Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What a Mess

Houses are money sinks. Just when you get something fixed, something else needs your attention. This year, I've been lucky to find people willing to do things I can no longer do. One of those things was cleaning the gutters.

Prior to May, I don't remember when I last had them cleaned. On the north end of the house, in the front, small trees had taken root. Birds loved the gutters because bugs moved in. I would hear them digging around and would see the flying of debris as they emptied a spot and ate the insects. Squirrels had also taken to burying nuts in the gutters. I could always tell when this happened by what I'd find on the deck or front porch.

I kept telling myself that it didn't take much to get up there and clean them out. I have a ladder. I would just need to get some latex gloves to put under a pair of garden gloves I really didn't like very much and I could clean out the gutter myself. But climbing a ladder is difficult. I feel so unstable now and the need to climb to the top of the ladder made me very uneasy. I can wash windows because it's 2-3 rungs, but climbing 4-5 was a problem. Fortuitously, Pam was given a flyer from the son of one of her co-workers. He would clean gutters and do other yard work, including mowing and weeding. I took him up on the gutter cleaning.

What a mess.

It was a rainy afternoon when he showed up. I told him he could postpone the job but he said he was going to get wet anyway so rain didn't matter. This was the debris in the gutter section over the door. It was nasty; black and decaying. The smell was "ripe". He had a power washer and, after removing the debris from the gutters, cleaned the front steps and the deck. It took him a couple passes to clear everything off. In washing down the deck chair, he actually cleaned it. I was impressed.

The next day, I used power scrub for one final pass.

I didn't get the deck sealed, I just had too much to do this summer and I actually wanted to use my deck; sit on it, enjoy myself, and not spend a weekend painting. It needs to be sealed and it needs another thorough power washing.

The best part is that the heavy rains of the summer have actually gone into the gutters and down the downspouts as they are supposed to do, not slide straight off the roof. If the gutters are clear, a heavy rain helps to flush out any debris which might accumulate. The pine trees on the north side of the house sluff needles in May and that can clog gutters if there is anything in them. This year, nope. My gutters are clear at the start of fall. I probably should look them over before winter, once all the leaves have fallen, just to be sure. Clean your gutters, folks. You'll thank yourself even if the squirrels complain they have no easy place to bury food for the winter.

Beverage:  Water


A Hearty Recommendation

With the clearing of the trash trees off the north and northwest sides of the house, I had a wide open section of yard to do something with. The first thing was to get top soil and mushroom compost and even out the land.

There were rather large holes under the downspout, where overgrown bushes were removed. I decided I wanted a raised bed here; something small-ish which would handle peppers and fit in this space. I searched all sorts of places which came up when Googling "raised beds". That can be something of a rabbit hole. Would you like the Cadillac of raised beds, lacking only a gardener to tend it for you, or would you like something which looks like two squirrels slapped it together with help from a chipmunk? And pieces; lots and lots of pieces. If you are the handy sort, you probably could design your bed and just buy pieces. Me? Not so much. I needed a kit. I just wanted something I could assemble and move into place, which would fit in the spot by the downspout. Those tiger lilies, with the trash gone, will just go everywhere.

I found a bed at Home Depot. The bed is by New Tech Wood. The current price is not what I paid for it back in mid-March. I settled on this bed and then watched sales and coupons. I think I spent $50 for it and I feel that's a very good price.

Shall we talk about how it comes?

Is this a box or is this a box? I came home in late April to see this sitting on the front porch. It was a bit heavy to pull inside, but there's my raised bed. I put it together the weekend after it arrived. 

I dragged it out onto the deck and opened the box. 

Everything is contained and nicely packed for shipping. Nothing was loose. I dumped it out. 

My heart sank. Man, this is a lot of stuff. How was I going to put it together. There also were not printed instructions. There was a parts list, but nothing else. 

One of the benefits of technology is having video at your fingertips. A selling point of this bed was the video on the product description page. I watched that and felt I could assemble this without need of many tools and it would be light-weight enough I could put it together on the deck and move it to the spot in the yard where I wanted it. I have an iPad. I can watch that video, stop it, assemble and move on. 

My deck railing is just a bit smaller than the iPad, but it was fantastic to be able to watch and find the parts and move on. That's the bottom of the bed. Here's a close up.

I guess you'd call this "modular". The bottom pieces snap together and everything snaps onto or into everything else. 

When the bottom pieces are snapped together, you add the sides. You can see the sides have a distinctive shape to them. The walls will slide into the grooves on each side so you need to make sure you put the indentation the right way, not that I would have knowledge of putting them on wrong. (Oh look! A Squirrel.) 

Here you can see one of the sides in place. The plastic sheet goes over the bottom. It acts like landscape fabric in that it lets water drain out while keeping dirt in and weeds out. It just lies on top of the base.

The walls are held in place by pegs. 

One of the tools you need is a rubber mallet. This was the part which was the most frustrating. You need to line up holes in the wall with holes in the end posts, insert a peg and pound in the peg. I tried to do this while the bed was on the deck railing but until the sides are anchored, the bed would fall apart. 

You can see on the far right corner, one of the peg holes. It can be really tough for me to a) get down on the ground and then b) get up once I'm down there. Some comedian did a visual joke about that. He fell to the ground and a friend offered to help him get up. His response, "Wait. Wait. I'm seeing what else I can do now that I'm down here." There are days when that's exactly how I feel. I wound up sitting down and pounding the pegs into the holes. Here is the bed with the sides on. 

The last things to attach are the end caps. They needed a light tap with the hammer to snap into place. 

Once completed, it's rather light-weight and very sturdy. It was easy to carry it to the location where it's going to go. Here's the finished and filled product. 

I'm very pleased with it. I'll be posting photos of what I planted in the box. The cats weren't interested in the cardboard box, surprisingly. I think it might have been too big. I wound up cutting it into pieces and recycling it. I will be getting another this coming March and putting it on the other side of the downspout. This would be a great raised bed for small spaces, including decks.

Beverage:  Water


Sunday, October 9, 2016


Bohemian National Cemetery is a very peaceful place, even while being bordered by two of Chicago's busy streets. When I was inspecting the columbarium, I stood on the front steps and gazed around the grounds. The one thing I noticed, was the overabundance of tree headstones. This is the view looking northeast from the front steps.

Notice, within this view, there are two right of center. I found the amount of trees to be very intriguing. There is a tree in my dad's family.

My great-great-great uncle, Mathew Thompson, is buried under this. It's the only one in the Monona, Iowa city cemetery. I don't think the Lutheran cemetery has one. I have not been in the Catholic cemetery to know if one is there. I'd not seen another and then, driving through Bohemian, there were trees everywhere.

I was told they were used primarily by Eastern European people. I objected. "I have one in my family; my dad's side. They were Scottish, from northeast of Edinburgh." The historian looked at me. "That is very interesting." He mentioned a book a woman wrote roughly 7 years ago, about the trees in Bohemian National, but was unsure if you could find it anywhere. She had spent a couple of years photographing every tree in the cemetery. She also deciphered what the symbols carved onto the tree meant. He could not remember the name of it and didn't know if it was still available. I spent hours googling any kind of book and came up empty. He said it was a $45 book because it was filled with photos, but I'd pay $45 to have something like that.

If you google "tree headstones", you will find web sites with information about this symbolism. The historian at Bohemian National said, if I brought in a photo of the tree, he would be able to tell me what the symbols mean. That would be fantastic, but I only have this photo. I don't have side or back photos. Those were lost in the great computer melt-down of late 2011. I remember there being symbols carved all around this stone. Perhaps I have the photos stored on a CD, but I'm thinking that's unlikely. While everything is backed up today, it wasn't back then. I would need to go back to the cemetery and photograph the whole thing to present a better view for deciphering. I am very curious what the stone could be telling us that we don't know. Plus, I wonder how this compares to trees in Bohemian National.

Looks like I have a road trip in my future.

Beverage:  La Croix Berry Seltzer


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Think on This

While out and about, I come into contact with a lot of different jobs. Of course, my job provokes the "I didn't know that existed" response. But I run across other jobs which need to be done that I wasn't consciously aware of. Take this job.

You're going, "Huh?" and you can be forgiven for not having this job on your radar. According to the maintenance man, these are crematorium coffins. Bodies need to be placed in a receptacle when they are cremated and these coffins are made to be those receptacles. The whole thing is cremated. For people wishing a funeral with a body, these serve as the coffin. They are minimally decorated, just tasteful enough to resemble a much more expensive coffin. They are wrapped in plastic to keep them looking nice. In the van were 5 adult size and 2 child size. I think that's what got me, the 2 child size. But crematoriums need to have those on hand.

Somewhere, people make these. And some delivery service picked up a delivery and brought it to where I was. It was a plain panel van. They don't need a lot, just enough.

This is a necessary service but we don't think about it. When you pass on, someone will have created the casket in which your body will reside. My friend, Patt, has made arrangements for a plain wooden box, crafted by monks. You have to order these a long time in advance. She doesn't want the gigantic padded casket so took the planning into her own hands. A monk is making her casket. It will be ready for her and will need to be transported from there to wherever she is buried. Someone will have to do that.

These are the kinds of jobs which fly under the radar. If you've read this space for any length of time, you know I champion these kinds of jobs. To do them, you don't need a college education. It disappoints me when well-meaning professors release yet another study that says college grads earn x times more than high school grads. That's nice, but are college grads driving panel vans making deliveries of coffins to the places that need them?

When you're out and about, think, for a moment, about all the minimum wage jobs you encounter. Those jobs have to be done by someone. Those people should be accorded as much dignity as some lawyer or banker or movie star. I rather think if all the minimum wage people went on strike, we'd shut down, completely.

Think about that.

Beverage:  Cookies and Cream Cocoa


A New Goal

Next year, my little guild in World of Warcraft turns 10 years old. Lasting that long in a video game is notable. We need to do something as a guild, something big and splashy. So I put this to the guild's Facebook page. Things were suggested but what stuck was a Walt Disney World vacation.

I started talking with a guild member, Liz, who goes to Disney 3-4 times a year. The more we talked about the things we wanted to do, the more we explored resort properties, the more confusing the options became. It seems, with Disney, why have 5 options when you can have 45. Liz suggested we should look into Disney travel agent. Enter Hollie. She is paid by Disney so even if we don't have a huge number of people coming along or, if it was just me, she would still be paid to help with a trip. She helped me price out a vacation and, at the July meet-up, I gave a presentation.

The one thing we needed to decide was when did we want to go. The cheap time is January, the week after New Year's through the end of February. But, if we want to spend a bit more, we could go in March, when the Flower and Garden Festival is, or go in October, when the Food and Wine Festival AND Halloween run concurrently. Well, when presented with these options, it became a decision about how fast you could save the money and we decided October of 2017 was the best time.

The big attraction is the two festivals going on at the same time. You know that Disney will do Halloween fantastic. When I went to BlizzCon last year, Halloween was only at the Haunted Mansion. Christmas hadn't quite wandered in but Halloween had wandered out. We will be going at the height of the holiday. It's going to be exciting to see the decorations.  We're going to do Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Rides. Trick or Treat. A special parade and fireworks and the Magic Kingdom all to ourselves and anyone else who buys a ticket to the party.

And then there is the Food and Wine Festival.

Located at Epcot World Showcases, this is a celebration of food. The World Showcase part of Epcot is my favorite place at Disney World. Even with a lot of people in that section of the park, it is peaceful. I love to wander through all the countries and see what they have to offer.

During the festival, each country has food carts and special food indicative of their culture.

Having been to Disney World 4 times, one of the things I've wanted to do is "Eat Around the World", stop at each country and eat something at each country. With the festival going on in October, I can do this just by eating at the food carts stationed around the lagoon.

It took the summer to figure everything out on what I thought I would want. Hollie and I met in mid-September to go over possibilities, and, after looking at everything, she gave me a price and I put down a deposit. Now comes the saving.

I have to say I'm excited. A year ago, I was excited to go to BlizzCon. I spent a whole summer and most of a fall, saving for that trip, which included 2 days at Disneyland. This is going to be a whole week. I'm going with guild members; people I respect and whose company I relish. I'm going to be sharing a room with Liz. I admire and respect her and her company will make this that much more fun.

We will be going for a week in the middle of October. We looked at going as a group, but the group discounts didn't amount to much and Hollie said there are usually always discounts on things which we wouldn't be able to take advantage of if we're a group. So, we picked the days and then let everyone decide where they wanted to stay and what kinds of additions to their vacation they wanted.

In case you are wondering, WDW shut down this month for only the 7th time since opening, due to Hurricane Matthew. People who couldn't use tickets for events slated for Thursday night through Saturday morning, received compensation and/or had their tickets rescheduled for other days. The price of the resorts in October is one step above the base rate and two steps down from "We're going tomorrow and it's Christmas" rate. We were told this is primarily because October still has the potential for hurricanes raining, literally, on your parade. I told guild members Hurricane Matthew is a good example of why trip insurance is a very good idea.

Liz and I are going to stay at the Port of Orleans, French Quarter resort.

It's a moderately priced resort and the theme is New Orleans French Quarter area; heavy on the jazz. I can't wait. They serve beignets at the cafe in the main building.

They won't be the Mickey beignets that the restaurant in the French Quarter of the Magic Kingdom at Disneyland had, but, beignets!

I've needed to make some decisions with regards to what we're going to do so people can plan. I'm arriving on a Saturday, so I've decided my "Eat Around the World" at World Showcase can start then. Liz assures me there will be ample credits from the middle priced food plan and I will be scrambling on the last day to use them up. I remain unconvinced, but, several of us are going to Epcot and will take turns buying snack items to share. I'm planning for needing cash for meals.

We're going to the Halloween party on Sunday evening, to give people a chance to get to WDW. A Halloween party ticket acts like park admission so we can go to the Magic Kingdom as early as 4 pm and get in. Costumes are encouraged, within reason, so we'll have to see what we can do about that. Eighty percent of the rides are open so I expect to cross most of my "must ride" off the list then.

I want a Character Breakfast and a final meal. Those were things I felt were important to me. What people did with the guild wasn't as important as those two things, such as going to the same parks or eating at the same restaurant. But people were coming in and leaving on different days so trying to schedule within those constraints was hard. I finally decided, as guild leader, I could pick the dates we'll go, as a guild, to breakfast and dinner and then hope that people can fit those things into their schedule. I also made the decision on where we're going to eat breakfast. Guild members decided they really wanted Goofy at our breakfast so I've settled on the Tusker House in Animal Kingdom on Monday. Look! Goofy!

Dinner is going to be a majority vote decision. Liz and I have looked at a wide variety of places. We're going to pick 4 and offer them to the group, with plusses and minuses for each place. Then, we'll let the group decide and that's where we'll go. We're going to do that on Friday night. I leave a week after arriving.

Also in my sights are a foot and leg massage, a Steam Train Tour, a fireworks cruise and game night on Wednesday night, where everyone will come to the French Quarter, if they aren't already staying there, and we'll play games. My feeling is that it's their money and outside of a few suggested things, they should spend it however they want. They don't have to come to anything I arrange. I hope they do, but it's not required. I feel requiring things takes all the fun out a special vacation like this. Ben and Natalie are engaged and may use this as their honeymoon. If they do, we have plans, oh boy. Wendy is going to rent a scooter as she has an issue walking a lot and you will walk, a lot. We've already decided to trick out her scooter.

So, that's the current savings goal. It's been kind of an expensive year so I'm very glad we decided to do this in October of next year. It's going to be such a fun time.

Beverage:  Cookies and Cream hot cocoa


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Things I See

Back in July, there was a rather large inspection project which started right when I got back from my Virginia vacation. Divided into two halves, I did the bulk of the inspection work which encompassed the Columbarium at Bohemian National Cemetery and a lot of homes on the far east end of the project. I've been in a lot of homes over my 16 years of doing this and I've seen a lot of stuff; some good, some bad, some horrible, some extremely interesting. I'm going to file this under the "I remember that" heading.

If you are a certain age, this might be vaguely familiar to you. The rest of you are going "Oh...my...god." Sears sold this wall paper at the end of the 60's and into the first couple of years of the 70's. I walked into her kitchen, where this is located, took one look and said one word, "Beatles". She gasped and said, "How do you know?" Truthfully, I don't know myself how I knew but I knew this was a) from Sears and b) inspired by the psychedelic phase of the Beatles, where Peter Max and Yellow Submarine reigned.

It was hard to put it up because it is plasticized. I remember Sears marketing this as easy to remove, back when removing wallpaper generally involved giving up and painting over it. You would not believe how many houses I find where that was the method decided upon to change the wall colors; paint over the wall paper because you couldn't get it off the wall.

The homeowner was living in the house her parents bought when they were newlyweds.  The original kitchen wall paper was yellowing and was stained in places with grease, but her parents weren't interested in removing it. "If you want to change the wallpaper," she remembers mom telling her, "you have to buy the new stuff, take down the old and put up the new on your own. I'm not helping because I don't care if it ever changes." She said she was fresh out of college, working in downtown Chicago at her very first job. She went to the Sears store on State Street, which was the flagship store of the whole chain and paged through the wallpaper books. She was a huge Beatles fan and Sears had a line of wallpapers inspired by the Beatles. She measured and bought enough, with one of her first paychecks, to redo the kitchen. This was in 1972.

The thing about this wallpaper, because it's plasticized, it wears like iron. I saw no fading anywhere and there is a big east window to the left. Oh there are corners which have come undone over the years but a little rubber cement will push those back into place. Grease and stains wipe right off it.

She said she sometimes thinks that she should pull it down and redo the kitchen, "...with maybe more tasteful wallpaper or, perhaps, just paint." She looked around. "But there is something about walking into this room and feeling like it's 40 years ago and I was so excited to show my parents that I could be responsible and do something for the house. How kind they were to let me put this up when I know my mother thought I was nuts. It's a link to them."

Perhaps, if she wanted to, she could pull it down and sell it on eBay for a princely sum. We looked at a seam which had come loose and it seems that a slow tug would get each strip off the wall in one piece. "You probably could make a lot of money since this kind of thing is worth a lot," I agreed. "But what would you lose in the process?" She smiled. "You get it," she said. This wallpaper represents something much more, something that repainting in a lovely buttercup yellow isn't going to capture.

Beverage:  Water


Got Me

I'm working on a long-term project. I won't start in earnest until the after-Christmas sales, but we'll say it involves a Halloween costume pattern and fabric. As Halloween patterns are on sale right now PLUS I had coupons, I entered JoAnn Fabrics last Sunday with the blinders on to get one pattern and one pattern only.

Yeah, that didn't go so well.

The cat print was on the end of a row of splashy Halloween fabric. The way this particular store is laid out, you're going to see brightly colored, distinctive fabrics when you walk in. In the store where I take my stuff to be framed, I would not have seen this, but I wasn't going all the way up there for a pattern, when I knew my local JoAnn's would have it.

I resisted for about 10 minutes. I actually had to pull up the costume pattern and look at it, to make sure it will do what I need to have done. And then I started paging through the Simplicity book, looking at shirts. I have an ancient camp shirt pattern which I've used for a wide variety of shirts, but I had no idea how much material it took and there was nothing like it in any of the books. There was one shirt I liked mainly because of the location of the pockets. But the variation I really wanted, long torso and elbow-length sleeves, did not have a fabric amount on the back. I'm no good at estimating the amount of fabric needed. Here was this kimono-themed jacket. It's not lined and it's reasonably simple to assemble. There was a variation for contrasting trim. I liked the look of the pattern.

Now, Pam was not around to talk me out of this purchase. I was running errands on this date; groceries, Target, JoAnn, cat food. Probably, both the pattern and the fabric will be around at the end of December, but I could make this and have it for my trip to Virginia at the end of November. I'm going to do the contrasting trim in black satin. I almost bought blanket edging, instead of the satin, but I wasn't sure how it would work around the neck. The pattern piece is curved to accommodate the neck line. Blanket satin is not.

So, I am testament to the power of putting eye-catching items on the end of a row. The gal helping me liked this material as much as I did. I could see this as a vest with a quilted lining, since you can buy quilted fabric now. Add a gold shirt and a bow tie, topping the look off with a top hat and a cane, and you have a Halloween costume. I'd probably wear the vest year-round.

I need to make room on the table in the living room to cut this out and get it made. We won't talk about the boxes of fabric in the closet.

Beverage:  Water


Oh Heck No

I was nearly out of cereal so a saunter down that aisle of the grocery was in order. I tend to buy what's on sale although not all the time. Cheerios seems to be perennially on the sale list in a variety of sizes but, as much as I like Cheerios, I'm not interested in eating only little oat circles. I'll look for one box of something interesting and buy a couple of boxes of sale stuff.

It's fall. When did that happen? Man, I could have thought we'd just gotten through July and here it is, the first week of October. Trying to make the memories and time last seems to speed it up. But fall brings apples and, horrifically, pumpkin. In addition to the large squashes placed strategically by the entry to the grocery, pumpkin-flavored this and that is in almost every aisle, even in cereal. Have you see these?

Now, you know I will eat things just so you don't have to, but, folks, I'm drawing the line, right here, right now. Nope. No way. I like both Special K and Mini-Wheats, but there is just no way I'm buying either of those in a pumpkin flavor to try them. You do know neither of these is flavored with real pumpkin, right? These are chemically created pumpkin flavors. There's no health benefit from real pumpkin here. It's another way to part you from your hard earned greenbacks. Be strong. Don't succumb. 

That being said, I might, if it goes on sale, try the apple cinnamon Special K. I'm old enough to remember when Post put out cereals in square boxes. Designed, they said, to fit better into a cupboard, they had freeze dried fruit in them. I remember apples and strawberries for sure. I can't find when they came out or what were some of the names of the cereal but I remember them in our pantry. It was situated under the stairs to the second floor and the shelves were not very wide. The square boxes were a boon to us and we could have a variety of cereals and not have them take up as much space. Alas, consumers thought the change to the shape equalled a change in the amount contained in a box and these disappeared after 3-4 years. Freeze dried fruit bits have never really gone away so I expect the apple cinnamon's fruit will be the same kind of thing. 

I read an article last month which said manufacturers introduce dozens of new cereals every year. You might think your grocery has all of them, but quite a few are for specific regions of the country and you won't see them. Cereal is a very cutthroat business and manufacturers don't make a lot of money on a box. This is why many cereal producers snapped up beverages, pastas sauces and crackers. With food trends heading toward non-GMO's and protein, you can expect to see more, not less, specialty cereals vying for space on the shelves. 

If only they'd bring back Kaboom. 

Beverage:  Water


Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Place of Repose and a Ghost

July was partially consumed with the first stage of a very large project. There were a lot of inspections in this stage and even more will be scheduled for October. One of the inspections was of this building.

This is the back side of the Columbarium at Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago. For those who don't know what a columbarium is, this is the dictionary definition: "a sepulchral vault or other structure with recesses in the walls to receive the ashes of the dead." The building was built in 1915 and it, as well as the entire cemetery, are on the National Register of Historic Places. I went here last year to research how much we'd have to inspect of this place.

It's exceedingly peaceful, although it's bounded by two heavily traveled roads. While driving around the cemetery, I discovered this was the burial area for most of the Eastland disaster victims. I talked about that in post from a year ago. In the west hallway of the main floor, there is a framed replica of the newspaper.

The building itself is two floors with restrooms and cemetery facilities in the basement floor. The dome, resplendent with its terra cotta tiled roof,

is adorned on the inside with painted plaster and gold leaf. 

There are 8 marble columns, two in each cardinal direction "corner".

While the plaster is cracked, the painted decorations around the dome area are still in excellent shape.

The building is not air conditioned and has suffered water damage from leaks. The dome shows signs of wear, but the original builders were very astute in designing and building a structure which has held up exceptionally well for over 100 years.

There are 8 stained glass windows around the dome. They are all the same.

I couldn't see anything wrong with the windows, although, admittedly, they were at the equivalent of the third floor from where I stood.

I've never been in a place like this so it was an honor to do the inspection. This is the entry to the east columbarium.

There were 4 areas inside the building where ashes could be stored. This is the oldest of the 4 locations.

Left side of the arch.

Right side of the arch.

I had to inspect this hallway. The west side is just like this but it doesn't have the ornate arch. The hallway is lined with carved wood "shelves", for lack of a better word. There are rows and rows of niches in which urns containing ashes are placed. Most had some other things in the niche with the urn; dried flowers, photos, death notice. There was a plaque inside the niche giving name, birth and death dates. The oldest urn was dated 1916, but I admit I felt it disrespectful to look at all the urns. A few were empty, leading me to wonder if there is a storage fee one has to pay, even on those long buried. What if you're the last of your family? Or were the urns removed because family no longer wanted them here or were moving and wanted to take great-aunt Bernice with them? Would those niches ever be used for more recent burials?

This particular hallway had etched glass windows.

As befitting the name "Bohemian", these panes represent eastern European fraternal societies. They were instrumental in getting the cemetery plotted and getting the columbarium built. As my mother and her mother's family are from the Czech Republic, I felt a particular kinship with this place. Many of those buried here were Jewish.

It's a gorgeous building.

It's one of those places where, if I could just win a very large sum of money in the lottery, I would approach them about an endowment to rehabilitate the building, add air conditioning, fix the leaks and the broken plaster that came with them, renovate the bathrooms and leave a legacy to keep this place functioning. It wasn't creepy at all to be in the place, even after I processed what happened as I was finishing the interior inspection.

I was in the room where the arch leading to the east hallway is located. This room has extensive water damage to the plaster wall behind me as I'm looking at the arch in the photos above. When we walk into a room, we start to the immediate left and work our way, clockwise around the room, giving walls a number and noting what kind of damage, if any, we see on the wall. I had progressed to the wall opposite the arch. I had finished the west hallway and had left the middle hallway for last, as it was double the size of the west and east hallway. It's also the main entrance into the building. You walk up these stairs,

through those doors visible at the top of the stairs, into an alcove and then into the main hallway lined with niches. This hallway is two stories tall with recessed and ambient lighting. I've set the stage here for what comes next.

I'm looking south, not that the direction matters. To my right is the entrance into this room. Next to this room is a wide stairway heading down and the ceiling between the entry and the dome area. There are columns at the east and west side of this area. This is the column near the room where I was.

The name of the donor of the column is on this face. You can see the intricate and beautiful painting on the column. The direction of this photo would have you looking into the dome area. You can barely make out some of the marble columns in that area. To the right, out of sight, is the entry hallway and the west hallway.

I was completely alone on this level. The head of maintenance had turned on all the lights and left. In fact, at the time I was doing this inspection, he said he had things to do in the cemetery and was I okay to be left alone. I rather prefer doing inspections without company. Sometimes people are not real happy when I point out things which are defects and which I need to document. He also would have been bored as ladders and other repair equipment told me they know what needs to be repaired.

We talk into a small tape recorder and describe what we see. I was was talking about the water damage on the south wall and turned, slightly, to the corner of the south and west walls. Out of the corner of my eye, although not really straight corner, I saw a white-haired elderly gentleman in a black suit walk from the main entry hall, make a right and head into the west side hallway. I saw him clearly; white hair, black suit with a white shirt. As my voice sort of echoed in the space, I dropped the pitch so as not to disturb him, and continued with my inspection. When I finished the room, I walked down the east hallway. There wasn't much to see. I documented the etched glass windows and the plaster damage to the ceiling. At the far north end, I realized there was a small alcove with doors leading to the entry alcove. I didn't remember seeing that in the west side. I probably missed it. I needed to make sure I checked it. The north room of the west side had extensive water damage to a corner and the ceiling. It wasn't exactly like the room on the east but there might have been an alcove and I skipped it. It had taken me 10 minutes to inspect this hallway.

I walked out of the east hallway and cautiously approached the west hallway. The last thing I want to do is disturb someone who is paying respects. Of course you knew there was no one in that hallway. The little old man was not there. I walked all the way to the end and discovered there wasn't an alcove on the west side. That's why I didn't remember one.

It seemed odd, though, that the man wasn't there. Perhaps, it didn't take him long to pray or whatever and he left via the front door or he could have gone down the west stairs. Ten minutes can be long enough for someone to pay respects and leave, particularly if he used the stairs. Whatever. I inspected the main hallway and then entered the entry alcove. The light wasn't on and the switch I found didn't turn the lights on.

After inspecting the wall with the front doors, I figured I'd crack the door a bit so the bright sunshine would illuminate the room. The doors were locked. This is the inspection photo of the left side of the front door, but you can see the heavy wooden doors on the building. The other thing is, when I went from the west to the east hallway, there was no one in that middle area. I would have seen them because I debated doing the middle hallway before the east but opted to save that since it had the entry alcove with it.

These doors were shut tight. I finished the inspection of the alcove and walked from the north end to even with the hallway. He had been walking not fast but at a good pace. It's possible that he could have gone down the stairs and I wouldn't have seen him leave. There was no sound because the floors in these hallways, are carpeted. I've heard that you can "feel" a ghostly presence because it manifests as a cold spot in an otherwise normal temperature room. It was hot the day of this inspection, so hot, that I'd had to wipe my face on my shirt several times while completing this. The place isn't air conditioned and the air inside was still, close even, you could say. There was no cold spot. There was nothing, other than the sighting of this little old man making a right turn into the west hallway.

I was never scared. It seemed odd, but I finished the stairwells and then did the exterior inspection. It stayed in the back of my mind and I puzzled over how fast the man had to be to leave without my seeing him. It never occurred to me to ask the head of maintenance when I checked out, if there had been anyone in the columbarium. If he was on the other side of the cemetery, he wouldn't have known.

In relating the story to others, I've had people tell me 10 minutes is enough time, even if he'd walked all the way down to the end in the west hallway, to pay a modicum of respect and leave the building via the stairs. It's possible I think it took 10 minutes, but it actually took longer so there would have been plenty of time for someone to leave. He could have been more agile than I think which would have allowed him to move faster. He would have known where I was since my voice, even dropped in pitch, echoed and I was embarrassed to disturb his contemplation.

Another theory is one advanced by a number of science-fiction buffs and which was explored in Star Trek: The Next Generation. This theory says there are any number of realities, all co-existing on top of one another. A ghost is not a manifestation of someone passed, this theory says. It is that person's reality intruding upon someone else's reality. This means that in another reality, this man is alive and walking into the columbarium through open doors to pay his respects to someone in the west hallway or to arrange to have someone placed there or any number of reasons he was in that spot at that time. His reality, for the brief 10-15 seconds I saw him, intruded upon my reality. He never turned to look at me although I find it hard that if he were "real", he wouldn't have known I was there; that whole "echoing voice" thing. When I saw him, he was walking, determinedly, toward the west hallway.

I'm down to Occam's Razor now. I've rather eliminated the idea that he went down the stairs, given that he came from the main entry. I also don't think he could have moved fast enough to get down the stairs without me seeing him. The only caveat would be if he visited someone in the very first room of the west hallway. Still, that seems an awfully short amount of time to say hello to grandma. I also think I would have heard him or some noise as the stairs were worn marble and not carpeted. Could he have been in the front alcove, which was dark, and I missed seeing him because he was in a black suit? Possibly, but why be in an area where the doors were locked. There would be no purpose to standing in the alcove. And no, I didn't see anyone come up the stairs the entire time I was inspecting the dome.

If my presence bothered him, he could have gone into the dome area and just sat or sat in the south or north rooms of the west hallway and waited for me to leave. He could have asked me to leave and come back at a later time. I would have said, "I've got stairs left and then I'll be heading outside. If you like, I'll wait on the west stairs until I've finished the exterior." I never saw him in that hallway.

So, [cue Twilight Zone music], ahead of Halloween, there is your ghost story for the month. I still ponder this even though I've decided I did see a ghost. I've since discovered that Bohemian has a reputation for being the least haunted of all Chicago cemeteries, even given it's the final resting place for Eastland victims. As I said, I was never scared and am not scared at the memory. It's interesting, to me, to feel that a man loved someone so much, he comes back to visit them even after he's passed on.

Beverage:  Water


The End of Summer

So many photos with stories to tell. It's been quite a summer; quite a year. I'm going to start here and move backwards and probably sideways and maybe forward. One never knows where the road will go.

After last year's washer replacement, I took at look at my other appliances. The refrigerator was probably the next target. The seal around the door had, for years, not been flush with the upper left and right corners. The upper left corner allowed warm air to seep inside, particularly during the summer. It would condense and "rain" occasionally onto the items on the left side. Usually, this happened when you opened the door to reach in for something. When I bought yogurt, it went on the upper left shelf and the tops of the containers were always wet. Mold would, occasionally, grow on the upper right corner of the door because there was a semi-sealed environment with warmth and moisture. I was cleaning the door and the roof at the upper left of the fridge 3-4 times per week.

The lights would short out because of all this moisture. I haven't had an interior light in months. I bought a replacement bulb in the spring, installed it (That was an adventure.) and it lasted 3 weeks before there was a fizzle one day when I opened the door. It was then that I realized there were 2 bulbs in the fridge, one at the front left and one at the back right. Well, I'll get around to replacing both of them.

And the seal at the lower left of the door wasn't flush anymore. Chilly air would seep out, since cold air is heavier than warm air and would cause mold to grow on the bottom corner of the fridge. I didn't see that until this summer when I dropped a bottle of seltzer and it sprayed all over the floor. What's this on the side of my fridge? Ewwwww.

We bought it in 1993. I would say I have gotten my money's worth from it. It wasn't quite level but that's also a product of a 1953-built house and the floor in that location isn't quite level. It has served this family and me well, but it had started to run a lot more than in the past. It was simply dying, albeit slowly, but dying nonetheless.

I'd read where appliances are cheapest at Memorial Day. Also, the time to replace the fridge is before you need it. I intended to buy one over Memorial Day weekend, but life intervened and I didn't have the funds. I limped along. It wasn't quitting on me, just running more and more. That could be chalked up to the loose seal and the summer temperatures and, perhaps, it would stabilize once fall got here. But I kept looking in the event there was some deal which would be too good to pass up. Enter Labor Day.

JC Penney, of all places, is starting to sell appliances. They had a Labor Day sale. I compared the above fridge with other places that sell it and Penney's had the best price, including free delivery. I had to pay $15 to haul the old one away. Then, I got an additional 10% off the price because I used my JC Penney card AND because I'm an "exceptional customer" (Not sure why. I don't buy that much stuff from them.) I got 18 months no-interest. As I intend to pay this off by Christmas, or sooner, the no-interest made the whole purchase that much sweeter. It was delivered yesterday.

I couldn't remember whether we brought the old one in the front or the back. They went around back and determined they had to take the old one out the front because it's bigger than the new one. It seems the freezer space is the same, but the fridge space is smaller. Yet, I don't need all that space. When I was cleaning out the old one, I found sour cream way in the back of the fridge with expiration dates of 2012 and 2013. Stuff is less likely to go to the back and be forgotten in the new fridge.

They tried to bring the new one in the back because it's smaller but it just wouldn't fit between the wall for the basement stairs and the corner of the sink. In the process, they bumped the paper towel holder which has a shelf on it and down it came. It turns out the unit, which was wood, had developed a soft spot on the shelf right where the dish soap usually sits. At some point, I would have set a bottle of soap back on the shelf and it would have fallen through. Plus, there was a section of wall behind the unit which had bubbling in the paint. I've scraped that off and ordered a new unit, almost identical to the old unit. I need to paint the rear entry now. Remember when I bought the paint? Um...yeah. It still sits under the kitchen table.

They also knocked off the wall, one of the spice racks I've had for decades.

My dad made two of these. Simple construction. I think he made a bunch to sell at flea markets, too. This one was held up by one screw in the middle of the unit. The two screws on the end didn't work anymore. The unit which fell was above this. I have a smaller unit on the wall next to the microwave. It was the template dad used to make these two units which are almost twice as long.

I don't use spices much anymore. I don't cook much anymore. Yesterday, after the guys left and I was putting things back, I looked at the spices off the rack that fell. Some of them had Eagle grocery store price labels on them. I don't remember when Eagle left Chicagoland, but they haven't been here in a very long time. Some of the spices had no scent. Some were discolored. Some were hardened.

I knew I needed to replace spices. There are recommendations to replace some every 6 months, but there is a part of me that screams, "Money down the drain!" whenever I'd look at these. Quite a few were purchased for one or two recipes and never used again. These bay leaves aren't even green.

I had an unopened bottle of curry powder. "Best used by 4-20-02." I don't remember the last time I made curry. I love the smell of curry and turmeric, particularly when cooked. The last spice I bought was in July and it was ground cloves. It's to keep the cats out of the house plants. They don't like the smell of cloves.

Looking over all of these, I decided part of tidying up is to critically assess household staples. If I haven't used allspice in 25+ years, why am I holding onto a tin of it, a tin with rusted edges? I had some berries which needed to go to the compost pile. I would dump the old spices into the bowl, haul the bowl to the compost pile and I'd have the best smelling compost pile in the neighborhood.

All the plastic, glass and metal containers and their lids have gone into the recycling can. I have, currently, 6 spices on the rack next to the microwave. I want to move that rack. It's never been in a great position. I took down the one rack left and will add them to the recycling can. They are wood, after all. I found a rack I liked on Amazon and it's going where the wood ones were. Then I will take down the one that's on the wall by the microwave. So I have to walk a few steps for the cinnamon. It will be more convenient in the long run.

The last thing to do is sort through all the stuff that was on top of the fridge and was on the kitchen table. I moved all of it to a table in the office. The kitchen table was tipped up on an edge to make room for the movement of fridges.

Unfortunately, this room has become something of a dumping ground. I have stacks and piles of things to look through and make decisions on. I walk in with every intention of doing a little bit, get overwhelmed and walk out. I tell myself to just pick one pile and sort through it. I can't find my note cards to write letters to friends. They are somewhere in here.

I've cleared off half of this table. I had a lot of magnets on the old fridge. I'm not sure I want to put them back. With the new fridge being shorter, I can now, easily, reach the cabinets above it. That Dutch Oven on the table, can go back into the cupboard. Cat dishes will still be on top of the fridge and I keep my peanut butter on top of the fridge. It's my go-to meal when I'm too tired to cook.

I watched them take away the old fridge. It occurs to me the only appliance I have left from when I was married is the stove. That doesn't seem like it's having problems. The oven still heats to temp and the burners still come on and heat evenly. It was purchased in 1991. I thought, "Well, I should replace that next year", but, realistically, do I need to? It's not giving me problems.

So, summer ends with a new appliance. Heading into fall, this is a good thing. I would hate to have to figure out the fridge doesn't go through the back door when it's 15 degrees out.

Beverage:  La Croix Berry Seltzer