forehead followed by an orderly 10-10-10-10, then the bar. He drops the remaining 40lb right in his groin. The Stooges couldn't have staged it any better. The only thing missing were the sound effect chimes. Quick on the comeback, Derby deadpans "Hey Rick, what are those good for?" The place was breakin' up with laughter.

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A few days late - adding this in honor of Veterans Day. Post high school education and we had an excellent physics instructor named Mr. Paxton. Could never get into the chore of high school physics - went to a Catholic school and those female Nun by-the-book teaching methods weren't very stimulating, to say the least. Just couldn't crack the nut. Paxton's class was all guys enrolled in technical curriculum including construction, engineering, architecture and electrical. He was a retired physicist, having worked forty years for US Steel. He knew his stuff. Teaching us was elementary to him, and he'd cut loose. He had us calculating anything interesting to guys - ballistic pendulums (bullet momentum), ferry angles for canoe river crossings, crane loads and rigging, airfoil angles of attack. All real world use. All right off the top of his head, bordering on improvisation. Would only ever open the book to give ya' an end of chapter home work assignment. Of coarse, ya' had to read the chapter which was a lot easier to understand following his in-class instruction. If someone would comment upon his genius, his reply would only be "No, I've been doin' it for forty years". He even looked the part - a bit resembled 'Exeter' from the old sci-fi thriller, 'This Island Earth' - tall and thin in stature, large hands, receding silver-gray hairline with a "developed forehead" (could have been 'Professor Moriarty' right out of a 'Sherlock Holmes' novel).

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'Exeter' from 'This Island Earth (1955)' - gotta' be a distant relative of Mr. Paxton.

Mr. Paxton was a World War II vet. He related the story that during the war he was stationed in the South Pacific, along with one other guy, manning a radar installation on a small isolated pacific isle. The Japs knew of the radar and island but never bothered it because they would occasionally intercept intelligence transmissions for their own use. Besides, the island was quickly defended by air if attacked. He said that after month's of isolation they would have welcomed any action.

Once a month a supply boat or sea plane would stop by. Rations were sparse. They subsisted pretty much solely on canned corn beef hash - breakfast, lunch, dinner. They'd supplement it with what they could catch from the sea and fruits and vegetables from the island. One day the supply ship arrived carrying a package from his wife back at home in the states. Excitement. Upon opening the package, however, he discovered that the cargo comprised a several dozen can supply of corned beef hash. Said he almost tossed the entire package into the sea. To break the monotony, there was additionally canned fruit and multiple packages of chocolate and vanilla cake mix, so they at least had dessert to go along with the hash.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Autumn Natives

 Gotta' admit, casting a fly rod is just as addictive as archery shooting or workin' out on a good boulder problem... "OK, time to go home - one more cast and I'm out of here"... 

... next thing ya' know it's an hour later and you're still workin' your way several hundred feet downstream.

Usually tote along an 'Olympus TG-4' compact camera if not an SLR. Always the TG-4 if moving alone (most of the time). Always like to have a perception of scale in landscape images when possible, usually showing a bit of action. Tough to do when alone and behind the camera. Got to messing around with the TG-4's Interval Shooting function, with some decent results (other than the goon).

Local native trout stream

Some rugged hiking - there's a trout stream under all that limestone breakdown

Worth the effort to reach a few nice holes

Some tight casting - gotta' expect some snags

Best hole on the Run

Always have to stop and check out the potential lines on this very cool boulder. A few more on the hillside  above. Gonna' have to hike up and check 'em out one day. That thought occurs every visit.

Snapped an image of our rig while takin' a break. Dragontail Tenkara Mizuchi zx340. Telescoping to 8' - 9.5' - 11' lengths. Fully collapsed (pictured) 25". We run a 10' furled line with 3' 4x tippet. Those tenkara rods really open up the small streams. We wouldn't even be up here with a regular fly rod.

Those native brook trout are pretty cagey. Bit of a game trying to draw 'em out of all the rocks and crevices they like to lay. Two or three (if any) is a good day. Our personal record is eight. Usually 3' - 6" length. 

Over time have caught two native rainbows in this stream

This is pretty much optimum stream level (our opinion)

Played a decent sized brook laying under that rock ledge for probably forty-five minutes. He'd follow after about every tenth cast, just close enough to get ya' amped (just so ya'd see 'em, I figured), before darting back under the ledge. Never did strike. After a while you're wondering who's playin' who.

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

Saturday, June 5, 2021

What Not: Water Therapy/Fossils/Goin' Our Way/Mr. Moto

 "... you see, ya' can't please everyone,
so ya' got to please yourself..."


Occasionally ya' get the entire lake to yourself...

...we got it down to a knack

Always the local backwoods river trip...

...worth every bit of effort

We hobbled around nearly eight months, including all summer, last year nursing a fractured kneecap. Seems to be all better - still - between that and cookbook viruses we'll plan to step up our water therapy. 


Muscle Girl Sarah has an eye for this stuff...

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...aways sees the forest thru the trees


For anyone interested, we're gonna' shut down the website this year - not gonna' bother with renewing the domain hosting and such. We began the site around 2006. At the time there was no YouTube, Vimeo and the like for presenting videos on the internet. We tasked a brilliant guy named Jeff Walter with figuring out a process and have been using Jeff's system up until about two years ago when Jeff retired. With the termination of 'Flash Player' last year the video content has subsequently been unavailable for on-line viewing access. We're forward thinkers around here and really don't care to rehash old work. Considering the archival content of much of the material we may upload selected shorts to YouTube in a private account and link 'em herein - our ongoing contribution to "duty and humanity". However, maybe/maybe not - we're a bit of control freaks and try to avoid being "subjects to the system" as much as possible (we've never had on-line accounts such as FaceBook and such, don't own a smart phone - an old flip-phone will do - have only ever sent probably three texts - don't read 'em either so don't bother - been in Walmart only ever less than ten times - been dealing with the same, solitary Japanese photo-buyer, the "mysterious Mr. Moto", for the past 25 years - he just recently retired, too).

Speakin' of which:

Good luck Mr. Moto - we'll be movin' on... I'm sure we'll be talkin'


"If you gotta' play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta' luck
if memories were all I sing, I'd rather drive a truck..."

                                             - Garden Party (1972)/Rick Nelson