Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ski Logs

     Starting with the 1997-98 season I have been keeping a ski log.   My entries are brief but normally include the time I leave for the slopes and the time I return as well as temperature range, cloud cover, and snow conditions.  Unusual events are also noted.    Of course I record the ski area name for that ski day.   Many of my geezer skier friends also keep track the of the number of days they ski, although I believe that they mostly leave out the other details I include.    I guess, the analytical side of me drives my interest in keeping data.

       Most of my skiing is in upstate New York with some trips to Vermont or Utah so first and last ski days of the season normally occur for me at Greek Peak.   Occasionally a western trip gives me the last day in April away from my home area.  Over the 13 seasons of records the start of my season at my local area has ranged from November 22nd to December 22nd.  End dates have ranged from March 23rd to April 6th.  In those seasons the number of days I have skied ranged from a low of 63 days to a max of 102.    For the last three seasons I skied respectively 92, 90 and 90 days.  An anomaly in my ski log is the 2005-2006 season when recovery from prostate surgery in October 2005 reduced my ski days to 36.   I must say that when I was able to return to the slopes that season was a great lift to my spirits and helped my recovery of my usual upbeat nature.

Greek Peak
    Here are a couple of my ski log entries for the most recent season.
       "February 1, 2010.  Day 44 Greek Peak ski.  21-23 F.  Sunny, excellent conditions.  Great day on the slopes.   8:30 AM-2:30 PM.  No noon break!"

       "February 23, 2010.  Day 64 Snowbasin Utah ski.  20-30 F.  Great area.  Mostly sunshine. Wonderful skiing for seniors. Met a German couple.  Best snow on earth according to them.  8:35 AM - 6:15 PM driving included."

    If the day arrives that I will not be able to hit the slopes, I think it will be fun to go through the old ski logs and relive the memories of those times.    In the mean time, however, I hope to remain fit and healthy enough to keep on riding  the boards down the hill.   In the October issue of Ski Magazine Warren Miller reminisces about his excitement and joy of skiing.  I like his final quote that relates to stopping in the middle of a run and asking, "How can someone my age, or any age for that matter, be so privileged to have so much fun?"    So to all you geezer skiers, I look forward to all the fun we are going to have in this new season.

   If you read this and are a ski log keeper, I would welcome your comments!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wedding Daze

Bride and Groom Cut the Cake
     Yesterday was a great wedding day for youngest daughter Victoria and her groom Matt.    Both Nancy and I are still in a daze from the glory of the day both in the ceremony and reception.  We celebrated well into the evening in word, song, dance, eating,  drinking and mega socializing.    We were blessed with the presence of family and friends of both the bride and groom from an extraordinary mix of faith, culture and geographic location backgrounds.

     Nancy presided over an interfaith ceremony honoring both Jewish and Christian faith callings and traditions.   As mother of the bride Nancy had multiple roles in the event and with grace and creativity provided a moving set of remarks for Matt and Victoria. The gathering witnessed the personalized vows by the bride and groom being solemnized under the chuppah with its own symbolism in the Jewish faith and in many ways representing the tent of God that embraces all of us the greater sense.   It was a special gift to have the extended family of uncles aunts, cousins and long time friends of the groom's family present.   All of them had a special connection to Matt from the time he was born to the present.   In Victoria's case she is a child with six half siblings who were all present to share her special day along with the ten nieces and nephews ranging age from one to 24.     Although Nancy and I no longer have living family of the groom's family generation, we do have pseudo family in the form of people in Nancy's former churches who have been a part of Victoria's growing up.   We delighted in seeing them and in turn they were honored to be a part of celebrating this new union for our family.
Grandpa Gerry and Flower Girl Emma

    The bride and groom are both Cornell graduates and met as participants in the Big Red Marching Band.   There was a vast crowd of their band mates and classmates in attendance.   There was a special recognition of Cornellians with photo and cheers en mass on the dance floor.  There must have been fifty of us in the group picture.

    For many of the metropolitan area guests it was their first time in rural upstate New York.  They were amazed by out beautiful surroundings.   Irene, who teaches 5th graders was fascinated by our silos and soon I will be giving her background on these storage units that she can use with her class.

   As I write this I have flashes of replay of the entire wedding day that are difficult to express in words.  Perhaps my geezer senses have been on overload.   I am so happy that I lived long enough to walk all my brides who I have parented down the aisle.  The memories of this event will be lasting and precious in a special way just as the previous ones have been.   God bless this union.   Mazel Tov!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rate of Change - Perception and Reality

The days lengthen and shorten as the seasons change.  Today is one of the days of the year for the most rapid change in day length.   The rate of change of the day length is related to a sine function for those who have a mathematical interest and can visualize derivatives.   My awareness of the varying rate of day length change is driven by observing the position of a building shadow on a side walk that I take to lunch when I am on campus.   With the sun high in the sky and far to the north in the summer, at high noon I must walk in bright sunshine flooding the sidewalk.  As the summer wanes from the longest day each week I notice the shadow line creeping on to the sidewalk.   Eventually the shadow progresses across the walk and on to the grass on the other side.  Shortly after the longest summer day the week to week change is relatively slow.   However,  now that we are at the equinox the week to week change is very rapid and especially noticeable.   I think ancient civilizations used this method to record the seasons and to provide a calendar for planning their planting, harvest and marking the years.   This is reality that can be observed.   Seasons are cyclical and observable.

The perception of the rate of change of time, however, is another matter.   Often my wife and I remark to each other that it seems like in an instant that the week or day has passed by.   Especially if we have been busy with a multitude of things.   Beyond the daily elapse of time, there are the yearly checkpoints such as marking the new year.   It seems that as one ages each succeeding year elapses faster and faster.    This is where perception must come into play.   The year that passes is some portion of ones length of existence.    So when you are four and and a year elapses it is 20 percent of your lifetime and at nine the year following is 10 percent of your lifetime.  However if you are 79 and a year elapses it is 1.25 percent of lifetime.   No wonder the years seem to go by so fast as we age.  We have all those stored memories and experiences in time that generate our perceptions of rate of time flow.

From my view change adds spice to life.   I am glad to live in a climate of changing seasons both of my physical world and the events of a full and interesting life.

Monday, September 20, 2010

For the Love of Cars

Paule and Elaine Beyer 1954 DeSoto
     Sunday I attended an antique car show at a local park.   Hundreds of older vehicles were on display.  They ranged in age from 110 years old to more modern vehicles of the 1980's or so.   I was looking for a 1939 Buick sedan like the one I learned to drive as a teen ager.   I didn't see one, but I saw several of the vehicles I lusted over at one time or another.  Among these desirable vehicles were the 1956 Ford Thunderbird, a 1954 MG-TD and an Austin-Healey Sprite.  It was a pleasant surprise to run into friend Paul Beyer and his wife Elaine.  Paul's 1954 DeSoto was on display in all its glory.  See photo.
      To the best of my observation, antique cars are definitely a guy thing and probably most of the exhibitors were geezers or on their way to being geezers.  Is it in the genes?  Or is it our social conditioning?   I know many  gents of my vintage who can remember every vehicle that they ever owned.   Yes, I can do that too.   I am curious as to whether their are any women who are antique car collectors.   Probably few and far between.   I know that when I start talking about cars with Nancy, her eyes glaze over quickly.
     After my tour of the recent show, I tried to assess my attitude toward the love of the vintage vehicles.  I conclude that at the time that some of these models appeared on the scene, I was excited about their designs and the technological developments.   However, now I find that I am more tuned into the wonderful reliability and comfort of our modern cars.   If I decide to acquire another dream car, it will be a contemporary design that piques a special interest.  And I hope that spouse Nancy will enjoy driving it as much as I do.
1956 Thunderbird - I like red better

Friday, September 17, 2010


One Room
Recent news has revealed an increasing number of our U.S. citizens are slipping into poverty.   I find myself troubled by the disparity in the distribution of wealth.   The working poor pay their dues with the sweat of their brow and still cannot be sufficiently rewarded to maintain even the basic needs of food shelter and health care.   To me this is a real tragedy for everyone.   I fear that the U.S. may not be eventually immune from degenerating into a third world status where there are only the very wealthy and the very poor.  And in such a society the haves are not very secure because they have to live in a gated and secure compound to protect what they have.

Last night the speakers at our church supper informed us of their mission work in Nicaragua.   They participated with an agency to bring basic health care to the interior people of that nation.   The people they were helping were desperate for basic medical and dental care.   And a simple latrine was a modern facility for them.  Most of their homes were one room hovels.   The mission folks had the luxury of staying in one home that had two rooms.  A kitchen and a sitting/sleeping room.   I am not suggesting U.S. poverty conditions are in any way similar but we do have stark differences between our millionaire class and the working poor.  

In 2001 my wife and I joined a mission trip to Guatemala.   We had a first hand look at what it was to  live in a country with virtually no middle class.   Guatemala City is divided into sectors.   One sector is as modern, beautiful and fully functional as the best parts of U.S. cities.   We stayed in a different sector.    We had some reasonably comfortable quarters within a somewhat poorer section of town.  However, what little we enjoyed had to be protected by a razor wired wall patrolled at night by an armed guard.   When only a few have something a bunker condition thrives and one becomes a prisoner of poverty of freedom.

Gated Mansion
So, I return to my troubled thoughts about the disparity of the distribution of wealth both in the U.S. and in the world.   Perhaps the least we can do is to support the local food pantry and find other venues to help those who are in need.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Geezers Talk Engines

     Today I travelled to Syracuse to pick up a chopper-shredder I purchased from my geezer friend Paul Beyer.   He spent many years as a diesel engine technician as well an diesel engine manufacturer's representative for Detroit Diesel and other diesel engine manufacturers.   I was fortunate to get a good deal on the shredder and he has always been meticulous about caring for machinery.   His hobbies include building crystal set radios as well as restoring and maintaining his classic DeSoto sedan.   I saw the DeSoto today in all it's shiny glory, ready to be displayed at an auto show or taken for a drive.

    Not only was it a pleasure to see Paul and to obtain the shredder but we also had a pleasant 45 minutes of coffee, cake and story telling.   He had numerous stories to relate about diesel engine repairs under the most difficult circumstances.   Especially difficult repairs were engines installed in boats where the spaces around the engines below deck are very cramped.   When these boats are built the engines are dropped in first and the the deck is built on top with no expectation of lifting the engines out again.  He also told me that before he retired he was the supplier of diesel engines to his friend who owned Mid-Lakes Navigation.   And last Friday he and his wife Elaine celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary with a dinner cruise on Skaneateles Lake on one of the boats driven by diesel engines his supplier had installed.

     I had a few of my own stories to pass on regarding my repair and engine experiences just to balance the conversation.   When I got home my wife asked me who I heard about among our friends during  my visit.    When I thought about it I said, "Nothing about people,  we just talked about engines."    Yes,  men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Geezer Skier Tribute

The anniversary of September 11, 2001 reminded me of my deceased skier friend Robert Jenkins.   Bob was one of the finest persons I have ever known.   He was an outstanding skier who had skied many times in Europe and in the U.S. West with enthusiasm unmatched by any of his companions.   His zest for life was remarkable.   Not only was he a consummate professional, he was also an outstanding contributor to his church and community.

My recollection is that he was a disaster coordinator for the Red Cross out of Broome County.   Wherever a disaster occurred in the U.S. he could be counted on to be on site helping out.   I know that he spent many selfless weeks at Ground Zero in New York City,  assisted with the aid to victims of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and also assisted with upstate recovery from the ice storm that hit Northern New York and Vermont.   Although he was mostly a gentle soul, he had enormous backbone if he felt there was injustice.     In his community he was also known to mentor down and out men through a storefront church ministry.

We had many enjoyable days skiing the slopes at Greek Peak with occasional adventures on the steeps of the Olympian.   In his later years artificial knees somewhat restricted his adventurous nature but never hindered his graceful skiing style.

God rest his soul!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wedding Anniversary

Yesterday we had the pleasure of celebrating our 28th wedding anniversary with a wonderful dinner and a day of remembering all the good things of our lives together.   Yes it was September 11, 1982 that we were married.   For the past 10 years we have had to put aside the tragedy of September 11, 2001 for our day.   We do mourn for all the loss of life and the trauma for our nation, but we are not prepared for this event to remove the good things in our lives.   So, I think it should be the same for our nation.   We must move forward continuing  to holding onto what is good and to fully reject evil.

I am old enough to remember Pearl Harbor of December 7, 1941 and the shock to our nation and our people of the unexpected attack and the tragic loss of life.   I wonder if the couples that had been married on December 7 previous to 1941 faced the same challenges of this convergence of dates as present day couples do?   Probably December 7 and September 11 are no longer dates of choice for marriage ceremonies for the future.

It is comforting to know that there are many of us who were married on September 11 and can still hold to the joy of our day.    In fact at our dinner on Saturday night another couple at the next table was celebrating their anniversary.   And at church this morning one of the parishioners confirmed that he to had been married on September 11.

On August 15, 2010 we had a wonderful celebration of the marriage of Michelle and Pedro.  And on September 25, 2010  we will celebrate the wedding of our  youngest daughter to Matt.  We pray these dates will  be free of tragedies in the lives of all peoples not just for the sake of these couples but all for the sake of all humankind.

Hold on to what is good!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hard of Listening

   Part of the aging process is some loss of hearing.    So probably I have lost some of my hearing ability in the higher frequency ranges.   In a piece on NPR the other day they aired  a tone in the 30,000 Hz range to which I was totally deaf.   Apparently teenagers can hear this frequency very well and shopkeepers have used this noise to disperse rowdies hanging out at their stores.

     I suspect that I have lost some of my hearing from my days driving an old John Deere tractor that cranked out over 100 decibels of sound.  After 8 to 10 hours on the tractor in a day my ears would be ringing and there was at least a temporary loss of some hearing.

     During my "annual" physical my doctor remarked with shock how much wax was built up in my ears.   Probably this reduced hearing ability so thankfully the nurse did a de-wax job and now I supposedly can hear better.   However, perhaps my problem is not one of being hard of hearing but one of being hard of listening.   My wife Nancy has suggested I am hard of hearing, but I suspect that I am also failing to focus as well.   Whatever the case, I am making a resolution to be more focused on listening!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Milking Cows - A Metaphor for Life?

     I don't know why this memory came to me recently but I feel that I have to write about it.   As a youngster I grew up milking cows by hand as they were standing in the barnyard.    Recently I vividly recall how some of the cows would swish a manure laden tail up against the side of my head during the milking.   A decidedly unpleasant event.   At other times the cows would be restless and difficult to keep standing stiill.  Often resulting in a dumped pail of milk and me falling off the milk stool.   Or the worst of all was the cow picking up a foot and standing on the toe of my shoe.   Pure agony as a 1000 pound animal twists its hoof across your mashed toes.   My big toe joint still shows the effects of those injuries.

     However, at times the cows were placid, cooperative and a pleasure to work with.   They all had names and in spite of their erratic behaviors we had an affection for them.   There was always some sadness when they outlived their usefulness and were sent off to slaughter.

     So how is milking cows a metaphor for life?  In life we suffer setbacks and annoyances.  The tail swish in the face or the step on our toes.   Likewise we often go through stages of placid existence with very satisfying relationships among family and friends.    We can enjoy our existence, usefulness and peace.   And we can cope with our grief of loss when the life journey is over for a loved one knowing they have lived a productive  and  meaningful life.   Those good folks that deliver the milk of human kindness.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Life Story

Everyone has a life story.   And I expect each life story is unique.   I  think most of us go through life without truly contemplating the arc of our existence in the universe.   We all struggle with the meaning of our existence and our connection to a higher power.

Recently I read Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat, Pray and Love as well as attending the movie of the same title.   I suppose  the label many give to the book is "chick lit" and the the movie "chick flick".    For me it was interesting to read a book telling a life's journey through the feminine lens.   As she went through the year of exploring her life through a stay in Italy, India and Indonesia she was able to probe her psyche far deeper that most of us have ever done.   Her faith journey in the Eastern philosophies and religions are both intriguing and disturbing to me.   I admire the disciplines she acquired in her search for "God" and her place in the universe.   Much of her journey reminds me of the experiences of Job in the book of Job.    She was tested in many ways similar to Job and suffered all kinds of challenging advice from her friends.  She also supposedly lost all of her wealth in her divorce but since has received significant wealth with her book and movie successes.  It is a great story of the survival of a person through destructive events and coming through with a stronger faith and deeper understanding of life.

Perhaps this is the universal story for all of us.   We gain, we lose, and we are restored.   With the help of our Supreme Being, the hope is that we come out a better person with a deeper understanding of our role in this universe.   I think I'll try to keep remembering that it is not what happens to me that is so critical, but it is how well I deal with what happens to me.   And the story keeps unfolding.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Geezer Retirements - Part II

Gerry The Hard Working Farm Boy
Because I have commented on the reluctance of some faculty to retire probably it is necessary for me to explain the rational for my own early retirement.    I retired to have the freedom to do what I wanted to do on my own timetable.   However, one of the major underlying factors that prodded me to early retirement stems from my childhood.   Because I grew up on a farm during WWII, I was required to work on the farm at an early age.   By the time I went to school I already had chores for care of the animals.  From the time I was 9 years old I was required to work in the fields and orchards every day all day for 6 days a week when I wasn't in school.   As a result I never felt like I had the freedom of ball games, biking, and exploring that many other kids had. Therefore, my retirement is my second childhood.   I get to play on my terms.  I get to take the piano lessons that I missed as a child.  And as an avid skier, I get to ski every day of the season on my terms.   Since I am not a complete hedonist, I still have time for community, church and university volunteering which I also enjoy.

At lunch and coffee on Wednesday I explored retirement reasons with several of my colleagues.   The universal conclusion was that everyone has a unique history and story.  Therefore it is a highly individualistic decision influence by personal, professional, social, family and financial circumstances.  However, properly managed, retirement years can be extraordinarily satisfying.