WEATHERED AND WORN

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – WEATHERED


I resisted putting up a picture of me first thing in the morning. It was tempting, but I finally decided to take a pass on that. Weathered and wood resonate for me.

Be there a photographer so dead that he or she had not sought out aging wood barns and homes for great pictures and when that fails, there’s always rust and rot.

An old dodge pickup

Why do we photograph old stuff with such enthusiasm? The simple answer is it’s more interesting. The textures and colors are unique. The texture alone would do it for me.

Sleek, smooth stuff is shiny and often colorful, but you get a lot of depth with the textures of old materials. Wood, brick, stone, iron … it all works beautiful in the right photograph.

Stone bridge over the river and canal
Old Uxbridge Fire Engine 2

And that’s weathered enough for the day except, of course, we can’t leave out our very own weathered 1924 Fordson tractor, growing ever more weathered in our own garden.

THE DOWNSIDE OF MY NYC YEARS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

People talk a lot about the great benefits and conveniences of living in a big city. At least New Yorkers tout the glories of New York City all the time. I lived there for 40 years. When I was a young adult and young Mom, I came face to face with the decidedly inconvenient and often scary aspects of New York life.

As a young married, we spent most weekends (except in the winter) at our house in CT. This was very common. Most people we knew left the city almost every weekend. So we needed to have a car in the city. That caused serious problems. Garages were (and still are) very expensive. So for many years, we had to park our car on the street. This is not easy, to put it mildly.

There is a ritualistic parking dance that city car owners go through every week called “Alternate Side Of The Street Parking”. It’s complicated. But it boils down to this. If you are lucky enough to get a side street parking space near your apartment, to preserve it, you have to do the following: Move the car to the other side of the street at a very specific time on a specific day. Then you have to sit in the car for an hour until it becomes legal to park there again. You have to do this once or twice a week. And don’t get me started on what happens if you actually used your car during the week. That made things even more complicated.

I followed this time-honored tradition for years. All of them miserable. In rain, snow, sleet or hail, in sickness and in health. If I had a sick kid at home, they had to come with me. When I was nursing, I often had to take the baby and nurse in the car. In plain view of anyone passing by.

It was a nightmare. I had to plan my entire schedule around the parking rules in my neighborhood. And they could vary just a few blocks away from home where I often had to park. As soon as my husband started earning a little more money, I insisted that the first thing we did was get a garage. So I never had to deal with Alternate Side Of The Street Parking after I had a second child. Thank God.

However, the second child created her own logistical nightmare for me. Her Pre-K school was only about three miles from our apartment. But in NYC, that can be a pilgrimage. It was all the way across town and very inconvenient to get to. The school didn’t allow kids that young to take a school bus by themselves. So I had to take her to school and pick her up for an entire school year.

This involved walking six blocks with a four-year old, in all kinds of weather, to get the cross town bus. After we got off the cross town bus, we had to walk another block and take a downtown bus that took us to the school. The whole procedure took 45 minutes. Then I had to take the 45 minute trip home and repeat the process four hours later! I don’t know which one of us hated this torture more.

Eventually we threw in the towel and started taking taxis – when we could find them (you usually couldn’t in the rain or snow, when you needed them the most). This had it’s own problem – a whopping price tag of $30 a day or $150 a week in 1989 dollars. The choice was sanity and bankruptcy or solvency and having my daughter become a nursery school dropout.

Another negative aspect of NYC life in the 1980’s, was crime. My mother lived in the city for almost 80 years and never once encountered any sort of street crime. We were not so lucky. When we parked cars on the street, they were broken into regularly and the radios were stolen, along with anything else the burglars could find. This happened even in an upscale, Upper East Side residential neighborhood.

Signs people put in their car windows to discourage burglars

My husband and I were also mugged at gunpoint late on night, around the corner from our building. We gave the guy all our cash and he ran off. But he turned around and yelled out, “Sorry to do this to you, folks!” So at least we had a polite and apologetic mugger. Still scary.

The scariest incident happened to our au pair, Heike, when she was out with our two-year old and seven-year old children. Heike was a wonderful German girl who lived with us for two years. She was drop dead gorgeous. And big. Not heavy. In fact she had a beauty queen’s body. But she was 5’10’’ tall and not slight. She was also very tough. No one messed with Heike (except for her alcoholic boyfriend, but that’s another story.)

Heike with David and Sarah

One day, Heike came home with the children through the back or service door. She reached the door and a man jumped out at them and tried to grab my two-year old from Heike’s arms. Heike kicked him in the nuts and started to scream. The man ran off immediately. I was so shaken! I was also so grateful to Heike for so aggressively and bravely protecting my kids. That’s what you pay a babysitter to do.

In the late 1980’s. homeless people on the streets were a big problem. We kept seeing them when we walked around our neighborhood. My almost ten-year old son was beginning to ask questions and get disturbed by the sight of people sleeping in doorways or in cardboard boxes. I asked my husband how I should handle the situation with my son. He said to tell him to keep walking and ignore them.

That’s when I knew for sure that city life was not for me any more. Or for my family. There was no way I would live somewhere where I had to inure my children to human suffering. I would never tell my son to just walk away and not care about people living in such dire circumstances. A few years later we moved out of the city into the woods of CT. And I have never looked back. For me, big city life turned out to be less than the glamorous, convenient utopia that I had been brought up to believe it would be.

A STORY SURE TO BECOME FUNNY

Yesterday’s story today

No one should be surprised to hear there was no oil delivery. This is that kind of story. You know, the one where you wait all day for something, but it doesn’t happen? Everyone goes through this, but it never stops being very annoying. Frustrating. Lucky for me, I didn’t wait until we are down to the final few gallons before I requested delivery — so we aren’t going to run out of oil.

Yet.

According to the company, the truck didn’t come because the driver said it was “too icy.” He said he had called us and we weren’t home. Except, he didn’t call. Maybe he dialed the wrong number, but I was extremely in and breathing heavily while waiting for the phone to ring.

We’ve been working with this same company, same trucks, for 18 years. They have delivered oil to us during much worse weather, when the driveway was significantly more icy. I have to assume they hired a particularly wussy driver. Okay, being fair, we have an awful driveway. It came with the house. If there was one thing I could replace in this house, the driveway would be it.

Nonetheless, the driveway is not bad right now. I can easily walk up and down it and we can drive on it without using 4-wheel drive — with no hint of sliding.

And anyway, there’s no choice. We need oil because we heat with oil.

No oil? No heat.

It has been below zero every night for several days, so this is a bad time to refuse to deliver.

We pay for a delivery service. This means I pay for oil every month, including in the summer when we use very little. We have built up a hefty chunk of money in the company’s accounts to cover routine maintenance, any repairs we might need — and oil. There’s always more than enough money in the account. So I was forced to explain they are going to deliver oil, or we are going to have to find someone else to do it.

It’s not what I want to do, but either they deliver or they return our money so we can find someone who can deliver. There’s no shortage of oil delivery services, but I’d prefer to stay with people we know, as long as the people we know can do the job. If they can’t do it, they aren’t giving us a choice.

I much prefer staying with familiar people, but — what do you do with an oil company who can’t or won’t deliver oil?

I hope we get this sorted out today. I hate when simple stuff gets complicated. There are plenty of real complexities to life. This should not be one.

THE 7-DAY BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE – DAY 2 – A SECOND ROUND

Sue Vincent from Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo, a wonderful site and definitely a thinking person’s website. Anyway, she hailed me to come join this challenge. Again. And I said yes. Why not?

I did this first time around on behest of Judy Dykstra-Brown. Sometimes, getting roped into something is just what we need. My black & white photography never got the energy and effort I’ve used for color photography. This project improved my work.


“Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life.
No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day.”


Having directly or indirectly finagled more than a few people to join this challenge a few weeks ago, I’d feel a bit bashful asking them again, but I invite you to consider giving this challenge a go, even if you’ve done it already. A push to do better work is always good for your art. Moreover, finding a good black & white picture that represents “you” in some interesting visual way poses an interesting mental challenge — an artistic double-whammy, so to speak. At least one of the pictures I used in the first round of challenges turned out to be one of my most popular-ever posts.

Who’d have thunk it.

LOST HORIZONS: ARMSTRONGS MISS IMPORTANT LUNCHEON, EVENT-DAZED, CONFUSED IN DOWNTOWN BOSTON

This is a hard one to share. Make it embarrassing, BIGLY embarrassing for someone who lived and worked in Boston for more than 30 years. The résumé says I worked as a knowledgeable, street savvy TV news reporter. Familiar with all the nooks and crannies of Beantown. Well, as the man says, that’s FAKE news!

Outbound

We had premonitions of a mission impossible last night when we discussed if we should attend the noon luncheon featuring nationally respected Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Marilyn and I bandied emotions about the drive from rural Uxbridge into the big city.

Yes. No. Maybe.

We agreed it would be a noteworthy event. I looked forward to getting  Bill Bratton’s take on crime in the United States, especially the frequency of mass shootings across the country.  I remember Bratton’s tenure in Boston when drive-by shootings filled my assignments three or four times a week. Bratton has also headed Police departments in New York City and Los Angeles.

Surely, he would have cogent observations I could share via blog and our local newspaper. That was all on the plus side for attending the Boston luncheon. The negative side?  Marilyn and I shared murky smiles about our mutual nemesis — the Mass Pike and downtown Boston. It seemed almost comical as fear gripped our sensibilities.

Boston awaits

Sometimes you shouldn’t sell your fears short. We made it into Boston with minimal trouble, but I wasn’t fooled.  The first hint of trouble came when the designated Mass Pike exit was a no-show. No problem!  Marilyn, always the excellent navigator, directed me to and into Boston’s financial district.


Marilyn’s Note: You just know your excursion is in trouble when the designated exit from the Pike doesn’t exist. It means the directions are old. When there’s one error, you can bet your bippy there will be more.


The second hint of trouble came amid confusion in the parking garage of our designated building. First, we were on the wrong side of the building and that part of the garage was only for those with a transponder. We got to the other side of the building. Parked. It turned out we were in the wrong building entirely — despite the instructions on our invitation. I was confused and angry. I believe Marilyn was irritated with my confusion. Why didn’t I, the know-it-all reporter, know where we were supposed to be? I was irritated with myself!!


Marilyn’s Note: I was not irritated at Garry’s inability to find his way through streets that have changed completely since we lived there. I was annoyed because I told him to make a left and he ignored me — and went straight ahead. It turned out not to make any difference since we were at the wrong building in the wrong part of town. 


As the situation deteriorated with ever-increasing aggravation, we finally agreed on something.  Let’s get the hell out of Boston and head home!! Surely, the worst was behind us.  Make that mistake number three! We escaped Boston and were back on the Mass Pike. We would laugh about this when we got home and relaxed.

Mistake#4!

Marilyn was talking to me but I couldn’t hear her over the ambient car noise and blare of sirens from Police Cars that snaked around us and the Pike traffic. She thought I was faking deafness — which elevated my irritation as I focused on the route home and our newest nemesis, a giant midday traffic jam on the Pike.

Mother of Mercy!

Judas Priest in your Mama’s combat boots!!

I couldn’t take much more of this. Marilyn talked. I nodded while missing almost everything she said. I looked down at the dashboard and saw the fuel gauge edging down to “Empty.”  For chrissakes! We’re running out of gas??

Obscenities filled my mind as traffic inched along like an aging battalion of frogs. I had a nightmarish vision of what might happen next and told Marilyn I’d tell her about it when we got home. Surely, now the worst really was behind us. My stomach was churning as the highway traffic continued at a snail’s pace. Marilyn was taking pictures of our slow-mo drive to document our long day’s journey into hell.

Finally, we negotiated our exit off the Mass Pike. I casually looked at the fuel gauge which had now dipped below “Empty.” I silently cursed the gods and looked for an opening on the last major artery of our drive home.  My mind drifted off to other things, including tonight’s World Series game.  Something to smile about in anticipation of more in what’s become an exciting fall classic between the Houston Astros and the La La Dodgers.

I was pondering the possibility of my hero, broadcaster Vin Scully dropping in to cover tonight’s game. That thought prompted my first smile of the day.  My smile grew bigger as I realized we were HOME … in downtown Uxbridge.

Home again!

We ended our afternoon with Marilyn explaining to shoppers and staffers at our local supermarket why we were dressed in our Sunday best. Marilyn’s account of our trip to Boston seemed to draw smiles and laughter.

I’m glad someone thought this day was funny.

UNIDENTIFIED PROBLEM WITH AUTO REGISTRATION

The annual inspection for the Jeep runs out in a few days, so like everyone else, we left it for the end of the month. There’s no advantage in doing it early unless you think you have problems that need fixing.

Today being the 25th of October, Garry hauled himself out of bed. He didn’t even stop for coffee. Just put on his rain gear (yes, it is still raining and will be tomorrow too) and went to get the car inspected. I got a call from my son telling me that the inspector (my son is also an inspector) had found “Unidentified problems with registration” and could not inspect the car.

What? Why?

We paid the Excise Tax. That’s the usual problem. Half the time, they don’t send you the bill or they send it a month after it was due with an added fee for not paying it on time. Occasionally, they do send it and if you don’t forget to pay it, it’s all good. I was pretty sure — as sure as I am of anything these days  — I had paid the excise tax. I vaguely remembered feeding it into the electronic hopper at the bank. I know I  renewed my license this year because I had to physically go to an office so they could take my picture and make sure I’m not too demented to drive legally.

I passed.

The test for dementia (I’m wandering here, sorry) boils down to checking three boxes. One says “No, really, I’m not demented” Another asks if you can see. A third … what was that third one? Never mind. They check your vision by waving a huge, brightly colored flag in front of you. If you can’t see that, you probably need a dog more than you need a car.

“That was not much of a test,” I said.

“That’s all we are allowed to do,” he said.

I got my new license and the picture isn’t nearly as hideous as it could have been, though it is bad enough.

We also had to cancel the old registration on the yellow car, which we sold last April (I think). Meanwhile, I never got paperwork indicating that the Jeep needed new registration. Although they don’t send anything to remind you about renewing your license (Massachusetts is too poor to afford a postcard), they do usually send you paperwork about registration.

Mine (apparently) didn’t arrive. That is not unusual because they have some kind of mailing issue at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Ask anyone. When your paperwork shows up as expected, that is cause for celebration. But of course, I didn’t get the paperwork so I didn’t know I was supposed to renew it. And I didn’t. Apparently. Because I couldn’t find any evidence in my bank account that I’d paid it and they’re pretty good about this stuff.

So the “unidentified problem” turned out to be that the car’s registration ran out in September and now, it’s late in October. Fortunately, the RMV let me renew it online. The printer wasn’t out of ink, so I could print a piece of paper that says “This is your registration ID until we get around to sending you the real one  in … a week? Maybe two? But we’ll send it. Eventually.”

Woo hoo.


Registry of Motor Vehicles Registration Renewal XXXXXXXXX

The requested Registration Renewal for XXXXXX has been successfully processed on 10/25/2017 at 11:57 AM in the Amount of $60.00.

Your registration certificate and decal will be mailed to you. If your old registration has expired, your vehicle cannot be operated legally until you receive your new registration certificate, unless you print and carry this e-mail in the vehicle. M.G.L. c.90 s.11 allows the Registrar to issue a receipt for the fees paid, which may be carried in lieu of the registration certificate for up to 60 days. A printed copy of this e-mail shall be deemed a receipt for the fees for the purposes of M.G.L. c.90 s.11. If you do not receive your registration certificate and decal within 30 days of the renewal, or you have questions, please contact the Telephone Center at 857-368-8000 (from the 339/617/781/857 area codes) or 800-858-3926 (from all other MA area codes) from 9:00am to 5:00pmMonday – Friday, except holidays.

We welcome your feedback!

Please e-mail us at feedback.registry@state.ma.us

Thanks for using www.massrmv.com

Sign up for your E-ZPass MA transponder for use on the Massachusetts Turnpike, the Sumner and Ted Williams Tunnels, and the Tobin Memorial Bridge. To learn more about E-ZPass MA, visit the E-ZPass MA program Website.


The feedback link was broken for feedback about the RMV and we’ve had an E-ZPass for a long time. So I didn’t tell them what I think of the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Probably just as well. If you don’t have anything nice to say, shut up and drink your coffee.

Identity having been fully restored, Garry took a huge cup of coffee and a book and went back to get the car inspected. It was just another day in our lives.


Crisis. Confusion. Clarification. Payment.


At least I didn’t have to try to actually talk to someone there. The “waiting” time on the phone for the RMV is in excess of an hour. I don’t know if the battery on the phone would last that long.

Identity completed.

CONTINUING FOREVER ON THE MASS PIKE

Does you ever feel like life is an exercise wheel for hamsters? And you are a hamster? You run and you run, but you stay in that wheel.

This morning, I got a note from our state government, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts about our EZ Pass. It showed two cars, including one we sold months ago. I tried to delete it using the “Delete car from list” option, but instead, it decided I was closing my account. There was no option for “do not close my account” and their chat line was broken, so I called. On the phone. Remarkably, I got an automated answer.

After yelling “AGENT, AGENT, AGENT” into the phone a few dozen times, a person came on the line.

He insisted he couldn’t do ANYTHING without my pin number — which I apparently created 15 years ago? More? What PIN number? I finally figured out it must be someone’s birthday and in desperation, figured out who that might be — because otherwise, I’d have to take three forms of ID and go to the nearest physical booth. And where would that be? No doubt somewhere on the Mass Pike and there I would sign a few hundred forms so they wouldn’t cancel the account I never tried to cancel.

Eventually, after I deduced the pin number and now (he says) we have an open account and the yellow Sunfire is gone. That’s what he told me.

But I’m dealing with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Which has the bureaucracy from Hell. I’m not sure how it got this bad, but we put other bureaucracies to shame. Ours is THE best bureaucracy on earth, bar none. Talk about continuing.

I bet they cancel the account anyhow. A couple of weeks from now, I’m going to get another notice telling me that I requested my account be cancelled. That’s just the way it goes. Year by year, month by month, day by day.

Welcome to Massachusetts. Forever may it continue!