Captive in our Morning Capsules

As a little bit of a primer for those of you that aren't really familiar with limericks, it's all in the syllables.  There's a certain flow that needs to really take place for them to sound right, and it helps to exaggerate the pause at the end of the first and second lines.  Try doing them out loud... It really helps.  Like many things I do, I tend to bastardize them a little to suit my needs, but that's just my individuality shining through.

The Commute

Each weekday I commute in my car,
and luckily I don't drive too far.
To help pass the time
I'll make up a rhyme
While I'm captive like bugs in a jar.

Most of the year there's no light,
so I drive under cover of night.
There's not much to see
during the morning Grand Prix,
but the endless red brake lights in sight.

It's funny the things you DO see;
One guy surprised even me.
He ate cereal from a bowl
while continuing to roll
at full speed--as he steered with his knee!

I sometimes see makeup-type stuff
being applied when it's daylight enough.
They drive while they paste
all that stuff on their face
and their hair they will comb, brush, and fluff.

And then there's the lane-changing bunch...
Into the tiniest gap they will scrunch.
They don't gain much ground
and you'd think they'd have found
that they're flirting with causing a crunch.

At full speed on the freeway one day
multitasking in the midst of the fray,
I saw a guy with a book
and he occasionally would look
through the windshield and again look away.

I see tailgating constantly too.
Some are close as a mere yard or two.
No matter the speed
they just feel the need
to not ever lose their place in the queue.

Some folks ride along and will use
their commute as a chance for a snooze.
When they arrive at their place
of employment they face
the sequel of the "waking up blues".

I've heard of some people doing more
while battling the commuting war.
They learn something new
like a language or two.
It's useful time they can't seem to ignore.

I suppose that there are those that will look
for any possible excuse in the book
to leave their home life,
bitchy husband or wife
for a quiet, peaceful drive off the hook.

So in the morning go and stumble outside,
and climb sleepily into your ride.
Don't forget to show up
with your large coffee cup
Lest you arrive at your work looking fried.

Rick Williams

Chasing the Train

We were sitting here yesterday morning, enjoying our coffee/computer time when Sue got a text from her daughter, Rachyl.  The had just driven by Neely mansion near the Auburn/Black Diamond exit of Highway 18

"There are a lot of people milling around the railroad tracks with cameras down here."

After a few exchanges, Sue got interested enough that she put some clothes on and drove down there to investigate.  I couldn't go--I was busy eating cold pizza (yum!).  After a few minutes she called me and said a steam engine train was on its way through.  By this time I had finished my breakfast of cold pizza (yum!) so I got dressed and drove down.  For the people that don't know where we live, that's only about 3 miles.

There were quite a few photographers there staking out spots in various places.  Sue was right up alongside the tracks with her eye on catching it as it came around a curve near her.  I was going to stay with her but go slightly up the tracks and onto the other side of a wooden trestle, but when I got to it and saw no way to cross other than the middle of the tracks I chickened out.  After all, I've seen movies, read stories, and I'm not stupid.  Besides, there was a river below and I didn't want to fall through either.  I had gone back around by my car and was barely across the river on the road bridge (where there were also a couple photographers camped) when I heard the unmistakeable whistle of a steam locomotive in the distance--apparently crossing the road about two miles away.  I hurried back to grab a spot right on the middle of the car bridge that afforded a good view of the trestle over the river.  After a few minutes I saw the bright white steam billowing through the trees as it approached.  When I saw it, it wasn't what I expected.  It was a racy, sexy-looking engine that looked like it was designed to pull passengers cross-country at high speeds!  Behind it were several retro passenger cars that were equally cool-looking.  While none of my pictures were all that outstanding (I'm going to blame the crappy white sky for most of it because you almost can't tell the steam from the sky), here are a couple:

When it was all done and gone, I noticed some SUV cop cars pulling up and checking things out.  As I walked up to where Sue was, he was out of his car and was definitely interested in intercepting her as she came up the bank to the road.  It turns out they were all BNSF railroad cops (in full cop gear) and were apparently following the train on its entire historic run between Tacoma and Easton, which is on the other side of Snoqualmie Pass.  He asked for her ID and wrote her name and info on his little pad, all the while explaining how she was trespassing, etc, etc.  I guess they picked that spot because it was real easy to get to.  You know how cops are--They don't want to work any more than anyone else does...

After that fiasco, we jumped in her car and left mine there, and sped up Highway 18 to a crossing spot we knew of near our local Costco store.  There were a lot of photographers there as well.  A lot of traffic goes by that little road and people were constantly rolling down their windows and asking what was going on as they went by.  After a few minutes, we were greeted once again by the beautiful train (this time no cops though!):

I got a kick out of the people that were on the train, obviously having the time of their lives waving at everyone as they went past.  These guys here looked like they were kids again:

Later on we were wondering aloud if we might get shots of it when it makes its return trip.  Sue did a little internet digging and found out some arrival and departure times and its beginning and turnaround point and we figured out about what time it should be coming back through.  We wanted to get a good spot where we would have the shots we wanted with nobody around, so we explored a little--finally finding one that looked good.  We went back home, and when it was time we grabbed our gear and headed back out.  We hung out on the tracks for quite a while, patiently waiting and testing various spots to shoot from.  She was down the tracks from me and I was under a trestle where a small road passed overhead.  After what seemed like an hour (I forgot to look at my clock when we arrived) she texted me: "5 more minutes?  10?"  I was just typing my reply when we heard its whistle up the tracks where it was crossing at the Costco area we were at earlier in the day.  After only a couple minutes it came around the curve in the distance.  It was moving a lot slower and didn't have the big plume of white coming out of it's top.  Apparently it was kind of decelerating or coasting as the tracks might have had a slight downhill to them.  We were a little disappointed because the sky was bright blue and the white would have looked awesome under it.  Here's what I did get as it went by me just a few feet away:

It was a fun day of train chasing.  Definitely something we didn't have planned!


I was thinking recently how a person's attitude or perception of things changes with the number of times they experience them.  When something is "new" to you, you gaze at it with interest and wonder what it's doing there, what it does, how much it cost, or any number of things.

Think back... What ran through your mind the first time you saw a limousine up close?  If you're like me, it was something along the lines of, "Whoa, look how long that thing is!  I wonder who's inside?  A movie star?  The President?  I wish I could see inside.  I wish I was famous so I could ride in a limo."  Now they're everywhere.  Hardly anybody gives a limo a second glance any longer.  They're most closely associated with high school proms now.  Big deal.  To me they actually look or seem a little cheesy.

What about the first time you were walking through a parking lot and heard a car alarm go off?  Didn't you stop, look around to locate the source of the alarm, then look around to see what--if anything--anyone was doing about the potential breach of security that was taking place?  If you did see anyone, chances are they were doing and thinking the same thing.  You could have everyone in the parking lot looking at each other, wondering why somebody wasn't reporting the event.  Now if an alarm goes off, you wince and wish to yourself that they would have never been invented.

Similarly, the first time I ever experienced the 'thud... thud-thud.. ' of a car with sub-woofers I couldn't believe what I was experiencing.  I was a delivery driver back then, sitting up high in my Volvo delivery truck at a stop light in north Seattle.  The noise slowly swelled and got louder, louder, and louder.  All the time I was looking around, trying to locate the source of the sound, not even really knowing what the sound even was at that point.  (As most people know, bass is non-directional, so it's real hard to pinpoint its origin in any circumstance.)  Anyway, imagine my surprise when a late-sixties Chevy Camaro pulled up alongside me and I could see down into his car at where the back seat used to be--and I found myself looking at the biggest pair of speakers I had ever seen!  The two of them took up the entire space where the back seat had been.  Now what do we think?  If you're like me, you probably wish you could use a 12-gauge shotgun like Arnold does in Terminator 2.  Lucky for us, that phenomenon has faded.

Remember the first time you saw someone talking to themselves?  The hands-free cellphone devices are very popular (if not necessary now) but I still haven't quite gotten over how weird it seems when I see someone going by me on the road, having an animated (you know how people are--they talk with their hands a lot) conversation with someone with no phone or other person in sight.    It happens a lot in stores and stuff too.  It just sounds weird to hear someone having a loud conversation with someone somewhere when you can only hear half of it.  It's doubly weird when it happens in a bathroom somewhere.  For the most part though, we've gotten used to it.

Tattoos used to be something you only saw on guy that spent time in the military.  Arms would be decorated with gaudy depictions of anchors, girls, flags, and such.  Not now.  They're everywhere these days, and the art they choose knows no boundaries.  Anyone you see walking down the street probably has one or more tattoos somewhere on their body.  What do we think when we see them now?  Nothing.  No matter who's wearing them, they're commonplace.

Yep, no matter what it is, we eventually grow accustomed, jaded, apathetic... Whatever.

Probably much like my blogs.

A Whirlwind of a Weekend

When you take a weekend that already includes the prearranged "Hallmark happening" called Father's Day and add two more events to it, it is a busy and potentially chaotic weekend.  What were the events?  A dinner/gift exchange for Sue's side of the family, and a BBQ/food fest for my side of the family.

Because Sue is a Jehovah's Witness she doesn't celebrate most things that we non-Witnesses have come to love and hate.  Things like birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving--just about everything.  My family is kind of dysfunctional in a good sort of way.  I think that means we like our space.  Even though we are almost all in this geographical area we seldom visit each other unless there is a reason (like the aforementioned Hallmark events and birthdays) for us to have a get-together.  Because of that, Sue rarely sees anyone on my side of the family.  She created the Annual Williams Family BBQ last year.  This was the 2nd.

The weekend started with her family here on Friday night.  Unlike my family's event yesterday, the Friday night event for her family took place outside in nice weather.  We had food all laid out under the gazebo on our deck with a big tub o' brews under the table.  I had my traffic light plugged in and standing outside the garage, and the kids were whooping it up and having a good time with it.  They would stop on the red lights and wait for the green--at which time they ran around the back yard full speed until the light turned red again.  I wish I had that kind of energy!  Dane brought his new friend Chelsea along with him.  I like her.  She didn't just sit there blankly and absorb her surroundings like so many people do when they are thrust into a new and unfamiliar situation.  She was very friendly and talkative and seems to have a good sense of humor.  The gifting event went over well, with everyone happy with what they received.  It's Sue's chance to enjoy the feeling of giving gifts without the use of a holiday.  Most everyone else in her family is much more lax with the celebration of holidays I think.  They decorate and celebrate here and there.  The gift event was started by Sue many years ago, and although some gifts are actually exchanged, it's mainly just her giving gifts.

Saturday was the day of the 2nd Annual Williams Family BBQ.  When I got up it was raining.  That was followed by more rain, and after that was light rain, then heavy rain, a lot of rain, a little rain, and misty rain.  Do you see a pattern here?  I think there was about 10 minutes during the day when it didn't rain.  Yeah, it was definitely more like slug weather than BBQ weather.  Even though the event was forced indoors It still turned out to be a great gathering.  We had a great turnout, and everybody brought really great stuff to eat.  It was a feast!  Earlier in the week I invited my seldom-seen friend, Greg, to come too.  Having not heard anything from him since I emailed him the invite, I was pleasantly surprised to see him show up.  He needs to get out more.  He's a workaholic.  The number of family members dwindled little by little as the evening wore on but Greg stuck around for the whole evening.  We had a good gab session.  I hope everyone had a good time... I know I did.  Thanks to everyone that brought such awesome food goodies too!

So it's now down to Father's Day.  Not much to report here.  I bought my dad a couple of better-quality entrees and a couple pieces of cheesecake--basically a no-fuss meal all ready to go.  Of course, it's never a fuss for him because my mom does all the work.  I think she even cuts his meat for him.  Anyway, I picked Sarah up and we both dropped in over there for a quick visit.  Sarah then spent a few hours up here while I scanned some old pictures and newspaper clippings of folks from her mom's side of the family for her.

A pretty good weekend, but I'm glad it's over.  Sue is doubly glad!

Rick the Car

I have never been a Corvette.

There has never been anything even remotely racy about my design.  I have never been fast, powerful, or particularly notable in any category.  I'm not a durable 4x4 because I can't take much abuse. I'm not a station wagon or a pickup truck because I can't carry much.  I don't know what model I am but being American-made I'm sure I was assembled from a mishmash of stuff that originated in many other countries.   It's a wonder I work at all sometimes.  Many of my individual parts are pretty substandard.  As a whole I seem to function without too much maintenance.  I go in for a tuneup once a year or so.

I am, however, starting to wear out.

My windshield is distorted and hard to see through without squinting.  There are bugs all over it, and it seems like they move around on it all by themselves... Like they're alive.  The wipers don't help.

My engine is not very powerful.  It doesn't seem to leak anywhere, but that's about its only positive point.  It has multiple issues, but at least it's still running.  The accelerator seems to have a mind of its own: Sometimes it idles when it should be racing, and other times I can't even get it started.  Every now and then it misses badly and other times it purrs.  I can't trust my sensors any longer.  They are giving me all kinds of erratic readings.  I hope it keeps working for a while longer because I can't afford a mechanic to fix it, and that's assuming I can even find replacement parts.

I'm a little worried about my cooling system.  Usually I have no issues with overheating, but sometimes I can jump to the boiling point instantly.  I usually have no warning that it's about to happen.  Oddly enough it usually happens when I'm asleep in the garage.  All I can do is flip my doors open to let some fresh air in until I cool back down.

I don't run too well in cold weather.   If it's cold out I prefer to stay inside a nice heated garage instead of venturing out.  Yes, I prefer hot weather.   I like the top down, my windows down--Heck, I'd even take my doors and everything else off if I could.

My alignment has been out of whack since I can remember.   I seem to track fairly straight down the road though considering that my front wheels are toed-out way out of allowable specifications.

My suspension is pretty tired.  It can't take the heavy-duty bumps and jostling like it could when I was newer.  There are lots of squeaks and pops--especially when I start moving in the morning.  Sometimes I bend a spring or something doing something I shouldn't be doing.  That hurts.  I think all my joints are badly in need of grease, but the fittings have long since stopped taking grease.  The only option is replacement and I don't feel like going through that.  I'm not worth the expense.

My finish is pretty bad.  I'm covered with dents and dings pretty much everywhere you look, and I'm nowhere near as smooth as I used to be.  My top is much, much lighter than the brown color it was when I was new.  Apparently it has been bleached by the sun.

Sometimes a strange sound comes out of my tailpipe, followed by a lot of horn-honking from people behind me.  They scream of smoke and a foul odor but I don't notice anything.  It smells fine to me.

When I was newer I was bad and I breathed smoke all the time. Since that doesn't happen any more I've found I don't have to worry so much about my air filter. I can breathe much easier than I used to.

Apparently I have a variable-size gas tank.   Either that or it occasionally leaks.  Sometimes I can take in and inordinate amount of fuel, and other times not so much.  The leak would explain why I run out of gas so quickly sometimes.  I think I get better mileage when I use good fuel, but I don't always like the taste of good fuel.  Sometimes the crappy fuel is just easier to deal with and more convenient.  Besides my regular fuel I like to use additives.  I've heard that some of the additives I drink are bad for my sensors and filters, but I like the added pep it gives me.  It makes me feel young and perky again--if only for a short while.

I think I'm doing pretty good for my age but I shouldn't take it for granted.  I need to start increasing the frequency of tuneups.  I guess that means I'll have to suffer the indignity of having someone look at my underside once again.


Love for Retro

There was a line that Steve McQueen uttered in his final movie that sticks in my mind.  He had just picked up a nice, new Firebird from the rental car company and he asked, "Don't you have anything older?"  Sometimes I feel that same way.

I wonder why I'm drawn to old stuff?  It doesn't take a genius to notice that I'm strangely enamored with items and designs from the past.  I'm not just talking about stuff from my past either.  I find the stuff I like the most is from before my time. Maybe I was born in the wrong decade?  Maybe even the wrong century?  No, I like tech stuff way too much to make that statement.  I think what I like is a good marriage of new technology and old design.

I tried to categorize my likes of various things, but it's hard to do.  I like fashions of the 20's and the 50's.  I like cars from the 40's and 50's.  I like motorcycles from the 30's and 40's.  It's like I'm just all over the place!

Here is one thing I know is from my childhood, and directly related to my dad: I've always loved cars and motorcycles that are painted flat black.  If a flat black car or motorcycle has plain, steel wheels that are painted with bright primary colors (usually red) and also has whitewall tires then I really take notice.  That was the post-war automotive style that was going on when I was born.  Obviously there were enough of them around that they had an impact on me.  There are a few with that look here if you want to get an idea of what I'm talking about.

Motorcycles?  I just like old.  The old stuff was so different.  So elegant, so stylish, so oddly cool.  Besides looking different, the various motorcycle manufacturers (and there were quite a few of them) were also incorporating very interesting engine designs, all with advertising that loudly touted theirs as revolutionary and superior.  The Ariel Square Four comes to mind.  As its name would suggest, the four cylinders of the engine were in two rows of two--a square.  I really like the Harley-Davidsons of the flathead era.  The finned engines just had a look that I love.  All of the mechanical things of that era that I love are persnickety--just like me.  They aren't for everybody.

I can't pass up anything that has retro styling without stopping to admire it.  In the early to middle 20th century practically everything had style.  Extra trim pieces, chrome, ribs, fins, texture or whatever were built into practically everything.  Toasters, bicycles, radios--Even the big glass vacuum tubes in the radios had style!

I like neon signs too. I suppose I like them because neon lights are old technology.  They are also very much a symbol of what we all call Americana.  Anything that is old and cool and unique to our strange country is called Americana.  I guess I should say old, cool, and collectible.  We like to collect things in this country.  Good luck trying to find anything from 50-100 years ago any longer.  There are lots and lots of professional collectors and antiques dealers that constantly scour the country for old, collectible items.  The small towns all across the country are being bought up--one building or item at a time--and their signs, supplies, tools, farm equipment, and anything else contained in them are being sold off to collectors trying to re-live yesteryear.

The early 20th century was our "golden era" on so many levels.  Practically everything was still evolving.  Technologies, designs, processes, materials, and just about everything else was still in a learning stage.  Plastics were almost nonexistent, many metals were still being tweaked, and there were no computers or robotics to help with anything.  No, it was a much different time.  Companies were trying to establish their own identity through innovative product design.  There were "races" to get their products out before the other guys did.

We didn't have to look for the "Made in USA" wording on a product back then.  Unless it was a "niche" item like a Swiss watch or German precision stainless steel medical instruments, it was all made in the U.S.  Because it was made it the U.S. you could just about bank on the fact that there was going to be some style involved in the product design.  I wonder when we actually did start to adopt flash and pizazz in our products?  Maybe it was about the U.S. always being a melting pot of people from all over the world.  A cultural mishmash of people with many trying to be unique in any way they could.  While some people liked quiet, utilitarian designs, the majority of the consumers probably preferred fancy. 

I started this blog post with the intention of concentrating on my love for certain old things--the things I love and the reasons I love them.  It seems to have almost turned into a sort of commentary doesn't it?  I guess that's typical when I start writing.  Oh well.

Number Two!

Happy Anniversary to me and my wife of two years!

Like many married couples say, it seems longer.  I know, I know--Most of them say that to be funny--but it really does seem longer.  I'm not saying a lot longer, but longer nonetheless.  In a good way.

Who would have ever thought that I would end up married to the receptionist that peeked at me through the "talk window" at LaCroix Industries when I first applied for a job there back in 2002?  I'm sure that was the farthest thing from either of our minds back then.  Probably double for her--knowing the caliber of riffraff that applies for work there like she does.  There have been some "class acts" that have wandered in there.  Over the years she really came to appreciate that piece of security glass that separated her from many of those job-seeking vermin.

Like almost all marriages, we are both a good match and a not-so-good match.

I'm sure she would love it if I were a Witness like she is (as many of her friends and family probably would as well), but that isn't the case.  I respect her choice of religion as I would anyone else for theirs.  We sometimes have conversations about biblical things, and she being the knowledgeable student of such things that she is, is always quick and eager to explain how it really happened.  I'm sure she notices when my eyes glass over, but she makes no mention of it.  Conversely, I'm sure she winces inside when I bring up some of my notions of religion--usually based on science-fiction or pure speculation.  If she does she keeps it pretty well hidden.  She does always volunteer tidbits such as, "You is a weird man" or similar.

Suzie is bossy, and I'm opinionated, but both of us are stubborn.  That means that neither of us are comfortable with giving up any ground when the situation arises.  We usually do of course.  That's what married people do.  She has forced me many times to talk about what was bothering me when I didn't want to.  I have always been the one that liked to let things be.  Not Suz.  She won't let anything be.  If there is a situation that needs to be addressed, she gets after it.  I've watched her patching things among her family members far too often, but you know what?  It gets done.  She won't rest until there is harmony within the ranks.

We are different in our shopping styles.  I like to wander.  She likes to "speed shop" with her list.

I like a restful day.  Suzie is a doer.  If a day goes by and she didn't do anything productive, she gets into a bit of a funk.  She likes to recite the things she got done at the end of her day.  I have been surprised more times than I can think about the things that she has done during a day while I was at work or whatever.  She should be a blister-packed toy action figure at Toys R Us.  Action Suzie!

We really enjoy our trips together.  Our traveling styles are very similar.  The pace, the likes--even snacking and eating--are close enough that our trips end up being very enjoyable.  Even day trips and weekend excursions.  She's a good travel companion.

How many married couples end up at 50+ years old sharing a hobby?  Probably only the recently-remarried ones.  People that have been married for years and years are lucky to share even a meal or a car ride, and even then it's probably in silence.  Our shared hobby of photography tends to be some of the best times we've ever spent together.  We are lucky in that regard.

Suz is very, very proud of her place here, and she loves to maintain and to mow.  I really have no say-so in any of that, and rightly so because it's flawless the way it is.

I'm sorry for all my imperfections Suzie, but at least I put the toilet seat down.  I always will.

Happy Anniversary, Suz!  I love you very much.  I always will.