I’M SO SORRY TO WELCOME BACK SNOW-RAVAGED GUEST BLOGGER, RICHARD GALGANO

Guess what? It’s 4:00 a.m., it’s snowing again, and I’m outside. Thank God! I have a multiple-week streak of daily shoveling going and was afraid it would end. This may be my best chance to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. There are officially two categories in the book: pro and amateur. Technically I’m an amateur, but I don’t think the term is appropriate in this case. “Amateur” derives from Latin and means “one who does it for the love.” I think we need to develop a third category referring to necessity.

I’m sacrificing my parking spot in the driveway. I’m considering a mess of helium balloons to tether the car above the snow but I’ll probably just play “musical cars.” There just isn’t any more space.

Boston received five and a half five inches of snow through January 22nd. Since then, in 23 days, 84 more inches have fallen. A normal winter has about half that much snow.

Yesterday, for the fifth time, I removed the peaks of the snow piles at the foot of the driveway to about 4 and a half feet. All I can say is… They’re B-a-c-k!  The snow piles are over 7 feet right now, and growing. The taller mountains in the yard are so high that you need to wear supplemental oxygen when climbing them. This Spring, my yard is going to look like the summit of Mt. Everest with empty canisters all over the place.

After removing the peaks with my wheelbarrow, I washed clothes by hand. Yes. I am building the helicopter, using parts from the washer and dryer. (See prior blog posts.) As it took an hour to drive 3/4 of a mile, the chopper will free up a lot of time, for shoveling.

The local hardware store was packed yesterday. Unlike the big box stores which already showcase spring equipment, winter items are still available locally. Well, they were. There was a run on “ice melt,” the shovels are sold-out, and the bin with the grips for your boots had 1 pair left (men – size 15). Fortunately they had a chain saw (more on this below).

I considered buying salt but I don’t want to screw up the environment any more than necessary. Wandering through the aisles, it hit me. I ran over to the electrical department and bought every foot of wire they had. I stopped at the auto parts store and picked up a couple car batteries.

Last night I stripped about five miles of insulation off the wire. My dog is outside running around in a back and forth pattern, having the time of her life, pulling wire from a spool. She’s pretty fast and as soon as she’s done and back in the house, I’m going to hook up the wire to the batteries. (Safety Note: if you walk by our house today, please wear rubber boots.) Let the melting begin!

Years ago, I learned how to cut trees and got reasonably facile in having the trees (usually) fall in the intended direction. As the battery power is limited, I’ve decided to cut down the trees in our front yard and set them on fire. Hopefully they will fall in the direction of the sidewalk and driveway. Ha! With all that melting, I’ll be able to see one of my neighbor’s houses in no time! After the trees burn out, I can toss some furniture on the embers. I got the idea from La Bohème. But don’t worry — there are piles of rubber insulation in the house and they are comfortable to sit and lie on. I soon may be able to see out my windows!

Back after a couple hours. Huge miscalculation. HUGE. I cut the first tree but the snow is so deep, it’s holding the tree upright. And the electrical approach didn’t quite work as intended. From the window, my dog and I witnessed one major league spark (okay, explosion). The dog had run around the fire hydrant a few times and I think the metal hydrant caused a short circuit. However, the area around the hydrant is totally clear and the five-foot hole in the ground should fill up with snow quickly.

My dog is sitting at the kitchen table, pawing the keys on my laptop and has my credit card. It appears that she is trying to book a vacation package in Cancun. She is willing to take me with her but I’ll have to ride in the cargo area with the other humans.

Time for breakfast while listening to music — Christie McVie was right: “I’m over my head, over my head in snow.”

Richard Galgano

February 15, 2015

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Welcome Back Snow-Weary Guest Blogger, Richard Galgano

Armageddon Storm Team reporting live from just west of Boston.

It continues to snow and the piles in my driveway are taller than Kareem Abdul Jabbar. They are too high for Dwight Stones (high jumper) and too wide for Carl Lewis (long jumper). If they continue to get larger, Boston will change the bid and go for the winter Olympics instead. I’ll have a front yard view to the super giant slalom.

We have no place to put the newly plowed snow in the driveway so we cleared the lighter, 3+ feet of snow in our front yard to make a large, open area. We found our wheel barrel and have been “trucking” the heavy, salted snow from the driveway to the yard. Fortunately that section of the yard is half weeds, so the salt shouldn’t matter.

My hands are frozen despite wearing ski gloves. Time to use the Kelvin thermometer.

I have to dig out the crampons and ice ax. The icicles hanging from the gutters are now large enough to climb.

Watching a really proficient truck driver plow is a thing of beauty.

What’s this? Just turned on the TV and regular programs are airing! The meteorologists are on “assignment” in Key West.

The snow is so deep that our dog is teaching herself how to use the loo.

Wish I had taken up fly-fishing. Hip waders would come in handy right about now.

Call the police! The 5 feet tall wooden post fence in our back yard is missing! Never mind, it’s just buried under a drift.

Santa just called. He wonders if it’s okay to move his operation here.

Breaking news from the American Geological Institute. The earth has “rotated” and the 42.3 north longitude is now where the north pole used to be. Can’t wait to see the aurora borealis — that is, if we ever have clear skies again.

Maple syrup should be very tasty this year.

I’m going to find a bear den and try to hibernate for a while.

Richard Galgano

February 9, 2015

SOBERING, TROUBLING, and LASTING IMPRESSIONS

Aboard BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to San Francisco from the East Bay city of Fremont, a 20 mile drive north of my home in San José, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride on the rails. While driving to the station, I have to admit that even the usual aggravating sloth-paced Friday afternoon commuter lane crawl was enjoyable, all because my upbeat, recent college-grad niece accompanied me. I hugged my niece goodbye at the station, and we headed for separate trains. I was excited to hop on anything that would move gloriously faster than what we had just endured. If that thought wasn’t enough to keep my mood elevated, I was thrilled knowing that my vehicle was parked in a well-lit and patrolled lot in front of the station and, as I had timed my trip purposefully for a post-3:00 p.m. Friday afternoon departure, parking overnight for 24 hours into Saturday would be free. So not only was I spared the painfully slow freeway commute to the City, I also would not have to fork over big bucks to park there. BART would bring me very close to the Moscone Convention Center, so things were working out perfectly. Well, I believed that until I walked through the Powell Street Station in San Francisco.

I had not ridden BART in a long time, although weekly I look forward to my niece visiting us for a day or two from her place in the East Bay. I meet her outside the Fremont station; she sits on a bench if I’m running a few minutes late. My niece has never told me she has felt unsafe, and I have not witnessed people who make me worry about my niece’s safety. I see folks of all ages rushing in and out of the station and waiting for rides. However, after my walk through the Powell Street Station last Friday, I vowed to myself that I will not ride BART again into San Francisco as long as I have other available options.

I don’t think of myself as a “head in the sand” person, so my shock at seeing homeless person after homeless person, body after body, sleeping on the floor throughout the large Powell Street Station surprised me. No, that’s not accurate. It stunned me. Some people, men mostly, slept on flat pieces of corrugated cardboard. Others slept on the floor with a rolled-up sweatshirt under their head, with no cardboard separating themselves from the floor. Throughout the long underground station, many people had chosen to sleep next to a wall, but others had positioned themselves with their heads against the wall and their feet jutting into the corridor. As it is a wide corridor, at least I didn’t have to step over anybody. Some people sat propped up, and a few were eating. One man was talking to no one in particular, but overall, it was eerily quiet. Walking through the station I noticed two separate empty squares of cardboard, one set in a corner with a blanket on it, and the other against a wall. I figured these “beds” were already claimed. I looked at my watch; it was just after 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon on a bright and relatively warm day without precipitation. What would this place look like in a few hours when it grew dark? I consider myself a compassionate person, but honestly, I did not want to walk through the station at that time to get my answer. I was in shock.

My city, San Jose, has a large homeless population and I’m not immune to it. No one is, really. I choose to live in an urban neighborhood, so I see more homeless people than I would were I to live in a suburban or rural area. My neighbors and I do not turn a blind eye to people near us who are in need. Sometimes meals, clothing, and sleeping bags are accepted, and other times, they are not. Some of the homeless in my neighborhood are very kind people, though neighbors have not been able to engage them in lengthy conversation. At the park where I walk my dog, there is a constant discussion among neighbors as to what can be done, especially since people have been known to sleep on the school grounds. One man has called the school his home now for months and months. I was told that the school administrators have asked him to vacate the grounds when classes are in session, and he obliges. This gentleman uses a small space. There is always evidence that someone inhabits this space, as he may leave food containers or wrappers, trash, there, or some clothing that neighbors have given him. And there is always a rounded depression left in the tan bark where he sleeps.

Can a person live at a school? Other than asking him to leave the grounds during class time, the school does not take responsibility. They say they can’t. But isn’t the school responsible for the health and safety of its students and staff? This homeless man is not a safety threat; he has a gentle disposition and acknowledges us. However, there are other homeless people who have lived in the yard, or who have spent time there, and not all of them have been kind. One is belligerent, and I feel threatened when he is near. There may also be a health threat, even from the pleasant man.

When neighbors arrive to enjoy the park after school hours, conversations frequently progress from noticing if the homeless gentleman is in his usual spot, to asking if other homeless individuals have been seen at or near the school that day, and if anyone knows if they have eaten or accepted recent offers to help. We wonder what can be done when someone is living on the school grounds, as it just seems wrong. Neighbors discuss what obligation the school has to step in. We wonder how this man survived the bitter winter this year. We recognize that while there are more homeless in our neighborhood now, it is still a drop in the bucket compared to the large-scale homeless problem in San José. We discuss just how little the police can do, especially on a long-term basis, even when a person becomes belligerent and throws rocks at us (we do call the police for situations like that). We wish out loud that the long-term school resident would change from his tattered, filthy rags to the clothing that neighbors have given him, and we also wish that he would avail himself of neighborhood services for the homeless. If the man who lives at the school uses bathroom facilities in local businesses during the day, what about after hours? We wonder if local restaurant owners ask the homeless man to leave if he has been standing or sitting outside a business for a long period of time, though we don’t think they have done this. We ask ourselves if there is anything more that we can do. There must be city or county services available. However, just like refusing to wear new clothing, what happens if help is refused? Again, can people live at a school? We acknowledge that we shouldn’t always feel obligated to buy a coffee or a meal every time we walk by a homeless person. The problem is overwhelming and our frustration escalates. One of the neighbors described how one morning, when he was in line at a local coffee shop, a homeless man created a minor scene, talking loudly in the shop, and after he was asked to leave and was standing outside the premises, a patron handed him a hot cup of coffee. That worked; sometimes we see the humor in experiences. We talk about the future, the importance of a stellar education for our youth so they can live and work in society and make good decisions to help end the perpetuation of a cycle of living on the margins. We discuss it all as our dogs run back and forth in the side yard, chasing balls and having fun. And we make a decision as to how we exit the school grounds, which border two streets, depending on which homeless person is stationed where.

As a result of my experience at the Powell Street Station, I opted to take Caltrain to San Francisco and back each day to attend a convention. Not only is the San Jose Diridon train station only a mile from home, the San Francisco Caltrain station is even closer to the Moscone Center, and I did not have to file past dozens and dozens of homeless individuals in either of the stations. I breathed a sigh of relief. This was going to work for me.

While walking to the Diridon station very early one morning, I had to sidestep a man sleeping on the sidewalk of the underpass as I neared the station. I am fairly certain he was just sleeping, although I wasn’t sure; he looked very still. I’m assuming it was his hypodermic needle that I stepped over in the middle of the sidewalk. When I told this story to a colleague at the convention, she said that the night before, when she was walking through the Powell Street BART station and past the many, many homeless people, one homeless man was vomiting. She said it was bad. She didn’t know who was going to take care of it, and she was upset by it.

Sadly, that’s two of us now who are going to elect to start driving again to the City.

Kathy Galgano

June 7, 2014

Dog Park Minutes

  1. It was agreed upon yesterday evening by the quorum-plus assemblage that members and accompanying multi-legged canine companions (as one canine companion propels herself with great alacrity on three appendages, the phrase “four-legged companions” would be inaccurate and presumptuous) (and while the phrase “four-legged canine companions” might be considered redundant or at least unnecessary, it does depict an instant image in the mind’s eye), that the slight chill in the air that compelled us to wish we had donned a heavier sweatshirt could be considered akin to a “brisk spring.” It was also agreed upon by said group that as approximately five per cent of the geographic regions in the contiguous forty-eight states reported air temperatures above the freezing point at the same time, and perhaps even above the five degrees Fahrenheit marker, there would be no complaints tolerated regarding the fifty-something degrees Fahrenheit the group experienced at that time.
  2.  It was also generally agreed upon by all members present that the addition of the new canine companion was most welcome. The playful six-month old black lab mix instantly took to play with the other canine companions to the delight of the canines and accompanying parental units alike. The parental units of said playful pup were warmly welcomed by the other parental units in attendance.
  3.  It was reported that the sprinklers watering the field at the nearby secondary school have made the landscape “boggy,” and perhaps one of our members should notify an agent of said secondary institution of learning that a regulation of the ground sprinkling timetable would be in order. The rationale behind this revamping of the sprinkler assignment would be fiscal savings and the conservation of water during this exceptionally dry season. There was no appointment of a representative to notify said school of muddy conditions. The matter was taken under advisement.
  4.  It was offered by another member that while her canine companion enjoys frolicking with much favored orange and glow-in-the-dark balls at said member’s residence, the canine companion prefers interaction with other canine companions’ playthings, even when those preferred are the same as those brought to the field by said parental unit. Other members concurred, offering empathy and insight that this behavior is not uncommon.
  5.  Lastly, it was generally agreed upon by all members present that even with the added daylight of January versus that of a month prior, plus with the existence of street lighting and the lighting provided by the secondary institution of learning, in addition to the use of personal flashlights, it remains a challenge to spot the necessary relief droppings of the beloved canine companions. Multiple parental units were witnessed searching for said droppings, scanning the field methodically, foot by foot, from a northerly to southerly direction. Meanwhile, other parental units were seen searching said terrain for orange and glow-in-the-dark balls, with the latter no longer holding said glow-in-the-dark properties.
  6. All members agreed to meet each other and their accompanying canine companions on the following afternoon/ early evening.

Kathy Galgano

January 7, 2014

So Long, 2013!

  • Dogs are getting into the stash, as more states legalize medical marijuana. At least the medication we found in the small ibuprofen bottle on the high school yard where the neighbors run their dogs every night was cannabis, and not the anti-inflammatory pills advertised on the bottle. Those would have surely killed the pooches. Read this article by Katherine Seligman, published December 31, 2013, entitled, “Dogs’ pot poisoning soars as pets dig through trash, stash.” And for the love of your pooch or your neighbor’s, consume the pot! http://www.sfgate.com/pets/article/Dogs-pot-poisoning-soars-as-pets-dig-through-5102991.php
  • During the partial government shutdown this fall, I wrote polite but imploring letters daily to our elected U.S. House and Senate members, and urged my readers to do the same. Naturally, I now receive a lot of emails from these offices of both political parties. It saddens me that either my letters weren’t read, or they were dismissed. To all elected officials asking me for donations before the end of this year, I say openly to you, “No thank you. I am not interested in funding campaigns, programs or initiatives at this time that promote the status quo.” While citizens of the United States of America traditionally may have shortened memories, they are not that short.
  • There’s a new time piece on the market: a digital watch that counts down the time to your death. You fill out a questionnaire that asks you for your age, sex, country of origin, medical history, stress level, exercise habits, etc., and subtract your age from the results to get your death score. When you enter your death score into the watch, the countdown begins. “Tikker” or “The Happiness Watch” was invented by Fredrik Colting. Wearers are supposed to make better choices because they know how much time they have left on the blue green marble. I don’t know if Tikker adjusts to angst while you sit in traffic. And I can’t help but wonder if the final seconds display something like, “So long, and thanks for all the fish”? Check out the Kickstarter page for it: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/259499751/tikker-the-wrist-watch-that-counts-down-your-life
  • Miami is running a campaign for people not to fire their weapons into the air at midnight to ring in the New Year; Rapper Pitbull is promoting the “One Bullet Kills the Party” campaign. According to reports, for the past two years, kids and adults have been injured. http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/12/30/warning-against-firing-weapons-into-the-air-on-new-years-eve/ People! Why can’t you just grab your pots and pans and run outside and start clanging them? It makes a great noise; it’s wholesome and fun. It’s cheaper than ammo and it doesn’t put lead into the ecosystem. And you can forget about the fireworks, too. You’re going to scare Fido to the point where he’ll start rooting through the trash again for unconsumed stashes. Plus, you’re apt to start forest fires if you’re in California.  We’re having a drought. And too, it’s another Spare the Air day in the San Francisco Bay Area. So grab the pots and pans. Shout all you want. Blow whistles till you need your asthma inhalers. Celebrate! Readers! I need you healthy so you can read more of my posts next year!

Happy New Year!

Kathy Galgano

December 31, 2013

SCRATCHING MY HEAD

  • Living in an earthquake region, authorities state the importance of keeping shoes near you while you sleep. You don’t want to jump calmly out of bed, barefoot, to scream and wave your arms wildly while trying to run and hide to protect yourself while the floor is buckling under your feet and there is broken window pane glass all over the place. But no one has ever attempted to explain how one is supposed to keep shoes near the bed. Won’t they be covered with said glass, and debris like your once beautiful armoire? Or, won’t they be jumping around the room with the motion from the quake?
  •  Now here’s an email I really can’t wait to open — It’s from the Democratic Headquarters and the subject line reads, “doomed.” People! Is this the best you can do?  If the ship has sunk, why would I throw anything other than flowers at it?
  •   I’m surprised I haven’t read this yet: An upscale tea shop and nationwide chain has filed papers to change its legal name to “Business Selling Water Infused with Weird Smelling Leaves and Fancy Herbs” after sales plummeted because people associated the store with a political party.
  •  Tax dollars at work: Between 11,000 and 17,000 tickets are issued to the homeless in San Francisco each year. I’m sure this helps.
  •  Neighbors walk dogs at a local high school field every day. Last week we found a little ibuprofen bottle in the grass, and we immediately removed it because these pain relievers can be fatal to dogs. Phew. Good thing we only found pot inside instead of ibuprofen.
  •  At the warm water pool where I like to exercise, there are three walkers in Lost and Found.

Kathy Galgano

October 29, 2013