December 17, 2011

Out of California and into the winter-world of upstate New York

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - And just like that, we hopped on a Jet Blue plane Thursday night and Friday arrived in Syracuse, NY where a Hyunda Sonata (no Nissan Cubes this trip) waited as our chariot to take us home.

For me it was slightly more than a 41-year absence. It was August 1970 when I left in a blue VW van, landing in Napa in mid-October after hitting more than 10 states in an odyssey, looking for who-knows-what, even now.

But the trip home was quicker. Our two California vehicles (my vintage Nissan pickup truck) and our Mexico-veteran Isuzu Trooper were loaded onto a car carrier Wednesday afternoon, a car carrier driven by two Russian guys with accents (and haircuts) right out of central casting. They arrived here in Watkins Glen at noon, with six more deliveries here on the East Coast.

The black car is our rental, the other three our NY fleet

Landing here also is the first time since the turn of the 21st Century that Admiral Fox and I have owned a home with virtually everything we own in one place. I say virtually, because the Pink Flamingo in Arroyo Seco still has some of our 'stuff' but not much.

When Dustin and Sylvia drove the Trooper (aka Troupey) out of Mexico last spring, they brought a carload of items, now resting either with Dustin in tony Connecticut or here at North Glen.

Duplicates - make that triplicates - of sooooo many things are popping up.

And at Brother Dan's shop in Big Flats, we have two palettes of boxes and assorted household stuff yet to bring here to look at.

Perhaps we'll bring it all to the house for Christmas to open the boxes then.

Sasha with friend
Last night - barely awake after very little sleep on the plane the night before - we went out for dinner to Maria's, a local joint where I go to talk politics sometimes. There we had a great fish dinner with amigos Gary and Sue and their son Jeff. Then we traveled over to visit amiga Amanda at her house. (Ok, we went there to visit Sasha the dog, too.)

It was a nice entree back to the community. And, not to let any snow accumulate under our boots, tonight we head up to the increasingly famous Hector Wine company (in Hector, of course) for a glass or seven of wine and to listen to the band 'Buford.'

No, that's not a typo... and I hear the group is quite good.

We awoke this morning to a light dusting of snow and all day have watched the flakes coming down. Very little is sticking, so at this point, it's picturesque and not pain-in-the-ass. We're set though - I found all my winter gear and my boots have been waterproofed!

Here's a winter view of the lake from our deck and our winter-covered hot tub which might get pressed into service.

And at the bottom is a short video of this morning's snow... Set to music, of course.

December 16, 2011

32,000 feet surrounded by snoring people

SOMEWHERE OVER LAKE MICHIGAN, USA, 5 a.m. -- Admiral Fox and I spent our last day in Sacramento running all those last-minute errands that drive you mad: mailing things, losing things, and trying to stuff 250 lbs. of our possessions into four suitcases for checking.

Yes, each suitcase can only weigh 50 pounds. We had to get creative.

But that was hours back and at this moment we are tearing up the miles crossing the U.S. in a Jet Blue plane with the snoring of sleeping passengers almost as loud as the jet engines.

When I say tearing up the miles I am not kidding. The computer shows us hitting 700 mph in airspeed.

Move over Chuck Yeager, we are coming through.

Our destination now is JFK Airport where we (and we hope our checked bags) will hop a second flight to Syracuse where a rental car awaits to take us to our new Tranquility Base in Watkins Glen. I have high hopes it will not be another Nissan Cube.

This air flight is a little quicker than when I made this trip west in August of 1970 in a VW bus that would only go 50 mph on downhill runs.

Both Adm. Fox and I are now official retirees from our university teaching positions - though I prefer the Spanish word, jubilado. That word comes closer to what we felt when we turned in keys and had our final separation papers stamped and approved.

It felt like a cross between a graduation and getting a presidential pardon.

(Asute readers will note that there isn't a lot of wistful remembrances here about decades of teaching. But come on, it's the middle of the night, I haven't slept and I am typing this on my iPad.)

By the way, for iPad addicts, note that your wireless keyboards won't work on airplanes. They aren't allowed. Instead, you have to use the screen keyboard on which touch typing is almost impossible.


And as I type this we have started hitting some dirty air and the plane is bouncing like Dolly Parton in a Christmas special.

More later.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

November 7, 2011

Fracking is dangerous, and downright ugly

PENNSYLVANIA, USA - I received this photo this morning, a night shot of a hydrofracking drilling site in Pennsylvania.

These rigs are all over the place, just over the state line from New York.

They pollute night sky with bright lights - and all reports indicate they are noisy, too.

Click on the photo to enlarge to get the full effect.

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November 4, 2011

In La Manzanilla, ready to check out Arroyo Seco damages

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - Admiral Fox and I took a quick overnight flight south to check out hurricane damage.

OK, it was not quick. And I think I am off red-eye airflights forever. We got on a flight at 12:30 a.m. and arrived in Puerto Vallarta at about 8 a.m.

In Guadalajara, we had to change planes, which was fun, mostly because we went from the main terminal to the commuter terminal, lugging suitcases filled with stuff for granddaughter Sasha and clothes and things for the people of Arroyo Seco.

Arroyo Seco got whacked hard by Hurricane Jova, roofs were lost, some people's home flooded.

More on all that later.

But below are two photos:

One from Cafe Risa, where we had breakfast today, the other of the Guadalajara Aeropuerto, while aboard out puddle jumper...

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October 13, 2011

Hurricanes in Mexico and fires in classroom buildings on campus

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Adm. Fox and I are waiting semi-patiently tonight for word from Arroyo Seco about how the people in the village fared when Hurricane Jova came ashore Tuesday night, about 15 miles north right through the area known as Chamela.

No one has heard much from anyplace along that stretch of coast. In Arroyo Seco, Jim Monaco, who lives right on the beach, reported he was okay in a brief telephone conversation with an amiga. But the phone lines are down, power is out and the whole coastal area waiting for water to recede and/or digging out from mudslides. Full tinacos (water tanks) with 500 gallons of water blew off tops of buildings in the wind. My two RVS (Grey Goose Express and the Grey Goose II) might have taken off like Dorothy's house in the Wizard of Oz.

South of Arroyo Seco, La Manzanilla seems to have survived ok. But just south of that pueblo, the towns of Melaque and Barra de Navidad are a mess. Bridges are out, roads collapsed and shoreside restaurants partly washed out.

Highway near Manzanillo

But life continues, mudslides or not and so while waiting for the constant busy signal to stop today for calls into Mexico, I put together a video with some startling images of propane explosions. In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation has extended the period of time for comments on the proposed environmental nightmare proposed to be built north of our Watkins Glen house.

It's a 576-acre propane and natural gas storage facilty (using salt caverns as holding tanks) right above Seneca Lake. While the entire project is about as well planned as a kindergarten opera, the potential for what gas experts call a bleve (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion) is enough to scare the crap out of anyone. (Except developers of such projects, I suppose.)

Just one incident like the ones shown in the video could put a serious dent in the tourist traffic.

And just after I finished that video, I headed to the university to find that two buildings on campus had fires going on - one of which was in the hallway outside of my office!

Here's videos relating to the propane project and the university fires:

October 10, 2011

Quick trip up the mountain to visit Four Headlamps amigos

SAN ANDREAS, Calif., USA - Adm. Fox and I took a mountain road trip Saturday to visit with amigos Pat and Sanders, the other two members of the music group, The Four Headlamps.

We ended up eating at Pizza Factory restaurant - a local favorite of Pat and Sanders' was closed.

San Andreas is very much a Monday through Friday kind of place.

Still, it was a great reunion time and we had fun doing a little walking tour.

No talk of a musical reunion just yet. And, given that Hurricane Jova is bearing down on La Manzanilla - the site of our group's debut some years back with the hit song, 'Dancin' With A Man' - we're not too sure what we will do in January.

Here's a couple of photos from the trip:

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October 8, 2011

Occupy Sacramento - a very laid-back, California event so far

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The Occupy Sacramento event in downtown Sacramento is within easy walking distance of the Sacramento jail (where a few protesters are likely to end up, eventually), was a laid back, quiet affair Friday afternoon.

There were plenty of signs, more than a few singers, but for the most part, the Farmer's Market on Sunday under the I-80 freeway is as raucous politically.

Still, there was genuine outrage popping out of a few mouths, but tempered by the many young children that were at the park, too. There was talk of marching to the Federal Building (a few blocks away).

All conversations took part while about 20 Sacramento police officers stood around the edges of the park, watching.

At one point, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson walked by across the street, setting off a media frenzy that included a female news producer trying to run in extremely high-heeled shoes.

Below is a short video:

October 1, 2011

Whirlwind trip to upstate New York leaves many tales to tell

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The trip to upstate New York was planned to be fast and relatively fun-filled.

It was fast, there was some fun, and it was filled. Really filled.

After careening across the United States Monday night, I arrived at the Syracuse NY airport (after a plane change at JFK) Tuesday noon, tired, more than a little grumpy but ready to charge into the Department of Environmental Conservation's hearing on a proposal to build a huge propane and natural gas storage depot three miles from my house.
With Cousin Roger and The Cube

I felt like a foreign correspondent, parachuting in to cover a story, at least until the rental car agency told me the only car they had available for me to take was the one pictured to the right.

The Nissan Cube is not exactly what Robert Redford was driving in the 2001 film, Spy Game, in which he starred with Brad Pitt. But I've lost my claims to bearing any resemblance to either of those guys so I suppose I should be happy that I could bomb around Watkins without much fear of getting a ticket in that blue roller skate.

The propane and natural gas storage project is about as bad an idea as I have heard in years, right on a par with when some bright light got the idea in the 1970s that it would be a good idea to store spent nuclear reactor fuel rods in the same salt caverns.


Sometimes, I do believe the world is run by greedy idiots.

Here's a link to a video with all the testimonyDEC public hearing in Watkins Glen, NY 

The hearing went well (for opponents, not so much for the company) and formed the basis for my Finger Lakes Times column Friday. Writing Wednesday morning, I fell asleep at the keyboard once, revived only by several cups of Earl Grey tea, each brewed with three tea bags.

I was up until about 2 a.m. Wednesday night, of course. Despite two glasses of wine with amiga Amanda at dinner and a hefty double slug of Grey Goose about midnight while writing some screed, I still had the energy of an adolescent.

Inergy's gas man
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the hearing was that it wasn't just that the people who spoke against the project were articulate (most were), prepared (ditto) and passionate (all were). They clearly are beginning to form ideas about what they want to see the area become, not just be in opposition to this disaster-in-waiting.

More than one person made it clear: we don't need or want more smokestack industries.

The balance of the trip - two days and some change - was taken up with domestic chores like running to the bank, dealing with an impressive stack of mail and lots of conversations with the folks who are opposing this project.

Oct. 10 is the last day to comment and there is a flurry of activity going on to ensure that the DEC hears from everyone about the flaws in the environmental impact report filed by the company, Inergy Midstream from Kansas City, Missouri.

Among the many flaws are issues related to earthquakes, lack of a plan for emergencies and the idea of building a 91-million gallon salt water pond with plastic liners (think industrial swimming pool liners). The pond will be perched on a hillside, just  2,500 feet above decidely freshwater Seneca Lake, and very close to the water intakes for the Watkins Glen Village water supply.

That pond, by the way, will contain water up to 12 times saltier than normal sea water, plus, it will likely have a few surprise chemicals lurking it in from being pumped in and out of the salt caverns as part of the propane storage method.

I suppose if the project is approved and the pond is built, when it has a catastrophic breach and the 91 million gallons goes cascading down the hillside to the lake, we could plant some marlin and other saltwater sports fish in the lake and see if they survived. And Watkins Glen homes? Well, perhaps the village can get a federal grant for a desalinization plant - run on propane, of course.

In the meantime, while the follicle-impaired president of Inergy Midstream (above) licks his wounds in Kansas City, Missouri, (after having his testimony contradicted by experts), he is likely remembering that when he testified, nearly 800 people in the audience suggested (some politely, some not so) that he could take his propane tanks, trucks, railroad cars and everything else he has planned for the 576-acre site and return it to, well, just about anyplace but the Town of Reading.

LINKS to stories about hearing:
Elmira Star-Gazette
The Observer newspaper

September 30, 2011

Coming into JFK, dodging cloud bumps

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Long lines, tight security at Syracuse airport

SYRACUSE, New York, USA - The security lines were long - and the machines tweaked really tight - at the airport here today.

But sitting at the gate, I just learned that this same flight was canceled yesterday...

Here's a shot of the security line taken with the iPad.

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Now that the photo function works, it's back to work

SYRACUSE, New York, USA - It only took a half hour or so to get the photo system sort of working, but now we'll see how much horsepower this little app I downloaded has.

In the last entry, I posted a pix of granddaughter Kami from late August.

The next hurdle is to be able to grab a photo from Flickr, where I store most of my important shots.

Hmm... this is going to take a lot more investigation. In the meantime, here is granddaughter Sami at bat last weekend.

Test of new photo software

I discovered a new (to me) app that should make it possible to post blogs and photos easily...


We'll see.

Wow there she is... Fabulous!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

September 27, 2011

Test of the iPad to do some blogging

SACRAMENTO AIRPORT, Sacramento, Calif., USA - Sitting in the Sacramento Airport, I'm giving the IPad its first real test of mobile blogging. Actually, it is just the first test of blogging, period. So, I might as well throw in a photo of my granddaughter Kami... Ok, the system is pretty balky... Let's see if the text goes up...

September 24, 2011

Sometimes just a simple sign can say it all

SACRAMENTO, California, USA - This sign popped up on Facebook today and I thought it was worth passing along.

Kind of says it all, si?

September 20, 2011

A scary moment - university retirement almost delayed for a year

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - For a moment Monday, it appeared the Admiral and I were on a collision course with yet another fall semester of teaching - but next year.

The University published a list of retirees and people like us who were done with their five years of the faculty early retirement program (aka FERP). But our names were not on this list.

Jaysus... that mean we could teach another semester?
Had my math failed us?

Given my history with math in years past, it was possible, so I contacted the appropriate authorities on campus who assured me in the strongest terms that our teaching is over this December. Over, finished, done, terminated, nevermore quoth the vice president in charge of such things.

Though another semester of cashing full salary paychecks would have been nice, Adm. Fox and I both have way too many other things going on to take four months next year to thump on undergraduate heads.

And, our knuckles are too sore after 25+ years of teaching.

I suppose instead of writing this, I should be grading the student work on my desk which in only four weeks has grown from a stack to a hillock to a hill to a mountain to a fire hazard.

Naw, I'm retiring.

September 16, 2011

Semester's end is in sight, and so is New York and Mexico

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Three weeks into the semester the end is already in sight in early December. About 100 students in my four classes are already counting the days until I stop thumping on their undergraduate heads.

So am I.

In the midst of all this, I have continued to pump out my weekly column for the Finger Lakes Times, the high point of my week, really. My column-writing students - whether they appreciate it or not - have been helping me brainstorm with column ideas. They have their own colums to write, so it only seems fair to have them help me, too.

In about a week, I will wing my way via Jet Blue to New York to attend a public hearing on a proposal to build a propane storage facility on the shores of Seneca Lake three miles from my new house in Watkins Glen. The idea is about as bright as the notion of building nuclear power plants on the shore of Japan. (Whoops! They did that, didn't they.)

I will be going as a journalist/observer but perhaps as a participant. This project is so dangerous, so out of whack with sanity with what Seneca Lake has become as a tourist destination, I might have to come out from behind my journalist's shield to speak against it. Greedy idiots don't care what damage it does, as long as their corporation makes profits for its shareholders and the officers of the corporation get their multi-million dollar bonus checks each year.

Brine pond
In addition to storing millions of gallons of propane in salt caverns (risky business at best, industry experts say) the Kansas City, Missouri company wants to build a 91-million gallon uncovered salt brine pond as part of the entire industrial project on the side of a hill, perched over the lake. Jaysus! If that salt water gets loose and lands in the lake, Watkins Glen can kiss its water supply goodbye for months - maybe more... And will it get loose? Well, in the last few weeks the area has had an earthquake and then brushed by a hurricane.

Need I say more?

After NY, it's back to the classroom until Adm. Fox and I got to Mexico for a short hiatus. She and a Seneca Lake amiga Barb Cook will be going down to help with a spay and neuter clinic. Barb and Sylvia will be doing the medical work, my job is to shoot film for a video about the experience with the working title: Salty Dogs in Mexico.

Or maybe we can just call it Woofing Below the Border.

September 8, 2011

Floods in New York, damn hot in Sacramento, cool in classrooms

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - In Sacramento, except for the damnably hot afternoons, the weather is barely a factor in life.

Quite a change from New York. There, you could walk outside in bright sunshine and get splattered with rain before you got your car door open. It happens.

Schenectady is under water
And right now, upstate New York is experiencing wild flooding, apparently from the tail end of yet another hurricane passing by.

Two hurricanes in, oh, a couple of weeks? And others forming out in the Atlantic. No climate change going on at all. Zip.

In the meantime, Adm. Fox and I plug along at our classes with one hand, the other working on getting staged to pull out of California (as legal residents) in December. It's weird making all these arrangements to change health care around, move cars, pack up offices we've had for 20+ years. Weird doesn't really cover it though, I think.

My students are getting an interesting ride this fall, as my patience is, well, maybe a little thinner than normal when it comes to putting up with the B.S. One student skipped the first night session of magazine writing and had the gall yesterday to be upset that I dropped him from the course. There were four people waiting for his seat that first night.

Ironically, I added all four  of those students and said, "What the hell, it's my last semester. Hang on tight, amigos."

Tonight it's off to Elk Grove for dinner at a Mexican restaurant with Chief Engineer Scott Noble and Counselor Jen Noble - part of a program to get in culinary shape for our return to Arroyo Seco.

Training can be soooooo hard.

Restaurant Las Brisas in Arroyo Seco

September 4, 2011

7 a.m. writing deadlines are for people who are awake at 7 a.m.

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Adm. Fox and I rolled in about midnight last night after three hours of a Taylor Swift concert-extravaganza at Power Balance Pavilion, just north of our temporary digs with amigos Pam and Steve near CSU, Sacramento.

Our earplugs served us well - not because the music was too loud, but because the screaming of the teenage girls, their moms, and more than a scattering of younger sisters was constant and way above OSHA-approved levels for potential ear damage.

Taylor Swift
(You're thinking, what an old fart! Guilty as charged.)

We were on assignment for The Sacramento Bee newspaper to do a review of Swift's 'Speak Now Tour 2011'. But the kicker for this was that the editor needed it turned around and back to her by 7 a.m. (As I write this, it is 6:50 and Adm. Fox is taking her sharp-edged editing hula hoe to my draft before I send it in to the editor who will do likewise.)

The show was more Broadway production than concert, with dancing, acrobatics, Taylor Swift popping up from under the stage and booming fireworks that caught me by surprise twice. The first time the sparks coming down from the rafters and up from the stage, had me searching for the nearest exit instead of focusing on the almost-too-beautiful Taylor.

No, she is too beautiful.

Our seats were great - always a nice spiff when you are a member of the press - but we were also close to the two Jumbotron screens which showed her in excruciatingly close detail through the whole show.

Prior to the concert, I researched this young sensation, whose music hasn't resonated much with me (not surprising there), but I hadn't realized how quickly she had risen and how high. I have to keep up better with pop culture.

Oops, Adm. Fox has returned my review and it's time (past time actually) to dispatch it to the editor.

And another cup of double-strength Earl Grey tea is in order asap, too.

And here is a link to the review in The Bee: Taylor Swift on stage
Taylor Swift floats over the audience in her finale 'Love Song' (foto by Adm. Fox)

August 29, 2011

Peachy Dandy Party and sailboat race was, well, just dandy

HECTOR, New York, USA - The umpteenth annual Peachy Dandy Party on Seneca Lake came off without a hitch August 20.

After two disappointing years - one with no wind, the second with too much wind - the weather gods cooperated, providing perfect temperatures and enough breeze to push all boats all the way around a shortened course just off Hazlitt Beach.

As always, the Hazlitt family did a great job throwing the party - and racing their sailboats.

And the Peachy Dandy cocktails? As has been the case at every Peachy Dandy Race I have attended, they were intoxicatingly peachy.

Because the party came sooooo close to our departure date back to California, Adm. Fox and I sat out this year's sailing race. Instead, we were on the race course aboard the Spirit of Louise pontoon boat as what the Hazlitt's call the 'crash boat.'

While ensuring safety is supposedly the goal of the crash boat, we were also in charge of taking hydration supplies to the sailors if their coolers ran low.

At one point, at the request of Mike Schamel the younger, we went back to port and picked up a dozen Peachy Dandy cocktails to distribute, in addition to the mega-cooler full of beer we already carried on the bow of the boat.

Below is a short Fox-Fitzgerald rockumentary of the race and some of the party. It was a difficult event to shoot. One hand for the camera, one hand for the Peachy Dandy cocktail and one hand to steer the Spirit of Louise.

Yes, math has never been my strong suit.

August 20, 2011

Away all boats (on trailers, anyway) time to head to California

VALOIS, New York, USA - The last few days have been a flurry of activity, all aimed at closing down the waterfront at the Valois Point Yacht Club, closing up the cottage, and readying our Watkins Glen house for four months of non-residency.

This shutdown comes right as the whole Valois-Hector-Watkins scene is in the middle of the end-of-summer parties and other rituals.

Sign is up, but season is over
Today, for example, is the Peachy Dandy Party and Sailboat Regatta, an annual event on Hazlitt Beach. Two years ago we sailed the Red Rocket and the race was called for lack of wind. Last year there was soooo much wind, the race was called because it was too dangerous to be out on the water.

And although the VPYC has two sailboats in its fleet this season, both are safely stored already and won't be participating today.

Next year, next year!

But even though I won't be sailing, the Spirit of Louise pontoon craft will be pressed into service as a 'crash boat' to help anyone who gets into trouble. I'll also be taking along the big video camera. There could be a rockumentary in all this today.

Even with the shutdowns, close ups and assorted packing for our sojourn to California, we've been having a lot of fun.

Thursday, I closed up the dockside bar at the VPYC, but not before Joseph and Yvonne sailed up for one last bit of time there, a few beers, and to enjoy the still-warm water to swim in.

And no doubt there will be at least one more trip to Garcia's the new Mexican restaurant that just opened its doors in Watkins Glen. In very Mexican tradition - because they don't have a liquor license yet - the owners said it's fine to bring in beer and wine to have with meals there. There's a move afoot to expand that to include margaritas, pre-mixed to pour over ice.

Sailing in to the VPYC

 Here's a short video (made up of stills) from the 2009 Peachy Dandy race:

August 14, 2011

Countdown to shutdown: Closing up the VPYC and away all boats

VALOIS, New York, USA - Adm. Fox and I have slightly over a week left before we hop a US Airways jet from Elmira, NY to California, back for a our final foray into teaching at California State University, Sacramento.

On the trailer this week
And that flight means starting in on the house shut-down list: put boats on trailers, store solar lights, drain hot tub, put away garden tools, arrange for mail forwarding... The list is two pages single-spaced, so naturally I am writing this piece.

This season we have two houses to consider, the lake cottage and our casa in Watkins Glen. The cottage we have closed down for years now and it's almost routine.


We have a few quirks with the new house, especially now that will be our official permanent residence when we fly back in December 15.

Fly back in December? Yup, that's right, we will be coming back to Watkins Glen right as the winter cranks up to full cold & snow. What few possessions we have in storage in Calif. will be shipped east, along with my red Nissan truck (something I could have used here a dozen times this summer hauling cement, lumber...).

Shutting down the Watkins casa is pretty easy: turn the theromstat to 55 degrees, close the storm windows and make sure the lawn furniture is put away under cover. And we will have a new amiga staying in our attached apartment for the winter, so she will ensure the utilities are taken care of, etc.

When we get back in December, all we have to do (I hope) is turn up the thermostat and check the wine cellar to make sure the wine didn't freeze. (It shouldn't, the boiler for the heater system in the basement and seems to be a steady temperature year round.)

Sen. Schumer with Jim Hazlitt
The writing gig with the Finger Lakes Times newspaper will continue however, with my Friday column. I'll be reading the FLT electronic edition and getting the hard copy in the mail, just as I do now in Watkins Glen.

I'll miss some of the news story writing, though. Last week I covered a talk by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and got to chat with half of the politicians and assorted mucky-mucks from the county. Some of those folks expressed interest in having me do some videos for them, too.


But the time will fly in California.

Within a few days of arriving we will be getting together with cruising buddies Dan and Lorraine Olsen, trips are planned to Yosemite and other California landmarks, and, of course, we have granddaughters Samantha and Kami - and their mom Anne - to visit as much as possible. Perhaps even the elusive Dylan Fox will come leave the city limits of Berkeley for a visit - or we will head there.

And teaching?

Oh yes, teaching! We have our final semester of teaching set up. I have my usual four classes, which include a section each of magazine writing and column writing. I am still considering giving only one of two grades for all students: A or F.

They either get it, or don't get it.

But that decision can wait a couple of more weeks.

Time to take down the yacht club sign

August 7, 2011

Albert Brooks' book '2030' shows a hopeful - and real - future

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - Adm. Fox and I took a hiatus from Seneca Lake life this past week and spent most of our time at the North Glen Avenue house, catching up on 'city stuff.'

For me, that meant a lot of writing, but also reading several books that I have been wanting to spend some time with. The best was a first novel by actor/director Albert Brooks called 2030.

The fact that the weather was less-than-nice made our in-town chores easier. And reading Brooks novel showed me one vision for what life could be - not quite 20 years from now.

The book contains plenty of angst, action, and enough funny social moments to make it a fast read. It also is a relatively  hopeful vision of a future that could come to pass.

After weeks of debt limit shenanigans and outright lies by Tea Party (and other) wing nuts, a hopeful vision was definitely called for.

Parts of the novel might seem as if they were written by a first-time novelist. But the style is excellent, fast-paced and the storyline true right to the last page. Brooks is a scriptwriter, too, and I think 2030 would make a very interesting movie.

If you are anywhere near senior-citizen status, this book is a must read.

Here's a video of Brooks in May talking with Jon Stewart about 2030.

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August 1, 2011

Hector Fireman's Fair Parade - a festive festival, as always

HECTOR, New York, USA - We perched on the wall in front of Eric and Tina Hazlitt's house on Route 414 Friday night to watch the annual Hector Fireman's Fair parade. Eric and Tina throw a great party and it's the most comfortable spot along the parade route to watch everything.

There were the usual fire trucks - lots of fire trucks - a few political candidates, tons of children and enough music to keep things lively.

After-the-parade traffic moves slowly
The parade shuts down the section of the highway from the Dandy Mart (to the south) to the Hector Firehouse fields (to the north, where the fair is).

Traffic gets rerouted, though sometimes people don't take the advice and end up following the tail end of the parade when it's nearly over.

This year was no different.

Besides shooting still photos, I pulled out the big-gun Panasonic camera and shot some of the floats and marchers.

A lot of them were very cool.

Adm. Fox and I wandered over to the actual fair after the parade, had some French fries, a couple of beers from the beer tent, and called it a successful evening.

Here's a short video of the parade:

July 31, 2011

The heat is gone, but the lake days are with us for a few more weeks

VALOIS, New York, USA - The stifling heat of earlier this month has passed, blown out by a cold front (that wasn't that cold) and a few thunderstorms that were incredible in their power.

One storm dropped trees all around us and bounced a four-inch diameter branch off the front window of the cottage.

One damned strong window.

For several hours, we were without electricity (and Internet! Madra Mia!). The lakefront resonated with the sound of chainsaws.

Branches - and whole trees - came down in the storm
Adm. Fox and I took a three-day sojourn to New York City to stay with sister Anne and also to have lunch in the city at Sam's Restaurant in Manhattan with brother Tony and sister-in-law Marion.

Sam's is the restaurant my brother has had lunch at for, oh, maybe 40 years, and everyone knows him and the service he gets, well, it's incredible.

Michael, Anne and Tony Fitzgerald
We had a center-room table which wasn't that hot for conversation but great for seeing people come and go.

Afterwards, Tony and Marion piled into a taxi/limo to head to the ferry for New Jersey (where they live in Shrewsbury). Anne, amigo Father Joe Lynch, Adm. Fox and I headed back to Penn Station were we took the Long Island Railroad back out to Hewlett.

Back at Seneca Lake at the cottage, we are watching July slip into August, and summer is still in full swing, especially at the Valois Point Yacht Club.

Saturday afternoon we had Joseph and Yvonne arrive aboard their fabulous Sabre sailboat and spend an hour or so tied to the dock. We chatted about sailing - and local politics - while they waited to head across the lake to go to the Glenora Point anchorage from which they planned to watch the fireworks from the Hector Fireman's Fair.

Adm. Fox and I hit the fair Friday, first going to Eric and Tina Hazlitt's for a fun parade party, then we hit the beer tent and toured the fair exhibits.

A video of the parade is still in the *subject2change Media video camera... It will show up here another day.

Here's several photos of Joseph and Yvonne's entrance and exit.

July 22, 2011

From newspaper guy to college classroom to newspaper guy again

GENEVA, New York, USA - When I returned from Mexico in April, I cranked up the writing machine and started doing freelance work for the weekly Watkins Glen Review, The Elmira Star-Gazette and doing some magazine work. (An article comes out in Dog Fancy in its September issue about Mia, the pooch rescued by Sylvia and Laura McCartney in Arroyo Seco, Mexico.)

And as April ran into May, I contacted the afternoon daily newspaper in Geneva, the Finger Lakes Times, about doing some writing and some coaching of the staff. The paper has just made some management changes, including promoting the news editor to the post of Executive Editor.

FLT Column 'mug shot'
Timing is everything.

Fast forward to today, when my first column appears in the FLT. My assignment: write a column that will appear each Friday in the newspaper, on the topic of my choice.

And I can submit my column from anywhere I happen to be.

Already my file folder (yes, I still use paper file folders) has a dozen column ideas and daily gets several more stuffed into it. And as you might guess, Adm. Fox is contributing heavily to the idea folder. She's also the best in-house editor imaginable.

Last night I attended a Town of Reading planning board meeting - the group that will be making a decision about whether to allow a controversial project by a Kansas City, MO company to move ahead. The company wants to store millions of gallons of liquid propane gas  in salt caverns on the shore of Seneca Lake and build a huge salt water pond on a hillside.

Environmentally, it's just short of terrifying.

The planning board elected a new chairman who announced that during the public comment period, the public could not say anything on the topic of the proposed project. And when someone tried to ask a question about the approval process, he said no questions were allowed either.

You don't have to look very far to find column ideas.

July 19, 2011

Getting the lakefront ready for 100-degree weather

VALOIS, New York, USA - The great summer weather of the last few weeks has given me incentive to have all the water toys ready, all the time. The boats are all working fine, the swim toys are blown up and ready for use. Even the dock cooler is ready for ice and beverages.

And it's a good thing.

The temperatures have started going over 90 degrees Fahrenheit consistently each day and now the forecasters are saying we are going to see 100-degree days - with nearly that high a number for the humidity - for the balance of the week.

It's giving new meaning to working up a sweat. You can do that by reaching in the cooler for another cold beer. (Hmm... good reminder..)

Yoga and bookclub house
Earlier today, I headed a few miles down the lake driving the pontoon boat Spirit of Louise to pick up Admiral Fox from her yoga session which was followed by a book club meeting, all at our amiga Laurie Welliver's lakeside house.

I tied to the end of her dock while I waited for the book club to end, just past Laurie and her husband Scotty's fleet of lake toys: a ski boat, a sailboat, and a pontoon boat.

After that foray, we returned to home base at the Valois Point Yacht Club, took a short respite and then barreled out again down to the water, this time aboard the sailing vessel Panacea. We met up mid-lake with Eric and Tina and their amiga Andrea.

Panacea sails like a charm and might get entered in this year's Peachy Dandy race in August - just a few days before we have to head back to California for our last-ever semester of teaching at CSU, Sacramento.

The checklist is drawn for the next few days: buy three bags of ice, a case of beer, a case of bottled water, a case of beer (oops, mentioned that did I?), snacks and towels to take down to the dock. Add a case of beer to that list. We are talking several days here.

In addition to the air warming up, so has the lake water. I haven't tested it with a thermometer, but Adm. Fox has been diving in for the last five days - and staying in to swim. That means it must be getting close to 80.

Neighbors ready for the hot days ahead

July 13, 2011

Wild winds rip down Seneca Lake, or is it Seneca Ocean?

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - I spent most of the day pounding on this keyboard, catching up on things, writing a story or two and generally not going outside, except to get the mail.

Outside was where it was happening, folks.

Adm. Fox called from Valois at about 5 p.m. to say that our newest sailboat, Panacea, was ok along side the docks, but bucking like a wild horse. I was going to put in the mooring for it today, but it was too rough early in the morning and it rarely improves when the it starts that way.

Sailing vessel True Love pounds into the waves

I went outside after talking to the Admiral and there was 30+ knots of wind - and some of the biggest whitecaps I have ever witnessed on Seneca Lake.

The high winds and waves even found their way well inside the breakwater at the Village Marina, normally a pretty placid place.

The marina staff were running from dock to dock while I was there, retying dock lines from boats that were loose.

I checked on an amigo's boat but saw some others that were in some distress. The marina is usually soooo safe and soooo calm, boat owners get pretty lax and forget to tie up their boats really tight.

Below is a short video of the wind, the marina and some of the boats.

Still photos don't really do it justice.

July 12, 2011

Three days on the reunion/party/birthday circuit comes to an end

VALOIS, New York, USA - The past weekend was a whirlwind, even by the whirlwind party standards of upstate New York.

First, Adm. Fox and I made our way west to Jamestown, NY (hometown of Lucille Ball, in case that factoid slipped off the radar). We were there for my high school class reunion (No. 45), a prequel to a class reunion of 10-years-worth of grads from Southwestern Central High School the next night, a soiree we passed up, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Unlike other reunions, this affair, arranged by my amigo Randy Carlson, was very low-key, with a barbecue, some wine and beer, and lots and lots of nostalgia about our high school years.  What great stories!

But there was also a surprise attendee - a former music teacher and his wife.

The last time I had seen Dalton Berringer (what a great name for a jazz musician, isn't it?), I was about 16 and he was working as a parttime sheriff's deputy on Chautauqua Lake keeping the waters safe. Most teachers in those days worked summer jobs to supplement paltry regular teaching salaries. I am not sure what infraction I had committed - thought I am sure I was guilty - but he let me go with a word of caution to be more careful.

Fast-forwarding to 2011, Dalt is now back in the Lakewood area after living all over the country. He gave up classroom teaching but stayed in education. But he never let loose of the jazz music and I have three recent CDs to prove it. In fact, I hope that if I can ever get my video-making back on track, he can provide some original music for my next production.

The classmates who attended all looked great. Somehow, they don't seem to be getting old. 


Family homestead in Lakewood, NY
Adm. Fox and I also took a side trip out to Lakewood and I stopped by the home I grew up in - 156 1/2 West Summit Ave.. The house has been renovated in and out and the family that took it over has boats everywhere - in the yard, on docks, on buoys out front. My kind of people.

The whole neighborhood looked good and I suspect people's property taxes are, well, higher than when I lived there.

We then rocketed back from Jamestown to Valois for the birthday party for Cheryl Fitch, sister of Jennifer Fitch who is a boat partner with me in two boats. Several years ago we bought the 16-foot Red Rocket sailboat as a training vessel for Jennifer. This year she moved up to a 17-foot Siren class sailboat with the moniker Panacea.

I don't know if Panacea will stick as a name - that's Jennifer's call. But as part of the party celebration for her sister, we took the vessel out for its maiden voyage under our watch and it is a sweet-sailing boat. Jennifer is likely already plotting voyages for next summer when she returns from Arizona.

With Panacea on the trailer
This week I will be installing a permanent mooring in the lake for Panacea, which involves filling a drum with cement, attaching a chain and buoy, and dropping said items in about 15 feet of water off the end of the Valois Point Yacht Club dock. (NOTE TO CAPTAIN: steer clear of the chain when the barrel gets shoved off the bow of the pontoon boat.)

And then as the finale of the three-day fun marathon, we celebrated my birthday Sunday with breakfast at the Hector Volunteer Fire Department, then a day on the lake (including a pontoon boat cruise), a beer or two at the Valois Point Yacht Club and then dinner at home, overlooking the lake which Sunday night was as calm as a pond.

And Monday and today? Surprised you couldn't hear the snoring.

But tomorrow is another day, as Scarlett O'Hara says.