Archive for September, 2010

Good people who are smata than moi, occasionally extoll the virtues of butter over what appears to be the bio-hazard of the 21st Century known as margarine. The origins of the condiment (better appellations for it are welcome. Post yours in Comments.) date back to the late 40s. Legend has it that the laboratory-concocted substitute for machine gun lubricant was accidentally tasted by a hungry Marine while fighting the Japanese on Okinawa, decided it would taste good on white bread with peanut butter and jelly, and sold a salted version of it to a major food industry player in 1946. The rest is history. If you believe they’re planning a “mosque” on “ground zero” in NYC, you are as likely to believe it is history, and I’m in no mood to quibble over split hares.

Last Sunday, in the interest of adding 20 years to my life, I brought butter into my house for the first time. It was “store brand” because if I could write about the experience at entry level, I was going to save myself the cost of the butter with the fancy label. I’m thinking now I should have opted for the fancy label brand.

The ultimate test of salted machine gun oil or butter is with hot Quaker Instant Oatmeal, and that is where I started first. I’ve become a big fan of QIO, particularly the Apples/Raisins flavor and eat it almost everyday when someone doesn’t ask me to lunch and offer to pick up the tab. I’ve been eating a lot of oatmeal for lunch lately, so I know what I want and how to get it with margarine: a slight salty sub-note on the palate. The thought of shaking salt from a shaker onto oatmeal seems re-pugnant. Oatmeal for lunch, of itself, is pugnant enough. I don’t need more of it. It also seems to make it a little creamier, which is good because I use water — not milk — with mine.  All in all it’s been a satisfying combination. I tried it with butter Monday.

My palate couldn’t tell it was in the bowl. It’s obvious to the eyes. I have to stir it more frequently than with margarine to keep it blended. Otherwise it looks like a public beach after a hard rain: little puddles of liquid everywhere. Not very appetizing.

On peanut butter and jelly, the effect of butter was much the same, except for the standing puddles between bites. Thoroughly chewed the combination of Peter Pan Creamy and store-lable straberry preserves seemed to go down the gullet a little smoother, but that small gain was insufficient payback for the loss of flavor.

“Can I be IMAGINING THIS????” I asked myself. To remove all question marks, the next day I made bread and butter to accompany a bowl of chili with beans. Aside from the smoothness going down the hatch, I could barely tell it was there. And this prompts a new round of question marks:
If YOU EAT BUTTER, WHY do YOU eat butter????

To be thorough and avoid premature concluding, I’m going to by some fancy label butter next time and give it a try. I’ll get back to you if I change my mind, and I’ll tell you the brand. In the meantime, I’m going to finish the remaining two sticks, maybe by Halloween.

On the other hand, my passenger side door on the truck creaks like 9:00 talk show host on WMAY and I may try to fix that with a half-stick of store-label.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Live long . . . . . . . and proper.


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Perfect Timing

Without getting mystic about it, I’ve never had hangups about giving credit for what has sometimes seemed supernaturally good luck to the unfathomable, beneficent whimsy of my omniscient creator acknowledged by much of humanity. His names are many: God, Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah, Our Father Who Art in Heaven, George Burns, Bruce, Talking Head; different names for different times and different points of view. A rose by any other name is still a rose. Because I talk to Yahweh and pray that His will be done in my life, I am frequently contented in what I perceive to be the harmony of His will and my happiness, but infrequently I am not. Either way, I know He is a dynamic part of my life; much more so that most of my friends have proven to be over the long haul.

Such was my mind-set this morning as I moved aviation magazines and books to the basement, successfully completing the transfer of literally thousands as I take back my living quarters from the space rightfully devoted for decades to the AIRCHIVE and now, the AeroKnow Collection. As I returned upstairs I carried arms full of plastic model kits, boxes of built models to be sorted, catalogued and stored at the airport AeroKnow Museum. There are still many things to move, including some that cannot be lifted by one person, things I missed when four friends helped me move the last of the filing cabinets out a few weeks ago. But until an unsuspecting door-to-door brush salesman visits my front door and I trade him a purchase of his wares for five minutes of help lifting a large model aircraft carrier to my truck, I am stuck, so to speak. But I digress. . . . .

I have been anticipating for days the appearance of astronaut James Lovell at a media reception and book signing at Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library today. I’d received the advisory from Dave Blanchette a few weeks ago, and even called him to confirm that freelance writers who contribute to Springfield Business Journal and Illinois Times would be admitted to the event. He said there would be no problem at all. I then called SBJ editor to alert her I might have something special for the October edition.

I worked late at the airport Wednesday knowing I’d be committed downtown Thursday. Today after my new lunch du jour of four pieces of toast and a tall glass of iced tea, and a long shower, I trimmed my beard off my upper lip and shined my shoes for the first time in months. I even picked up a copy of my book Springfield Aviation to give to the astronaut this afternoon at the media briefing. Jim Lovell is a hero of the humanity, of the world, through the outcome of his judgment during the flight of Apollo 13, back when the USA was flying to the moon and safely coming home. I resisted the temptation to inscribe it to him here; I’d wait until the big event.

Luck was with me bigtime, even though I had only two quarters in change for the parking meter. I knew I’d be away more than the hour of time 50 cents buys downtown, but if I got a ticket, I’d roll with it; part of the price for meeting Jim Lovell. Luck was with me bigtime even though I had only a $100 bill in my wallet, the last of the back pay partial payment George Jaworski gave me almost two weeks ago. I hoped the bookstore would take a $100 bill. Maybe I’d pay with an AeroKnow Museum check because I have $40 in that account, and I’d give the book to the Museum. I didn’t want to pay with a personal check because if the book costs more than $30, it would frikking bounce and I hate it when that happens! I really had no business buying even Jim Lovell’s book in my situation, and I knew it. It was patent lunacy. What about food? There’s not much left. I would buy the book. Read more and eat less. Don’t take nutrition too seriously.

It was just more than a block to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and the media briefing. No sweat. Literally no sweat. But the place seemed deserted; not even a person at the info desk just inside the door; no signage with directions to the reception. I was early; I’d go buy the book. I walked across Jefferson Street to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and asked a sales person where the Lovell books were. “We sold out,” she said. “We had 400 copies. Sold out in no time.” DANGIT!

There was someone at the information desk this time as a returned to the ALP Library. “Can you tell me where the media reception for Jim Lovell is?” I asked.

“That was yesterday,” she replied with a voice as flat as Oscar Levant on a bad day.

Had I been blessed with a third leg, I would have kicked myself in the hindquarters all the bleeping way back to the parking meter!

As I drove home, I realized I had saved myself the price of a wonderful book and a parking ticket, and I would be the better for it. Heq, I might even get to pay part of my overdue water bill! I was disappointed, for sure, but I’ll be better off without it, at least until I can truly afford to buy it. I also feel better knowing my life has been set straight by the Higher Omniscience in whom I entrust my life.

After all, that’s why I say . . . . . . . . . . .

Live long . . . . . . . . . . and proper.

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From Marjorie Smith “Mom took Bill to the UofM yesterday for a liver scan, and they decided to admit him to drain his abdomen again. So, here we are, Mom’s sleeping in a chair at the hospital (just a different hospital), I’ll be taking care of as much as possible at the Shop, then double dog-walking duty. Bill’s still waiting but at l…east he’s with the Transplant Team. They know all about his condition. There’s no time to waste.”

This is really about Bill. I’ll update re my life Thursday. Marjorie said her mom, Bill’s wife, is coming home for a while later this morning, and she will know more then. I will update in a comment at this end of this post.  It appears we’re entering the home stretch for that transplant.

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I don’t think too much of him. Neither do I think too little of him. (opposite of much) I think exactly how much I choose to think of him, and that is enough. If I thought too much of him, I understand this obsessive compulsion (disorder) would work against the pleasures of my day, and lacking tangible benefit from thinking too much of him, I would temper my obsession as it became clear to me I was thinking too much of him. I will never think too little of him. I do not owe him conscious thought. He will never know, as I do not know what others think of me. I know how others regard me as a man, from actions witnessed; not from the gift of telepathy spanning the miles into my consciousness. I do not owe him a proscribed morally appropriate number of thoughts or requisite minutes in consideration of him. Instead, as our paths intersect via shared communication or preamble or aftermath, I will think of him as warranted by transpiring circumstance. Thinking is mere “munication” sans second party, no “co connection” – clearly a redundant concept when phased that way.

I do not think good of him. His life is neither exemplary nor inspiring, either one of which would generate warm regard. One must be good to warrant others to think good. Paul McCartney sang, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Interfacing produces words as firm in foundation and reality as ghosts of hopes.

I do think well of him. At least I believe I do. I’ve never been a good judge of the quality of my thought process. The painting from the artist dazzles her in the creation and display and fails to attract a buyer because what she considered so competent in the creation process has proven to be far more lacking in competence than considered at the time. But I seek no buyer, no taker for my thoughts. If the competence of my thought about him is to be assessed at all by someone else, such an assessment can be based only on my sharing of that thought in words; not on the whole of what I feel, which can’t be revealed, anymore than the whole of love or hate for a person or thing. The whole will always transcend the piece of the whole, the most that can be written cannot provide more than a clue of that reality.

The quality of my thought shared here is not the issue. The issue is the answer to the question, “What do I think of him?” The answer is that — no it ISN’T “that” is not a component of quantifying value . . . . The answer is: He is yesterday.

And yesterday’s gone.

Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.

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Awesome Possum

Call him Rush. I did.

We met when I walked into the living room around midnight almost two weeks ago to douse the electric lantern I call a television and go to bed. Rush was on the table beside my easy chair dining on chicken bones I had left on a plate following dinner the second half of a Shop’N’Save roast chicken purchased and half-consumed the day before. I was already aware that wierdness was visiting my home before Rush and I made eye contact because the night before, I had set my plate on the floor beside my chair and the next morning found several chicken bones off the plate, randomly askance nearby on the carpet. I knew those bones had not walked off the plate, and I knew no ordinary mouse had done the rearranging.

During the first few seconds of our encounter, both Rush and I froze, each of us probably thinking, “What the HAY do I do NOW?” Then I verbally chastised the beast for being there and gesticulated wildly while commanding him to get off my frikking table. Then I went to the kitchen to grab a broom, fully intending to sweep him to death.

When I returned to the living room, it was obvious, Rush was not only a freeloading possum, he was a freeloading possum who understood English: he was gone. He remained gone until the next morning. In the meantime, I took a heavy hit from a bottle of Carlo Rossi Burgundy and went to bed. I closed the door behind me, made sure it was latched, so no chicken-eating Rush would be likely to share the bed with me.

The next morning about 7, as I approached the kitchen I heard a noise, and on entering saw Rush in a far corner of a food cabinet about two feet above my counter, hissing like a Tea Party member at a President Obama news conference. I had apparently left the doors open the night before, but how he jumped from the counter into that sparsely arranged cabinet is beyond me. Input from Facebook friends suggested I call the county animal control officer who could likely trap Rush and get him gone. I called and learned Sangamon County budget cuts eliminated wild animal removal from their services list. I called all three animal removal people in the Yellow Pages. The first to call back explained he could set some traps for $125. I declined. I explained to another who called back that I was going to trap him myself since the first fellow’s price was beyond my budget. For $125 I could eat for a month. I told him a friend had suggested I could rent a live trap from a rental store, and he cautioned me against this. “There are state laws that prohibit private individuals from disposing of wild animals without a permit,” he said. I told him I was just going to risk it.  I called the Just Ask enterprise at Noonan True Value Hardware, and was told by the rental manager, he’d be happy to rent a trap for $13.80 a day, and all I needed was a driver’s license and a major credit card. I told him I own no credit card.

I had spoken with the store  owner before when writing an article for Springfield Business Journal. Could I speak with Pat Noonan? The associate put me through quickly. I introduced myself on the phone, explained I had written about him before, that I was good friends with Kevin Panting whose father, I understood, was a major asset to that hardware store for years, and asked if there was any way he could rent me a live animal trap without my producing a credit card? I’d be happy to pay in advance in cash. “We do need a credit card,” he said. So I boogied over to a nearby  Ace Hardware and bought two big rat traps.

When I returned from a productive afternoon at AeroKnow Museum at the airport, with traps in hand and cautiously entered the kitchen, I was astonished to see Rush in the same corner of the same cabinet! I placed traps decorated with Colby cheese, one on the opposite end of the cabinet and one in a corner of the kitchen where I would not likely step on it, but he might. Then I made sure doors to the bathroom and bedroom were closed. I wanted to keep him in the kitchen. And I had a decent evening.

Late in the evening I heard a crash or sorts which I supposed was Rush escaping the food cabinet. I didn’t bother leaving my office and looking. If he had been trapped, I didn’t want to watch his final moments.

Next morning it was clear things had gone badly for Rush. Items toppled to the counter and floor from his probably dragging himself and the rat trap around the kitchen suggested it had stayed with him. But I could not find the trap or possum! Were they in a distant corner or in a wall hole, destined to rot away and stink up the house? In late afternoon back from the museum I found the trap, minus Rush beside a living room chair.

Glenn B. Mouse who tried to eat at the possum's table and paid the ultimate price for his vanity.

I also discovered a mouse — I call him Glen B. and you can too if you like — had visited a mouse trap and suffered dire consequence.

Suggestions from friends on Facebook led to my buying a live animal trap at Big R on Dirksen Parkway the next morning. The smallest ones were on sale for $19.50; heckova deal.  Back from the museum in late afternoon, I baited the trap with Colby and Peter Pan creamy peanut butter, and set it on the kitchen floor along with two cheese-baited mouse traps. I arranged a mouse and rat trap in a way I thought would have the smaller act as a primer, that it’s tripping would “steer” Rush to the larger trap, then into the live trap. I set the other small trap in the living room floor and the second mouse trap in another corner of the kitchen. I knew the mouse traps would not catch Rush, but if I could just BOTHER him, I would take some minor satisfaction from that. The rest of the evening went okay. With lights off everywhere in the house except the living room and my office where I was most of the time, there were . . . . there were . . . . noises. I knew Rush was prowling around everywhere but where I was. I knew he know more about where I was than I knew where he was. And I was okay with that. For the next three or four mornings a routine evolved. I’d arise, go to the kitchen for coffee paying close attention to where I stepped because I didn’t want to step on a sleeping Rush. In the living room and kitchen there would be evidence of his reckless wanderings: silverware from plates (with no significant food remaining) with last night’s evening repast on the floor, music CDs from a window shelf toppled out and onto the floor behind the television, things on the kitchen floor that had been on the counter when I had exited the room the night before . . . . it was all disconcerting because I was clearly dealing with a beast who had some size and muscle.

My only clue to the presence of a mouse in the house — and they have visited the house occasionally but not often — has been droppings on the stove top and in kitchen drawers and skittering sounds as they transit the linoleum floor in the dark kitchen as I’ve read in a quiet living room.

I had almost resolved to buy a larger live animal trap as I hit the hay Monday night. A customer at Big R had suggested that the smallest trap might be too small for a small possum because his long tail might keep the trap door from closing, and he’d be able to back out after taking the bait. As I considered this in the dark, fading fast toward sleep, I was jerked to full alert status by a significant THUMP in the kitchen. . . . . then two more lesser thumps. “I’ll investigate after sunrise,” I said to myself, and went to sleep.
the amazing moving Rush incarcerator


Coffee second, camera FIRST. SUCCESS!  Somehow he had lurched and moved the trap a good two feet from where I had placed it the night before. That accounted for the thumping sounds. I moved slowly because I didn’t want him to become more agitated. I felt for him. I imagined myself in his shoes, so to speak. I felt guilty and at the same time determined to reduce the Rush population of my tax and spend liberal house by a factor of one.

Rush in transit

First a picture on the front porch . . .

How did this Rush get captured by this small trap? Danged if I know. Best guess: Charitable Providence.

I put him into the back of my pickup truck and hoped some bleeding heart conservative would not happen by cruising down the sidewalk, see him and set him loose. And I continued with office work until early afternoon. Then — at the suggestion of a Facebook friend — drove not to Washington Park as originally intended, but to the airport perimeter road.

on the precipice of freedom

ten seconds to e-possum-cipation

It took Rush a few seconds to understand his new circumstance after I lifted the door behind him. His tail probably send the barrier’s removal first. He turned around in the cozy confines and bolted out face first before I could even aim my camera and rushed (so to speak, so to escape) first under my truck and presumably across the road. I picked up the cage and hustled back to the truck to depart the area because I had a nutty flash of him climbing into the underside of the truck and riding home with me, even though I was heading first for the AeroKnow Museum.

I am feeling a lot better with Rush out of the house. The doors to the bathroom and bedroom are open. There’s a loaf of bread flagrantly at rest on the kitchen counter. The traps are put away, and the house is quiet again.


Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

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There was a crowd around the entrance to a theater I approached as I walked from my hotel to the theater where I would attend to “A Funny Thing happened on the Way to the Forum.” There were also police mounted on horseback. I was told Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton would be arriving soon. He was starring there in a production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” I watched them arrive, exit the limo, walk up the red carpet and into the theater, and then I resumed the star trek to my destination.

It was an impressive venue. Zero Mostel had been replaced by Dick Shawn in the lead role, but it was still a wonderful production. Great laughs, terrific music. Beyond understanding from publicity and news reaching Springfield that it was a funny musical, I knew nothing about “A Funny'” as I entered the theater. I knew I loved Zero Mostel and liked Dick Shawn a lot as well. He seemed a terrific showman with a destiny for the theatrical stage. My ticket was for seat two, two rows behind the orchestra pit. I felt I was almost on stage. There was one empty seat on my right, and two empty seats on my left. These had been reserved for my high school “buddies” who had decided to stay at the World’s Fair. Every minute in that theater I was absolutely mesmerized . . . . delighted . . . . totally off this planet.  The walk back to the hotel was a cavalcade of glitter and gold. My feet did not touch the ground and I remember nothing about what happened until the next morning.

We visited China Town the next day. En route, the tour guide on the bus pointed out Tiffany’s jewelry store that inspired the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” China Town did not make much of an impression. I bought some inexpensive art in a shop and held onto that for years after, but no memory of anything I saw there stays with me.

I also remember nothing about the train ride home. We made it. And I had had a great time.

Later in the summer, an incident occurred at home which became a story I never tired of telling until one day in senior speech class, I made a speech out of the story and lost a valued, close friend.

My brother Bill continued to be the “Peck’s Bad Boy” of the family. If there was mischief committed, it had his name on it. Understanding that going in, it was no surprise one morning during summer vacation when I wandered into the kitchen about 9:30, long after Mom and Dad had gone to work, and heard more than a typical ruckus in the basement. I toddled down to investigate and found Bill with four or five friends, all of whom had brought over booze liberated from their parents’ liquor cabinets. Bill had been liberating small quantities of Seagram’s VO and Crown Royal from Mom and Dad’s small assortment of bottles in the kitchen which I had never seen them touch except for when company came for dinner. He replaced what he took with water, and I had never noticed parents talking about watery whiskey. My guess is that guests had never complained and M’n’D couldn’t tell the difference. Bill and his partners in crime were concerned about me BLABBING to parents about what I had discovered, so they offered me some of the Mason Jar bounty to keep me quiet. DEAL! For about an hour, I drank with the rest of the kids, gin mostly, listening to Hi Fidelity LPs and getting along very well with everyone.

A few months later, my friend Tadd Baumann’s parents had given him, as a birthday present, a new, shiny, black Karman Ghia convertible, an Italianesque Volkswagen. He took great pride in the car and washed it at least three times a week. And why not? It was a beautiful car. We had gone on cruises around Lake Springfield’s roadways before — with the top down, of course, and he loved the car.

It didn’t take long for me to drink my fill of swill with Bill, and I amost crawled up the stairs, intending to relax in a lawn chair in the back yard and get some air. Instead I called Tadd, and said, “Tadd, there you are over there with our beautiful Karman Ghia, and here I am over here about drunk out of my mind.” I wasn’t angry or ill; it was just a philosophic observation.  Tadd heard my observation as a cry for help, and good friend that he was, said he’d be right over.

We went for a spin around Lake Springfield, with the top down, of course and coming home, stopped at Zayre’s department store at Capital City Shopping Center to see if there were any new plastic model airplane kits on the shelves in the toy department and then to the automotive supply department where Tadd intended to buy some more Turtle Wax for the Ghia of his dreams. That was where I lost consciousness and collapsed.

When I returned to the land of the living, I was being helped into a chair by the store manager. Nearby was a pool of clear liquid that smelled like gin. I mumbled something about my having epileptic seizures, and how sorry I was for messing up their nice aisle.. They told me not to worry; everything would be okay.  In minutes I walked with an embarrassed friend back to the Karman Ghia, and soon after, was deposited on my feet, in the driveway at 2016 South Whittier Avenue, safely home.  Tadd wasn’t madd; just concerned about my condition. I told him I was no longer nauseous; just a little sleepy. It was about 11:30.

I wandered into the living room and lay down on the sofa, and briefly napped. Something awakened me. When I arose to look out the front window, I saw MOM pulling into the driveway for a lunchtime visit with her kids. As she pulled to the back of the driveway, exited the car and entered the house, I exited the front door, walked up the driveway, past her car, got onto my bicycle and pedaled out the drive and south for a spin around a distant part of the neighborhood where I hoped I couldn’t hear her when she discovered what Bill and friends had been doing. I was fine on the bike, and the 10 minutes pedaling around the sunny, traffic-less, mid-day neighborhood cleared my head totally.

When I returned home, walking into the kitchen from the back yard where I had parked my bike, I found Mom livid over surprising Bill, his friends and booze in the basement. His friends had already departed. I reacted as though the whole thing was news to me. Bill did not blow his whistle on me, and my parents never knew I was part of the nutty action.

As an adult, I would interface with alcohol in ways that suggested I was a far stupider human being than most people considered me to be when it came to drinking. I would overdo the booze on more than one occasion and embarrass a few more friends well into my 30s. But over-doing alcohol never LOST me a friend except for the aftermath of the speech I made, sharing the story in Mr. Jim Andrews’ senior speech class in April or May of 1965. Judging from the laughter throughout my presentation from everyone but Mr. Andrews,  I was on my way to a career in stand-up comedy. Tadd Baumann didn’t speak to me after word of my little confession reached him seconds after that class was over, and Mr. Andrews appropriately and angrily announced my grade of an F for the speech. I also never lost an employer because of alcohol. Friends and employers and lovers would find reasons a plenty to part company with me anyway. But all that waited in the future for me at the time.

Next time at Jingleman’s Confession: High school senior: exile in the midst.

Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

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Word from Marjorie is that my brother Bill — in line for a liver transplant — was discharged from the hospital yesterday after nine days. There are still tests to complete but there were conflicts in coordinating the rest, and Bill just wanted to go home. He’s likely not driving anymore. Marjorie is going to have to take his car keys into safe keeping for a while. Bill and I talked Sunday for the first time in many years. I hope this line of communication remains open. Sent him an e-mail to the e-dress he gave me on the phone, but no reply yet. Not a problem; the man has a lot on his good mind.

In the meantime, it appears I will be working for the first time in two weeks tomorrow at The Granite Guy. George still owes me a chunk o’ bucks, but I need to generate work completed because even though the odds are good I won’t see payment for the planned four hours for months, I won’t see payment for work not done for longer than that. I MUST start looking for a real employer.

The September issue Springfield Business Journal includes an article and two photographs I took about Computer Banc of Springfield. But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone. Today I have received no assignments from Springfield Business Journal or Illinois Times.

I’m still a writer. I’m not a working writer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . but I’m a writer.

About a week ago I walked into my living room and encountered a young possum eating chicken bones from a plate I’d left on a table. I’ve named him Rush. Rat traps haven’t worked, a small live animal trap hasn’t worked, so I’m going to stop feeding him with bait on traps at least today and this evening. If I can’t catch him, at least I can make him uncomfortable. Will buy a larger live trap Saturday. Rush is one smart possum, you betcha!

I have found a renter for the upstairs duplex, vacant since a lease-breaker departed two months ago and a real concern. They’re a family of four, and he’s promised to help me clearing weeds and brush this fall.  Unfortunately, rent doesn’t begin until October. Better then than not at all.

It’s getting cool in Springfield. Cool enough to take care of overdue yard work. Rain’s in the forecast for today. That’s okay. It will be warm and dry at AeroKnow Museum this afternoon.

Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

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