Monday, August 3, 2015

One Fry Short of a Happy Meal

Due to the frequent rains we have been getting this spring, it has been up until a week ago before I could finally back our van down over the steep hill in our side yard to the basement door and load up all the debris from my ongoing office remodel. I have slowly and surely been making progress on deconstructing the walls and low ceilings so that I can start over again with modern wiring, duct work, etc before putting the walls back in.

I got everything loaded up and could tell that I had more weight in the van than I've ever had but thought it would be able to handle it just fine for the five mile drive to the dump. I got in and tried to drive up the steep hill in the side yard to my driveway but spun out. I backed down and tried a second and then a third time with similar results. Not really wanting to unload everything, carry it board at a time up the hill and reload it, I backed up as far as I could go and stepped on the gas. The hill has a natural ramp to it between the house and where it really drops off about ten feet from the house. Go too far one way and I'm rubbing paint off the house and van. Too far the other way and the van if rolling ass over feet all the way to the bottom of the hill or into an oak tree, whichever comes first. However, I successfully navigated the ramp and made it up to the driveway but only just before the wheels were starting to slip on the grass again.

I made it to the dump and this time instead of using the dumpsters as I had always used in the past, they made me drive out to the pit and actually throw it right where it would shortly be buried. Backing up to the edge of the pit, I was actually backing down an incline so before I got out, I made sure to set the parking brake to ensure that the van didn't roll off and down into the pit with me affixed to the rear bumper screaming like a little school girl. I got everything unloaded and got inside to drive away but instead of going, I could feel the wheel settle in like I was stuck. With all the rain we have had and this being on top of buried garbage, the car had made divots into the dirt but it certainly wasn't buried. In fact, it looked like it was just spinning in the loose grit on the top surface.

I tried rocking the car back and forth but wasn't making headway. I tried putting anything I could find without nails under the front tires to get purchase and "rocking" it back and forth but couldn't make any headway. Finally after awhile some dump workers came over and tried pushing but again we made no headway. Finally they got a four wheeler over with a chain and we pulled it out and that is when we noticed that the back wheels weren't turning. I had forgotten to release the emergency brake, something I seldom use on this van due to it having an automatic transmission. I thanked the men totally embarrassed with my brain fart, released the parking brake and drove away with the smell of hot rubber from spinning my front tires still in my nostrils. I'm glad they don't know my name because I'm sure they laughed about it over some beers with their friends later.

On a side note, while I was unloading my stuff, there were pictures fluttering all over the place in the slight breeze. One of them caught my attention and I picked it up. In the picture was a 16 year old girl taking a selfie in some sort of strapped dress where the straps covered only part of her breasts and with the neckline no where in sight. Judging from the writing on that picture and others nearby, her name was Anna (last name withheld) and she had recently celebrated her 16th birthday. I'm not sure why someone would take a picture like that especially on a hard copy and assume that just because they threw it in the trash it was gone forever. It is certainly a reminder to me with two daughters of my own that pictures these days can be forever and they needed to be reminded of that fact.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Forgotten Barns: Part 7

I think this is my new favorite barn. I spotted it several weeks ago as we took the back roads to someplace we were heading and I've been jonesing to go back ever since and grab a few photos of it. It brings chills to me at how beautiful it must have been in its prime and tears that it is simply being allowed to fall apart and fall down. I would love to crawl up into the upper stories and check out what the view out those windows must be like.

From this angle you can see that it is actually two barns, with the other one, probably the one closest to the road, being added later and matched to the first one. Unlike many barns, it is still on an occupied homestead so I'm guessing it's fate is simply a money issue for the occupants. I can't blame them because it is a lot of area to reshingle and repaint to keep it in good shape. If it sat on my property, I think I would go broke trying to do just that because a barn that beautiful deserves to be saved.

Although parts of Iowa is fairly flat, it still doesn't mean you have views, especially in summer. A lot of times all you see is corn and sky which makes it hard to spot barns off in the distance. I came across the scene below which most certainly had a barn once upon a time but now just has the stub of a feed silo and an old windmill. Though there was a slight breeze, the windmill was silent, most likely rusted in place for the rest of its natural life.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Clouds, Rains and Bridges

It's been a wet year. It hasn't been the constant rains like what we saw in the spring and summer of 1993 when most of our state was under water. Instead it has just been frequent rains to keep everything soupy. I've got a pile of scraps from my gutted out office that I threw out on the downstairs patio thinking I would back our van down there to more easily load them to get rid of it and they are still sitting there three months later. At this rate, I may have to wait until the first hard freeze to get down there with the van.

All this rain has meant that we've had lots of clouds in the sky, particularly around sunset. I took this picture a month or so ago but just now cleaned out the memory chip on my camera and 'found' it again. I thought it worthy of posting on here. It also explains the picture below here in the City of Bridges. One of the main bridges in town was shut down for a summer of replacing the deck. The prior two summers the river had constantly been deep enough that you could walk clear across it and maybe splash your ankles only at the deepest part. The summer long project is now nearing it's second anniversary and the way things are going this year, it may see it's third anniversary. Earlier this spring they contractors doing the work were published in the local newspaper saying that they were certain to get work done this summer since nothing remaining depended on water levels. As the months wore on and no work was being done at all, they finally backtracked to say that they still had work to do on the under parts before replacing the deck and that they had hoped the water would go down enough for them to get that part finished. It hasn't and they were about lynched at the city council meeting. So for now, we remain a city of bridges, minus one.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Blew Out My Flip Flop

But unlike Jimmy, I didn't do it stepping on a pop top. No. I evidently did it while sitting at a table. I went to move my feet just a little and felt a weird sensation in my left sandal. When I bent down to closer inspect it, my heart fell when I saw the sole separation. Not only because this will be the third pair of shoes I've replaced this month, but because these were my Teva sandals and the longest pair of anything that goes on my feet that I've owned and worn regularly.

It started out when my regular tennis shoes split the fabric near the toe of one of the shoes. They were probably only a couple years old but that seems par for the course anymore. They just don't make shoes to last very long. Then literally the week after I bought a replacement pair, my dress shoes lost their sole eerily similar to my Teva sandals. I bought a replacement for them on Saturday and then on Monday this happened.

According to the sole of my Teva sandals, they are 25 years old. They've been with me on many trips to the mountains where they were used to fjord mountain streams while staying solidly attached to my feet. They've been on numerous hikes where the conditions range from rocky to wet and muddy. I've floated down many a stream in a canoe with them hanging over the sides tempting big fish. Best of all, every summer for 25 years they have been my go to shoe for casual living.

I decided that I wanted a pair just like them but when I fired up the computer, that model has sadly been discontinued, probably a couple decades ago. I could find only a few pictures and links to web pages saying they no longer carry them in stock. I could find many other types of Teva sandals but all had gone to strictly Velcro which is you ever use for long periods of time in a river environment, means you and your Teva may soon be parted. It also means that getting in and out of your sandal means undoing and redoing a velcro strap which doesn't wear nearly as many cycles as the plastic buckles that were on my Teva sandals.

After much looking, I finally found one model that although it had Velcro straps for adjusting fit, it had one buckle around the front of your ankle for easy in and out access so you aren't wearing out the Velcro. I'm not sure how well they will do in river situations should one arise in the future but I'm hoping since the Velcro will hopefully still be in good condition since I will use the one buckle, that it will be able to stay closed and remain on my foot. I'm expecting that Teva, live everybody else, has cheapened their product so that I will never get them to last nearly as long as my previous pair. Such a shame.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Juan and I have been friends for three years now. We are close to the same age and are in the same fraternal organization. When I needed help siding my house, he was the first person I called to give me a hand. He is one of the hardest working people I know and though he struggles to gain a foothold in life, you'll never catch him without a smile, willing to give you a handshake or even the shirt off his back. Yet according to Donald Trump, he is a rapist, murderer or drug dealer.

Juan has lived in the United States for the last 25 years illegally. Seeking to remove himself from a troubled childhood and no really good long term prospects in life due to his parents divorce and living with aging grandparents, Juan walked to the United States at the age of 20. Back then, the corner between southwestern California and northwestern Mexico near Tijuana had a fence that ended at the beach. Juan simply walked the beach north into the United States and had an Aunt living in L.A. pick him up. He lived in L.A. for while and I believe a few other places before settling in rural Southeast Iowa, which is home to a large Hispanic population due to a large meat packing plant that actively recruits their ethnic group. I'm sure they are actively recruited because they in large are hard workers and willing to work for low pay. To them, just being able to live here and have a stable job where they can send the majority of their pay home is living the dream.

The catch to all this is that Juan came here illegally and is living here illegally. Because he doesn't have papers, he can't take chances driving long distances for risk of being caught. He has tried paying taxes every year he has been here and has requested a pin number from the IRS so that he can pay taxes but they never follow up to his requests. He went home once ten years ago to visit his parents and siblings whom he hadn't seen for 15 years. His father was ailing in health and Juan wanted to stay a bit longer but his father told him to go back to the U.S. where he could live a better life than he had. They told him it was no longer safe to cross the border so their goodbyes were forever. Juan sneaked back across the border into the U.S. for the last time and his father died two weeks later.

Juan can't get a drivers license, can't pay taxes and can't apply for loans. He would love to own a home one day and religiously saves up for it but for him, 100% down is the only route. He has enough saved up to buy a really small run down house but his fiance would like something better so he continues to save up even more. Until then, he lives cheerfully in a run down trailer in an overcrowded trailer park making do with what he has. His one hope is that his fiance, legally here, recently obtained her greencard and is on the route to citizenship some five years down the road. Currently however, there is still no route to obtaining a greencard for himself. If she were to obtain her citizenship five years down the road, they could marry and Juan could apply for citizenship but under current laws, he would have to first serve a ten year penalty for being here illegally and spend that penalty back in Mexico. His brothers are simply shrimp fishermen having divided up his father's business and there is no room to support Juan for those ten years. This is ignoring the fact that he would be 50 when he started serving the penalty and 60 before he was eligible for citizenship. By that time, his productive years would be well behind him.

I have dealt with the immigration system and I know it is broke. We want people like Juan here in our country and yet there is no way to let him in even though he is already here. Under the current occupant, he isn't being forced to leave but he is still shamed and kept with a foot on his neck holding him down. He is paying his way through this world and is not a burden on anyone and would like to contribute thousands of dollars in taxes towards the betterment of our society and being told no. Now we have politicians on the television telling Juan that he is a rapist at best. It's sad. On the way to a meeting a few nights ago, Juan and I were talking about the best way for him to be allowed "in" legally. He doesn't expect to be handed U.S. Citizenship and is not even requesting that he be given a greencard so he can be classified as a permanent resident and thus eligible for a social security number. All Juan would like is something saying that he can live here legally, a way to pay taxes and a path towards getting a greencard so that the Trumps in the world can verify that he is not a rapist, murderer or drug peddler. I'm in complete agreement and if given that opportunity, I would sign my name and honor on Juan's behalf to vouch for him.

I don't think the Juan's of the world should be given a free ticket to citizenship. I think we should check their status in society before giving them their greencard and I think they should prove that they have been productive citizens during their time here illegally. I'm sure there are rapists, murderers and drug peddlers among their ranks as there are among our ranks. But given a route to be here illegally would allow us to ferret those out and send them back home or make their ranks small enough (compared to the vast numbers of people here illegally good and bad now) to make them easier to find and send packing. It seems so simple until you have carbon based organisms with bad hairdos like Trump making horribly untrue statements and seeing masses of people nodding in agreement. I'm guessing they have never met someone like Juan.