Saturday, January 09, 2016

5040 Sidetracked to Hershey

Saturday, January 9, 2016

If a problem has a solution, there is no need to worry, 
and if a problem has no solution, worrying will do no good.
--Buddhist Proverb --


I was reading another blog, and the blogger mentioned visiting Indian Echo Caverns in Pennsylvania.  I'd seen the signs along the roads for that, back when I lived in Gettysburg, so I looked it up on Google maps.  It's between Harrisburg and Hershey.  That took me to Hershey.

In 1951, when I was in first grade, we briefly lived on Chocolate Avenue, directly across the street from the original chocolate factory.  (By "briefly", I was in five different schools, from the deep south to eastern Pa, for first grade.  We didn't live anywhere for more than six weeks while Daddy was in radar school.)  The factory had a large circular flower bed in front, with an "H" in the middle.  I don't remember at all what the house looked like, except that it was one-story, square, brick, one of a group of similar houses along the street, and the back yards were connected and full of flowering shrubs and paved paths.  It was a good place for playing outside.  The other thing I remember is that my mother hated Thursdays, because that's when Hershey roasted almonds, and she hated the odor of roasting almonds.  

Mom wanted to tour the factory, but they wouldn't take just anyone --- you had to be part of a tour group.  One day she saw a bus pull up to the entrance, and the tour group was all women and small children.  She grabbed me and we ran across the street and joined that group.  I guess no one counted the people, because no one questioned our being there.

It was the real* factory, a walking tour, where a worker from each section explained stuff.  What I remember best was the kisses.  Thousands of them, hot and shiny and perfect on a wide conveyor belt, traveling off into the distance like something in an old movie.  Glorious!

So, I went to the western corner of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues on Google maps street view, where the old factory was, hoping to find our old house right across from the flower bed.

Nope.  What had been a two-lane street is now a multi-lane highway.  There's no room anymore for flowers in front of the old factory, which is now a sort of museum, and across the street there are no houses at all.  It's all big buildings and parking lots.

Sigh. It really was such a nice neighborhood.


*Some years ago Hershey moved the factory to a building that was easier to automate the processes, and no longer allows public tours at the real factory.  If you go to Hershey today, you can take a "factory tour", but it's all fake.  A different building, built for the purpose.  You ride in stupid little cars, just like at Disney World, and cows sing to you.  People still mention the kisses on the conveyor belt, though....

Sigh.  I feel like I lost my past.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

5039 Brush fire 2 - water

January 7, 2016

Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law.” 
 --circa 1764--


My front lawn has a slight slope down to the road.  We had lots of rain throughout October and November, and I noticed that the end of the lawn near the road stayed wet a lot.  I sort of thought it was because under the thin layer of sod it's pure clay, so the lawn just wasn't absorbing the rain very well.

Then later I noticed that right along the curb, the grass was dying.

Then a week later I noticed that even though there'd been no rain for several days, water was spilling over the curb and running down the street to the storm drain.  Hmmmm.  That's not right.  Hmm.  My water meter is buried in the lawn just above the wet spot.

So. in mid-December I called the water department.  Left a voice mail, "Please send someone out to check the meter.  I think it's leaking.  Water is coming up through my lawn and running down the street."

A week passed with no response.  So I called again.  Again, "Leave a message."  The water is now coming up between the end of my driveway and the curb.  I'm worried about it undermining my driveway, and if it freezes under it, it will destroy my driveway.

Five days passed with no response.  It's now a heavy flow over the curb and down the street.  I wrote a letter to the town hall, ATTN: Water Dept. Fix this, damn it!

No response.  Until yesterday.  We'd had our first hard freeze.  The water continued to pour over the curb from my lawn, but on its trip down the street it froze, and had formed a sheet of ice several feet wide and a few inches thick, and growing.  About 10 am I found this stuck to my front door (I was home at the time, by the way, but there was no knock on the door):

I totally flipped out!  Jasper heard some words he'd never heard before.  

I called the number on the form, talked to a woman there, told them it's YOUR $%^&$%ing water, not mine, and I can't get anyone to respond.  She gave me the number to call for the water department, I called there --- and --- left a voice message.  I then sat down and wrote a very angry letter to the township water department which I intended to hand-carry to town hall.  But, in the meantime, the neighborhood had heard about it, and apparently several people were calling to complain.  Somebody must "know" somebody, because as I was leaving the house to tear some asses at town hall, I discovered a water department truck at the curb, and a man opening the hatch to the water meter.

Two hours later everything was fixed.

The guy was up to his elbows in freezing water in below freezing weather, and I told him I had started calling about this back when it was in the low 60s out, so when he gets back to the office he should complain, too.  He told me that when they'd installed meters back a few years ago, they'd used a meter with a plate on the bottom that (this is hard to believe) disintegrates in water.  I said "No shit."  (I was still in a swearing mood.)  He showed it to me when he pulled it out, and it really, seriously, was disintegrated.  There were four flanges on the sides where the bolts go to hold it on, and two of them were completely gone, no sign of them.  He replaced it with a cap that looks like fiberglass.  And I said, "So you guys know this is going to happen, everywhere?"

No idea whether there's damage to my driveway.  The lawn got dug up around the meter, and refilled with frozen clods.

But at least the flow has stopped.

Oh, by the way, I've still had no response to my calls or letter.  Just in case you were wondering. 


Coming up:
Brush fire 6 - eBay, 5 - real estate taxes, 4 - homeowner's insurance, and 3 - investments.

5038 Brush fire 1 - van

January 7, 2016

There's a fine line between genius and insanity, 
but the line between beautiful and ugly is really, really thick.
– Mil Millington --


I haven't been keeping up with this blog because I've been stomping brush fires.  It's been one thing after another, and I don't know if it's age or just the way things go these days, but it seems like everything takes forever.  So much energy.

The battery in my van died a long time ago. Like more than a year ago.  Hercules gave me a jump one spring day, and I drove it around for a while to charge the battery, but then the next day it wouldn't start again (not even a rrr-rrr-rrr), so I let it sit.  I didn't do anything about it because I knew that the vehicle needed a lot of work to be dependable, and it was easier to think about buying oh, maybe a commercial van, or something, than to actually do anything.  So, in November I called my local garage folks, and they came and got it. They came out with some kind of electric pack, and they drove it to the garage.  They will also deliver, which is nice.  

So, they had the van for weeks.  The alternator was ok, but it needed a new battery.  And oil change.  And this and that from being left sitting for so long.  And brake lines.  Oh, and there's a gas leak somewhere, so they have to drop the tank to find that.  Then replace the fuel pump (gaskets leaking).   Every time they called with something new, they gave me an estimate.  Now, there was a definite communication problem there.  The numbers kept going up, so I assumed that was the total.  Nope, every call was just THAT problem.  In addition.  So at the end I was expecting a bill of about $1400, and was shocked when he wanted almost $3000!  (Something like $2994.)

I can't complain too much.  I told Mike I wanted the van to be dependable, so do whatever it needs to put it in very good shape.  I'm comfortable with what they did, I'm not so worried about the trip upriver now, but it was a scramble to pay that bill.

Then, the rest of the story.

The van had been sitting in the driveway for more than a year, driver's side about six inches from the edge of the lawn.  When the mechanic delivered the van, he parked it in the same spot, and I gave him a ride back to the garage in my car.  Big mistake.  I should have used the van to take him back.  Then I'd have seen this before he got away:

A surprise:

The fender:

The door:

The garage was closed by then, so I immediately called and left a phone message so there would be no mistake about when it had happened (or more accurately, NOT happened).   And then I took the van over the next morning so he could see it. 

Naturally, he claimed it looked like that when they picked it up.  Uh, no, it had been parked next to the lawn for more than a year.  There's no way it got hit there.  My neighbors can all verify that.  This happened when it was in your care. 

The scrapes went right down to the base coat, so he claimed that door had already been repainted once.  Uh, no, I bought the thing new, have been the only owner, and except for a scratch near the door handle, there hasn't been a single solitary mark on this vehicle in fifteen years.  I'm rather proud of that. 

He seemed to think he could get out of it some way until I said that it looked to me like someone parked too closely had turned into me trying to get out, scraping me, probably a large SUV or truck, and that the policeman had agreed that's what it looked like.  He looked shocked.  "You called the police?!"  "Uh, yeah.  If I have to go to my insurance company for a hit and run, they'll want a police report from as close to the accident time as possible."

So, they had it for another two weeks.  It now has a new door panel (supposed to be the same color, but it's slightly off because it's not as faded), and the dent in the fender is pulled out and the scrapes polished out.

This was all emotionally exhausting.

I don't want to dirty that pond, because with the van's dropped floor and 4 inch clearance, it can't go up on any old rack, so it's hard to find a good mechanic who has the right lift or pit to work on it.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

5037 Country visit

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Comparison is the thief of joy.


I'm at the country house, arrived late last night.  I had wanted to come up last Monday, but about two hours before departure time, I got a notice from the Rhinebeck community forum that they were expecting a major ice storm, starting Monday evening and extending into Wednesday night.  According to news reports, it was pretty bad.  So I drove up last evening instead.

I didn't see any snow or any indication of anything nasty the whole drive up, until I turned into this street, and POW, there were actual snowbanks on the side of the street.  Yeah, my house is on a ridge, but it's not that high, so I never have understood why snow and ice is so much worse, as soon as you turn off route 9 onto this street. As soon as, as in before it ever starts going up.

I had not left the heat on after my last trip.  I arrived about nine PM.  The temperature outside was below freezing, and it was 40 F inside.  I was so grateful when the furnace went on with no complaints, but warming up took a very long time, because everything in the house had to be warmed, too. I finally was able to stop shivering long enough to fall asleep under a comforter and two blankets at about one am, and by then the thermostat said it was 51.  By morning it was 74, but every time the furnace decided it was satisfied, the air cooled off quickly, because walls and furniture were still absorbing heat.  When I leave tomorrow, I'll leave it set at 55.

It's been a while since I've been here, so I haven't done much of anything today.  Just soaking up the vibes of the house.  Returning south tomorrow, after a few business calls.  I am not looking forward to one of them.  I'm going to blow Piper out of the water.  I'll detail that when I have a keyboard.