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Friday, June 29, 2012

The Great Smoke Out of 1968

Greetings to all on this sunny last Friday of June.

As the weather has gained importance across the country I will go right to our forecast, only I will just give you the quick highlights for the next 10 days.

Every day until Sunday the 8th will be sunny, with temps in the low 90's, light winds from the West and no precipitation. As we will be in Reno I will add that the temperature there will be about 5 degrees cooler, otherwise the same forecast.

We have a lot to get done before we can depart for the AG and increasingly less time to do it. Somewhere in this madness we need to remember to pack clothes and meds!

Today is our day to take Mr S. to lunch and shopping and make sure that all is in readiness for his care while we are gone. You would think that his living in an assisted living facility would make it all a snap, but we are called frequently to solve problems. We can only hope that it will be a quiet 10 days.

Sgt Mikki of the Highland Regiment of the Border Guard will have her own sitter coming to stay at the house with her. Of course the young lady will also be watching the house and bringing in the mail, etc.

Since I have mountains of message traffic to deal with and less than enough time to do it, I had better get to the story. A quick note, there will not be an entry for July 6th as I will be running the AG and won't have time to write or post.

The year 1968 was famous for so many things across the country that it is hard to remember that life was still going on as usual, and kids were still acting like the teenage goofballs that they are. Enjoy this short tale of hormonally charged mischief and remember; your kids (or grandkids) could do this too!

The Great Smoke Out of 1968

Every guy that has attended high school knows someone who has a "secret peephole" or knows of a "room" that the janitor has a key to, (but no one else) that allows you an unobstructed view of the girls locker room. Of course it's all BS, generated by hormone driven fantasies and wishful thinking, or I would have found it myself! In 1968 it was a fact of life that all of the guys wondered about who was "real" and who had "help" in the body shape department, if you know what I mean, and the girls certainly weren't going to tell.

So after a lot of hot air going back and forth in the guys locker room one afternoon, we decided that we were going to find out for ourselves and have proof to boot.

One of the fellows had a smoke bomb from some army surplus stuff that his dad collected and two others had Polaroid cameras that could take pictures that we wouldn't have to have developed, and get caught with pictures that would get us expelled!

But none of these guys were willing to plant the "BOMB" and that's where I came in. In retrospect, the courage that my friends claimed for me, was most decidedly just a lack of good sense. Saying "No", never occurred to me.
The highest concentration of really hot looking girls was on the cheerleading squads and they had PE last hour. That time when it was hot and you got really sweaty and HAD to shower. Our opportunity!

I went in after school hours the day before the big event and unscrewed the frame that held the louvered windows in place along the bottom of a back wall and then exited quickly so that I wouldn't give away the plan; it was going to work!

After the girls coaches and PE teachers had all gone home for the night, a couple of us went back to the school and pushed the frame in, listening for any sounds that might indicate someone inside; it was all clear! 

We entered the building and started searching around for a good location for the smoke bomb; the idea being to conceal it, but give us good coverage of smoke too. This was a lot harder than we thought and it was really dark in there; the plan was getting a little shaky. But wait! There was an air vent at the top of a wall near an entrance to the shower room; that would work!

We frantically unscrewed the vent cover and secured the smoke bomb to a bracket inside the duct with electrical tape and then ran some clear fishing line from the ring on the pin through the vent cover and down the wall behind some stand up lockers and out a lower window. This way we could yank the line and pull the pin from outside the locker room, free and clear. We fastened the vent cover and I let the other guy go through the window opening. I screwed the frame back in place and went out through a door that was locked, but could be opened from the inside without unlocking it. We made good our escape! Whew!

The next day the word was out all through our group and spread to others that we didn't really even know. The last hour of the school day came around and the guys started to gather. Such was their excitement that they skipped their last hour classes to get a good seat for "The big and small review". This was getting completely out of hand; there were guys sitting in lawn chairs on the concrete area behind the girls locker room with their cameras in their hands and dreams in their eyes. They just "knew" that they were going to see this one naked, or that one naked, and have pictures to fuel their teenage fantasies forever!

My own survival instinct kicked in; I didn't like the way things were developing and moved far away from the girls locker room entrance. I noticed that a few of the other guys who were in on the plan from the start were also fading back; trouble was coming, too many people knew about the gag.

The guy who volunteered to yank the pin didn't notice that we had faded away from the place where we figured to have the best shot at catching the girls running out, and at the appointed time he yanked the fishing line and pulled it completely out of the building, as planned. Amazingly, there was no ring on the end of the line; and we didn't hear any screaming or see any smoke.

All at once the screaming started; almost as if it was on cue. The smoke started to billow out of the lower louvered windows like it was driven, and then the door opened and some girls came running out wearing; raincoats? What the devil were they doing wearing raincoats? Was that all they had on? They were barefoot too, something was definitely wrong with this picture!

We didn't have to wait long for the answer. The girls in raincoats were decoys to draw the guys in close, hoping for a picture. A few seconds after them, came the "Hose Brigade" with several girls on each fire hose and they were drowning those boys! The guys sitting in lawn chairs got blasted right over backwards!

We learned later on that one of the guys in our group, (who was going steady with a cheerleader) didn't want all of us seeing her in all of her glory, so to speak. So he told her what was up and told her to find some excuse to go to the office or something, just don't be in the locker room 10 minutes after the girls came in off of the fields! The idiot! That girl was loyal to her fellow cheerleaders and wasn't about to let them be compromised, especially with pictures!

She was on the telephone within seconds of his departure. He left thinking that he was going to have it both ways; he gets to check out all the other girls, and nobody eyeballs his steady. The chump!

Every cheerleader in both squads knew within minutes and they were plotting their revenge before they even went to bed the night before. We were to get paid back for something that wasn't even going to happen! 

The girls clued the cheerleader coach first thing and they located the fishing line and bomb instantly. The bright boy had told his girl right where it was and they moved it to the back wall and fastened it to the window frame. The coach was creative and had electric fans standing by in the office to blow the smoke right out the windows; at us! 

They had girls waiting inside the door with charged hoses, and the decoy idea was a last minute stroke of genius by one of the girls. It worked great too! When they felt the tug on the line they all squealed on cue, I thought it sounded too "even", as they all screamed at the same time. And then they pulled the pin on the smoke bomb and fired up the fans, feeding us the smoke and keeping the locker room clear.

Those girls laid down a barrage of water that would make a fire company Captain proud! It certainly put out the fires in the jeans of all those guys hoping to catch some uncensored views of their favorite cheerleaders!

Their victory was so complete and their revenge so perfect that no one even tried to find out who was behind "the Great Smoke Out of 1968 ". No mention of this episode ever came from the office or coaches, or any staff, it was nerve racking! We anticipated incrimination every minute for weeks, it was brutal!

And we never tried anything like that again. We considered ourselves fortunate that we had escaped with our hides intact, it was best not push our luck. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Swim Pal

Hello friends and welcome back to insanity central. If you know your party's extension you can dial it now, but don't expect them to answer as they are all too busy. Get on, or get off as you please, but the merry-go-round does not stop! Wheeeee!

Life is a Looney Tune these days between Mensa gathering preparation, taking care of Mr S., and our own health issues we seem to be chasing our own tails constantly. Even celebrating grandkid's birthdays requires a three stage scheduling conference to accomplish.

One lovely constant is the weather in beautiful downtown Fallon, where cowboys and bikers sit down to eat with people of all colors and kids with rings in their noses, and everyone laughs at the antics of the waitresses. The temperature will be a mild 82 Fahrenheits pushed along by WSW winds of about 25 mph. The allergy meter is pegged by pollen and y'all better break out the sunblock if you are staying outside for long.

Today is our day to take Mr S to lunch and shopping at Walmart for the various things that he wants. We also have to deal with an issue that you would more commonly expect with a teenager; speeding! Not in a car fortunately for all of us, but in his powerchair in the assisted living facility. He has been terrorizing the occupants again and is about to lose his wheels. He will of course claim that he drives slowly and that the staff is "full of it", but we know better, having seen him in action. He gets worn out very quickly when he walks so we have to figure out something before he loses his ride.

I have a lot of issues stacking up to deal with so I had better get to the story for today. Enjoy!

My first high school, McArthur High School, was quite the place in the 1960's. The campus was large and the buildings although familiar to me for most of my life, were still imposing in their largeness. It was situated on 80 acres donated by Mr. J.N. McArthur for the purpose of having his name on something forever, which was a pretty good trade I'd say.
There was something about that school that brought out the devil in me. I could find more ways to get in trouble than you would think humanly possible, and there will be more stories about those days in the future, but right now I want to relate a "minor episode" that took place in 1968.

Swim Pal

The year was 1968, and we were scheduled to "enjoy" swimming in McArthur High School's new Olympic sized outdoor pool for PE class. Rough life, right? I had PE first hour; do you know what the temperature is like at 8:00 a.m.? Cold, painfully cold. The only thing that isn't shriveled to invisibility, are the goose bumps all over your body.

The class was coed, and that was cool, but the instructor for the entire time that we were to be using the pool, was a female coach who was an Olympic wanna-be that never made it. Don't get me wrong, not making it to the Olympics doesn't make someone bad, but saying that the Olympic coaches were prejudiced and didn't know greatness when they saw it; and believing what you are saying was weird. We kept waiting for the punch line, but she was serious.

We weren't allowed to use the 10 meter diving board, nor even the two 3 meter boards; and no diving in from the sides, you had to enter and exit via the steps at the shallow end. Geez, where's the kiddie pool?
The girls had to wear one piece bathing suits that were pre-approved by the coach and no exceptions. If you didn't do as instructed you got a zero for the class period. And every day that you failed to comply, you got another zero.

The guys also had to wear pre-approved suits that were not only lined, but you had to wear an athletic supporter under your suit too! This woman wasn't taking any chances that "anything" might show. As if it could at those temperatures!

The rules were so restrictive and rigid that fun was out of the question, and we're talking about kids who for the most part grew up in South Florida and spent so much time in the water that it's a wonder that they didn't have webbed feet... at least I don't think that any of them did.

There wasn't any "free swim" time at all, everything was structured and timed to the second it seemed. She blew a whistle for entering the water and exiting the water. And again for changing from one activity to another, and to the next one, etc., it was maddening.
Without a doubt the most aggravating and insulting thing was her "Swim Pal" rule. She assigned someone to you as your "Swim Pal", and you didn't get to pick, or even have any say in the choice. Personally I think she stayed up late at night going over "secret files" to find out who you really despised, and then assigned them to you; to be joined to you like a Siamese Twin. You couldn't get into or out of the water unless your "Swim Pal" was within arm's reach. The coach made us hold hands, "For Safety", getting in and out of the pool. You only had "Swim Pals" of your same sex (she didn't want to risk boys and girls touching hands). Can you just picture high school boys being told that they had to hold hands with another guy? We ignored that rule completely and got several lectures about our attitudes. The girls did it, but then, they were girls; it was no big deal to them!

We thought that the strict rules must be to get us into a routine, and that after the first week everything would relax and we would get to have some fun; not true. Do you have any idea how much fun it is to stand in three feet of water, leaning over blowing bubbles in the water, and moving your arms like you are swimming? And freezing to death the whole time! Exhilarating!

The pool itself was truly beautiful and huge, it could be a lot of fun! It was 3 feet deep at the shallow end and 15 feet deep at the drain, sloping up to 12 feet around the edges of the "deep end"; that place that PE students could only dream about. The 10m and both of the 3m boards were tunable and had excellent spring. The ladder to the high board had really nice steps that you could climb barefoot and not be in pain by the time that you got to the top. The entire pool and it's very large pump house were enclosed by a six foot high chain link fence with personnel gates on all four sides and a big double gate next to the pump house for maintenance personnel to drive through, and concrete everywhere, acres of it!

The pump house had not only the pumps and filters for the pool, but a storage area and workshop for the person who maintained the pool. There were chemical mixing, water sampling, filter cleaning and repairs of all kinds to done with such a big pool. The people who donated the money to build the pool wanted things to be done right, so they kicked in the extra money for this pool man's paradise.

Enter the Pool man!

The guy that maintained the pool, Sam, was a school employee; officially he belonged to the Janitorial branch of the Maintenance Department. In actuality, he was an independent operator. He didn't "do" anything else; not cleaning, not sprinklers, not even ordering supplies for anything other than "his" pool. His qualifications for getting hired were that he had once worked for a pool cleaning company; somewhere... sometime.

Sam was Ed Norton's twin,(Honeymooners), but with dark hair and a seemingly permanent five o’clock shadow. He even had the hat and vest like Norton and a cheap cigar stuck in his mouth but never lit. I don't think that it was part of the deal, but Sam lived in the pump house and of course, paid no rent. Sam was also a drunk and carried a half-pint of booze in the inside pocket of his vest everywhere that he went. He thought that he was really sneaky, grabbing a "nip" here and there, but all the kids knew it, and I can't speak for the teachers, but they would have to be blind not to know too.

Sam was supposed to check the water daily and monitor the chlorine level to keep the pool bacteria free and conform to health and safety codes, etc., and adjust the chlorine level every three days like clockwork. But Sam's clock didn't run on the same schedule; he only dumped chlorine into the system on Monday mornings, shortly before the staff arrived, so that they could smell the chlorine and say, "old Sam's on top of things all right." What he was on top of most of the time was a bunch of laundry bags filled with towels, passed out drunk. From Friday afternoon to Monday morning, Sam was smashed and immune to the forces of nature, including Kryptonite. Nothing could rouse the guy from his stupor!

Which brings me to: "Operation Swim Pal"

We were sick-to-death of simulated swimming and coaches trying to get us to hold hands with a guy that wore his bathing suit up to his armpits and picked his nose all the time! It was time for desperate measures! Fun must be restored, or surely we would all perish from terminal boredom and frostbite.

My long time buddies Ralph and Larry were in the same class and felt the same way I did and we got to talking about what it would take to liven up this situation. Our other regular partner in mischief Sam, met us at Larry's house on the reservation, (they are all Seminole Indians by the way) that afternoon and we sat around BS'ing about one idea after the other; and getting nowhere. A horn honked and we looked up to see our older friend Joe driving by waving, on his way to work at the tribal show where he wrestled alligators! The idea was born in that instant and we never looked back!

Sam said that we could borrow an alligator from his uncle's pens where they let the tourists pay their money to line up and look at the gators; which very seldom moved unless it was feeding time and somebody was tossing them chickens or fish.

There were lots of gators to choose from and we wanted one that was big enough, but not so big that we couldn't handle it.

All four of us had been taught by Sam's uncle and Joe, how to handle an alligator and we were feeling pretty confident when we picked out a five footer from an out-of-the-way corner pen and planned our next steps without even having a try at moving the gator. We knew that we could do it when the time was right.

Putting the Plan into action.

We decided on Sunday night for all of the phases of "Operation Swim Pal" and talked ourselves into a frenzy until the night arrived at last. If it had taken one more day I believe that we would have simply exploded.
First we went to the school and out to the pump house, where we knew that Sam would be and we weren't disappointed; he was passed out on the towel bags like usual. We lifted his key ring and unlocked the big gates and then gathered up all the chlorine bottles that were out and the ones from the storage room and locked them in another locker and then took that key off of the key ring. No chlorine would get into the pool now! We made sure that we could get a truck up to the pool and satisfied with what we saw, departed for phase two.

At the Reservation showplace we pulled around to the back where we could get to the gator pens and parked and nonchalantly wandered around to the front to see if any tourists were still there and what was happening in the pen area. There were a couple of little old ladies in the gift shop and they were the last of the day's crowd. The animals had all been fed and watered, and all the areas hosed down and closed up for the night. Conditions were just right for taking a gator for a little ride.

We went out the front talking to all the girls in the gift shop and making sure that everyone saw that we left. Then we walked a big loop back to the truck and opened the gate (that Sam had unlocked when we were inside) and went directly to our guest for the evening and got in the pen with him. We jumped on him and got some duct tape around his mouth to keep it shut, so he couldn't call for help... Gotcha! So he couldn't bite us, of course!

We were operating like pro's up until the time that we went to pick him up. We had handled bigger alligator's before and really didn't expect any problems, but the gator didn't know that; he was a pain! For one thing; he was a lot heavier than we expected, and two; it was like trying to hold onto the propeller on a 75hp Mercury outboard motor. This was the squirmingest gator that any of us had been up against! We got him up under our arms with Sam on the head, then me at the front legs and Larry, (who probably was the strongest of all of us), at the hind legs and started out of the pen and towards the truck. Ralph had to hold the spring-loaded gate open inside the pen and then run around us and work the outer gate and put the tailgate down on the truck.

The gator calmed down a little and we were lulled into a false sense of security until Ralph let the gate slam and started around us. The gator tail-slapped him and just about fed him to his relatives! Larry had to let go and grab Ralph as he was going over a low wall and into a holding pond with two 10 foot alligators who would have loved a "Ralphie-snack ". Had Larry not reacted as quickly as he did the big male gator who was coming up out of the water in anticipation, would have had Ralph by the head!

Sam and I did not have a chance to admire Larry's handiwork though, because as soon as he let go, the gator we were hanging onto went into an "airborne death roll ". I don't know how else to describe it; he was spinning his entire body with us hanging on for dear life to the front end! We fell to the ground with him and by that time Larry and Ralph were able to fall on top of him too and we subdued the beast! From there out to the truck he behaved and we got him loaded and covered with a tarp to keep him from getting chilled on the ride and got our tired and beat up bodies in the front and looked at each other in silence.

Larry said, "Do you want to try and find a smaller one instead?" We thought about it a moment and Sam said, "Hell, we've already got this one loaded up, let's go!" And away we went; for phase three!

Arriving at the pool at about 10:00 p.m. on a Sunday night, you don't have much of a crowd around, so we didn't even hesitate, we opened the gates to the driveway and backed through and closed them again, so if a police unit went by on patrol, they would not stop to see why the gates were open.

Then we backed all the way to the pool fence and stopped the truck. Three of us went through the gate and into the pump house via the door from the poolside to check on Sam (the pool man). The door was never locked because Sam liked to walk out and pee in the pool instead of using the bathroom inside his building. I'm sure he got a perverse pleasure from knowing that all those people who talked bad about him were swimming in that water. We knew that he did it and just figured that the chlorine would take care of it. It wasn't like peeing in a pool was an original idea or anything.

Satisfied that he was still unconscious, we backed the truck up to the edge and slid the coach's new "Swim Pal " out of the bed and onto the concrete where we all piled on to him while Sam took the tape off. We discussed leaving the tape on him , but were afraid that he might drown or something. So with the tape off and four of us holding on this time we eased him into the water to get a little exercise and calm down before his "introduction" to his new "Pal" , the coach from boredom hell.

Monday morning arrived and there was no evidence of anyone having been there at all; the gates were all closed and locked, and there were no tire tracks remaining. All was well and apparently normal, except that there was no overpowering smell of chlorine coming from the pool. And the pool man wasn't in evidence yet to ogle the girls in their swimsuits like he normally did.

One of the things that chapped our butts the worst, was that while we weren't allowed to do anything other than stand around in the shallow end looking stupid, either fake-swimming or doing calisthenics in the water the coach started every session by going up on the 10m board and "impressing" us with her fabulous diving ability. And then swimming the length of the pool, like we cared! Today we cared, in fact we were counting on her vanity or ego, or whatever the driving force was that made her have to show us how good she was all the time. It was vital to the plan!

We had found one of the underwater slates used to communicate when submerged, in the storage area. They were used for the scuba instructor course that was taught after school on Wednesday and were much larger than the personal slates used just to communicate. On it we had printed this message in large letters, "Look before you dive, a Swim Pal suitable for you has arrived!" We then tied this to the mid-pool buoy line so that it could be seen from the 10m board and all was ready.

The coach didn't let us down, she entered the pool area in her speedo suit and her bathing cap and her towel wrapped around her shoulders like a cape. You could almost hear the fanfare. Meanwhile we peasants or, students, were lined up along the outside of the fence on the sidewalk, boys on one side, and the girls on the other side of the pool; can't be too careful, you know.

She made her grand entrance through the gate and walked out to the ladder, each step with toes pointed forward and down, like some kind of ballerina or something and slipped her towel off with a flourish and tossed it onto a 3m board and turned and ascended the ladder to stardom. HA! If she only knew!

She made her way up the ladder and walked out and turned around, facing away from the pool. Damn! She was going to do some kind of back dive and never even looked at the water! How was she supposed to see the sign if she wasn't looking at the water? This was not in the plan!

Before you panic, let me explain something about alligators. An alligator doesn't like or dislike people, it only sees things as something to eat or something that might try to eat him. People are too large to be on the menu of a five footer, so there was never any danger to any human, as long as they don't grab the gator, which would make him fear being eaten and would try to get away by rolling and tail slapping and biting if necessary to save itself. A gator in an Olympic size pool has more room to outmaneuver any attempts to catch him than in any pond in the Everglades, so he doesn't even feel threatened.

Now back to the action.

The Queen of Aquatica has risen upon her Dais and is preparing to amaze her captives with her death-defying dive, (if she only knew) and we were at a loss to figure out how to correct this error in planning... we had no plan"B"!

Suddenly a solution came from the most unlikely source; Sam the Pool man! He wandered out in a drunken stupor, with a bewildered look on his face, holding his pants up with one hand. He walked over to the pool and apparently didn't know that anyone else was there, because he just let go of his pants and started peeing in the pool. His pants naturally fell around his ankles and the man didn't have any drawers on! He was naked from his belly button to his socks! When Sam looked out into the pool he made eye contact with our green visitor and he screamed! The gator was swimming towards him, and I guess he thought that he was doomed or something, because he passed out and fell over backwards, pants around his ankles and exposed to the heavens... and the 10 meter board.

The coach had her concentration broken when Sam screamed and sent a ferocious glare down towards the fool who had interrupted her "moment", and then she had another, more intense "moment", as she realized that he was lying there exposed to the world and she was staring at, what she was staring at! And then she screamed even louder than Sam! And she had not even see the gator yet.

There was general pandemonium amongst the gathered crowd and a little twinge of disappointment from us; this didn't work out as planned. She was supposed to see the gator in the pool and have a hissy fit and we would all laugh, etc. 

But all things come to those who wait. As she was climbing down the ladder from the 10m board, the coach was having a hard time keeping her eyes off of the man below, now obviously; that was just because she was concerned about his welfare and had nothing to do with... anything else. As she reached the concrete and managed to look away, she finally spotted the gator swimming along the edge of the pool and it must have been too much for her, because she fainted; right on top of Sam and wouldn't you know it, the photographer from the school paper was there covering an "event" that a "little birdie" had told him about. Go figure!

I wondered when Larry did it, but it was clearly a stroke of genius on his part, although maybe for not quite the same reason, but still genius.

When we had checked on the pool man prior to unloading the gator, Larry had pulled Sam's belt off and fastened it around the alligator's middle, right in front of his hind legs. It was probably to make handling him easier, but that belt was all the evidence that the staff needed to have, along with him being drunk, exposing himself and peeing in the pool that is. It was clear that Sam the pool man had done all of this himself; after all, he was the only one with keys to everything.

We volunteered to catch the little fellow and take him away and that created some suspicion among the wiser of the old hands around there. They weren't saying anything, but I think that they knew all right. And they were happy with things the way they worked out and didn't want to hear any variations of the story that might upset the outcome. So we shut up!

Because of the large amount of water for him to maneuver in we had to modify the normal jump and grab, catch method. We prodded him along with the long poles used to scoop leaves and the like from the water and a rescue pole with a curved hook on the end. Once we had him in shallow water Sam and I jumped in on him at the same time. Sam went for the head and I grabbed the hind legs with my arms and wrapped my legs around his tail.

We both had ropes tied around our waists to haul us in with once we got a hold on the alligator, and Larry and Ralph did just that, and in a hurry too, in case we had the wind knocked out of us and were trying to drown or something silly like that.

The gator didn't put up much fight and that worried us, we'd better get him warmed up! He had been in cold water for 10 hours without being able to get out and warm himself in the sun and he was not responding like we figured that he should. We asked for permission to take the gator out to the Reservation where the Seminoles would better be able to help him and got it!

It was too ironic; we got an excused absence for the rest of the day and we put him in there in the first place!
The pool was closed for the remaining three weeks of our "swimming" section of PE, while they drained the water and had the pool cleaned by the new professional pool service which had quickly been contracted to take over maintenance of the facility.

Sam the pool man was fired and when they checked through his office in the pump house, they found evidence (in two different sets of log books) that he had been selling chemicals and supplies to private pool cleaning outfits, mostly chlorine and filters, for as long as he had been there.

The coach went back to Home Economics, were her degree was, and each PE teacher conducted their own classes after that, much to the delight of the students who were allowed to swim and even play water polo, and volleyball, In the DEEP end!

We couldn't stand the guilt and told the Principal that we had put the gator in the pool, not Sam. He gave us a short lecture and then said in light of what they had found out and the money that would be saved because of it, he considered it a closed subject as long as we didn't try a stupid stunt like that again. 

We said, "No Sir, we'll never do that again, it was too much work!" 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Kamp Sunshine

Greetings friends,

I am doing my best to steal a moment for myself here this morning but I confess that even as I do so, guilt rides on my shoulders for not attending to the mountains of Mensa gathering business awaiting my attention. Sure, they will still be there when I am done with this, but I take my responsibilities very seriously and try to always put them ahead of my needs or wants.

Yesterday was particularly rough, as I was attacked by spambots from India, then China and finally the USA, sending me advertisement mail of every conceivable type to the tune of 200 in an hour. While I was blocking, deleting and doing what I could to keep going, I noticed more warnings popping up from my security program and then failure messages and operational failures of programs. As I was shutting down all non-essential programs still working, I noticed to my amazement and consternation, that I no longer had control of my mouse and that it was being moved remotely in an attempt to open files.

I was being actively hacked! I did as instructed by a trusted computer expert and shut down! I pulled the power cord out, pulled the battery out and briefly turned off modem and wireless router. I stayed "dark" for hours and used my phone to email warnings and briefly answer critical mail.

When I got home from a meeting that we had to attend last night, I attempted to start my computer and had to resort to my restore programs and back up information to get it back online. I also had to uninstall and re-install my security program as it had been corrupted by the attack.

So, mister or miss hacker out there, let me save you the trouble; I have no government secrets, I have no money or secret accounts, I am not the droid you are looking for; move along.

We are just a little over two weeks from the start of the national Mensa convention and work is fast and furious at this point. The stress level for all of us is high and we are all tired; and the gathering hasn't even started yet! What a roller coaster ride!

Today is our day to take Mr S. to lunch and do his grocery shopping and I anticipate that it will be emotionally draining as we try to keep things in perspective. His dementia coupled with the desire to have everything back the way it was when he was in charge of the world around him, makes for a frustrating day.

All anyone can do who is in a caretaker role, is to try to keep smiling and do the best you can do. You can't turn the clock back, and you can't restore their minds. Remind yourself frequently that you are doing the best that you can for your loved one and their demise is no one's fault, it is just life. Then when you are done, go have ice cream. Hey, it works for me!

Why don't we hop into Mr Peabody's way back machine and travel to a time when life was so much simpler and guilty pleasures were the best, because we didn't know that we were "supposed" to feel guilty. Enjoy!

Kamp Sunshine                                                       

When you are twelve years old, as I was in 1965, it doesn't take much to get you excited.

 One of the benefits of living in south Florida is the almost continuous sunshine and fresh air, which makes being out of doors the natural thing to do. Who could stay inside with sunshine you could smell and sea breezes that felt so good on your skin? Not me!

The Snake

My nearly constant companions, Larry, Sam, and Ralph and I decided on one Saturday morning that it was an excellent day for snake hunting. Our destination was the pine and palmetto forest west of the Indian Reservation, between Hollywood and Ft. Lauderdale and west of the main concentration of people.

It didn't take us long to search the area that we normally messed around in. We knew it all too well, and possibly IT knew us that well too. IF there were any critters, they certainly knew what we sounded and smelled like and avoided us with great success. Not only had we not caught any snakes, we hadn't even seen one all morning.

We made a joint decision to move to a previously unexplored patch of forest even farther to the west. The area seemed more remote and quieter than all the rest of sunny Florida and this was a good thing. We relocated and set about searching for snakes.

We didn't get too far when a Blue Racer broke cover and the chase was on! This wasn't the first time that we had worked together in this type of endeavor and we quickly caught up with the snake. Like the local nickname for this species indicated, the "Davie Cobra" turned and faced us, rearing up at least one third of its body length in an amazing threat display. This was a good one, at least four feet long and ornery. They are NOT poisonous, just mean. They really like to bite!

Larry grabbed the tail from behind while it focused on me. The snake spun and bit him on the arm causing him to let go, and the other two to jump in. They were not fast enough to grab him and he was on the go again. He fairly flew across a grassy area, apparently heading for the cover of some pine trees which were all in a row. I didn't have a clue where we were. We had been running so hard to keep up with this snake that I had lost track of where we came from. But no matter, the snake turned and reared again, it was probably getting tired. I know I sure was.

The Fence

That's when we heard the laughing.

When we stopped running and could hear again, the sound of women laughing floated to us on the breeze. A quick scan of the area made it most likely that the sound was coming from beyond the pine trees. So we went on over to the trees; we might as well, while we were gawking and listening, the snake had given us the slip and was nowhere to be seen.

When we got to the trees we could hear the voices clearly and realized that there were several women talking. What in the world were they doing out here?

Inside the tree line was a vertical board fence, meant for privacy I guess, but from whom? There wasn't even a road the way we came in. The fence was only about six feet high, problem was; we weren't. It wasn't too hard to find a break in the boards as they looked like they had been there a long time and were in need of repair.

Kamp Sunshine

Oh My God! I was so glad that they didn't fix that fence. If I had caught that snake, I'd have kissed it on the lips! Those women didn't have ANY clothes on! We had stumbled upon a nudist colony, or a naturist retreat, as they were called by some at the time. Whatever anyone else wanted to call it, to us it was paradise. We were only about twelve you know, and looking was much more than we could hope for. And, there they were; naked... ALL OVER!

There were men there too, but who cared. The women were mostly older, but all ages seemed to be represented, (from babies to grandmothers), and all shapes, sizes, hair color and degrees of tan were on display.

We had found enough openings so that all of us had our own spot to look through, and we recognized several of the people inside. I was glad that I wasn't required to speak at that point. I don't think that I could have made any sound come out. WOW!

Being deeply engrossed in our studies of the female version of human anatomy and its moving parts, we didn't hear the old guy walk up on us. He was the caretaker and security guard for Kamp Sunshine and was patrolling the "perimeter" when he spotted us.

This guy was the walking, talking example of living to be old. He was in his late seventies or more, wrinkled, a scraggly grey beard stubble like he hadn’t shaved for a week and suntanned the color of old leather. He was uniformed in Khaki shorts, flip flops and a pith helmet, with a gut hanging over his belt line that seemed to need a wheelbarrow, and with the white coating on his nose like a lifeguard, maybe he was that too!

When he saw us he spit out the stump of a cigar that he had been chewing on and started yelling obscenities and making threats against our male parts if we didn't depart with the utmost haste and certainty. The guy was very annoying... but we were under the influence of guilt at the time, so we complied.

By the time we had entered the trees on the other side of the grassy clearing, we came to our senses. We went right back to our spots and continued our observations of the female form in motion; which was lovely, just lovely!

I guess the old guy must have figured us out. Instead of continuing around on his loop, he doubled back on us, stopping by his guard shack to grab his shotgun.

The Battle

He came at us yelling and pointing the shotgun. Not knowing what he would do, we had to go on what he could do, and took off on the run. As we gained momentum we felt safer and then the blast hit us from behind. Thank God it was only rock salt, man that stuff stings!

Shooting us was not necessary and we were mad about it. We went back to the car, which we found by back-tracking our own footprints, and went after some equalizers.  We rounded up some BB guns and ammunition and headed back to even the score with him for blasting us while running away. One slight problem: we didn't recognize the starting point to get to the Kamp.

Then we caught a break. Where there is a helicopter circling, there are naked women below. The local "Eye-in-the-Sky" traffic helicopter was locked right on to the volleyball game in progress and turning in tight circles.

We took our positions once more, but up in the trees this time, loaded and ready. There we waited for our chance, which came before too long. The old man appeared, talking to himself and still packing that shotgun. When he got close enough we yelled at him and as he raised the shotgun to shoot us again, we let him have it from all sides! We were only shooting BBs and without much power behind them, so they weren’t going to do any damage to his leather-like hide. And, no head shots were ever allowed, by our own rules.

He retreated and we figured that we had stirred up enough trouble. What we had done was very likely to get the cops called on us, so we reluctantly left "paradise" and went back to the world of "clothing NOT optional" and other bitter realities of life. We didn't return again. We figured that the old guard probably changed his ammunition to something more lethal (like bird shot) and would be waiting for the chance to get even with us.

When I recognized certain women after that I couldn’t help but remember what I had seen, and it always brought a smile to my face. Life was indeed very exciting at twelve years old in the Sunshine state! 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Kailua Kona

Welcome to Friday my weary friends! It has been a long week, of long days for me and probably all of you as well, as we try to do too much in too short of a time span. With the amount of sunshine we have now it is hard to stop trying to do "one more thing" while it is still light outside.

The weather for beautiful downtown Fallon, where the birds go human watching and the dogs take naps, will be mostly sun covered skies and a very pleasant 80 Fahrenheits to warm the bones, while we hang onto our hats because of the 20-30 mph winds from the west. Don't let the mild temperatures fool you, put on that sunblock if you will spend any time outside the UV index is Very High.

I am trying to hold tough and write this blog as the e-mails bang into my inbox and trigger my insane compulsion to answer them immediately, but it is hard. I have to remind myself (and you should too) that no matter what job we have taken on, we must do what it takes to keep our own sanity or the rest won't matter anyway.

Today we take Mr S. to lunch and then to nuthouse that is Wally World to do his shopping. I am apprehensive as to what his mental state will be this morning after spending hours with him earlier this week and seeing that his short term ability to remember anything was almost nil. We were making duct tape roses (google it) which is not a difficult project and is mostly repetition. He had to be told each time we did a step how to do it, over and over again. Which we did of course, but it is difficult to watch someone who was capable of complex construction thinking, unable to remember how to fold a piece of tape.

Mr S. has been feeding the birds in the parking lot outside of his assisted living complex and the other residents and staff leave a parking space open, just for the birds. He is over doing it, dumping about 20 lbs of birdseed out there a week, but the birds aren't complaining and the residents are having fun watching quail, doves, pigeons, yellow-headed blackbirds and the ever present sparrows gorge themselves. If it makes him happy, we will continue hauling bags of seed to him. It is funny to watch what happens when someone parks where the birds eat and the residents give them Hell for blocking the birds spot. The facial expressions are priceless as they splutter out, "I didn't know, I didn't know!"

Also on today's agenda is a trip to Reno for one errand and then the Bridal Shower for our soon to be daughter-in-law Ashley. She is a delightful girl and brings a lot of joy and stability to our son Patrick and we are very happy to have her in our family. Which leads us to today's story.

Anna and I got married January 1, 1996 and after an epic battle with my Postmaster who tried to cancel my leave, we departed on our Honeymoon to Hawaii. The following is the tale of our day trip to the big island to see the erupting volcanoes. I hope you enjoy the travelogue.

Kailua Kona

I trusted someone else to make the arrangements and didn't follow up on it myself, so it's as much my fault as the travel agent. We planned a day trip to Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, Hawaii, during our honeymoon in 1996 and it almost turned into an "over-nighter" without the park.

To travel inter-island via air, you have to go through Honolulu coming and going, at least you did on Hawaiian Air in January of 1996 when we did it; and Honolulu Airport is no fun on a good day.

We left Maui on the first flight out in the morning, bound for Honolulu and our connecting flight, back across Maui to Hawaii, the Big Island, home of Volcanoes National Park. The flight to Oahu was easy, nothing to it; but when you have to deal with the desk people at the gates in the Honolulu airport, you wonder why you subject yourself to such aggravation. They routinely overbook and will sell your seat right out from under you, or bump you for some one that they are trying to make points with or taking a bribe from, like the Japanese business groups from the home office of Hawaiian Air. They tried to bump us from our connecting flight to Kona but I wouldn't stand for it.

If I had paid more attention to the arrangements we wouldn't have flown into the Kailua Kona airport. It was as far in the opposite direction from the park that you could go. We should have flown into Hilo and then it would just be a short ride to the Volcanoes. But shoulda and coulda, don't fix much.

We had a rental car reserved at the Kona airport and when we got off the DC-9 and went to Dollar Rent-A-Car, (who we had used several times and liked), they showed our reservation all right; but no car. They said that we should just wait and it would come in. After a round of I-don't-think-so, they offered to upgrade us to another car for only.... I wasn't buying it, I said NO. Same price, your fault! OK, OK. They hate it when the crazy howlie gets in their face.

They gave us a Chrysler Lebaron convertible instead of the compact car. After losing an hour messing around with rental car BS, we finally hit the road. There was still the little matter of driving around to the other side of the island, seeing the park, and making it to Hilo to fly out again. Oh Yeah; we had them change our departure point from Kona to Hilo. We never would have made it on time otherwise.

The convertible was a nice touch; at first. Sunny Hawaii and all, but as Murphy was our tour guide on this expedition, naturally it started to rain and continued to rain for most of the trip around the southern end of the really big, (at least it seemed like it), island.

I wanted to see the black sand beaches, so when we saw the sign for the turn off, we took it and followed the short road to the beach. It was as black as ground up fresh charcoal and there were people of all sizes, shapes, and modes of dress on that ebony landscape.

There were a couple of girls in their twenties on a towel wearing only a thong bottom, with several admirers drooling around them. A family of Europeans, (who proved to be German once we heard them speak), swimming around the rocks with snorkels; looking at or for something, I couldn't quite figure it out. There was a self-proclaimed priest of some variety preaching away, standing waist deep in the water wearing a tie-dyed caftan and sporting a head full of hair growing in all directions and an equally profuse beard, all in a silvery-gray color. A small contingent of the black socks and sandals crowd off of a tour bus, and a scattering of the rest of us; who were a more or less normal appearing group.

In the gift shop/concession stand/you name it store, they were selling samples of black sand in a bottle, but right along side of that was a sign that proclaimed the bad luck which would befall you if you removed any sand from this sacred beach. I didn't need any more bad luck, and I didn't need to bring sand home to Nevada. Sand we have lots of!

As we were taking a few pictures, while working our way back to the car to leave, a local resident became very belligerent and aggressive, giving voice to his opinion of tourists in general, and me in particular; and I hadn't done a stinking thing to him! When he started poking me in the legs and trying to bite me, I had finally had enough and picked up a stick to whack him with. And then I saw the sign. Damn! He was a protected species of pest. A Hawaiian NeNe Goose to be exact. What a bully!

On around to the park we raced, wanting to get there while we still had enough light to use all the camera gear we were hauling with us and get some spectacular shots of molten lava flowing to the sea. It was going to be awesome!

We finally reached the turn off and marveled at the lack of traffic; until we reached the entrance gate and there sitting in his car, munching potato chips, listening to the radio was the gate guard. The sign said "Park Closed". What the Hell do they mean, "Park Closed!" we drove, and flew, and waited, and flew, and drove some more, to see this park! Nowhere in our travels on this day, did anything say that the "Volcanoes National Park" is closed. I asked if we could just drive the loop, once around, staying in our auto and take a look and then come right back out and check out with him.

It wasn't the "no", as much as it was the way it was delivered to us, that made me angry. The jerk said, "What don't you understand? I said no, STUPID!" I wanted to remove this insignificant gnat from his home on wheels and throw him into the molten lava that we were not going to be allowed to see, and sacrifice him to the Gods of Vacationing-with-limited-time-and-funds, to appease their anger with us. They must be angry to keep "Murphying" all over us like this! The Park was closed because of the "No Money to run the Government" BS they pulled in January of 1996 and we unknowingly timed it perfectly!

Anna wouldn't let me hurt him, so we left, following the perimeter of the park in the general direction of Hilo, where we had to end up to catch our flight, etc. We could see a plume of steam rising from where the lava hit the sea and it was calling to us and we kept trying to go to it, following roads to nowhere through cane fields and small communities. We traveled past more and more empty buildings, always turning towards the steam. Somehow we located a road that took us to the edge of a recent lava flow.

It was completely cooled and hard and the signs said "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing" so of course we went on in. We weren't alone, there were quite a few people who weren't ready to accept "No" for an answer and were trying to reach the current lava flow, specifically where it emptied into the ocean. We went as far as time allowed and took pictures of where the lava had crossed the road and just bulldozed everything in it's path and then had to leave for Hilo and our flight.

We made it to Hilo in good time and even took time out for a bite to eat at Port of Subs. We got the car gassed up and turned in to the Dollar Rent-A-Car folks and checked in for our flight back to Honolulu then on to Maui. I was looking forward to the ocean breezes coming in through the open doors of our 7th floor balcony, back at the Kaanapali Shores. I was ready for a nap but we still had some traveling to do yet.

When we checked in at the desk, it wasn't looking real good; the place was packed solid with outbound passengers and we were booked on the last flight out. After about an hour we started hearing noises about the last flight being canceled due to mechanical problems, and we were getting worried that we were going to be stuck in this airport all night with countless gobs of people and no where to go, and no car either, we had already turned that in.

After working in the aviation industry for years, I knew that everything was not always as it seems and looked over the ticketing and gate crew until I spotted what I recognized as an old veteran who knew the ways of the business and could make things happen. I approached this person with a nonchalant, but friendly question about: what would the procedure be for connecting flights to Maui and where was the airline going to put us up and feed us for making us miss our flights, etc.

When the "blame" and reason for "out of budget" expense falls on their watch, the effort to accommodate the "connecting" passengers seems to intensify and things begin to happen. No one wants the finger of blame pointed their way.

The gate attendant told me to wait by the railing at a particular gate and as soon as there was an airplane on the ramp, we were being escorted out to it and boarded right away. We had no more gotten our seat belts fastened than the plane was on it's way to Honolulu, bypassing Kona because we had no room and no one to offload there.

The flight was short and smooth and also the last flight out of Hilo that night. They shut the airport down right behind us; no more airplanes until 7:00 a.m. Hawaiian time. Which could mean 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. "all-a-same-same" whenever. "Hawaiian" time is a general estimate and not to be confused with the position of clock hands.

When we landed at the Honolulu airport, I asked the gate attendant about the flight to Maui and was informed that it was boarding and would be leaving real soon. And it was... you guessed it; the last flight of the night! Using my lifetime of being in airports skills, I asked the gate attendant to call over to the departure gate and tell them that we were on our way to them and already had tickets, and that we had just arrived on their airline and that we requested that they hold the flight until we boarded. After all it was their fault that we were late again.

If you know the right words to use, you can get things a little closer to your way; they held the flight and we ran to the gate and got on board and had safe and very smooth flight to Maui. Where our little gray Cirrus rental car was sleeping in the parking lot, waiting for us to get back.

We made it back to the hotel just in time to get a piece of cheese cake from the restaurant and take it up to our room and collapse. What a day!

One last note: Never book the last flight of the day flying inter-island, the cancellation rate is ten times that of the rest of the day, according to the airline people themselves. For whatever reason; pilot fatigue, flight hours, mechanical problems, not enough passengers to bother with, good party to go to, don't feel like making one more run tonight; they will pull the plug on you! Fly smarter and you will have less stress!