Tuesday, August 26, 2003


Well, its that time of year for Wine, women, and song. Well, lets amend that. Make it wine, women, children, dogs,and the occasional heavy wind. Yes, Sampson State Park! I just collected this info for a friend, so if you want to know more about SSP/LDW03, read on.

Sampson State Park. At this late date I would say don't worry about a reservaton, just show up and camp. We all camp at the overflow lot, which has large flat campsites without obvious borders. Utterly fantastic view of Seneca Lake. By getting 6 or 8 or more sites,we usually just form a big territory. It is customary to just show up first without checking in and to register later.

There is a small restaurant about 200 yards away from the campsite, which is usually where we breakfast. During the day we pile into large vehicles and go from winery to winery, or just loaf. Most of the time someone is pregnant, and thus a *dedicated driver*. Dogs are allowed with proof of rabies shots. Children run free. Last year we were at about 25 adults and 25 children. In the evening, everbody grills! Great big open spaces for kites, frisbees, etc.

Here are some links: The Campsite,
a Map Link, and the campground map.

And here is the campground map.

On the left ahnd side there is a large square, which you can click or a zoom in. Site 339 is on the NW corner of the loop. We usually go from that site backwards, so this year we have 339,338,337,336,335,334,333, etc. I have sites 337,335, 1nd 333, so feel free to drop in and pitch a tent. Somebody told me once they showed up at 2AM and told a Ranger "they were looking or Pete Shaw" and they got sent here. We've been going for about 15 years now I think.

Friday, August 22, 2003

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN - 8-15-2003

Last Friday Kath and I got a chance to revisit the world of civilization we left behind some five years ago when we entered the dark tunnel of raising small children. Ginny, Kath's sister came down to our house and took all three children for an overnight, god bless her. Kathleen bolted out of the house on Friday and we met Rob and Tina at their house on capital hill. By then it was around six pm.

The thing is, I can remember, vaguely, when I had such freedoms. There was a time, way back when, when Kath and I lived in a small one bedroom apartment in Arlington. No room, no equity, no responsibility. If time was money, then I wasted time like I was burning twenty dollar bills just to roast a marshmallow. I wish I could go back in time and visit my former self, and slap him upside the head. "Look around, " I'd say, "enjoy yourself while you can. Really enjoy yourself. This time you spend is like a bubble, and with children the bubble bursts." Then I would dissapear, leaving only the sound of my laughter, a deep meniacal laugh that echoed off into the distance and slowly faded away.

So anyway, we got to pretend we were childless and hip and interesting for just a night anyway. We talked about politics. We had drinks while we waited for a dinner table at this West African restaurants and watched the bartender whip together Mojitos, a strong mint flavored Cuban rum drink. I felt lost. I kept looking around and expecting Anna to come running out of the kitchen, or to see PJ getting his hands in the Salad bar.

After dinner we went to a communist bar called the Common Share. This bar was originally this bar was run as a not for profit cooperative. How cool! I felt as though by going to this interesting bar I was defining myself in some interesting way. I felt interesting! Of course that was probably more because of the several large bottles of West African beer I had downed while we ate dinner. After running as a co-op for a while, the Common Share is now a for profit bar. But the beers are cheap and the air-conditioning practically non-existent. It was hot, cheap, sweaty, and reeked of character. I was defining myself into a puddle of sweat in this crowded cheap bar in Adams Morgan. Sadly, we had to leave.

We crashed at Rob and Tinas. They let us sleep up in their room and i cranked the dial on the window unit air-conditioner up to 11. We slept a tired, deep sleep and never woke up until morning, a decadent 8:30. We went to out to breakfast at the Hawk and Dove, which was delicious. We browsed around Eastern Market for a short while. I found a used book store and bought some books, Kathleen bought some veggies. Then it was time to leave.

When we returned Anna was sick with a stomach virus and started throwing up almost immediately upon our return. She threw up all night, it was bad, she couldn't even keep a sip of water down. So we nested, and I don't think anyone left the house the rest of the weekend. We covered the bed, the couch, everywhere there were towels. Anna threw up everywhere. Eventually she got better.

There were few defining moments during this second half of the weekend. Just a sick little girl and her two brothers who grew the slightest fraction older. It was more sweat equity than distinction; I don't think people like to here about you caring for your sick child. Its just one of those things. you have to do. The sacrifices you make for your children.
But these days I guess this defines me more than anything else.
(Really just Molly and Andrew fooling around up in GFNY, while Mike builds his deck. This photo cracked me up.)



You have to hand it to Anna, when she gets an idea in that little head of hers it tends to stick there. Some times this is natural, like when she learns that the ice cream man always shows up around the time Daddy comes home. Some times it is just an act of will. A couple of years ago, when she was late in her twos, she started to telll us about this woman named "Grandma Noo-no" who lived in an old house we drove by every day. Grandma Noo-No was her thrid grandma. This went on for a while. Then, one day, she announced that Grandma Noo-no had moved to Florida, but her husband stayed up her in Leesburg. She'd pretend to talk to her on the phone, send her letters. It was a whole big thing. And it went on forever. Eventually she moved back to the same old house. There she remains, and Anna still talks about her sometimes.

Its like that with Jelly. In nursery school, some of the children are allergic to peanuts. This is a fairly common allergy, and its pretty serious because if you aren't allergic to peanut butter the stuff is sort of like manna when you are three years old. You never get sick of the stuff and your parents always have some around. So you end up eating it alot. But if you are allergic, peanuts can be life threatening. The net of all this is that if there is a child with an allergy to peanuts everyone in classs knows it. Sometimes peanuts are outlawed in class to prevent any danger to the allergic children.

I guess Anna had been in a class with one such kid, and was maybe a little jealous of all the attention he was getting with her allergy. One day Anna announced to me that she couldn't eat Jelly because she was allergic to it. I tried to explain that jelly was made from fruit, and she eats fruit by the bowl-ful every day, but no luck. She'll eat her peanut butter sandwich, but no jelly thank you. And I wonder how long this will last. Maybe I should ask Grandma Noo-No.

Monday, August 11, 2003

WASPS, HOT TUBS 8-11-2003


The hot tub starting gushing water last night. We were just about to get in when my but brushed against the button that controls the blower. The blower kicked on, then there was an odd sound, kind of like a creak or crackle, and then there was a noise like a babbling brook. "This is bad" I thought to myself. I went to open the door to the insides, and when I did I paused. I was still a little gun shy. Let me go back.

We have this hot tub that is free, or was nearly free anyway. It is going on thirteen years now, and let me tell you it has seen better days. When a co-worker told me she was buying a new hot tub, I asked her what she was doing with the old one.

"Oh, that old thing? You can have it if you want it."

Offering me a free hot tub is kind of like offering me, well, a free anything. Its free isn't it? What more do you want? Of course then it had to be moved, and that cost a few bucks and a visit from Reliable Hot Tub supply, a company that prides on answering at least a third of its telephone calls, and of showing up for an appointment at least half of the time. Reliable indeed. Maybe Reliable was his last name. But they did eventually move the hot tub, this was about three years ago, and it works just fine for the old creeky mess that it is. Hey, the water is hot, and it is a tub. My needs are simple.

But the door never shuts right on the front and the paint is all chipped. I put in a bunch of fiberglass insulation in the front of it last fall to help insulate it. Old hot tubs leak energy like sieves and use lots of electricity. Yet another cost of being free. But the insulation helped. It kept the heat in the hot tub, and it provided a great place to gorw wasps. The nasty insects I mean, not the anglo suburbanites. Big suckers, 2 inches long and mean looking. I discovered these bad boys two weeks back, when Kathleen had gone to the store. I was trying to start up the tub after having our vacation. To do so I had to prime the pump. I had baby Samuel under my arm, and I went to open the doo under the hot tub to get at the pump.

I had to pull some of the insulation back to get at the pump. I guess I must have seemed pretty menacing to the wasp, some big sweaty guy pulling his nest apart. First he stung me on the bridge of the nose. Bang! I remember being stung by a wasp once as a kid and swelling up real bad. That was a while back but it left a mark. Okay, I was mostly concerned about Sam at this point, to my credit. I wisely and calmly screamed "Ahhhhhhhhh" and threw my eyeglasses at the wasp, and dropped to the ground. Then I rolled over and tried to kick it to keep the wasp away from Sammy, who was calmly watching me with a budda-like calm. The wasp stung me three more times on my knee before I got inside. And yeah I know, kicking at a wasp wasn't a very bright thing to do.

Later I got some Wasp and hornet killer and sprayed the nest with a demented glee. "Die, die, die!" I cackled while I peeked my arm out past the screen door just far enough to spray the insecticide at the insulation. Three or four days later my knee stopped itching. Kath said that the bit on my forehead exagerated the ridge above my nose, and gave me this dull sort of stupid cro-magnon look. I noticed at work for the nesxt few days people kept explaining things to me two or three times, so maybe it made me look confused.

The hot tub's water filter had a collar that had split horizontally. I think I can find a part to fix it. Kath and I got in the hot tub anyway, after I turned off the power to it. We had a bout half an hour before the water level got too low and we had to get out. Plus the gurgling noise of the tub draining itself over the ground kept making me want to pee. No more wasps though, they seem to be gone for the moment. But I have my can of wasp-killer stuff ready, just in case.

Sunday, August 10, 2003


My peaceful time is ending, I have a headache, and I still haven't posted a bunch of stuff that I want to put up on the web page.

The peaceful time was the last 5 days, when Kath, and the brood were beach bumming at Ed and Rita's place at Bethany. So I was left with a few precious hours of quiet each night, which I squandered mostly playing computer games and loafing about. They will return this afternoon. It amazes me just how little free time I actually have, and how much free time I had in the past. In a way the last 5 days were more refreshing than the two weeks of vacation. The vacartion was a blast, but taking the kids anywhere ithese days is Work with a capital W, and sometimes its really just nice to loaf in quiet. Alas, no more of that-- back to the grind. Oh well, at least I can never complain of a boring life and loneliness is never an issue.

My freinds Doug and Tammy, showed up Friday night with there three girls. Tammy, Madison, Megan, and Cassidy continued on to North Carolina, and Doug stuck around for a night of barhopping in Leesburg with me. We went out drinking like we did when we were in college. Unfortunately, my liver is all of 37 and so I was moving around pretty slowly this morning, popping ibuprofen like they were coming out of a pez dispenser, and drinking huge amounts of gatoraid. Still, it is fun to get out once in a while. Come to think of it, Kath and I will be stepping out again on Friday! Two nights out in the same 7 day period. Its like I have a life or something!

In leu of actually writing about the stuff that has happened in the past month I have put a bunch of titles down in the blog. I'll go back and fill these in as time permits, at least now I know what is left to be posted.

Got back Sunday. Lots of stuff to catch up on, unfortunately I am soooo very short on time these days. Rather than confuse the order of things, I will try and keep my postings in chronological order, so the family reunion, the high school reunion, strange conversations with neighbors, land purchasing antics, harrowing wasp attacks, and of course, the ever present songs written by Anna. All this and more! Stay tuned.

Vacation was at once restful and exhausting. ANYTHING with the kids is exhausting. I saw so many family and friends, got in some good hang time with my Mom, and Mike, my kids got to hang out with their cousins. Anna took swim lessons at Gurney Lane. Lots of hanging out at the beach. I should have a bunch of photos to post as well. A wealth of material.

This week I am kind of being a zero. After all that freedom its kind of nice to be a mindless drone, zooming off to work, putting the kids to bed, going to sleep, repeating the process. A suburban meditation ritual, not very exciting but its a role I seem to have down by now and I think I coul dpull it off for quite some time.

Watching some great movies on the bus. I'll try and post my reviews. "Gangs of New York" on Monday, and then "Punch Drunk Love" on Tuesday, which was simply amazing. On Wednesday I watched "Dragonfly" which stunk, all the more by comparison. Mmmmm, movies on the bus. It sounds stupid, but you have no idea how great a thing this is. You really have no idea. I have never in my life enjoyed commuting more than I do so now.

Okay, so that's it a very quick update. I will begin posting stories to get "caught up" soon. But here are some photos from the trip.

First, the gratuitous nudity. PJ and Anna playing outside the camp.

Here are the kiddie splaying at the beach


The view from the bridge. So bucolic.


And here is the fam crossing said bridge. We were an eight minute walk to the beach from our cabin, through a forest of large pines.



Our vacation house was wonderful, but it was woodsy and there were a tremendous amoutn of flying critters around. The joke was, the mosquitoes around here come in two sizes; small enough to fly through the screen door and big enough to open it.

A couple od days into our stint, Anna was bitten by some creepy insect while she was sleeping. We never did figure out what it was that bit her, but her right eye swole up pretty good. I kept asking her, "Anna, are you winking at me?" and it never got old. Eventually we got her to the doctor who prescribed the most nasty tasting liquid steroid in existance, but this did the trick for the swelling.

At some point during this time we went to Wal-Mart, because, well, we are just Wal-Mart sort of people. Pathetic but true. They had a little McDonald's up front by the entrance, and a bench with a life size statue of Ronald McDonald sitting on a bench. Anna calls him "Happy MacDonald". Never losing her sense of the dramatic, Anna wasn't just happy sitting next to the smiling yellow man, but wanted to stand on his head and jump off his shoulders so she could propel herself into space. Maybe she wanted to land on the pyramid of inexpensive laundry detergent, or maybe the she just wanted to wave at people, but we never got that far. She wouldn't stop and so I had to pull her down, say "that's enough" in my best tough-guy-I'm-the-dad voice, and toss her over my shoulder and carry her out of the store.

So basically, I had to physically carry her out of the store kicking and screaming because she wouldn't stop climbing on this stupid grinning clown statue. As I carried her out of the store, she kicked and she screamed out "Goodbye Happy MacDonald!" With big crocodile tears streaming down her little chin she cried, "Goodbye Happy Macdonald."
DAREDEVIL 7.11.2003


So we started the vacation with me taking Friday off. We would split the drive in two, and spend Friday night at the most excellent Holiday Inn in Wilkes-Barre. This hotel has, among other things, an adult and a kiddy swimming pool, and a TGIF, which is actually pretty good for a “mid range potato skins and big margarita complete with crazy crap on the walls” kind of restaurant.

So we take off around One. Innumerable stops later, we arrive in Wilkes-Barre in horrible time, a four hour drive telescoped to almost seven. But we land, and hit the pool. The kids love the water. Little fishies, they.

The temperature has dropped though, from in the eighties all day to about sixty five. After about ten minutes of swimming Anna gets cold and wants to head in. She goes upstairs with Kath and Sam, leaving me with PJ. PJ is shivering visibly and his teeth are chattering. You can literally hear his teeth knocking each other. I say, “PJ are you cold?”

“No” Is his reply, spit through chattering teeth.

We are playing in the wading pool, but he wants to go jump into the deep end. He saw Anna do it. He starts running over to the deep end of the big pool. I have to run over and jump in the pool. I am standing in four feet of water, in front of him. I say, “Ok, PJ, jump in, I’ll catch you.”

“No!” He says to me. “You go away!” He points at the other side of the pool.

PJ can’t swim. He’s two. If he jumped in he’d surely drown. But he wants me to go away. Its kind of funny. I try reasoning with him. “PJ, just let me catch you. You can jump in the water. Come on.”

“No. You go over there.” He says, punching each syllable with deliberation. He’s pointing at a tree over at the edge of the pool. He seems pretty clear on this, the same way he is sure he’s not cold. I think about all the various dangerous places I would jump off while growing up. There were many. The cliffs on Calves Pen, West Dollar Island, Vicar’s. The old swimming hole we called ‘Limestone’. The old rope swing at Luzerne. The last one, the bridge at Luzerne had a vicious undertow that would kill people, it was really dangerous. We’d swim there and laugh about it. When you're young you tend to underestimate your mortality. I guess we all got lucky.

So now my two year old wants to launch into an uncertain future already. You’re too young, I think to myself. Its too soon. PJ eventually let himself be led inside, but he was still insisted he wasn’t cold, and still he still wanted to jump into the deep end unassisted.