January 07, 2024

Cutting The Cord

Cutting The Cord 
By John R. Greenwood 

Dad, I apologize, but I had to do it; it was time. I sure hope you’re looking down right now and nodding your head in agreement. I finally retired your favorite heavy-duty lead cord that you used for work. My first recollection of it as a kid was seeing it coiled up and lying on top of your toolbox in the back of our old International Scout. That yellow lead logged many miles and showed up ready for work at hundreds of job sites all over the Capital District and beyond. I’ll bet it even rode with you to the top of Gore Mountain when installing those giant windows in the ski lodge. That lead and your electric drill helped put food on the table and a roof over our heads long before battery-powered tools were invented. 

I remember the day you passed it on to me. We cleaned out your workshop just before you and Mom moved into the senior apartments. While mom was whittling down her collection of Farberware, you were thinning down your lifetime collection of hand tools and hardware. I went on to use that lead for years. One day, I decided to add a four-foot fluorescent shop light above a dark corner in the basement. The only outlet was several feet away, so I enlisted your fifty-foot lead as a temporary fix, hung it on the floor joists, and then wrapped the excess around a couple of 16-penny nails. That part-time assignment lasted twenty years until the other day when I finally installed a junction box and ran fifteen feet of wire to a new LED shop light. 

Your old work partner was tired and brittle. He served us both well. I never took that fifty feet of yellow for granted. Whenever I looked at that thing hanging there, I thought of the care you took with your tools. That lead represented your thirty years as a union glazier split between Arrow Glass in Schenectady and Spa Glass in Saratoga Springs. How proud you were that in all those years working with storefront-size glass, no one working with you was ever hurt. With that thought in mind, I knew the right thing to do was retire that old lead before something terrible happened. 

I pulled the lead from the scrap bin the next day and cut off the two ends. I plugged them together and stapled them to a post in my workshop. They are a constant reminder of your work ethic and the pride you put into every job you ever did. Your calloused and scarred hands were a testament to the wear and tear it takes to make a blue-collar living. I’m forever grateful that you passed those traits on to me. I do my best anyway. 

Dad, I’ll end this piece with something that makes me smile and think of you several times a week. Whenever you and I were doing something together, and a jackknife was the tool of choice, you would look at me with that raised eyebrow, tilted head look a father gives his son when he’s sure he already knows the answer. 

“Do you have a jackknife on you?” 

“Is it sharp?” 

The answer was seldom yes and yes. 

I sure do miss those days…

July 09, 2023

Like I Don't Have Enough To Worry About

Like I Don't Have Enough To Worry About

By John R. Greenwood

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, another warning appears. Low coolant in your radiator, low air in your tires, and low-flying planes in your backyard all add up to a life filled with warning signs. The problem is no one pays attention. I should say no one cares. Every day is like a game of roulette. I even started to write Russian roulette, but any word that surfaces a vision of crazy Vladimir makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. 

How do we navigate a world filled with landmines of warnings and fear while maintaining some semblance of normalcy? You have to walk a tightrope of common sense without falling prey to agoraphobia. It's real, and it's spreading like a Canadian wildfire.  

Personally, I take a lot of deep breaths and steps back, always searching for a "happy" medium to keep me informed, safe, and mentally prepared for the next snare. 

This morning's walk was the perfect testing ground for my observations. I enjoy the solitude of an early morning walk. You get to enjoy the sounds and sightings of songbirds and munching rabbits versus the squealing tires of Ricky Bobby or the rumbling exhaust of Whistling Diesel. The sign triggering this piece was the Low Flying Planes warning up the road. Honestly, the sign is a comfort. Fortunately, we have a large tract of farmland visible from my house. It has a seldom-used runway for small planes, a large pond, a hayfield, and a horse pasture. The multigenerational property is well-maintained and a gift to the neighborhood. The sign was itself a sign to open my eyes to more signs. It didn't take more than a stone's throw to be overwhelmed with warnings on metal posts. 

Stop signs are a given, yet they are the most ignored signs. They should replace the word with a pair of dice. 

Unless you want a shotgun in your face, they can take down "No Soliciting" signs. Nobody in their right mind knocks on a stranger's door these days. The only dog in our house goes in a bun; no clean up required.

 "One Way" signs are the most accurate and timely. In 2023 we all believe there is only one way: "Our Way." 

The "Weight Limit 4 Tons" signs at both ends of my road are nagging reminders to skip the pastry and grab an apple. 

Speed Bumps Ahead
Front Page News…

Do teenagers even do that anymore? 

The last time anyone went around
this corner at 15 M.P.H. they were on a horse.

The sign may be a bit tired, but the message is not.

As I came through the gate of my own backyard 
I was greeted by the best signs of all. 
Thanks Mrs. G. 

July 07, 2023

When Is It Time?

When Is It Time? 

By John R. Greenwood

When is it time to part ways with things that have served us well? This pair of sketchy Sketchers is a perfect example. I have a closet full of shoes, boots, and sneakers to choose from every morning when I head out the backdoor, but one pair of shoes always seems to end up on my feet. Like a favorite hoodie or pair of Levi's, we sometimes develop a relationship with items that give us comfort. I've been slipping my feet into these tired old shoes since I retired a few years ago. I've said my goodbyes more than once, only to retrieve them from the abyss with an apology and another day's worth of yard work. It's a split between wearability and respect for something that has never let me down. This premise includes everything from pickup trucks and lawnmowers to slippers and work gloves. For me, it's more than being frugal and squeezing the last bang out of a buck; it's about giving inanimate objects their due. It's hard to turn your back on something that has held up their end of the bargain. Many can relate to this simple story of a beaten-up pair of leather shoes. It extends to our interpretation of the world and how we live our lives. Taking the time to appreciate the little things around us doesn't cost a thing. In fact, it's a habit that pays big dividends in the Bank of Karma. 

My sketchy Sketchers are safe for now. 

We both have work to do. 

May 01, 2023

Waiting For Agnes

Waiting For Agnes 

By John R. Greenwood 

a pound of ground beef she says

I’ll only be a minute

who’s she kidding

its been twenty

in dog minutes

no less 

wag more 

bark less 

she says

naw on a bone

watch the squirrels 

I’ll be right back 

she says

all you do is growl

these days

we never romp anymore

I miss you nipping 

at my ear

she says

the puppies are grown

they’re on their own

the backyard’s empty

we could dig deep holes 

and howl till 

the neighbors 

come home

she says

with all my training 

you’d think 

I would have

 learned by now

she’s right 

I think I’ll go inside

fetch her the biggest 

box of Milk-Bone’s

and a new pink collar

one with sparkles

our puppy-love 

has endured 


cat scratches

porcupine quills

and kennel cough

forty-nine years in June

human years

doggone good years

pee-on-the-rug-happy years


I love that bitch 

April 29, 2023

I've Gotta Split

I’ve Gotta Split 
By John R. Greenwood 

“I’ve gotta split” has a different connotation for me in 2023 than in the 1960s. In the 60s, it meant you had to leave. In April 2023, it means attempting something I’ve never done before.

We recently had two large maple trees in our yard taken down. Although they still had a little life left in them, they’d both become safety concerns. I called our old high school friend Tom at Tom Mullens Tree Service. Domiciled just a few miles away, Tom’s business is as local as they come. Within days the maples were down and sliced into big old rounds. The larger limbs were cut into manageable-length logs that could be cut up later.

We don’t burn firewood ourselves, but I have a friend who uses it to supplement his home heating. The pain of losing two trees was eased by knowing it was going to a good home where it “wood” be loved and appreciated.

With the help of my neighbor Jose and his son Harper, we were able to manhandle the heaviest rounds, move them from my front yard to the backyard, and line them up along the edge of my driveway. There they would await back-recuperation and warmer weather. Because the rounds were much too heavy to lift onto my pickup, I now had to figure out how to load them or reduce them to a size that made them easier to handle.

This is where my “Bucket List” comes into play. Mine is a little different than the more traditional list. Rather than one that includes traveling to foreign countries, visiting the Grand Canyon, or parachuting from an airplane, mine has things like rebuilding a carburetor, tiling a bathroom, and splitting firewood. I recently admitted to my friend and firewood aficionado, Chris Leske, that I’d never split firewood. His eyes widened, and his response instantly bumped splitting firewood from #7 to #1 on my average-man bucket list.

I soon learned that all wood is not created equal and that those rounds in my yard were actually granite slabs carved to look like maple. If you’re planning to cut your wood-splitting teeth you may as well start with the densest material known to man. Anything I attempt to split after this wedge-resilient beast will be like slicing a cheese round with a hatchet. Why not start at the top and work your way downhill.

My maiden voyage splitting wood at the age of 67.75 was both exhilarating and rewarding. I improved with each swing. My confidence and country boy street cred inched up a notch, and with each popped hunk of maple-rock, my smile widened. My back was not that impressed. 

You’ll never know if you don’t try. If you succeed, it encourages you to move on to another challenge, another mountain hill to climb. My bucket list remains fluid. I just purchased a 30-year-old chainsaw that supposedly “ran when parked.” Amazon promised me a new carb kit in the mail today. I might just cross off another bucket lister by my birthday!

Thanks for stopping by.

Now, I've gotta split.