Spotify is a wonderful thing. I enjoy exploring new music, but the biggest thrill comes when I rediscover music I had forgotten. That is what happen the other day when I ran across  Robbie Dupree’s Steal Away, and I was mentally tossed back to 1980. It was like a gut punch or the first drop at the top of a roller coaster; it took the breath out of me. I was suddenly standing in my grandmother’s darkened pantry, singing silently to myself.

The little space was an escape for me. I was miserable while living in Podunk, Iowa. To cope, I needed to find some form of mental escape, away from the 70’s pro-wrestling and terrible television that my grandparents considered ‘family time.’ I was eleven or twelve, I think, and I clung to my little radio like a life raft. The songs that I remember best were Shadow Dancing by Andy Gibb and, of course, YMCA by the Village People. We sang it in Chorus at school, we learned the dance moves and everything.I would stand in the dark and silently mouth the words as a mantra, a spell to take me away for that moment. Outside, the trains rolled past, the vibrations making the floor tremble under me, an additional element of the magical moment.

The Village People's YMCA is preserved for posterity - BBC News

The rediscovery of Steal Away led me to an entire vein of golden oldies that yanked on my heartstrings. Like emotional cheesecake, I couldn’t get enough. I was pulling up memories and feelings that had slipped into the cracks of my mind, seemingly lost forever. But the magic of music brought it all pouring back, and it was a rush.

Music has power. I know that. I feel it every time I go to a rock show and feel the rush of energy from the screaming guitars and thumping drums. But I had forgotten the power of music memory. Songs have a way of wrapping themselves around a moment in time and organically becoming part of that memory. Our brains attach all the tiny sensations we feel, the emotions, the smells, the environment, along with the sights and sounds of that immediate moment in time to create a multi-dimensional ball of synapses that we call memory. Later, when we experience a smell or sound or emotion that relates directly to that memory, it can come rushing back to our consciousness, fully born and alive. That’s magic.

Like most teenagers, my parents and I disagreed about music. We were children of different times. At my house, Saturday night was Game Night. The whole family would sit at the dining room table and play games until after midnight. An Oldies station would be playing on the radio. Back then, the Oldies were the 50’s and 60’s. I grew up listening to Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Chubby Checker, and the Everly Brothers. Little Suzie and At The Hop were still hits in our house. For me, this was ancient music, never something I would listen to by choice. However, it was catchy, and eventually, I learned all the words. But it wasn’t music I could relate to. However, my parents would get excited when a particular song came on and would crank the volume and sing along like it was the greatest thing ever. I didn’t get it.

The Oldies stations now play the ‘80s and ‘90s, with a smattering of the 2000s thrown in. I know the music and enjoy it, but even these songs rarely have much of an effect on me. I’ve heard them all a million times.

My musical memories seem to be more attuned to the late ‘70s and very early ‘80s. Music that rarely gets played on the radio anymore. Those are the songs that evoke the most vivid emotions, such as the darkened pantry or first heartbreak. Even memories of high school aren’t as powerful as those.

I just wonder if this was the feeling that my parents got from certain songs? Were they re-experiencing a moment in their youth similar to my memory? I now feel a new connection with my parents that I never had before: a clarification and understanding. I’ve realized that it’s only with age and a little time in their shoes that you can really understand your parents. I have now stepped into my father’s place, and I’m feeling his feelings. I finally get it!

What’s next on the playlist?

Lady by the Little River Band.

Lady - Little River Band.jpg

Our new house is not far from the local airport allowing me to watch planes take off and land. I happen to love traveling and flying in particular. Flying is freedom in my mind. So, seeing these flights taking off for points unknown makes me smile. Someone is getting out and seeing the world and that is a great thing. I wave at them sometimes to be funny. I’m so jealous.

Flight to Somewhere – cooler than here.


Today I am sitting in my backyard on a beautiful sunny day and dreaming of travel as the planes claw their way into the sky. They are both an inspiration and a taunt. There is a world out there to experience, but I have to wait to board and explore. I’ve been waiting since last year. It’s time.


Our next trip is to New York City in August, only 37 days away! I’ve never been to NYC and I’m very excited. We’ve planned a sailing tour of the bay, a visit to Ellis Island and, of course, Times Square. Those are the big ones. We tried to get tickets to a Broadway show, but like they say in NY ‘fuggedaboutit’, ain’t gonna happen. Which is fine, there are a million other things to do there. Like deli’s, food trucks and one hundred thousand coffee shops. I’m excited!


We will be spending the last days of the trip in Syracuse, sitting on a lake and relaxing. I am actually looking forward to that more than the tourist thing. Give me a chair, a beverage, and a book, and I’m good for a few days. Can’t wait.
In the meantime, there goes another one.

Wave, everyone! Have a nice trip! See ya! Bring on August so I can get to the airport on time!

We now have a DOG. It is a CAPITAL LETTER DOG. In fact, a heavy breathing, barge through your day, take your spot, steam-powered DOG.

My wife and I have wanted a dog for a few years. Anytime we saw someone walking their companion in the park or saw a head sticking out a car window with ears flapping, we would turn to each other and in unison say:  “We need a dog!” We even purchased a home after years of renting – and liking it – with the intention of getting a dog. I didn’t want to limit a dog to an apartment or a tiny little postage stamp yard. So, we set the goal of having a big backyard before we got a dog. We now have a half-acre of dog-ready yard. And a couple of weeks ago, we finally got a dog.

My wife and I differed on our preferred model of dog. We both wanted a larger dog because we hate little barky dogs and wanted something our cats couldn’t beat up on. We wanted one that was smart and not a puppy. We don’t have the energy for a puppy and wanted them mostly trained already. Neither of us is well-versed at being dog parents and didn’t want to ruin the poor thing.

My wife fell in love with pitbulls a few years ago and was dead set on getting one. I’m more of a German shepherd or hound kind of guy. But, of course, she won. The dog was meant for her anyway. I’m solidly a cat person and could go through the rest of my life without a dog. Yet, we now have one.

ARLO is a pit-bull-lab mix and, again, is CAPITAL letter-worthy. He is intelligent and stubborn, and very well-behaved. He is only aggressive in his friendliness; he will lick your face off! He is only a year and a half old and still partly in the puppy stage, which is exhausting.

And now, several weeks into our dog years, we are exhausted. I can honestly say that there have been some fleeting second thoughts, not quite adopters’ remorse, but… thoughts. I knew that dogs were high maintenance and high attention. I even warned my wife of this. Up till this point, we have always had cats and could basically ignore them most of the time. Cats are self-sufficient and self-entertained. That is why I like them so much. Whereas dogs need your attention, need to go outside, need to be exercised, need your attention, need to be noticed, need to go outside, and need your attention. We were NOT ready for the level of attention ARLO required. It is much like bringing a baby home. Suddenly, your life revolves around this being. ALL OF YOUR LIFE!!

We were also surprised to find that they still make steam-powered dogs. Who knew? Arlo breathes like a steam engine. All…the…time! Chugga Chugga Chugga Toot Toot! Here comes Arlo! We’ve tried having him sleep in our room, but we couldn’t sleep with the chugging. Once he calms down, it gets better, but he fidgets all night. He now has a prime kennel in the dining room. I believe he will eventually be more a part of the family and be able to crash with us. Until then, he gets a private room.

We are adapting and aren’t going to return Arlo or dump him off or anything silly like that. We will modify our life and make it work, just like you would with a new child. I am now in charge of the 5AM walk. I’m not at all sure how that happened; I am NOT a morning person – at all. 5AM is not a waking time. That is a going fishing time or maybe even coming home time after a great Friday night, but NOT a wake-up time. Yet, here I am dressed and vertical, walking the dog every morning. This is not how I imagined my life.

Overall, Arlo is a really good dog with some really poorly trained parents. It will get better; I have faith. We love our steam-powered dog and will build our future around him. But now I’m tired and need to get up in – like – five hours to walk the dog. These are the Dog-years.

We have lived in the Century House for about three months now and have settled in very comfortably. However, we have been living without a cookstove. We sold the ancient one that came with the house because we knew we had one on the way – soon.  We wanted all new matching appliances and ordered them in January for a March delivery. Two and half months ought to be enough time to get them shipped from ‘wherever’, right?

This proved true for the most part. Everything was fine and in place by the first of April. However, I made the mistake of ordering a super special order stove with an oven that could be split into two, with dual controls. Along with this, my wife ordered a microwave with all the bells and whistles. You clearly see our cooking styles.

The Empty Spot in my Kitchen

The last two items, the stove and the microwave, did not show up on time. However, to add to the story, we were contacted several times to schedule deliveries that never materialized. The supplier both called and emailed us to schedule the delivery of our products but then didn’t show up at all. They were phantom deliveries. It was very frustrating.

Then the Suez canal blockage happened. The container ship Ever Given had run aground in the middle of the canal and blocked delivery of our stove. At least that was the story we were telling.  We don’t know the exact reason for the delay, but it worked well for laughs.

In the meantime, we have been getting by with a $75 microwave and a $25 electric griddle. We tried using our slow cooker to prepare meals ahead, but you know “SLOW COOKER” is not something we wanted to use daily. Instead, we got very comfortable with our griddle and had lots of eggs, salmon burgers, and fish fillets. All of which was fine and tasty, but I really missed a good fried egg or a stir fry or even mac-n-cheese.

$25 worth of saddness!!

Soon after we moved in, we had a technician in the house installing our security system. The control panel is in the kitchen opposite the stove – or where the stove is supposed to be. He had been at it for about thirty minutes before he finally looked up and asked: “Where’s your stove?” It took him that long to notice the odd empty spot in our kitchen.

I found it difficult to adjust to cooking on an electric griddle. I love to cook, and cutting a bunch of vegetables into a stew or a stirfry is very relaxing for me. But cooking on a griddle doesn’t require much for cutting. It was all fish fillets, chicken breasts, and patties with lots of salads. The ‘cooking’ part of cooking was a sad shadow of what I liked to do. I’m sure I could have gotten used to the griddle and eventually felt creative enough to do something interesting with it, but thankfully that time was avoided.

We have a stove! It’s a Samsung gas range with an oven that can be split into two and controlled separately. It also includes an air fryer option that I am particularly excited about. My wife wants me to make wings in the worst way, but I guess there is a chicken wing shortage or something. She was unwilling to trade an arm and a leg for wings. So, that will have to wait.

I am excited about the high-powered burner on the cooktop. It is meant for cooking with a wok. My wok is my favorite pan to use. I make a lot of stir fry and curries and similar recipes.

This is the first cookstove I’ve purchased new, and there is a huge big technology jump in this range compared to what I’m used to.  I can control the oven from my phone! Which is ridiculous! I have never once thought: Damn… if only I could turn the oven on from the mall. I personally can’t see the use of this feature. My wife has offered different scenarios to justify it. Still, none of them ring true or reasonable or an event that would happen more than once in a lifetime. However, my phone is now synced with my stove, and I’m going to dream up some weirdly unlikely situation where I will just have to use it.

Frickin’ WIFI!!!

What is the first thing I cooked on my new stove, you ask? Was it chicken marsala? Or a stir fry or a nice spicy curry (YUM!!) or some other fancy or difficult or iconic meal that would inaugurate my new stove in style. No… That is definitely not my style. Simple cooking is the best cooking. I made fried eggs, sausage, and toast. And it was glorious. I never got the hang of cooking eggs on the griddle. They were never quite right.

I’ve been feeling my age and find myself waxing nostalgic for things of twenty and thirty years ago. Most of the time, we move through our day-to-day without really noticing time passing, then one day we look up and it’s been five or ten or twenty years. I guess this is me noticing. Really, after the first few thousand days, they all start looking alike. We stop noticing.

Without some significant signposts to delineate the years it’s hard to look back and see where we’ve been or how we’ve changed. Music is important to most people and often serves as sign posts of the years as they pass. For me I tend to avoid the overplayed, shoved-down-our-throat songs that the record industry feels that everyone is required to like. Meaning: the doors, Freebird, Poison, the Backstreet Boys, Beyonce, and Myle, to give an example from every decade of my life. However, there is music that I have kept close for years.

Many years ago I was a big fan of a website call MP3.com, where people could post their original music for people to discover. It was the beginning of digital music and there were a million undiscovered songwriters and bands to explore. If you liked a band, you could order a CD of their music; a real physical CD. I discovered a lot of great music on there and have thousands of files that I continue to listen to.

But, that was twenty years ago, the turn of the century for chrissake! The site has disappeared along with much of the music they stored. However, one of those artists was a band called Dog Party, specifically their album: Blindsided. The track Getaway Car is one of my all time favorites and still gets heavy rotation. However, they are not on Spotify and I have been unable to find their music anywhere.

A recent listen got me curious about what happened to the band and its members. Did they go on to bigger and better things? Are there albums out there? Have I heard their material since and not known it? You know, life goes on for all of us and I was curious to see how they fared. The magic of the internet makes answering these questions relatively easy. It lets you check in on people without them knowing. Much like stalking but with less creepiness.

Dog Party has been important to me partly because they are relatively unknown and unspoiled. If I hear Madonna or Van Halen or even N’Sync, I can sense the years on them. But many of the songs I saved from MP3.com still feel fresh and new, because I haven’t heard them a billion times. They’re not overused and worn out.

The MP3.com songs are much more like intimate friends that have tagged along with me for years. They are very private and personal because I never had to share them with a million other people. Part of their appeal is that I discovered them, rather than the music industry shoving them into my ear canal so incessantly that I was forced to associate with them. MP3.com gave me those songs. The ones that I knew were mine and mine alone. For many of these songs, I am probably one of the few people that know they ever existed. I guess that makes them even more special to me. Fans of Learning To Fly by the Foo Fighters are everywhere, but a person that has even heard Getaway Car by Dog Party is a true rarity. Which is sad, because it is a wonderful song.

Which brings me back to my actual topic. Where are they now? This is the only album by the band that I have been able to find. There is an online rumor that there was a previous album, but I have not been able to find it or verify its existence. The band members were a bit easier to locate.

I originally looked up Eileen Dorn, the lead singer, a few years ago. I love her voice and delivery and was curious if she was able to build a career on her talent. She is now a martial arts instructor in California and part of a city-wide womens’ choir. She can even be found on PBS and youtube.

The guitarist Steve Gregory is still active in music and is a musician for hire. He is also on youtube and I have used his lesson videos a few times. Of course, this is assuming it is the same Steve Gregory. He looks similar, but I have yet to find any reference to Dog Party.

Drummer Mike Packer seems to have done the best for himself becoming a very sought after drummer and instructor in California and even touring with Wilson Philips. (Which is huge in my book!)

The bass player appears to have disappeared into life somewhere – like people do.

What I didn’t find in my research of the members was any mention of the band – at all! No one listed it in their bios or resumes or credits.

Life happens, which is what lead me to this topic. The members of this band have moved on to other things. But on their journey they created music that is still important to me. This is honestly one of my favorite albums and that they fail to even mention it as an accomplishment is a bit of a gut punch. Was it really so forgettable for them? Yes, it was twenty years ago, but I would think they would want to advertise it somehow.

I still listen to this music as if it’s current. It doesn’t feel twenty years old. Even after all those years and a million other songs, these small rare, nearly unheard songs are still important to me and I would like to hope that others feel the same as I do.

On our journey, certain small insignificant things end up having larger meanings than others can understand. It’s not the same for everyone. There will always be people that get all worked up about Freebird or Smells Like Teen Spirit or, hell, maybe even Getaway Car. These songs are part of the soundtrack and montage of our lives and unique to ourselves. Just because it’s a rare unknown song doesn’t make it less important.

Feeling nostalgic and looking back at our journey is important. We need to see the paths that lead us to here; the experiences, mistakes, and accidents of fate that made today. Those things are important and what makes life worth it. This is wisdom I’ve recognized only recently. I don’t like to think about regrets or missed opportunities, but rather about the little memory tokens that can trigger pleasant recollections. Like songs.

Our hundred year old basement has really good concrete. The floors are still crack-free and flat and the walls don’t show any sag or bowing. However, we don’t know how dry the basement has been in the past, so we decided to be safe and chose a waterproof laminate flooring for the main area. It is an engineered laminate that is designed to snap together. My initial plan was to do the whole floor in the TV/bar area in one go. But it turned out that my floor didn’t meet the exact requirements. The laminate requires a very flat and even floor. I poopooed this as over-specifying and felt that I could make it work on my sort of flat hundred year old concrete. I can admit that I was wrong. I failed to take into account that the basement has two floor drains and nice gradual slopes leading to each.

I found that there was not enough play in the joints of the laminate to allow for the slight curve of the slope. I was forced to limit the laminate to the large open areas in the center of the room. My altered plan had me putting down laminate in the main room and a portion of the guest room. Behind the bar I will put down a nice tile and on the sloped sections around the drains will be creating a mosaic with small 2″ tiles. The colors of the materials are similar and I think it will look nice in the end.

I didn’t want to put the laminate directly onto the concrete because of moisture gassing up through the concrete and other possible seepage in the future. I installed a dimpled underlayment that raised the laminate about 3/8″ and provided a vapor gap under the flooring. I will be keeping the drains in the floor. I have hot water heat, a boiler and lots of pipes in the ceiling of the room. I want easy access to the drains for any moisture that accumulates.

I did a lot of research before installing the underlayment and laminate. I wanted to do this myself, do it right, and do it once. So I was not going to rush into anything.

First, I filled in the joints in the floor with some left over hydraulic cement to provide a smooth flat surface for the floor. Any defects, dips or grooves in the concrete would be translated to the floor above it. Next, I put down the underlayment leaving a gap along the walls. This was all done in a weekend. I then put the laminate down during the week, working a couple of hours a night. It took some practice and some mistakes to get the engineered laminate to go together consistently, it is very brittle and the joints break easily.

Also, because the joints are so tight with very very little give, any joint that isn’t perfectly tamped together will build up and become a problem several rows later. So, rather than being perfectly straight and flat, the floor develops a hump or slight curve that you can’t easily correct. As I said, it took some time and mistakes to get it right, but I completed it in the end and it looks great. There were some harsh words and thrown tools, but this DIY Engineer triumphed in the end. But I also want to say that I will NEVER do this again! I will also not recommend this flooring. I should have just tiled the entire floor. I suspect I will be replacing this floor in about five years. I’m not a fan.

The remodel of the basement has progressed well. Once it was gutted, cleaned up, and the walls sealed I felt that I need to add a little insulation to the walls to prevent the rooms from getting that clammy basement feel. I used a half inch thick aluminum clad insulation that is commonly used for garage doors.

For the framing, I am fortunate to have an 8ft basement ceiling! This meant that I didn’t have to cut any of those uprights. I used treated lumber for the bottom plates and anchored them to the floor, with the headers attached to the floor joists to keep it all plumb.

This basement is a century old and actually looks great. However, I found that the walls did bulge a little. Getting everything plumb required a some adjustments and a small amount of rework and cursing, but it all turned out in the end.

Now, I did the framing myself. Meaning – by myself – me and my new Dewalt impact-driver. I had a good time, but ended up with tennis-elbow or something. My gripping elbow is killing me. My guess is tendonitis and I’ve got ice and a compression sleeve on it. No one every warned be about that kind of injury.

This project has now cured me of any desire to do drywall. I’ve done some in the past, but not in a while. I now have a hatred for drywall. Our mantra for this project has become: ‘Never again.’ This is honestly our last project house. We just need to finish it.

Our plan is to leave all the pipes in the basement exposed and create a steam-punk or old industrial theme. The water main comes through the wall in our TV room and I didn’t want to cover it. So, I did some creative framing around it. I think it turned out pretty good. Later, I want to cover it with a perforated brass grill with some mood lighting behind it. That will be later.

Next Post: Laminate flooring!!

I have discovered that my new home has a bamboo infestation. I’m not sure that is the correct term, but I’m going to go with it. The previous owners seemed to have used the bamboo as a way to screen the backyard from the neighbors.

At first I didn’t know what it was. There was just a line of bushes that screened off a bit of the backyard. It wasn’t until we began cleaning the yard that it really became clear what we were dealing with. It’s only bamboo, right? Pull it up and plant some grass… done.

At least that’s what I convinced myself of. The reality turned out to be something much darker.

Now that spring is in the air and everything is green and alive, the bamboo has spread and now controls about 20% of my half-acre. I have been mowing every weekend since we moved in and am becoming frustrated and a little worried. This stuff is growing faster than I thought possible and seems to be spreading at an increasing rate. I’m not sure what to do.

I did some quick Google research and found a few home remedies such as mowing, digging and white vinegar. I am rather curious about pickled bamboo. For now, I have begun to dig up the clumped roots but everything seems to be connected into some vast labyrinth of living network. I’m seeing a scifi movie in my backyard.

The most drastic solution involves RoundUp weed killer and I am extremely reluctant to go there.

Does anyone know how to defeat the Bamboo Beast? Or does anyone know where I can rent a panda?

If only we could capture that moment of connection

The fire and energy, all cosmic pieces fitting

That moment, that microsecond before rinsed away

By the wash of time, of thoughts and senses, living and life

Oh woe for the lines and lyrics, and visions lost

For want of a notebook


There are so many times that I’ve had a brilliant flash of inspiration only to have it vanish into of other thoughts. It’s frustrating to think that our lives are so very limited and the true sparks of the muse even more so. But yet we can watch them slip through our fingers so very very easily never to come again.

Scotland

The last two weeks have been very busy at the century house. So busy in fact that I’ve neglected to post anything. Sorry.

So Sheri has been busy taping and painting the kitchen and my office. She really hates painting, but since she can’t frame walls or lay flooring she gets to paint. I even volunteered to paint my own damn office, yet she ended up doing that too. The kitchen turned out great. We happen to like accent walls and went with a dark red called Sangria for the kitchen. The remaining walls are painted light brown Mocha. Honestly, this was a unconscious coincidence. However, it works with the theme – a kitchen painted in wine and coffee colors – perfection!

We have also purchased a new kitchen island that we will be installing once all the new appliances are delivered. Next week!! Aaahh!

While Sheri was busy with that, I was framing in our new TV room and guest bedroom in the basement. The worst thing I ran into while framing was that some of the walls were bulged out in the middle. I think this was part of the original pour but had to account for it when anchoring the base runners. The walls are pretty close to level all around now. There are a lot of pipes and windows in the basement that required some fancy framing around them that I will highlight in another post. That was the fun part.

However, I personally hate installing drywall and grumbled though this part of the project. I keep telling myself that this is the last time. This is my last house remodel. Seriously.

But I have a good start on the drywall now and have started planning the flooring for the rooms. This is where I ran into a major issue. We intended to put down wood laminate throughout the basement. However, I found that there was too much slope around the drains. It is a very nicely done poured floor that gently slopes down to drains in two places. However, there is a three inch difference between the outside wall and the main drain – the one in the bedroom. The laminate will work with small variations in the floor but that is way too much. We will still use the laminate for the center of the main room and most of the bedroom while we look for other options for the area where the slope is the worst. I’m leaning toward ceramic tile and a mosaic around the drain. I have my eye set on a very nice rusted steel-look tile for the bar area and a small brick-like tile for the drain area that I can place individually to create the mosaic look that I want.

The biggest problem in making any of the flooring work is drainage. We have hundred year old walls that weep a little. We also have a boiler system that has the potential for leaking. Meaning we have to leave the drains alone and provide unobstructed access for the any water. To accomplish this, I will be using an underlayment beneath the laminate that provides both a vapor barrier and drainage for any water that leaks in. But… I have a bit of research to do before I can really be sure of my plan. Lucky for me there are ambitious DIYers like myself that have already made the mistakes. I am on a few forums and sites dedicated to DIYers that have provided good sound advice so far and I will be looking through there over the next week before I actually do any floor work.

We are only three weeks away from moving into out new home and are in a rush to get everything done. I won’t have the basement completed as planned but I will have most of it useable. The bar and the bathroom will have to be finished later. I am also adding a laundry room on the second floor and will need to step away from the basement to get that roughed in. The new washer and dryer are being delivered next week and need to be functional from day one.

I have a very very busy three weeks coming up to make the house workable. We are very excited to move in and be done with the daily commute we make to work on the house. It will be nice to be right there to work on things and then have the option of just going up to bed, rather than needing to cleanup and drive across town every night.

Our heart is already in our new home, we just have to rest of us there.