Thursday, September 19, 2013

20 Years Ago this Month...

Recently while on Facebook, a friend of mine had posted, “20 years ago today, I earned the title”. At first I had thought about his statement, to be honest I was a little confused. I thought about his statement for several minutes until I realized what he had meant. 20 years ago in 1993, we had both graduated from the same High School and had gone our separate ways. His path took him to a place where he had trained and learned the ways of becoming a Marine. So, I started to really think about that time and realized that 20 years ago this month (September 1, 1993), I had reported for basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia.

Funny, the memory that sticks out is how on that day that I had to report to the Military Entrance Processing (MEP) Center in Springfield Mass, I had to sweat as a military member prior to ever even signing any paper. See my recruiter (Sgt Cartwright) was going to pick me up at my house. I don’t remember the time. But, we lived in Holyoke, over by the Southampton/Westfield line at the time.

That morning started with my dad waking me up to bid me a proud farewell. He had expressed his confidence that I would do fine and this path would be a start to a new beginning in my life. But most importantly that he was proud of me. Then he had informed me of a death within the family. I remember him saying don’t worry about having to go to visit family, that I must continue my mission. That he would inform the family of my situation and explain why I would not be attending the funeral.
I remember feeling hurt. But, I also felt that he was right. But that is not the reason why I’m telling this story. I was standing outside on the porch when the recruiter had driven up my driveway.

I got into the car and his first words were, “is there a gas station around here?”
“No, it’s about 10 mile from here.”

He looked stressed and express, “I don’t think we will make it, I’m running on fumes”

Our goal was to make it to the Mobile Station on Northampton Street, close to the Old Lynch Junior High School in Holyoke. We were driving down Cherry Street/Beech Street coming from the Soldiers Home. As we are turning left onto Northampton Street, by the Yankee Pedlar Inn, the car dies…

I remember his statement to me, “Son, your basic training starts now… You must get out of the car and push us to the gas station”…
So here I am, a measly 100 lbs soak and wet, being ordered to push the car to the gas station down the road. Yes, I push that car for 1 mile while he sat in the car. I bet when he dropped me off at the MEP station, he laugh.

I never really told anyone this story… But 20 Years ago this month… I pushed a car to jump start my military career…

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Yea Baby!!!!

For several years now, I’ve been travelling to various places like Italy, Paris, England, Florida, Puerto Rico to name a few. Each place that I’ve gone to would required a plane ride of some sort. I have to admit I’m not a frequent flier like most of my fellow employees and/or friends, but I’ve had my share of flights. Recently I had to travel to Joplin Missouri for work. I was part of team that had to visit a vendor to determine if they could meet our company’s needs.


Joplin is a small town in Missouri that about a year ago, a tornado had passed through the town which created a lot of damage. The devastation was still pretty evident while there, but you could certainly see a lot of improvements. This story is really not about Joplin but my flight home from Joplin.

I had placed a Facebook status that read, “Interesting day... Emergency landing into Atlanta, Georgia. Because steering didn't work. Landed safely however. God was looking over me today.”

I felt compelled to explain a little more with regards to this statement I had posted. I was returning home on November 15, 2012 from my business trip. My flight was from Springfield, Missouri to Hartford CT via Atlanta, Georgia. The incident happened when I was flying into Atlanta Georgia in a Canadair Jet. Let’s call the Airline Bob….

The flight was going well when we unexpectedly hit a pocket of turbulence. Usually on flights you get small turbulence and eventually it works up to a bigger one. But this was big enough where my book closed on my tray table and fell to the floor. If I had a soft drink, the fluids would have landed on me and/or the person next to me. The plane drops a couple of feet. But, then it was over. The turbulence was instant and quick. I didn’t think of anything of it at the time, nor did anyone else on the flight. The stewardess continued on her business working the cabin as if it was normal.

As we were in our final approach to land into Atlanta, the plane was descending and you could hear the mechanics of the wheels coming from the bottom of the plan. The plane was slowing down. Everything was normal. About 1 minute into our final approach, the plane started to accelerate and gain altitude. The plane then banked hard to the left, away from the airport. I had looked out my window and realized that we were climbing rapidly. I had looked to the person to my left and we both had the same expression. “I think we just got waved off” I said.

After leveling out, the pilot announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have to conduct an emergency landing, there appears to be a malfunction” Then he signed off.

The plane was silenced. Mentally, my mind started to race, what could it be? Why are we not turning? Is the plane unable to turn? Are the wheels unable to come out? What are we going to do? How are we going to get on the ground?

Then I start to think of my love ones; my wife, and my kids and my family and friends…I said a prayer and it calmed my nervous. I begin to focus on the situation. Control what you can, you can’t control everything ran through my mind. Something I had learned when I was in the military.

The gentleman besides me attempted to make small talk, but I was too focused on the situation and don’t remember what he asked. It felt like an eternity before the pilot returned and announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the malfunction is that we are unable to steer the plane when we land. Because of this we have to announce that it’s an emergency. Basically we can land ok, but we are unable to steer to the gate. So we will have to have a tow truck pick us up at the end of the run way. When we land you will see fire trucks, it is only for precaution, do don’t worry”

My mind was a little at ease for a moment. But, I have to admit the mind is powerful and could be your worst enemy. I started to think, ok we can’t steer, and so does that mean the wheels are turned to the left or right? When we land will the plane turn instantly to the right or left? Will the front of the plane wheels break? Will the front of the plane collapse down and screech across the tarmac? What other malfunctions are there?

Control what you can, you can’t control everything…

I felt thirsty; I had a soda bottle in my backpack and decided to take a drink. As I opened the bottle, the carbonation pressure was built up and had released a loud “ssssssss”. Instantly everyone around me looked in my direction, I responded with, “my soda bottle, sorry” as I lifted up the bottle to show the source of the noise. I kind of smiled internally realizing that I wasn’t the only one with the built up stress.

The mental pressure of the passengers within the cabin was extremely high. If the engine wasn’t rumbling, you would be able to hear a pin drop. The final approach… The longest 20 minutes I could remember.

As the plane descended, the ground was approaching rapidly. You could hear the wheels expose themselves from the bottom of the plane. I double checked my seat belt. The plane continued to rapidly descend to the ground. As I looked out the window I started to see the runway lights. “Here we go” I stated… I placed my hands on the chair in front of me to brace myself if there was a situation…

The first impact of the rear left wheel hit the tarmac. The plane swayed to left then to the right as the right wheel hits the tarmac. The front of the plane was still angled towards the sky as its dual engine began to whine even louder, as to reverse the forward progression of the plane. The front of the plane began to descend down towards the tarmac. The impact of the front of the plane was minimal. I remember thinking as the wheels touched the ground, no cracking sound of metal, thank you Lord…

As the plane continued to decelerate, the relief of being on the ground grew within me. I began to realize that we were safe, that the main danger was now behind us. Blood began to circulate into my fingers as I gently release the death grip that I had on the seat in front of me.

The joy of passing this test had overwhelmed me. I scream loudly, “Yeah Baby!!! That is what I’m talking about!!!!” I then proceed to clap loudly as the plane came to a complete stop…. The passengers within the plane instantly realized my emotion and begin to cheer and clap as well…

We sat on the tarmac for about 30 minutes before the tow truck arrived. But it didn’t matter; I was on the ground, safely… While writing this I do remember telling someone that, landing a plane is really a controlled crash…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone....

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It’s been awhile… More like a year…

It’s been about a year since I’ve written anything. I guess I should provide some updates to what has been going on in my life…

After the storm in July 2011, I had walked the town…

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Then in August I had travelled to Den Helder Netherlands for work… Here are some of the things that I saw.

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There was a moment one night, when I was working in the hotel. The room desk was situated in front of the window. As I was working on the computer, I kept seeing a flashes at my window. I had thought it was traffic passing by in front of my window. I kept typing away at my computer but the flashing kept popping up. I then realized that I was on the fourth floor of the hotel…I opened the window and saw….

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Then we had the a snow storm in October 2011. Power was out for an entire week. While driving to work one morning, to shower at the office, I lost my brakes in my truck and almost rear ended another car. But thank god, I was able to turn the wheel in time to not hit the car…But here are a couple of photos from the snow storm…

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The same week of the storm I was sent to Bologna, Italy for work.

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November 19, 2011 

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Yea, I’ve been pretty busy…I hope to have more to come in the near future…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I guess we live in Tornado alley now…

I just finished watching the local news, they have reported that a Tornado may have touched down in the Western Massachusetts area… If it was a tornado, it was certainly closer to the house this time. I’m happy to report that no one was hurt and/or anything at my house was damage. But here are a couple of pictures that I took by my house… Currently the power is out…

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Monday, July 25, 2011

The end of this journey…

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” ~Harriet Tubman (American escaped slave, Civil War Soldier and Abolitionist, 1820-1913)

Funny, it seems like yesterday when this “little” project actually began. About three years ago I started this little road trip. To be honest, I began this journey as a man, alone, scared, depressed with only a dream to succeed. I had started this journey for many reasons. But while traveling through this little adventure, I became surprised that I’ve made it this far. I have to admit about the third week of owning this house, I started to question what was I doing? Would I survive?

I remember walking into this house and instantly realizing that this house needed me, as much as I needed it. I purchased this house knowing that it needed work, but to be honest, I didn’t know what I was really getting into. When I was looking for a house that I wanted…or rather needed…I was looking for a home that would occupy my mind and emotions while I was working through my personal issues (divorce). I wanted to change my world.

I began this journey running away from my problems, but, at the end, I ended up confronting them and eventually concurring them. Although, that was before the house being accomplished. But I’m also happy to report that I have completed the house and now have both apartments occupied.

After all of the electrical shocks, the hammer smacks to the thumb, the falling down the stairs, the bat running, the hernia surgery and the back issues… I can finally say, WOW, I’ve survived!!  No seriously, the sense of accomplishment is certainly high. But most of all, I really happy for all of the people that I’ve met during this road trip. Without them, I would not be who I am today…

Here are a couple of pictures of the first floor apartment…

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I guess it’s time to take the off ramp… However, I’m going to continue being the Landlord… or rather Property Manager…I need a retirement fund… But what is this new project I’m doing, you ask…

Well I’m going to just take it slow at first… But, I have started a new project… I’ve returned to school for photography… I guess, we’ll see where this off ramp takes me next… No map and no real place to go… I guess I’m just cruising… Well until next time… Happy Building… or rather Happy Cruising…

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Where did you go?

I honestly don’t know, last month was a complete blur. I guess I can attempt to describe what I’ve been up too, but to be honest, I’ve come down with writers block. The last month I’ve been bombarded with my attention going in all different directions. I wish I could say I’ve recovered gracefully, but then I would be lying. But let’s just touch the high points… New tenant for upstairs, new tenant moving in July 1, recently returned from vacation, moved to a new place, tornado in Springfield and still much more… Because I’m not focused at the moment (Brown shirt below says it all). I’ll decided to do a picture story for this entry…

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Painted Bi-Fold Doors

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Painting baseboards

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Vacation location

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On vacation somewhere tropical sporting the Black and Gold… Game 7 here we go!!!! You can do it B’s!!!!

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View by my new home

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Baseboard painting

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Baseboard painting

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Window trim painting

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Hole in the ceiling

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Fixing the hole in the ceiling..

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Raining day at the rental property

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Tornado destruction photos in Springfield, Mass… June 4, 2011

Until next time, may the reconstruction be a safe one… ( I don”t feel right saying my normal building statement). Although, I’ll be returning to my normal statement soon..

Monday, May 9, 2011

Next in the batter’s box is….

Now that the hardwood floors are completely sanded, stained and have their final coat of polyurethane applied, I can move onto another project. The polyurethane smell was pretty intense. Even with all of the windows open, I still got a headache from the fumes. On a side note, while I was reading the back of the polyurethane can, I was reminded that oil-soaked rags are a fire hazard. Basically, the heat from the dry, oil soak rags can set the rags on fire, It is recommended that you hang the rags outside and allow them to dry before disposing them. With that caution out of the way, I was thinking what am I going to do with myself when all of the projects are completed… I guess we’ll find out soon enough, but until then, we got an apartment to get fix up and rent out…

Next on the list were the bedroom closets doors. Prior to doing the floors, I had started to install the bi-fold doors to the bedroom closets. I discovered really quickly that the bedroom closet entryways were not a standard size. I had decided that to save money, I would modify the entry way and order stock doors. Funny, the big box hardware store didn’t have the standard size that I was looking for, so I had to special order them. However the price was the same, as if I purchase them off the shelf. If not, I did see a sledge hammer and a reciprocating saw in my future… However, being able to order the “custom” doors, I do see a couple of 2 X 4’s, framing nails, compound saw, air compressor, dry wall and my favorite pneumatic framer in my near future.

So I have to build a supporting wall… I had to build about 6 inches from the wall in one room and about 10 inches in the other room. Below were the pictures from my office.

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IMG_3951New drywall installed covering the new frame 2 X 4’s

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It was funny, after feeling felling rushed in the previous month, I’ve decided to really take it easy. It didn’t take me long to install the new bi-fold doors to both bedrooms. I have to admit, framing the wall took more time than actually installing the doors. Now I just need to mud the new walls, sand and paint. I also need to install the trim around the new door way. The new bi-fold doors are certainly an improvement over the previous doors. They also match the entry doors into the rooms. I have to admit, that wasn’t on purpose…

The list of things are still plentiful. However, things are certainly getting done. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.. But I’m still hesitant in pulling the trigger on placing an ad for the apartment yet. However, I am in the process of moving to a new place in Connecticut at the end of the month. I figure the move will push me to really finish the apartment and place an ad. I guess, well see what happens next on that subject… Anyway, next on the list, I’ll be painting the damage trim from when I stained the floors. But until next time, happy building…

Thursday, April 21, 2011

More than just another moving day/week….

The month of April has certainly been an interesting rollercoaster. I still have my health, thus I assume that is a good thing. The blessing in disguise has certainly allowed my mind to relax and focus on the task at hand. Prior to getting the news, I was beginning to feel rushed into things, which then I felt overwhelmed. The entire process was starting to make me feel unrest. I felt that nothing would be accomplished on time. The pressure of time and energy was getting the best of me. But I still created a plan and attempting to execute accordingly. I first set my priorities to the second floor.

The second floor wasn’t a total disaster. I only had to clean/scrub the refrigerator,stove and bath tub. I’m happy to report that nothing was damage. The second floor is now cleaned and also scheduled to be occupied for May 1st. It was originally scheduled for April 1st, however, apparently not many people were looking for a place in April. Now onto the next task… First floor…

The first floor was a disaster… I needed to move my stuff out of the three rooms so that I can sand and stain the floors. I rented a storage unit and started to move things there. Thanks to Wilson, we were able to move out the heavy things that I couldn’t do myself. Yes, I’m a strapping young lad of 35, however, let us not re-live the umbilical hernia incident, again (Thank you)… Ok, moving on… After Wilson’s services were completed, I began to move the small things myself. I realized that my stereo and TV manuals were missing, so,  I decided to take a picture so that the picture could assist me in recreate this mess later..

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What a spaghetti mess…Not sure if I’m mentioned this before, but I hate moving… The packing, the lifting, the cleaning… The entire process is depressing… To me, moving is the realization that “I” have way too much junk and that about 90% of it can be thrown out…

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After feeling a sense of “dis-accomplished”, I decided to take a walk. I walked down to the Hadley Falls bridge to clear my mind. The Holyoke Dam has been working overtime for the last couple of days due to the melting of the snow. In the summer, when the windows are open within the house, you can hear the rush of water from the dam… The soothing rush makes sleeping at night, extremely relaxing. However, the only drawback are the frequent trips to the bathroom during the night..

The Holyoke Dam is owned and operated by the Holyoke Gas and Electric Department (HGED). The dam has been in service since 1906 to initially supply power to the textile and paper mills within Holyoke. I was able to find some history of the dam (Holyoke Dam History by HGED), hope you enjoy it. The file within the website, has a lot of information about the construction and debate about the dam…

Here are a couple of pictures from my walk.

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After returning from my refreshing walk… I was hit with the reality that I need to get this place cleaned out.

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I’m fortune enough that I’m starting a new job soon (April 25). Thus, I decided to take a week off before starting the new job. This break allowed me the time to sand and stain the floors. The first thing that I needed to do was clean out the rooms and get a sander… Here are the rooms prior to sanding them.

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I have to admit, the floors were horrendous. The floor had paint spots and dark black spots that looked to be animal urine stains. Thus enter the beast….

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I’m a big fan of tools and equipment that conduct a job efficiently and properly… I guess it is correct when people say ”Time is money”… This beast, has 4 orbital sanding pads and a vacuum to suck up any dust. I was done sanding the rooms within 3 hours. I was surprise how minimal the wood dust was flowing through the room. It certainly worked like a charm…Here are pictures of the finish work…

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The paint spots and unwanted stains were all gone. After completing the sanding, I discovered some marks on the floor in the master bedroom. Within the photo’s above, top right, you will see subtle uniform lines going perpendicular to the grain of wood. It looks like the previous owners used a paint roller when they stained the floors. It is recommended that you use a rag to stain the floors. By using a rag, you minimize streaks and stain build up on the floor. Because of roller streaks, I decided to go with a dark stain color (red oak). I wanted to hide any imperfections like this with the darker color. Also, I’m a big fan of the rich bold color.

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I was sure to not stain myself into any corners…Once the staining process was completed and dry, I was able to put down a nice clean coat of semi-gloss Polyurethane. The following picture were taken after putting down the first of two coats of polyurethane.

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I love the reflection of the door and window frame on the floor. The house may smell for a few days, but I’m loving the floors. By the way, here is something for you to think about… I was talking with a friend about the cost of hiring someone to do the floor. Basically do the same thing that I just did. The estimating cost to do 3 rooms was about $1000… With the sander rental, 1 can of stain, 2 cans of polyurethane, and miscellaneous supplies it cost me about $200… The best part of doing the job yourself is the pride, satisfaction and $800 towards a vacation trip… And knowing is half the battle..

Anyway, next on the list is to add a second coat of polyurethane and then repaint some of the trim that was damage from the staining process. Well until next time, Happy building…

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