Monday, April 28, 2008

Green, Green, Schmeen, Sheesh

Tomorrow is Earth Day....Omigod...everyone is running around spouting about how "green" they are going to be. Walk twenty miles don't drive.....(doesn't matter that when to do walk the twenty you'll probably pass out on the road. The ambulances will come wasting more precious gas to get you to the hospital where thousands of watts, or whatever of energy will be wasted to get you going again....Let alone the gas used to get the ambulance drivers from their homes to the volunteer ambulance garage to get into the gas guzzler ambulances...).

For crying out loud, the way I see it is, we boomers have a lot to fix. We're the ones that demanded so much crap and excesses that spilled over to our kids. That's generally speaking...I, on the other hand have to say, as a child of the 60's. I learned not to waste. So much so that my kids think my husband and I have a screw loose. When we buy things, we take care of them. We don't discard them if something newer, greater, more powerful or better looking, comes along. Consequently, we have some really old stuff we've used for years. So what? It works (probably way better than the "newer, better, upgraded" things)..Recently, we had to have our snow blower overhauled. The fix-it guy took one look at it and said to us, "Wow, I've never seen a snow blower this old look so clean and shiny. Holy cow, you have ALL the original parts on this...How did you do it?" He looked at us as though we were alien counterparts of the humans who lived in this house. Larry and I looked at each other in wonder. I wanted to scream at the guy, "WE TAKE CARE OF THINGS WE OWN, FOOL" But being the very caring person I am, I gently stated, "Well, we know we may not be able to buy another of these things so we make sure to take care of them. It doesn't take much to wipe it off after it's used and put it back where it belongs". Now I ask you, how hard is that? Apparently, very difficult, if I'm to understand what I see and read.

Case in point:

I know many folks who haven't learned the concept of: Just because you CAN buy and own something, doesn't mean you NEED to buy and own something. And, when you do decide you MUST have it, at least learn how to maintain it. These folks have all the "newest, greatest, fastest, brightest, etc" THINGS, and they're smothering under the weight of STUFF in every part of their lives. I don't get it.

Several folks I know would not buy any item Consumer Reports says is less than "the top of the line". Why? I don't get it. Sometimes the top of the line item is good, but then again, sometimes the item that's the top of the line has options on it I'd never use in a 100 years. From past experience I know machines that have "extras" on them sometimes fail more often. The extras usually fail, not the basic machine. O.K., not all the time, but if you aren't going to use the extra little ditty, and you've never seen the need in the last twenty years to have that extra little ditty, why pay extra money to have it added to your basic machine that surely will increase the cost of the stupid machine. I don't get it.

I'm not opposed to technology, I understand the need for things. God, help me I would die without the technological advances that have been made in household appliances over the years, but some of the stuff is getting out of hand. In my house I have: a juicer(so I can juice vegetables to make me thin and trim. I'm not yet there, but I have the juicer just in case I ever decide to use it) , blender(frozen drinks-gotta have that thing), hand held blender(when I want to have only one drink, I can use this instead of pulling out the big blender), hand mixer (I use this when the stand mixer has too many items in front of it and I can't get to it), stand mixer(I use this a couple of times a year, to justify having it),accessories for the stand mixer, (meat grinder-just in case the supermarket has the ultimate break down of grinding equipment-I have my own...Why? sausage accessory-for the times I grind all the meat and want to make sausage-never happened yet...but there's always a first time) big crock pot(for all the stews and things I make twice a year), little crock pot ( for all the dips I serve...),George Forman Grill(actually I do use this thing- mainly because I'm convinced George has a computer chip that tells him when the grill is not being used and he comes to your house and hits you for not using his grill),pannini maker, pizzelle maker, sandwich grill (different from the pannini maker- it doesn't leave lines on the bread), electric fry pan, electric Wok, rice maker, can opener,electric carving knife, electric scissors, popcorn maker, other popcorn maker, ice crusher(yes, I know you probably have one on your refrigerator, but I don't...I also don't use this ice crusher...I find a hammer and a plastic bag is better, and bonus, I can pretend I'm smashing someones head as I whack the ice), etc., etc., etc..

I'm betting you have the same, and probably more of these, "can't live without" appliance do hickeys. Look around, yeah, there are some that make your life easier, but honestly do you really NEED all of them? I'm sure most of us could survive without the use of many of these "so-called" conveniences.

I think back to a time when I was back in Scotland visiting relatives (I was born there and moved to the US as a kid). I will never forget my Aunt saying, "Suzanne, there is one luxury I will never give up....I can give up all others but not this one..." I'm thinking, furs, diamonds, caviar. She continues," I will never give up "hot water". I looked at her in amazement thinking I never gave a thought to hot water being a "luxury". I thought of it as sort of a "right". The "right" to have hot water as opposed to only cold water. I really started looking hard at what I had and what I took for granted. You have to spend time away from your comfort zone to be able to understand what you have.

So going back the "Greening of America" topic. I wonder if it will last longer than just Earth Day. I wonder if we'll all get serious and try to conserve, at least a little bit. I'm doing my part, I'm pounding the ice in a plastic bag small enough so I can throw it into the glass and add the liquor without the use of the big blender OR the little blender.... Every little bit step at a time...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Camping--MY kind of camping......

I haven't been writing much lately, I've been too busy in this semi-retired state I find myself in today. I used to work every day. I was counting down the number of days before I could say I was, "semi-retired". I had it all planned, I would have all kinds of time to do the things I've wanted to do in the past, but was too tired to do when I came home from work. I knew when I finally said, "So long..." to the 9 to 5 routine I'd be golden. I don't know what happened, but damn! I'm busier now than I was when I was working full time.

I know the first paragraph has nothing to do with the title but I wanted to ease into the camping stuff slowly. I have a "thing" about camping and all it entails, and it takes me a few minutes to really start the brain blood flowing to make things coherent (chalk that up to my advanced age...the age that advanced another year the other day'd think when you had so many birthdays society would give you a pass on one or two...not so....)

Anyway... I was in a parking lot today and I nearly drove into one of those stupid cement poles the lights are attached to, as I tried to read the banners, signs and bumper stickers on one of the largest RV's I've ever seen. The banners, etc. were professing the owners love for Jesus, the bible and all the other stuff that many Christians feel the need blare out for everyone else to see how pious they are. Now, before you get all hot and bothered about my possible "dissing" (see I'm not THAT old I know what that means...although that's probably not the term used today for disrespect...but you know what I mean) someones beliefs. I think you don't need to BLAST your beliefs from the highest mountain, or in this case the largest RV, in the world...or the Walmart parking lot. But, whatever floats your boat...go for it...(I wonder how the guy would feel if some other RVer had the Koran slogans all over his RV???I don't think that would go over as well...ya think?)

The RV reminded me of the time we had an RV, albeit not one of those giant things. Ours was more like a pregnant large van. It sort of looked as though someone took a van, put a giant straw into the front window and puffed out the sides and the rear end. It slept four, although you had to be pretty small, unfortunately we aren't small. It had all the amenities for little people, not dwarf type little people, more like leprechaun little people. There was a tiny ...imagine a coffin standing upright....area for the bathroom. It was kind of cool. You had to press a couple of buttons on both sides of the coffin, pull out, and the coffin became like a double sized coffin. The carpeted floor came up and lo, and behold the floor became a waterproof area with a drain in the middle:a shower area. The toilet was directly in front of the door, above the toilet you pressed another magic button and a sink dropped down, faucet and all. Yep, the coffin became a full fledged bathing/toilet facility. You couldn't turn around in it, but it had all the amenities needed to do your duty. I must admit though, there were many times when you could see a rear end popping out of the shower curtain. But it could be used as the needed bathroom.

It was OK when two people were using the RV, but if you had more than that, well let's just say it wasn't pretty. Between making sure no one was in the way of the "magic moving coffin" and the door to the outside, we were always struggling to climb out of the way, over the top of things and in general trying hard to have fun, fun, fun. Bahh....It was a pain in the neck.

My idea of camping is going to a motel that doesn't have a sauna, so when this RV thing came into our lives I was less than thrilled. I know, you're wondering why did we buy it? We didn't. I inherited it from my Dad.

My Dad always wanted a big boat (yes, I said "boat"). Mom didn't want anything to do with a boat, so they compromised and bought this, pretty high tech (for the times) RV. He researched it for months and found exactly what he thought was the greatest thing since sliced bread. It really was quite an engineering miracle (for leprechauns). It was state of the art. He convinced my Mom that they could save money on the trips from Florida up to New York to see the grand kids....Why, he even tried to convince her they could come up more often since they would be saving so much money on motels and food on the way up. It worked. The thought of seeing the grand kids more often won her over.

They bought the thing. It was really spiffy the first time we saw it. Although, it did have a pretty good dent in the rear end... My Dad hit a pole in a gas station...the pole was connected to a display of antifreeze...the antifreeze displayed was knocked over...someone trying to avoid the multitude of rolling antifreeze bottles hit a police car...the cop was standing outside the car and fell into the garbage can...My Dad got a ticket........ He was really upset about the whole thing as my Mom was trying hard not to laugh herself into wet pants as she was telling the story...That was the first trip they had taken in the "thing". It didn't bode well for the future.

My Dad parked "thing" along side of our house and plugged it in. He and my husband would sit out there, watch TV and drink some beer. It was the first "Man Cave" I think. He loved it. My Mom, on the other hand, thought it was a pain in the neck. She tried to keep it clean and nearly killed herself trying to contort her body in anything but human shapes to wash, dust, disinfect, shine, polish and all the other things women of her generation do to keep everything looking like no one has ever eaten, slept, walked, or used the bathroom. It was nuts... The result of this was my Dad wanted a place to relax, Mom wanted to make sure that anyone looking at the "thing" would know it was clean, neat and tidy. (for who? the freakin leprechauns?) As I said...nuts....

They did have a few good times with it and I'm glad my Dad got to go in it a few times. My Dad became ill the following year and before he died he gave the "thing" to me........(remember, my idea of camping is going to a Motel without a sauna..).

The kids were older, and the thought of going anywhere with their parents was a fate worse than death to them. Consequently, it was Larry and I who used the "thing" for camping. To give the "thing" its due, it had all the options that make camping easier. It had a furnace,central air conditioning, a generator, gas stove, electric lights, alternate source of power, a control panel, cable connections, portable microwave, sink,built in cabinets and a whole lot of other things that make camping easier for those of us that don't do "dirt, tents, and the like".

We used the "thing" for all kinds of purposes. It moved kids into dorms, out of dorms, into apartments, out of apartments, brought engines home from Canada for cars that didn't run( nor would they ever run...but that's for another blog entry). All in all we did some fun things with it other than camping. It was great to take a bunch of people to football games, (talk about the perfect tailgate party was that). But like everything and everyone, it gets old.

Some of the trips we took in the "thing" were legend though. One in listen carefully, I can't say this more than once because I'm convinced we're (Larry and I) still on the lam from the Canadian Mounties, or at least the police of Kingston Ontario.... I think we're ok in Nova Scotia, but I KNOW we can never go on the Catamaran from Bar Harbor to Halifax...unless we wear disguises.

We decided to take a trip up to the St. Lawrence River in Canada. Our plan was to cross the river on a tiny bridge in New York over to Kingston Ontario. The weather was gorgeous. Everything was going fine. We went through customs with no problem. We made our way toward the beautiful city of Kingston. Larry was tired so I was the driver. Kingston is a pretty good sized city and we didn't know our way around the city. We had maps, but this was before the days of Mapquest or GPS devices. While I was driving through the city the traffic was building and I was lost (note here...this is not unusual for me..I'm navigationally challenged, unless it's for shopping). I noticed there was a street fair going on and decided we had to stop to check it out. Larry was resting his eyes. At the point where I decided to drive into a parking lot, a car pulled directly in front of me making me pull the wheel of the "thing" sharply to the left, Larry fell off the seat in back, the "thing" lurched, as we drove over a kind of curb....Now, you would think that it was OK, and it would be if this was a car. However, the "thing" had its grey water (not so bad used water) and its black water (the worst stuff you can imagine that comes out of you, mixed with toilet paper, chemicals and water) under the unit near the tires... When I ran over the curb thing, I ripped off the ...BLACK water reservoir, so our toilet was spilling out onto the paved parking lot. I looked in the rear view mirror in horror as I saw little globs of stuff mixed with fluorescent blue water leaving a trail behind me.

Now I ask you, what do you do in a situation like that? Well, I'll tell you what I did. I stopped the thing, grabbed a towel from the coffin bathroom, jumped out and stuffed the towel into the open raw sewage pipe that was attached to the "thing" spewing out its guts. By this time Larry was wide awake and running around the parking lot trying to find our missing toilet receptacle and cap, paper towels in hand, trying desperately to clean up what he could...It was awful...there was no way we could clean it up ourselves and I don't think the city of Kingston had enough water to neutralize the blue chemicals that were spewed all over that parking lot, not to mention the unmentionables.

After a short time we realized we couldn't clean it all up. We did a damned good job. Luckily we had a huge supply of paper toweling and old towels. When we thought we had camouflaged the place enough, we moved the RV to another parking lot so no one could track us....

I looked up to the sky. The sky that was blue and cloudless, and prayed to all that is holy as I said, "Look this was an accident. We didn't mean to deface this foreign land. If you could just give us some rain about now, it would be really kind of you". We honestly didn't know what to do except clean ourselves up (no easy task) and go to the fair.... We were worried, thinking about all the fines we would face if anyone knew we were the culprits of "the toilet that took over Kingston".

I have to tell you I was a wreck. Larry took it in stride figuring if the worse came to worst he'd probably be OK in a jail in Canada, at least he'd get a break from his work. He thought the whole thing was hilarious....He didn't do it...I did...

While we were at the fair, Larry eating all the things I wanted but couldn't think about eating, I was watching to see if the Mounties or the police were coming after us. I looked around and I watched the sky as I witnessed, what I am sure was the hands of the Gods, pushing aside the blue sky and pushing in the storm clouds. It started pouring rain like I've never witnessed in my life. I stood in the middle of the fair, looked up at the sky and thought to myself, "I will never again deny the power of prayer......" And I'm not all that religious, honest.......I'm convinced it was my Dad's hand at work with the help of some higher power, knowing we needed ALOT of water to neutralize the situation a couple of blocks away...

We managed to jury rig the toilet and left the city of Kingston quickly, in the rain. We haven't been back...The story about the Catamaran will be for another day....