Sunday, February 25, 2007

Move Over Andy Warhol

Today, The Bride, The Emmer and I took a ride to Colorado Springs to hunt for vintage signs and eat lunch. I had read about a restaurant near the airport that included an old Air Force KC 97 tanker as part of the "ambiance" and you could eat inside the plane. That sounded right up my alley.

All I can say is the "experience" of eating in an old 1950's plane FAR exceeded the quality of the food. Oh well, I really hadn't expected much so I wasn't disapointed. Here's a picture of The Emmer standing in front of the dining room.

After refueling our stomachs we were off on a vintage
sign hunt....I was anyway. The Emmer had her iPod on and was oblivious to everything and The Bride was "humoring" me. I'm not saying The Bride didn't want to be doing this but I'm not sure it was on her list of top 10 things to do today.

The picture at the top of the page is one of the first signs we spotted. In addition to a new camera purchase lately, I have also gotten Corel Paint Shop Pro XI. It's a great program at a very affordable price. I would estimate it has about 85% of the functionality of Adobe Photo Shop and costs, with the current rebates, about $50. A great deal. If you're into digital photography, check this program out. But, I digress, the photo at the top of the page was "artsyfied", yes "artsyfied", (That's a well known term commonly used in Muffler Man circles.) using this program. I really like the way it turned out and was pretty simple to do. Here' the original photo. It's pretty interesting all by itself.

Probably the best find of the day is below. The Navajo Hogan. How cool is that? It's an eatery as well. I will have to assemble the circle and come down one afternoon so we can all eat...and be photographed here.

All in all it was a great weekend. Had a friends fix, read some history that I have been meaning to do, found some great signs and even had time to do a little Olympic air pistol shooting. I'm in town all the week so I suspect there won't be too much to post about. You'd better check a few times during the week though, never can tell when something just demands to be released from my brain to the blog.

Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Great Old Motel Signs

No story here today. I just wanted to entertain with pictures of old motel signs. I can't say that this hobby keeps me off the streets because it does just the opposite but it keeps me out of the inside of bars...for now. Enjoy.

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, February 23, 2007

This Bud's For You!

Last night the circle convened at Bud’s Bar to celebrate “Two Timing, Too Tall” Jeff’s (mumble)th birthday. First let me describe the venue then I’ll tell you about the celebration.

Bud’s is famous. Certainly in the Rocky Mountain West and maybe even in the world? Bud’s is a local bar & grill in the very small Colorado town of Sedalia that has been serving up world class burgers since 1948. It’s located in what used to be a garage and it’s not hard to imagine that heritage, even after 60 years of burgers and beer. The most extensive redecorating in Bud’s history occurred just a few months ago when they refinished the old wood floor and painted the walls. You could think of it as a 800 sq. ft. small western town “Cheers”. Accommodations include 4 or 5 handmade booths, about 4 or 5 old round oak dining room tables with a variety of chairs and a bar with about 10 stools…..Reservations are NOT accepted! People will stand in line for inordinate amounts of time to eat here.

The menu consists of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chips (“We don’t serve no damn fries!” is prominently printed on what passes for a menu) and drinks. At any time, you might see cowboys, executives, soccer moms, construction workers…or us (the circle), chowin’ down at Bud's. Ain’t nothing fancy here but it’s a great place to celebrate.

Celebrating is what we assembled for. While “Two Timing Too Tall” isn’t as old as Bud’s, he’s no spring chicken either. Spring chicken or not, we aimed to give him something to feel good about on this day and the best we had to offer, besides a few hokey presents, was friendship. Friendship includes overlooking…or in our case, highlighting each other's "tender" spots.

Now if you remember, we added the tag “Two Timing” to Jeff’s moniker because he unknowingly (?) wore two watches on the same wrist one day not too long ago. This unusual fact was publicly pointed out by The Bride during a circle dinner, to all of our amazement, and glee, when we realized that we really had something on him now! Well, "Guitar, myself, Pic-E and The Bride decided to remind him of this by wearing as many wrist watches as we could find and "revealing" them to him at an opportune moment. As you can see from the photo we had eleven wrist watches between the four of us.

Sure enough, about halfway through the evening, one of the other guests said something about the time. I immediately said..."Well, let's see, what time is it now?" and unveiled my two watches. "Pic-E", I said, "I have about quarter to seven. What time do you have?" and Pic-E proceeded to unveil her FIVE watches and The Bride and "Guitar" chimed in with their two each.

Karen, "Two Timing's" bride, looked at us and then back at "Two Timing", and broke out laughing so hard, she about peed in her pants. The other guests who didn't know the background looked at us like we just ordered fries! After this bit of fun we gave "Two Timing" the obligatory old man birthday cards, a couple of other gifts and had birthday cupcakes that Karen brought, because Bud's don't serve fries...or cake!

So, "Two Timing, Too Tall", when you read this. Happy Birthday again from your friends. The friends that will never let you live it down...and will never let you down.

Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Can You Guess??

Yes, on Saturday night the full "circle" decided that we would like to revisit our youth and go bowling. Most of us have not participated in this sport in ?? years and all of us were definitely in the beginner category. That being said, it must be noted for the record, that everyone had a score of at least 50 and The Bride was the grand champion, beating out "Two Timing, Too Tall" Jeff by over 10 pins and her score was over 100! Other than the scores you really couldn't tell we were beginners because we all had flawless style and you can see in the photo to the right!

We all had lots of fun...and inexpensive fun at that. We chose a very small bowling alley in a not so "sophisticated" neighborhood. There were only 10 lanes in the entire place. It was $2.50 per person per game so the six of us (count the feet in the picture at the top) had a very cheap time. Dinner later at a small restaurant near by was excellent and also a very good value. A great evening and a friendship "fix" for all.

Sunday morning "Guitar" John and I conducted a Muffler Man hunt. We left bright and early and headed north of the metropolitan area to Greeley Colorado. This is the location of one of only two original Muffler Men known to exist in all of Colorado. When we arrived in Greeley we weren't able to find him at first. A really rotten feeling came over us was like traveling all the way to the Louvre and not being able to see the Mona Lisa!

Go with me on this one people. Muffler Man is important stuff with some people, and who's to say that it's not art? Right? Beauty/art is in the eye of the beholder. Look at Muffler Man's smile in the picture at the right. Look at that enigmatic expression. I tell you, Mona's got nothing on him! If Leonardo DaVinci had fiberglass, who knows what he might have done? Mona might have been the mother of Muffler Man.

Anyway, as you can see by the picture below, we did find him. He's a great specimen and in great shape. Note that I am standing under Greeley Muffler Man giving the Muffler Man salute!

During the trip we also got some great photos of classic neon signs and a couple of old travel trailers, but I don't want to overload you with "alternative" interests today so I'll save those for another post.

No travel again for me this week so further adventures with Muffler Man will have to wait.

Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Stick 'em Up & Stuff

No business travel this week so there hasn't been a lot to post, but tomorrow's Friday, then the weekend! Who knows what weirdness I'll find?

We had more snow this week but (a.) it wasn't that bad and (b.) not even news-worthy when compared to the New York area! Over two days the total here was about four inches and it's already gone off the streets. I thought I'd post a couple of pictures of the snow. The one at the top of the post was taken Wednesday morning as I was getting ready for work. What a beautiful sunrise!

My office building is situated right next to a geologic feature called a "hogback". A hogback is a layer of rock that at one time was pretty horizontal in the ground and because of upheaval broke through the earth's surface and is now at an angle of about 80 degrees. In the picture to the right you can see a portion of the hogback on the left and right side of the photo. The hogback is like a low fence that stands in front of the mountains. Looking through a cut in the hogback you can see the foothills of the Rockies. The snow transforms what is already a pretty sight into something I could spend hours just staring at.

OK, on to the "Stick 'em Up" part of the post....By now, if you're any type of normal person yourself, you have picked up on the fact that I have some, shall we say, unusual interests. After all, how many people do you know that would go all the way to North Carolina to take pictures of giant pieces of furniture? Or can converse on the intricacies of Muffler Man?

Well, another of my interests is shooting Olympic grade air pistols. It's an activity that is not really "mainstream" but one that I actually find relaxing. Some of you may be thinking, "OK, BB guns, I follow you", but you would be way wrong. This is not like your old fashioned BB gun, after all I did say "Olympic".

There is actually an Olympic sport of shooting air pistols! These are not "BB guns". They are pretty sophisticated mechanical objects and they are extremely accurate. The pistol I use is pictured at the left. It's a Baikal IZH-46 made in Russia. It has adjustable sights, adjustable trigger and even the grip can be adjusted to the individual user. The pistol has a muzzle velocity (speed at which the projectile leaves the barrel) of 500 feet per second and shoots standard lead pellets. In order to be able to do this in a confined space the targets are very small and are placed about 20' from the firing line. I have an area in my basement that I have set aside for this target shooting. As you can see from the picture at the right, the bull's eye is only about 1" in diameter. If you want to know how difficult it is to hit this target, just make a 1" diameter circle on a piece of paper, stick it on a wall somewhere and step back 20 feet....That's a leeetle spot. The "10" ring in the very center is what you strive to hit every time. It's only about 1/8" in diameter! People that compete in the Olympics are able to hit this spot 99.8% of the time.

As you can see, I'm not close to being that accurate but I'm not terrible either and I have one excuse as to why I'm not any better.

I am left handed. I write, eat, play sports and shoot naturally left handed. Several years ago however I began to experience macular degeneration in my left eye and as a result can't shoot left handed because that little black spot of a target hides among all the other little black spots I see when I use my left eye. Bummer, but hey, says I, I'll just retrain myself to shoot right handed and I have.

There was just one other problem I had to solve. The best way to shoot is to keep both eyes open, but focus only out of the eye you are aiming with. This is best because squinting to close one eye will cause muscle tension and can affect your aim. When you train yourself to do this, your "aiming" eye becomes dominant. That means as long as both eyes are open, that eye is the strongest and will "dominate" the other eye.... If I try to keep both eyes open, the left one, that's the one with all the extra black spots, takes over from the right one and I have a heck of a time figuring out which one to shoot at.

The solution is simple. Find an old fashioned eye patch. That way I can keep the left eye open and not have a bunch of extra black spots to choose from.

I said before that I find this relaxing and I do. To be any good at this takes lots of concentration. You have to block out all thoughts except getting that tiny pellet to go twenty feet and hit a 1/8" dot...or get as close to it as you can. If your muscles are tense your arm shakes and you can't hit the spot. If you hold your breath too long your arm shakes and you can't hit the spot. In a way this is like Yoga. You have to relax and concentrate....and you have to do it again and again and again. The target above had ten shots through it. One shot for sure was "errant" but the other nine, while not in the 10 ring are at least all grouped together.

I do this several times a week and if it doesn't relax me......if I'm having an exceptionally stressful day....I'll choose one of a number of pictures of people that might have caused that stress and blast the hell out of them!!!!!

Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mr. Bendo I Presume?

Business once again took me to Chicagoland and wedged into the business aspects, I had a goal of seeking out more Muffler Men. When I arrived at the airport on Thursday morning I didn't think things boded well because of the foggy weather but the plane actually left...and arrived on time!

I had a list of 3 Muffler Men that I was going to try to find but ended up only having time to get to one. This one is referred to as "Mr. Bendo" because of the bent piece of metal in his hands. It's actually a muffler pipe and Mr. Bendo lives atop an auto repair shop so this particular Muffler Man is not only an original but has not been re-purposed. A true original! Mr. Bendo is located not too far out of downtown Chicago on west Grand Ave. If you're ever in the area stop by and say "hi" to Mr. Bendo.

The work part of my trip was short but successful and I flew back to Colorado on Friday afternoon. Friday evening the circle of friends attended a concert to hear Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark, John Haitt and Joe Ely. It was a different type of concert in that there was no back up band, and the entertainers all played acoustic guitars. They sat side by side and took turns each singing a song they wrote. It was an enjoyable evening.

The evening also provided "Too Tall" Jeff with an add-on to his nickname. For some reason "Too Tall" wore two watches on his left hand...he said he couldn't decide which to wear so he wore both. Instantly he was renamed "Two Timing, Too Tall" Jeff. I suspect the whole thing was an inside joke between he and Karen, but the moniker perpetuity!

Sunday morning I was up early and on the trail of western history. Maybe not your average mainstream history but history none the less.....Keep reading this blog and you will learn interesting things.....not necessarily things you can use elsewhere, but interesting.

My first bit of western history was to visit the grave of John L. Dyer in Castle Rock, Colorado. John Dyer was an early Colorado pioneer. He is also called "Father" John Dyer and "The Snowshoe Itinerant". He was a preacher and to support himself in the mid 1860's he delivered mail between gold camps high in the Colorado Rockies. At the time Norwegian skis were called "snowshoes", and he used these to deliver the mail in winter over 14,000' mountains. I guess you could say he was one of the first professional skiers in Colorado. His likeness is portrayed in a stained glass window in the Colorado State Capitol and he was inducted into to Colorado Ski Hall of Fame.

His son, Elias is buried in the same cemetery. Elias was a judge in the Leadville, CO area and became embroiled in a feud that started over water rights and escalated out of control. Judge Dyer was shot to death in his own courtroom. He knew he was in danger and the day before he was shot he managed to slip a letter out to his father, John, which in part read:

"Dear Father, I don't know that the sun will ever rise and set for me again, but I trust in God and His mercy. At eight o'clock I sit in court. The mob have me under guard. There is no cowardice in me Father."...."I die, if die I must, for law, order and principle; and too I stand alone."

The killers were never brought to justice and John Dyer brought his son's body back to Castle Rock and buried him in the family plot.

My final bit of western history for the week is, I admit, on the weird side but you should expect that from me by now. Before returning home, I drove to the Littleton, CO cemetery to visit the grave of Alfred Packer the famous cannibal of the west. Alfred and a group of five other would be gold miners tried to navigate the mountains in the dead of winter in 1874. Alfred was the only one to make it out of the mountains alive and folks thought he looked a little too "well fed" for the ordeal he described. Read about this famous western history episode here.

Alfred's grave is covered with a slab of concrete to prevent curiosity seekers from getting out of hand. I'm not sure what's going on here but if you look at the picture of his headstone you will see that people have put pennies on the top of it?? There was also a guitar pick next to the headstone? My stock of weird knowledge cannot explain this. If any of you have a clue about this....leave a comment.

This might come under the heading of "poor taste" but one of the restaurants at the University of Colorado in Boulder is named the Alferd Packer Grill...check out the menu!

No travel coming up this week so I'm afraid I won't be able to do any more Muffler Man hunts, but fear not, I'm always on alert for weird in any form and who knows, maybe some more homegrown weird will be featured next?

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

What Am I Missing Here??

The press continues to report that there is still debate as to whether or not using a cell phone while driving should be banned??

Who is debating the issue? Is there ANY doubt in ANY driving adult’s mind that the jerk (gender neutral) in front of you, talking on the cell phone, weaving in and out of the lane, speeding up and slowing down for no apparent reason, turning the right turn signal on and then turning left….is a danger to himself, other drivers, pedestrians, dogs on or off a leash (another vent, another time), bicyclists, trees, buildings and anything else unlucky enough to be in proximity of “said jerk”?

You can spot these people a half a block away. It’s so obvious that I make a game of it with my wife by pointing to a car far enough away that you can’t distinguish the driver and commenting “cell phone”. 99% of the time I’m right!

Other than the cell phone companies who would deny that using a cell phone while driving is “distracting” and can be dangerous??

The standard news article says that eating a hamburger while driving, reading (trying to raise IQ level from 0.1) or applying makeup while driving is also distracting. I gotta tell you there are WAY more people using cell phones while driving than all of this other stuff. Besides, SO WHAT? That doesn’t make using cell phones any less dangerous.

I say, make it illegal NOW. In EVERY state.

Thanks for listening to the vent…..One more question.

When I drop my daughter off at work at 6 am on Sunday morning, who is that woman in the SUV next to me talking to on her cell phone???????

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Weekend Kitsch & Stuff

Let's try to lighten things up a bit here...It's been a pleasant weekend with temps actually getting into the 50's! The first weekend in 7 weeks without snow. Ya gotta love it.

This weekend I agreed to drive my daughter into work and as a consequence I was up at 6 am both Saturday and Sunday. That's awful early for a weekend but it's also a great time for pursuing my quest for weirdness. Not many people on the road at that hour and sometimes weirdness is found in less than desirable neighborhoods so early in the morning can be a good thing.

This morning after dropping my daughter off at work I went to a local McDonald's to grab some breakfast, read the paper and plot a course for my weirdness hunt of the day. If you read some earlier posts you'll see that I'm a fan of "roadside Americana", the kitschy things that were used as roadside advertising gimmicks in the 1950's and 60's. I've extended this interest a bit to include classic neon advertising signs. I picked this particular McDonald's because I knew there was an old motel with a great sign right next door and I wanted to see if the sign would be lit up.

Well as you can see from the picture, the neon itself was not in operation but the sign was lit by a small spotlight. What a great sign...."Steam Heat"!

After sunrise, I decided to take one major street that at one time was a major business thoroughfare and follow it south to north through the entire metro area. I probably drove more than 30 miles but was able to "bag" one definite weirdness and several signs.

The weirdness is at the top of this post and is an advertising gimmick for an old RV park. This giant cowboy is listed on the Roadside America website so this is not a "discovery" by me.

Here's another classic sign from a bowling alley on the same street with the cowboy.

Next week once again takes me to Chicagoland and it's my intention to seek out a couple of more Muffler Men while I'm there....Wish me luck.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Remembering Joe Eubanks

I can't explain why, but I've thought about Joe Eubanks a number of times this past week. It's not unusual that I think about him, but it is unusual that I think about him several times in a week. I think this is what, in part, prompted me to post the lyrics to the James Taylor song, "The Secret 'O Life" the other day....let me tell you about Joe.

Joe was a friend, a college classmate, a fellow duckbutt. "Duckbutt" is a derogatory term referring to one's height....or actually lack thereof, that was used in the military college we both attended. We graduated in 1969 and both accepted commissions in the U.S. Army, he as an Armor officer and I as an Intelligence officer.

He and I saw each other at Fort Knox, KY when I was taking the Armor Officer Basic course and he was in a class ahead of me. I didn't see him again until one day in 1972 when I was stationed in Pleiku, Vietnam. One day in March of that year, a helicopter landed right next to my hooch. This was highly unusual as there wasn't a lot of room for a helicopter to land close to the building. The rotor vibrations caused a fluorescent light bulb to fall and explode directly on my desk in front of me! Instaneous panic was shortly overcome by the need to chew out some hot dog chopper pilot. I raced outside and up to the chopper swearing the absolute best oaths my vocabulary would allow. As I got to the pilot's door I saw the grinning face of Joe Eubanks! I was later to learn that Joe had attended and graduated from helicopter pilot school in 1971, and had recently been assigned to the 57th Assualt Helicopter Company which was garrisoned at Pleiku.

That night we celebrated friendship at the Officers Club. I saw Joe a couple of more times before I left Pleiku in April. I had at that time decided not to make the military a career and was given an "early out".

As an intelligence officer I saw most of the enemy movement reports for the area and during this time it was obvious that the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) was gearing up for something big. Little did I know how big it was and that it would cost Joe Eubanks his life. All of the details of one of the biggest and least known battles of the Vietnam war are available at the web site "The Battle of Kontum". Oh, by the way, during this time I drove a jeep (with a governor that limited top speed to 65 mph) several times a week from Pleiku, 30 some miles on unsecured roads to Kontum by myself or with one other guy armed only with an M-16 and .38 cal Navy Special! (**Comment Added 2/06/07--I forgot to mention that this road ran right beside the "Rockpile" which was where Joe was shot down.) I'm glad I was young and invincible then because after reading the background on the web site listed above I realize how lucky I was that my upcoming "early out" wasn't the perpetual kind.

I found out somewhere towards the end of 1972 that Joe had been shot down and killed during the battle less than 8 weeks after I saw him last. I still think about Joe because he was a friend but also I think, because of what is described as "survivors guilt". Why was it Joe? Why was I so lucky?

Last year Pat Conroy, the author of "The Great Santini", "Lords of Discipline", "Beach Music" and other novels released a non-fiction book entitled "My Losing Season". This is the story of Pat's basketball career at the same college that both Joe and I attended. Joe was a trainer for the team and is a figure in Pat's book. In a way it's partly my story as well, because I was there during that season and can count many of the people mentioned by Pat as friends too.

I said it's a story of Pat's basketball career but it's really much more than that. Basketball just happens to be the glue that holds the rest of the story together. It will tell you the rest of the story of Joe Eubanks, the sign "Gladiator" and he was both. If you have the time and inclination, read it.


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