Greetings Cohort. Despite the sleety wet snow in Washington it was warmer than I expected so I ended up being over dressed. Dave met me at Union Station and we drag'd two carts up and down the elevator twice to find a place to have lunch. Then a stop at his home, to meet his new daughter, before going on to Washington-Dulles for the next leg. Dave's daughter is just learning to walk--I am just re-learning to photograph--and as he held her for me to photograph she started to frown whilst he smiled. The flash precipitated a spate of crying so I got only that one shot which when Dave saw he asked that it not be included in this letter. I think he was more concerned about his aspect in the image rather than hers; at least if her reaction to the camera-photog-flash is any indication he won't have to worry about her being a cover-girl. (Or a center-fold...)
Off to Dulles after a too short visit and as he drove away and I checked in I learn'd that my 18 o'clock flight had been cancel'd, replaced by one scheduled for 21 o'clock and already posted for a delay of an hour. Oh well. One of these days I will learn to call ahead--never trust an airline schedule.
It was after Monday midnight (Tuesday 01h00) before Rick and Louise met me at Allenstown. Intermittant sleety snow rain introduced the first nor'easter of the season. Rick said --I always know when you're coming to visit, the weather turns bad. Well Rick, at least you won't have to mow the grass while I'm visiting.
Louise and I had a discussion about what means "eggs over easy" vs "sunny side up". Regionalisms...
Then it was lunch--bean and bacon soup with toasted PB&J's. Toasted in this sense means grilled elsewhere. Another regionalism. What? Wait a minute! Grilled! peanut butter and jelly? --Yes, grape jelly; would you prefer smooth or crunchy? --Er... ah... smooth.
Rick is the guy many of you know as that person who starts my letters to you with the disclaimer:
P O L A R M A I L
INSTRUCTIONS TO RETURN A LETTER Note: I can now take Macintosh disks/files
Send your return letter to the address below. Hand printed or typed, the letter must be readable so I may transcribe it to a computer file to send.
He handles fewer letters these days (still 25-30 letters per day) as more and more folks acquire their own email access but there will always be a need for the Polarmail letter handling service he provides and PolarFlowers & Other Things service Louise provides to Antarcticans and their family and friends who have no email access. The volume of traffic varies seasonally--when the stations are without snailmail delivery in the Austral winter there is more for them to do. This is Rick's hobby mostly, an outgrowth of earlier days of Ham radio and MARSgrammes passed by teletype via HF radio at 50 baud. Today his service to Antarctica is via internet at 14.4kB. The MARS side of the operation comprises an automatic station relaying message traffic via HF Amtor between local MARS operators and the US Navy fleet world wide. The automatic station handles 35-50 messages a day.
First to inject this moment of levity: My prise for the most interesting mailbox (Rural Category) goes to Forest Pump & Filter on U.S.302 in Windham Maine--so far at least. The mailbox is held in the hand of one of two gaudy humanoid critters who appear to be frozen in some dance. This is one place where an image is indespensible and since that medium is available I will cease to try describing this other-worldly offering from what must be an imaginative company.
My imagination served me well getting this far; and when I finally did arrive in Portland... but perhaps I should put this in perspective. Rick and Louise made a valiant effort to get me out the door in time to meet the plane. The plane from Allenstown left only ten minutes late. My imagination was wandering around picking up threads of scenarios: I was examining one labled Lost Baggage Form and just as the flight was being called for boarding I had this irrepressable urge to look at my baggage claim checks. When I checked in I told the clerk to check me through to Portland and received boarding passes for both flights but now it appeared my bag and trunk were checked only as far as Dulles. What a screw up that would have been upon arrival in Portland Maine had I not looked.
Immediately the clerk jumped on me. --You should have taken care of checking your bags through when when you checked in.
--Ahh but I did kind sir. When I checked in I told them and they gave me boarding passes for both flights and they stapled my claim checks into the folder and hurried me along. Your problem now, please fix.
Well he took care of it and only managed to delay the flight another few minutes. So that flight should have dovetailed at Dulles with one to Portland with an hour to have a late lunch with Cindy (OAE from DC) but that next plane was late leaving Vermont for Dulles and then when it finally landed they found two birds in one engine and so had to change planes and then that one was late so my 17h00 departure does not happen until more like 20h00. In the meantime Cindy got lost somewhere and never did show up. Instead I sat on the floor in the corner typing away until my numbum alarum encourage a move. Shortly later another ticket clerk interrupted my wandering imagination:
--Excuse me sir, she said, are you Mister So-and-so?
--No, my name is Oxton.
--You look like someone who was here a couple of days ago who was having a terrible time making connexions and I was concerned that you had been here all that time.
--Thank you for your concern. I was here but I went away and came back. These plastic chairs are so comfortable for napping.
I was not too concerned about the incessant delays, my Hertz was prepaid, my room was secured.
When I arrived at Portland Maine and collect'd my luggage to the Hertz counter I identified my self and asked for my reserved prepaid little red Hertz. But they did not have a prepaid 10 day Hertz reserved for me. But I have a confirmation right here said I as I handed over the confirmation. Lily Hym in CHCH had booked me in to Portland Maine and reserved a single in the Quality Inn at South Portland Maine but my little red Hertz was waiting for me in Portland Oregon. Ed work'd furiously in his computer to snag the reservation from Portland Oregon and move it to Portland Maine. I think he transported the Corola at the same time. The only problem now is Oregon expects me to drop it off there when I fly out of Maine.
Now I am visiting Kenny and Jane on top of Edgecomb Hill in Center Conway, snuggled right close to the border with Maine. Just a few miles the west is the Factory Outlet strip maul capitol of the North Country, formerly known as North Conway. Kenny is a weather observer and in charge of summit operations and research at the Mount Washington Observatory, my Alma Mater, Jane is a dispatcher with the local TV cable company. The OBs has grown over the years, the morning weather show on the local radio station has expanded to be carried by several other outlets in the north country and a new programme called Weather Wise, a mix of homey anecdotes and science fact is being carried by National Public Radio. Soon you will be able to order World's Worst Weather T-shirts on the WWW-WWWeb page.
Today's mail included this: >Your letters are a sparkle of sunlight in my work-a-day world. Thank you. Thank you.
And then this: >I am in your homepage. I was just checking out your geneology How well do you see the images? Do they look crisp and photographic or are they as if through ground glass or look like finger paintings? I have been looking around at what various readers see and how various image viewers present my ephotos. Some of them, like Netscape v2 and CorelPhoto make extraordinary presentations. Others like Prodigy canna see JPG's at all. In between is a wide range of results some of which seem to have more to do video drivers and monitors than with image viewers.
I have been to see The Cat Drag'd Inn at the North Conway Truck shop where she is having a new engine installed. The old bus is doing well considering the years of neglect whilst I have been playing in Antarctica but there is a lot to do before I can move back and then there will still be a lot to do before we will be comfortable together again.
On Friday Kenny and Jane invited me to dinner with her son and his wife. They are cat people. Pizza, wine and cats. Yum! On Edgecomb Hill Jane has squirrels and birds but no cats. There are five feeders hanging from a line between trees outside the southwest window of their octagonal house and a large pile of brush beyond serves as a high rise condo for a population of red squirrels. The house is well built, mostly by their own hands, and heated with one small wood stove. Construction is on-going; since my last visit the first deck plywood sub-floor has been finished with 1280 square feet of tongue and grove hardwood. Edgecomb Hill is 13 something hundred feet high, a little less than Dundee Hill to the west which is on the map as 1360, and from the cupola on top of the Edgecomb house one can see Mount Chocorua to the west, Mount Washington to the northwest and all the peaks in the White Mountain National Forest that are between.
Oso con Migo meets Griffin Bearit and Sabine at Trask Mountain. Larry's place has quite a menagerie. Libby Horse and Nini Cat (Nini is short for Sephanini which is long for Sephie which is short for Persephone, got it?) round out the four legged population. Larry is a programmer but says of the cliche "Old programmers never die, they just GOSUB without RETURN" --that dates you; there are no GOSUBS anymore. The house on the hill is a comms center for Sector 42 and a major relay point for interstellar packet pockets between Hither and Yon. On the hillside of the front yard several thousand Christmas trees grow toward harvest and in the backyard a sugar bush produces gallons of maple syrup. Yum!
Griffin Bearit is an albino black bear who has to stay inside out of the summer sun and dares not go out in the winter for fear of getting lost in the snow. Sabine on the other hand is a very excellent mimic who answers the phone and parrots the calls of telephone solicitatorations--repeats anything said when it is awake. Sounds like an echo chamber. Just a mile down stream is Beaver Brook Falls and Picnic Park but the name of the river on which it falls is a secret not to be spoken in a loud voice nor written in any language but FingerPaint. Today there is a lot of snow in the air and much of it is collecting on the ground. I wonder if my little red Hertz comes equiped with a drogue chute...
Oso con Migo meets Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, and Sam. Big Bear and Little Bear live with Sam in Concord so that was a good place to stop for some Cherry Garcia and a comfortable sleep. Sam's home has wide pine flooring held together with old square nails and it is surrounded by a wide grassy yard at the end of a windy road. Tuesday morning I stopped at the department of motor vehicles to see about drivers license renewal. Some things *do* get better. The last time I tried to renew my New Hampshire license there was a great deal of problem because it had not expired yet--its that old farmer admonition: "If'n it ain't broke don't fix it" misapplied when something really is broke but nobody understands why--but I was going to be out of the country when it did expire. The best I expected to accomplish here was at least get the form and find out the cost but lo and behold the rules have changed; now one can renew an unexpired license providing it is within six months of the expiration date. It renews my faith in Humanity to share in such gracefully simple solutions.
Oso con Migo meets The Teddy Bear's Picnic at Hollis fourth grade. I hope I can remember all of my bear friends' names. Lars, Kringle, Chris, Teddy, Rodny, Pooh Bear, blacky, black bear, budy bear, Ted bear, Big Bear, Love Bug & Sown, Jake & Bear & Jingle & Krispie, fluffy, Teds & Coke Polar, Teddy, Chilli-Kasey, T-BOZ, Elmo-Casey. And all their Humans too. We all sat on a big couch while the kids made a chorus and sang the Teddy Bears' Picnic song. They were really Grrrreat!
We had a great Show&Tell and looked at all the postcards and things from places where Oso has traveled. The most asked question was -- Where have you travel'd and --How many places have you travel'd to. Both are pretty tough questions. How many places? Ten thousand places; and some of them twice or thrice. The most interesting question was --What stuffing factory did you go to? Is a stuffing factory anything like a school? Amy brought the bear shaped krispie bars and Kyle brought the cider for the picnic. Thanks! Oso sends a special thanks to ... for his hat and ... for their special gifts.
After Show&Tell Allison brought round a Memory Box she'd made to show me. The box had a lid and was finished with a covering of decorated paper. Late last summer a class mate of hers died and the Memory Box is full of things that were special to her.
I spent much of the afternoon getting a MAC (of all things) to behave properly with its own IP address. Netscape is now running and once the teacher is totally absorbed into cyberspace the rest of the class will follow before they've learnt how to divide. They don't call this thing the web for nothing.
At the bottom of the hill where my sister Susan lives is a playground with the sign: "Ballplaying on this diamond restricted to children 13 years old and under." And next to that is another: "Dogs and bicycles not allowed." Even if they are under thirteen? My sister-son says the age restriction is cos the older kids can hit the ball over the low fence and out into the street. And the bicycles and the dogs? Are they not allowed cos they might chase the balls? ;->
I'd gone out looking for some epoxy. Along the main street of Nashua was a CVS, its like an old time general store. Everything from soup to shampoo, whiteout to windshield washer fluid, books to band-aids, but no orange juice--that gentleman over there just bought the *last* one we had--and no epoxy. There was Krazy Glue, Super Glue, Elmer's Glue, Clear Glue, Rubber Glue, Glue Stick ... but no epoxy. I quested onward. There were several of those places that sell petrol along with the other essentials of Americana: Beer Bread Cigarettes. (Did you know that cigarettes are over ten dollars a carton?) One of them had an almost Yin/Yang like sign. In black on white it said "Pump First" and in white on black it said "Pay First".
--Do you have any epoxy please?
--What's that? (chew-chew) Eee--Pox-E?
--Its a kind of stuff you use to glue things together with.
--We only (chew) have Krazy Glew (chew-pop).
Oh Well. Tomorrow perhaps I might find a hardware store open.
Thanksgiving dinner with Susan and her family. I managed to shake up her inlaws when she put me on the spot for the blessing. After a morning spent ticking off the things done last night and redoing some of them, her husband stuffed and basted the bird during time-outs of the football game, I helped read the morning paper whilst peeling and chunking potatos and squash. (It occured to me to note that the potatos were in a bag with their skins on and the squash was in a bag skinless, halved and deseeded. The mark made by the skinning machine left the appearance the squash had been turned on a lathe.) We sat and held hands round the table; she looked at me. --Its a tradition in our house, she said, --starting now, the guest gives the blessing.
I bow'd my head and commenced to squeezing Morse code into her son's hand. --What are you doing? he asked.
--That's the blessing in Braile, I said.
My sister demanded I translate it out loud for the rest of the table.
--Rub-A-Dub-Dub! Thanks for the Grub! Yeaaaa God!
Her mother-inlaw's jaw dropped in surprise as her eyes tracked from me, across dinner spread on the table, to my sister holding hands with her. Susan recovered her composure:
--See, I told you he's been on the ice too long.
Finally the Carrot feels at home. London Winter Time is the same as Greenwich Mean (Nice) Time so the system clock and the IRL are in sync for this area. (Not to worry, it won't last long.)
Coming into London from over the pole (flying in a big airliner) was somewhat more like coming home than flying into LAX a few weeks ago. Despite the fact that London is nearly ten degrees further north than Boston the weather here is more like Lakeland Florida--there are still flowers blooming in some gardens and many trees are only beginning to drop their leaves. I like it except for the lack of sun. It's been raining off and on since I arrived. But right away after my taxi left me off at Pauline and Dave's home in south west London-- they just moved in a few months ago--it was time to go off to another Thanksgiving Dinner.
Thankgiving is not a national holiday in Britian but the feast is celebrated by some folks in the American tradition of turkey and cranberry sauce and all the trimmings. The dinner was forty minutes away through the downtown Sunday afternoon traffic at the home of Lisa, Maria and Dina, bearly ten miles, and Pauline insisted I sit in the front seat. I'm getting used to that but Oso sat in the back on top of the box containing the sweet potato casserole. (Coming back he would sit on the floor but that is not to be taken as any response to Dave's performance as a driver. He was just tired from all the fun.) A number of other friends gathered in the cozy flat and the meal went on through several courses punctuated by conversation covering an eclectic range of subjects from the disparity of creation stories to the duplicity of computer programmes. After dinner Dina worked on her Mechanno set construction of a helicopter (Mechanno is quite like Erector sets in America.) and with Dave's help introduced me to Window's 95 in something other than a showroom environment.
Then we went to a fine old beigel shop. (I say beigel, and you say bagel ...) This is a place where the beigels are being made right on the spot, production bearly keeping pace with purchasing at this point in the evening as the queue wraps twice along the counter. Out back men are cutting, weighing, kneading dough; bagels boil in a vat of water and are then turned out onto long boards, a dozen to each board, scorched black on the side that is always bottom down in the vast oven. The boarded bagels are slid into the oven, there might have been ten or fifteen beigel boards side by side, and the door closed down upon them leaving enough wood outside to make a cool handle. After the bagels baked for a few minutes the bagel baker opened the oven door and deftly dumped the baked bagels onto the oven floor. A few minutes later and they were raked out to cooling racks and brought to the front of the store to be sold. Yum!
And then on to deliver a dozen bagels and visit with Pauline's parents: Sam and Jina and Pauline's bear Teddy who taught Oso con Migo how to slide down a banister. Sam has the flu and carefully kept a distance when we sat for tea.
From Oso's Log --Teddy is a very old bear who knows well the wiles of royalty and wears a pair of fur lined lederhosen held up by black suspenders. Teddy takes his honey on matzoh and when I told about Beech's Peaches' wonderful chorus of the Teddy Bears' Picnic song Pauline and Jina broke out with a reprise. While the Humans were in the other room for tea Teddy taught me how to slide down the banister. It was heaps of fun but going round the sharp corners made my head spin.
A.J.Oxton, OA, OO, OAE, k1oIq
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Copyright © 2003, A.J.Oxton, The Cat Drag'd Inn , 03813-0144.