Sunday, May 31, 2009

Throwing In The Towel

Things have been going very badly here since mid-April, and Di and I have decided to put our condo in Corpus Christi for sale and move.

When we first moved into our condo development over a year ago, we were impressed by the homeowner association rules. They were (and are) written to encourage occupancy by owners and discourage renters; for example, the rules forbid rental occupancy of a unit by two adults who are not related by marriage or blood. The intent of this is to discourage rental to students at nearby Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, who tend to be party animals.

But in February a new slate of officers was elected, and since then things have fallen off a cliff in our development.

In mid-April, the unit adjacent to ours was rented to two young women who are not related to each other, a clear violation of condo association rules. But that was not what bothered us about our new neighbors. Instead, it was the loud crashing, thumping, and bumping sounds that we started to hear late at night from their unit. These sounds were not just annoyances. Instead, they were loud-----I compare them to dropping a boxload of books, or someone jumping off a bed and hitting the floor with both feet-----and would wake Di and I from deep sleep. And most of these sounds would happen from 11:00 pm to 2:00 am.

We complained to one of the board officers----a person for whom the term "feckless" would be high praise indeed----who spoke to our new neighbors. Their response was to amp up the noises and they made several false charges against my wife in response. What really pissed off Di and I was the eagerness with which that board officer believed their outrageous accusations.

And the thumps, crashes, and bumps continued. I'm dying of cancer, and I have enough trouble sleeping through the night as is. All In want is to be able to spend whatever time I have left in peace and quiet. Apparently this is too much to ask for our neighbors and certain board members.

However, there will soon be a resolution in our favor. Our neighbors made the big mistake of putting their libelous accusations in writing. That document was addressed to their leasing agent, the unit owner, and the condo board. We were not sent a copy. Not only was their document libelous, but it also contained several statements that could be easily shown to be false, including a real whopper where they lied about what a police officer supposedly told them about Di and I----I spoke to the officer about what he supposedly said, and the officer vehemently and angrily denied making the statement. (Unfortunately, the lie by our neighbors triggered an internal affairs investigation by the Corpus Christi police department; I expect the officer's denial to be fully upheld.)

Some people were involved in circulating our neighbors' document, and the highly libelous accusations in them, to third parties. Suffice it to say that lawsuits for libel and defamation of character will soon be filed against responsible parties. I'm sure some of the affected individuals think it's all a big joke and these are empty threats. They are about to learn a hard, painful lesson.

But the entire experience since mid-April has really soured us on remaining in this condo development and Corpus Christi. The strain on Di and me has been terrible; we're often cranky, short-tempered, and get into arguments with each other over silly things. As for me, it is pushing me toward a dark place where I feel like completely giving up and just dying. While we have met some outstanding people here (like our neighbors Sue and Tom), that is offset by an increasing disgust and contempt for other people who have refused to help us with our neighbor problems. We don't feel welcome, comfortable, or even safe here any longer-----and, to be honest, we are seeing signs of anti-Semitism being directed toward Di. (If true, that would explain certain things.) Regardless, when you can't help but see people each day who you genuinely hate, it's time to leave that place.

The condo is for sale and Di will be returning to Las Vegas. The move makes sense for a lot of reasons. Las Vegas real estate is an amazing bargain now, and Di has friends and professional connections there. It will be a perfect place for her to re-start her life after my death.

I will accompany Di to Las Vegas if at all possible. I'm not trying to sound melodramatic, but I am slipping fast and I don't know how much longer I'm going to be around. Las Vegas is where the the story of Di and me began, and it would be a perfect place for it to end. I hope it can.

I will be posting only rarely here in the future. I feel like I have said about all I feel like saying.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rin Tin Tin Toys

When I was five years old, it was easy to find me at 4:00 pm Monday through Friday. I was in front of our television, eagerly awaiting a new episode of The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. The show starred Rin Tin Tin, the smartest, bravest German Shepherd in the known universe, and Rusty, a schlubby little kid who I had to envy because Rin Tin Tin was his dog. The show was set in the Wild West; Rusty and Rin Tin Tin lived at Fort Apache, a U. S. Army outpost in hostile Indian. . . . . . .er, I mean Native American territory. I always looked forward to those episodes in which Rusty was kidnapped by Apaches. Those episodes would end with a ne'er-do-well savage holding a knife over Rusty, getting ready to plunge it down, when suddenly Rin Tin Tin would leap into action, biting the savage's wrist and causing him to drop the knife. Rin Tin Tin would then lunge for the Native American's throat, and I would giggle hysterically at his death screams. It was perfect entertainment for a wholesome, innocent age in which everyone respected President Eisenhower.

Like many Baby Boomers in the 1990s, I became possessed with an urge to collect pieces of my childhood, and naturally Rin Tin Tin was at the top of my collectible list. One of my prize finds was this Fort Apache playset; it included Rusty and Rin Tin Tin figures, as you can see below:

I think Rin Tin Tin was one of the first kids' shows to derive more income from merchandising than from syndication fees. Among the items available back in the 1950s were stuffed Rin Tin Tin stuffed animals, jig saw puzzles, pennants, board games, "magic" writing slates, etc. Here are some examples I found:

As a kid, I owned the item below. The "pictures" were on plastic-coated paper and the "crayons" were soft and putty-like. When I colored the pictures, the colors were more smeared on the pictures instead of being drawn. The colors did wipe off quickly with a paper towel, but I remember getting quickly bored with this toy:

Numerous Rin Tin Tin books and comics were produced, as you can see below. Note the book in the upper left corner; it was from the 1920s and was published in conjunction with the movies of that era that starred the original Rin Tin Tin. I have videos of those 1920s silent films, and I have to admit the original Rin Tin Tin was a genuinely remarkable dog------many of his stunts are mindboggling, and he was incredibly athletic.

For my fifth birthday, I got a Rusty playsuit for a present. I put it on and spent several happy weeks pretending I was Rusty. It should be no surprise that I was thrilled to locate the mint Rusty playsuit below. It was still in its original factory wrapping and even had the same smell when I opened the box that I remember from my fifth birthday.

I have greatly downsized my Rin Tin Tin collection; I'm trying to leave Di without much to sort through after my death. It was fun to once again own this stuff, and I'm glad the items above now resides with other Rin Tin Tin fans.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day 2009

This is the third Mother's Day for me since the death of my mother, and, as has been the case on her birthday each year since her death, I have this hollow, empty feeling inside me.

She taught me to read and write before I started school. I didn't get every toy I wanted, but if it was something to read-----a book, a magazine, etc.-----she always bought it for me. There is no doubt my writing and editing career was a direct result of her efforts.

And she loved me truly and unconditionally. I am glad that I was in remission-----which, to her, meant "cured"-----when she died and she never knew my cancer returned.

When I was a kid, my favorite meal was Mom's baked macaroni and cheese. She would use real cheese which would melt and flow through the macaroni; the top would harden into a crunchy crust that I loved to bite into. She would serve it with a green vegetable and some of her sweet yellow cornbread.

Years after I moved away, she would always make baked macaroni and cheese when I came to visit. I always knew it would be waiting for me when I arrived at the airport in Charlotte.

I would give everything I own to taste that meal again.

In a a world that is often dark and angry, mothers are beacons of light, hope, and love. I hope every mother out there today receives the love and honor they deserve.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Ghost Town Of Lida, Nevada

You'll do some serious driving to visit Lida! From Las Vegas, take Highway 95 north for 180 miles until you reach the intersection with Route 266. You will turn left off Highway 95, and it's hard to miss where to turn------the Cottontail Ranch Brothel is at the intersection, and is the only business for several miles. The nearest gas, food, and other services are in Beatty, NV, about 40 miles south. I strongly suggest topping off your gas tank in Beatty. You'll travel about 30 miles on Route 266 to reach Lida. The road is paved, although it is narrow in places.

Lida came into being in 1873 when a post office opened there. Numerous small gold and silver mining claims were being worked in the surrounding countryside, and Lida served those miners with supplies, services (like assaying), and recreation (like gambling and drinking). By 1905, Lida's population reached 300. But that was the peak of mining activity in the region, and the town began to slowly decline. By 1918, the post office closed and Lida was almost totally abandoned a few years later. However, there are still a few people living in the area who conduct ranching operations, so Lida is not totally deserted.

Much of the ruins of Lida is on private property and is fenced off to visitors, so you have to be content with looking instead of touching:

However, a few standing buildings are not fenced off and can be visited:

The state of Nevada erected the sign below to mark the site of Lida. And I got a couple of friendly waves from working ranchhands as I drove through Lida. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to get a similar reception if you visit.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Ghost Town Of Kelso, California

Kelso, California was a stop on the Union Pacific railroad running from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City. The site was chosen because of abundant springs in the area for water. Kelso boomed about a century ago because of gold and silver deposits in the surrounding mountains. By 1940, the population was about 2000, but began to drop rapidly after World War II. In the early 1980s, there were only a few people left and Union Pacific wanted to close down all buildings and raze them. Fortunately, a preservation effort was launched and Union Pacific agreed to turn the townsite over to the state of California. Today, Kelso is part of the Mojave National Preserve and is administered by the National Park Service.

Kelso is reached by taking Interstate 15 from Los Angeles or Las Vegas; Baker is almost midway between the two on I-15. From Baker, take Kelbaker Road south 37 miles to the site of Kelso. The road is paved the entire way and suitable for all vehicles.

The most impressive structure in Kelso is the old Union Pacific station shown below. When I visited back in 2001 and took these photos, it was closed. Happily, the National Park Service has restored the building and it now serves as a visitor center and has the only restaurant for quite a few miles:

Another well-preserved building in Kelso is the post office below. This was the last building to close in Kelso back in the 1970s:

Most of the remaining structures in Kelso are behind fencing, meaning you can look but not touch:

The only buildings not protected by fencing are falling apart:

Near Kelso are some impressive sand dunes called, appropriately enough, the Kelso Dunes. David Carradine walked across them in the opening sequences of the 1970s TV program Kung Fu, and you can retrace those historic steps after visiting Kelso.