Dan’s Lawnmower Doesn’t Work Again, But…

I have a long uneasy relationship with gas machines around the house.  I recently posted on my aversion to the evil leaf blower.  (Click here for that blog.)  We once had a behemoth snowblower for our 150′ driveway.  It proved on unwieldy so now we have Nolan who plows when we get a big storm.

But this is a story about a lawn mower that went down a dark rabbit hole until…  Well, let me explain.

Mower - itself

After two years of lawn mower neglect, this past spring I take my mower to Eldredge Repair for servicing.  Returning home and pulling on the cord, the engine sputters, and then conks out completely after thirty seconds.  Really!  I just paid a C note for the repair!  (i.e. $100)

Checking the gas tank, I find it low, but not unreasonably so.  Even so, hoping for a green lawn miracle, I drive down to the Irving Station for some gas, return home, pull the cord – La meme chose!  Nothing, as it runs weakly for 30 seconds, then conks out.

When in small engine need, I default to reaching out to my neighbors for support.

Ergo, I text Marco, a thirty-something who lives diagonally across the street.  Marco responds, Remove the gas cap and see if the engine runs better.  If it does, this signifies a plugged gas cap vent and is quite common.  If u need to borrow mine, you sure can. 

mower - cap off

Unscrewing the gas cap, I pull the cord once more, but it nonetheless sputters and dies.  Still, the interaction with Marco brightens my afternoon.

With Bob’s Jeep in the driveway across the road, I walk over, explain my situation, and ask if he has any ideas.  Suggesting that I spray the carburetor, he says I can borrow his spray if I want.  When he hands me the can, I admit that I have no idea where the carburetor is.  Before I can ask for his help, he offers to come over to take a look.

Bob sprays, I pull the cord, but it’s déjà vu all over again; the mower sputters and shuts down.

Mower - Shed and mower

Ever hopeful and obviously very naïve, thirty minutes later I give my mower one more tug.  Pulling in vain, I see Bob behind me wheeling his mower down our driveway; he says, you can use mine until you get yours fixed.  How cool is that!  I gladly accept and mow our backyard to my heart’s content.

With a non-compliant mower, the very next day I return it to Eldredge’s.  Two days later upon my return, the smiling mechanic greets me.  He says, when I heard that the mower died after 30 seconds, I knew exactly what the problem was.  I took out the biggest mouse nest I have seen all spring.  The nest was blocking the flywheel of your engine.

Why the repair guy didn’t notice the mouse house in my mower the first time is another matter.  Still, it was a good day thanks to Mickey and Minnie reconnecting me with Marco and Bob.

Advertisements

Dan, the Disappointer, or Is He? 

Precipice acadia map

The Precipice Trail is on the Park Loop Road (near the c in Cadillac)

You see, I’d made plans with a buddy of mine to hike the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park here in Maine in mid-September.  More than a hike, the Precipice Trail is really a stone wall climb up the side of a mountain.  Enjoy this engaging five minute video from Unboring Exploring (click here) to give you a feel of the rocky cliff we’d be climbing.

precipice cliff

As the hiking Wednesday approaches, the forecast is iffy.  Rain is in the forecast for the day before, which will continue til the following morning on our hiking appointment with verticality.  Despite the forecast, my buddy leans toward giving the climb a shot; wet conditions have never stopped him before.  Fresh in my mind is my recent August hike up the stone facade of Mount Major in New Hampshire after a serious rainfall the day before (click here for that blog).  Though the sun was out, my former Arizona State classmates and I found the stony mountainside a tad slippery.

precipice rungs

You see, the Precipice Climb requires the grasping of metal rungs in order to summit; in other places we’ll be hand-grabbing up stone faces and cliffside-trail walking.  Leery myself of climbing on wet surfaces, I text back and forth with mi amigo about weather conditions.  Eventually I conclude I want to postpone.  We reschedule for two weeks hence.

precipice wooden walk

Now, I am not a big fan of disappointing others.  Who is?  I like to come through, but plowing ahead when new information is available is not always the bright thing for me to do.  Once seduced into deferring to experts, I now trust my inner compass much more.  When I ignore my gut feelings, I find that I can lose my “self,” have my soul get lost in the shuffle of meeting the expectations of others.

I know I have choices that I can exercise (appropriate word choice consider the climb ahead).  In fact, my world and those I deal with is a better place when others know what I think and what I want, rather than having to guess.

And here’s the bottom line: I can make any decision be the best decision.  If I don’t look back, neither ruing nor regretting, I can put all my energy into making the decision epic.

Addendum – Though my buddy may be disappointed, I bet he got over it quickly and moved on.  What’s the pay off in pissing and moaning when someone honestly tells you how they feel?

Dan, a Road Trip with Hannah, and Why To Kill A Mockingbird Matters – A Book Endorsement

Are you a Harper Lee groupie like me?  If so, I have a book for you.  – Why To Kill A Mockingbird Matters (2018) by Tom Santopietro.

TKAM tkam cover

First, let me begin by saying I never read To Kill a Mockingbird!  Fact is, I was never much of a reader through my public school and college years.  I read enough to answer the questions at the of the chapter, but I never learned to love reading.

TKAM peck

But…I did see the movie To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).  That must count for something!  I loved the film that was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture (but lost to Lawrence of Arabia).  Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch won the Oscar for best actor.  In fact, in the midst of writing this blog, Hannah and I watched the film one more time.  It stands up well as an inspirational tale of one man’s courage.

It was a little odd what got me interested in Why To Kill A Mockingbird Matters (2018) in the first place; it was a recent negative review in the New York Times Book Review section.  Click here for Roxane Gay’s unimpressed review.

So why would I read a book with a lousy review?  Because the reviewer let me know that the book is all about the backstory; of Harper Lee herself, the writing and publishing of the book, how the movie came to be, and what happened to the actors and Harper Lee herself since 1962.  I love me a good backstory.

Spencer Tracy was Harper Lee’s choice to play Atticus Finch in the film version of Mockingbird.  Unfortunately, he was filming at the time and couldn’t commit.  Fortunately, Gregory Peck was available.

TKAM atticus and scout

Atticus and Scout

Santopietero sums up why Gregory Peck had such appeal to many of us, … thanks to the role of Atticus Finch, in the public’s eye Peck had become not just a movie hero but also the personification of the quintessential American: the man his fellow citizens liked to think reflected not just their country but their own very best selves – a champion of the the underdog.

Well, I am happy to report that I righted the wrong in paragraph two and read To Kill A Mockingbird cover to cover a few weeks back.  By the way, the film is a quite faithful to Harper’s book.  Not getting enough, I read Critical Insights: To Kill a Mockingbird and watched both two documentaries: Hey Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird and Our Mockingbird .

TKAM map of monroeville

And the fruit of this infatuation is that Hannah and I on the road again, this time to southern Alabama!  Next month (October 2018), we fly into Atlanta and work our way to Monroeville, Alabama, the hometown of Harper Lee.  You see, Monroeville was the model for Maycomb, the setting of the novel.  The actual courthouse which holds a Mockingbird museum will be the centerpiece of our adventure.

Road trip!

TKAM critical insights

 

TKAM Hey Boo 2

 

TKAM Our Mockingbird

Dan Hikes Mount Major in New Hampshire with his Arizona State Bros 

ASU guys 2

Rich, Nobes, and Dan

Getting my boys (fellow 1969 Arizona State buddies, Rich and Nobes) up for a 6A departure to climb Mount Major proves to be easy peezy.  Willingly following my lead, we head north from the coast of Maine to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Click here for the background blog on my ties to Rich and Nobes.

MM at Farmer's Kitchen

Photo by Tiphanie one summer Sunday morning in New Hampshire

What’s a hike without a good breakfast out?  Looking online and finding the Farmer’s Kitchen in Farmington, NH on route 11, we hit gold.  Tantalizing blueberry pancakes this first Sunday in August set us up for our hike while owner/waitress Tiphanie brightens the morning with her engaging personality.

Driving a mere 20 minutes more to the trailhead of Mount Major, we find a spot in the parking lot, though 30 cars are already here at 8A.  It’s no surprise as Mount Major is indeed a family-friendly hike.  When Will was 6, Robyn 8 and Molly 10, our friend Steve Adler led us to this mountaintop on a late fall morning.

MM R and G on trail

Fearless hikers (Nobes and Rich) as the trail begins

As a member of the seventh grade team at Frisbee Middle School in Kittery, Maine, we teachers took 100 students here for this hike/climb.  My recollection is that every last kid made it to the top.

MM leisurely trail

Before the sharp left to the top, the trail is leisurely mellow

That said, this is no mere walk-in-the-park, but it gives the novice hiker the satisfaction of an Outward Bound, “damn-I-didn’t-know-I-could-do-it” challenge/experience.

MM rocky trail d n r

The trail turns rock-kay

The trail begins to climb immediately from the trailhead along a 12’ wide eroded path of stones and roots.  Stepping carefully, we have a warm-up for our climb to the summit.  Soon we are on a stroll-in-the-woods trail through the forest that is easy going and conversation inducing.

At the eight tenths of a mile mark of this 1.5 mile trail to the summit, we turn left, and the work begins.  Starting to bite into the 1100’ of elevation gain, we step carefully on a trail with boulders and roots.

MM Lake Winnepausakee

Lake Winnipesaukee from the summit

In time, the stone face of the trail emerges.  Watching the blue blazes (rectangular trail markers painted on trees and the stone itself), at times we use our hands to climb the steep stone faces leading to the top.  Other times, hikers step into the side woods to more easily make the climb.  It’s challenging, but that’s why it’s so rewarding.

MM D and R on top

Rich and Dan above Lake Winepausakee

Taking breaks to enjoy the scenery and views out to Lake Winnipesaukee, we take to the final stone face to the summit.  At the top there must be fifty others, but it never feels Disney World-esque.

Click here for more detailed information on the trail to the top of Mount Major.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MM G and D on top

Nobes and Dan atop Mount Major

I’m proud of my boys!

Dan and His Arizona State Turning Point 

ASU symbol

Before transferring to Arizona State for my senior year in 1969, I was at loose ends.  The War in Viet Nam loomed over my conscientious objector soul.  Not coloring outside the lines was just leading me down a fear-based path.  After the time-of-my-life sophomore year dating Hannah Kraai at the College of Wooster in Ohio, she and I lost our way; needing a big time change, I picked up and headed west to the Valley of the Sun.

Fortunately in Arizona, I found a group of guys to see me through.

ASU Rich and D

Rich and Dan, original Jersey Boys, for the mini-ASU reunion in August 2018

Three of us were from Jersey, Art, a marine from Bergenfield with a perpetual smirk, that endearingly made me feel like I was in on the joke; Rich, a 17 year old just good dude from Hawthorne coming West to be a pilot; and me looking to be So Far Away (thank you, Carole King).

ASU G and D

Rocking the sandals, Dan and Gale (Nobes is his last name) crush their cornhole opponents

There was Nobes, an art major from Michigan with a killer sense of humor and the smile that nothing was going to get him down.  Fifth was Big Steve from Virginia, who in the vernacular of the time, was the what’s-happening member of our quintet.

Why did we bond and remain friends for almost forty-nine years?  To start, when our Irish Hall dorm cleared out  for the weekend of all the Arizona kids, we had ourselves and not much more.  Using our cafeteria meal money at the Dash Inn, we dined on two beef burritos and ice tea for less than a dollar.  We spent 110F September Saturdays floating in tire tubes down the Salt River with a few brews.

ASU guys with Amelia

Dan, Rich, Amelia (Big Steve’s widow who coincidentally happened to be passing through during the mini-reunion) and Nobes

Only Art (Triumph sports car) and Steve (Ford Falcon) had cars, but each willingly lent theirs whenever asked.  Back in the day, a Coors or two together on Camelback Mountain in the late Phoenix evening made us bolder, the stories bigger, and the friendship stronger.

But really, you are still going strong 49 years?  For me, I felt accepted without having to prove myself.  Twenty-five hundred miles from home I was really on my own, beginning to find out what I believed and ready for the journey to find my way.

ASU guys 2

Summer of 2018 mini-reunion in York, Maine (Rich, Nobes, and Dan)

In this summer of 2018, 49 years later, Nobes, Rich, and I meet in Maine to toast our fallen compadres – Art to cancer from Agent Orange from his time in Viet Nam and Big Steve to a family history of heart attacks.

The me you see now has its roots in the connection to these guys.

Dan Updates and Thanks his Jimmy Fund Donors

Jimmy 30 with four

With Hannah, Max, and Owen, Dan rocks his 30th Anniversary of the Jimmy Fund dryfit shirt that goes to all Pacesetters (those who raise at least $1500)

My Jimmy Fund Walk for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute is a mere 13 days away on Sunday, September 23.  I have been preparing for this walk over the last 10K of the actual Boston Marathon course by playing lots of pickleball, working out at the gym, and hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Adirondack Mountains of New York.  Many evenings I do walk the roads around our Chases Pond Road home with Hannah.

Jimmy 30 shirt with O, O, and M

Max (4), Omi, and Owen (6)

To date, thanks to you all, I have raised FIVE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED SIXTY-ONE DOLLARS ($5761) for cancer research and the care of cancer patients.  Quite obviously, I couldn’t have done without you.  Thank you mucho.

Dan, the Oh So Bold  

With Hannah out for Labor Day morning breakfast in Massachusetts with our daughter Molly, I think this is the perfect morning to invite myself for coffee after working out at our Kittery (Maine) gym.

bold mug of coffee

I text our friends who live near the gym, Is this a good morning to invite myself for a 20 minute cup of coffee after working out at the gym?  Hannah is off with Molly for breakfast.

How bold!  I know.  I’m impressed, too.

While working out on the recumbent bike at the gym, I get a text that they’d love to, but they are running a 5K race at Pease (a Portsmouth, NH redeveloped air force base).  Oops, I forgot that this is an annual tradition of theirs to support a group home in nearby Rochester, New Hampshire.

bold road race

I text back, Enjoy your run.  It seems you’ll beat the intense heat of the day (86F hot and humid is the forecast).

But there are five side benefits to my boldness:

One, I can rightfully say I am at least a modest  risk taker.  If I want to think of myself as bold, I must act boldly.

Two, our friends know that someone would choose to hang out with them on this holiday morning.

Three, it could have worked out.  Never know until I try.

Four, perhaps, they’ll be equally emboldened to invite themselves to our place when the spirit moves them.

Five, my blog readers will know a little more about my love of morning coffee with friends.