blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
December, 2014
Hello everybody,

What an eventful year in the Tim and Joel camp. After a particularly hellish winter, where we did not go a single week from mid-December through early March without a measurable snowday, we made a huge decision while basking in the warmth of Palm Springs California preparing for the wedding of Joel’s nephew Oren to his lovely bride Becca. We went looking at real estate, just for fun. We would both like to spend winters there once Joel retires (2016). We found a place for a crazy low price, had it checked out, and as of now we’ve become the owner of a modest winter home in the desert.

The place is a manufactured home in a 55+ mobile home park about a mile south of downtown right up against the big mountain that looms over Palm Springs. It's 2 bedrooms, 1 bath with a 2-car carport and patio in the back with a view of the mountain. The kitchen is beautiful - granite counter tops, an island, plenty of cabinet space. The place needs some work but is structurally sound.

No sooner did we sign the papers than it was time for the trip to India and Nepal. It was an amazing and mind-opening adventure. We got to see amazing ancient ruins, stunning modern opulence, bone crushing over-population surrounded by mind-numbing poverty. There was so much to see and the tour group did its best to get us to and from each location via special luxury busses, which helped to keep us in something of a bubble from the rest of the populous who, as soon as they saw a bunch of mostly white tourists stepping off a bus, swarmed you with either panhandling or attempts to sell you souvenirs.

But the tour was colorful, filled with a completely different culture from what you are used to. What we consider sacred and they do could fill a whole letter on its own, from the cremations along the Ganges river to the omnipresent cows.

However if we had only made one stop on the tour and spent one day, the Taj Mahal was worth the entire tour. We were rousted from our beds at 4:45 AM in order to get there ahead of the lines and – most importantly – to watch the sun rise over the complex. The buildings literally shimmer in the early light. It’s something no description or photograph can possibly relay. As Kishur, our Mr. Fix It of a tour guide noted, “There are two types of people in the world, those that have seen the Taj Mahal and those that haven’t.”

Oh yeah, Tim got to ride an elephant. One more thing off the bucket list. Joel was smart enough not to take that particular sea-sickness potential affair.

Nepal was equally beautiful and majestic. In addition to visiting a few Buddha Stuppas, we flew along Mount Everest, which is one of these thing that makes you think “Oh the Rockies are mountains? We’ll show you some mountains.” Oddly enough, our flight along the Himalayas took place just a week before a series of avalanches killed a group of climbers. Nature still is mightier than anything man can conjure.

Two weeks later, we were in Ohio for one of Tim’s Book events. Tim also hosted his annual Author’s Roundtable which always gets a small but passionate crowd. We’re always pleased by the attendance and the participation. There were other book events this year in DC, Palm Springs, Northern California and Philadelphia.

Then came Summer.
One cross country drive from Philly to Palm Springs. Two campouts. Joel had neck surgery. Two concerts. A renovation that turned the garage into a new family room. And one special announcement. Busy, busy busy.

The trip was an interesting one. Joel made the impromptu decision to buy a used van so that we could haul a bunch of things from home to Palm Springs, including two Kashmir rugs we had shipped to us from India. We wound up with a Chrysler Town and Country that has been affectionately been dubbed Wilma. We stuffed her to the gills and proceeded to drive. We did it over Memorial Day weekend, so my birthday was spent somewhere in middle America. Things turned out nicely, though, as the van is a joy to drive and gets better mileage than one would expect from such a behemoth. Plug in the Ipod and you’re ready to groove.

Before Joel’s surgery, we started in on cleaning out the garage clean out in preparation for the new room. Effectively a storage dump for decades of crap, it took us a full three days’ worth of hauling junk out, sorting wheat from chafe, taking trash to the curb and keepers to the Black Hole of Calcutta….err, the storage shed. As you can see in the picture, the trash was lined from curb to curb. To our surprise, the trash collectors took it all. Then came the contractor. He’s well known throughout the neighborhood, as he’s done work with several of our immediate neighbors and has impeccable credentials. 

Along with that came the banging, the breaking, the smashing, and the DUST! Since we didn’t have a passage from the main house to the garage, one had to be created. The new bay windows had to be created from a non-existent ‘porch’ area. Frames for floors and walls all had to be put into place. All of this while Joel was in the early stages of recovery.

Joel had been dealing with neck and arm pain for the better part of six months when he finally got diagnosed with a pinched nerve that would require neck surgery to alleviate. The Doctors originally wanted to schedule the surgery for before we went camping, but Joel talked them into doing it just after. The surgery went well, and the recovery went faster than anticipated. While he had a month’s paid recovery leave, he was pretty much ready to return to work in three. He did wear the brace to work a couple of nights, but didn’t really need it. The doctors have told him to be careful all the same as such surgeries take up to a year to heal completely. They went through his neck and infused the space between the affected vertebrae with bone shavings to fuse the discs and relieve the nerve pressure.

By then, the house renovation was well underway. Despite the disruption, things went by in a seemingly quick progression. We also had the majority of the first floor repainted. It all looks fantastic. The dining room now holds our marble table with semi-precious stone inlays from India. It’s beautiful and will never be moved: it weighs 300 pounds.

We decided to christen the new dining room set-up with a dinner with Joel’s youngest daughter Miriam and her partner Suzanne, and his recently married nephew Oren and Becca. They both decided to surprise us with the news: both Miriam and Becca are pregnant. We’ll be grandparents again (this makes 3) and Great Uncles.

In the midst of this, Tim had a ticket to see the Queen and Adam Lambert concert. Even though it has been almost 25 years since Freddie Mercury has died, Lambert more than filled the tights of Mercury adequately. Next was The Avett Brothers, a three piece folk band that we travelled to Bethlehem to see. What was as impressive as the show itself was what Bethlehem has done to revitalize their city. What used to be old steel mills are now venues for shopping and for seeing music, instead of being abandoned to the elements. While not a summer event, after years of not being in the USA, we got to see Cat Stevens in Philly.

November was an unusually odd month, even by any standards. We scheduled a trip to Palm Springs to do a little more work on the house and then to drive the van back to Pennsylvania. We even went out for Palm Springs Pride and I packed a suitcase of books to vend. Should have been an easy trip, right?

Well, on the Monday before we planned on driving back, we had a booboo. While trying to park the van at a mini-mall, Joel's foot missed the brake and hit the accelerator. We drove over the curb and into a plate glass storefront. No one was hurt. Fortunately, the only person in the store was a clerk and he was in the back. There was no-one on the sidewalk and we hit glass instead of concrete. It was the best possible outcome for a very bad situation.

The van went to a collision center until early December for some pretty heavy duty body work. Our original plan was to start driving, but that has obviously had to change. Joel flew back that Saturday and Tim decided to stay behind, waiting for the van repairs to be completed that they originally told us might take a mere two weeks. Insurance covered a rental, thankfully. When it was fixed, Tim planned to drive back himself, or Joel would meet up at an airport somewhere on the way and we'd drive the second part of the trip to PA.

As if we didn't have enough going on with the van accident, we went out for dinner with a friend, and when we got home, Tim couldn't find his wallet. We tore the house apart, went back to the restaurant, parking lots where we'd been that afternoon, and called the stores we'd visited. No luck. This was Friday; Joel was scheduled to fly out in the morning. So we started calling the credit card companies, the bank, looking up Tim’s driver’s license online and cancelled everything.

Still feeling bummed out, we resigned ourselves to not seeing that wallet or its contents again. Meanwhile, the lady who takes care of the yard and trash calls from the porch and asks, "Is your wallet turquoise?"

Tim had put it in with the recycling.

All was then well in the world.

After the series of  interesting events in Palm Springs, when Joel arrived home he found one of the trees in our front yard uprooted and toppled over. I guess the evergreens were jealous of the Palm trees.

On the sixth day of what Tim jokingly called “Exile in Palm Springs,” the collision center called and informed us that the van wouldn't be finished until after Thanksgiving. So Tim hopped a plane heading back to Philadelphia that Tuesday. When he left, it was 75 degrees, and then when he got home it was 28 degrees. He wanted to climb back in the plane and head back. But that would have meant missing Thanksgiving, when Tim’s Mom’s side of the family hosts the family reunion dinner. Always fun, food and plenty of joy. We have a very loving and inclusive group. It was held in Virginia, and since Tim’s Mom couldn’t make it this year, we took a side trip to Lebanon on the way home and stopped off to visit. Tim had to show off his “Team Gallagher” shirt.

Finally, the important announcement. We have decided to get married. Now that it’s legal to do so in Pennsylvania, we’re looking at a 2015 October date to correspond with the anniversary of when I moved here to Springfield. We also want to keep it close to home so that Tim’s Mother can attend. We want to keep it small, maybe less than 100 folks. The “Save The Date” notices will be coming in the not too distant future. That’s about as good a note I can think of to end the year on. So we wish good health and good fortune to you this holiday season and for the coming year.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
I've been a naughty, negligent blogger for the last month. Part has been busyness, the over part just laziness. I also have a two week excuse for the early part of May because I was doing this.

We took a two week tour of India and Nepal (mainly Kathmandu). It was a beautiful if eye-opening experience. You are surrounded by ancient beauty, modern opulence and mind boggling overpopulation and mind numbing poverty. It's a trip I'm glad we took but don't know if I'd ever want to return. I will return to my regular tour of my record collection soon. I hope somebody missed me.
blackleatherbookshelf: (Santa Brough)
The Friday before Thanksgiving was Grandparent's Day at Shoham's school. and Sabbas Joel and Tim made the dedicated trip to Albany to see Shoham in class, and to see her Moms and sister Advah. We don't get enough visits in, so it's always good fun. We also took them Hanukkah gifts. Advah got a doll and Shoham had made a list of books she wanted from her school's Book Fair. Then it was a stop at the frozen yogurt shop before the trip home.

Here are my sweeties.

And my honey.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
Ride it or Buck it.
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Having been a fan of Kings of Leon since "Youth and Young Manhood," it's been interesting to watch how they've changed and matured as each album comes along. "Mechanical Bull" is their slickest yet. Cleanly produced, vocals upfront, heck, even strings (on "Comeback Story"). It's also the Kings' most blatantly commercial album, even more so than "Come Around Sundown." If you found that album to be too much for you, you're not going to like "Mechanical Bull."

However, I do. It's OK for a band to progress beyond their roots. With all the infighting going on after "Sundown," I'm surprised we have an album at all. But, as they say, blood is thicker than water, and when Caleb Fallowill sings he'd "take one in the temple for you" (on "Temple"), he could easily be talking about the relationship he's got with his fellow bandmates. They're back to bringing out the best in each other, including some very tasty guitar on "Coming Back Again" from Matthew Followill, who is in top form throughout "Mechanical Bull." Be it the arena sized soloing ("Rock City") or even just using it for subtle coloration ("Beautiful War"), he's become a force to be reckoned with.

"Mechanical Bull" revels in that diversity. Between the aforementioned strings, the pedal steel on "On The Chin," and the album's leaner feel, Kings of Leon are finding their way to greener pastures. And that's no Bull.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
Joel and I paid a visit to Albany to see little Shoham and Advah (who just turned 3 - where is the time going)? We went to see "Annie Jr," a truncated version of "Annie" that runs for barely an hour and features a cast of 6 - 8 year olds. Adorable.

blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
My Great Uncle Ray passed away today, and with this day, a part of my childhood. Uncle Ray worked in Florida for NASA for almost the entirety of their manned space program. It was a point of pride for me when Uncle Ray would come to my elementary school with space paraphernalia and put on a presentation for my fellow students. It was because of Uncle Ray that I developed an interest in science and boyhood dream of becoming an astronaut. He was and always will be my hero.
blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
Joel and I attended services for my Great Uncle John Gallagher Saturday. Uncle John was a WWII hero who lost his hand at the Battle Of Normandy. He was buried with a full honor gaurd. A fitting tribute to a man who always inspired those around him.
blackleatherbookshelf: (Flames)
After all the work Joel and I did in the aftermath of his father's passing, we made a decision to take a break for a week. Thanks to a week in a time share courtesy of one of my Aunts and AAA, we settled on Orlando and Disneyworld, with a side trip to Universal Studios.

The weather was very cooperative, with highs in the mid-70's and not to chilly at night. I was able to take my fill of roller coasters (Joel doesn't like thrill rides), with the exception of the Harry Potter rides at Universal. Seems they have size restrictions on these rides and I have a bit too much in the waist to fit the chairs. But the Aerosmith Rock and Roller Coaster (Disney) was a wild trip (one of the indoor - in the dark rides that really whips you around), and the Incredible Hulk (Universal) with some wild corkscrews and open air loopers.

I was also seriously impressed by the new 3-D technology. The Disney feature "Mickey's PhilharMagic" and Universal's Amazing Spiderman ride put the images right in front of you, along with effects like waterspray and heat blasts to add to the experience. Along with the new animatronics (the Aerosmith Coaster had the full band performing a skit before you boarded the cars) made the fantasy all the more realistic. It was a week to make my feet ache and give us many smiles. It was a real bummer to have to come back to snow and sub-freezing temperatures!

More pictures and amusing stuff here.

Thank you

Oct. 23rd, 2012 02:01 am
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A big thank you to everyone who sent me and Joel good wishes on behalf of Syd, Joel's Dad. We're in he process of emptying out a condo In the DC area that he lived in and it will take a long time. 91 year old men accumulate a lot of things.

I had to give up my part time record store job in order to keep up with the estate clean-up and tear down. It's going to make things pretty damn tight for me for a few months before I can concentrate on getting back to work. My anxiety/depression has been kicking me senseless this past week. Going to the NJ Leather Weekend on Saturday was a much needed mental health break. Joel needs a few for himself.
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CLAW weekend was a total delight, but the highlight for me was being moderator to the Author's Panel. I knick-named it the "Black Leather Bookshelf" in the shameless plug division, at the same time, the panelists were like a who's who. The order was me at the end of the table, with Guy Baldwin, Gloria Brame, Jack Rinella and Race Bannon seated along with me.

Gloria I had never met before, and she promptly became a thrill to be with. She was funny, flirty and very smart, and her antics with Guy were all but show stealers. We all read from our works, and then took questions. The audience eagerly participated, filling almost 90 minutes as we each took turns responding. Guy was his usual irascible self, adding to the entertainment value.

I feel so damn lucky to have been a part of this. Joel took the pics, and there are more through the link.
blackleatherbookshelf: (me and the puss)
We had to let Sophie Go today. The cancer finally got her. I'm devastated and heartbroken.

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My friend and former co-worker Mel Tabbert passed away in his sleep early Wednesday after a long period in a nursing home. He was 68, and we'd been friends since I started working in the customer service department of TLA.

But during that time, he was having serious health issues. In the summer 2007 I had to go through some major stress a few weeks with him. I'd been doing Home Health care for him since the previous summer, when he was essentially a shut in. Mel got a Sheriff's Notice on his apartment door on a Weds stating that he had till Monday to be out of his place or he'd be forcibly removed. His apartment was basically a bedroom in an old building that is right near city hall, since renovated into condos. His itty-bity room had an asking price of over 100,000. He'd gotten behind on his rent, couldn't work, couldn't even leave the room (he had been outside once since the previous August) and needed serious help. Of course, he was in a total panic.

With the help I've been giving him since '06, connections at the Pennsylvania Council On Aging got him an emergency bed at a Nursing Home. We had to call them and insist that Mel's paperwork get fast tracked or he'd be on the street. I assisted him with his move that Monday morning. But he was still under a great deal of stress. I’d been taking suitcases of what few possessions he has left out over the weekend and giving him a shoulder to cry on...there were a lot of tears and hand holding. He was very frightened and rang my cell phone several times a day.

He needed 24 Hour professional care (something I am just not qualified for) and a good bed, which the nursing home provided. I signed him onto my cell-phone program to give him a lifeline to the outside world. I would visit every couple of weeks or so, take him movies (I got him a cheap DVD player) and snacks. Since he could not leave his room without assistance, I often had to play patient advocate for him. (He had only one sister; she is disabled and lives in MN.)

Last week he was having problems breathing and was taken to a hospital where they did a "stuffing" for a sinus issue. When he came back to the hospital Thursday, I dropped in and brought him some throat lozenges. we had a good talk, I showed him some of the latest pictures of the grand-girls and Sophie Cat, and as I was leaving he told me I was his guardian angel. I gave him a hug and told him "I love ya, buddy," like I usually did.

He did not wake up Wednesday. He "coded" in his bed and the staff called 911 while performing CPR. While Mel was still taken to the University of Penn via ambulance, he never revived. He was declared at the UoP emergency room. He was 68, which just seems too young these days, but more than anything else, he's no longer suffering. The nursing home let me gather his things, but there wasn't much. What I took were mostly things I'd taken to him over the years, some Military certificates (he was in the Navy during Vietnam) and a few wall posters he'd had. The staff was used to seeing me and told me they all liked Mel for being funny and generous, and we all shared a few cries. I have his Santa on my desk. I'm going to need some memories.

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Joel and I used some airline miles and an invite from our friend Peter Fiske to attend Palm Springs Leather Weekend. It was nice to get out of the house for a change and try to alleviate the fact that my depression has reached an almost crushing level of despair, along with my computer networking class being far and away harder than I ever imagined it to be.

Luckily, there are only two of us in the course and that allows the prof to answer all of my annoying questions. I fear I may not be able to catch up to the level of technology the course involves.

However, let's share some of the pictures.

My friend Alex Ironrod opened the weekend by reading from his new novel "Leather Nights" (a murder mystery) at Gear. I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout for him. I should add that I wrote his back-cover blurb.

My friend Bryce, whom I had not seen for a few years. This was in the party behind the Tool Shed where I'd set up a book table.

Mikal Bales (aka Daddy Zeus of Zeus Studios) took the time to come over to The Barracks on Saturday to say hello. He may be one of the men in California that I've missed the most since moving away. His new beau, Mick, is very sweet.

The gentleman here, Marshall, was a close friend of my late master, Gary Taylor. We had not seen each other since 1999. We had a long and somewhat emotional talk while he visited.

The notorious Gagbear and George (WetInSF) visited. It was nice to finally meet Jim after years of chat.

In what I can only say was the oddest moment of the weekend, singer Gregory Gray walked up to my table and said - in a thick Irish accent - "You don't even remember who I am, do ya?"

He was right, I didn't.  I interviewed Gregory over the phone in 1994 for Frontiers Magazine when his album "Euroflake In Silverlake" was released. When he played a show at the Virgin Megastore, I picked him up and we went to The Faultline for a wild night. He picked up a date and returned to his hotel after a few hours, and I'd not seen him since. That he remembered me and decided to hang out again was delightful and fun. Turns out he's a PS regular now and we have several mutual friends.

Of course, it wouldn't be a hot weekend if there weren't plenty of good looking men running about. (Hi Nipper!) That is, until The Barracks got busted for overcrowding (and yes, the place was mobbed), and the cops cleared everyone out. My first ever bar raid! Ah, well.

Then it was on-board the big old jet airliner for the trip home, for which we had enough miles to get first class seats. I never realized how comfortable flying could be before this. It made the end of the weekend easier to deal with. We arrived home to one very happy kitty. Now it's back to studies.

I am going to make a great effort to write more posts and reviews, if only to force my brain to write things.

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The Hurricane passed The Yellow Brock House in Springfield by with little trauma. We were fortunate in that - for a change - there was no power outages other than random flickerings. And for a change, no basement water!

However, several tree branches dropped from the trees alongside the house. They did not do any phone or powerline damage, so all I had to do was handsaw them into bits for the garbage men. Pretty hefty pile of wood when I was done. Miss Kitty was fine, but stayed close for most of the evening. The wind wnd rain was making a pretty good racket. There was a Tornado warning for the area around 11PM. but we were fortuinate enough to be spared. Areas in Delaware (Lewes, where I once lived) that got direct hits.

Joel called, as he is up with the grandkids. They had heavy rains and some basement water, but were OK otherwise. All is well. Now begins the countdown to Delta.
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Click through for more pictures
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A friend of Joel's went to the Blueberry farms of New Jersey for what is an annual trek for him. He goes over with a truck and returns with over 100 pounds of blueberries. These are sold in 10 pound boxes. Joel bought two of these from him and we spent some time washing, de-stemming and bagging them for the freezer.

We weighed out a pound per bag, then tried to squeeze the air out before sealing up the bags. That also meant trying to get the berries as dry as possible before bagging.

These are really tasty, fresh fruits. Joel loves to bake blueberries into pancakes and other bakery delights. Sophie was more interested in waiting for one of these little round blue things to fall on the kitchen floor so she could bat it around or chase it.

But for the moment, we have plenty of berries to carry us through the coming months.
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Because she's always happy when she's napping.



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September 2015

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