Cycling Along The Way...

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Silver City, NM, United States
Riders of the wheel. Racers, Roadies, Mountain bikers, Touring cyclists, Commuters, and others. Diamond frames, recumbents, trikes, and more. Sharing a web of connections often misunderstood or unappreciated by those who don't ride. Herewith, my attempt to share some of the more rational thoughts that flit around inside my head while bicycling, knocking back a brew or three, or just thinking about life. Reviews of bicycles, gear, touring, and more, plus some unsolicited posts about people, politics, and philosophy. Other things, too. Me: retired, gave up my TV in 1988, avid cyclist, several cross country tours completed with more to come. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Ton Of Snow...

"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted." ~Mae West

"This is my first snowy winter since 1980-1981! Still sucks to shovel snow!" ~Patrick Lyford

Now, for those who know me, it is obvious that the quote above from me is the "clean" version because I know of no time in my whole life where I didn't swear. Swearing for me is an integral part of language. Honed, it's magic in its impact. I will try to minimize the swear words or, at the very least, make them as sweet as they can be.

The table/chairs on our patio off the kitchen

This is the "official" Crackman!

The snow in the backyard. It was almost up to the bedroom window!

Eileen's mom's car.

THE WIFE doing her wifely duty...shoveling snow!!!

As one can easily see, we got some snow in Los Alamos, NM. First storm was on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018. About 8-10 inches or more. This was an opportunity for Los Alamos to show the locals just how good they are with their snow removal plan. It started snowing early in the morning. Los Alamos started plowing the main streets in town around 4pm. Blew me away! I thought that the Public Works department got caught with their collective pants down. Los Alamos is at 7400' and is in the foothills of the Jemez mountains. Would you expect snow? Well, of course, unless you are the snow removal planners. They must be from Florida.

Second storm hit on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, two days after the first storm, which, if you've not guessed already, was piled on top of the first storm's dump of snow. This storm was closer to 12"+ of snow. Ok, now it's time to see if you know how the snow removal planners plan did this time! That's right! Since the snow had not been removed from the first storm, voila!, it piled on top of the old snow from the first storm. Jaysus, WTF! More shoveling, done by me. My wife hurt her back shoveling, so she's out of the rotation. Now, it's me, me, and me doing the shoveling.

So, is the third storm the charm? GET THE F#@K OUT OF HERE! The third storm kicked some serious ass, particularly the snow planners asses in the Los Alamos Public Works Dept. Since the first two storms had been handled so poorly, we got to live with a storm that dumped about 3' of snow on top of the almost 2 feet we'd already been hit with. That was on Jan. 1, 2019. Twelve days later, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, the street we live on was finally plowed to the full width of the street. Yay!

But wait! On Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, we got hit with another storm that dumped another 12" of snow! More asses kicked! Now, our street is down to a plowed single lane once again. Meet another vehicle on this street? Somebody has to back up or find a driveway to get out of the way. By this time, we're talking about 5' of snow that has fallen on Los Alamos. Public works are up to their eyeballs in snow. They are struggling with snow removal. Seems to me that someone failed to plan for the "unusual" storm since winters have been so mild for the past 5 or more years. Granted, easy to get lulled into a warm weather mindset, but 5 feet of snow should wake someone up to the possibilities of lots of snow at 7400 feet elevation. Don't you think? I'm not holding my breath here, I assure you.

Now, once off "The Hill", as Los Alamos is fondly called, along with "The Atomic City", the roads were very well taken care of. Why? What I've learned is that, when it snows, don't count on the roads in Los Alamos proper to be plowed. Not plowed like anyone who has lived in snow country is used to. Fortunately, for the employees of the National Labs here, they were closed for two weeks, Christmas week and New Year's week. They closed the Labs after the 3 foot snow dump. The county closed for one day, Jan. 2, 2019. Every day of the work week, Monday through Friday, 7,000 people drive up to Los Alamos to work at the Labs. It would have been disasterous had they been required to come to work after the New Year's Day snow storm.

Now, I know that all of you are just dying to know who is the "Crackman"...it's Eileen's son, Isaac. He's still looking for jeans that fit...WTF! Also, the neighborhood streets are being cleared by the great universal power...the Sun...not the Public Works. At least, not yet.

As I said above, this is my first winter in 38 years. I still hate shoveling snow...and mowing grass. One of the things I loved about living in Tucson, AZ, was that I only had to rearrange rocks in the yard once in a while just so it looked a bit different. Otherwise, it was a desert landscape. No snow shoveling or lawn mowing.

For a county that has more Ph.D.'s than any other county, for a county that is the richest for counties under 100,000 population, for a county that harbors a nuclear national lab, I expect more, but I've come to the conclusion that those things don't change human dynamics. Even these people get suckered into believing that the weather forecast is incorrect..."Couldn't happen here. Not after all those mild winters! Haven't had this kind of snow since the 1980's!" Open your eyes, people. Look out your windows. Glad there wasn't any kind of accident at the labs involving radioactive material, eh?

My take on this, for what it's worth. No accolades given for this snow removal effort. D+ for the Public Works Dept of Los Alamos, IMHO.

A tune to exit with...??? "Don't Make A Snowman With Yellow Snow" Is it good? No, but it's message is important. Don't eat yellow snow either! Here's to the Snow Plow Man! Only doing what the snow planners have decided should be done. So, give the planners the thumbs down. Ciao!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Gary Langdon, One More Time...

"Life does not cease being funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh." ~George Bernard Shaw

"A person doesn't die when he should, but when he can."~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gary, at my house, when he was in his early 20's.

Unfortunately, for me, Gary died on October 28, 2018, two days before I got home. I talked to his wife, Paula, who contacted me when he died. While I was heartbroken that I did not get to see him, I was content knowing that he had died peacefully. If I had been offered the option of having him live until I got home, but he died unpleasantly because of that, I would not have taken the option. Knowing that he was at peace sat well with me. Gary not being here has been hard to adjust to. As with all of us, life will continue until it doesn't. Then we move on, both the living and the dead.

Being home with my family and Gary's family was very different this time. While I was happy that I could be there to help in whatever way I could, not seeing Gary was hard. I'm glad that we had talked a few times by phone, so that we could say those things to each other that were important to say. Writing about this is complicated since I am at a loss for the right words to explain who we were to each other and that we loved each other unconditionally. Gary didn't have to do or be anything that he didn't want to be, nor did I, but that never got in our way. We never argued over politics, money, life, whatever, we just were friends with each other, wherever we were in life. No requirements other than just being there with, and for, each other. And I miss that terribly. While my family is close to my heart, Gary was closer. We stayed friends because we wanted to, unlike family, which is there whether you like them or not.

When I was home this time, it was the first time where I didn't stay at my parent's house and I didn't see Gary. First time in my whole life. Paula and Gary's family are having a memorial for him in May. I will be heading back for that. My plan is to be there for a few weeks, so I can catch up with people that Gary and I knew and hung out with, as well as to see some people that I haven't seen in decades and want to see because I don't know if I'll get to see them again. Odd how aging creates situations that don't come to mind when younger.

I did spend a lot of time with Gary's wife, Paula, and enjoyed that. Talking with her about Gary and about her, wondering how she was doing and how she would cope with Gary not being here for her. She has cared for him for quite a few years and has done much for him. Often, it's difficult to make the adjustment after the death of a spouse, particularly one that you've cared for. Paula is managing very well. I'm certain that it's painful and lonely, but Paula is a strong, determined person. She had to be to live with Gary. As I said, we were good people growing up, but we both have/had our faults, too. I also got to see Gary's twin sister, Susan, and her new granddaughter. Life goes on, eh? And I got to see John, Gary's next younger brother. I was happy to see them and I have fond memories of them, too. John has had a rough time in the past few years as the result of the death of his son from cancer, as well as the death of another nephew, plus the death of his oldest brother, Joe, and now Gary. Well, the whole family has had their turmoil to deal with, not just John. I want to hug them all.

There are also places that Gary and I went to or hung out at while we were kids that I want to go visit again, to bring back the memories of the two of us hanging out with each other whether it was a summer day or in the midst of winter. Places where we went fishing, hiking, hanging out, walking the neighborhood, go see where Pat the cow hung out in the pasture that used to be just down the street from our houses, sit on the dam on the Hudson river, just remembering our life together. For the most part, this I will do by myself because most of this involved just the two of us. I want those memories to flow through my head again, imagining Gary being there with me again.

So, time to bring this to a close...and I need a tune. I'm going with "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" by Eric Idle. This is one of those irreverent songs that both Gary and I would like. So, life has moved on and I'm still here. I'm looking forward to the memorial service for Gary in May, so I can catch up with our mutual friends that I've not seen in decades. Not sure what to expect, but I'm ready for whatever comes up. So, once again, Bro, I love you and I will see you again down the road.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Gary Langdon

"A good friend knows all your stories. A best friend helped you write them." ~ Anonymous

"True friendship isn't about being inseparable, it's being separated and nothing changes." ~ Anonymous

Well, it's a good thing that I'm writing this on a computer because, if it was on paper, it would be seriously tear stained.

I love Gary Langdon. He is now, has always been, and will always be my best friend. If I could say it loud enough for the whole world to hear, I would gladly do it. We all go through life thinking we're immortal. Even when people around us that we love die, we still believe that we're immortal. I remember telling my Dad, after my Mom died, that I always thought we were invincible. We aren't.

Now, Gary is not dead. He's still very much alive, but is close to the end of his life due to multiple medical issues that he's accrued, some a result of lifestyle, some from his DNA. Having worked in the medical field and been with many families while their family member died, it's very different when it's up close and personal.

A bit of history...Gary's father and my father were also friends. They built very similar houses not even a block away from each other back in the late 1940's. The Langdon's had 6 kids; the Lyford's had 6 kids. And on the block where we lived, there were a ton of kids. Well, it seemed that way back then. No problem getting two teams together to play stick ball, baseball, etc. Definitely a blue collar neighborhood where everyone knew everyone else. The Langdons and the Lyford were so much a part of each other's families that I have no memory of meeting Gary. He has always been in my life and he has always been my best friend. Now, I have other friends that I've made throughout my life, some of whom I consider to be best friends. Gary has always been different. There was no moment where we were introduced to each other and decided to be best friends. We just were and have always been.

I don't get home to Glens Falls, NY, as often as I used to. Now, I'm married and plans take other directions sometimes. Recently, Gary's wife, Paula, contacted me to let me know about his deteriorating medical condition. So, I've made plans to go home to see Gary, so we can talk with each other about our life together as friends. When he does die, I will go home for his funeral, but I didn't want that to be our goodbye. I want to see him, hug him, talk with him, and tell him how much I love him and what he has meant to me in my life as my best friend. After he's dead, I won't be able to say those things to him and hear his responses. There is no one else in my life like Gary. No one. We always had each other's back. We always hung out with each other, chased women together, drank too much beer to even remember, had many parties, many hangovers, ate lots of Dirty John's hotdogs, delivered newspapers together, shoveled snow together, too...way too many fekkin' times, worked on cars together, went fishing, hiking, biking...well, let's just say that we lived life together. I cannot imagine my life without Gary in it. It will come, but if I could strangle it to protect Gary, I would.

Now, my heart is broken thinking about what the near future holds for Gary. At times in our lives, we would have done everything and anything to protect each other from harm from anyone. Fortunately, I have the opportunity now to go and be with him and tell him face to face what my thoughts and feelings are about him. We grew up in an era where hugging, expressing emotions, etc., was not considered "manly". Thankfully, times have changed and I can now say all those things to him...and I have. So, while I am unable to change the outcome, I can be with him. A real blessing.

I'm writing this now, so that Gary will have the chance to read this and I can put into words some semblance of my feelings about him. Experience has taught me that, in those very hard moments, not everything gets said that needs to be said. I did not want that to be the case with Gary and me. All the times in the past when I went home for vacations to catch up with family and friends, there were two things that I would do first: go see my parents,  then go down the street to see Gary and his parents/family. After he got married and his parents were still alive, there were three things that I did first: go see my parents, go see Gary's parents, and then go see Gary and Paula. He collected beer cans, so, when I would come home, I'd bring beer cans that I knew he would not be able to get in Glens Falls. I'd drive to his house and, if he wasn't home, I'd leave the beer in between the storm door and the inside door at his house. He would know that I was home when he found the beer cans, then he'd call me.

To be totally honest, there are some stories that Gary and I have written together that will remain known only to us and no one else. One, there are way too many of them to put down here, and, two, to protect the innocent. Yes, we were good kids, but, hey, we struggled through the teen years, young adulthood, and all that those times bring on. Were we perfect? No, but we sure did break some hearts.

This will be it for now. I'm headed home on October 30th to spend a week in Glens Falls to see Gary. One of the things that I want to say here is how strong Gary is and how very strong Paula has been to carry on throughout all of this and be supportive of Gary. You know what they say...behind every good person is an even better one.

This is one of those hard choices/decisions for me now...what tune do I close this post out with??? We were in our heyday back in the 60's and 70's, so let me think. This one is a good one for now: Born To Be Wild We sure did a lot of crazy ass shit growing up and it's all been a great part of my life and, I believe, Gary's. So, to you, bro, there ain't no other. I love you...

Thursday, September 13, 2018

LEE & PETRA KANNING

"Finding friends with the same mental disorder...PRICELESS!"~ anonymous

Recently, I had a new experience that was so Los Alamos perfect! It all fits into the quote above, so I'll get to the mental disorder in good time.

In a few of my previous posts, I put down a few of my thoughts about Los Alamos and it's weirdnesses, as well as another post discussing the type of bicycle tire that I'm presently using on my road bike (Continental Gatorskins). Nothing unusual about either post, but it prompted Lee Kanning of Washington (state not D.C.) to send off an email to me. That wasn't unusual either, but Lee stated that he'd been following my website for a few years, which pleased me since I have not a clue if/when people follow/read my website posts. He asked if I knew another cyclist in the Los Alamos area, which I did not. His name was/is Tarik Saleh. Come to find out, Lee and his wife, Petra, were coming to Santa Fe, NM, to see a few operas of which they are fans. We agreed to try to get together while they were here visiting. That was a first as a result of my website. Other email exchanges were just that...brief exchanges. This was new.

My wife, Eileen, and her mother, Marilyn, were heading off to NY for a wedding and then Eileen was heading to Olympia, WA, to teach beginning Irish fiddle at an Irish music camp, Cascadia, that our friend, Randal Bays was putting on there. Somehow, between Eileen's travels and my travels to Albuquerque, Lee and I managed to figure out a way to meet. I had been down to Albuquerque and, on my return to Los Alamos, I stopped at the Trader Joe's in Santa Fe to get a few things. After I was done shopping, I got in my car and texted Lee about perhaps getting together for coffee or a beer while I was in Santa Fe. Voila! Lee and Tarik were going to be meeting at a bookstore in downtown Santa Fe in a matter of minutes, per  Lee, and he asked if I'd like to join them. On my way!

A side note here...prior to moving to Los Alamos, Santa Fe was at the bottom of the list of places that I enjoyed visiting. Having grown up in a major tourist area in Upstate NY, tourists became my least favorite of the human species, so Santa Fe had nothing going for it in that category. What I did enjoy about Santa Fe included Second Street Brewpub and a now defunct pan Asian restaurant on Cerrillos Road. That was the extent of the things I enjoyed about Santa Fe. When I lived in Albuquerque and friends visited that wanted to go to Santa Fe, I would just let them take my car and go on their own. Since we've lived in Los Alamos for over a year now, I have become more acquainted with Santa Fe and what it has to offer...and I have learned how to drive around the "city different"...which has allowed me to see Santa Fe in a much different light. I now enjoy going there and discovering all that it has to offer.

So, I was off to meet up with Lee and Tarik, and their spouses/family. Since I now know how to maneuver around Santa Fe, I found a place to park near the bookstore. One of the bennies of learning my way around Santa Fe has been becoming more aware of where to park, which is a major issue when visiting Santa Fe. Got my vehicle parked and walked to the bookstore. At the bookstore, I was at a disadvantage since Lee knew what I looked like, but I had no idea who I was looking for, except his name. I conjured up all my images of cyclists so I might pick him out of the crowd as I ordered my coffee and waited around the counter to see who would be approaching me that looked like someone with the same mental disorder...extensive cycling. Soon enough, a gentleman approached me that didn't look like he was going to ask me for money or was someone who would be assaulting me. Lee? Patrick? Lee was with his wife, Petra, and Tarik and his wife and daughter arrived shortly after Lee, Petra, and I had sat down. Lee had met Tarik as a result of following his blog and had met in Santa Fe as a result of that connection a few years earlier.

Well, we had a good conversation, appeared to enjoy each other's company, and spent a fair amount of time talking to each other. Good vibes! Tarik and I discovered that we lived in the same neighborhood in Los Alamos, probably less than a mile apart. So, here we are, two cyclists that live in the same community being introduced to each other by another cyclist from the State of Washington. That was a first for me, but it seemed so Los Alamos-ish. I really enjoyed meeting all of them and I'm looking forward to catching up with Lee and Petra around the Christmas holidays, when they'll be visiting again. I've not made it over to Tarik's yet, but I will. Hopefully, around the holidays, we'll be able to go out to dinner together or, better yet, have everyone over to our house for dinner and drinks. Found out that Lee's wife, Petra, was also a librarian with an MLS degree...the same as my wife, Eileen. Everyone had interesting histories, particularly Petra, who grew up in a family of migrant workers in Texas and other parts of the country. I'm looking forward to finding out more about her history, which she is writing down now and is going to submit a column for the NY Times. What I found really fascinating is that everyone there had an interesting story. So, getting together over the holidays should be fun and educational. Lee worked for Boeing and is now retired. Tarik works for the National Labs here in Los Alamos and has lived here for 15yrs. Tarik seemed to agree with my thoughts about the weirdnesses of Los Alamos. Will find out more later.

Unfortunately, I took no photos at the time we met up, but I will when we meet again. This is, as I stated, a first as a result of writing posts for my website. Other contacts I have had via my website have mostly dealt with questions about products I've reviewed or about my bike touring and were very brief email exchanges. I've enjoyed this quite a bit.

Now, it's time to end this post and I need to find an appropriate tune. Hmmm, how about Iris Dement's "Our Town"? She is one of my favorite singer/songwriters, along with John Prine. This seems relevant to me, as a cyclist, since I've ridden through so many small towns in the U.S. that are just barely hanging on, slowly dying, literally disappearing in front of the people who live there. Any cyclist who has rode their bike across any section, or the whole, of this country has seen this and knows just how fleeting life is for towns and for people. The joy is in taking advantage of those moments in time where life exists. Thanks for reading this and to Lee, thanks for reaching out to me. I sincerely appreciated it. Looking forward to seeing you and Petra down the road...

Monday, July 23, 2018

Bicycle Tires...Everyone Is Of The Opinion That The Tires They Ride Are The Best!

Over the years that I've been cycling, seriously since 1981, I have purchased a lot of bicycle tires. Some have been very good, like the ones that Compass Cycles sells, while other brands have been so-so. Recently, however, I have had a good run with Continental tires, specifically the Continental Gatorskins. Having dealt with the road conditions in Silver City, NM, which can be incredibly beat up, the Compass tires that I used there worked quite well. Last year, we moved to Los Alamos, NM, where the road conditions are great, yet the tried and true Compass tires failed to deliver its usual quality of no flats. My next step was to do an online search, see what the online word was about bicycle tires, and decided to get a set of Continental Gatorskins, like the ones on my wife's Bob Jackson touring bike.

After reading several articles on bicycle tires on Compasscycle.com and how the latest research is disproving so many long time myths about bicycle tires and air pressure, I opted to go with a pair of 700x26 Gatorskins. My Vitus road bike won't handle any tire larger than that, otherwise I would have put 700x28 tires on the bike. To date, no flats, unlike the Compass tires that I was using, which had been quite failsafe until moving to Los Alamos. Now, the roads around here are kept up. Trust me. With the big trucks moving radioactive waste from the national labs that are located here (the atom bomb was developed here), no one wants any of these trucks to have a crash due to road conditons. Not only do they repair the roads around here regularly, they make quick work of getting the new road surface done. Oh, and no oil/gravel/crushed whatever road surfacing either. We're talking new blacktop surfaces and paint. They do not fuck around with that cheap shit up here.

So, for whatever reason, the Gatorskins do great up here. While I don't have as many miles on these tires as I had with the Compass tires, I have had zero flats to date. And, if you read the articles by Compass Cycle Articles On Bicycle Tires, you will note that how fast your tires will be has little to do with their width and that skinny tires are out for good reason. With that information available to me now, I trust that my decision to get the Gatorskins for my wife's bike, and mine, was a good one. 

With all that read and said, I am sticking to my contention that everyone thinks that the tires they're riding on are the best...and I'm sold, for now, on Continental Gatorskins, for whatever the hell that's worth. At this point, I am beginning to think about another cross country bicycle trip...ocean to ocean...which will be my last solo cross country bike trip. Certainly not my last bicycle trip, just that I will be doing some different rides after this last cross country trip. I want to drive to specific States and investigate/visit/spend time in places in those States for a somewhat longer stay than I would be if I were on a long distance bicycle tour.  My plan is to spend several days or longer in each place I go to in any particular State. And I will be using the Gatorskins on my touring bike. Unless, of course, I find a better one before I head out in 2020. And I'll be checking out brewpubs along the way.

Ok, just a short posting for this time, but with a tune to close out for now...The Road Goes On Forever...Robert Earl Keen Jr. Robert Earl Keen Jr. is one of my favorite singers/songwriters, who has turned out many a fine tune. This particular one is a tune he does whenever he performs...it's a legendary one for him. We all know the lyrics and sing along. While tires don't go on forever, the road does...as does the party!!! Happy trails...

Monday, July 16, 2018

LOS ALAMOS UPDATE 2018

"Only in American can you be pro-death penalty, pro-war, pro-unmanned drone bombs, pro-nuclear weapons, pro-guns, pro-torture, pro-land mines, and still call yourself 'pro-life'". ~ John Fugelsang, actor/comedian

Eileen and I moved to Los Alamos, NM, in June/2017. It's an unusual place...it's not a city, town, or village. It is a census designated place. WTF? White Rock is another census designated place in Los Alamos County. There's no "city government"...just a county government that makes decisions for the county and its occupants. About 65% of the people here work for the national labs where atomic bombs are still being researched, updated, and made, along with the toxic waste associated with that research. Other research is done here, as well, but the main efforts are nuclear.

The main thing that I notice here is: it's all white people. Not really, but I can count on two hands the number of non-white people I've seen in the last year. I'm sure there are more non-white people here than what I've seen, but the overall impression is WHITE. Another thing that stands out is that there are no old buildings here, except what remains of the Los Alamos Ranch School that was taken over by the U.S. military in 1942. Until about 1957, it was primarily a military base and is where the atomic bomb was developed. After that, it was opened to the public. About 3/5ths of the land up here on the mesas is owned by the Dept of Energy and not open to the public. Housing is very tight here because of the small geographic area available for houses to be built on. While driving on roads that go through DOE property, all vehicles are subject to random searches and aerial surveilance over DOE land is routine.

Another oddity here: almost no crime. The amount of crime that occurs in Los Alamos County annually is about what one would expect to occur in about 5 minutes in a major city. No joke. People leave doors and windows unlocked. Haven't seen that since living in upstate NY back in the 1950's. I think some of that has to do with how out of the way Los Alamos is located. Like Silver City, NM, where we used to live, Los Alamos is not on the way somewhere. You have to want to drive through here, perhaps to see the Valle Caldera that is some 15 miles southwest of Los Alamos. That's one of the reason that the U.S. government and the military chose this place for the Manhattan Project. Also, Robert Oppenheimer and his brother owned a piece of property near here, so he pushed for this site to develop the atomic bomb.

Now, in its favor, Los Alamos is quiet, safe, and very educated, but I believe that most people who have lived here for a while have a poor conception of what life is like in a bigger city. It is located up on 5 mesas, at the foothills of the Jemez mountains. Elevation here is about 7400', with the mountains at about 10,000'+. Scenery and surroundings are beautiful. Yes, there is still pollution here from the 1940's/1950's/1960's and there have been "accidents" where harmful material has caused problems here. Oh, it's also the second most affluent city in America. Washington, DC, is the most affluent city in America. For town/city of less than 100,000 population.

There is a decent brewpub here, the Bathtub Row Brewery Co-op, and a couple of good restaurants. Even decent sushi and a recently opened French bakery. There is NO GOOD PIZZA here. Period. So, I make my own or we go to Santa Fe. Fortunately, Santa Fe is only about 35 miles from here. Once there, many options are available from arts, music, beer, food, entertainment, etc. It makes the move here much more tolerable.

One of the things that I like to do is lift weights. There are two places here for that and the YMCA is one of them. Now, I have been lifting weights regularly since the early 1980's and the YMCA in Los Alamos has to be one of the worst gyms I've been to in 30 years. Now, in their defense, there was a vote in the past year where money could have been allocated to help replace the aging YMCA building with a new one, but it was narrowly voted down. Too bad. Another negative is cell phone/internet connectivity. I expected top shelf stuff here, but that has not been the case.

Another oddity has been the lack of interaction between people while out and about in Los Alamos. In Silver City, it made not a lick of difference if people knew you or not, everyone said hello to everyone else. Well, it seemed that way. We've been here over 6 months and only recently have people begun to open up and say hello. Now, whenever I encounter someone, I say hello just to see what the reaction will be. Fun to shake them up a bit. Another oddity, New Mexico's suicide rate for those 10-24 yrs of age is twice the national average and Los Alamos County's rate is twice what the rate is for New Mexico, so, Los Alamos County has a suicide rate for the 10-24yr old group that is 4 times the U.S. national average. Incredible!

Overall, I like small towns and the low crime rate is great. Will we remain here after Eileen retires? Not sure, but I'm willing to bet we will move back to Albuquerque at that time. But, with the future, we won't know until we get to where we have to decide. I will say that, if all the towns/cities in the U.S. were like Los Alamos, NM, I would move to another country. While the low crime rate is appreciated, the lack of personal interaction with people is very weird. People here don't say hello, don't casually talk with strangers, and it's everywhere. Restaurants, bars, stores, on the streets, everywhere...people do not socialize like I experience elsewhere. I have been going to the Bathtub Brewpub for over a year now and I know the name of one person who works behind the bar. The interaction of the bartenders is so very different from other brewpubs, as well as the grouping of people who come there who most likely work at the Labs. While the groups talk with each other, there is no interaction between groups...period. If this was one of the neighborhood bars back in my hometown of Glens Falls, NY, I would know just about everyone at the brewpub by now. And the bartenders would know what I usually drink.

We will be here for the duration, until Eileen is ready to retire and, hopefully, in that time we will get to know some people up on "the Hill", as Los Alamos is fondly referred to. What we have learned since we moved out of Albuquerque in 2006 is that small town life is quite pleasant. With that said, we'll have to see where we'd like to move to considering that small town life is pretty good. Large cities have more to offer, but with significant negatives that are not present in most small towns.

So, a brief annual report from the new kids on the block in Los Alamos, NM. Stay tuned for more from My Side of The Ride. Now, to close, a tune to entertain y'all... Always Look At The Bright Side Of Life performed by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame. Seems appropriate. Have a good one!


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Mr. Earl, my buddy...

"There is, incidentally, no way to talk about cats that enables one to come off as a sane person." ~ Dan Greenberg

"In ancient times, cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this." ~ Terry Pratchett

Like the start of 2017, this year, 2018, has started out with the death of a great friend. Furry, yes. Frustrating, yes. Lovable, quite. My friend, yes. One that I love/d dearly and for whom I still cry. His name was/is Earl. His buddy, Scrappy, died last January/2017. They were/are my best friends. To humans, I can be a best friend, a good friend, a colleague, a jerk, a total asshole, and, for some, there is the wonder of what the fuck is that person doing in the human race. To Scrappy and Earl, I was the best thing since canned salmon.

How do animals become such an integral part of our lives? I don't have an answer, but I loved Earl completely. He never asked much of me...water, food, and a warm place to sleep. Oh, and no water on him, please! He hated to get wet. Not sure why people think they have to bathe a cat. They take good care of themselves and their cohort.

Last June, Eileen and I moved to Los Alamos, NM, which has been an adjustment in itself, and we brought Earl with us. I struggled with the decision to bring Earl to Los Alamos. He grew up in the neighborhood where we lived in Silver City and had some buddies...Missy Grey, Missy Black (sisters), and Scrappy. Scrappy was the boss cat. Although Scrappy had died and Earl was the new boss (same as the old boss), he and the other two cats were still together. Missy Grey and Missy Black were healthier than Earl and Scrappy...had all their teeth, good fur, good hunters, etc. I thought, selfishly perhaps, that Earl would have a difficult time adjusting without me there. When I rode my bicyle across country in 2010, Eileen told me that he constantly walked through the house looking for me. So, Earl came with us. I made arrangements with the neighbors to take care of Missy Grey and Missy Black. A little side note: last November, Eileen and I went to Silver City to see friends and to eat at 1zero6, a restaurant that our friend, Jake, owns. While there, I stopped by our house to make sure all was well. Missy Grey was by the back wall, near the wood fence between our house and the neighbor's. She meowed loud and mournfully for over 45 minutes. I was shocked. Finally, she came out and slowly came up to me to let me pet her and, finally, to pick her up. I regretted not taking her with us back in June/2017, but it didn't seem fair to take them out of that environment.

Well, the main plus for bringing Earl with us was that he was well cared for here and not out in the elements. I took him to the local veternarian and had many tests done to see what was causing his weight loss. It was the same thing that had happened to Scrappy. All the blood tests were normal, but Earl continued to lose weight. Finally, around Christmas, he was emaciated, but still eating, drinking, and pooping/peeing. I chose to not put him down since he didn't appear to be in great distress. Yes, he was getting weaker by the day, but not in great pain. With Scrappy, we took him to the veternarian and had him killed. Yes, I know, the vernacular is "putting him down", but the reality is that you're having someone kill him with chemicals. It was painful to experience and I was determined to do that to Earl only if he was in great pain or discomfort. He continued to eat, drink, and poop/pee until his last day, which was Friday, January 12, 2018. I had lunch with my friend, Neil, and, on returning home, found Earl sleeping on his rug. He stayed there throughout the afternoon and evening. Around 10pm, he meowed a couple of times, so I picked him up, wrapped in his rug, and held him in my lap with my arms wrapped, as lovingly as I could, around him. At 11pm, I realized that he was dead. His head flopped a bit too loosely, which let me know he had gone on.

These guys, as well as Missy Grey, were quite the team. They ruled the part of the neighborhood where we lived in Silver City, NM. They hung out and defended their turf from all comers, with scars to prove it. The birds, rabbits, mice, lizards, and other living critters, including grasshoppers, had to be on their guard at all times. Our neighbors loved the cats since they kept the mice population under control. My fondest wish is that Scappy has found Earl and that the two of them are once again hanging out with each other with great enjoyment.

Here are some photos to show y'all what Earl looked like, along with some of him and Scrappy, as well as Missy Grey, so you can see how affectionate they were with each other. And how, fortunately, they cared for me.

                                                    Earl sleeping in his favorite place...
                                                    A big yawn from the big guy...
                                          A big kitten at heart...
                                                    Scrappy sleeping in the sun...
Scrappy sleeping on the purr pad...

While these friends are not here with me any longer, they will always be my best friends and I will love them completely...and hope to see them somewhere down the road. Until then, here's a tune that I posted on Scrappy's post: Memories from Cats Thanks for choosing me to hang out with...