Shut Your Pie Hole
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When I started working at my present job many moons ago, I got to know a laborer that was nicknamed Rocky. He was a big guy and I found out he lifted weights religiously. Somebody told me that he would go home after work and lift weights after knocking down and removing walls all day in the office buildings where I work. At the time I didn’t comprehend physically exerting yourself all day and then working out at night. It seemed crazy. But now I know this is what our bodies are programmed to do. People walked across America without much food to populate the country at the time. Now with unlimited inexpensive food, it’s possible to work for a long period of time, with the proper amount of sleep. I later found out that Rocky did some competitive power lifting. When the laborers were on the floors they would work like animals for long periods of time. And we would work alongside them rebuilding the a.c. pipes and valves. I got to know them all. Rocky told everybody a story one time about his father that was interesting. His father had a garden at the house where Rocky grew up. There was a guy in the neighborhood who would cut through Rocky’s yard and sometimes trample the garden. Rocky’s dad asked him to stop it. And one day the guy cut through the garden again, so his dad grabbed an axe ran out into the yard knocked the guy down and stood over him with the axe threatening him. Afterward, he didn’t really hurt him but he must of scared the shit out of him. Because he went to the police and filed a complaint. So a hearing was set-up at the local justice of the peace. Rocky’s dad told the kids in the family Rocky and his brother-I know I’ve always told you boys to tell the truth but today at the hearing you lie when the judge asks you what happened that day in the yard, when I threatened the neighbor. You tell the judge I did not have an axe that day. Truth and justice and obedience are complicated things. And in the time of conflict they really get complicated. What average person in the time of trouble would not break all of the religious commandments to save the people that they love….If we have learned anything from all the genocide and holocausts in our time maybe it is better to rise up and die fighting than to wait around and be slaughtered like farm animals. But education trains us to be obedient to authority even when those in charge have become lazy, corrupt and evil….
Last week I was running in Frick Park and it began to rain.And instead of turning around and running back home I just decided to keep on my normal loop to the other side of the park. Since all that I had on was a pair of shorts and tennis shoes I figured running in the rain isn’t much different than swimming. So the rain really started coming down, as they say raining cats and dogs. It got dark with clouds and then started lightning. Once I was drenched it was similar to swimming. I had to keep a certain pace to stay warm. If I ran too fast the wind chill cooled me uncomfortably down. And running too slow, I was not exerting myself enough and that also made me cool down. So I found a pace that would keep me comfortably warm. When I got down to the bottom of the park where the creek is, I was enjoying watching this small stream turn into a torrent or mini Colorado River. Lightning overhead with the rushing water next to me it was kind of a nice experience. I had to dodge some massive puddles. Running in the rain and swimming pulls the calories out of the body and I even think if you do either one long enough it feels like the stomach shrinks a little. I did see some hardcore mountain bikers on this run, but other than this, it was utter desolation. Getting away from everything and everyone. I think we all need this once and a while weather we know it or not. When I get the right amount of physical exertion followed by the right amount of sleep I can look up at an extraordinary world, especially if it is in a wide open space like a park or a body of water. Even some of the hills around here look like small mountains.You can feel and see a lot when you get your physical exertion under control.
I went to one of my favorite bars last night in the East End of Pittsburgh, and had a pitcher of Straub Beer. It is located sort of in an alley. I like alleys because you can see some of the most interesting things there, houses being buildt and even people look different from the alley. It is easier to move around there because there are hardly any cars. Alleys give you the true look at restaurants. Short order cooks and garbage can be art from this vantage point. And where my bar is located there are a lot of basement apartments , another thing I find very interesting. Living underground, it’s quiet and more climate controlled. When I was growing up alleys were the domain of all the kids. Some of us would fight, smoke, drink and eat there and sometimes sleep. If you don’t want to be seen, the alley is the place to be. When I was a paperboy I always used them for short cuts. I think my job as a paperboy was the best job that I ever had. I don’t think I have ever felt control like I had as a paperboy. I actually had two paper routes. I delivered papers in the morning and in the evening. The money poured as I was living at home and had no expenses. I had like 70 morning customers and over 100 evening papers to deliver. I walked over half of Dormont Borough where I lived. I was up with the milkmen. Since I always had money I always ate good. I went to all the local restaurants and dive places to eat. All night diners, malt shops and bars, anyplace that served food.
Ever since my uncle got me a deal on a Nikon camera many moons ago I always see photos when I am walking. And I never bother to carry the camera anymore but I need to record what I have seen. It is easier for me to write about it than to carry the camera. Last week I was walking up Fifth Avenue and there was a parking attendant sitting in the middle of the parking lot on a Friday evening without too many cars in the parking lot. And he gave me some kind of abstract nod. He was mirroring my own expression I think. Behind him was a sixty story building under construction. He didn’t realize that he was in the forefront of this massive structure. He was sitting on a battered barcalounger that might have had wheels on it. It was just another picture that I never took, except for the one that is in my mind. Since that day I have walked nearer to that building and I saw the crane at the very top of the building with the cable stretched from the very top of the building all the way down to about the third floor, pulling up a rectangular palate of something flat. That cargo was swaying slightly in the air above all the commuters heading to their destinations. It was quite a site as I was standing on the sidewalk almost directly under it looking straight up. And most people were walking past me looking down at their phones ...
It has been almost a year now since Captain Bill retired at work. I spent nearly my whole adult life working with him and a number of other men. And a lot of those other men are retired as well. Captain Bill is/was 6’5” inches tall and is a Vietnam vet. Like all tall people he had some issues that go with that characteristic. A lot of people challenged him because he was big. Some bosses even became obsessed with him. He learned to take it all in stride. And like Sigmund Freud he saw most human motivation based on sex. Only his was the street version of it. One old timer that liked to eat so much, Freud might have said that he had an oral fixation. Bill said that food was like pussy for that guy. And through all the layoffs we always seemed to work together a lot. Picket lines, chillers, a.c. units, boilers, snow tractors, river dives, commodes, urinals, cast iron pipe, copper pipe, cast steel, welding, burning, electrical wiring, pneumatic controls, diesel engines, gas engines, snow blowers, roof leaks, chemical treatments, floods, blizzards, glycol a.c. units, weather masters, chemical feed pumps, dry wall, concrete anchors, heat load, cooling load, broken pipes, eddy currents, phantom electrical waves, harmonics, pneumatic controls, air compressors, insulation, horse power, chemical feeds, river water in the power plant, another ass beating on the picket line, bosses come and go and we stay. Bosses come, I go to Mellon Bank for two years. During another lay-off, I work at Benedum center for a while, learning about bromide absorbent chillers which use steam to cool. Bruce Springsteen plays at the Benedum and I get to watch the show from the back of the stage. I find it strange to have to work around actors and musicians, running designated circuits with the electrician for the caterers, flooded ejector pumps, float on water softener explodes, condensate lines rot out, drain in boiler room sprouts leaks, epoxy and duct tape to the rescue, impellers have to be reground on chill water pumps to fit back in housing of pump, river rises to 36 feet floods condensate pit in 5 minutes because nobody shut off vent valve, motors have to be pulled out and sent to a place to bake out the water in them. Tony Lamorte retires and gets Tit slapped at his retirement party by a woman we all paid $100 bucks for that looked like Attila the Hun. Computers come in and displace some union jobs. Computers also create some nonunion jobs. I could see from the start that computers will create a class of people with little social skills and a fear of getting dirty. They are under the illusion that sitting in front of a computer screen gives them control over everything. Flat tires on the snow tractors, replace bearings on the snow tractors shaft for brush snow removal linkage, replace fuse on 3 phase starter box of Channel Two’s condensate pump. The news goes off the air for a short while, Channel Two refuses to put chlorine in their river water and fresh water clams are polluting the main power plants river water, pressure regulators need replaced, have to thread ¾” inch pipe to install chemical feeds on boilers, have to cut and thread 1 ¼” inch pipe for new boiler feed pumps, have to change oil on air compressors on fire pump dry systems, replace packing on diesel fire pumps, welded hydraulic pump onto gravely tractor for snow removal, every winter river water temperature drops into the low 30’s and we can shut the air conditioning off and cool all the computer banks in the complex with cold river water. Very green application for a power plant built in the 1950’s, put new starter on the gator, government work rebuilding an outboard motor on the fishing boat, welding condensate lines, have to relearn how to calibrate thermostats for comfort air, replace 150 bathroom faucets, have to deal with phony businessmen who think cutting jobs saves the company money. The chaos that follows working with new bosses. Continue studying dentistry in the boiler room, do a few root canals and crowns, thinking about doing brain surgery, sex change operations are proposed (Bill Shea) was the first to propose this on some of our co-workers. If we can’t do it in Local 95 maybe it cannot be done…space travel might be next. Captain Bill have a good retirement I’ll see you up on Lake Erie. You never flinched even when the bloodsuckers tried to fire us. So when you’re on your boat on Lake Erie pulling in those 8 pound walleyes, when the wind flares up, I know we can count on you shaking up your fishing buddies when you jump off the boat nude into a 10 foot swell to clean off the sides of the boat. Semper-fi bro….
Presque Isle, that is what the French call ‘almost’ an island. A piece of land that jets out from the mainland but does not quite form an island. This almost an island has become part of our travel routine every summer. The engineers have made rock piles all around this piece of land to prevent the island from washing away. And it seems to be working. When I sit on the beach it is hard to tell the difference between this only ‘sea shore’ in the state of Pennsylvania and the southernmost island in the U.S., Key West, Florida. They are both surrounded by a huge body of water and have sandy beaches. The invasive species of trees in Key West that compete with the palm trees must have originated in the Presque Isle region. Besides the oak, maple and acacia trees growing out of the sand on this beach 100 miles north of Pittsburgh there is another tree that grows in Key West and is just as successful growing in both places. This tree has what looks like grey bark and heart shaped leaves. This tree is so prolific that in Key West they have to bull doze and burn them to give the palm trees a chance to grow. In Presque Isle they make for good shade on the beach to rest under between swims. Lake Erie is so big that you can’t see Canada from shore you have to take a boat ride a long way out before you can see that big country. Swimming in Presque Isle is different too because the lake is fresh water and you are not as buoyant swimming here as you are in the ocean. The waves on this lake can be just as big as on the ocean. Every year we wonder why we don’t get up here more often. The dead walleye that wash up on shore are picked at by the sea gulls. This is one of the few places in the world where they did not allow any development of hotels and restaurants. There are no buildings, it is a natural paradise. Birds and small ponds are plentiful on this ‘almost’ an island. All the hotels, bars and restaurants are in the town of Erie which is not far away. The visitors here are all mostly from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Quebec. Where in Key West there are people from all over the world. Of all the things I own the one thing that I have gotten the most use out of is my scuba mask. I have worn that thing in a lot of lakes and oceans. The lake water is good for what ills your skin might have, rashes and what not. The fresh water hydrates the skin unlike salt water that tends to dry it out. Since they did not put any buildings here you can walk the whole beach. There is also a huge bay on the mainland side of the (island) that is very calm and many people sail there. A lot of people fish from shore on the bay side too. On the mainland we stopped by the campground where my buddy Captain Bill whiles away the days between his fish charters on the lake. His place is high up and you can really get a feel for how big the lake is by viewing it from this high point. We usually eat light during the day and hit one of restaurants in the evening for dinner in the town near the lake. We try to walk to the restaurant to walk off some of the calories from eating the walleye and lake perch that is on all of the menus. I did notice at one restaurant that they are able to sell the farm raised salmon cheaper than the locally caught fish. The local fish is really unique here because you cannot buy it away from the lake even in Pittsburgh. You have to eat it to appreciate it. So on any given day after coffee you can rollerblade, bike or hike the entire ‘almost’ island paradise. And then swim until the water takes your soul. When my body hits the water I no longer have any desire for anything. I no longer want to figure out how the world works or what I need to do to get what I need or want. The water takes me to a place where I blow the wad I let it all go. I let the fish teach me how to live. I think this a simple physiological reaction from being in cool water, you are expending so many calories the blood sugar drops and you feel euphoric. Lack of calories in the body is linked to ecstasy. And the after affects last so much longer than anything else even long after you get out of the water. Even drinking beer in this state takes on a whole new meaning. The alcohol goes straight out of the pores and you get a different kind of buzz. I know that I have written about this before but I am trying to figure out what is going on internally and physiologically from this. It is almost Zen like when the body exerts itself to a certain point that you take on an intense focus and outlook. It is very similar to building something. When you finally decide to build that wall or replace the furnace in the house. It is going to require a pretty big commitment on the body and mind. Especially if you want to get done in a reasonable amount of time.
The annual trip down to the Florida Keys. The temperature down there is so nice this time of the year that if it is better than this any where in the world, I don’t want it. The same goes for the physical beauty of the place.This time we stayed right in the middle of the Keys, Marathon. And like every vacation it becomes an experiment in how far I can stretch the limits away from the routine of the work world the rest of the year. In typical Keys fashion the guy who rented us the bikes did not even make us sign anything. So right away after the two hour flight down to Miami and the shuttle ride south, we got on the rented bikes and headed out to the beach. The sun felt great since it has pretty much has disappeared in Pittsburgh. We found a deserted part of the beach and I jumped in the ocean in my camouflaged underwear. Did not think to unpack the shorty wet suit that I brought down for the colder water temperature this time of the year. The water was around 75 degrees. The air temperature was almost 80. It was cold getting in but it felt good after a while. This beach has choral outgrowths right up onto the beach. The islands are all ancient choral rock. Every trip I go on I make a note to invent a waterproof money belt that won’t let the money and i.d. cards get wet. Everything that I have bought in dive shops and from travel companies always leaks and I always end up having to dry the money out on the bed with a towel. And I remember traveling overseas I would always have to cut the swimming short because I never had a way to keep my passport dry. So now I have decided that I am going to invent a pair of shorts that are money-theft proof and waterproof. The only thing that I found that doesn’t leak are those little plastic film canisters. I am going to sew them into a pair of shorts like an ammo belt. I have some other ideas about how to keep a passport dry. Everyone thinks that if you stay at a decent hotel you should be able to leave valuables in the room. But experience has taught me that I trust no one when it comes to money. So the money got wet again. I found out that one hour and twenty minutes in 75 degree water even with a small 2 mm wet suit on makes you euphoric especially if you did a lot of biking and/or hiking before the swim. The water pulls the calories out of the body and you start to feel extremely joyful. This I think comes from exhausting all the carbohydrates from the body. Hunger can be such a strange thing when you are into the routine of the work-world but when you get into your own time food seems to be less important. And when you get into the water you forget about the pangs. Sometimes people sitting on the beach remind me of people sitting in traffic. Just waiting for their next feeding. The wet suit also makes you really buoyant and you can float on the surface without any effort at all. You can almost fall asleep, but you have to be careful not to float out to where the fishing boats are flying by. After that initial swim without the wet suit, it made me appreciate the black rubber thermal properties in subsequent swims. I always swim with a snorkel and mask so that I can see everything under me. Crabs, lobster, fish are always around in the Keys. It makes the swimming more interesting. They are having a great year on stone crabs this year and they were on all the restaurant menus. I read that the fisherman only pull the claws off where most of the meat is at, and throw the crabs back in the water where they will regrow their claws. That is what I like about Marathon. There are a lot of fisherman here and a fair-sized commercial industry. Not as touristy as Key West. If you walk back into the streets you will find workers assembling crab and lobster traps with air nail guns. And other workers processing fish in warehouses. Since we never stayed here before we ended up exploring all the new territory. It seems like when I get down here I can live on sunshine alone. I can go a long time without food and water, while hiking, biking or swimming. This used to lead to a lot of arguments with Laura but since she started carrying water bottles and energy bars that eliminated any problems. At some point after you have used up all your food reserves the metabolism changes and you go into what I call overdrive. And by the time you do get around to eating and drinking you pretty much can eat and drink as much as you want because your stomach is not going to be able to hold enough food to replenish what you have used up. And the rest of the day and evening you are kind of in a endorphin glow. And it does not matter how old you are it feels the same in your teens, twenties thirties, forties, etc… Later in the week we bicycled to Pigeon Key. The old railroad bridge converted into a road takes you there. It was the place where hundreds of workers built the railroad that opened up the Keys. This little island still has the houses that the workers used. The converted bridge is a nice bike ride or walk above the ocean. We ran into the German people we met at the restaurant the night before. This is always a good thing because that is part of the reason for traveling because you always meet new like-minded people. It seems like when you break your routine, it is invigorating. More swimming, more hiking, more fishing by the time you drink a margarita the booze in the drink goes straight out your pores and it’s like drinking lemonade... Our hotel was right in line with the Marathon airport and one day there was a Canadian cargo plane circling around there all day. This plane had four props and they were flying really low. They were doing some kind of maneuvers dropping objects to people on the airstrip. It was interesting to watch. This continued all day. Even out at the beach I watched the plane circling the town. This is the kind of wide bodied plane that can transport tanks and jeeps. Later in the week we biked out to the airport and looked into a flight to the Bahamas. There was nobody in the airport except a couple car rental people. The walls were all painted white and there were a lot of windows making it very bright inside. Something that I like in a building or house, brightness. I think it makes you feel better. There is also a lot of very small aircraft at this airport. Makes you want to fly especially because of the flatness of the terrain. But I’m not sure flying is a good idea on a part-time basis. At least in a boat if the motor conks out you can still float. Gravity is too unforgiving. In this town you get to see your share of planes and boats of all types… One day we went to breakfast at a Cuban restaurant and behind the restaurant was what looked like the working class section of the town. It was mostly trailers and it was pretty ingenious the way the people living there put additions onto their homes. It was a nice contrast to some of the huge structures that were on the waterfront.
The Russian Lady
I got up a little late for work this morning and I decided to run down the street to catch the bus. There is a Russian lady that I normally stand at the bus stop with that always wears fashionable clothes from Russia, furry hats and coats.And as I was running past her house I yelled to her that the bus was coming. She started running right along with me in her fashionable shoes.We both kind of sprinted down the rest of the street.Then when we got there the bus did not come for another five minutes. So we started talking and she gave me another short lesson on the Russian language.She has been teaching me her language at the bus stop for some time. It makes waiting for the bus in the winter a little easier. And this past winter has been a brutal one. The wind always seems to blow hard down Greenfield Avenue. The Russian lady and my wife and I stand in the dark almost every morning. My wife normally just listens to the Russian lady. But I tend to do most of the talking with her. She even got mad at me because she thought I wasn’t given her enough time to talk. But I think this is natural when we are speaking in English. Since I am more fluent in English, the Russian lessons get reversed and I am then teaching English. I no longer am interested in speaking foreign languages. I am more interested in how to acquire another language. And what I have learned next to taking language classes, probably watching movies with foreign subtitles is the next best strategy to learn a language.
A couple of weeks ago at work, I fell off of a fan about eight feet down trying to turn on some sprinkler valves. After turning on the water we forgot to close one hose bib and the water was rushing out. And when I turned to shut it off I missed the top of the fan, thus, landing with my right foot. I fell pretty hard. Adding insult to injury, my flashlight went out and I could not see the uneven landing. Since my left leg came down first on a solid platform, it tried to compensate for my right foot stepping onto what amounted to nothing as I was falling. So I sprained my left knee really bad and I smacked my right shin very hard. After falling, the adrenalin kicked in and I jumped right up to turn off the hose bib. I felt O.K. for about fifteen minutes but then the pain and swelling started. I have sprained my ankles before a couple of times and I knew the swelling would last about twenty-four hours. By the end of the work day I could barely walk. The pain was unbelievable. Somehow I managed to limp out of work that day. Just out of curiosity I went over to my gym to see if I could do anything. To my surprise I did not feel any pain in my knee riding the stationary bicycle. Whatever motion riding the bicycle used was different from walking on the knee. I know most people would have used a fall like this to just go home and lay on the couch but I was just curious to know if there was anything I could do in the gym. So after riding the bike for an hour the endorphins kicked in and the throbbing in my knee did not feel as bad. Probably the best thing I could have done after such an injury. When I did get off the bike the swelling was getting worse and I knew that I was in for a long night. At home I lay on the couch and Laura put ice on it my knee but when she tried to lift my leg up to put pillows under it I let out a blood curdling scream. The next morning I could hardly get out of bed to go to work. But somehow I wobbled to my truck and limped into work. And sure enough after about twenty-four hours, the swelling broke and the pain was decreased about 25%. I knew then I would probably be O.K. The pain has lasted more than a month now but it has reduced each day. I still cannot make any sharp turns walking but the pain is almost gone and the knee is definitely healing. I never stopped working out throughout this injury. I just could not run for a while. I had to use the stationary bike. But I still limped around all of the weight machines. And I tried to walk off the pain. I only babied it the first couple of days.
The other day at work I had to do a double shift, which means I worked sixteen straight hours. And since the computers crashed I had to put one of the air conditioning compressors on by hand. I had to climb about forty feet up on the machine to open up the condenser valves. Because we rarely have to do this, it made for a hectic night. And since this was the day after the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup parade, Downtown, I had to bicycle to work because of all of the traffic. So after working the double shift, I got on my bike and pedaled home down the Eliza Furnace trail also known as the jail trail. It was very surreal because I did not sleep the night before and the sun was coming up as I rode down the trail. All the other bikers were going the other way to work towards Downtown Pittsburgh. When I got off the trail I found two aluminum hubcaps. I put them in the bike basket. I also found a bunch of aluminum cans and threw them into the basket. Going up the hill to my house I cut down a side street because there were a lot of people standing at the bus stops. I cut down a street I was not familiar with to avoid the people. Since the street was steep I got off the bike to push it while walking. Then I noticed an old German shepherd type dog. It must have been blind because it was not looking at me. It got my attention and I stopped to look at him. And on the porch a little ways away I saw a woman that looked like a girl who was delighted by my attention to her dog. She kept smiling at me almost laughing. So I was delighted too by this moment and without saying anything I moved on up the hill, realizing I would never have seen the dog or woman had I been driving. There is so much that I miss when I drive. Sleep deprivation and physical excursion give us back our souls sometimes.
This past Sunday we went up to Moraine State Park which is about thirty five miles north of Pittsburgh. It has a fairly decent sized lake and there are no homes built around the lake, save for the park ranger house. We rented a ten horsepower bass boat with fishing chairs and a steering wheel. We drove around the entire lake. It took about two and a half hours. We were not in any hurry. There are two bridges that go over the lake at opposite ends of the lake. The bridges were built tastefully to mesh right in with the water and the trees. The one bridge has a major highway on it but it does not seem to interfere with the beauty of the place. There were sailboats all over the lake that day. The beauty was astounding. All that we brought to eat were some oranges and roasted peanuts. At one point Laura was driving the boat and I just sat back in the fishing chair and ate an orange. At the north end of the lake there is a place for people to swim. We rode past and waved to the swimmers. After we returned the boat we went to the south part of the lake where there is another beach for swimmers. We brought our shorty wet suits and got in the water. I swam across the lake to the other side because I saw two hikers there and I wondered if there was a trail that went all the way around the lake. When I got over there I loved the solitude of no one being around. Since I had on a pair of rubber booties for swimming, I got out of the lake and found the trail and it looked like it went quite a ways. I was going to walk it but I did not want Laura to think that I drowned. So I got back into the lake and sat in the shallow part and enjoyed being all alone. Then I snorkeled and looked at the bottom of the lake. The visibility was about four feet. Eventually I took a slow swim back to the beach side of the lake. Then Laura and I split a can of sardines with whole wheat buns. Then I wrapped a towel around my waist and went to look for a trail that connected to the one I found across the lake. We found it and made a note to walk it the next time that we came to this park. Then we took the short drive home while the sun was setting. We saw some sailors towing their boats down the highway.
On Saturday Laura and I went to a place called Lawrenceville.We wanted to get a 12 volt battery to hook up to a solar panel. Something that we want to rig up that will run a portable blender. We want to get started on getting our vending licence to sell solar oatmeal smoothies that will make the claim of feeding someone for the whole day. And on a sunny day we can make solar yogurt right on the sidewalk or wherever we might be vending. The electrical warehouse was closed so we took a long walk down Butler Street. This is a part of town that I had never explored before. But, I did teach in the area many times at two different schools, Arsenal Middle School and Washington Polytechnical School. Arsenal Middle School used to be Lawrenceville Catholic High School. I spent half of my education in a Catholic school. And I give credit to this school for most of my restraint in dealing with people in life.
I never realized what a magnificent structure Arsenal Middle School is from the outside. It is made out of hugh sandstone blocks with no wooden trim. And just walking by it as a tourist, it looked great. When I taught there, however, it appeared to me to be just a prison for 13 and 14 year olds.This was the first school where I saw them take a kid out of there in hand cuffs. Now they are consolidating the schools putting more kids in bigger schools. I think they were better off with more smaller schools. But the budget rules and they have to save money
Since I had never explored this part of town it all looked new to me on foot. The main street is growing with art galleries, theatres, bars and all kinds of curiosity shops. After we strode down the main drag we started hitting the side streets. And for once I had my camera. I felt like I was on vacation. It was a really mild day and the people all seemed friendly. This part of town is beside the other river in Pittsburgh, the Allegheny River, so we had to head down towards that river to take a look. But first we went through streets of row houses and rehabilitated factories. This is a community building itself out of urban blight. I just had one of those cheap throw away cameras but everywhere I looked I thought I saw a great picture. So we were just walking along and I was snapping pictures. And there was one that I took that I thought would be great. There was a tiny off-colored spudsy bird with a reddish hue. It was walking on this quiet urban street with old row houses all around. I took its picture then noticed that the biggest building in down town Pittsburgh could be seen about three miles away in the background. I took another picture with this tiny bird and the huge building in the background. Then I came across a yard where the owner had a bunch of bowling balls placed in a winding sphere.In the remainder of his yard were bricks so I guess he did not have any grass to cut. I understand that bowling balls wear out you can only use them so many times before they start to lose something in their quality. I guess this guy’s yard was a shrine to a lifetime of bowling. These are the times when I start to think that I should just walk around the world with some cheap cameras and photogragh everything.
Not eating is an acquired pleasure like drinking coffee. Just like when you first drank a cup of coffee you thought it was bitter but after a while you acquired a taste for it. Well, not eating is a similar acquired taste or feeling rather. All tastes and sensations are feelings, many that we learned to like and dislike. Learning to like the sensation of having nothing in your belly can be a great feeling when you go about it in a way that brings maximum pleasure. It may be hard at first until your stomach shrinks a little then you become quite comfortable with the feeling you get from not having to shove food in all the time.
Another analogy of learning to like something that feels strange at first is working out. Like jogging or lifting weights, the pleasure derived from the excursion is all worth the hard work. Working at a job that takes skill is tough until you have mastered the skill. The same with a challenging subject matter in school, the pleasure derived from pursuing the knowledge outweighs any pain in the effort to attain the goal. All these things I have mentioned come about because doing them brings about greater pleasure than not doing them. And learning how to eat brings about greater pleasure than not knowing how to eat.
Some people might say that by trying to eat healthy you will take all the pleasure out of eating. Well I would have to say to them there are much greater pleasures than eating and sometimes eating too much of the wrong foods at the wrong times can be painful. For example when you are driving long distance and you load up on a lot of greasy heavy fast food you end up fighting off sleep for the next four hours making the trip lousy. Those same people might say that if you eat less your metabolism will slow down and you won’t lose weight anyhow. I would say to them that if you have the time, break your meals into smaller portions and eat more often. What I do for example, is cut a bagel in half put some peanut butter and honey on it and eat the other half later in the morning. The same with a cup of yogurt I will eat half in the morning with grains then the other half later in the day. You’ll be surprised how cutting the size of your portions prevents you from stretching your stomach and it doesn’t take much to fill it after all. And your desire for food will be less. Remember, however, to eat food that is nutritious and filling in the proper portions, and you should never be hungry. I don’t think anybody can lose weight successfully and keep the weight off by starving themselves. If you eat the right foods, and take a passionate interest in anything besides food nobody should have any trouble taking and keeping the weight off. I’ll say it again. There are much greater pleasures out there besides eating. Your job is to find something out there in life that is so interesting that you will forget your belly. Just remember that the things that give us the greatest pleasure can also give us the greatest pain. Learning the right balance of these can empower us over our misery. When we learn about these things and ourselves then we can control the pleasure and eliminate the pain. People may complain to me, how can you worry so much about food and what you eat? You should just do whatever feels good and makes you happy. Then I would have to say to them, that is exactly what small children do. I’m not saying that I have all the answers but you have to simplify at some time in your life to pursue whatever it is that might make you happy. Starting with a simple diet will free yourself up to pursue the infinite possibility of things out there that might make you happy. If somebody asked me what those things might be I would have to say that there are three criteria for the pursuit of happiness. We need to be challenged that’s why sports exist. A job that involves a lot of varied tasks is good . And a job that involves both thinking and muscle is great. Some of my best work experiences involved working on my house or somebody else’s house. The skills you learn can be used over again many times.
The five years I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity were some of the most enjoyable and valuable. I’ve been on worksites with twenty unskilled people and one skilled individual. We still got a lot of work done. Sometimes we learned as we went along. Those who knew something taught those who did not. From this experience I learned to put siding on a house, frame the wooden shell of a new house, wire light fixtures, install a bathtub, hang a screen door, shingle a roof, drop a ceiling and hang cabinets. And all along I worried little about my belly. Many times I just ate a cup of yogurt with grains and skipped the group feeding. However once when asked what I wanted for lunch, Phil Peters, one of the people who organized these workgroup outing’s said, “if it does not craw off the plate you’ll eat it”, when I responded to his question of what I wanted to eat? I said, if you buy it, I’ll eat it. If you have never built a house I must say that this is the right task for forgetting about eating. Many times I worked straight through lunch. Thus learning to nurture activity that helps me forget food completely. And believe me, when you finally get around to eating, it tastes so good. The saying that I heard many times on these work outings was “Work hard play hard is a good rule of thumb.”
So to recap here are some reasons to nurture a good hunger: an empty stomach can feel good, put the fork down and pursue other pleasures that do not include eating, forget spectator sports and participate in something. For instance, rotate the tires on your car. The leaner you are the better you will move. Your gut won’t get in the way when you are bending over. The leaner you are the easier it will be to crawl around in the attic and put the insulation down and help keep those utility bills down. Remember the more house maintenance you do the less time you will have to sit in front of the boob tube and eat. When you slim down you might get that sex appeal back. I’ve seen some sexy mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers. Sex is one of the pleasures that might be better than a bowl of linguine! When we are not eating all the time, we really appreciate the food. Mark Twain said that the best gravy is a good hunger.
My own personal favorite is when I go to the beach I make it a point to sun my stomach. Yeah it sounds crazy but I can bake that initial false hunger right out of my thoughts. I concentrate the suns rays directly onto my stomach. Try it, it works. Another thing you can do when you think you are hungry at the beach or pool is get in the water. As soon as you get wet, the hunger you thought you had will be long gone. Most hunger is a state of mind, so keep out of that way of thinking. Get used to going a long time without food. This type of behavior will then become more pleasurable than eating in many ways. A lot of the time I know I mindlessly have eaten for no good reason, I was not really hungry. Most of the time this would occur when I was being a spectator. So my belief is the more we spectate the fatter we get. Do something active when you go to a picnic get away from the keg for a while and play volleyball, softball, horseshoes or whatever. I make it a point to move my ass every day. And when I do, everything goes better throughout the day. The food tastes better. Social interactions are more positive. I get a better grip on my emotions.
I know the workplace is tough when it comes to eating. Sometimes there is stress that makes us want to eat and everybody eats at the same time in a lot of jobs. Also in many jobs this is the only pleasure in the whole day of work. What I recommend for the workplace is to be prepared and bring a lunch. Stock up on the new protein bars that they have come out with. I personally like the Carb Solutions bar. There are a million of them out there ask around and find some that you like. Most of them are fortified with vitamins and that is good. I keep dried fruit like prunes and apricots in my locker at work. I also have a container of freshly ground peanut butter to eat if I need a food fix. I stay away from the commercial brands of peanut butter because they add unhealthy fats and sugar to their product. I keep some ostrich meat sticks and Rolands sardines packed in olive oil. These taste great on an Italian hoagie bun with hot peppers.
I try to nurture the social aspects that exist in most jobs. Humor is a great hunger suppressor. One time right after lunch I took a nap in the office with my ear protection on. It’s noisy because of the machinery where I work. I wear these big earmuffs that keeps most of the sound out. Anyhow, a couple guys set off a roll of firecrackers under my chair and I did not hear a thing but I woke up to the smell of gunpowder. It was not too funny at the time but I got a pretty good laugh out of it later on. Of course I retaliated later on but I won’t get into that because this isn’t a book of humor, at least not yet. The point I want to make and this is important, conversation is a need just like food. So if there are people at work with whom you can nurture good conversation, do so now. Of course there will be people who you cannot relate to and they may even cause you to want to eat as a source of stress. I suggest that you ignore these people. I always try to remind myself about the psychological aspects of eating. That is why there are so many commercials on T.V. and billboards pushing food. If you keep the stimulus out of the picture (food) then the response does not need to follow (eating).
I recently ran into a guy, a friend of mine who has lost 75 pounds in the last year. He went from 300 pounds to 225 by eating a lot of salads in the beginning of his diet and then switching to eating only one meal a day, dinner in the evening. His regime consists of a couple cups of coffee in the morning working 8 hours as an electrician, skipping lunch and then walking briskly for two hours in the evening either before or after whatever he wants to eat for dinner. I think eating only once a day would be extreme for most people but this works for him. I did not ask him but I’ll bet he does not have any trouble sleeping with such a busy schedule. I saw him recently at a picnic and he looks like a totally different person. And he had come to the same conclusion about his present life that I have often thought about while working out. The pleasure that is derived by exercising and taking control of our lives seems to actually slow down time or make us the masters of our own time. We are actually overseeing the chemical processes in our brains that make us happy and cause us to feel good. Another aspect of controlling time is the fact that you are actually turning the clock back by the way you will physically look. And the improved health aspects like cleaning out the body and mind. Many times people who haven’t exercised in a while are surprised how good it feels to sweat again and I do believe sweating is a cleansing process. So by working out we find a community of like minded individuals who we will find while we are out running or walking or working out in the gym. Even if we choose to exercise in the solitude of our basements we will find a union with other individuals who choose to work out alone. I have had an ongoing discussion with a couple of guys at work who lift in their basements and one even welds together his own lifting machines. Just like farmers talk about farming, we talk about all the aspects of lifting.
Another thing about life in general and eating in particular are the habits that we go through every day without even giving them much thought. Where the concept that we should eat three big meals a day is really kind of crazy in these modern times. Many people I know skip breakfast and when you combine the time sleeping the night before until lunch, this turns into a fairly long period without food. When you count the time that you have gone without food after skipping breakfast, depending on the time you last ate before you went to bed, you can comfortably go 18 hours without food. This amount of time qualifies as a pretty decent fast. Say you eat dinner around 6:oo p.m. and then go to bed at midnight, skip breakfast and eat lunch around noon. Depending what kind of work you are doing this can be easily achieved if you work in front of a computer all day. I myself do this a lot with the exception of a few light beers in the evening before bed sometimes.
I broke away from the conventional three meals a day routine as soon as I left high school. Because the life I was living did not leave much opportunity for that kind of lifestyle. I went to a community college and worked full time as a security guard for three years and was always eating on the run and sleeping less and less. I even read a book around this time that proclaimed that sleep was unnecessary and I experimented with this idea. I even lived by a theory back then that I could just sleep every other night. What I got out of this time was that I was slowly becoming addicted to pushing myself more and more. The same thing that I think motivates all workaholics and myself at the time was the feeling you get when you push yourself harder and harder. This feeling might be the same thing when they say, “It’s like beating your head off the wall it feels good when you stop.”
I think this kind of behavior might be a result of people who are in the wrong profession. For instance, somebody might be too smart for the job they are in, and always angry at the others around them for their lack of productivity. So they might work another job or even start a side business to forget the anger they feel in the job they have chosen.
Somebody at this point might be wondering what this has to do with eating and I would have to say everything! The work or lifestyle we choose will dictate our behavior for at least 40 hours of the week. The circumstances that we put ourselves into earn a living will determine many other aspects of our behavior.
Right after I left the community college I went to a school believe it or not called California State College, 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. I only went there for one semester but I realized my defiance of living and eating like the rest of the students. I never got a dorm room because I still went home every weekend to work. So I ended up sleeping in the dorm’s lobby or in the basement of the library. I guess I was frugal with not paying for room and board because the tuition was a lot more than the community college. I guess I never felt that confident in my academic ability. This led to a pretty interesting eating situation also. Since I did not have a meal plan to eat at the dorm cafeteria, I had to fend for myself in the town of California, Pennsylvania. This actually was not so bad because there was a deli that had pretty good lentil soup and sandwiches. The cafeteria food actually was not too bad because I did eat there occasionally, where I paid at the door. Everybody who ate there all the time bitched about it because they had a meal plan and were obligated to eat there all the time. I think the reason they bitched was not that the food was so bad but they were eating when they weren’t hungry and this led them to hate the whole experience around the cafeteria. They were paying for their meal plan so they felt they had to get their money’s worth. Also the cafeteria had a policy of unlimited portions and seconds for whoever wanted them. So if you pigged out on breakfast who wants lunch? Anyhow I’m not saying I was any better off because I went hungry a lot. Sometimes I even snuck into the cafeteria through the exit to get even for paying the big tuition. But since I ate infrequently I never complained about the food wherever it came from. Before I get off this subject I just want to mention that there was another individual who was also living on the fringe of college life and he did not get invited to any frat parties. His name was Sid and he lived in an abandoned shack alongside the river that meandered next to the college. He was from New York and he was kind of a hippie. I guess he was kind of an outlaw geek because he got accused of stealing some of the audiovisual equipment from the school. I just wanted to mention him because he was living on a shoestring budget and he seemed to be having a pretty good time. And he never bitched about food. I don’t know why but I have always been drawn to those outside of the mainstream circle. This may be where real happiness exists. Life on our own terms not on society’s or other people’s ideas, but our own. I think our peak moments in life depend on the right amount of food, sleep, companionship, goals, work, leisure, education, solitude, friends and play. This was my first stint away from home at this school. But I think this is a very important experiment for all people, especially young people getting away from everything and everyone we know and seeing what happens. I am almost certain that people who never get away from their parents end up just like their parents and this results in a limited outlook on life. Being like your parents is not a bad thing but we might be denying ourselves something better if we don’t take a good look around. If we all stayed put, we would be under the illusion that we all have to compete for a limited amount of resources but in reality our resources are only limited by our own lack of experimentation with the world around us. In life you do not have to go away to college to learn how to dislike food. These opportunities exist everywhere. I work with a guy who went on a Caribbean cruise and looked at a whole new part of the world and the only thing that he could talk about was how much food he ate. He admitted doing damage to his body. I asked how the snorkeling was down there and he said he did not know because he never got off the ship. I think he was afraid he might miss a meal!
We made our annual trek to Florida again this year. And I stuck to my pledge to eat a lot of fish and I did. Tuna,mahi-mahi and shrimp were on the menus. We decided to drive all the way down to Key West, stay for three days and then spend three days in the upper keys at a place called Tavernier. The Keys are so thin in Tavernier that its just a matter of walking across the street that separates the Gulf Coast from the Atlantic Coast. There are some awesome views at Tavernier. But first I want to talk about what we did in Key West. Like always we take our routine with us and if everything goes well we park the rental car and never use it except to drive back to the mainland. We arrived around 4:00 p.m. and we were kind of beat from all the traveling we did coming down from Pittsburgh. So we decided to just take a walk around the island taking in the sights and marveling at how we can be in Pittsburgh in the morning and in this tropical paradise so soon. I’m finally getting to know my way around Downtown. I’ve always relied on Laura since she lived down there for two years and knows it much better than I. The trouble with finding your way around is that it is so flat you have nothing too tall to use as landmarks. But that is kind of the fun of it, getting lost. You’ll always find something good. We walked for about an hour trying to slowly acclimate to the sun. On the main street, Duval we play the tourist but on the back streets we fall right in with the local Conchs as they are called. That evening we got our beers in Bahama Village and headed down to Mallory Square to check out the sunset celebration and the street performers. There was a new guy from England who was one-lining everyone and juggling. He finished his act standing on a tight rope about 6 inches from a big tourist lying on the ground. The rope was being held by a bunch of us tourists tugging on both ends. When he passed the hat, a buck does not cut it anymore I threw in a five dollar bill. After sunset we went to a place that used to be called Billies nearby, now called Red Fish Blue Fish. We were pretty hungry by then and I had a tuna steak and Laura had grouper. We talked to the waiter about how expensive living in paradise can be and we left a big tip. The next day we rented bikes and headed out to the Florida Keys Community College. This is the jewel of all of southern Florida. The bike ride is along the water most of the way and the school is surrounded by water. Here is where bringing our routine makes life easier. We always read a little bit in the library to give the sun a break. We check up on the latest books and magazines. Then we swim out back in the lagoon where all the scuba classes are taught. There are a couple of underwater docks where tons of fish congregate. They now try to restrict swimming but if you keep a low profile you can get away with it. It is definitely something to see with a snorkel. Then we always end up going by the campground where Laura once worked. I photographed the banana trees that John the owner has planted. One time we were there we partied with one of the owner’s sons. He helped manage the place along with students from the Community College who were living at the campground while attending school. That day we went to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park to swim and lay around on the beach. Sometimes we read under some the strange looking aspen trees that give some nice shade on the beach. The beach is rocky where the water meets the shore so beach shoes are recommended. Since it costs a $1.50 for bikers and walkers to get in, this small amount keeps out the masses of tourists and it is always a tranquil place. There are rock piles around this southern end of the island where loads of fish congregate. The rock piles were put there to prevent the island from eroding. That afternoon I spent a good two hours snorkeling around the rocks. I saw a couple conchs and I followed around a small reef shark for a while until it ditched me. I saw whole schools of parrot fish. And schools of fish that I cannot name. Then I saw a three foot barracuda with a hook line and sinker hanging from its mouth. Time passes quickly for me when I am in the water. Laura usually takes a short dip then goes out and reads for a while and does that many times. I like to lie on the beach until I get toasty then once I get in the water I stay there until it is time to leave….
We had a few beers that Laura bought in Bahama Village not far from our hotel, Spanish Gardens. They have these corner ma and pa stores where they sell single beers and the price is the best at these places. This one place sells an awesome conch salad to go. And with a couple of beers we made one of our beach excursions into a picnic. Its our routine in the evenings to either walk around town or head to sunset carrying our beers with us. The beer suppresses the hunger somewhat. On this trip I had bought a new video camera. Laura figured out how to use it and was explaining to me how it works. By the time we got to sunset she was shooting video. So we checked out some new acts and then I decided to videotape The Great Rondini’s act. He is an escape artist who has been at the street scene for many years. Last year on Halloween and Houdini’s birthday, he pulled a prank. After having been chained up in his straight jacket he jumped off the pier into the water and disappeared. Paramedics and police had to be called out. Even some of the performers had to jump in to help look for him. He was found two days later holed up in a hotel with his girlfriend. He fooled everyone. Of course the city of Key West was not happy and he has to pay them back for the police and paramedic service. Anyway, after videotaping his act, I was not even hungry anymore. After everything we did that day I was at the point of losing my appetite. It just shows that hunger is related to how occupied you are. We walked up to Duffy’s across town and I figured I better eat or I would not sleep that night. I had a fish platter of shrimp and a filet of the catch of the day and Laura had a steak. Duffy’s is a mainstay of the island. It has good food and it is a reliable place to get out of the sun for a while….
I never want to be in the position that I saw two young couples in one evening. The one woman was badgering the other couple, she said “You don’t want to eat and you don’t want to drink what do you want to do then?”good God woman, I thought to myself. If food and drink are all you know, its time to be put out of your misery. Every vacation should involve a little adventure. Even if it just involves a little spontaneity. One night we came back to the hotel and our bellies were full from eating and drinking pretty good. We realized that we did not have any dental floss so we walked down to CVS to buy some and it was dark by this time. So we are walking back to the hotel and Laura starts flossing her teeth. And as we walk past one of the fancier restaurants, Laura decides to look at the menu to scope out another place to eat. They had the menu stapled at the entrance. All the while she is flossing her teeth and a very elegant couple is eating by the window where we are standing. And the woman looks up to see Laura cleaning her teeth. It made for a very hilarious and embarrassing moment for us two drunkards that night. And it seemed the dining couple got a kick out of it too.
Today we did some uneventful things throughout the day then headed to a place called The Rum Barrel for entertainment, food and drink. We sat outside on a verandah and listened to a dynamite guitar player who dueted with a really good singer. There are some of the best musical acts down in Key West, if you know where to look. The guitar this guy was playing looked like a cross between a regular acoustic guitar and a Spanish flamenco guitar. He played the hell out of this intrument. After we ate we took our drinks and headed to the outside bar. I videotaped a couple of their songs. After one set she was talking to the crowd in Spanish so I yelled something out in Spanish. She punmmeled me with a flurry of Spanish. Then ,fortunately she returned to English before I could embarrass myself. The guitar players strumming mesmerized me and I sat there listening and thinking about what it would be like to play guitar like that. We ordered another round and bought the band one too. Then we called it a night.
Our last day in Key West started out with breakfast on the beach. Having spent too much time in the ocean the day before I had a slight case of sunburn on my back. I usually wear a t-shirt in the water but I took it off later in the day thinking that the sun was less weak at 4 p.m., but you can never underestimate the Florida sun. And what I have learned in the past is too much sun leads to a breakdown of the immune system. Since it felt like I had a head cold coming, I told Laura that I needed to eat, to repair my immune system. Everyone knows that old saying, “feed a cold”. Its amazing what a ordinary breakfast can do for the start of a head cold. This was the first time we ate breakfast all week. And since we probably overeat in our work lives at home, eating is the only part of our routine we do not take on vacation. It is liberating to eat only when we are hungry. But today I had to apologize to Laura for having to eat so soon. She did not mind, she was hungry too. Our waitress was from the Ukraine. And I asked her if she spoke Russian and she said, “of course.” I had to ask her where she learned English and she told us that she lived in New York City before Key West. She told us that she worked two jobs to offset the cost of living in Key West. I regretted not having a bag of grains to give her, with my website on the lable. I usually give bags of grains to people who work in resturants and I tip them good too. But I don’t believe somebody’s pay should be left up to the fickleness of tipping. Anyhow, I just hope every chef, short order cook and waitress can take a break from food once in a while and learn to fast with food. Upon returning our bikes after breakfast, I saw a hoot and nanny of people on bicycles coming towards me. And I recognized the guy leading the pack. It was Lloyd who leads bike tours around the Keys. I took his tour in Key West and wrote about it in a previous blog. He was the guy with a machete who would raid the local’s fruit trees. He is known for being somewhat of an expert on mangoes. There was a write-up in the New York Times about him last winter. He was slowing down and coming to an intersection. So I walked over to him and said, “Dad its me your long lost son, Mom told me where to find you.” This is my shock line for people I haven’t seen in a while. I always get a pretty good reaction out of it. He recognized me but wasn’t sure who I was. Most men have an innate fear of possibly being looked up by an illegitimate child. Especially when someone comes up to them and hugs them and calls them Dad. I did not keep him in suspense to long. And I told him I took his tour a few years ago. He asked me how I was doing I said, “you know the boats always sinking, but you try to keep it afloat, and let the people know who are rocking it that you know how to swim better than them.” The people who were in his tour looked hot and beat so I did not keep him too long and I bid him adios.
After three days we were ready to trek to Tavernier in the Upper Keys. The first night we got there Laura and I went for a swim right outside our room at Atlantic Bay Inn. We were not in the water more than ten minutes when one of the small children started yelling that there was a manatee in the water. Laura headed right for shore not knowing what was going on. I started swimming in from the mangrove island I was checking out. I swam right into a 1000 pound mother and her small pup which must have weighed at least 200 pounds. I looked both of them right in the eyes with my scuba mask. They were incredibly docile and friendly. A guy who was cleaning his boat near shore started squirting water at the mother and she rolled over on her back and she must have drank 50 gallons of fresh water in the next twenty minutes. The kids and I swam around with them. Their skin was tough and rubbery and they both had enormous scars on their backs from boats running into them. It was amazing the pup was still alive. She had a couple of huge welts the entire width of her back. As these animals are mammals, they must come out of the water for air. They are kind of a cross between a walrus and an elephant. Their skin is hard and rubbery and the mother had a short cropped field of sea grass growing on her back. They did not mind us touching them. In fact it seemed like they liked it. They hung around for about an hour. After seeing these animals I felt my life was complete. That night we rented bikes and roamed around the little islands that make up this part of the Keys. We biked to a mall that was nearby and while Laura was buying a few things at the supermarket, I meandered around to the side of the mall where a restaurant called Dillon’s was and looked in. We went there that night for dinner and it turns out to be a favorite place for the locals. The food was good and the price was fantastico. We did the fish specials and loved it. The ambiance was festive.
Finally I got around to booking my scuba trip for the next day. I signed up at Florida Keys Dive Center. The boat left for the reef at 1:00 p.m. Since I don’t dive that often and I rented all my equipment, I had to remember how to use it. For the rental and the boat ride out to the reef the price was $100. I befriended some young guy who was ex-navy and he was down in the Keys on vacation. He worked on a submarine in the navy. And now he worked on a ship where he worked for four months straight and was then off for four months. While he was helped me hook up my regulator, we discovered, it turns out our jobs had a lot in common as far as machinery goes. He worked with chillers and compressors and boilers and such. Only all his work was on a ship where mine was in the basements of big office buildings. But since we bring in water from the Allegheny River to cool the equipment our work is similar. And since the year before when a forty inch pipe broke out in the street where I work and we got flooded, you could say we were kind of sunk. The whole mechanical plant was flooded and almost everything had to be rebuilt. Out on the reef the sights were awesome. Those perfect brain corals were like nothing else. At one point I knelt in the sand next to the reef about 40 feet down and looked up at the sun‘s rays coming through the water and rejoiced for being alive. After two different dives we headed back to shore and the boat supplied fresh pineapple to alleviate the dry mouth that you get from breathing compressed air. It was a nice ride back and I just sat in silence on the front of the boat and thought about everything that I had seen….
The day after my dive we decided to just take it easy and sit on the small beach and read behind our hotel. We met a woman from Montreal and I laid a little French on her. She was so amazed that an American could speak something other than English, she responded with a flurry of her language. Since we have never been to her fair city we asked her a bunch of questions about Montreal. Turns out Montreal is the second biggest French speaking city in the world just behind Paris. Actually she told us that everyone is bilingual, speaking English and French. Sounded like a good place for a future vacation. She told us about all the ethnic enclaves up there. She herself was Greek and I told her what our friend George who lives at the campground that we visited in Key West says about Greeks, “there is a Greek everywhere!” I think he is right. George is a pretty amazing guy. I don’t think the IRS even knows he exists. But that is another story. We chatted for quite a while and then when I could not take the heat anymore I got in the water with the snorkel. Right off I saw a huge tarpon fish swimming circles around me. If I had had a spear gun I would have had dinner. Next I swam over to where some boat docks were located and there are always interesting things under there, like used truck tires and cement blocks. And sure enough, there was interesting sea life and I grabbed a spiney lobster that was lurking in one pile of dock refuge. All this material turns into small reefs that are really colorful.I made a mental note to get a underwater camera for a future trip and record all of this. If I wanted to I could have caught a lot of lobster under these docks. There was a row boat down there that turned into an exceptional artificial reef. After swimming for a couple of hours I got out and read under a tree. When I got tired of reading I went back to the room and took a shower. I was feeling restless so I took a walk around the island before thinking about dinner. Down the road from our hotel, I walked past a small hospital and I noticed a fowl smell coming from behind some trees.And I thought to myself that maybe some hobos are using this patch of trees as a latrine but it was a small sewage treatment plant right on the main road. And this was the only negative thing I experienced in the upper keys. They might have located this treatment plant somewhere else but maybe they did not have the room.
That night we finally burned out on eating fish. And we went to an Italian restaurant. A place called Anthony’s. It was great. Good salad and good pasta. After dinner we wondered into a book store next to the restaurant and I bought a book called, “A Long Way Gone” by a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. I wanted to buy Slaughterhouse-Give by Kurt Vonnugut but I could not find it. I remember reading in a magazine so many years ago that a teenager at the time summed up Kurt’s body of work by stating, “All things may fail but courtesy will prevail.” Kurt agreed with this observation. I would say that his work says so much more. Vacation is about rest and rejuvenation. And sometimes a new book can get you there.
Today I started the day with listening to a tape on hypnosis that covered deep breathing and relaxation, followed by some suggested mantras that have been passed down through the centuries. Most of them told through the world’s religions. They are old but they still need to be heard. Like grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can. And the wisdom to know the difference. Along with some deep suggestions about goals, it was a good way to start the day. After listening to the tape, I fried up some eggs in a mixture of olive and canola oil. I cooked them at a really low temperature with the lid on top of the frying pan to speed up the process. Then I killed some time on the computer until I heard the sizzling coming from the kitchen. Then I jumped up and flipped the fried eggs. At the low cooking temperature the eggs were totally intact. And I could flip them almost without the spatula. The excess oil that I used and the low temperature prevents any sticking to the pan whatsoever making the eggs very easy to flip without breaking the yokes. And this makes cleaning the frying pan extremely easy, nothing sticks.