Mike & Gigi Firth - 2003

1019 Martinique, Dallas TX 75223-1445 214-827-7734, 824-1490

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Note that Gigi’s e-mail has changed from last letter.

2003-01-12 Since it is snowing outside, it is a rare day in Texas, so what better day to finally get a letter out to friends and relatives after missing several, even though most were started?

I almost don’t know how far back to go. I am still working at Elliott’s Hardware (www.elliottshardware.com and doesn‘t that tell us something about our times) having passed my 60th birthday last November 13th and finished my 7th year at Elliott’s, thus being fully vested in the ESOP plan that is gaining almost nothing. I am looking ahead to see what I will be doing for retirement, or more precisely, what I will be doing when I change direction, since I expect to keep doing stuff and earning some money well into the future. Some writing probably, some glass to sell, maybe some programming or web design.

In the near future, I expect to travel to Seattle in June to attend the Glass Art Society (GAS) Conference in the heart of modern art glass movement and will travel up to Victoria BC to see my step-mother, Virginia Firth-Mears. When I went to the first two GAS conferences, 91 & 93, I traveled in my van and slept on the floor of it or camped out, eating most of my meals from the ice chest. On the second, I decided to drop out of programming and look for a job with my skills in hardware. Since I had limited time, I flew to the third, in Tucson in 97, and rented a van and behaved the same way. This year, I look at the cost of rooms and am tempted to do the same thing. I will certainly rent at least a small car. Forty years ago I was in Seattle for the world’s fair and ended up staying with family of a hitchhiker I picked up in Oregon as I drove a big loop out west and he came back from a year overseas. Such a long time ago.

We still don’t own a car. We rent about once a month, taking advantage of low weekend rates from Enterprise. Over Christmas and New Years, we rented for the long stretch at low weekend rates and then got a pickup truck for a day, wherein I refilled my 100# propane tanks, got some used stainless steel for glass tools, and picked up half a yard of gravel for the driveway.

Gigi had knee surgery just like mine from the same doctor, but with longer consequences since fixing the ligament damage left soft tissue damage that put in a wheelchair for a while and sent her dog back to the Seeing Eye until she could walk comfortably. I was knocked off my feet for a week in December with something like flu with a two week tail of coughing and gagging while at work. This is the first year I haven’t got a flu shot.

On Monday morning, I was laying in the bathtub, I began thinking about why I like my long soaks (other than warm womb-like feeling?) as my “legendary” baths when I am reading can last an hour or more and I take 10-15 minute baths almost every morning - shaving and eating breakfast in the tub. I thought about growing up on a lake and the only half-recalled attempts to enter the water when it was still too chilly in spring. And then my mind drifted to how long it has been since I was swimming in a lake or creek - and it has been such a long time that I can’t recall exactly when. I don’t know for sure if I have been swimming since first feeling the numbness of Lyme in Corning in ’99 and that was a pool. The last lake may have been when I dumped the Klepper kayak while sailing. Hum. Texas is odd - it has 10,000+ lakes and I am told that every one bigger than a puddle is man made, with one exception - Caddo Lake in East Texas was created, perhaps, by the New Madrid earthquake.

2003-02-01 A very depressing day. For me, much like 9/11, as both times I spent the day at work with rumors a swirl on the hardware store floor and every break was spent with a TV on in the break room doing replays of the limited video while voices tried to get a clue. In this case it was worse because the video came from here. And I felt worse because at 8 am I was standing at the curb waiting for the bus and could have seen the fall, but as I usually do, I had earphones on and was listening to WRR our classical music station. If you did not pick up on the fact, one of our TV stations broadcast the breakup of the space shuttle live because since the shuttles have been servicing the international space station, they come out of orbit over Mexico and this one was on the old route over North Texas and they could show the landing passage. So Columbia became a mix of 9/11 and Challenger for me.

Tomorrow is forecast as windy with highs in the 70’s and I expect to blow glass for the first time in a month. I want to make some more bowls for the Empty Bowls project - which collects money for the North Texas Food Bank, see my web site - and just have the physical satisfaction of working the glass. I find I am watching the days and months slip by. As I manipulate my pocket computer, setting dates ahead for the next reminder, I say to myself, “another month gone.” Part of my response is to get more serious about the glass blowing, to have something to do when I get out of the store; Gigi is offering up the opportunity of retiring at 62 while she plans toward paying off the house early to enable her to pull out of IRS work early. The response of the IRS to criticism on accuracy is to focus people in just one area, which means taxpayers get passed around to different areas and reps answer the same limited set of questions over and over all day, while new hires don’t get broad training.

2003-02-20 Cold wet rain falling outside. Shall I call our 311 city services number and say I have caught a robin in my trap and I want animal control to come and pick it up? I think not. I have a live trap which is put in use when either skunks or cats get too numerous. At one point I turned fifteen or so skunks over to animal control in a few weeks. This year we have a lot of odd cats running round, including a couple that try and follow Blackie into the house - which she defends us against. [If I have not mentioned Blackie in a letter you got, she walked into the yard a year and a half ago and twined herself around my legs. It only took a month to get her to be picked up or come in the house - feeding her on the steps. Although she is mostly black, her white belly markings were not visible to me till long after I had named her. Now she sleeps on the bed and sofa back and follows me around as I work outside.] When I catch a cat, I call 311 and ask for an animal control pickup and fill in a note that matches the card that AC brings” “This is not my pet nor the pet of anyone known to me. To the best of my knowledge this animal has not bitten or scratched anyone recently.” I have caught raccoons, an opossum, another bird. And now a robin. [And later at night, confirmed problems: a yellow stub tail cat has twice come in out of the rain and been found in the middle of the house, so I went and bought a $70 cat door that responds to a magnet on her collar so it opens for her and not for the others.]

In a kind of commentary on computers, the other day I needed to transform some rows to columns. This is a feature of Lotus 123, but not of MS works, which I use most often. Gigi has all of MS Office on her machine, but I do not, not needing it. I could have checked out Excel on her machine to see if it had the feature, but I knew I had an old copy of 123 buried down in mine and MS XP operating system is much more polite with old DOS programs than Win98 was. I found it, version 3.1 (1990) no less, saved my spreadsheet from works in 123 format, loaded it in, did my transforms, and got out. Oh yes, it took me a minute to remember the Help and Command keys. I can go back and get stuff because of the enormous grown in hard drives (and the fact I create most of my stuff, don’t download large picture or music files) - I just copy everything from the old machine to the new. I started with a 10 meg, had 85 meg on the next, replaced that with 850 meg when the first one died, got 2 gig on my next machine and this one has … good grief, 37 gig it says here. This Dell machine cost less than any of the others. MicroSoft continues to drop features from software it “enhances.”

Virginia Firth-Mears called me over the weekend and we connected for a while last night, she telling me the Art Mears died November 22, 2002. We didn’t get too far as a friend showed up to take her to dinner. She plans to stay in Canada. She called back and I expect to see her in June.

I continue to work on my web site, which is substantial if not huge - about 250 pages. It has gotten so big I am at the limit of my “free” space on my provider. The address is at the top of the page. I have a Louise Minert Kelly page and am pursuing via microfilm copies of newspapers her death date, which is not available though any of the usual sources or fading memories. So far 1949 in Ames, Iowa, is as close as I have gotten. I can understand, from my nagging feeling of incompleteness on this one topic, why people get drawn into genealogy.

2003-20-26 On the day following Gigi’s 53rd birthday, and the ice storm of the decade, it seems appropriate to wrap this thing up that began with a snowstorm. We got about 2” of tiny hollow ice pellets that crunch where they landed on really cold stuff (like the wood wheel chair ramp in front of the house) but built up into a thick strong layer of white ice where it was a bit warmer - like streets and sidewalks. Fortunately, the branches being just cold enough, the trees shed the ice bits and we seem to have lost none around here. (Unlike when it gets really cold then a warm front brings rain up from the Gulf and ices everything over.)
Most streets by the end of yesterday were still covered with a layer with its own chuck holes, the busiest streets having had grooves of slush worn in them, but that didn’t include downtown which was still solid white at 5 pm. It took me over 110 minutes to get to work and 130 to get home and every bus I rode on slid to the curb at least once. The ice in the parking lot at Elliott’s had water under it, where the ice insulated and the warmth down in the earth could come up and melt the bottom of the ice - as I walked on the “solid” surface, it flexed and white bubbles moved out of my way as the water shifted.
Gigi fell this morning on the ice glazed yard while parking the dog, not hurting herself, but I had to go help her up as she could not get back on her feet. It was raining lightly on the ice - so now the sidewalks and icy yard have a thin scattering of kitty litter for grip.

[A bit later] I went out to clear the ramp, etc., and the rare sound in the South: people up and down the street are shoveling and chipping snow and ice. There is 2.5” of “stuff” in the rain gauge, which will probably melt down to a half inch or so. [later] It actually melted to 1.5” which is a lot of moisture.

All the best for your spring and summer.

[Picture taken for the site on June 1, 2003]

Mike Firth face on, taken 2003-06-01



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