Don’t Circle the Drain

Janet and I went out to dinner the other night with some neighbors who are a little older than we are. They were laughing and joking about some friends of theirs when asked how they were doing? The friends remarked that they were just circling the drain. We all laughed about that visual but in the middle of the night, I took it a little more seriously and thought that I hoped I would never make that statement of being sucked into the vortex of oblivion. I want to be like the spider clawing furiously away from that drain and out of the tub. I try not to think about age but when I do, I make sure I am always taking every opportunity to be active and healthy, and not throwing in the towel. Lots of fun, active times ahead. My friends who are contemporaries feel the same. Take Helen and Eric above. They live in Tahoe and enjoy life in the Sierras. The photo above is from their month long trek in the Himalayas. They ski, hike, trek, and do not circle any drain.

This picture above is Nancy and Mark Hutchinson from Randolph Center, Vermont. They hiked the Long Trail this summer which is from the Massachusetts border all the way to the Canadian border. There are no drains in the Hutchinson household. They take their vacations and are active.

Now you have Bob Bannon. The Lord of Lumens. Bob schedules all the local mountain bike rides and is the guru of lighting systems for night mountain bike riding. Always has spare lights and batteries and is so enthusiastic about riding even with a full schedule of silk screening clothing for a living and being a referee in high school and college volleyball. He is not circling any drain any time soon.

Here is a guy recovering from a close personal tragedy. Mike Rich always has a smile on his face and spends his free time hunting and enjoying the outdoors even with a heavy heart. It would be easy for Mike to feel sorry for himself, but he gives unselfishly to others especially young guys who are at risk for lifestyle choices. No drains out there in Burgettstown.

How about my buddy Art Bonavoglia? He is in his 6th season teaching skiing in the Vail Ski School. When the graphic arts business went in the tank due to on-line publishing and the like, Art went down another path. They love him in Vail. They call him the singing ski instructor. He regales his students with Tony Bennett songs on the chairlift. Art is not going down any vortex.

My main man Mike Smith. Owns a marina on Lake George, flies his own plane, skis, hikes, and sky dives. An amazing ball of energy for a guy in his late sixties. He will work, ski, skydive, most people into the ground. The water is full to the top at Lake George. No swirling drains up in the Adirondacks.

Lastly- a great inspiration to me on enjoying life into his 90s was my grandfather John Reynolds. As an avid fisherman, we went everywhere to fish and he and his buddies would rise with the birds to get that first bite either in the Everglades, or on the lakes in Canada. I had the honor of being their first mate and seeing up close and personal guys in their 80s and 90s enjoying the wilds of nature. No sitting around for these guys.

I guess the point here is that sometimes we let people influence us with statements like, ” when are you going to slow down?” Or “aren’t you a little old for that?” Or maybe “wouldn’t you rather be sitting by the fire under an afghan?” Yes I would – after a great ski day or a great mountain bike ride. I don’t roll over under the comforter if it is cold outside. I like to get out there no matter what. So do these friends of mine mentioned above. They do not go gently into that good night. They are kicking and clawing to stay out of the vortex. Most of them don’t even get close to that swirl just yet. With a new year dawning, if you are thinking that somehow you are getting slowly sucked into that circling drain swirl, maybe it is time to reverse the process. Get active in 2018. You are never too old for anything. Thanks for reading.

Let’s Keep Daylight Savings Time – all the time!

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was the first guy to have the bright idea about Daylight Savings time? Did you know that we could save more than 1% of electric use if we had DST all year? Did you know that the University of Michigan did a study that concluded that when the time change comes in the fall, there were 227 vehicle/pedestrian deaths versus 65 in the summer. Did you know that Carnegie Mellon did the same study with roughly the same results? Safer to drive with more daylight? Even when daylight dwindles in the fall/winter?

The old adage that standard time is better for chicken and dairy farms doesn’t hold water. In fact, the animals don’t like the changes and would rather have more daylight in the evening. They are used to being fed and milked in darkness and want to thrive, and distribute methane during the day,….. in more daylight. Nothing like a contented cow? How about a contented mountain biker?

I don’t mind pulling out the lights for night riding when the time change comes, but it sure would be nice to sneak in a ride before darkness after work or at least only use the lights to finish a ride. I was even a proponent of moving the clock ahead in the fall instead of falling backward to have more daylight in the evening. People are used to getting up in the U.S. before dawn(70 % of us do), so what is the difference if it is a little darker for more time in the morning if it affords you more light in the evening? People would be more active, use less electricity, drive more safely, (commute in daylight instead of darkness or dusk, driving home when they are tired.)

I can also tell you from a skier’s perspective, the light starts to get flat around 3:00 in the afternoon. If you had a little extra light you could ski right through that 3:00 benchmark and make a full day out of it with decent daylight until the lifts close. You ski so much more confidently when you can see clearly. To me, there is a lot of benefit to extended daylight in the evenings even in the fall/winter months when the sun is low on the horizon for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere.

There is a lot of history to DST. Franklin Roosevelt was a proponent to protect our soldiers in World War II. And in fact, lately, with the passage of legislation, the clocks are changed later than in the past with the spring ahead slated for the second Sunday in March and the fall back on the first Sunday in November. But if we can do that, why don’t we just go the full gamut for the four months and continue the summer time schedule? We can all get through the dark winter better,and when the spring rolls around, we will have more daylight anyhow. More Vitamin D for all of us, improving our moods. Less crime on darkened streets during regular pedestrian hours. So, we need to start to pester our politicians about this matter. Maybe a note to your senator or congressman? Have a farmer, mountain biker, skier, or anyone else for that matter that values daylight after school or work, do the same. The vociferous rooster, the clucking chicken, the farting Holstein, will all thank you. Enjoy your Thanksgiving. We all have a lot to be thankful for- especially the prospect of more daylight.

The Great One

I always loved this time of the year when I was a kid. My dad would sign me up for baseball at the Berkeley Hills Fire Hall and I would wait for the notice to see what team I was on and when we started practice. The field was right across the street from where I grew up. As it turned out, I played catcher in minor league, little league, and pony league, and loved every minute. I even loved it when Mike Malone crashed into me on a crucial play in pony league. I tagged him, and I went ass over tin cups into the backstop and held on the the ball for the out. That happened to me a lot. Guys would love to come steaming into home plate and try to take out the catcher. The trick was to tag them and hang on to the ball. I couldn’t get enough baseball. A funny sideline was a number of years ago,I was helping coach my son’s baseball team and as I was telling my mom about my experience, she said,” What do you know about baseball? You never played baseball?” Just goes to show you she liked swimming meets better than baseball games. I made the all star teams and she never saw me play once with the ” tools of ignorance” behind the plate. We all got a good laugh out of that one. But playing catcher was wonderful and I tried to emulate Smokey Burgess behind the Pirates plate. He was stocky like me and could throw out a runner stealing second with little effort.
But the real hero in Pittsburgh was Roberto Clemente who played right field for the Bucs. My dad would take me to the games at Forbes Field and a special time was the Father and Son Baseball Nights at the University Club. I had to wear a sport coat and tie but got to meet all the players at the dinner before the game. They were all there signing autographs and I was in awe when I met the great Roberto. He was genuinely a nice guy and seemed to like meeting all the young kids and asking us about our baseball. My dad was not really a fan because Roberto had this habit of making basket catches below his belt instead of the standard method of catching a fly ball over your head and cupping the ball with your other hand. My dad called Roberto a hot dog but I knew better. He was……the Great One!!!

Roberto was more than a great player. He was a generous and extremely philanthropic person, and as I learned in later years, he made numerous trips to aid his fellow citizens of Puerto Rico who were victims of disasters or just plain poverty, and tragically died in a plane crash while getting supplies and food to Nicaragua after an earth quake in 1972. All of Pittsburgh was devastated and something died in me that day too as a senior in high school. As a young kid, Roberto was a hero to me and his life ended way too soon. I always held him close in my heart. Hockey may call Gretzky the Great One, but in Pittsburgh, Roberto will always be…….The Great One. I can still see him running down a sharply hit ball in right field, spinning around and throwing out a runner sliding into home plate. Smokey would field the rocket ball from right field and tag the runner and the crowd went wild. I can see it in my mind to this day.
So as the spring flowers start to bloom, the grass gets green, the temps moderate and the sun shines in Pittsburgh( yes it does happen), I think about baseball. Our PNC Park is one of the nicest fields in the country with our Pittsburgh skyline as the backdrop. There is nothing like sitting at the park on a nice summer evening and watching the Bucs play. Our Andrew McCutchen was not happy this year when he was moved to right field. My immediate reaction was that he should be proud to play the same position as Roberto Clemente did for the Pirates. When I see him now in right field, my mind drifts back to #21 playing that same position. Just recently Cutch was moved again due to an unfortunate incident with Starling Marte, but that is another story. But whoever fills that right field position, will be standing in some pretty big shoes. Some advice to the young players out there, only Roberto could get away with the basket catch. Get that glove up over you head, watch the ball, catch it and cup it in the glove with your other hand. Play Ball!!! Thanks for reading.

Yoi!!!

Well, the leaves are starting to change and the nights are becoming cool.Football season has returned to Western Pennsylvania and the beloved Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0 so far and things are looking good. This brings back some memories for me which include an icon of American broadcasting. Please review the following link before you move on here. https://youtu.be/IdjYFleXNro Myron Cope was a real character whose background as a sports journalist was extensive. He became the voice of the Steelers on radio broadcasts with Bill Hillgrove for many years and entertained us with his antics and his quirky voice which you hear in the video. I always liked Myron and his commentary and in fact had an interesting interlude with him back in the day. download-1
As many of you know, the Terrible Towel, waved frantically by Steeler fans, was created by Myron and all the proceeds have been donated to his foundation for many years. The Towel has been copied by other sports teams but the original Terrible Towel is first and foremost a Pittsburgh thing and we are most proud to wave it to encourage the performance of our Steelers in crucial game situations. original_towel

A while back, I was booked on a CMH Heli-Ski trip to the Bobbie Burns Range in British Columbia with some friends from our local ski area. As it turned out, our Steelers were in the Super Bowl at this time and we wanted to somehow honor them and show our pride to the other groups who would be staying with us up in BC. I brought a Terrible Towel with me and we had our guide take a picture of all of us with the Towel on the summit of one of the peaks where we would be skiing. img_1059

I had some copies made when we returned and I sent one of them to Myron Cope with a note saying that we did our part to cheer on the Steelers in a remote location of North America. I felt good about doing that and had some internal chuckles along the way thinking about what Myron would think of the picture. One day, while sitting at my desk, I got a phone call and picked up the receiver and much to my surprise the voice on the other end said,” Is this Pat McClozzzzzzzzzgey?” I said yes it is and the voice continued with ” This is Myron Cope.” ” I found your number and wanted to give you a call to tell you that your picture is hanging on my office wall between the guys with the Towel at the South Pole and the guys with the Towel at the Great Wall of China” I was thrilled and said that I was so happy to send it to him and really thanked him for the phone call. He said it was his pleasure and that he really appreciated the gesture and went on to relate to me all the places where the Towel had been and how many pictures he had with the Towel in locations all over the world. He gave me a few ” Ummm Haaaaas.” and some gutteral “Ls” in his language. Like ” LLLLLLLLLLLambert is the best LLLLLLLLLLLinebacker in the LLLLLLLLLeague.” But his sincerity in calling me was most appreciated. I have heard a lot of good things about Myron over the years and how benevolent he was with local charities. We miss him in Pittsburgh and his cheery enthusiasm will long be remembered by Steeler fans for many years. We are proud of the Black and Gold here and Myron generated a lot of that enthusiasm. Wave that Towel, Steeler Nation, – wherever you are in the country. Thanks for reading.

Live Long and Prosper

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. It’s 5 year mission:to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

-Captain James Kirk220px-STWink_Eye

I have always been fascinated with space. I have an entry level telescope and have always been a star gazer. Therefore, I am so excited that the new Star Trek movie is coming out soon. Star Trek Beyond! I will be in the front row. Why you ask? I was a Trekkie from way back. At Allegheny College, we had a whole dorm lobby filled with Trekkies after dinner watching back to back Star Trek re-runs on the Cleveland affiliate station. I watched the originals in the 60s and then when I was in college, it was great entertainment before we had to go back to the dorm room and grind for another test or complete another paper. Star Trek was always interesting because Gene Roddenberry created it as a modern day version of the old Gulliver’s Travels. We all became interested in the characters- Captain Kirk, Sulu, Bones McCoy, Scotty( beam me up), Chekov, and the iconic Vulcan, Mr. Spock. color_nimoy_headshot

Spock was played by Leonard Nimoy who did a masterful job creating the character who was basically a rational thinking alien who was also part human. His history is well explained in the series but he was the right hand man to Captain Kirk. Spock was always in control contrasting the emotional Captain. I used to love the Vulcan mind warp when Spock could delve into the recesses of your mind with a touch to your shoulder. He also could put you out with the same shoulder grab. He was larger than life. He was a Vulcan, and I met him one day, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

My sister was living in New York City in the 80s hosting a TV show called Romper Room. Black and White mirror picture I would visit her and we would take in Broadway shows and classic New York places to eat. One night before we were to go to a show, we stopped to get something to eat at Sardi’s. This was a spot that a lot of Broadway show people would frequent and actors would frequent between show times. There are pictures all over the walls of famous folks and as I was perusing the photos, I noticed a familiar figure sitting in a booth to my left. It was Spock!!!! I whispered to my sister and we both acknowledged the presence of Leonard Nimoy. I wanted to say hello and tell him how much I enjoyed his character over all of the years but I didn’t want to bother him. Somehow, I needed to make a connection and I remembered that I had seen him play Malvolio in the Pittsburgh Public Theater production of Shakespeare’s iconic “Twelfth Night.”TwelfthNight_01 He did a great job and I sheepishly approached his table and introduced myself. I told him how much I appreciated his performance at the Public and mentioned nothing about Star Trek. To my great surprise, he beamed!!! He said,” You saw that production in Pittsburgh?” I acknowledged in the affirmative and he invited me and  my sister to sit down and have a drink with him and his lovely wife. We blushed and said that we were headed to a show and could not stay but he asked me more questions about Pittsburgh and how much he enjoyed his time there. I think the guy was so surprised that someone recognized him outside of his classical character and he was anxious to have more conversation about it. He was so gracious as was his wife, and thanked us for stopping to say hello. I am so happy I didn’t say something stupid or embarrassing about him being a Vulcan. ” Hey Spock – where are your ears?” Or some other random comment that I am sure he has heard thousands of times.

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One thing I have learned about famous people is that in general, they are just people like you and me. Sometimes they are surprised about the depth of their notoriety and are almost embarrassed by it. Most famous people whom I have met are actually quite humble and although we think of them as larger than life, they really are just plain folks who have had remarkable achievements. They value their privacy but in some cases, they long to discuss topics outside of their notoriety. Everyone likes their privacy and I am sure that many famous celebrities guard their’s with a fervor. However, sometimes you make a connection where you are welcomed and interesting conversations are the result and the celebrity feels engaged and not used with a “selfie” or some other bothersome annoyance. Such was the case with Mr. Nimoy. No one will ever replace him as the Vulcan Spock. But on one night at Sardi’s in New York, he was recognized for a performance in keeping with his extensive training as an actor. Mr. Nimoy is no longer with us but his words still ring encouragement- “live long and prosper.” Thanks for reading.

Everybody needs an Uncle Al

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When I look at this picture I smile. This is the Murray family that I grew up with back in the day. Al and Elaine Murray were good friends of my parents and Anne, Patti, Michael and John became good friends with my sister and me. People back in the early 60s dressed in their Sunday best to go to church, dinner, or other special occasions. Times have changed and things are more casual but this reminds me of when my folks took my sister and me to Fort Ligonier and other fun sites after church. They dressed me in a sport coat and bow tie with a 3 cornered Colonial hat( Dorksville, USA). But this was the way things were and I am sure most of us have pictures just like this of family times together.
But this is not the story. I want to focus on Uncle Al,the patriarch of the family that you see here. The Murrays were not blood relatives but we saw them as so and Molly and I called Al and Elaine – Uncle Al and Aunt Elaine. Uncle Al was a character. Like a lot of guys my age, we had people in our lives that had some influence and Al was one of them in my life. He was an affable Irishman as you can see with that mug. He grew up in a tough neighborhood and consequently he could handle himself. Like when a guy came up to him in a trench coat with something protruding underneath. The guy says to Uncle Al,” give me your wallet.” Uncle Al immediately decks the guy and he falls and hits his head on the curb- lights out!!! The police came by and told Al that the guy better have a gun because Al was in trouble if he didn’t. Turns out that the guy did have a 38 caliber revolver and Al knocked him cold.
Another time, we were all in church in South Carolina and a priest at mass started to get all political in the pulpit. He says to the congregation,” Maybe I should not be speaking this way from the pulpit?” To which Al responds in a voice louder than the whisper,” You’re right- shut the hell up.” My dad and I almost fell over with laughter in church and another legendary performance for me from my Uncle Al.
If memory serves me, they had a dog named Trixie who barked incessantly when we came to visit. We all would be exchanging pleasantries when all of a sudden Al screamed out ” Shut up Trixie” at the top of his voice. The damn dog fell silent and Al beamed at me with a wry smile that said,” I showed that dog.”
Point being that humor is an essential part of life and Al never took life too seriously. When you are a young guy growing up, you look up to your dad and his friends. Uncle Al was definitely the leader of his family and was a disciplinarian. But he was also funny as hell and a hero to me growing up. When he passed some years ago, I felt a void that reminded me that some day, I would not have my dad either. His generation was fading and it was time for me to grow up. But we need Uncle Als in our lives because they mentor us. They show us that families matter and that you can get through life’s troubles and trials with laughter and a light approach to life. Keep your pictures of family and friends. They will make you smile when you root through some dusty old box and find some gems from your past. Pictures are a window to the past – your past. Cherish your memories and make some of your own. When your wife or husband or child says ” Smile for the camera”, do it. It will be a lasting memory for someone down the road. Thanks for reading.

HKD- the man, the myth, the snowmaker!

Scene:  A charlift at a ski area out west somewhere.

Skier in chair:” Hey buddy, where are you from?”

Pat:” Pennsylvania”

Skier in chair:” Where do you ski in Pennsylvania?”

Pat:” Seven Springs Mountain Resort”

Skier in chair(snickering):” How good could it be in Pa?”

Pat: “See those big snowmaking towers over there?  If the man from Seven Springs had not invented them, you would not be skiing this early season fluff here, skippy..  You can thank Herman Dupre for your early season western fun.  Also the US Ski Team would not be training hard at the Speed Center at Copper Mountain if it were not for HKD Snowmaking.” image002

I met Herman Dupre, the former owner of Seven Springs, many years ago when I was a young lad.  When I would see him on the mountain as I do today, his cheery smile and sparkling eyes always greet me with his standard line, ” Hi Pat- welcome to the mountains.”  I have always felt that when I saw Herman, he was truly interested in how I was and that his greeting was always heartfelt.  That is the personality of this larger than life man who I have always respected and admired.  Herman is first and foremost an engineer and a tinkerer.  How many guys do you know that put together their own power plant on the local Youghiogheny River? Or were instrumental in reclaiming wastewater at the resort and using it for snowmaking?  I would see Herman from time to time in the coffee shop at Seven Springs and ask him things like,” Hey Herman- why don’t you buy Laurel Mountain and run it as a sister ski area?”  Herman would smile and sit me down, buy me a coffee, and tell me,” Pat- I will give you 38 reasons why and began illustrating to me the folly, in his mind, of investing in a state ski area two ridges over.  download

Another time, I was skiing in the Poconos with my sister and came back excited to tell Herman about the 55 gallon drums that had large funnels attached to the top of the barrels.  They served as waste recepticles for people who wanted to drop cans off the chairlift.  Once again, Herman sat me down in the coffee shop, bought me a coffee, and explained to me that he knew exactly how much each unit costs to build.  He said,” Pat- I can send a guy up there at the end of every shift and clean up all the cans for a lot cheaper that it would cost me to build a bunch of those units.”  Once again, the wisdom of Herman and his practicality came shining through along with his wit and his smile.  I enjoyed the coffee as well.

Aside from building a ski area and a major mountain resort, Herman’s claim to fame is that he is a pioneer in snowmaking.  He always tinkered with how to utilize high pressure air and water to help Mother Nature spread some snow on our local area which is hampered by cyclical warm weather/cold weather events.  When you ski in the mid Atlantic, you need some help to keep the slopes open.  Snowmaking was the answer and Herman was at the forefront.  In 1973, he applied and received his first of many patents, and in 1990, he introduced the standard tower snow gun that was the first of many low energy products that he and his son in law, Charles Santry and his daughter Anni would bring to the ski area management market.  If you look at their website, you will find all the technical detail of their tower guns, and their new fan jet technology with their recent acquisition of a Canadian company which has increased their R+D capabilities as well as their engineering expertise. http://www.hkdsnowmakers.com   Check out the website because I need to get back to giving you a vision of the founder of all of this.  impulse-landing

Herman is obviously very successful but when you see him driving his Subaru or his motorcycle puttering along at the resort, you would think that this is a maintenance guy checking out equipment on the slopes.  His flannel shirts and jeans are standard attire and his low key, non-“highbrow” demeanor is most welcoming in this world of recently gained affluence and the attitudes that go along with it.  Herman is a working guy and his engineering aptitude keeps his mind fresh even though Herman is well along in years now.

There are new owners currently at Seven Springs and they run the resort a little differently.  Skier visits and  bottom lines are the drivers now in what is a business atmosphere at this long standing resort.  Not that Herman ran it without those considerations, but it is just different now – not saying that it is good or bad- just different.  One thing is that Herman knows snowmaking.  He still experiments in his workshop up near the area and although his company, now run by the Santrys ( Charles -son in law, and Anni- daughter), no one can discount the influence that he has had. HKD Snowmakers is now the leading manufacturer and engineering company in the business with equipment in resorts worldwide.   Automation is big in the industry now and you can see the module components of complete snowmaking systems on the website.  But in the back of your mind as you peruse this site, think of the guy who always thought out of the box and how he influenced an enthusiastic young skier back in the day………..and today on the mountain as well.  ” Welcome to the mountains, Pat.”  That greeting completes that Laurel Highlands experience for me.  Think Snow and thanks for reading.