Jen and I were in Baltimore for a night on the town, and found ourselves in my old neighborhood with some time on our hands. I’ve been curious to see how my house is, and I kind of wish we hadn’t looked at the backyard. Apparently they’ve nuked my planters, knocked the walls down, put some shitty corrugated fiberglas on the trellis, and removed all of the deck. Looks like they’re using it as a parking pad now.
In 2003, Jen took me to explore a funky little settlement of buildings alongside the Patapsco River outside of Ellicott City, and we spent a couple of hours crawling around exploring them. I posted some pictures on my site, which longtime readers may remember.
Today, on our way back from a client pickup, I made a detour down that same street to see if Finn and I could find the house while the weather was warm. Nestled into the hillside under a sea of brambles, all of the structures still stand, worse for wear but intact. Finn and I climbed over nettles and under creeper vine until we were inside the main house, and her inquisitive nature took over. We started trying to figure out what the buildings were for, how long they had been there, and who had built them.
I’m still unclear myself. The buildings are too small to be inhabitable, and there’s no evidence of insulation or interior finishing. The exteriors are all constructed with a high degree of quality. And the masonry alone must have taken years to plan and complete. Sadly, it was so overgrown, we didn’t see any of the riverstone decorations that were clearly evident 12 years ago.
Finley’s pretty sure there’s a chicken house and a donkey stall and provisions for other farm animals. I’m not as convinced, but somebody obviously had a vision for the place. I’d love to dig up photos of what it looked like in its prime.
Eleven years ago today, I married this lovely woman. While it hasn’t always been easy, it sure has been interesting. I love you, blondie.
I don’t have many things left over from my time at Cidera other than a damaged liver, some old promotional materials, a suspicious bottle of red wine, a bunch of great friends, and a black Pelican case. (I’m not listing my wife because I’ve never presumed to own her).
The Pelican case has been sitting on my shelf in the basement for years. It was originally bought to carry the roadshow laptop, a bit of paramilitary flavored theater for a serious mission (for some context, my boss was famous for owning a certain yacht): a dog-and-pony presentation given to investors who might possibly provide the next round of seed funding, and a crucial part of the dot-com burn cycle. I was in charge of building the presentation and buying the hardware, and spec’ed out three blindingly fast Thinkpads with three identical Pelican cases. I’ve written about the experience before. After I bailed out I’d forgotten I had one of the cases at home, and wound up with it when Cidera imploded months later.
In 2003, I refitted it to carry my Pismo Powerbook to Bimini with a spare battery and power supply. Specialty replacement foam was expensive, so I found a shop in Federal Hill who sold closed-cell foam and cut it to fit myself. It worked great; I carried it on the dive boat and offloaded pictures from my then-cavernous 256MB CompactFlash cards between dives. Then, it returned to a shelf in the basement.
I’ve been thinking about travel since I joined up with WRI, and the question is not if, but when. Now that I can afford to kit the Pelican out for photo gear the way I want it, I came to realize I didn’t remember what model it is. I called the number on a sticker pasted to the inside of the lid, and talked to a salesman from the company who’d originally sold it. I gave him the case number, he did some research, and he was able to give me the info I needed. Then he chuckled and said, “Ha! It says here Cidera was my account. I must have sold them this case.” I chuckled back at him and said, “I’m the guy you sold it to. Nice to talk to you again!”
This goofy guy is my grandfather, William Dugan Jr. I share a couple of things with him besides my name, my physique, and my DNA. His name is Bill, but I have always known him as Grampy.
He was born in April of 1915, the same month as Muddy Waters and Billie Holiday. Woodrow Wilson was the the President of the United States. The Allies were landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in one of the largest and most useless campaigns of the First World War. Charlie Chaplin had just released The Tramp. A month later, the Lusitania would be sunk off the Irish coast, helping focus America’s attention on the war in Europe.
He married my grandmother, Ruth, in 1938, and shortly afterwards my father was born. The worried looking baby he’s holding in this picture is most likely my Dad.
After moving the family north, he supported them by driving across the state each Sunday night to be in New York City by Monday morning, painting houses and hanging wallpaper through the week, and leaving for home Friday evening. Then he would spend all weekend working on the house, adding insulation and central plumbing.
This series of photos is from a larger group that I scanned in 2006. I borrowed a video camera from a friend and filmed my grandfather talking about and identifying all of the people in these pictures before he forgot who they were and the information was lost forever. I have the footage (the original MiniDV tapes are in our fireproof safe) and keep meaning to organize and catalog it all, but work, child, and life have made it difficult to finish the project.
He’s going to be 100 years old tomorrow. Until just a few years ago, he was living in his own house, in complete control of his own faculties. At last count, he has eight children, eighteen grandchildren, and seventeen great grandchildren. I’m not even half his age, and I can’t imagine experiencing all the things he has in the span of his life.
This is the Grampy I remember. A pair of loud shorts, those thick glasses, and a white undershirt. And dogs. Always dogs. I think the shepherd in the front might be Pumpkin, but I could be off by a decade.
I’m not positive, but I think this one dates back to 1974 at my aunt Mary’s wedding. That’s some tuxedo he’s rocking.
This is from a family reunion sometime in the mid-80’s. There are other better shots from this series, but I like the informal candidness of this picture.
This is from about 2000, with his brother Tom.
We’re going to have a celebration for him tomorrow and on Saturday, and a bunch of the family is coming into town. I can’t think of anything better to say other than that I love this guy and I’m proud to share his name. Happy birthday, Grampy.
I’m spending the first couple of days with a gift from Santa: The Hamilton field watch I’d picked out months ago appeared under our tree, and I’ve been wearing it since Christmas day. My first impressions: It’s bigger and heavier than my Field Watch. Overall, I like the dimensions, and I’m getting used to the extra weight. The stock wristband is made for a bigger wrist than mine, which means it likes to slide down behind the far side of my hand, so I put one of the bands from my old watch on it. It looks great, and the crystal is slightly beveled instead of flat. The knob is about three times the size of the one I’m used to, which means it tends to get snagged more on my sleeves. The biggest issue I have with it, though, is the fact that it’s a manual-wind watch, something I didn’t notice on the listing. That’s not a dealbreaker. It just means I have to remember to wind it in the morning and in the evening. I like it a lot. It fits my aesthetic, and I’m keeping it.
In the meantime, my buddy Rob (he of the Seiko modding underground) clued me in to the huge eBay market in replacement watch parts. I did a quick search in the summer and found handfuls of replacement crystals which should fit my trusty Field Watch, so I’m going to drop off the watch and the parts with him to see if he can help me out.
I also found a Benchmade Mini Griptillian in my stocking, as a sidekick to–but not replacement for–my Skeletool. I’ve carried a Leatherman around for the past four years (my first was the original, now residing in the toolbox of the Scout), and I can’t begin to explain how many times I’ve used them for different things.
The Benchmade is lightweight, solid, and compact. The blade is razor-sharp and I’ve used it for ten different things this weekend. The action is smooth, and the locking mechanism is rock-solid and impossible to accidentally release. It’s got a pocket clip that reverses to either side based on your preference. I’m still taking the Skeletool most places I go, but the Benchmade will be my slimmed-down companion.
I’ve been trolling the ‘Best-of’ lists and plugging a lot of the individual songs into Spotify to find some new music. One of the tunes on constant repeat is Mike Doughty’s new single ‘Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating In the Future‘, which starts out with an odd banjo figure but slides hypnotically into Soul Coughing free-association wordplay territory from there. I’ve always been a fan of MD, in spite of his spite of Soul Coughing, and I really dig this tune.
I have a love/hate of Aphex Twin from back in the day, but ‘minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix]‘ from Syro is another heavy rotator. Selected Ambient Works 85-92 was a masterful album, but I had a hard time going in some of his more exotic directions. This tune is somewhere in the comfortable middle.
‘Brill Bruisers‘ from the New Pornographers is a third favorite. They have a distinctive sound, which is to say, none of their songs sound the same. This one is a loud stadium sing-along that always gets Finn moving.
This post is one in a series based on a format at another website; much like music, I can measure much of my adult life with the cars I’ve driven.
Ate Up With Motor recently did a comprehensive history of the Honda CRX, a car I owned for a brief while and the sale of which I still regret to this day. Which leads me to the next chapter in my automotive history…
My CRX was a hand-me-down silver HF model from my girlfriend’s father, who had driven it, given it to her, and then let her brother rag it out for a while before parking it in his driveway and then offering it to me. My B2000 was blowing oil and beginning to get expensive. I had a desk job as a designer, having gotten out of the contracting business a few years previously, so I did what any 20-something male with disposable income would do: I sold the truck and bought a beat up sportscar.
It had about 90k on the odometer when I got it, the CV joints were already bad, the brakes were shot, it needed some muffler work, and it smelled like cigarettes and feet. I put some money into repairs, got it running reliably, and, unbelievably, got three years of dependability at 40mpg. It was a stick, and first gear was a dog. But once it was at speed, it was a blast to drive–nothing like the pickup.
It was beat up, sure. Her brother had obviously tried to drag faster and lighter cars, played tag with trashcans and mailboxes, spilled coffee, ash, fast food, and bongwater over every inch of the carpet. It rattled and squeaked. The wiring behind the radio was a rat’s nest, left over from multiple hack installations. The AC worked as long as the car was in motion, but the minute it stopped I had to turn it off. This foreshadowed future problems with overheating in Baltimore traffic and a pattern that repeated itself with several other cars until I bought the CR-V.
But, I could fit two mountain bikes under the hatch, park it in a shoebox, and the money I saved on gas more than offset the thirsty V-8 of my first Scout. Where was the downside?
In its third year, it began to show its age by leaving larger and larger clouds of blue smoke behind, and soon it was burning through a quart of oil every two weeks. The rings were shot, and I was living in the city with no tools and no garage to effect repairs. Regretfully, I placed an ad in the paper and sold it to a guy who told me he was planning on setting it up for SCCA racing against MR2s.
Had I been thinking smarter, I would have driven it up to my sister’s house and parked it in the chicken barn out back until I could have afforded a rebuilt engine, but hindsight is, as they say, always 20/20.
Chewbacca outside East Coast Scouts, about 2002 or so. I was looking for parts and (I think) having Eric work on the transmission a bit.