Monday, January 28, 2008


My friend, and more than occasional commenter on my blog, Jim H, posted his thoughts on my recent entry Soul Mates that I thought merited its own discussion.

Jim's blog is called GETTINGtheGIRLS. Before you rush off thinking you're going to learn the secrets to wooing women, I should warn you that the title reflects his and his wife's journey to Ukraine to adopt two teenaged orphans. Our life paths have taken far different courses since they intersected at WTKR-TV in Norfolk, Va. more than a dozen years ago but if, like me, you can appreciate someone's convictions even if they differ greatly from your own, you'll find his blog worth the read.*

He wrote:
Don't mean to be too philosophical about this, but think about our grandparents.

My grandpa worked 35 years at Dow Chemical doing the same thing every day. His work and, from outward appearances, his life was drudgery. But he was a vast human being in every respect.

Today's culture of Me-ism demands that we are "fulfilled" in everything we do. If our job bores us we move on.

Sadly, the same mindset applies to many when it comes to marriage: If my spouse isn't helping me to be happy, then I'm outta here, because happiness is the goal in life.

I've never married so I am, of course, the perfect person to take potshots from the peanut gallery!

I agree that we live in a world in which everything is increasingly disposable. If we don't like something, we can throw it out (or sell it on e-bay or craigslist) and trade up to something new. This includes spouses too. They ain't cheap, though.

Marriages in the old days weren't always as rosy as we romanticize. Back then if you chose your spouse poorly -- if you even got to choose -- you sentenced yourself to a lifetime of physical or mental abuse and you lived in misery until death did you part. Some marriages should end in divorce.

I think there's more than Me-ism involved in today's marriage failure rate. Expectations about many things differed in our grandparents' -- and even our parents' -- times. They expected to go to work for a company and stay their their entire careers. Jim mentioned his grandpa's 35 years at Dow Chemical. My father worked for more than 30 years selling tires for B.F. Goodrich.

People now do not expect to retire from the same company with whom they begin their careers. I've had eight different full-time jobs in seven different states since I graduated college. Jim spent his share of time wandering the roads as a TV news nomad too.

That's no excuse for bailing out on a marriage as soon as tough times hit. People who marry expecting their spouses to make them happy should have never walked down the aisle. No one can make you happy if you can't find happiness in yourself. If in the increasing unlikelihood that I ever marry, I would want my wife to enhance my well-being and occasionally lift me up on the down days. I'd expect to do the same for her. But the woman I marry will be getting a complete, fully-formed, self-reliant person.

I grant you that at -- gasp! -- age -- wheeze! cough! -- 42 now, it took me long enough to get here.

When I mentioned how well my high school friend Jamie and I got along together during my vist last month, we were both on our best behaviour. What made me write her later that I'd love to figure out whether we'd be compatible for longer was how comfortable I felt being myself around her and the sense I got that she was acting with little or no pretense as well.

With anyone I'd have similar feelings about, I'd understand that living happily ever after doesn't mean feeling happy every moment. I'd also want to know that we could disagree respectfully and that we'd give each other the space to be the people we were before we united. You know, the people that that made each of us want to marry the other.

*If Jim ever does create a blog dispensing advice on picking up girls, it will be a smash. To borrow a phrase, the dude was catnip to women.


Fear not; nobody has put me in charge of anything. But I do have my uses around the house. I put a clear coat of protective finish on the antique radio I bought a couple of weeks ago.* I installed new wire shelving in the laundry room, which means I don't have to hang my freshly laundered shirts on the shower curtain rod.

And I reupholstered my dining room chairs. My chronically sinus-clogged cat had sneezed on the old seat covers and ruined them. Spot cleaning had no effect. I got the idea that maybe I could take the fabric off the seats and put them in the washer. Turns out I can do that but that it doesn't clean cat snot out of them.

Who? Me?

That brought up Plan B: Buying fabric and making new seat covers. This involved doing something that few heterosexual men do voluntarily -- going to a fabric store.** I saw some other men when I visited Jo-Ann Fabrics but none who had not obviously been dragged there against their will by a woman.

Alone without a guide and not even sure how to explain what I was looking for, I had brought one of the snot-stained swaths with me. If all else failed, I could point and grunt "want new one." And some kind employee -- female, of course -- would look at me with pity and point me in the right direction.

Which is exactly how it happened. Fabric stores sell much more than fabric and since I hadn't brought a GPS unit with me, if I had tried wandering through the aisles myself, you might have had to send search teams to rescue me. So when I saw the customer service desk, I did another unmanly thing and went straight there and asked directions, basically pointing at the material in my hand and grunting, "want new one."

They didn't have anything like the pattern I had so I went with the one I guessed would look best -- not to mention one that I guessed might best hide future "snot rockets" from the cat. The one I chose turned out to be thicker than ideal for the task and close inspection will reveal my less than artful job. But if you come visit, you're going to be polite enough not to notice, right?

Otherwise, I'm sending you to the fabric store to buy replacements.

* It's generally not advised to alter antiques but the wood in places had dulled and dried and I didn't buy the radio as an investment; I bought it to admire.
** To make up for the fabric store trip I got to go to Lowe's to buy my new staple gun!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tampa Bay Downs

Saturday was hat day at Tampa Bay Downs. Pay your $2 admission and get a free hat. My dad buys several extra ones to give to friends. You'll see Dad sporting his new hat in some of the shots in the lengthy slide show below. (So give it time to load.)

I don't usually bet on the races. The gamble for me is whether I can get any of the horses in focus as I snap shots of them. I did get a couple of new lenses to help me accomplish this but, truth told, many of the action shots needed a lot of cropping to make them presentable.

As mentioned in a recent post featuring pictures I took at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, the Flash file only works in Firefox on my computer. Firefox is a free download so if you don't have it, you can click here to get it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Soul Mates

She's so fine there's no telling where the money went.

(That line from the Robert Palmer song Irresistible doesn't have much to do with what I'm about to say. I just like the line because it explains a whole lot in very few words.)

I don't believe in soul mates, at least not the idea that that there is only one person with whom each of us is meant to find harmony. Think about it. There are six billion people on the planet. If you are compatible with only one human in this whole wide overpopulated world, you have some serious problems!

But the ones worth sharing your life with don't come lined up on conveyor belts, either. I get that. And there have been times I've wondered if I had met "the one" and let her pass by me. And, truth told, other times when I met a potential "the one," she totally ignored me and I wondered what was wrong with me.

Maybe I was reading the wrong magazines.


I have created a new label for posts called "Scams" as I report people's attempts to sneak money from me. Some of them are perfectly legal, if still scummy. Some may not be. Here's one that's on the line.

An envelope came in the mail from GQ Magazine yesterday. I usually throw these solicitations out unread and I don't know what spurred me to open this one. I made the mistake of subscribing to Esquire so now other magazines (including GQ, Men's Health and Playboy) regularly send me pitches.

When I've opened them in the past, the envelopes have contained letters telling me how much smarter, richer and sexier I would be if only I paid them to send me their magazine. This must be true. I mean, who gets laid more than a guy who sells magazines? That's what I want to be when I grow up.

Yet I have somehow resisted. I got the Esquire only because it was just $11 for two years and even at that rate it's not vital to my well-being as a functioning citizen.

But GQ doesn't want to take NO for an answer. And it tried a new tack. Instead of trying to sell me an order; it told me I had already placed one. "ACKNOWLEDGEMENT," it read at the top. "THANK YOU FOR YOUR ORDER!" And below that:

Dear John Mcquiston:
          Thank you for ordering GQ magazine. Your first issue should be arriving shortly.
          We are billing in 4 monthly installments. Your first payment of $6.02 is now due. Please return the attached bill with your check payment to GQ. Respond by 2/11/2008 to receive our exclusive GQ Gym Bag -- FREE with your FULL payment.

Charles Simpson, For GQ

P.S. As a subscriber, you are saving over 75% off the cover price.

Why, that's fantastic! Only I intend to save 100% off the cover price as well as the trouble of flipping through hundreds of photos of anorexic people dressed in expensive clothes by keeping my check and returning the bill in their pre-paid envelope marked "DID NOT ORDER. DO NOT WANT. REMOVE MY NAME FROM YOUR MAILING LIST."

But I wonder if this is a tactic targeting Florida. We have a lot of older people who might see a bill and figure, "I don't remember ordering GQ but if this says I did, I must have. When's the payment due?" And they'd dutifully write a check. My mother would.

I don't know that this is fraud but it sure edges dangerously close, if you ask me. Which you didn't but I told you anyway.


I played my Martin this morning. I have neglected guitar playing lately, despite the realization I made last month that when I died I would not wish I had done more push-ups, I would regret not playing my guitar more.

Yet I've kept my resolution to go to the gym every day this month. My priorities still need work.

When I play the Martin, it reminds me of playing for Jamie at the C.F. Martin & Co. factory's Pickin' Parlor in Bethlehem. Already our correspondence has grown increasingly infrequent and that saddens me more than I expected. Or maybe just more than I'd like. I've thought of her often since I came home and, as I wrote to her, "I'd love to figure a way to learn whether we'd enjoy each other's company as much as we seemed to when I visited even after the novelty of the reunion wore off."

This is unlikely, I understand. We live 1,100 miles apart. Both of us have things closer to occupy our attention. I've ramped up freelance work; she's dealing with job issues. My brother Jim is coming to visit soon; she lives near her sister and two nephews and spends a lot of time with them.

That's what happens. You see what's in front of you and the things a thousand miles away fall out of sight. And soon out of mind, perhaps, as the memories of our reunion recede in rearview until they're as distant as those from high school more than 20 years before.

But, hey, maybe there's a song in that somewhere I can work out next time I pick up the Martin.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Lowry Park Zoo

Sunday was $5 admission day at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. That means everybody and his brother was there. Not my brothers, though, they weren't available. So I should have said everybody except my brothers. But my parents showed up. Should I have thought to take their picture instead of the white tigers?

John McQuiston Photograph
I like my parents but -- let's be honest -- they're not that cute.

Below is a slide show of photos from the day. The Flash file only seems to work in Firefox. It's a free download but my brother, apparently unable to visit the zoo because he was too busy working on his advice column,* thinks that you won't be able to Google Firefox yourself so I should do it for you. In that case, click here to download Firefox so that you, too, can enjoy the slide show below.

*That and the fact that he lives 800 miles away.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New Old Radio

I've been searching for a dining room table so, of course, I drive 50 miles to Tarpon Springs to buy this:

Ah, you noticed. It's not a dining room table. It's beautiful, though, isn't it? It's a Philco radio from 1942, which I know because it still has its tag inside listing its model number 42-360. It receives AM and shortwave signals and it works!

I bought it from a sweet woman named Lucy. When I called her last night, she said that an electronics dealer had called her first but he wanted her to deliver it to him the next morning. I said I didn't want to steal it out from under anyone but that I'd be happy to come get it that night. She agreed.

The trip to Tarpon Springs is better made in daylight because it's got a lot of sites to see. It's also a trip better made when you're absolutely certain you want what you're driving there to get. The picture in her craigslist ad looked good but you never know. I once drove 40 miles to look at a futon I thought I wanted but didn't and vowed that I would limit my excursions to purchase furniture to places closer to me.

OK maybe "vowed" is too strong a word because, there I was, on my way north en route to a radio. Lucy lives with her husband in a century-old house near the Spring Bayou, where the annual dive for the cross happens every January 6 on Epiphany Day. The city's large Greek immigrant population came here to work on the sponge docks, for which Tarpon Springs is also famed. Strangely enough, I've not heard of Tarpon Springs being well-known for Tarpon but that could just be my ignorance talking.

Which it does too frequently, I grant. So shaddap already.

Lucy and her husband had moved here from Oregon and filled their house with color and antiques. It would have been rude for me to ask to take pictures or I might have. Lucy said she loved the radio but needed to move it to make room for a buffet her husband wanted to put in its place. The radio was on when I arrived, scratchy as man AM stations sound at night. She warned me that when I got it home I should not panic when I turned it on and heard nothing. Its old tubes take time to warm up.

I pulled the bills out of my wallet and handed them to her. She thanked me and said she was happy that it was going to a good home. "It's good karma," she said. I got it home in one piece without banging it into anything and it still turned on when so I'll take that as a start.

Like I needed another antique radio. I have an old Atwater Kent radio, probably from the 1920s (the company stopped producing radios in 1936) that my father had bought at an auction or flea market in Pennsylvania. It doesn't work and the fabric covering the speaker is not original. Below is a brochure courtesy of Mine is model #469 on the left. It sold new for $89.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Dirty Laundry

I don't air all my dirty laundry on the blog but sometimes I have to share. Check out the laundry basket.

See anything out of the ordinary? No? Look closer. That's not a mink stole on top of the pile. I don't have any such thing and if I did I'd have the sense not to machine wash it. That is a fur coat, however.

Attached to a little pretty kitty who, for some reason, has always enjoyed sleeping on my soiled clothes. Normally they are found only in the laundry basket. In the past, the occasional stray shirt could be found on my bed and, almost invariably, the cat could be found on it, snoozing away.

If only human females found my scent so comforting.