restoman: (Little Jimmy)

The weather this weekend was glorious with plenty of bright sunshine. On Saturday the temperature got up to around 60 and today it got up to about 50, so much of the foot of snow that had been on the ground melted away. Winter had me feeling a bit cooped up, so I talked Josh into going exploring with me. I grabbed my camera and a flashlight and we headed to Solvay to see the "Bucket Line Tunnel".

The tunnel is a long abandoned piece of industrial history hidden in the underbrush on the side of a hill in a neighborhood of 1950s houses in Solvay, NY. The village of Solvay, on the shore of Onondaga Lake, grew up in the late 19th century around the soda ash plant built there by the Solvay brothers. The plant turned two local commodities: salt water, and limestone, into soda ash, a basic building block of many chemical processes including glass making, paper making, making baking soda, detergents and medicines. The salt water initially came from the local salt springs around Onondaga Lake, later it was piped in from a more concentrated source in Tully, NY. The limestone was quarried at the Split Rock Quarry, 5 miles west of Solvay. To get the limestone to the soda ash plant they built the "bucket line", a 10-mile loop of steel cable, with buckets attached at regular intervals, supported on steel posts that ran between the quarry and the plant. It looked and functioned very much like a ski lift, but instead of transporting people it transported buckets of crushed limestone. The quarry was at a higher elevation than the soda ash plant, so the weight of the full buckets of stone was enough to power the whole system and bring the empty buckets back to the quarry. The line had operated for 18 years, but one problem area was the high hill just west of the plant in Solvay. In 1908 they decided to build a tunnel and run the bucket line through the top of the hill, saving 86 feet of elevation on the line, to eliminate the problem of buckets slipping on the cable and piling up at the west slope of the hill, causing damage to the system. The 834 foot long tunnel was built, and the whole system improved, but the tunnel would see less than 5 years use before it was decided to use limestone from the Jamesville Quarry instead. Jamesville was farther away, but adjacent to a railroad line. The bucket line, a unique engineering fete, became obsolete and was abandoned.

Stories from the time include accounts of how the employees of the company could be seen every day riding the buckets to and from their work at the quarry. Other accounts tell of the wreckage that would occur when the cable would break, spilling many buckets of stone all at once over the 5-mile route.


Click for 8 more pictures )
restoman: (Winter house)
NOW, with Bullet Points!!!

  • I had advertisements in Craigslist for two of my apartments for the past 2 weeks. This weekend, both apartments were taken. YAY! That is a big relief for me.

  • Josh and Tim have been working with me on my own house, fixing up the bedroom where Mark used to live. We tore out the old carpeting, installed a new oak floor, put drywall in the closet, repaired and repainted the walls and did a heavy cleaning of the whole place. It looks great! I had assumed that Bob would want to move into that room and out of the guest room upstairs, but now he says that he would rather stay where he is. So I guess I will turn it into a new guest room, or maybe an office.

  • On Sunday I went to a stamp show here in town, in spite of the storm warnings. The show had sparse attendance due to the coming snow, but I left with some good deals on 3 stamp collections: Luxembourg, Sweden, and Greece. I stayed inside for the rest of the day going through the stamps while the snow accumulated outside.

  • Tomorrow morning I have to get up early for an appointment with my dentist. I am getting capped for Valentine's Day. A month ago I had a root canal on a molar that broke. Now it is time to finish the job with a cap on the tooth. I am hoping this won't turn into a Valentine's Day Massacre!

  • It snowed heavily yesterday and today. We got a total of about a foot of snow between both days. We haven't had a lot of snow this year. This storm gave a fresh new look to the dreary winter. Enjoy the pictures!

    I love the way the snow clings to the wires on the back fence in my yard.

    This gate is between my back yard, and Michael's back yard next door. The gate is overgrown with a Bittersweet vine.

    This small Spruce usually gets decorated with lights for Christmas, but this year the bad weather came too soon.

restoman: (Bob the Builder)
There is a complex of 4 very old industrial buildings a few blocks from my house that occupy most of a city block. The earliest one is a handsome Italianate style brick building with arched windows, rounded corners and a cupola on top. It was built in 1865 as a factory for making the windmills that pumped well-water on thousands of small farms across the country.* A series of manufacturing businesses occupied it after that including an early maker of gasoline engines.** The Erie Canal was just sixty feet away, guaranteeing easy transportation to other markets.

The Canal was filled in through downtown Syracuse in the 1920s. The buildings went through changes in use and ownership and eventually fell into disrepair. The current owners wanted to tear the buildings down and use the land for parking lots, but the city wanted them restored and used as commercial space. The owners did nothing until the buildings deteriorated so badly that demolition became the only practical option. The city began demolition a few weeks ago. They will add the demolition cost to the owner's tax bill, and he will probably lose the property.
This is the oldest part of the complex.

Click for Five More Pictures )


Feb. 4th, 2017 09:02 am
restoman: (My 2 Cents)
This is from a long-time facebook friend:

A good list of things to keep in mind...
Not my words, but I concur.

1. Don't use his name;
2. Remember this is a regime and he's not acting alone;
3. Do not argue with those who support him--they will not change their minds.
4. Focus on his policies, not his mental state;
5. Keep your message positive; they want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies will grow.
6. No more helpless / hopeless talk!
7. Support artists and the arts.
8. Be careful not to spread fake news. Check it twice.
9. Take care of yourselves
10. Resist in whatever way resonates with you that does no bodily/property harm!
restoman: (Little Jimmy)
We finished up work on the apartment in the Italianate style house a block away.  (Photos to come soon.) The place looks great and I am currently advertising for tenants.  I have had few responses so far,  but people tend not to move in the middle of winter.  My crew are all laid off until further notice except for Josh, who has been helping me reorganize the workshop, and renovate Mark's old bedroom in my house.  The carpet in Mark's room was in poor shape and needed to be torn out.  I had several left-over boxes of pre-finished oak flooring, so we installed it in the room and closet.  Tomorrow we will drywall the walls in the closet.  The walls are poor-quality plaster that has been heavily painted and is now crumbling badly.  Later in the week we will repaint the room.
Josh uses the pneumatic stapler to install the pre-finished oak flooring.

Another project that we did was to build a gate on my stairs to keep Lily out of my bedroom. I would love it if Lily was a calm and peaceful pup who could snuggle up next to me in bed, but so far that has not worked out. Lily gets over-excited when she gets into my bedroom. I can't get her to sit or lay still. She bites and pulls at the bedsheets, molests my pillows, and tries to get me to chase her with whatever piece of dirty or clean laundry she can capture. It is exhausting and doesn't make for a good night's sleep. She doesn't like the gate, but it is effective.
Here she is opening one of her Christmas presents: a vinyl squeaky bear toy.
The stair gate.

Winter weather is a good excuse to stay at home and cook some favorite meals.  Last weekend I made a baked ham ~the classic recipe with the ham topped by pineapple slices, each with a cherry in the center, studded with cloves , and glazed with a brown sugar/pineapple juice mix.  It was wonderful, and provided dinners for the rest of the week, plus made a couple of excellent ham/cheese/onion/mushroom omlets for breakfasts.
This weekend, I used some of the left over ham to make another one of my favorite meals: Ham & Vegetable Quiche.  It turned out amazing!

Here is the recipe (my own creation):
Prepare a pie crust in a 10" pieplate. Rinse and drain 1 cup of frozen corn and 3/4 cup of frozen lima beans and add to the pie crust. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a small frying pan. Chop and sauté 1/4 cup of sweet onion, 1/2 cup of cauliflower, and 1 cup of mushrooms and add to the pie crust. Chop 1/2 pound of ham into small cubes and 1/8 cup of sweet red pepper (for color), sauté lightly, and add to pie crust. Shread 4 ounces of Cheddar cheese and 4 ounces of Swiss cheese, and spread in pie crust. Beat 4 eggs, 1 cup of milk and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a bowl and pour over cheese in pie crust. Season top with Nutmeg, Basil, & Parsley and bake in 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned on top.

The quiche was wonderful and I finished it off in 2 days. Tonight's dinner was a whole Roast Chicken.
This should make dinners for the rest of the week, and then make a good soup stock next weekend.
The metal frame that the chicken is suspended on is a "Roto-Roaster". It holds the chicken up off the bottom of the roasting pan so that it doesn't sit in all that fat that drips off during cooking. During the late 1940s, my grandfather had a metal-working business that manufactured the Roto-Roaster and a number of other kitchen gadgets like aluminum colanders, boiled-egg slicers, and potato mashers. He marketed the implements to large department stores. He kept the business going for half a dozen years but was never very good at the marketing and advertising aspect. Eventually he gave it up and went to work for someone else. My Roto-Roaster works great, but I doubt that there are many more still in use today.

[Edited 2-1-17] I found and photographed an old advertising flyer for the Roto-Roaster. Driggs Metal Products was my grandfather's business.

After dinner I boiled up the ham bone with the remaining meat on it for soup. I will freeze the ham stock and make my Sixteen Bean Soup in a few weeks. I am looking forward to that!
restoman: (Winter house)
YAY! We're winning!

Sunrise from my front porch a few days ago.
restoman: (Winter house)
Last August, my niece, Alida, and her husband, Pat, drove to Syracuse to spend a few days visiting me. They stayed at my house and we did tourist things like visiting Taughannock Falls, near Ithaca and stopping at one of the Finger Lakes wineries to sample the wines. While they were at my house they admired the plaster medallion on my dining room ceiling. I told them I had made it myself. They eagerly asked if I could make one for their house too, ~maybe for Christmas~, and I agreed.

The Art Deco chandelier came with the house when I bought it, but I added the plaster medallion when I put new drywall on the ceiling about 24 years ago. The medallion is gold-leafed and glazed, a typical way of decorating them in the 19th century.

Click for Eight More Pictures )
restoman: (Christmas tree)
My sister sent me this little parody twelve  years ago. I posted it here in 2004, but decided to recycle it for everyone's enjoyment  again.

'Twas The Week After Christmas

'Twas the week after Christmas, and all through the house
Nothing would fit me, not even a blouse.
The cookies I'd nibble, the eggnog I'd taste
All the holiday parties had gone to my waist.

When I got on the scales, there arose such a number!
When I walked to the store (less a walk than a lumber).
I'd remember the marvelous meals I'd prepared;
The gravies and sauces and beef nicely rared...

The wine and the rumballs, the bread and the cheese
And the way I'd never said, "No thank you, please."
As I dressed myself in my husband's old shirt
And prepared once again to battle the dirt...
I said to myself, as I only can
"You can't spend a winter dressed like a man!"
So...away with the last of the sour cream dip,
Get rid of the fruit cake, every cracker and chip.

Every last bit of food that I like must be banished
'Till all the additional ounces have vanished.
I won't have a cookie, not even a lick,
I'll want only to chew on a long celery stick.

I won't have hot biscuits, or cornbread, or pie,
I'll munch on a carrot and quietly cry.
I'm hungry, I'm lonesome, and life is a bore...

But isn't that what January is for?
Unable to giggle, no longer a riot
Happy New Years to All and to All a Good Diet
restoman: (Piss off the Religious Right)

A friend posted this on Facebook and I thought it was worth sharing:


Dec. 8th, 2016 02:00 am
restoman: (Frankenstein)
Yeah, I know this post is more than a month late, but I wanted to get it done before it is time for a Christmas post.

I went a little overboard for Halloween this year.  The week before, Tony and I had been talking about great ways to decorate for Halloween and Tony was all psyched up about it ~and he got me psyched up about it too.  He helped me put orange lights on the wisteria vine on the corner of the porch, and the two of us stretched a wire from the porch roof out to the maple tree in front of the house so that we could rig up my battery-powered flying bat so that it would fly in circles over the front walk.  Tony even talked me into getting a couple of blocks of dry ice to turn my cauldron* into a spooky candy dispenser in the front hallway.  He was excited about carving a pumpkin and dressing in a costume to hand out candy at my front door.  But, on Halloween day, he got a call from friends and decided to go to their party instead.

So now I was stuck with 10 pounds of dry ice (2 rectangular chunks the size of large bricks), 3 uncarved pumpkins, and no help getting anything set up.  It felt a bit pathetic to be doing so much to set up decorations for a kids' holiday when I don't have any kids of my own, but I let my inner child take over and went through with it anyway.  I carved two of the three pumpkins and set them on the porch, lit by candles.  Set up the bat to fly over the walkway, and rigged up the cauldron with water and dry ice.
The weather was pleasant and relatively warm, so there were plenty of kids out trick-or-treating.  77 kids came to my door this year.
Here is the count of Halloween Trick-or-treaters for the past 14 years:

1992: 132
1998: 77
2001: 53
2003: 33
2004: 57
2005: 69
2006: 64
2007: 53
2008: 26
2009: 43
2010: 42
2011: 55
2012: 42
2013: 64
2014: 63
2015: 60
2016: 77
[ I found some of the statistics from earlier years and added them to this list.]

The bat has wings that flap and eyes that glow red. It flew in a 4 foot circle over the walkway until the batteries got too weak (about 7 PM).

The cauldron was set up in the doorway between the hall and living room. I broke the dry ice into pieces and placed it in a pot of hot water in the bottom of the cauldron. I put blocks of wood across the top of the dry ice pot and placed a pizza pan on it with a small set of purple LED lights, and then a large bowl in the middle filled with candy. The dry ice produced a nice eerie fog, filling the cauldron, with the bowl full of candy rising out of the middle. The LED lights tinted the fog a creepy purple color. The hot water and dry ice had to be changed often. The effect only lasted for about 20 minutes at a time, as the CO2 boiled off and the fog dissipated.
The candy this year: Reese's, Kit Kat, Mr. Goodbar, Skittles, 100 Grand, Almond Joy, Heath, and Whoppers. Enough to satisfy a small army of kids.
The front porch with flash.

The front porch as it looked in the dark.

One of the pumpkins.

*Yes, I have a cauldron, doesn't everyone?
Back during the Depression, my grandparents (mother's parents), who lived in Queens, liked to spend the weekends driving through the countryside north of New York City in their 1927 Nash. Times were tough, and many of the small farms in that area were abandoned. On one of their drives my grandmother saw a large, old, cast iron cauldron out in the overgrown yard next to one of the abandoned farm houses. She told my grandfather to stop and get it for her, which he did. As a kid, I remember the cauldron sitting next to my grandparents' fireplace as a decoration, often filled with dried flower arrangements. Except for this Halloween, it now sits next to my fireplace.
restoman: (Gravy Head)
I just want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. If you are not celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful day anyway.

Yes, I am still here, even though I haven't posted in a while. I tend to withdraw when I am depressed. Between Mark's death in July and the recent election, there has been plenty to be depressed about. So anyway here is a quick look at my past week:

On Saturday I volunteered to be part of the "underground dog railroad". But, instead of bringing slaves to Canada, I helped bring a Canadian dog to Glen Highland Farm here in the US. My friend, George, has a Border Collie that he adopted from a rescue shelter: .
George had volunteered to help transport another Border Collie to the farm on Saturday, but he had to work that day and asked me to do it instead. Other volunteers had brought the dog, named Lucy, from Toronto to Buffalo, and then from Buffalo to my house in Syracuse. She arrived at my house just before 3PM. I asked one of my crew, Josh, if he would like to take a little road trip and help me deliver Lucy to Morris, NY.
He agreed and we set off on a myriad of mostly blue highways to get to the tiny town of Morris. We made a wrong turn which cost us about 40 minutes, but eventually found our way there about 6 PM. We left Lucy at her new temporary home, and headed on back in the dark by a simpler route. By now it was raining, and blustery, but soon it would turn to wet snow. We stopped to have pizza in West Winfield, and finally made it home just after 8PM.

Lucy was fine with the whole trip, just sitting or laying peacefully in the back seat the whole time. She is a very sweet dog, and I am sure she will find a new permanent home quickly.

This is Lucy and Josh on my front porch just before we left.

On Sunday the temperature dropped and the blustery rain turned to heavy wet snow. By Monday morning there was about 13 inches of it here. I had to drive to the bank and run a few errands. The roads were terrible! The snow had a "greasy" consistency. There was a beer truck stuck at one end of my street for 45 minutes blocking it off. Even with 4-wheel drive, I was sliding all over the place and slid completely through an intersection at a red light in Eastwood on level road. Fortunately there were very few cars out and I didn't hit anyone.

My house on Monday morning. By 11 PM the snow was 27 inches deep here in the city.

The snow has melted down a little now, so that it is only about a foot deep. I put my recycling bin out to the curb on Sunday night for pick up Monday morning. By Monday it was buried so deeply in the snow that the recycling collectors couldn't see it, and it is still invisible this morning, buried in the snow mounds somewhere in front of my house.

I spent last night making pies: one Apple pie and 2 Pumpkin pies. This afternoon I am going over to George's house for Thanksgiving dinner and bringing the pies.

Hope you all enjoy the day!


Sep. 11th, 2016 11:08 pm
restoman: (Glenn)
A few weeks ago someone left a second-floor window open overnight in the house we have been working on.  The next day we discovered some unexpected footprints in the drywall dust on the floors.

I am pretty sure that the left footprint belongs to Tim, who has been sanding a lot of drywall lately. I am also pretty sure that the right set of footprints doesn't belong to anyone on my crew!

Several of my crew members are country boys: Josh, Dave, and Matt (a new guy). Josh is the most "country" of the bunch, so I asked him whose footprints those might be. He said it was definitely a raccoon, and Dave agreed.

So, apparently a raccoon has been doing a little late night exploring inside the house, probably to scrounge any leftover food that might be lying around.

Here is a joke that Josh has been telling:

What is the difference between Beer Nuts and Deer Nuts?

Beer Nuts are a buck twenty-five, Deer Nuts are under a buck.

restoman: (Little Jimmy)
This afternoon I got together with 2 of my friends, George and Byron. We went through a sunflower maze and then had dinner at an upscale restaurant nearby. The restaurant is called the Inn Between. It is in an Italianate style farmhouse (C. 1880) that sits among rolling-hill farmland between Camillus and Elbridge, just west of Syracuse. The family that runs the restaurant also owns the surrounding farmland, where 75 acres of sunflowers are currently planted. They have created a maze in the sunflower field next to the restaurant. Wandering through the maze was a delightful experience!

The Inn Between Restaurant.
Seven more photos )
After exploring the maze, the 3 of us had a fabulous dinner. Our table was next to windows that looked out over the sunflower maze. I had French onion soup, a Caesar salad, and roast duck served over sage dressing with roasted mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes. For dessert I had a chocolate and raspberry mousse. Our waiter was very friendly, and touched me on the shoulder/back 8 times during the meal, (yes, I counted ;-)) It was all very delicious, decadent, and pricy, ...As I like to say: You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough! ;-)
restoman: (Glenn)
I took a much-needed mental health day today.  I hopped in the truck and headed south out of the city to explore the countryside, one of my favorite passtimes.    It was a beautiful, sunny day, but rather warm, with the temperature topping out at 93 degrees.  I stopped in Ithaca to do a little hiking in Stewart Park, where there is a bird sanctuary that features scores of ginormous old trees.  I hiked some of the trails through the ancient trees, looking up into their canopies, awestruck with their majesty.

From Ithaca I headed south and explored some of New York's Southern Tier: Spencer, Candor, Gridleyville, Wilseyville, Danby.  I didn't use a map or GPS at all.  I just picked roads that looked interesting, paved or not, and enjoyed the countryside.  When I decided it was time to start heading back, I used the compass that is mounted at the top of the windshield, and found my way back to Ithaca.

I headed north along the east side of Cayuga Lake, stopping in the hamlet of Ludlowville, a small town that I discovered about 40 years ago and fell in love with.  No major routes run through Ludlowville, so it is not easy to find.  It has a nice collection of mostly Victorian houses (plus a few earlier).  In the 1960s and 70s, Ludlowville was rediscovered by a number of "hippies" from Cornell University, who bought and restored homes in the sleepy little town, shaping it into a progressive little suburb of Ithaca.  I saw no Trump signs in Ludlowville, but was dismayed to see so many in the red-neck towns of the Southern Tier.

There is a wonderful old school building, tucked away behind the single block of commercial buildings in Ludlowville.  The school was built around 1905, and has been abandoned for about 50 years.  It is all wood construction, and I was amazed that it is still standing.
Another wonderful feature of Ludlowville is its waterfall.  Near the center of town is a small park, the former site of an early mill and inn, with a spectacular waterfall.  The waterfall has a large, space behind the falls that can only be reached by swimming across the pool at the bottom of the falls.  There were several dozen people in the water and sunning themselves on the rocks at the base of the falls.  I wanted to join them, but did not want to intrude on their little piece of paradise.


A sign on the Onondaga Indian Reservation, just south of Syracuse.

Ten More Photos, Click Here )
A nicely-detailed Greek Revival style house (c.1845) in Poolville, NY.

One of the Victorian houses of Ludlowville.

The abandoned Ludlowville School.




The waterfall in Ludlowville.



restoman: (Little Jimmy)
I love my dog, Lily, but there are definitely times when I do not like her. Today she killed a squirrel in the back yard. A few days ago she killed a young bird. Apparently, several young Starlings either fell out of their nest or were trying to fly at too young an age. I did not see Lily kill the bird, all I saw from the kitchen door was Lily standing in the lawn, where she was picking something up out of the grass and tossing it into the air repeatedly. I went out to see what she was doing and discovered she was playing with a dead bird. Two adult starlings were swooping down, dive-bombing her, but she just ignored them. I took it away from her, bagged it and put it in the outdoor trash can.

A few minutes later, I heard a commotion on the back porch. Lily had cornered another young Starling and was pouncing on it and pestering it. I brought her inside and then rescued the young bird in a plastic container. I moved it to a safer spot under a big Forsythia bush in the side yard (outside of the fenced-in back yard) where Lily could not get to it. I left it alone there, hoping that the parents would find it and take care of it. The next day I saw that the young bird had hopped up into the top of the bush, and 2 adults were busy bringing it food.

I know that it is just part of a dog's nature to hunt, but I am not happy with it.

My friend, Bob, lives in a house across the street from mine. Ever since he got out of the hospital 6 weeks ago, he has been coming to my house for dinner almost every night. I enjoy having someone to cook for and share dinners with. Because I am not just cooking for myself, I have been making healthier, more balanced dinners, which is better for both of us.

Friday evening, after dinner, I drove downtown, looking for Mark, who was being chased by 2 drug dealers to whom he owed money. I brought Bob with me. We didn't find Mark (or his bloodied body), but as we headed back to my house we saw a huge column of heavy black smoke rising up east of the city. Bob is usually game for a little adventure, so I asked him if he wanted to come with me to track down the fire. Based on the volume of smoke we first guessed that maybe a factory was on fire out in East Syracuse or maybe a large store in Dewitt. By the time we got to East Syracuse, it was clear that the fire was even farther away than we thought. The traffic started getting heavier as we got to Minoa, and the police were diverting traffic off of some roads going toward the fire. We speculated that maybe a freight train of oil-tanker cars had derailed and caught fire. From Minoa we could see the glow of the flames and could tell that the smoke was coming from a wide area. Out past Minoa, there is little development, there is some farmland, but most of the area is covered with marshland and woods. As we drove, pieces of ash were drifting down into the road. With some careful maneuvering we got all the way to the little village of Kirkville. We could go no further. Fire trucks blocked one route into the village, police blocked the other route, and all we could do was take a side road away from the fire. I got a few pictures, and then turned on the local news when I got home. It wasn't a factory, or oil-tanker cars, it was just a huge brush-fire. No buildings were damaged, and the fire never got close to any roads, which made it very difficult to fight. It burned over a hundred acres of marsh and woodland just outside Kirkville. We very rarely have brush or forest fires around here, but the past month has seen little rain, and the conditions were ripe for a fire in last-year's dead marsh grass. It was dark by the time we came home, but we had a good adventure.

The smoke, as seen from Minoa.
Two More Pictures )
restoman: (Glenn)
I am back from the trip to Virginia. I drove down there on Wednesday, and drove back on Friday. John went with me, spending most of the travel time sleeping in the truck. That was OK. I did not have a serious problem with dozing off, made frequent stops for snacks and bathroom breaks, and took a half hour nap in the middle of the driving on both days. The drive south took 7½ hours (including the half hour nap). The traffic was generally light, and construction areas were minimally frustrating. I did all the driving. We made it to Leesburg, Virginia about 6 PM, checked in to a Best Western, and had dinner at a little Chinese restaurant in the heart of the historic district of Leesburg. The town was beautiful, with lots of restored 18th and 19th century buildings. Our stay at the Best Western was comfortable and pleasant, and about a third of the price we would have had to pay in Washington DC. Thursday morning was rainy and dreary. After our free breakfast at the motel, we jumped into the thick of the Thursday morning commuter traffic and headed in to Fairfax to get copies of my father's death certificate, and then on to the bank in Reston to meet up with my sister, and my niece and her husband.

The business at the bank was long and drawn out. I opened my father's safe deposit box to find a small cache of mostly obsolete papers: the deed to his house (which we sold a year before he died), the title to the car he wrecked 8 years ago, and a copy of his will (I already had a copy, and everything is dispersed now anyway.) For some time, my sister and I had speculated about the contents of that safe deposit box. When we were young, we had both seen a family heirloom, a gold filigree necklace studded with seed pearls, that had been in the family since the mid-19th century. The story was that the necklace had belonged to my father's great-grandmother. I last saw it at my mother's house on Long Island when I was about 12. My sister last saw it when she was about 18. We believed that my father had reclaimed it from my mother, 30 years ago, long after they were divorced, when he drove to Long Island for a family gathering. Unfortunately, the necklace was not in the box, and whatever happened to it will remain a family mystery. My sister and I closed out my father's account, and each went home with a nice fat bank check. The 5 of us had lunch at what had been my father's favorite restaurant, at the same strip-mall as the bank. Then we said our goodbyes. Linnell, Alida and Pat drove back to New York City, while John and I drove into Washington DC for an afternoon of touristing. As we drove, the gray skies and rain gave way to a pleasant, partially sunny day.

While we briefly stopped to see the Washington Monument and the White House, my main goal was to see a special exhibit at the National Postal Museum. For more than 50 years, I have wanted to see the "Penny Magenta", the most famous stamp in the world. It sold last year for 9.5 million dollars, and is by far the most valuable stamp, (and probably the most valuable object on earth for its size.) As a life-long stamp collector, getting a chance to see this rarely displayed, unique bit of legendary paper was like being offered a chance to see the Holy Grail! The stamp has spent most of its life tucked away in bank vaults, and has not been displayed in public for decades. At the museum, since light is the enemy of paper and ink, the stamp was carefully displayed behind several layers of glass, and people who wanted to see it could press a button to dimly illuminate it. The stamp was printed in 1856 on magenta-colored paper, in British Guyana, and was used for a very short time to pay the postage on local newspapers. This is the only surviving copy of this stamp, which despite its crude printing and somewhat shabby appearance has made it a legend. The stamp was difficult to see, and somewhat disappointing because of that, but still, I was thrilled to see it. John and I did a quick tour of the rest of the museum and then headed on back to Leesburg, again at the height of rush hour, to another Chinese dinner.

On Friday, after the complimentary breakfast, we drove back to Syracuse. On the drive home, we made slightly better time, shaving 20 minutes off the trip. There were persistent snow flurries through much of Pennsylvania and New York, but the snow wasn't sticking.
We got home a little after 4 PM. I was exhausted from the drive, but Lily was ecstatic to see me. Bob had taken good care of her while I was gone. I had been dreading this trip to Virginia, but, all things considered, it went very well. John had a good time and was glad to get out of Syracuse for a change. And I got to see Linnell, Alida and Pat, and had a once-in-a-lifetime look at the "Penny Magenta".
Click to see the pictures )

A better image of the stamp, borrowed off the internets.
restoman: (Walken)
I am not one to follow sports, but lately, the whole city of Syracuse has been caught up in "Orange Fever" as both the men's and women's basketball teams have made it to the "final four". Orange streamers and banners decorate the street signs and some houses, and the university area has been one giant street party. The first sucker-punch came last night when Syracuse's Orangemen lost to North Carolina. The Syracuse University Women's Basketball team has their game today.
[Edited: Sunday, 10:30 PM: The S. U. Women's Basketball team has won their game, making them one of the 2 best teams in the country. Onward to # 1 !!!

This is what I woke up to this morning! This is the workshop, as seen from my kitchen door. We had 3 to 4 inches of heavy, wet snow overnight. It looked lovely in the morning, but by noon, the bitter wind made it too miserable to spend any time outside.

The fence in front of my house. Yesterday, that rosebush behind the fence was starting to put out little green leaves.

Yesterday this was a clump of 5 Daffodil flowers next to the fence. I should have picked them when I had the chance! Sucker-punched by Syracuse again!
[Edited: Sunday, 10:30 PM: It is snowing again. We are expecting 2-3 more inches of snow tonight. UGH!

In other news, Jim, my long-time friend (39 years) who now lives in Ohio, went into the hospital for a serious operation to clear out his clogged arteries. Jim has been a smoker for over 40 years. At 55, his arteries are so clogged with plaque from smoking that he was in danger of having a stroke or having his legs amputated. They cut him open from his sternum to his groin, plus incisions in his legs and neck so they could get at the worst arteries. It took over 300 stitches and staples to close him back up. He was on the operating table for 13 hours. He will be in the hospital at least 10 days, and then will have to spend some time in rehabilitation and physical therapy. So if any of you smoke, let this serve as a warning to you. Cigarettes don't just cause lung cancer, and many of the ways they kill you are a horrible way to die.

This week, either Tuesday or Wednesday, I will be driving down to Virginia to close out my father's checking account and empty his safe deposit box. The bank insisted that my sister be there as well, so she is changing part of her already-planned trip to New York City and Syracuse to meet me in Virginia. (She is no longer coming to Syracuse.) I spent 4 days, looking through dozens of boxes, trying to find the keys to my father's safe deposit box. They eventually turned up, right in my bedroom. We have no idea what is in the safe deposit box, so it will be a surprise for both of us.

For years, I have had an issue with starting to doze off on long road trips. I have never had an accident because of it, but on one of the trips that Mark and I took to Virginia 6 years ago, I woke up to the sound of the tires going over rumble-strips, and narrowly avoided driving off the road. Because of that experience, I have been reluctant to take any long trips alone. It is a help to have someone else in the truck to keep me awake and share in the driving. I have also found that stopping to take a short nap, even 20 minutes, can greatly reduce my tendency to nod off. My crew are all aware of this problem, and they decided among themselves that one of them should go with me on the trip to Virginia. So, John is my appointed travel companion for this trip.

It will be good to see my sister, Linnell, again. I should also get to see my oldest niece, Alida and her husband, Pat, who will be driving down from Queens to meet up with us. My middle niece just announced that she will be getting married in January 2018, in Hawaii. This will not be one of those fancy "destination weddings", even though no member of his or her family lives in Hawaii. The location was chosen as a compromise, being the nearest dry land to the midpoint between Melbourne, Australia, where his family lives and her family in Spokane, Washington. My niece Bethany, has lived and worked in Melbourne for the past few years, where she met her fiancé, Matt. So, YAY, I should get to see Hawaii in 2 years!
restoman: (Little Jimmy)

My Crocuses started blooming a few days ago. YAY!!!
Even though it hasn't been a bad winter, I am soooo ready for spring.
restoman: (Glenn)
Stolen from Facebook:

I'm in good hands! I'm being rescued by Sam, Callen, Kensi & Deeks from N.C.I.S. L.A.


Feb. 16th, 2016 12:30 am
restoman: (Little Jimmy)
At noon today, I drove to Home Depot to pick up pipe insulation when I got a call from Chris ([ profile] stormdog). He said there was a fire on my block, fortunately, not at my house. Before I left Home Depot, I had another call from Johnny telling me the same thing. When I got home, the street was filled with emergency vehicles. The flames were out, but smoke was still drifting out of my neighbor's house. Kenny, a retired carpet-installer lived in that house with his girlfriend and 19-year-old daughter. The water pipes had frozen in the back part of his house and he had set up an old box-style electric space heater to thaw them. Kenny then left to run errands. No one was home when the space heater set some insulation on fire. The fire spread quickly, gutting most of the house and destroying the back end. Their dog, Bruno, died in the fire. Kenny and his family lost almost everything. It is doubtful that the house itself can be saved.

I feel awful for their loss.

This was the scene from my front porch.

The back end of the house was badly damaged.
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