Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hot Dog Shoppe

It was just like I remembered.

We had been on the road for eight hours. Coming from Connecticut, with a stop in the Hudson Valley for a snack lunch, we were tired and hungry when we saw the rotating, illuminated hot dog over the low buildings lining West Market St.

My father had worked at the post office a couple blocks further down and sometimes lunched there. I didn't go there often, maybe a couple times with my dad, but it hadn't changed. We rolled in around 6:30. It was already dark outside and there was a line along the wall waiting for seats to open.

Inside are several lunch counters, punctuated by a few small booths. As seats opened up, we took them in order. Parties such as mine, that wanted four seats together, let smaller parties grab pairs of open seats as they came free, waiting for four in a row or a booth. It didn't take long for us to be seated, nor did it take much longer for the line to dissipate. It's a popular place, but one where the diners churn quickly.

My daughter doesn't like hot dogs, but got one anyway to try. She liked it. My wife got two with sauerkraut. She's a New Yorker and still enamored with Nathan's hot dogs. What can I say? I was never a fan of either Nathan's nor Ted's Red Hots. I'm not a fan of Yuengling even though I like odd lagers. Tastes are funny things.

My son ate two and asked for more. I had three with sauce and forgot to ask for onions. Still, they were just like I had remembered. The homemade fries were hot and tasty. The shakes were thick and delicious. What else can you say about a place where you have to wait to sit at a Formica counter? They keep it simple, which is their strength and their charm.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rum Diary

Went to see The Rum Diary with a friend, loosely based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson who based his book on part of his life. Three times removed from reality, it was fiction, but interesting. It made me consider Thompson's life.

After all, Hunter did move to San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1960 and worked as a reporter. Not for the San Juan Star, but for El Sportivo and as a freelancer for the New York Herald Tribune.

He lead a colorful life and invented Gonzo journalism. Eventually, he put a bullet into his brain at his Colorado home he called the Owl Farm. The man was torn between who he really was and his fictionalized character.

Johnny Depp, who played him in the movie, was a friend of his and paid for his funeral. At his funeral, Thompson's cremains were shot from a cannon set atop a 153-foot tower shaped like a double-thumbed fist gripping a peyote.

I am not nearly as creative, I suppose. Probably due to lack of drugs. More's the pity.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fifth of November

What a beautiful Guy Fawkes Day. Sunny and crisp. The perfect day to work and play in the yard, which is exactly what my family did today.

We raked the leaves in our back yard into a large pile. Picked up sticks and burned them on our patio. Enjoyed a smooth Oktoberfest beer or ice cold root beer, depending on age and taste. I performed a craniotomy on our two pumpkins and we dove elbows deep in search of seeds for roasting.

Like much of life, it wasn't flashy or spectacular. It was just...nice. I am left with the smell of pumpkin guts on my fingers, a handful of simple photographs, and a pleasant memory of moments spent with those I love and who love me in return. This has been the best day of my week. If I had to spend my life repeating one day, over and over again, today would not be a bad choice.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Heart and Lungs

This week, we've replaced the heart and lungs of our house - furnace, air conditioner, and water heater. None of these were broken, per se. The hot water tank was sixteen years old, though, and due for a replacement due to age alone. The furnace was about 80% efficient and had dangerous Plexvent piping. The a/c was about 8 SEER and wasn't properly fused (the contacts had welded themselves "on" a couple years ago, which was a fun problem to troubleshoot).

Much like our kitchen, things worked but required more and more maintenance. I had replaced valves on the hot water tank. A blower on the furnace. Knife switch on the a/c. At a minimum I was looking at a couple thousand to reconfigure the furnace vent with a pull-fan in b-pipe, add a new drop in filter box, replace our forced-vent water heater, rewire and re-insulate the air conditioner lines. So we decided to just replace it all with a ten-year warranty.

With the variable-speed, more efficient furnace our house will be more comfortable and will cost less to heat. We also relocated the thermostat to a more representative location (away from the heat caused by our laundry room, and away from an area where we might install a fireplace someday). I also figured we'd save a couple hundred dollars per year just with the switch from an 8 SEER air conditioner to a 16 SEER.

In essence, we will recoup our costs over the next decade (except for the water heater) and not have to worry as much about breakdowns and repairs. Seemed like the right decision, but it puts off our flooring replacement another year...and I really want to replace our flooring throughout the house.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Space Station

Today I did something I had only done once before. Today, I watched the Space Station.

Just about every day, weather permitting, it is visible where you are. A silent, white light spanning the sky in a couple minutes. Like an aircraft that doesn't blink, it is bright. As bright as the brightest star. Easily spotted despite the light pollution from nearby cities.

NASA makes this information easy to find, via Skywatch.

I know it might strike some as odd that a bona fide rocket scientist wouldn't necessarily take his work home with him. It's not a hobby for me, although it is for many. Oh, I enjoy science fiction. I like high tech propulsion systems - be they rocket or jet engines. I just don't have a NASA fetish.

Still, the cold light made me a bit sad. My melancholy lingers from the light that was behind me as I watched the ISS course across the night sky. The moon. I returned to NASA to put some poor SOB back on the moon. Not to watch the product of two decades ago pass me by.