24 Apr 2012
I did some quick research on the matter of Numbers Stations before I went to bed, and listened to some. (Numbers Stations are rogue shortwave broadcasts of recited, apparently random numbers, which are undoubtedly coded messages from the undercover security services of various nations. Article here.) They have a sound all their own, and as I fell asleep I could hear phantom broadcasters endlessly reciting numbers...
Yesterday I also once again heaved my large, ancient body up the steps into the garage attic, and installed some more wood along the carefully defined path where I walk to store things, making the area a lot safer. You now actively have to search for ways to put your leg through the ceiling drywall; it's much harder to fall through the ceiling.
When I was in the Marines I once saw my civilian co-worker fall through some ceiling tiles with a crash. It was a comic and horrible sight at the same time. Erv was made of iron, however (he made the landing at Guadacanal as a young Marine) and so he kind of shrugged, brushed himself off, checked for broken bones - none - and continued to work. But I made a mental note: Avoid doing that yourself.
Erv was an amazing guy; I write about him here, in my Avocado Memories Marine Corps page. He spent (I think) nearly ten years in the Marines beginning in World War II, and worked at Camp Pendleton in Southern California as a civilian telephone cable splicer/technician. When I worked with him in the mid-Seventies he was in his early fifties but very fit, and as strong as a bull. He was built like a fireplug or a beer keg - a compact but powerful man. I once saw him balance a ladder and scale up most of it quickly and then most of the way down again before he lost balance - quite acrobatic!
He absolutely relished hard work. He was never happier than when he had a rifle or a shovel in his hand. Erv was one of those old school men who lived on coffee (unfiltered Camels!) and cigarettes. I became a coffee drinker, thanks to his influence. We drank about six to eight cups a day. Indeed, I had a series of coffee mugs I brought with me into the truck. I noticed that among the civilians who were World War II era former Marines, it was something of a matter of pride to have a nasty looking and rarely washed coffee mug. I could never develop one; mine kept breaking in the truck. I gave up coffee when I joined the Mormon church - and enjoyed some immediate health benefits - but to this day when I smell coffee grounds I grow desirous.
There didn't seem to be anything mechanical that Erv couldn't repair, and I learned a lot from him in this respect. Telephone cable air compressors, electronic equipment, tires, automotive engines... you name it. I learned two important things from him in this respect:
1.) Try it. If something is broken, carefully take it apart and see how it ticks. You can probably find and repair the problem if you look carefully and think. I have found this to be the case many, many times, and have picked up something of the Mr. Fixit reputation Erv had. When I was a young Marine, emulating Erv, I once tore into the complicated workings of my sealed Volkswagen speedometer and super glued a cracked nylon gear back together, repairing it for as long as I had the car. I was rather amazed with myself, but learned the "try it" lesson.
2.) Search for that which is lost. Many is the time that I would see Erv look carefully on the ground where a screw, washer or some other small item had been dropped. Not being a child of the Depression I'd simply grab a new part, but Erv would look. It was a rare instance where he couldn't find what he had dropped, and I picked up this thrifty and diligent habit from him. It is a rare that I cannot find something I've lost because I make a concerted effort to find it.
I am happy to report that Erv is still alive and doing well in Washington state; it does not surprise me at all to learn that he has a business repairing antique clocks. I got a rather amazing Christmas present from him last year.
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