Sunday, April 26, 2009

Beaver Pictures!

Originally uploaded by mfalcian
A Beaver took down a tree in my suburban neighborhood. I swear.The other pictures are here.

WWOOF Update

Oldest son has purchased airline tickets so the WWOOF thing is on. We know this since we get our details from facebook.

In Italian.

According to babelfish, he is flying into Milan on the 12th of May and staying 19 days (19 giorni!).

Where he is actually going is anyone's guess. It changes. A lot. I think he is still going with his friend Pat.

One day it's this farm, the next day it's a new farm. Details, details, details. Oh to be 18 again.

The plan is to spend two weeks on the WWOOF farm and the rest of the time "touring". We'll see since they have very little money. I really hope they have a good time but I am concerned that they have no idea what they are getting into.

Here is an example farm. It's now an example since it was the farm they were going to on Wednesday and now they are not. Now are going to a farm in somewhere called Padue. At least they were yesterday.

Either way here are some handy phrases that they might want to learn:

Le mie mani hanno callouses. - My hands have callouses.

Dovrei portare i guanti come il mio padre suggerito - I should have brought gloves like my father suggested.

Il mio dio, questo sole รจ caldo. - My God, this sun is hot.

Devo fare che cosa con le pecore? - I have to what with the sheep?

As for me, I am making contingencies like clearing my calendar for May 15th-20th. Should I just get tickets to Milan now and save some money? Where is my passport?

I also prepared his phone for international use. We should also know how to transfer into his account or bury money somewhere on the farm.

History seems to indicate that this going to cost me money. This only difference that this time it will be it will be in Euros.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Aluminum Falcon makes the White Castle run in less than 12 Parsecs.

On Sunday I took oldest son back to College. It was a tumultuous packing up and leave session so he left a few things at home including his dorm room keys and laptop power supply.

On Monday morning I knew about the keys and was about to fed ex them to him when I got call about the power supply. It was home. That meant either two fed-exs or one really late one.

At this point I should have just Fed-exed both as soon as possible. But I didn't do that because I continue my quest for chooch of the year. I drove back up to Seton Hall, one and a half hours in the rain on the Jersey Turnpike in my 12 year old Civic.

Now the poor Civic doesn't get out much. Its my drive to the train station beater. It's old. It's tired. It panics like a fish out of water on an Interstate. It's meant for around town.

I had my wife leave the GPS and EZPass so I could at least take those.

It really wasn't that bad on the way up. It vacillated between a steady rain and drizzle as I stayed away from the big trucks in my tiny vehicle. I was up there by 7:15 and dropped the missing items off and took off as quickly as possible. I didn't want to get home late.

I was starving by this time though. I must have been because I went to the White Castle drive through. I'm fifty and sober. I had no business being anywhere near a White Castle.

I was lured in by the whole "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle" thing. I'm from Philly. We had one White Castle and it was in bad neighborhood. We didn't go there.

I was experiencing an intense need of getting back on the road as quickly as possible and severe hunger. I did something I never do and that was get back on behind the wheel and wolf down 4 sliders at the same time.

I also now fully understood the term slider. I picked the first one out of it's minature cardboard box and it nearly slid out of my hand. Onions went every where. I put it near my mouth in the dark and a greasy ketchupy mixture slid out form the pressure on the bun, around my mouth and out. It went somewhere. I have no idea where.

Luckily I was wearing my rain coat. I wiped my mouth with napkin and did the best I could for the remaining three.

I had done it. I had made my way through the maze of off ramps through I-78 north of Newark and back onto the Turnpike.

It was a quintessential Jersey moment. The stench of White Castle, the rain, the turnpike. All that was missing was some Bruce or Bon Jovi but the Civic only has a radio.

That was when the worst case of the McGurgles in my inward parts began and lasted the remainder of the trip home past the Airport, through the refineries and into the vast wasteland of endless warehouses. The sliders were doing their magic. I was looking forward to a cleansing moment.

I quickly figured out that to enjoy White Castle you have to be really, really drunk, stoned or both.

The next morning I woke up craving fruit. Any kind of fruit. A pineapple especially.

Then I went out to the car and opened the door. The stink was unbearable. Onions. Grease. There was giant ketchup/grease mixture on my seat belt.

I held my nose and drove off to work. I may have to sell the car or give it to Kumar there at Seton Hall. It's ruined for life.

I should have just used Fed-ex.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Green grass and high tides and sipping beer

Spring is finally here and yesterday I spent the shank of the day hacking at the knee high lawn. Why oh why do I fertilize this stuff? I cut it on the highest setting and still had to empty the bag every three strips. I never got to the trimming so it doesn't look that great but it is a rich green carpet this year.

I like the lawn in April. It's around July I get tired of it because I refuse to water it. Sorry. If God meant for you to be green in July.....

When the grass is that tall it makes the backyard a dog poop adventure. You try to scoop it up first but there is always something lurking behind that one tall really green spot, especially with two of them working that sales territory. I spent the better part of the afternoon with my head down looking for surprises to appear from under the back of the moving lawnmower and then stepping sideways.

It wasn't that hot, in fact it was a pleasant 78, but I spent the rest of that day and night in a near constant search for water. I might be a wee bit out of shape.

I was interrupted mid lawn cut by DB who needed some help moving furniture. Its great that I was that close by. I'm not sure why but the whole time I had the following old adage stuck in my head.

"A friend is someone that helps you move but a real friend is someone that helps you move a body".

DB and I aren't at the body moving stage at this point but we are working towards it

The weekly food shopping trip went ahead of schedule in the afternoon as the place was a ghost town. A really warm Saturday with the forecast of a cloudy Sunday will do that.

The day was capped off with tickets to the Phillies. Mr C and DB went with my wife and I.

It turned out serendipitous that Mr C was there at all.

His boys were going to the game for the oldest boys girlfriends birthday. Mr C went over to the far side of the park to visit the boys early on in the game and then came back to enjoy the perfect spring evening with us.

In about the 7th inning Mr C abruptly got up and said something about heading back over there. We just thought he was going for another visit.

It turns out that his youngest got kicked out for sipping a beer. He's 16 and was in line to buy, ah, beverages, with the girlfriends 21-year-old sibling. When the 21 YO bought the beer, Mr C's youngest jokingly took a sip of the beer while still inline.

He obviously did not see the man in the blue uniform standing right behind him.

Pretty soon I got a text saying that Mr C's youngest had been ejected. What he failed to mention was that Mr C had to go with him since he was a minor. The alternative was that boy go to a juvie detention holding spot.

Phillies or the boy. Phillies or the boy. Come on, he had to think about it. At least make him sweat it out.

Mr C missed the exciting 8th and 9th innings where the Phils folded like a cheap card table but it sounds like he would been headed to the game even if I didn't have tickets.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I found Doughboy

The Red Toyota was back Monday afternoon and there was a woman and couple of small kids playing out front so I stopped by. We chatted and I asked her about the note. She had called Doughboy and he was coming over to drop off a bike in few minutes.

In few minutes my old friend came by.

More later.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Searching for Doughboy Part II

This morning I saw the Red Toyota in spot "J" at the townhouses and decided to go knock on the door again. I took two steps off the porch and decided that I better have a note handy to leave on the car in case no one answered again so I went back inside to write:

"Hello I'm looking for John XXX XXXXXXX of 30 XXXXXXXXX I'm an old friend. if you know of his where abouts please contact me

On a piece of old computer paper.

Thinking that the note might be there a while I put in the plastic wrapper the newspaper came in this morning and headed back over to the red Toyota.

As I got two steps off the porch again, I looked up and noticed that the Red Toyota was on the move. It was stopped and making a left onto the cross street.

I didn't have my glasses so I was squinting and trying to see. There was one person in the car but I couldn't make out who it was and they drove off. I'm thinking now that the weather proofing was a mistake that delayed me.

I went and knocked on the door anyway and again no answer, so I left my weather proofed note tied to the door.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

In Search of Doughboy

You think you know just about everything about your little world. You get up everyday, wave to your neighbors and then head off to work. You know crazy Frank across the street and all the rest of your neighbors, especially if you've lived there a long time like I have.

I've lived in this home for 16 years. I thought I understood what was happening around me but last week I discovered something that proves I had no idea.

I ran into an old friend on Facebook, actually it was the older brother of a friend but still an old friend from the old neighborhood. We spent the better part of two days trading emails and pictures talking about times past and crazy people we knew. It was fun.

Casually, Facebook friend mentioned that another old friend had been on Facebook but disappeared. This old friend had the nick name of Doughboy. We all had nicknames then. Some made sense, some you had no idea where they came from and some were just out and out embarrassing.

For example, the friend that contacted me on Facebook was Woody. His younger brother's nickname was also Woody but the two never hung out together. One was with the older crowd and one was with the younger crowd so there wasn't really any ambiguity. Some how it worked. Oh sure, occasionally there was some confusion but it worked.

Down the street from Woody and Woody were the brothers Fof and Rat. Rat hung out with Woody. The Older Woody, the Woody that friended me on Facebook. Fof hung out with Woody (the younger) and I. It's confusing but it worked.

I actually remember the etymology of the nickname Fof. Fof's real name was Bob (Actually it it was probably Robert but that never stuck - Robert! Ha "Hello Is Robert coming out today?" Ha!). Bob morphed into Bof which beget Boffo, Boffo beget Foffo which was then shortened to just Fof. Fof stuck.

I have no idea were Rat came from and I didn't ask. It just wasn't done. You never went up to someone and said "why do they call you Rat?". It was like tugging on Superman's cape or pulling the cowl off Batman. I just wasn't done.

Don't even let me get me started on Fro, Fish and Bozo.

Anyway, I have no idea where Doughboy's nickname came from but I suspect it was due to his physique at the time.

So Woody (the older) mentioned that Doughboy (the only) lived in my current town in New Jersey. This is unusual since the entire nicknamed crew grew up west of Philly in Delaware County.

So I looked him up on and got a hit.

I recognized the street right away as one in my development but since I'm an idiot I DIDN'T REALIZE IT WAS ACROSS THE STREET until my wife told me.

Yes, an old friend, one that I had just missed on Facebook, lived across the street.

It was late when I 411'd him so I waited until the next day to call the number and when I did I found it was disconnected.

That night at dinner I told my wife I was going to go knock on the door and she told me to wait until Saturday. I didn't know that Saturday was the socially acceptable day for knocking on the door of old friends that you almost found on facebook through other old friends. I thought it was Wednesday. Saturday? I'm going to wait until Saturday? I don't think so.

I ignored her advice and knocked on the door.

It looked lived in through the front window and there were lights on. It's a section of Townhouses with reserved parking for each and so while waiting for someone to answer my knock, I'm counting spaces. They should be parked in spots marked "J" and there is a late model red Toyota in one of the two spots.

No one answers.

The next day at work and I'm still curious. The search for Doughboy is on. Did Doughboy live 500 feet from my house? For how long? I check the public records for my County and find that a woman with the same last name as Doughboy bought the place in 1999.

I find It's a thin line between friending someone on Facebook and stalking them and I may have inched a little closer to the line.

I don't care, I have to know the story.

There haven't been and new developments but I'm going to get in a traffic accident from rotating my neck around to see if there is a red Toyota parked in spot "J" when I drive home. I'm hooked. I have to know.

For the past 10 years I may have been walking my dogs past his house and have never known an old friend was right there and so Doughboy, if you are out there, leave a comment and tell me your story.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

WWOOFing it..

The end of the semester must be coming up because Oldest Son called this week with new, out of left field plans for the summer. He and friends from college are planning a trip to Europe.

On Wednesday the plan was that they were doing something called couch surfing where he and his college friends go to Germany, Belgium and Italy and stay on some stranger's couch for nothing while traveling from place to place.

To me it sounded like the perfect way to connect Ax Murders and victims through the Internet.

On Thursday night I got a call from him and the plan changed radically - Couch Surfing was out thank God.

The new plan? Work on an organic farm in exchange for food and shelter. When I told his mother the next day, she used the term "slave labor". I was thinking is sounded like the end of the parable of the prodigal son where he's eating pig slop and saying "my father treats his pigs better than this".

The program is called WWOOF for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and Italy was certified as a WWOOF organization in 2001.

How does it work? Basically you join WWOOF in the area you are interested in and then you get insurance and a list of farms, you pick one out and connect with them about working there for a period of time. He sent us the list of potential farms and here is a typical entry:

Family-run 7 hecare organic/biodynamic farm in Piemonte, Monferrato. Their main produce is wine and hazelnuts. Situated 3 kms from the village, 15 km from Alessandra and 100 kms from Milan, Turin and Genova. The farm is very busy all year round and Paolo always works with WWOOFers. Meals mainly organic (meat and vegetables) but can cater for vegetarians. Have two children of 4 years and 2 months. Jobs to be done: pruning, wood cutting and maintenance work (winter); in the vineyard (spring); the hazelnut harvest (August); the grape harvest and wine making (September) and all year round in the vegetable garden and garden. Possibility to help out at markets. Accommodation in room with bathroom. English and French spoken. Contact: Paolo Malfatti.

First off, what the heck is a Cascina and a hecare? Cascina sounds like Casa which I know is house so I'm guessing "little house". It turns out I'm close. Babelfish translates Cascina as "Shack". Great, first word out of the gate? Shack.

Next, what is a "hecare"? A hecare is a hectacre I'm guessing and so, thanks to Google, I find out that's about 17 acres. Being from the suburbs we have no idea how big that is. We can only guess from the numerous "green acres" signs that go up in our township where the state buys land so that it won't be developed and then giant signs go up that say:

88 Acres Saved from Development - Green Acres.

17 Acres is tiny then. We don't even think about saving anything less than 25.

I notice a lot of the entries are for farms that grow "hazelnuts", so many in fact that I start to believe it is a secret euphemism for marijuana or poppies. Hazelnuts, right, wink-wink.

So the kid that I can't get to cut the grass or god-forbid weed is going to Italy to do vineyard pruning and make natural sausage. Right. Send Pictures. WWOOF is about working. You can tell from the logo:
Is this person visiting Rome and sipping espresso? No! they have a work hat and a wheel barrow. And what's in that wheelbarrow? Donkey Shit.

In fact the FAQ for WWOOF Italy expressly states: "If you are solely looking for a cheap way to see Italy WWOOF IS NOT FOR YOU."

This WWOOF thing gives us an idea. Why don't we sign up to have WWOOFers come here to do the chores we need getting done over the summer and don't have time for because we WORK. We could do it organically if that's a big deal. Things like clean the pool, cut the grass, paint the house clean out the shed etc. Things we might ask, say, Oldest Son to do. It's kind of a win-win.

Here's our entry:

Family-run 1/3 Acre organic/hyrdo farm in New Jersey. Their main produce grass clippings. Situated 13 miles from the City, 1 Mile from Maple Shade. The farm is very busy all year round and DAD always works with WWOOFers. Meals mainly processed foods (meat and vegetables) but can cater for vegetarian girlfriends. Have two children of 18 years and 16 Years. Jobs to be done: pruning, weeding, grass cutting and pool maintenance. Possibility to help out at food shopping and errands. Accommodation in private room with bathroom, digital cable television, Internet and Air Conditioning. English spoken. Contact: Dad.

We also do a little Internet research about "WWOOFing". On youtube we find out it's for people like this guy who sings "minnie the moucher" to goats after six days of "WWOOFing" :

I'm hoping this has nothing to do with WWOOFing side effects.

Overall I'm all for it and I try to get the big picture.

In 1890 there was a man named Orazio Celone who was a poor "organic farmer" in Italy. He wanted a better life for himself and his children so he emigrated to America. He crossed the ocean to this new life and he had children. His children had children, those children had children. (One of those children married a man who was in vaudeville, a hoofer).

Oldest son is the 5th generation from Orazio and what does he decide to do? He turns around to go back to Italy to work on an organic farm as a WWOOFer. Now that's progress.