Museum of Flight

On my recent “Granddaddy” trip to Seattle in the spring of 2017, I got a chance to visit a museum I had wanted to explore previously. In August 2013, my wife and I met our daughter in Seattle for a weeklong adventure. One of my goals on that trip, in addition to hitting as many brew pubs as we could, was to take in some of the aviation-themed attractions. Going to the Boeing plant was, at least for me, a highlight of the trip. But after spending almost an entire day there, I didn’t think my wife and daughter would go for another multi-hour aviation adventure so I didn’t suggest the Museum of Flight.

So on this most recent trip, when my daughter suggested we take her son, my grandson to the Museum of Flight, I jumped at the opportunity. A word of disclosure is in order: This is not a paid advertisement for the museum. We had such a great time there; I just felt it was most worthy of a post.

We arrived on a rainy Wednesday morning not long after the museum opened. After purchasing our tickets, we made our way into the main hall where many airplanes were on display. One of our first stops was boarding one of the first Boeing 737s built, the world’s most popular airplane in terms of numbers manufactured.

It was glorious to see the plane lined from front to back with what we would refer to today as first class seats. It made me a bit sad to think I never got to fly in the 1960s when all passengers had this nice of accommodations (my first time to fly was not until 1980).

We then moved on to a children’s area where they had real single seat airplanes for kids to play in. My grandson had a great time “piloting” one of these…

…and getting to “fly” a helicopter.

I enjoyed getting to see some of the scale model biplanes hanging from the ceiling in this area.

One of my grandson’s favorite exhibits, one we would return to multiple times was Molt Taylor’s “Aerocar”, an actual flying car (my grandson, like me, LOVEs cars).

 

Another area of interest was the warplane exhibit which included warplanes from World War I (WWI) and World War II (WWII).

On display were many of the most significant planes from WWII but what intrigued me the most were the WWI planes, the old bi-planes and tri-planes I would have loved to have been able to fly.

Included were examples of Snoopy’s Sopwith Camel and a SPAD XIII much like the balsa and tissue scale model I built growing up.

Another display area of interest to all of us was the Boeing Red Barn, a replica of the original Boeing plant when planes were made of wood and canvas.

In a covered outdoor area, were many important modern airplanes. It was a real treat to get to board the Concord and experience what the luxury of Mach II flight might have seemed like.

This was a plane I had only seen one other time when one landed in Memphis many years ago.

Another fun plane to enter was Air Force One, the Boeing 247D jetliner used by Richard Nixon on his historic trip to China.

A real treat was to enter a modern Boeing 787, the Deamliner, currently Boeing’s newest airplane design. Maybe one day we would get to enjoy flying on one of these.

This particular one is the third built which was used for certification.

After climbing aboard the other planes on display, we realized it was unfortunately time to leave before traffic got too bad. Without realizing it, we had spent almost five hours at the museum.

But we couldn’t leave before one more stroll past the Aerocar.

Over the next few days of my visit, my grandson mentioned several times about the “airplane museum.” My daughter recognized this was a destination they should return to as a family.

So on Saturday after dropping me off at the Seattle airport, they went back to the museum and bought an annual membership. Now my grandson could go as many times as he wanted.

And his dad would get to enjoy seeing the delight in his son’s eyes as he made his way from one display to another, over and over again.

A Swing Set Swinger

This girl is a swinger…

…and a slider…

…and a see sawer.

So when her grandmother (my wife, affectionately known as Mimi) mentioned that she needed to get a swing set for her own backyard, it was absolutely the most logical thing. Just her granddaddy (me), the person who routinely takes her to the Children’s Museum each week where she gets to play on these things indoors, never thought of it. But thanks to Grandmother’s forethought and initiative, this was remedied this past spring.

This box was delivered to my son’s house just before spring break when her parents would both be off from school. Rather than picking up my granddaughter for our usual Wednesday afternoon together at the Children’s Museum, I came over for the assembly process at my son’s house.

As we removed the pieces from the box, my granddaughter thought it was great fun to get in the middle of things, even though she had no clue as to what the final product would be. But this partially assembled slide seemed as good a place as any from which to watch the action unfold.

The first step was to assemble the cross bar from four separate pieces that had to be tightly screwed together. Interconnecting the first two, my son and I failed to notice that the bar had been engineered to have a top side and a bottom side. And wouldn’t you know, as luck would have it, the first two bars came together very tightly with one side up and one side down. This was due to my tendency not to read over the entire directions prior to assembly in spite of how instructions always say to do so (this was certainly not the first time I had had to dissemble something to reassemble if correctly). We labored over getting them separated for quite a while until my son came upon the idea of spraying some WD40 on them to get them separated. That worked well although our hands were slightly slippery after that.

From then on, we tried to pay close attention to the fine details in the directions where such helpful notes were highlighted. In a relatively short time, we had the frame assembled.

At this point, my granddaughter may have begun to recognize what her daddy and granddaddy were putting together with hammers, screwdrivers, and wrenches.

To confirm her suspicions, we attached a couple of swings and quickly my granddaughter was ready to have some fun.

After that, we couldn’t put the rest of the swing set together fast enough.

Once we had assembled the two different gliders, we had enough swings for the whole family to swing on.

All that remained was the slide and the see saw.

And before we could even attach the slide to the frame of the swing set, my granddaughter was already climbing the ladder to slide down.

Playing on a see saw is one of my granddaughter’s favorite activities at the Children’s Museum, the spot she usually goes first as soon as we arrive. So when she realized she was getting one of those too, she jumped down on the yellow seat before I could even attach the fulcrum to the side frame. Trying as hard as I might, I could not attach it with her sitting on it.  When we lifted her off, she sadly burst into tears. So we had to finish as fast as we could so she could get back to her fun.

It ended up taking us about six hours to complete the swing set, just about the time the online reviews indicated it would take to assemble it, that is once you subtract the time it took us to separate the first two pieces. Fully assembled, the swing set was larger than any our kids had growing up. But Grandmother had wisely chosen one that all three of our grandkids could play on together at the same time when they were in town.

Since installing the swing set, our granddaughter has had literally hours of pleasure swinging in her own backyard. Now when I bring her home from Parent’s Day Out, one of the first things she does is head to the back door to go out and swing.

Now she just has to wait for her two cousins to come to town so all three can play together. And when they do, my wife will have realized her dream of seeing all three of our grandkids having a great time swinging together. What fun we have to look forward to.

Thanks Mimi!

Kids Photos on My Office Desk

Some additional items that I will need to take home before I retire are the photos that have graced my office desk for all these years. I started working at this location over 30+ years ago, before my daughter and youngest son were even born and when our oldest son was just one year old. So you could say, my kids have literally grown up with me while I worked here.

The earliest photos I brought to display on my desk were the ones that were taken when they were in school (or pre-school), the ones taken by a professional photographer in September at the beginning of each academic year. Each fall, they would get a new picture made and I would bring them all to work to replace the previous year’s photo. I have used these same frames all that time so the frames themselves are almost as old as my kids.

During the year, it was a gradual growing up process that my wife and I witnessed. But when I replaced the photo from the year before with the newest one, there was typically a stark difference in their appearance. My daughter was actually born five days after I started working here so every year she celebrated her birthday; I too celebrated a work anniversary.

Each time I added a new photo, I put it in front of the previous photo so that the frames include all ten or so photos of each child. Their last photo was of a high school graduation, a college graduation, or a graduate school graduation photo (not necessarily a reflection of their highest achieved degree but rather just the last time the event was captured by a professional photographer).

I often thought these would make a nice collage, all 5 X7 prints in a single matted frame but since I have previously scanned all these photos, I could also make a digital collage.

It is bitter sweet to look back over the photos and see how each child has grown over the years.

Photos have always been some of my most prized possessions as they bridge us back to another time, a time we may not be able to recall so easily within our mind. But it is also with the knowledge that these photos provide only a visual image of each child at that stage of their life. To know their personality, to know the fine adult that they have grown into and to know the person whom they really are, you would have to have witnessed their growing up all these years.

Sadly working full time all those years, I missed a lot of this growing up and so these photos, no matter how precious they are cannot make up for that. But once I retire, I will be able to spend more time with each one of them, the families they have started (and the grandkids!), to reflect on the memories of them growing up, to get to know them more, and to share in the sheer joy of just being there with them.

Wednesday with Granddaddy – Double Treat

Last year, I wrote about how much I enjoy every Wednesday since I get to spend the afternoon with my granddaughter at the Children’s Museum of Memphis (CMOM).  She and I have been going there for a full two semesters now, ever since her parents have been back in school. It is a wonderful routine that she and I have gotten in to and, the few times I have traveled and not been available, we have both sorely missed our time together. Well in May of this year, I got a double treat when my daughter and grandson flew in town for a two-week visit.

It was a very special time to be with them since my daughter and her family live so far away. And with my granddaughter’s parents out of school for the summer, there were lots of time to get together over the two weeks so the two cousins could play with each other, here seen sharing cups of ice at Mimi’s café.

Since it had been almost a year since we had all been together, it also afforded us an opportunity to get some professional photos taken of the grandkids.

With nice spring weather, there were also several chances to have cookouts together…

…and learning to share.

It was definitely an exciting time for all.

But for me, the highlight of the visit was getting to go to the Children’s Museum with two of my three grandchildren along with their parents (sans our son-in-law who was on a business trip) and my wife and fellow grandparent affectionately named, Mimi!

For my granddaughter, having been so many times with me to CMOM, she has almost a routine of what she likes to do once we walk in the door. For my grandson, this was a new experience so starting out with Mimi in a police car seemed an appropriate place to begin the adventure.

In fact since it was a new exploration for my grandson, I spent a part of my time going back and forth between where my grandson was at the time and where my granddaughter was.

With her parents there, my granddaughter also got to do some special things with Mommy and Daddy that my granddaughter and I had not been able to do before.

And throughout our time there, I tried to make sure I spent an equal amount of time with each grandchild wherever they were in the museum so that they did not perceive me as showing favoritism to one or the other.   On the occasion when they were in the same place…

…I never could seem to get them both in the same photo at the same time.

Being interested in cars like me and so also mechanically inclined, my grandson spent some time taking the wheels off the car in for repair…

…before running over to the FEDEX plane and loading up packages for delivery. I think he manually cranked at least 20 packages up the conveyor belt all the while my granddaughter was sliding down the circular slide from the back of the plane, each doing what they thought was the most fun.

We fortunately had about two hours at the museum so the two cousins got to shop together at the little grocery store, cook together in the little kiddie kitchen, and do lots of other fun activities.

I don’t know if anyone noticed the gleam of joy in my eyes getting to watch them both play. It was a real thrill for me, one I would love to have more often. And my keen observation noted that they both made the same tongue motion as they played, a small telling behavior revealing they were related.

At 5:00 when the museum closed and for our grandkids, went “night-night” as we always say, we made our way out to the parking lot. But the fun was not over yet. We drove over to my favorite burger place for a well-earned dinner.

As we talked and waited for our food to arrive, I reflected on the wonderful time I had had at the museum watching my grandkids play. I knew they had had fun too and I hoped my fellow adults had also. But deep down, I knew this was particularly a special treat for me—a double Wednesday treat with two grandkids—one that might not be so easily detected by the casual observer. But a treat it was indeed, one that I hope to get to repeat one day, hopefully with all three of my grandchildren making it a Triple-Treat!

Photos on My Office Wall

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Some of the items that I will need to take home when I retire are these 11 framed photos hanging on my office wall. I cannot even begin to fathom how long they have hung on my wall, but I know they have moved from one office to another each time my office changed. Considering that I have worked at the same site and in the same building for over 30 years, they are probably quite old.

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A close up inspection reveals that these are really cheap, 8” X 10” metal frames with a “faux-wood” finish.   I think I probably bought them at Target years ago. At least once when I moved into a larger office, which had a larger wall, I had to search for additional frames of the same design to expand my gallery.

Over the years, I would occasionally change out a photo for a newer one but with one exception, the photos were always either of my family (wife and kids), travel, or my cars. And the reason I know this is because each time I added a new photo, I simply put it on top of the photo previously displayed.

I recently took down each frame and took off the back just to see what treasures were hiding inside the frames.

In some, I found just a few photos but in others, the frame contained four or five photos. As I looked through the photos “archived” in each frame, I saw some of these images for the first time in many, many years.

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Harahan Bridge over Mississippi River

The earliest of these photos were black and whites. Prior to getting married, I had bought all the equipment necessary to develop and print my own black and white photos from black and white film. But some of the ones in the frames I realized I had printed from color 35 mm negatives as I recognized the image as a familiar color snapshot from my first year of marriage (back in my “artsy” pre-digital camera age when the only way I could make a black and white photo was to either print it this way or to use black and white film).

Based on finding just four black and white photos, my earliest wall gallery must have only included four frames.

Once I started traveling internationally, I began to add pictures from my travels, replacing all of my black and white photos with color photos.

Aquaduct of Caesarea (Israel)

Aquaduct of Caesarea (Israel)

And as my travels increased, I needed to add additional frames to accommodate photos from all my trips.

Lisbon Oceanarium (Aquarium, Lisbon, Portugal)

Lisbon Oceanarium (Aquarium, Lisbon, Portugal)

When family members traveled with me on these international trips, they appeared in my displayed photos as well.

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Sometime in the early 2000s, I began to display photos of my cars (at first two and then three cars in 2006) and then in 2011, I added photos from my two oldest children’s weddings.

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As my travels continued, I began to replace old travel photos with newer ones.

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In May of 2016 when I bought my latest car, I planned on replacing the picture of my Mini, which we no longer owned, with my new WRX.

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But then just days later, I got word that my work site was closing.

So rather than adding to my collection, I began to think about what I was going to do with my photo gallery when I left. Since the frames are so cheap, I wouldn’t want to display them inside our house unless I invested in much nicer frames.

And then I came upon the idea of hanging them all in our garage over my workbench. After all, once I retire, I will be spending a lot more time at my workbench doing one of the things I love doing, working with my hands.

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I’ve wanted to take down these shelves for quite some time since they just end up becoming a storage space for old paints and chemicals that are not even good anymore. Now I have a good reason to.

So rather than boxing up these old frames and sticking them in the attic or worse yet, throwing them away, they will simply relocate to one of my “new” office walls. Because after all, every time my office moved these gems moved with me. And so they will!

Miniature Car Moving Day

Not long ago, the day came that I needed to transport my 1/18-scale model cars home from my office. This was in preparation for my final office move before our site closure and my retirement. Last year I posted that this would be a necessary step before I retire. While my eventual idea of a miniature garage for them in the back yard was not well received by wife, I needless to say needed to bring the cars home.

The first step was getting down their original boxes from the attic. As you can see, they were quite dusty with some having been in the attic for almost 20 years. Donning a respirator mask to keep the dust out of my lungs, I climbed into the attic and began to search for all of them. Before I brought them into the house, I wiped them off as best I could with a damp rag. Some of the boxes were a bit damaged from the time when squirrels got into our attic (who would have know squirrels like to eat plastic).   Others were covered by blown insulation, which actually protected them quite nicely from the dust and the squirrels.

It was a bit of a treasure hunt to find them all and in the end, I found 27 of the 28 boxes I knew I should have. The one missing may turn up whenever we get other things out of the attic.

With the boxes cleaned fairly well, I loaded them up into the trunk of my car for the drive to work.

The next day, once I got to work, I loaded them onto one of our stability sample carts and wheeled them into my office.

Next began the process of removing the Styrofoam base from each box. Because the clear plastic had come loose in many of the boxes, this proved a tedious task for some. In a few with the loose plastic, some of the blown insulation had gotten into the boxes and so I had to clean this out as well. One of the more damaged boxes might have been a temporary home for a squirrel as when I dumped out the insulation; an acorn and something else I won’t mention fell out (For your benefit, I chose not to photograph that).

Each car is attached to this Styrofoam base with a bracket and two screws (I actually managed to find all but three screws). Some of the boxes still had the small catalog inside the box, this one being almost 25 years old.

A few of the boxes still had the price tags on them. This one I could see that I had purchased at de Bijenkorf, the large department store in Amsterdam that Anne Frank shopped at.

Prior to putting the car inside, I gave each box got another good wipe down to get rid of the residual dust and then I stacked the car filled boxes on the cart.

After I got half way through, I realized I had been putting the cars in backwards. I confirmed this by going to the BBurago website and seeing all of the cars facing left with the front angled forward. I had screwed them all in with the back angled forward. Obviously I had to redo those.

For some of the cars, it was bitter sweet to box them up. This Mini sat on my desk for over 10 years…

…a daily reminder of one of the most fun cars I ever owned.

And this is probably the nicest car I collected, complete with soft rubber seats and even carpet on the floor. I fondly remembered finding it on a trip to Lugano, Switzerland in 1998 with my wife and youngest son.

Throughout the afternoon, it was interesting to see the look on coworker’s faces when they stopped by seeing what I was up to. Even my boss had an odd look on her face when she walked in, no doubt wondering what I was spending work time doing. But none of them understood what an emotional task I was undertaking.

After I had screwed the last car into its box frame, I was left with this one car for which I could not find its box. So I decided it would just have to be on display somewhere at home until I did further searching in the attic.

Rather than taking them home, I decided to keep my two Miatas on my desk to the very last day. I knew it was going to be traumatic enough to walk in and not see my collection so I would at least retain these two…

…miniature reminders of the two fun Miatas I owned.

With my task complete, I placed all of the filled boxes on my cart and wheeled them down to my car.

As I carefully stowed them in the trunk of my car, I was glad to realize that I finally owned a car that they would all fit in to. Over the years, I brought the cars into work one at a time. Until I bought this WRX, none of the small cars I had would even hold them all.

Knowing that for now, I did not have a space to display all these cars at home, I stored many of them in this large box I found in the closet and the rest I put on top of this shelf in the same closet.

I was determined I was not going to put them back in the attic knowing the damage the boxes had incurred from their years’ storage there.

And I was encouraged by my wife’s comments when I told her I had brought them home. She said maybe we could find a glass enclosed cabinet to display them in, not so much to keep the dust off of the cars, but to keep them safe from small grandchildren hands which would no doubt be fascinated by all these miniature cars.

So hopefully one day, my cars will be on display again so that I can enjoy seeing them and recall to the times when I purchased them. Until then, I’ll just have to be satisfied with the memory of them in my office for so many years.

SIBSAB XI – 2017

The first weekend in May, I got together with my three siblings for our annual SIBSAB—the once a year event when just the four of us go off by ourselves for some sibling bonding time. We’ve been doing this since the year after our dad died (preceded by our mom’s death three years before that) and we figured out this was the 11th such activity. We typically travel somewhere to get a break from our everyday lives and to enjoy activities of the locale. The granddaddy of these was two years ago when we went to Amsterdam. But even when we do not venture far from home, these are always special times.

This year was one of those “stay close to home” times as we celebrated our SIBSAB during the Bentonville Film Festival in Northwest Arkansas, close to where my two sisters live.

Driving over from Memphis in my still new car, I got to Bentonville in the afternoon just in time to meet my siblings at the house we had rented just a few short blocks from the downtown square where all the festival activities would take place. After getting settled into our house, we walked back to the square and took in one of our favorite activities, for our sisters having a great cup of Joe and for my brother and I, a great beer.

Then we wandered through the BFF tents and booths set up by the sponsors and vendors, getting lots of freebies and enjoying the splendid weather at this third annual event, cofounded by Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis.

The first day of our SIBSAB also coincided with it being the Bentonville First Friday, which is a monthly outdoor block party on the square with live music. This afforded my sister a chance to dance to the music with her grandson when we ran into him and his mom at the square.

The next morning, we had tickets to one of the featured films Mully. What an incredible story! Without giving out too much details to spoil it for you, it is a true rags to riches story but with a twist as it documents how one man forsook those riches and saved the lives of many orphan children in Kenya, as told in his own words and with some of his own home movies. It was an unbelievably moving story that left most of the audience in tears, myself included, that only got that much more emotional when Charles Mully himself…

…strolled up the aisle after the film for a Q&A session with the director and producers.

A story of the film along with its BFF award, and a snapshot of Mully made the front page of the local newspaper in a photograph in which my brother also happened to be captured.

It is scheduled for release in October so watch for it. You will not want to miss it. As we left, still wiping a few tears from our eyes, Geena Davis strolled by cordially speaking to everyone, as this was the film she chose to attend that morning.

We followed up the film with a delicious lunch and beer at the restaurant at Crystal Bridges before wandering through some of the exhibits.

In the early afternoon, we had guided tour tickets to the Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house that has been relocated from New Jersey to the Crystal Bridges property.

On my visit to see my sisters last fall, I was able to go through on a brief self-guided tour but this hour long guided tour was outstanding. With one of the most knowledgeable tour guides, we gained an immense background insight into this home, its construction/move to Arkansas, and its owner’s history. If you are ever in the area, this house and Crystal Bridges as a whole is a must see.

That evening, just before sunset after a fabulous dinner at Press Room, we wandered back over to Crystal Bridges to experience James Turrell’s The Way of Color. This Skyspace is one of several he has created throughout the world where observers experience color as well as your own unique perception of color as dusk turns into night.

Blue sky before dusk

As the sun sets, photography cannot capture the color of the sky we see through the open aperture, as it only exists in our minds. With the walls tinted pink from hidden LED lighting, the sky turns a beautiful emerald green color before transforming into yellows and blues as the wall color changes.

Only in your mind could you see the emerald green sky

It was an incredible experience, captured only as an image in our minds as these photographs documented just the projected colors and not the cerebral ones.

As a nightcap, we made our way over to the front entrance of Crystal Bridges to view Leo Villareal’s LED lighted sculpture Buckyball. Around the base, the museum has provided comfortable wooden chaises upon which to recline and watch the multi-colored light show.   I don’t know how long we stayed as the color pattern never repeated it self but it was a wonderful conclusion to an absolutely fabulous day.

Our last day together started with my sister’s grandson’s third birthday party…

…a great time made even more fun as the birthday boy captured our images with his own camera from his shorter perspective.

That afternoon, we went through some old photo albums of our mom’s divvying the photos up among us.

It was a trip down memory lane with some photos reaching back 50 years, saddened only by the images of our mom in the late 1980s as her health deteriorated just months before her death.

The saddest part of our annual SIBSAB is always the saying goodbye, which we had to do at the end of the evening since we were not all staying at the same house before traveling home Monday morning. But our experience was uniform as we all upon parting expressed that we each thought it was one of the best SIBSABs we had had. And our time together was enhanced further by a greater sense of closeness to each other even though we live many miles away. And has also become tradition; we selected our next SIBSAB venue even before this one ended so we would all have a full year to look forward to our next Sibling Sabbatical.

See you next year!