Monday, August 25, 2008

The Farm

It has come to my attention that inquiring minds want to know…What’s the status at “The Farm” in central Texas, where I keep hanging out? Electricity? Plumbing? Protection from the weather?

Well, I’ll have to admit that back in the 20th century, when James, Jon and I used to forge a path through the underbrush and throw up a tent or two on the dam of the pond, the answers would have to be: basic, no, no and very little. We had a great time hanging out. Alternating target practices with our Crosman air rifle and bow and arrow. Doing a little fishing. Listening to the coyotes howl outside our tent. Maybe hunting dove when the season rolled around. But, the facilities were basic, and that was part of the appeal.

But, as time went by, we added a luxury or two here and there. A few friends enjoyed the facilities and helped to improve them. Brad and Stephen. Kendall and JR. Shawn, Mark and Dad. But for the most part, it was my son Jon and I, hanging out and doing the occasional project or improvement over the years.

First thing I know, the 21st century has rolled around, and the place has taken on a different look and feel. Electricity arrives. A 200 sq ft cabin gets dried in. Running water, albeit from a pump thrown into the pond, makes an appearance. Initially, it was just a hose to a small concrete pad, but eventually it is tied into the cabin. Air conditioning and heat made their debut. For a good while, we had hot water only on warm, sunny days, but now, with the addition of an electric water heater, I’ll be expecting hot water on a cloudy day in January.

Yes, a lot has changed. My laptop fits nicely on a desk in the corner. With my TV Tuner, the laptop becomes a 14” color TV, where I’ve been checking out the Beijing Olympics and the Dallas/Houston contest for the Governors Cup, not to mention a few reruns. And, I pick up a daily newspaper at the Shell station recently built a half mile away, reading it while relaxing in my old leather chair.
I recently put in a new bathroom, complete with shower. Fresh water and gray water are plumbed in. The water is even hot if the water heater is plugged in-but in that case there is no cold water. You get whatever comes out of the single pipe. There is no septic system, so the toilet is a primitive composting version.
Then, there is the basic kitchen I installed a couple of years ago. Here you can see the sink, refrigerator, stove, microwave, pantry and air conditioner. And, just below, the 20th century heating system.

My bunk is pretty basic, but a lot more comfortable since I acquired some nice mattresses.

A spare bunk functions as a part time closet and library.

Of course, not everything has changed. There is my rather spacious living area and recreation room, with the occasionally spectacular audio visual effects.
Despite the modern kitchen you’ve seen, a lot of my meals get done in my outdoor kitchen, over a mesquite fire. It just seems to taste better that way.
Yesterday, I caught this fellow trying to move into my fine accommodations. Sorry, but I don’t take on boarders. Besides, I was just crawling under there within the last week or so, installing plumbing and searching through my surplus materials for the new bathroom. And, are you the once that keeps shedding his skin in the attic or under my bunk? Either way, I think I’ll refrain from stepping outside at night without a flashlight for a while.

If I’m out of the air conditioned space at dusk, I’ll still hear the coyotes howling. Last week, as I rested from one of my many projects, I saw a coyote mother and her half grown pup come out of the brush and partake of the fresh water I share with various wildlife. Later, I saw the biggest, ugliest fresh water turtle I’ve ever seen. He sat underwater just a few feet from shore, watching me fish. As he surfaced for air and gave me a look several times, I began to have the irrational fear that he might burst out of the water, grab me by the ankle and drag me in.

But, I digress. Here’s my report on current conditions at the farm. Electricity, check. Plumbing, check. Snug, check. Interesting, check. But, as far as most people these days are concerned, still very, very basic.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Story from Vienna

Vienna, of course, is famous for its music. So, catching a show at the world renowned Vienna Opera house seemed like a good thing to do in Vienna. And, my "Rick Steve's guide to Eastern Europe" reflected my thoughts exactly, when he said "For me, three hours of opera is a lot of opera, but a 30-45 minute taste is well worthwhile." He went on to advise that seats are sold out well ahead of time and are relatively expensive, while standing room only tickets are available the day of the performance for about $4 each.

We arrived in Vienna on June 30th, the day of the last performance of the season, an opera called Pique Dame. We arrived at the theatre quite late, and found that the standing room tickets were all gone. So, we fell back on more of Rick's advice...I stood outside the doors and waited for a standing room only patron to leave early. Sure enough, within a few minutes a couple of nice ladies left the performance and offered me their tickets.

As a result, we saw the dramatic conclusion of the opera for no cost. Rick definitely paid for himself on this trip.