About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Friday, February 26, 2010

What I Did Next Summer

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

Outside my window, the snow is still flying thick and heavy, born by powerful winds.  There's a fire in the fireplace, and the room is filled by the ticking of the mantle clock.  Yet, my thoughts are not on the storm outside.  A road atlas lies opened in my lap, my eyes carefully following the colorful lines as they meander across the land.  I am confident that this winter will end, and spring will arrive, with warm sunshine, soft breezes, and the call of the open road.

My health has not been good this winter, but I am feeling better.  But it has been a reminder that time is passing, and the years are piling up.  I sense that there may not be many more motorcycle seasons remaining.

So, here I sit, perusing the maps and planning my trips for the summer.

In years past, such sojourns have involved pretty long distances, at least 4 to 5 thousand miles.  But this year, I'm thinking  a few shorter trips instead.

Random Thoughts, the Sequel

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

More random thoughts from inside a blizzard...

One of the frustrating things about this winter is that it doesn't seem to be ending.  By this time of the year, I would've expected more 40-degree days, perhaps even a brief surge into the 50s.  But instead, we remain in the 20s and for the third time this month a blizzard is raging outside my windows.  I'm glad now that I put my motorcycle in storage.  If I had to look at it everytime I went to the garage, I think I'd truly be insane by now.

Despite the weather, the folks around here are bearing up quite nicely.  There are a few grumps here and there, but mostly people remain upbeat.  We all have a deep and abiding faith that spring will come.  Some day.

The day before yesterday, the skies cleared and the winds died down.  That day, I wore street shoes into work instead of snow boots.  I have to admit that it was kind of a nice thing to feel fresh air on my ankles again.  Sort of liberating, in a black sock kind of way.

I'm in my third week of cardiac rehab.  Every day, I'm told to slow down and take it easy, but I'm feeling very impatient with the pace of things.  Which is strange, because on those days that I've really pushed it, I end up with some very uncomfortable consequences, like palpitations and some chest pain.  I'm old enough to know better, but there seems to be within me a sense that time has become a thing of essence, that I can't afford to slow down and pace myself.  I  have no idea where this feeling comes from.  And I have to admit to some disquiet as to it's possible source.

Last night, Tweeter jumped up on the couch and laid down, with his head resting on my leg.  I was almost overcome by a feeling of peace and contentment through his simple act of pure companionship.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Next Blog...And The Next...And The Next...

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

A Blog is a wonderful thing.  I think it may go down as one of the most impactful inventions of the information age.  This is, after all, where we  bloggers regularly expose our innermost thoughts and whims, our joys and sorrows; where we "talk" about the things that ignite our passions.  Even when immersed in crafting my next post, I found myself wondering what other people were doing with their pages.  Lately, I've been making use of the "Next Blog" link that appears at the very top of my page, a neat little squib provided us by the good folks at Blogger. 

I've written quite a bit about the journey of life that I find myself on.  I find that I deal with life's upsets a little better if I imagine these things to be mere mile posts along the road I travel.  And like any trip up or down the Pennsylvania Turnpike, if I can put these posts in my rear view mirror, I can keep everything in perspective.  Once a thing is done, it is done.  Nothing can change what happened; you have only the future with which to craft and shape your path.

So, on several occasions, I've gone to that link and taken another kind of journey.  However, this is not a journey about me, but rather about the people and families I meet as I skip through all these blogs.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Courageous Canines and Fearful Felines*

Morley's Dog

*Somerset, PA Daily American, May 8, 2010
as "Dogs: The Noble Species"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

In the middle of a mini-park along Market Street in Johnstown, Pennsylvania is the memorial to Morley's Dog.  This bronzed life-sized statue of a French Bloodhound has been the source of a host of tales, from the heroic to the mundane.  In the movie "Slap Shot" the dog was credited with having saved his master, or several people during the Great Flood of 1889.  The urban legends that surround this iconic statue have seemed to multiply over the years, but the current definitive "truth" is that the dog was never real to begin with. 

It seems that a Johnstown resident named James Morley, a Bethlehem Steel executive, purchased the original statue and had it placed in his yard.  During the flood, the statue was washed from it's resting place, ending up in the massive pile of debris at the stone railroad bridge, where it was retrieved and put back.  The hero legend gets confused with a true hero dog, a Newfoundland named Romey.  During the flood, the Kress family was trying to climb to the roof of their home to escape the roiling waters.  Mrs. Kress and one of their children, along with one of their servants, were all swept from the roof.  Romey dived into the water and saved all three of them.

This is a common story.  Over the centuries, there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of stories of dogs risking and even losing their lives in defense of their owners.  I found a website, http://www.dogguide.net/25-hero-dogs.php that contains the stories of 25 such hero dogs.  I won't steal the site's thunder by copying those stories here.  You have the link, I encourage you to follow it.

Dogs have always seemed to have a streak of nobility.  Even in fiction, dogs are regularly portrayed heroically.  Argos, the faithful companion of Odysseus, Jack London's Buck from "Call of the Wild," Laura Ingalls Wilder's protective Bulldog, Jack, and of course, the legendary Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin. 

In our house, we are "protected" by a scrappy little terrier of uncertain parentage whom we call Tweeter.  He is enormously affectionate and (to use that overexposed descripter) disarmingly cute.  He is usually friendly and regularly charms the socks off of everyone he meets.

But even in his abundant good nature, he seems to be convinced that he is the first line of defense of our household.  We live on an alley, and people who walk or drive by are notified by his ferocious and persistant bark that he is on duty.  The mail carrier has given him his own name:  The Carnivore.  I don't know what the source of the enmity is that dogs seem to have for these harmless blue-suited public servants, but Tweeter goes absolutely bazonkers when he hears the mail slot open by the front door.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Top Ten Ways to Know You've Had It With Winter*

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, February 21, 2010

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

Top Ten ways to know you’re done with winter.

10. You had to Google “Sunlight.”

9. In your nightmares, you’re being chased by evil snow plows.

8. Your wife caught you sitting on your motorcycle and saying “Vroom! Vrooom!”

7. You’ve given up getting mad at the borough plows for blocking the driveway.

6. You’ve developed a latent hostility towards Florida and California.

5. 30 degrees feels warm.

4. You think snowflakes are actually space invaders.

3. You dug through 58 inches of snow to remind yourself what grass looks like.

2. You went out to the garage and fired up the lawn mower “just for old time’s sake.”

And the number one way you know you're done with winter...

Your new name for the WJAC-TV Severe Weather Team is...

(Drum Roll)

The Three Horsemen of the Snowpocalypse.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Great Wall of White

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

As I look out the window, I see that the hillside a quarter-mile away has once again gone opaque. 

Snow.  Again.

The Laurel Highlands normally gets a lot of snow, anywhere from 60 to 120 inches per winter season.  But this year has been something special.  After a fairly normal fall (first snow fell from the sky around mid-October), late January and February have become a monster.  We've had three major snowstorms which have left a total of 58 inches in my front yard, and if the forecast holds, we'll pick up another 12 inches over the next two days.  The long-range trends into mid-to-late March don't look pretty.  In fact, as the ice melts on the Great Lakes, we'll probably see quite a bit more before it finally ends.

(For a quick look, go to http://galerie-de-couey.blogspot.com/)

I like snow (or at least I used to), but even I have to admit to the massive inconveniences we face this year.  The plows have been very efficient, but there's no place left to put what they plow.  Dump truck drivers have enjoyed a bit of a bonanza as they have been pressed into service hauling snow out of the boroughs and into the countryside, and into the miriad of rivers in this area.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Destiny and the Wheel of Choice*

*Johnstown, PA Tribune-Democrat April 18, 2010
as "Destiny and Wheel of Choice"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
All kids at some point dream about what they’d like to do when they grow up. I remember running through the normal male choices of astronaut, football/baseball, cop, fireman, helicopter pilot, etc. For girls, according to a study done by CNN in 2005 (the latest study I could locate on the Internet) their top three choices were teacher, lawyer, and doctor, along with nurse, fashion designer, scientist, writer, veterinarian, and artist. These choices flashed through our adolescent heads as we tried them on to see how they’d fit. At that time, we didn’t have to choose; time was on our side, so we were free to audition a lot of options. But at some point in our lives, it becomes necessary to make that choice.

The great thing about deciding on a career is that we are free to change it, and we often do. Multiple times, according to some researchers.

I’ve had three separate careers. Ten years in the Navy, 11 years with Caterpillar, and now with the Intelligence Community. In many ways, this path typified the path of many of my contemporary Boomers. The days when your career was tantamount to a marriage, staying with a single company for 30 or 40 years are past. Mobility is the new byword.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Random Thoughts from a Midwinter's Eve

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

I wonder who’s going to be the first to mass-produce a hybrid (gas-electric) motorcycle? The time would seem to be right, and frankly, I’m getting tired of seeing electric motorcycles that are only the size of trail bikes. How about something for the real world? Like a hybrid Gold Wing. Honda, are you listening?

A fire in a fireplace can be hypnotic. There’s something so soothing about watching the flames dance over and amongst the logs while the cold winds blow against the windows.

When I first climb in bed, our cat jumps up and curls up on my chest, staring at me from inches away. I’m curious whether it’s because she really likes me, or because I’m just warm furniture on a cold night.