Monthly Archives: December 2010

My New Years Resolution: To become a Famous, Ripped, Best-Selling, Rock Star Amish Furniture Maker

I can’t quite figure out if I like New Years Eve.  Yeah, the parties are usually fun and festive, hanging out with friends, having a few drinks and overeating.  I actually think watching the Times Square ball drop is fun too.  Maybe that’s from my years as a resident of the great state of Long Island… (uh, I mean New York, yeah I know there’s more to NY than just Long Island and NYC… WHATEVER!!)  I have never actually gone to Times Square on a New Years Eve though.  Over a million people packed in there… YIKES… that’s way too big a crowd!

Most people tend to look at the end of the year by focusing on NEXT year.  Ahhh, the new years resolution!  What can I do next year that I fabulously failed at accomplishing this year.  Exercise more, eat less, work more, work less, spend more time doing <insert holistic, mind-fulfilling, life-altering activity here>, spend less time doing <insert sinful, destructive, life-shortening activity here>.

I’ve never made a New Years Resolution (maybe I should start).  What I tend to focus on at the end of each year, especially as I get older is all of the unrealistic accomplishments that I have fabulously not yet accomplished in life.  Can you say “mid-life crisis!”  As I look back, I think;  I haven’t become a famous <insert spectacularly-awesome skill here> yet; I haven’t figured out a way to have enough money to not have to work anymore;  I haven’t figured out how to make a killer living as an Amish furniture maker;  I haven’t figured out how to become a “homesteader” yet still be able to pay my mortgage, keep my blackberry, drive my truck and save for my kids college education;  I haven’t been able to peel away the last layer of abdominal fat and see the six pack of abs I had as a college student; I haven’t come up with the Harry Potteresque storyline to write a series of best selling novels; I haven’t yet found the “idyllic life”  (!

I can hear you saying, “Boy, Steve, those are pretty lofty goals for a New Years Resolution.”  Yes, yes  they are.  But you know what, this is the year… this is the year I will become a Famous, Ripped, Best-Selling, Rock Star Amish Furniture Maker.

I think my odds are pretty good, you know… if I can just put my mind to it!



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Shave and a Haircut? No thanks, I’m having commitment issues!

I got my hair cut yesterday.  Not a very exciting event in my overly exciting life but a necessity nonetheless.  I like getting my hair cut and us guys with short hair need to have it groomed quite frequently, lest we start looking like Tom Brady or Justin Beiber! 

(Sidenote: people often tell me I look like Tom Brady, what do you think?  I only wish I had his athletic skills and money).

Will the real Tom Brady please stand up!

I’ve never really had a barber or a hair stylist that I’ve frequented for a long time.  Often I’ll patronize the same place for a few years, but I never really care about who is actually doing the cutting.  My hair always seems to look okay when they’re done so I haven’t spent too much time courting a relationship with someone.  In hindsight maybe I have “barber” commitment issues!  I can only imagine building up this magnificent, wonderful relationship with a barber (we’ll call him Gus) only to one day, on a whim, decide I want to get my hair cut somewhere else.  How do you break off a relationship with a barber or a hair stylist?  Could that possibly be harder than breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend?  I don’t know.  I guess you just stop showing up… but I live in a small town, what if I bump into Gus in the grocery store or at a school function?

Gus:  Hey Steve, how’s it going?

Steve:  Uh, great, things have been really busy!

Gus:  Great, haven’t seen you in a while.

Steve:  Yeah I’ve been really busy with work, haven’t had much time to get my hair cut.

Gus:  Oh… well it looks pretty short right now.

Steve:  Yeah… uh… well… um… uh, well you know I’ve been trying out a new diet, kind of a vegan thing, sort of, but where I can still eat some meat… and uh, well… uh… I think it is affecting my hair growth.

Gus:  Okay, well good luck with that diet.  If it starts to grow again, well you know where to find me.

Steve:  Okay, see you around Gus.

Wow… see how uncomfortable that would be.  I’ve worked up a sweat just thinking about it!

Lately I have been getting my hair cut in one of the larger suburban towns nearby at a place called SportsClips.  If you’re not familiar with SportsClips it’s a chain-style hair salon for GUYS ONLY and its all full of SPORTS themed paraphernalia, TV’s showing SPORTING EVENTS, and CUTE STYLISTS wearing black and white REFEREE style clothing.  I have to admit they do a nice job so that’s been my latest “hair cut” fling.

I don’t mind getting my hair cut by women.  I’m a pretty stylish guy and somehow I feel they know better how to make my hair look… well, you know… FABULOSO!  A little buzz here, a little snip-snip here, a handful of sticky hair-gel and VOILA… $20.00 and I’m outta here.  Plus, since us macho guys can’t be running around frequenting massage salons and getting our toenails done, getting our haircut is the closest thing to having a “tryst” with a pedicurist and getting a foot rub, and having a cute stylist dressed as a referee is (at least for now) better than some old guy with shaky hands and stale coffee breath.

But I also hope someday to find a great barber shop, where I can go and get a haircut and maybe a straight razor shave and a shot or two of single-malt whiskey and feel like the men of the first 60-70 or so years of the 20th century… before men started, well you know, putting gel in their hair.  The old-fashioned barber shop, with it’s spinning red and white barber pole, is really a lost art and a diminishing cultural institution in this country.  Barbers in the early days used to do all kinds of crazy medical treatments like bleeding people when they had diseases.  In fact, I read somewhere that the red and white barber pole stems from a representation of the bandages used during a bleeding treatment.  Thankfully most barbers are only cutting hair now and even the straight razor shave has been eliminated from most shops because of the liabilities involved with disease transmission if someone were to get cut.  But there are still a lot of great barber shops out there and hopefully that profession will continue to survive as a valued service in small and large towns and cities across the country.

For now though, I’ll continue to drive up to the “burbs” and get my hair cut at SportsClips.  At least until I start to get that relationship “itch” and feel like those “referees” are starting to know me a little too well.   Then, once again, I’ll have to break-up with my barber shop and go out into the world as a “hair bachelor” searching for that elusive stylist who can keep me groomed for a few more years.

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When the moment is right, where's the bathtub?

I don’t understand those Cialis commercials.  Cialis is, you know, one of those erectile dysfunction medications that you see advertised everywhere that your pre-pubescent children are sure to be watching… like during some wholesome movie on the Family Channel, or behind the backstop of a professional baseball game or on the sidebar of their Facebook page.

I understand Erectile Dysfunction.  We’ll actually I don’t really understand it… in fact I can’t imagine that is even a possibility in life.  But I understand that it is a problem that lots of men face and I guess I am glad there are options out there to treat it.  Thankfully I don’t have a problem getting a… uh… you know… uh… yeah… that… 

No, what I don’t understand is the whole bathtub thing.  It’s not even the conundrum that the two people are in separate tubs and clearly not going to be able to consummate any kind of a relationship until one of them climbs into the other’s tub.  I hear people say that all the time, “why aren’t they in the same tub”, with complete disregard to the fact that these folks happen to be sitting in clawfoot tubs that are strategically placed out on their porch or in their garden… or even occasionally out on the beach.

During some renovations of our house several years ago, with my brothers help, I had to carry a clawfoot tub up a set of stairs to our upstairs master bedroom.  Those things are really frickin’ heavy… they are cast iron, you know!  The tub was in the back of my truck having just been at the refinisher’s shop and I had picked it up, and now we had to somehow get it up stairs.  After a few minutes of frightful stalling, we said “what the hell”, each grabbed an end and started carrying it… first to the front door… then through the front door and straight up the stairs.  I don’t remember which one of us was at the front of the tub, walking backwards up the steps, hunched over with our vertebrae ready to give way and feebly grasping the edge with our fingers, hoping that it wouldn’t slip… and which one of us was at the back end of the tub, bearing the brunt of the weight, hoping that the guy at the top wouldn’t let go.  Regardless, we got it upstairs… and in hindsight I don’t think I’ve ever carried anything that heavy that distance.

So, I don’t think the marketing guys at Cialis understand how much a clawfoot tub actually weighs.  And I surely don’t think two people trying to get a little lovin’ are going to lift two of them and place them around their house or out on the deck and especially all the way out to the beach.  C’mon, that’s what lawn chairs are for!


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So why is Brown Road called Brown Road?

Well, because Ralph Brown lived there of course.  We live in an area where we are surrounded by properties that are still actively farmed, and farmed by families that have been in the area for years.  Several of the roads around us are named after residents of the area, many of whom still live in the old homes that have housed generations of their families.  Heikes Road, Lowe Road, to name just a couple… and of course Brown Road.

Our old farm house has a different story.  She was built, we believe, roughly 120+ years ago around the early 1890’s.  From what I can tell the property was once part of a much larger parcel that at one point was cut down to just the three small acres we currently own.  Our house has also been the residence of many familes over the recent decades.  Quite some time ago I spent a  day at the county courthouse building doing a little research on the property transfers that our place had gone through.  We have lived there now for roughly 15-16 years and are the longest residents since the 1970’s.  I don’t have an answer to why that is, I can only speculate that circumstances for many of the families for many years forced the residents to move on.  The folks we purchased the home from back in 1995 claimed that they had seen and experienced several instances of a ghost in the home, an elderly woman dressed in late 1800’s, early 1900’s clothing and at least in one instance, sitting at their kitchen table.  They called her Maggie and although that could surely be a reason for high turnover of a property, we have never seen or met Maggie.  So I guess the 25 or so years of families moving in and out was just an anomoly in the 120+ years of our home’s existance!

But before all that, there was Ralph Brown.  I have done some research on our house and have dug up some interesting tidbits of it’s history.  But I have not been able to find any information on Mr. Brown!  I do know several neighbors that knew him and remember him, and clearly he and his family resided in our home long enough to have the road named after them!  He is also buried down the road in the local cemetery (see image below), but other than that my research on the family has dug up nothing of any significance.  I have asked all the neighbors if they have any old photographs of the Brown’s or photos of the home when they lived there, but have come up empty.  I do know they are not the family that built the home and there is a fascinating history of the family that came before the Brown’s, the folks that I believe built our home, which I will delve into in another post.

Rest in peace Mr. and Mrs. Brown

Until then, I still revel in the idea that we live on Brown Road, named after this elusive character named Ralph Brown.  As time permits, I’ll keep digging, trying to find some information about this fellow and his family who were the caretakers of our old home for so many years.  Now we are the caretakers and are making our own history.  Perhaps someday we’ll live there long enough that they change the road’s name to “Warner Road”!

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Looking for the idyllic life!

I’m looking for the idyllic life. You know, like the people in “Country Living” magazine? There’s always these folks in that magazine that live in these great old houses out in the country. Houses that they’ve beautifully restored to their former glory. Seems often they are people that spent some years in the rat race of life and decided to get the fuck out, and now they are self employed working from their home, or they’re writers, or furniture makers, or beekeepers or they’re doing something else that none of us other less fortunate, dim-witted people would be able to make a living doing. Occassionally they’re older folks, but sometimes not. Just as often they’re people like me, middle aged, with kids that they’ll eventually have to put through college, and sometimes (probably in higher proportion than the general populace) they’re same-sex couples. But regardless, it all looks so glorious in the glossy pages of the magazines; the rustic antique furniture; the beautiful, manicured gardens of fresh veggies and flowers; the dining room table all decorated in fancy holiday display; the pet dogs sleeping peacefully on the wraparound porch. Damn… can you envision it? That’s what I want… not this fucking working my ass off lifestyle, toiling away every day, only to someday eventually be able to retire once I’m too old for it really to matter anymore. That is what I want… the idyllic life… straight from the pages of “Country Living” magazine!.

I have an old farm house out in the country, 120 years old roughly. I’ve even renovated a bunch of it, so much so that I actually got sick of it for awhile and have taken a few years off. But there’s still a million things to do. My 10 year old son’s bedroom still has nursery wallpaper in it, the three season porch (uh… storage room) is loaded with lead paint and windows that let plenty of cold air in… and the list goes on and on. We’ve even got some nice antiques, they’re hard to see sometime because they have all of our shit stacked on top of them, or they’re covered in clothes like some kind of pseudo clothing rack. We planted a garden several years in a row. It went from about 100 ft. to 50 ft. to 25 ft to zero feet as we realized how much effort it took to keep it maintained. We have the pets too, dogs, cats, and recently even a couple of goats! There’s enough pet hair in the house to knit sweaters with… ah, maybe that’s the idyllic career… cat and dog hair sweaters… ah but too many people are allergic. Then there’s the overflowing laundry, the dishwasher that just broke, the…..

The glossy, magazine-delivered illusion is that somehow these people have simplified. They have time… free time, and apparently loads of it… yet they still have all the monetary and commercial needs that the rest of us indulge in. There’s an imbalance there that I can’t quite grasp my hands around… is it just some rogue scheme to get us to read the magazine? I suspect that I can’t really make a decent living as a beekeeper, yet still be able to throw lavish champagne brunches in my backyard with fancy tablecloths and fresh picked greens from the garden. Damn you, “Country Living” for teasing me into believing this can be a reality.

There is a great book that I like to read called “A Country Year” by Sue Hubbell. I don’t think I’ve ever read it straight through, but have easily read the whole thing several times over in bits and pieces. Ms. Hubbell (who it turns out was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan) was at one time a librarian at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She was married to a professor and was living what any of us would likely consider a wonderful, upscale lifestyle. When the grind eventually got to them, they left their jobs, bought a farm in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and started a beekeeping and honey producing operation. Soon after, her husband left her, but she continued to run the business, living what can only be described as an “idyllic” and simplified life in this stunningly beautiful area of the country. The book is broken down into small essays describing her days in this rural community throughout the four seasons of the year; her interactions with nature; her challenges surviving through brutal winters; her relationships with her Ozark neighbors; her developing self-sufficiency. Over time she nurtures the business into one of the largest honey producers in that area of the country, yet it still never drives enough revenue to eliminate her money worries and she describes her income as “below the poverty level.” Now in reality that’s what I would call “Country Living”, it’s just not the glossy magazine kind!

So, I’m now searching for the “idyllic life.” As I look closely the infrastructure is all there for me; a beautiful, loving family, the great old house in the country, the antiques, the dogs. So, why isn’t it idyllic, like the magazine says it could, or should be… what is missing? I don’t know! What really is the idyllic life? Is it living as a beekeeper with an income below the poverty level, but “stopping to smell the flowers” and living a mostly stress free lifestyle? Or is it sitting hunched in an office cubicle 40-80 hours a week, working towards the weekends and those elusive days off when you can throw those champagne brunches. Or is it having a house filled with stuff… flat screens, WII’s, iPODs… stuff that in the long term really doesn’t provide anything other than a temporary feeling of satisfaction and success. It’s one of those questions that if you asked 100 people I am sure you’d get 100 different answers. I for one – as the clock of my life rapidly tick-tocks along, as my wife and I watch our children growing up faster than we could have ever imagined, as we see the older generations of our family passing on, as I grapple with the the short time we have on this earth – am starting to lean toward the bees…

Problem is… I’m afraid of bees.

… and maybe we better cancel the “Country Living” subscription.


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