Thursday, March 27, 2008
It's been a tough few months for me. I've neglected a number of things that are important. Unfortunately, my computer took a serious crash a few weeks ago and even though I had everything backed up I lost a ton of stuff including an enormous amount of email that was sent to me during the middle of January and early February. So if I have not responded to anyone please email me again and I'll do my best to catch up with correspondence and business. In particular I had been speaking with a dentist in Canada about a number of interesting projects and if that individual can email me again I would appreciate it. At any rate my computer crashed five times. Finally I took it back to the place where it had been purchased and they, for $300, rebooted the beast and checked it for all kinds of problems. When I picked it up they said everything was fine but failed to mention that I had to reinstall all of the software. Needless to say that for me, reinstalling software (I don't even know what it is) is a serious problem. Finally, I called my old computer guru Norman and he mercifully found time to come over and take control of the nightmare. After spending quite a bit of time, Norman, who I greatly respect, informed me that my very expensive custom made computer was, in reality, a piece of junk (it had nine different interior fans to keep the thing from overheating) and needed to be replaced. Norman called the store where it was purchased and after asking a few simple questions and receiving several insults from the store owner simply hung up the phone with a polite "thank you". I would have told them to go screw themselves. But Norman is more socially sophisticated than me!
That afternoon I purchased a greatly updated computer and spent considerable time trying to restore data. Those of you who both depend and rely on computers understand the angst and frustration they cause when they fail. Nonetheless, my new system is up and running and I'm back in business.
I should also mention that I have not maintained or updated my website in quite a while. Right now I have about thirty new pieces of furniture in my gallery and beginning next week we plan on redesigning the site and adding many new images. So sit tight and check back with us soon!
In my last newsletter I mentioned the LAKESIDE LIVING EXPO that will be held in New Hampshire the third weekend in July. Response to the show has been quite impressive. Several major furniture builders will be exhibiting there as well as many other exhibitors who offer services and products related to rustic lifestyles. I have been involved in several major projects in the Lake Winnipesaukee area and the quality of the area and the homes being constructed and/or refurbished is quite impressive. Individuals who offer quality products and services would do well to exhibit at this show. Personally, I've taken three booths at this show and will be offering impressive pieces by Barney Bellinger and other builders as well. I'll also be signing books and giving a presentation/slide show about rustic design in the evening. I'll also be bringing a few musical instruments with me and lamp builder Bob Stump and I will be providing musical entertainment throughout the day! Contact Blair Anthony at 518 479 EXPO for more information.
I also feel the need to mention the LAKE, HOME AND CABINS SHOW that is held each year in three different locations, including Madison, Wisconsin, Minneapolis, MN and Chicago, Ill. In the past I've exhibited at two of these shows and did well at each. In all honesty I would exhibit at these shows again but my crazy schedule has me running all over the place trying to finish up a few books I've been working on. Nonetheless, for more info on the LAKE, HOME AND CABINS SHOWs call please call 1.952.471.1192
And if you're a consumer looking for products or services related to rustic living you'll find attending these shows educational and productive. And you'll meet some really great people as well!
In February, coinciding with my daughter's school vacation, we spent eight days in Key West. I love it down there. I've been visiting the Keys for more than thirty years and feel very comfortable visiting there during warm weather. The flights down were non eventful and we picked up a great rental vehicle for the ride down from West Palm Beach. In general we stop at all the local tourist spots as well as the Bird Rehabilitation Center, Roby's, where, for a few bucks you can buy a can of dead fish and feed the monster tarpon, and several marinas where we have lunch and check out the fishing boats as they come and go.
For the past several years we've stayed at the Ambrosia House in Key West. It's an old conch Inn that's been completed rehabbed. The two small pools are heated and the lush vegetation is a sight for sore eyes. They have several cats and "Pinky", one of several felines, adopted us and slept peacefully with us in our room throughout our stay. On the morning of our first day my daughter woke me with the disturbing news that a policewoman was inspecting our rental vehicle. So without delay I put on my shoes, went outside and asked if there was a problem.
"Is this your vehicle, sir?"
"Yes it is, but it's a rental that I picked up in West Palm Beach yesterday", I casually said. I politely gave her the rental agreement which she carefully inspected. After speaking with her office via her radio the following conversation took place.
"I need to see your license, sir"
"No problem", I said as I handed it to her.
"Sir, the license plates on this car are registered to a different vehicle. And the registration for this vehicle is out of date. This is an arrestable offense, sir".
And of course as soon as she mentioned "arrest" my daughter started crying. And I could feel my blood pressure begin to rise. There are some people in the world that you can talk to and others you cannot. This officer was as stone cold as Mt. Everest. Not a smile cracked her face. She was all business and her demeanor indicated that she was accustomed to dealing with hardened criminals. It always makes me nervous when I see a police officer with their hand on their gun.
"Ma'am", I said politely, "I rented the vehicle in West Palm Beach and this is what they gave me. I'm being completely honest and we're just tourists trying to enjoy ourselves. I've given you all of the paperwork and I'm not hiding anything."
She spoke for several more minutes with someone at her office. I did not know what was going to happen but I really didn't want to post bail. My daughter was still crying and asking me questions like "are we going to jail?" I did my best to assure my daughter that this was just a misunderstanding and that we were not to blame.
"Sir, we're very concerned about this. It appears that the license plates on your vehicle are registered to a different car and, as I said before, the registration on this vehicle is expired."
And a half hour after the "incident" began the officer calmly looked me right in the eye and said "I would get this taken care of immediately if I were you." With that she handed me my paperwork and left. Then the fun started.
Try explaining the above incident to a recording machine at the place you rented the vehicle from. Actually just try getting a real person on the end of the line. I hate recording machines. I can't stand them. I hate being put on hold. I don't want to try a different extension. I don't want to call another number or a different office. I want to talk with a real person. I don't want a god damned answering machine. I swear that people take classes on how to insult customers, how to ruin their day and make their customers miserable. Two and a half hours later I finally got to talk with a person and even then they could not believe what I was telling them. If they spoke English maybe they could understand But NOOOOOO.
But let me offer a suggestion. All someone has to do is at least acknowledge that I was having a hard time. Don't tell me it's not your fault. Don't disagree with me when I'm upset. Just say something like "it sounds like you're having a hard time with this" or "I bet its tough for you right now"….please don't yell at me or put me on hold while you go on a god damned coffee break or work on your god damned finger nails.
OK, Ok, OK I'll calm down. Finally I called a local vender for the parent company and explained the situation. A half hour later he delivered a crummy car that stunk like cigarette smoke to my hotel. He didn't look me in the eye or anything. He just handed me more paper work, the keys and drove off in the unlicensed, unregistered vehicle. I hope he was hit by a god damned truck. I hope his entire company files for bankruptcy. And I hope that each of the company's employees is denied unemployment compensation.
Once he left my daughter and I went to the local ice cream shop where I ate three large hot fudge sundaes and half of a key lime pie. The sundaes were great but the pie left a lot to be desired.
I dearly love Key West. I really do. As soon as we enter the Keys I buy a twenty pound bag of cat food and feed the cats that seem to be all over the place. And in truth, I really do get up before the sun pops up and wander through the old section of Key West feeding the cats…and the wild chickens! It's a goofy thing to do but we love the animals and it's a great father/daughter thing to do.
I fished three times while I was there. One morning my daughter and I went out with a guide a few miles off the island. At first, just to keep my daughter entertained, we fished for smaller fish and caught several. But soon dark shadows appeared and kept coming closer and closer to the boat. The guide, a young guy, told me not to put my hands in the water because the shadows were sharks. And nasty ones at that!
Well it was apparent that fishing for little guys was over. The guide put a dead fish in the end of my daughter's line and tossed it overboard. Not five seconds later she was holding on for dear life as a seven foot lemon shark had eaten her bait. And so for the next hour we did battle with the monster as other sharks gathered to watch the commotion. Finally we got the beast to the boat and the captain asked if I wanted to unhook the thing. "Not a chance", was my reply. After a few minutes the captain removed the hook as the shark twisted and fought the indignities of capture and seduction.
A few minutes later I thought it might be a good idea to catch a shark on my fly rod. So without much thought we rigged my rod with a steel leader and five seconds later I was battling an eight foot shark. In truth the first ten minutes are quite exciting but after that it was nothing less than boring. My fly rod, a ten weight, proved to be insufficient to handle the beast. What I really needed was a stout broom stick. But nearly two hours later we unhooked the shark and watched him swim off. I nearly collapsed in the boat as both my daughter and I were exhausted. After looking at each other for a few minutes we called it a day and returned to the warm waters of our hotel swimming pool. It was a grand day, one that I'll long remember.
The following afternoon I fished with a different guide until well past dark. As the sun set I hooked up with a hundred pound tarpon that exploded a few feet from the boat and scared the bejesus out of me. He jumped several times and succeeded in soaking me as his tremendous body crashed in the water just feet from the platform on which I was standing. As it grew dark he towed us further and further out to sea. In time the lights from Key West dimmed and I worried greatly about being out of sight of land, especially since it was now dark.
The ocean that night was a strange place. There was no wind and no waves. Strange creatures jumped from the water and the silent radiance of luminescent creatures sent an eerie glow in areas of complete darkness. Sea turtles occasionally poked their heads up near the boat and I could pick out spy satellites on their north/south journey toward the poles as they kept watch on us mere mortals.
Occasionally the great fish on the end of my line rose to the surface and took line from my reel that I had worked so hard to retrieve. Two hours passed. I hoped that the great fish was as tired as I. As I fought the fish I thought of how fast time was traveling and that my life was now just a blur. I thought of the friends of mine who had died and I wondered who would be next. I thought of my business and was thankful that I had had the opportunity to meet as many incredible people as I had. I thought of how few really close friends I had at that moment and I wished that some of them were with me on the small boat in the ocean. All things end, I thought, and I hoped that my own life could go on for many years. It had only been in the past few years that I've really appreciated what I've become and who I am. Not bad for an inner city kid from Chicago who flunked algebra four times in high school I thought to myself.
In time the great fish grew weary and I was able to turn him to the boat. I could see his slivery sides as the guide shown his spot light in the direction of the great fish. A half hour later I had the fish near the boat. Just as the guide reached down to grab him a sudden burst of terror and energy tore through the fish and he exploded breaking the silence of the night. I felt great gratitude toward him but as I watched him swim off I wished that I had been able to remove the hook that was still in his jaws. I only wanted to make a few photos of him before he was released back to the sea but the broken line prevented me from removing the hook and snapping a few photos before he left. It was a grand evening and left me with memories that will be told to friends over the years. It is surprising that an event that lasted nearly five hours could be told in just a few sentences. And the words I would speak would never convey the passion and intensity of the experience. The event would be mine and mine alone to enjoy over the years.
The rest of the week went well. In truth, I use most of my time on these vacations to finish my books and for probably five hours each day I edit images, write text and captions and tried to keep up with business. I was able to take a nap on one day and the rest of the time I swam with my family, visited the butterfly museum and in general took in the culture of the island.
While there we really enjoy dining at the "down and dirty" places. We like the places that offer local flavor. One place that we had heard of was THE BLUE HEAVEN. Located away from the "tourist areas" we first tried driving there but could not find a parking place. The second night we got to within a block of the place by walking. Unfortunately a very serious fist fight broke out in front of the building and I wisely departed with my family before entering. And I did call 911to let them know of the battle.
But I was not to be denied. The following evening we again walked to the restaurant and were thrilled to be seated almost immediately! The ambiance was nothing less than extraordinary. I enjoyed petting the cats that relaxed on the chairs, stairs and on the ground nestled snugly in the roots of trees. The chickens seemed to like our company as well. We tossed bread crumbs to them and they scratched the dirt floors looking for the morsels we offered. In truth, we enjoyed the food and ambiance so much that we ate there three times during our stay!
In the morning I took a shower and noticed a rash on my face. I promised myself that I would apply extra sun screen before I went fishing that day. The following morning the rash was more pronounced. I chose to just ignore it for the time being. I assumed it was just a reaction to something and that it would clear up in a day or two.
Our remaining time in Key West was nothing less than a blessing. The weather was great, the greenery was lush and the time spent with my family was something that words cannot convey.
The first leg of the flight home was uneventful. The second leg, from Washington, DC to Albany, was more interesting. I asked the attendant at the terminal if the flight was overbooked and she indicated that it was. Because flying is so expensive today we often volunteer to take a later flight in exchange for free airplane tickets at a later date. As boarding for the flight proceeded several people were denied access to the plane. Tragically at least eight individuals stood next to gate in tears and near hysterics when they were told that they could not board the plane even thought they had paid for seats. Apparently many of these passengers were traveling to Albany to take the Bar Exam the following morning. And unfortunately there were no further available flights that day. I approached the group and offered the suggestion that they should all rent a van and drive the seven hours to Albany. That suggestion was quickly nixed because they all said that they would be too tired from the trip to take the exam in the morning. One, not -so-bright individual suggested that they return home and retake the test in June when it would again be offered. That suggestion was immediately rejected.
So without further delay I offered my three seats and was given a hotel for the evening and tickets to Albany the following day. We were also given three free tickets to be used anywhere in the country. And in time other passengers realized the seriousness of the problem and gave up their seats as well. Finally, after all of the tears, threats of lawsuits and emotional outbursts all of the student lawyers got on the plane and took off for Albany. And I really do hope that they all pass the bar exam! And once they do I hope they file all kinds of law suits against the airline industry for overbooking, unsafe air planes, and overcrowding!
Upon my return to Lake George I visited my MD. That afternoon I started a three week regime of chemotherapy. The cancerous growths on my face had spread with a vengeance. As I write this I am in my second week of chemotherapy. I had the same procedure nearly twenty years ago and it was not fun. Its three weeks of treatment and then another month to heal. In essence an acidic cream that attacks cancerous and pre cancerous cells is applied to the affected area twice daily for two to three weeks. The first week is tolerable. But then the acid in the cream burns away your skin and it's quite painful. It's like applying a red hot spoon to your skin. It's also quite horrible looking. If you want to see what it looks like go to the following: http://www.sannerud.com/people/efudex/
I should mention that the individual in the website is not me. At the same time I actually admire the guy for posting the images on the web. And if anyone is interested I look about twice as bad as he does and it will get much worse before I get better.
A week into the experience I made the mistake of thinking that it really was nothing. I had made arrangements a month prior to photograph a few homes in Montana and meet with some business associates out there as well. In truth, I probably should not have gone.
My flight out was strange. It was a small plane and almost a full flight. I was thrilled that no one was sitting next to me. A few minutes after takeoff an attendant asked if I minded if someone in the rear could sit next to me and if I could please take the window seat. Apparently the individual in the rear was having a serious panic attack and needed an aisle seat near the front to calm down. Frankly, I wasn't happy about it but I said OK. At that moment I really didn't need an emotional individual who was having an anxiety attack sitting next to me. But it turned out OK. The woman was actually as psychologist and we talked for nearly three hours about all kinds of great stuff. When we got off the plane in Minneapolis she hugged me and thanked me for saving her life! Apparently she hates airplanes and I didn't blame her one bit! I should also mention that it was interesting to see a licensed, professional psychotherapist exhibiting real fear and not living up to the overstated image of mental health professionals as the paragon of mental health!
And so I spent the week in Montana photographing homes and sitting in on meetings. Of course the homes were gorgeous and the people I met with were charming and entertaining. The only hard part is sitting in hotel rooms in the evening. In the summers I go fishing but to spend twelve or fourteen hours in a room by myself is not pleasant. In truth it's very lonely and I missed my family greatly. And all the while the drugs I was applying to my face was taking their toll. Some of the side effects of the chemicals are irritability, mental confusion, emotional outbursts, sleeplessness and other stuff. In truth, the side effects are no different from how I usually am so I just didn't pay much attention to it.
The flights home were interesting. I am now convinced that both beauty and ugliness draws attention. Since at that point I fell in the latter category I was not surprised and not all that pleased with the stares I was receiving. And I really didn't know what to think of the attractive lady sitting next to me who felt the need to breast feed her child. I only wished that she would have at least made an attempt to cover her and her newborn so I and the other passengers wouldn't have to look at her. I might have assumed that she would have liked some privacy but I'm probably wrong.
But I look at my present physical problems as a minor inconvenience. It's not life threatening (I hope) and all that I can say is to make certain that you protect yourselves from the sun! But the most uncomfortable thing about it is the stares I get from other people. I really do look horrible and feel worse then I look. People look at me like I have leprosy and I don't blame them in the least. This getting old stuff is for the birds. Right now I think I'll go have some Twinkies and chocolate ice cream to cheer up.
Apart from all that business is quite good. I've been working on several design projects and more books as well. I've seen a few robins in my neighborhood and the thought of spring occasionally passes through my mind. I hope it's not far away. Take care, Ralph