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June 15th, 2024


Stop! You’re breaking my heart!

Posted In: Photography
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Life In The Big City…

This was the view in my front yard just now.

There were two of them, munching away on the ground cover. Bon Appétit! My lawn cutter doesn’t do the front because of the steep hillside. Would you like dressing with that salad? Some croutons maybe?

Life in the big city…who knew?

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Pulse And Disney Pride

On June 12, 2016, a madman hopped up on religious zealotry and armed with a military assault style rifle, a nine millimeter handgun and multiple clips full of military grade ammunition entered the Pulse nightclub, a gay discothèque, killed 49 people and was himself killed by the police. Statements the perpetrator made during the attack indicated it was in retaliation for US bombings in the middle east, but his singling out a gay nightclub for the attack cannot be swept under the carpet as coincidence or simply due to the venue’s alleged lack of security (there was a security guard stationed at the front door, whom the attacker evaded by going in a side door). The man was said to have been angered by the sight of a gay male couple holding hands, and his own father had taunted him homophobically. There is no doubt in my mind, and in the community at large, that homophobia played a decisive role in the attack, regardless of his other motivations.

I had to resist the urge to call my former high school crush just to make sure he was okay. This was only a few months after his family found out he was talking with me again and the notice came down not to contact him in any way shape or form (how do you contact someone with a shape?). I’ve often wondered if he worried that I might have been there, because I visited Orlando often, mostly to go to Disney World, or how I was feeling when I heard the news. But the next day I posted my thoughts on it on this blog, which he always insisted that he never reads, so he would have known.

I’d previously scheduled a July 4th vacation at Disney World, so I was there just a few weeks after the attack. I couldn’t do Gay Days that year because of the schedule at work, but federal holidays were usually good times to request vacation. Driving into the city that week I saw billboards everywhere expressing grief and solidarity with the LGBT community. The entire city seemed to be in shock.

It changed everything.

Before this Disney was keeping Gay Days at arm’s length, and whenever the usual suspects started bellyaching about it they’d say they’re in the hospitality business and everyone is welcome. When I was there after the attack I was wearing my rainbow Mickey pin. It wasn’t the actual Pride rainbow, it was the Peace Rainbow that some United Nations group created. But it was close enough to the Pride rainbow that lots of us wore in in the parks during Gay Days and everyone knew what it was supposed to signify. As I wandered inside the parks every now and then a Cast Member would notice the pin and start a conversation with me about what happened at Pulse. It seemed everyone had to talk about it, because they were all in shock. We were a community in shock.

And so I heard the stories…horrible, horrible stories. And I am certain all that shock and horror went all the way from the cast members and vendors and managers to the boardroom. Because they would all have had family, friends, co-workers, who they were frightened for that night.

The commercial media does a really bad job of explaining to the rest of the country the venomous hate directed at us. Because that would be taking sides in what the media boardrooms regard as a partisan argument, and anyway in that mindset we’re still a perversion best left unspoken of during family time. That day everyone in the country saw the hate for what it was, but especially the people of central Florida. And it wasn’t just that the people who died either were, or could easily have been, a family member, a friend, a co-worker, they saw all the gleeful contempt for the dead and wounded afterward by local preachers and republican pundits and politicians. Some publicly expressed regret they weren’t all killed that night. They saw the right wing politicians that kept insisting that regardless of what happened, the homosexual menace had to be fought for the sake of god and family. And in that one moment they saw, clearly saw, all of them for what they were.

And all that corporate keeping us at arm’s length changed decisively afterward.

A year later on the anniversary, at the end of the day in Magic Kingdom, they turned the lights off of Cinderella’s castle and had a 49 second moment of silence for the victims. The year after that an entire line of actual Pride rainbow merchandise appeared.

This year, DeSantis ordered all the bridges in Florida to only display red, white, and blue lights from the end of May to the middle of July, allegedly to salute our veterans. Hahahaha…no. Notice how his order blocks out the entire month of June, not July. It was to prevent displays of the Pride rainbow. The people see you Ron. And you republicans in the Florida statehouse. We saw all of you on the night of June 12, 2016. And in the days that followed.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – Walt Disney Company is donating $1 million to a fund established by Orlando officials to help people affected by the nightclub shooting.

Disney officials also said they would match dollar-for-dollar individual contributions by the company’s employees to the OneOrlando fund, established by Mayor Buddy Dyer following Sunday’s shooting that killed 49 people and wounded 53 others.

Disney has about 74,000 employees in the Orlando area, which is home to its Walt Disney World resort. Disney also lost an employee, or Cast Member, in the shooting. The name of Jerald Arthur Wright, 31, was added to the victims list on Monday.

“We mourn the loss of one of our own Cast Members, Jerry Wright, as well as others within our extended Disney family, and we offer our most heartfelt condolences to their families, friends and loved ones as well as all who were affected by yesterday’s senseless acts,” said George A. Kalogridis, President of Walt Disney World Resort.

The FBI’s director has said the agency is trying to determine whether the Orlando nightclub shooter had recently scouted Walt Disney World and other locations as potential targets.

Posted In: Life Politics
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by Bruce | Link | React!
June 13th, 2024

Everything Hate Has Taken From Our Lives

…in this man’s obituary. Via NBC News…

Veteran comes out as gay in his obituary: ‘Now that my secret is known, I’ll forever rest in peace’

Col. Edward Thomas Ryan of Rennselaer, New York, wrote that his fear of being ostracized by friends and family kept him from coming out.

The obituary, published by the Albany Times Union on June 8, 2024, ended with a message written by Ryan himself.

“I must tell you one more thing. I was Gay all my life: thru grade school, thru High School, thru College, thru Life,” he revealed, adding that he found love in a relationship with a man from North Greenbush, New York.

“He was the love of my life,” Ryan wrote. “We had 25 great years together.”

Ryan went on to say that his love died in 1994 “from a medical procedure gone wrong” and that he will be buried next to him.

Ryan concluded by explaining why he did not come out in his lifetime.

“I’m sorry for not having the courage to come out as Gay,” he wrote. “I was afraid of being ostracized: by Family, Friends, and Co-Workers. Seeing how people like me were treated, I just could not do it. Now that my secret is known, I’ll forever Rest in Peace.”

In a cemetery in Washington DC, there is a tombstone that reads; “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men, and a discharge for loving one.” 

Posted In: Politics

by Bruce | Link | React!
June 11th, 2024

Yes I’m Going To Keep Smoking Them

Just in moderation. 

This post is probably going to distress some of my friends who would really wish me to quit smoking my cigars for the sake of my heart. But since I had that Hoyo de Monterrey Jose’ Gener the other day, the first cigar I’ve had since coming home from California last month, I’ve been thinking. Which usually means a blog post. It’ll probably be self justifying and full of excuses but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The seductive thing about nicotine is it calms you down but it doesn’t dull your mind. And in some circumstances it can actually help you think more clearly. Yes, there is science that backs me up here…

Nicotine stimulates the release of the chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in triggering positive feelings. It is often found to be low in people with depression, who may then use cigarettes to temporarily increase their dopamine supply. -Smoking and Mental Health – The Mental Health Foundation (UK)

Preclinical models and human studies have demonstrated that nicotine has cognitive-enhancing effects. Attention, working memory, fine motor skills and episodic memory functions are particularly sensitive to nicotine’s effects. Recent studies have demonstrated that the a4, B2, and a7 subunits of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) participate in the cognitive-enhancing effects of nicotine. Imaging studies have been instrumental in identifying brain regions where nicotine is active, and research on the dynamics of large-scale networks after activation by, or withdrawal from, nicotine hold promise for improved understanding of the complex actions of nicotine on human cognition. – Cognitive Effects of Nicotine: Recent Progress – National Library of Medicine, Institutes of Health

Nicotine improves cognitive functioning in smokers and psychiatric populations, but its cognitive-enhancing effects in healthy nonsmokers are less well understood. -Effects of Nicotine on Attention and Inhibitory Control in Healthy Nonsmokers – NIH

So on the one hand it helps you think clearly and relieve depression. But it is also bad for your health and highly addictive. That is especially true when it’s being delivered via cigarettes, but any tobacco is a health risk. It can cause cancer. It can lead to heart disease.

In my case, I’m pretty sure the binge cigar smoke I did at the cigar shop in Disney Springs back in September 2019, was what lead to the heart attack I had the following October. Normally I would sit down in their little leather chair lounge section and people watch as I smoked a Padron. Normally just one and I’m done. That vacation I smoked one after the other after the other until my head was spinning. That kind of chain smoking is so rare in me I can’t remember any other time I did anything like that but I’m pretty sure why I did it. I was depressed and miserable after learning I would likely never see a certain someone ever again, even just to scowl at each other over dinner.

Love is mysterious. Go figure.

In retrospect I don’t think I actually had a heart attack, just the build up to one, which could have been fatal for all I know had it not given me plenty of warning and I was already in the hospital. The pain came and went, came and went, came and went, came and went, and it got bad enough that I had to check myself into the ER. But it never really stopped coming and going, even while I was in the emergency room. As they were wheeling me up to the operating room I was actually feeling fine. Maybe it was an indecisive heart attack. Do I want to kill him now or wait for a bit longer? Decisions, decisions…

After the angioplasty I was told there was so little damage to my heart that it could not be detected by the usual means. So I was lucky. Instead of slamming me down all at once and killing me then and there it just kept coming and going, coming and going, all the way to the operating room. But the message was pretty clear. Among other things: Stop smoking.

That’s relatively easy to do when it’s cigars. Cigarettes are to nicotine as the needle is to heroin. They’re basically a nicotine delivery system. Cigars are something you savor over a period of time…you take a walk and reflect and think, you don’t just wolf one down and then light up another…

…unless you’re depressed and just want that dopamine high, and like me you could never get cigarette smoke into your lungs.

You don’t inhale a cigar. Twice in my life I’ve tried to inhale a cigarette. First time I was a kid and a bunch of us found an unopened pack in a construction area behind the apartments we lived in. We passed them around. I could not get past the first puff. For the rest of my childhood I wondered why adults smoked them. Then I became one. Second time around I was in my 60s. I was feeling depressed and miserable and decided to try cigarettes again. I bought a pack of unfiltered high octane ones because why not just go for it. That time I made it to two puffs. Then I almost hacked my lungs out. So…no more of that.

By then I was used to the full bodied flavor of a good cigar and I am still wondering about cigarette smokers because cigarettes taste to me like you are smoking a piece of cardboard.

I have enjoyed cigars since I was old enough to buy tobacco, graduating almost instantly from the drugstore brands that are machine rolled with the intake port ready made, to higher quality hand rolled boxed labels you need to cut the ends off of before you light up. At some point I found myself perusing the walk-in humidor of an upscale cigar store, tried one of the expensive ones just to see if it was worth the money, and had an epiphany.

The downside to those top shelf brands is they can be hard on a budget. 35 bucks for just one cigar did you say? Hahahaha…some even sell for hundreds. My saving grace is I have always been, except for that one time in Disney World, a casual smoker. Well…except late in my term at Space Telescope, when the stress got serious. For that I would buy a small tin of mini cigars and take a smoke walk around the parameter of Wyman Park. That was when I began to understand why the mainframe guys I worked with some decades previously called their cigarettes “programmer’s candy.”

But my usual routine is have a cigar after dinner, maybe at the end of a week, take a walk and savor it. So I could afford the top shelf cigars because I didn’t smoke them that often. Now I’m at a stage in my life when I probably shouldn’t be smoking them at all, but in my defense my intake these days is a fraction of what it was previously. And my little cigar walk yesterday with that mild Hoyo de Monterrey, my first cigar since coming back from California, was a revelation.

Thing of it was, after the heart attack I was afraid, but I didn’t want to give cigars up completely because I knew they helped me with stress, and unlike alcohol they didn’t dull my mind. If anything they sharpened it and perked me up. But fear is not a good motivator. It just makes you keep avoiding a problem instead of really looking at it.

I’m looking at it now. I’ve been sluggish and morose all month long. The occasional margarita only made it worse. I was feeling my age like I’d never had before. I could see all the pleasures of life walking away from me. I was avoiding the box of Cubans I’d brought back from California because I was so tired all the time and miserable and I was afraid. I figured one of those would only make it worse, maybe provoke another heart attack. I kept telling myself maybe later, maybe later.

Eventually the misery got to a point I didn’t care anymore. So the other night I flipped misery the bird and decided to give a Hoyo de Monterrey a try. I’d heard they were top notch premium Cuban cigars and I’d only known the brand from the boxes I saw in drugstores.

I went for a cigar walk around the neighborhood at twilight. And I swear I could feel my mind awakening. By the time I got back home I felt a lot more perky and did some work around the house instead of just flopping right into the bed.

The next morning I noticed a definite improvement in mindset and attitude. And energy. Lots more energy. Got a Bunch done on the backyard and in the house. Didn’t even need my usual afternoon nap.

So, dig it…I smoked one cigar late in the day…a mild Cuban…and the next day I did not smoke at all and yet I had more energy, clarity of mind and a much better attitude. I felt great, just coasting on that one cigar from the previous day. It’s two days later as I write this and I’m still feeling the boost I got from that one cigar.

Before the week is out, I’ll probably have another. But at age 70 I can also feel the toll it takes on my body. I felt it while I was smoking that Hoyo de Monterrey and I had to let it go out when it was only two thirds done.

I listen to my body, and when it says stop I stop. It’s something I’ve learned to do with alcohol too. And…gardening. And moving luggage from the car to the hotel room. And really anything that makes me exert myself. That twenty-something body I had once is in the past. Also the thirty-something body…the forty-something body…and so on. I’ve got the 70 year old model now and when it says stop I have to stop.

It’s because cigars aren’t the nicotine delivery system cigarettes are I can stop and take a break for a few days or weeks. Everything I’ve ever heard about cigarettes, everyone I’ve known personally that smoked them have told me this, that they are incredibly addictive. I read a story years ago about addiction in returning soldiers from Vietnam and one of them said that quitting cigarettes was much harder than quitting heroin. I am so glad I never got myself hooked on them. I advise people to stay the hell away from them. I really don’t think that’s hypocrisy.

I think about the people I knew who smoked them that later died of lung cancer. And I would feel really bad if someone reading this who was trying to quit cigarettes, decided that maybe just one or two every now and then wouldn’t be so bad after all, because nicotine has it’s beneficial side. No. The cigarette seems insidiously designed to prevent moderation, also any pleasure apart from satisfying an urgent need for more nicotine now, right now.

That said, I know cigars are a health risk too. So maybe this is my hypocrisy. They can give you cancer and heart disease. Ulysses S. Grant was a heavy cigar smoker and that gave him the throat cancer that killed him. But they’ve been a part of my life ever since I was a young man and I’m pretty certain now that I’m not quitting them entirely. Just…never do that chain smoking thing ever again!

Yes I do other things to relieve stress…I make art, I go for walks, I hike a trail, I drive some roads. All of these require energy and for a while this month I was flat out. Now I have some. And a better mindset. Tomorrow if the weather is as lovely as it was today I might go hike the NCR trail for a stretch.

Except for that one time I have always smoked in moderation. And since the heart attack I have cut back. Mostly that was out of fear and I might bump it up a notch now, depending on what my body tells me. Usually I don’t smoke the entire thing anymore anyway. I can feel my body saying “enough” and I just let it go out. I have to overrule that waste not want not mindset I grew up with but that’s getting easier now that I’m also trying to downsize the house.

So. I have a humidor full of some of the best Cubans down in the basement art room. They are the real thing, not knockoffs. I may not need to buy any more for years at the rate I’m smoking them. They calm me down. They relieve the eternal stress. They sharpen my mind. They perk me up. They have been a part of my life since I was a young man. And I would rather not shuffle sadly into that good night, let alone go quietly. Maybe they do kill me in the long run, even if I moderate. But in the longer run I’m dead anyway. I made it to 70. Don Juan said all paths lead nowhere. Take the path with heart and it will make for a joyful journey. I like a good cigar from time to time.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
June 3rd, 2024

Happy Pride (Day…Week…Month…etc…)

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
June 2nd, 2024

Well That Explains That. . .

Last night I woke up back in the apartment in Rockville I shared with mom. My eyes opened. Suddenly my bedroom door opened wide, but nobody came in.

It was dark in the hallway. My bedroom was only marginally better lit from the lights in the parking lot outside. Someone or…something…had opened my bedroom door. Wide. But did not come in. I felt a chill and rolled out of bed shouting “What is it?” Then I tried to turn on the bed stand light. It wouldn’t come on. It’s such an old trope of my bad dreams that none of the lights I try to turn on work and for a moment I figured I must be dreaming. But I wasn’t waking up. I was already awake.

I could feel the apartment vibrating, like a minor earthquake was happening. And there was a rumbling noise like a bunch of construction work was happening outside. I started going through the apartment trying to turn on some lights and shouting “What’s going on? Hello? Who’s there!?” Eventually I managed to get one light to turn on…the side table light near the apartment door.

I looked around. Outside it was raining in a kind of misty drizzle. The sliding glass door to the balcony was all misted up. Mom came into the living room and asked me what was happening. I said I didn’t know, maybe it’s an earthquake, and went back into my bedroom to look out that window. The bedrooms in those apartments faced the parking lot and it was the same there as on the other side: a very heavy but misty rain and some fog. The entire apartment was vibrating and making a rumbling noise like…like…

…like I was in a moving train, in a roomette bed, having a dream. Which I figured out the instant I woke up.

I’m back home in Charm City now, unpacking and waking up the house. Might do DC Pride next weekend. Except I’m kinda travel fatigued now. 

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 31st, 2024

To Whom It May Concern…


[Update…] Yes, this blog post is speaking to a certain someone who has told me to my face Many Times that he Never reads my blog or looks at my cartoons, so I am confident he will never see this and take offense.

That said…Seriously Mr. A, get out of your damn comfort zone, breathe the free air again. You had so much to give to this world, and we’re both old and gray but it’s not too late. Your allegiances are suffocating you. They are not worthy of you.

Live a life, while you still have some life to live. There is more to you than you think. Let the world see it. Let yourself see it.

Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 22nd, 2024

Learning To Let Go Would Be Easier If It Wasn’t A Piece Of My Heart

Hosted from a Facebook memory…

My first grade teacher wrote in my record that Bruce “…takes excessive interest in personal art projects.” Years later my high school art teacher, Frank Moran, one of the best teachers a kid could ever have, approved when he saw me taking apart a project I’d spent days working on, so I could start over. Don’t let yourself get stuck trying to make something work that isn’t, he said. Let it go. Try something different. You won’t find what works if you get stuck in what doesn’t.

Everyone fails from time to time. Everyone gets it wrong now and then. Not everyone can let it go. The trick is not to take it personally. It’s just life. I would rather wrong answers didn’t become chains around my soul.

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!
May 20th, 2024

The Pale White Boy In Florida…

I go out for my morning coffee walk and I see one of the maintenance crew trying to clean up some white chalky footprints off one of the walkways. I can’t figure who was wearing white paint on their bare feet.

So just now I’m spraying sunscreen on my bare feet before I go out again because just a few minutes out in this sun and my feet are already starting to show a tan. Then I realize that’s probably what happened this morning. Someone dumped a bunch of sunscreen on their feet and tracked it all over that walkway before it dried.

I put a bunch of paper towels on the floor of my room before I started spraying my feet. Should be dry by the time I’m ready to go to Hollywood Studios.

I’m doing dinner tonight at the 50s Prime Time Cafe, and hoping they’ve put the chairs back in the Tune-In Lounge.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

It’s Florida, It’s Almost June And No I’m Not Going Outside Much In The Middle Of The Afternoon

Definitely T-shirt and cutoffs weather here. I really need to be careful wearing sandals out in the sunlight here with these pale white feet of mine. Also the rest of me.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 19th, 2024

A Wee Disney Vacation…And Then Maybe Back To Work…

I’m at Port Orleans Riverside for a couple weeks. I’d extend my stay but I told the guy I worked under at Space Telescope before I retired that I’d be back home June 2 and he wants to discuss my coming back to work there part time.

So…making the most of this one while I’m here…

Still stunned that Facebook recommended “Tico Assmann” to me (see previous post). My head is still spinning, but that might be vertigo from the train ride.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 5th, 2024

Why? No…Seriously…Why!

There are moments when commercial social media, and especially Facebook, really weirds me out. Facebook has this “People You May Know” list, which is where Facebook helpfully tries to get you to “friend” other people “You May Know” so it can data harvest your life and theirs more efficiently. 

Yesterday this came up in mine…

I stared at this recommendation for I don’t know how long. What the hell Facebook?? 

(I’ve blocked the image of the person in question because I don’t think that’s the real name of the person in that profile, and probably he doesn’t want his mother knowing what he’s up to…)

This isn’t him, this isn’t anything even close to him, he would not use a nom de plume like that or anything close to it, and anyway he’s always insisted he isn’t on social media and never will be. And at moments like this I really don’t blame him. It gets very weird in here from time to time, and he can’t deal with weird.

There are moments I have a hard time dealing with it too, and I’m weird.

What the hell Facebook???

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

There Is Nothing New In The Human Gutter

Every now and then I drop in on my Twitter account (Oh…did I just deadname X? Sorry…not sorry…) to check out the doings in the hate lounge. Actually by now I have a massive block list, so my Twitter feed is probably a lot less fragrant than what others see.

When I opened my feed, the first thing I saw was Ari Drennen’s post as follows…

Forcing trans kids to pretend that they are somebody else until some arbitrary age when their lives are allowed to start for real is not a neutral act either. There are, in fact, no neutral acts in life. Not one second is reversible.

So of course I did what you’re not supposed to do: I looked at the comments. Certain topics are ripe for finding more morons to block, and this one didn’t disappoint. But some of what I saw was, in a way, stunning. Lots of commenters telling her that transgender kids do not exist. And I mean the exact same verbiage which normally leads you, regarding Twitter, to think you’re seeing the activity of bots. But I remember when it was plain to see not all that long ago, and further back on USENET, how some new proverb would get posted to a right wing blog and it was like the bat signal had been given and suddenly everyone was just mindlessly repeating it. But then again you could say those were bots too. Human bots, but bots nonetheless.

And it reminded me of what is so spooky about the wave of winger harassment transgender folks are experiencing now…that it is almost play by play the same exact script they were using not all that long ago to harass gay people: There are no homosexuals, only broken heterosexuals. It’s like they took the script for online gay bashing and just removed all references to homosexual and replaced them with transgendered. Otherwise it’s the same exact script, page for page, play by play, argle bargle, argle bargle, argle bargle.

Nothing ever changes with them. Nothing. Just the names and faces and where the right wing money is coming from.

Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 4th, 2024

And Speaking Of Cute Little Baltimore Rowhouses…

Having a house is like having a lover. Or at least I assume it is since I’ve never had a lover. But, so I’m told, lovers have their little ways of making it clear when they are feeling neglected. So do cute little Baltimore Rowhouses.

I came home Thursday after a week long road trip from Oceano back to Baltimore, which was after a two month stay at my brother’s house. I did the usual stuff before leaving the house…turned off the water at the main, shut off all the unnecessary electric devices, set the thermostat to vacation mode, and so on. The house was in winter mode when I left, and now it’s working itself up to springtime here in Maryland. So I get back to a house that’s still assuming it’s winter, with most of its services turned off and the first thing is a turn things back on, and then get the house set for warmer weather.

But first I have to get my stuff out of the car. I bring a ton of luggage with me on these road trips, plus cameras, and I’m getting too old to be lugging around all that weight. I’ll probably be unpacking for days, and after getting all that stuff out of the car and up the steps to my front door, I’m beat.

I notice I have squatters. Well…robins. There is a nest on top of my porch light. I look around for the parents and don’t see them, but I assume they’re somewhere in the trees watching. I know it’s robins because they’ve tried this before and if it were mockingbirds I would be being attacked now.

Later, I checked again for any sign of robins and I didn’t see any. So I got a mirror and looked in the nest for eggs. There weren’t any. It was a bit spooky how the nest looked like it was in pristine ready to move in shape and there was no sign it had ever been used. Something scared them away it seems. Or they got eaten. But the neighborhood seems not to have any cats around nowadays. I’ve no idea, but since the nest was empty I took it down.

I have not seen any robins at all since I got back. This morning I put the bird feeders back out and slowly the customers are returning.

My door has a mail slot so there is no mailbox to overflow. When I got back I had a mountain of unread unopened mail on the other side of my door, which made opening the door difficult. Last time, when I stayed in California for almost four months, I had mail forwarded. But I learned that some important letters don’t get forwarded anyway because the sender specifically asks the post office not to do that. So I didn’t bother forwarding mail this time because of that, and also I reckoned two months was not so long I couldn’t deal with anything that came while I was gone, and my monthly bills can be easily paid online. But while I was out there I started noticing that my city water bill kept showing a zero balance due every time I checked. I had no idea but thought it might be an adjustment of some sort, and I made a note to check the paper bills when I got back.

So first thing after pushing the door opened against all that mail on the floor on the other side was I gathered it all up and dropped it on the kitchen table, then sorted through it for the water bill. I found them and look and I see I see they’re using a different website now for online payments. For some reason instead of telling you when you go to the old website to go to the new one, or just simply forwarding you to it, the old website still looks active but it can’t show the current bill so it always looks like its zero.

Well, well. But I would have called them anyway about why the zero balance due, but…oh well. No harm done. I paid my last bill early before I left for California, and paid this one just now on the new website a week before it was due.

I turn back on the water. Then open a few faucets to get any air pockets out of the system. I turn the hot water tank back on. I go upstairs and notice the toilet tank is leaking where it connects to the bowl. It’s not a major leak and I put a bucket under it, hoping it fixes itself like it did the last time. What happens is when I’m gone for a long time with the water off, the water in the bowl evaporates, and the gasket sealing the tank against the bowel dries out. Last time it did that, a few days of use and water flowing into the bowl from the tank and the gasket began sealing again.

As I said, the house was in winter mode when I left. It was in the 80s when I returned. I discovered the central air conditioning, which would have been good to have right then, wasn’t working. Again. It’s been a problem for several years now after the BGE…excuse me…Constellation, tech that replaced the compressor did a lot of other work that might not have been necessary at all, but which gave her billable hours, and screwed most of that up. Last year it took a senior technician to get it fixed. It ran good all summer last year and I was hopeful for this year, but here we are. A senior tech came out yesterday and told me the system was leaking coolant again and they’d get someone else to come out with them later and try to find the leak. In the meantime I got out the window units. Again.

When I tried to get the cuckoo clock going again, I discovered its hands weren’t positioned correctly. I stopped the clock before I left but apparently the hands came loose while I was away and were dangling at 6:30. Getting them back right took some fiddling, but the clock is working fine now.

I was getting thirsty bringing stuff back up from the car, so I got one of the bottles of ice tea I had with me, poured it into a glass and reached in the freezer for some ice, where I discovered the ice machine in the fridge wasn’t working. But yes it was, it was just stuck trying to fill its tray. I’d forgotten to turn it off while I was away, and all that time it kept running, but since the water to the house was turned off all it did was try to fill its tray…for two months. I was able to get it running again by pouring water from a glass into its tray to get the cycle going again. In the meantime I went to the chest freezer in the basement where I keep ice for the bar and got some from that.

In the process I checked my long duration power outage tests. Basically, you fill some small paper cups with water, put them in your freezers, let the water and put a quarter on top of the frozen water. If the quarter is embedded in the ice when you get back home, you know there was a power outage long enough to thaw the water out and your food is all probably spoiled. My quarters were all sitting on top of the ice in their cups, so no power outages.

I began sorting the stack of mail into piles of things that need immediate attention, things that I can look at later, magazines, things that just need throwing away and things that need shredding first.

The toilet tank leak became so bad I had to take the tank off. As I write this, the second floor bathroom is out of service…

I have another bathroom in the basement that (thankfully) is still in good shape. Apart from my partially converting it into a darkroom.

That’s dust you see on the wall behind where the tank was. It probably hasn’t been touched since the toilet was installed which was sometime before I bought the house. I had no idea it was that bad. Dusting the wall there periodically isn’t going to be easy though, once the tank is back on.

You can see the tank gasket is pretty far gone…

I really didn’t want to have to do this because I was afraid the bolts holding the tank in place had rusted beyond any hope of getting them off without brute force. But a little WD-40 and it wasn’t too bad after all. I ordered a new tank gasket and brass bolts that should be here tomorrow.

So besides everything else I need to do with the house now…and I’d already been planning to replace several floorboards on my backyard deck this summer, and repaint it, getting the second floor bathroom working again is my primary task for now. In addition to the new tank gasket I need to go buy an entire new set of gaskets for the water feed lines because I had to disconnect them from the tank. Probably also a new flapper valve since the one that was in there is going to dry out while I’m working on this. Maybe a whole new set of tank innards. Might as well. So it goes…

I got tempted to replace the entire thing now that it’s this much disassembled with a newer one with the bidet built in. There are some good ones out there, some really impressive ones that open the lid automatically as you walk over to the toilet, and automatically flush when you leave. But like a lot of latest and greatest things out there there’s just lots more about them to fail and you have no idea how to fix any of it, and even if you did all the parts are now so specialized that if the company that made the thing goes out of business you are screwed, whereas the one I have in there is simple, uncomplicated, the parts are all standardized, and it works just fine, even for being a first generation water saver toilet. Yes, I’ve had to replace the tank valves several times over the years, but that’s easy to do, and if the add-on bidet fails I can replace it.

Once I got all my clothes out of the main suitcase, I took what needed washing down to the basement and got the washing machine going. Thankfully It did not complain about my absence.

I got the window air conditioners out and running. I especially wanted to get my bedroom cooled off before nightfall because I can’t sleep when it’s too hot. The one in the living room is easy to set up, since it just uses a big flexible tube to vent out the window and its support fits perfectly in one of the front windows. But the little window unit for my bedroom is a chore. I built a support rack for it some years ago when I was having central AC problems then so I could have a cool bedroom to sleep in. But I have to lift that thing up to the window and small as it is it is still very heavy. Then I have to seal the window around it.

Welcome home Bruce. If a house is like a lover, then mine apparently got pissed off at me leaving it alone for so long and it’s making me earn forgiveness.


[Update…] I almost forgot… Something else I discovered after turning on the TV was my Roku box wasn’t working.. Then I remembered.

It’s the new latest and greatest Roku box. When I tried to turn it on yesterday all I got was the No Signal screen on the TV. There are no buttons on this Roku box, you have to operate it from the remote and the remote could not turn it on. So I did the traditional IT solution and unplugged the Roku from its power supply and plugged it back in again, and Voilà…I had signal. But the remote still would not operate it.

Okay, thinks I, the batteries went dead while I was away. So I went to change the batteries in the remote, only to realize there was no battery door on the remote.

And then I remembered. This new latest and greatest instance of the Roku box comes with a remote that you have to charge using a USB power connection and it’s own special variation on the mini USB cable that’s just different enough from other mini USB cables that none of the ones I have in my cable bin would work with it.

But I saw that coming when I unpacked it…it’s par for the course these days…so I kept the box this new Roku came in along with its cables, where I keep all my computer stuff so I would know where to find them, and be able to recharge the remote when I needed to. But it took overnight to do that.

In the meantime I could have used the Roku app on my iPhone or the iPad to control the Roku, but now I wasn’t in the mood for TV.

I cannot begin to relate how much I despise the new reality of rechargeable devices with built-in batteries that cannot be user replaced. It goes along with the overall direction companies are taking now of preventing us from repairing what we own, to make us have to buy new again and again, if not denying us ownership altogether in favor of making us pay infinate rent.

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