October 30, 2011

The Search For Gearbox Oil

The Search For Gearbox Oil
By John R. Greenwood

Take one unexpected and historic Nor'Easter, add a pre-Halloween Saturday, sprinkle it with crazy and you've got a story to tell. I thought I was doing pretty good this year. I felt so proud; I was preparing my snowblower hours before the approaching storm. Normally, my preparation for Storm #1 consists of waiting until four to six inches of wet, backbreaking white slop has settled in the driveway. Over the years I have found it more rewarding to wait until after dark. It’s more challenging when you have to hold a slippery metal flashlight under your chin while digging through the cluttered shed trying to extricate the Toro 828XLE Power Max. It is my opinion that only sissies prep their machines in August or on a sunny Saturday in September. Experience and bad words have injected me with enough intelligence to spend the extra money for something that will start on the first pull. I warmed * "Thoro" the Toro up for a few minutes then shut him down and drained the tar from his crankcase. I guess I napped through Engine Oil Change 101, because I'm pretty sure I missed this step last year. Now all I needed was a replacement quart to refill "Thoro." I must have been late the day they discussed having fresh oil to replace the one you drain. Luckily Stewart's is just a sip of coffee away. Off I sped. With a fresh quart of engine oil for "Thoro" and a buttered hardroll on the front seat for me, I returned home to fill our bellies. With "Thoro" full of fresh oil all I needed to do was lube his dry cables and squeaky parts and we were ready for anything Bob Kavachick could throw our way. Wait! There's one last thing to check. I grabbed a crescent wrench and loosened the small plug on the front of the gearbox. The same gearbox that keeps "Thoro" moving forward through snow and bank. I crouched low like Camilo Villegas eyeballing a long birdie putt. Nope, not a drop of oil in sight. I tipped him forward, still dry. "Thoro" was three years old, how long was his gearbox dry? Week #3's class, 'Importance of Proper Gearbox Maintenance' was a waste. I must have gone fishing that day. Even Stewart's can't fill this order. Off to Home Depot with a detour to Price Chopper for carrots and a box of Ditalini. Mrs G.’s intuition tells her I will need a bowl of hearty soup after this goose chase. After weaving through four lets-pretend-we-are-busy orange vested customer service specialists I found the rack containing engine oils of all viscosities and temperature ranges but the only oil not found, was you guessed correctly, gearbox oil. After asking a bewildered man with an orange vest where the gearbox oil would be, I cut my losses and skipped happily to the exit. Where to now? Sears and the Blue Crew are just around the corner. Now there's a manly man's store. They have shiny Craftsman tools, with Lifetime Guarantees, argh, argh. I’m positive they'll have large wide shelves bursting with gearbox oil. I circled around and around the lawn tractors waiting for Blue Crew Boy to finish with his sale. When he was done he attempted to slink off to chat with his clustered Blue Crew co-semi-workers. I tackled him so quickly Brian Urlacher would have been impressed. When he regained consciousness, I asked him, just for the pure joy of watching his eyes cross,"Where is the gearbox oil?" As Judge Judy would say, "Um, is not an answer." He returned to his semi-worker buddies and they huddled up like the Giants on a third and goal-to-go. In unison they grunted, "Automotive," clearly passing me off like that annoying neighbor kid no one wants to play with. Storming around the corner I startled the Automotive Specialists who looked like a pair of 2am bar leaners at Gaffney’s. Thumbing quickly through the Blue Crew, "What not to do." training manual, and with no gearbox oil in sight, they directed me to the Napa Auto Parts store across town. I was now faced with a man-dilemma. Do I traipse across town for a quart of gearbox oil or do I move an acre of snow with a dry gearbox? This was a tough one. After all, "Thoro's" gearbox had probably been dry for three years anyway, what's one more storm going to hurt? As I whistled and sang my way to the Sear's exit a bolt of brilliance smacked me forehead high. Tractor Supply was only one green arrow south. The night was young. I entered the land of tractor parts, birdhouses, and $2.00 tool bins with a bit of trepidation. If Tractor Supply is gearbox oil free, I may lose what’s left of a counterclockwise mind. I proceeded warily. Peering around corners like the cast of Ghost Hunters, the fear of failure began to sink in. I will brave one last attempt at asking the question I have yet to find the answer to, “Where can I find gearbox oil?” As luck would have it, the only weekend part-timer in sight was sitting on the floor assembling a pile of metal. He appeared surprised there was a customer in the store. His customer service failed response was to point vehemently backward over his shoulder toward what appeared to be the rest of the store. Surprisingly I was encouraged by this because this meant he felt strongly that the store did in fact contain the item I was in search of. Look out Uncle Jed, I smell bubbling crude! There it was glistening in the fluorescent lighting like the Hope Diamond, GL-5, SAE 85-95 Gearbox Oil. I cradled it like a pound puppy. Smiling like a chubby-cheeked kid with a bag of candy I headed for the register. Patting my right ass cheek to check for my wallet, a cold chill ran quick up my spine...

* "Thoro" stands for Thoroughbred 

October 26, 2011


"Don't ever think the poetry is dead in an old man because his forehead is wrinkled, or that his manhood had left him when his hand trembles! If they ever were there, they are there still." 
- Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. 

October 15, 2011

October Joy

October Joy 
Poem and video by
John R. Greenwood

On a bright October afternoon a modern day family takes a leisurely drive. Listen close and you can hear the heart of this Model T race once again. The scene saturated with the scent of fresh picked Mac’s and crisp oak leaves. A one hundred year old father-son ritual plays out as an excited boy sits on his father’s lap and steers into the future. A boyhood rite-of-passage passed on from son to son. Mom smiles approvingly, her family tucked safe within. Down the gentle grade of life to the present day where past and present mix. A visual reminder that memories are made, both looking forward and looking back.

This was the result of a coworker and his family stopping by work on his day off one recent October day. I grabbed an inexpensive camera from my desk drawer and as the family left the property I took the video above. I wrote, recorded, and added the accompanying poem later. 

October 11, 2011

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes
By John R. Greenwood
Lumpy mashed potatoes gagged a young boy. I fought and fought the Battle Royal of potatoes. I tried my best to tackle mashed potatoes as a boy, but to no avail; butter, gravy slathered heavy. The fact remained; lumps did not work for me. My life had been threatened and even then those lumpy items left by the devil would fight back, making the simplest swallow, a child’s worst nightmare. It would take many years and an electric mixer to calm my mashed potato phobia. The phobia finally cured by a young wife with a heart. Her children would never be forced to eat anything that would cause them to seek therapy as an adult. Mashed potatoes may be on your list of top ten comfort foods. But I assure you, it was never on mine. 

This was a writing exercise from Old Friend from Far Away (The Practice of Writing Memoir) by Natalie Goldberg  

October 01, 2011

"What Happened?" (An Open Letter)

What Happened? 
October 1, 2011
Anytown, USA
Dear friends,        
As I sit here, quietly, protected and safe in my own home, in a prosperous community within the Empire State, my mind races with fear. The world and it’s people are rolling backwards like a brake failed auto. We send our pets to camp while our children live homeless and hungry. Here I sit, warm and full, while mad-men set off bombs and weak ones in masks kill neighbors. Our cars have heated seats, a half-dozen cupholders, and Disney movies. Our water is infused with imitation fruit flavor and sugar substitutes. Our priority is, ‘us’, not them, ‘me’, not you. We want to look good and feel good no matter how much it hurts. Stop the madness. Stop pushing, start praising. Pull the wheels off bandwagons of hatred and fill the bus with optimism and community spirit. As a child I was encouraged to be polite and respectful. Polite, respectful children are now a rarity. What happened? Didn’t we pay attention? Paying dues doesn’t always involve a $20. Putting in your time shouldn’t simply involve a union contract. Looking out for others must be more than a Defensive Driving maneuver. It’s easy to put words on paper. It’s harder to send a child to war or to show up once a week at the firehouse for drill night. I’m all pen and little product. I simply felt a need to say it. We all complain, like this, daily. We do it on-line, on-air, and at the office.
 It’s not all going backwards. There are growing pockets of acceptance for people of different differences. There are young people embracing change, governments opening doors, people kicking habits and patting backs; it’s just not enough. Cooperation and support needs to be cool again. Self-indulgence  and ‘me’ needs to come full circle. We must look back at what got us this far. Somewhere along the way we lost the map. We took a wrong turn. We could ask  for directions or we could go back to the intersection we turned at. Whichever route we take, we must do it now. I’m not getting any younger and the achy parts only ache more deeply when I watch the news. I don’t want to turn it off. I would rather change the channel.
Sincerely yours,
John Greenwood

My Favorite Season-My Favorite Author

Big Red - Minnesota Monthly - October 2011 - Minneapolis, St. Paul, Minnesota