The Orange Couch

August 17, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Can't Make This Up, Fancy Shmancy, Life 

Michele, of A Small Victory, has posted an article on retro fashions coming around again – particularly ponchos. That leads me to believe that it’s time for the story of my Orange Couch.
(It helps that I’m listening to the 80’s channel off the net.)

The Orange Couch

In the very early 90’s, I had just graduated from college where I lived in the dorms. I was living in an apartment that was the converted 2nd floor of a Cape Cod in Fairlawn, NJ. The owners had installed locking doors between the hallway and their two first-floor front rooms, and a locking door at the top of the stairs for the upstairs apartment. There was a full bath upstairs, a little kitchen, and two big rooms with window air conditioners. The old husband downstairs was a nice guy and good landlord – unfortunately he died three weeks after I moved in and his wife was a real pain in the neck.

Since I was just out of school, I had no furniture. My bed was a twin from my parents – the same one I’d had since I was 5 years old (I have it again in my guest room now). My dresser was bought from a neighbor for $10. My desk was also from Dad – the one he had at college.

I needed some living room furniture. Luckily, my boss had a couch and loveseat set that he wanted to get rid of. I said I’d go to his house to look at it and take it if it was acceptable.

So, one Saturday afternoon, my father and I took the 1974 Gran Torino Station Wagon (the wagon version of Starsky & Hutch’s ride – I’ll do a story on that car sometime – the picture is correct except that it’s a 1973 and ours was brown) up to his house in Nanuet, NY.

We entered the room where the couch was kept, and discovered that they were ORANGE. Bright, flaming orange velvet. The upholstery was a little worn, but otherwise they were in great shape. Rather than look a gift horse in the mouth, we took them.

The Gran Torino wagon was a trooper – we fit the couch inside with the back window rolled down, and tied the loveseat on top. We drove it to my apartment.

We got the loveseat up the narrow stairs, around the tight corner into the tiny hallway, and into the living room. Then, we started on the couch. We got to the top of the stairs and found that the couch was long enough that it didn’t fit through the doorway upright. It didn’t even fit on a diagonal – the ceiling was very low. The hall was so tight that we couldn’t even go in horizontally. The couch was a loss.

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It was another week or so before we were ready to do the dis-/re-assembly. We carefully pulled out the upholstery staples and peeled it back from one end of the couch. We found that the end was attached to the frame by three supports – one at the top of the back and two at the front and back of the bottom. If we cut through them, we’d be fine. So, we peeled even more upholstery back from the end to expose the side of those pieces of wood and then we were ready.

I can’t remember now whether we used a power tool or a saw, but we cut through the supports carefully. Once all three were cut, we then reassembled the end and drilled holes. We installed 5-inch lag bolts into the holes and tightened them down. My father did a really good job – he even countersunk the bolt heads so that we didn’t have them sticking out.

Once this was complete, we took it apart again and loaded up the wagon again. Off to the apartment, and up the stairs. In two pieces, the couch made it into the living room. We then re-bolted and stapled the upholstery down again. The couch was once again complete.

At the end of the lease, I’d had enough of my crazy landlady. I moved to a “garden” apartment in a worse neighborhood on the Bergenfield/Teaneck border – near the Teaneck National Guard armory. This was a borderline bad neighborhood – at one point I had to call the police for domestic abuse in the apartment next door. There was no parking, either – to get your reserved parking place you had to be home by 7 or 8pm.

We took the couch apart carefully, moved it to the new apartment, and re-assembled it. That was the last move I ever made with the Gran Torino wagon – it was mercifully donated to the Jewish Heritage Federation for the Blind the next year as a tax writeoff after a total brake failure on Route 17 – at the grand age of 18 and over 130,000 miles. The couch was put back together again for good – the new apartment didn’t require it to be in pieces for moving.

The couch and loveseat stayed with me for a while longer. I moved them to my one-bedroom Hamilton, NJ apartment where it remained for 16 months. Then, it moved to my house (which I’ve now owned for almost 9 years). It stayed in the family room for about 6 months until we got 2 new couches. It was then left out at the curb and the loveseat kept in the living room of our 4 bedroom house until we finally got around to getting better furniture for that room.

The couch wasn’t dead yet. Our house was bought brand-new – and the neighborhood was still being completed. The site manager’s office was the garage of the house across the street and we discovered that the couch hadn’t been picked up by the township – the builders had grabbed it to use in their office.

My boss and I were able to trace the couch’s lineage – I was the 5th known owner. It had been passed around from formerly-single person now-married to a new single person since it’s creation (presumably in the 70’s). It was a really comfortable couch for snoozing! My new couches were chosen to match the shape and feel of this ancient wonder.

I wonder where it is now …..

Kill the Wabbit, accidentally

August 17, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Life 

I have to confess – I accidentally killed a baby bunny last night.

We have a couple of rabbits living on the property – they were here when the land was a horse farm and moved back after our house and the rest of the neighborhood were built in 1995-96. We’ve lived in harmony with them ever since – my wife even puts an upside-down frisbee in the garden to catch water for them and the birds.

I was cutting the lawn last night. I had cut it the previous Saturday (9 days earlier), but the rainy week made it grow very quickly. I would have cut it over the weekend rather than on a Monday, but on Saturday I had too many family obligations and on Sunday we had Tropical Storm Charley. The grass was very long.

In the front yard, I noticed the big rabbit inching towards the lawn as I cut in an inward spiral. Unfortunately, I was in the way and she didn’t get into the lawn.

Suddenly, I ran close to a rabbit hole and 4 or 5 little bunnies came flying out of the hole. They scattered in the lawn and bushes near the house. I stomped around in the tall grass to flush them away from the uncut lawn, but didn’t find any.

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Finally, I finished the main lawn and moved onto the part between the sidewalk and street. The Mama rabbit was still sitting in that grass, so I moved out to the street and scared her back onto the main lawn. Then, I started cutting.

I was about 1/2 way done with this section when a baby bunny came flying out of the lawnmower. This one wasn’t so lucky – he was bleeding heavily and clearly mangled. I stopped the lawnmower and went to the garage to find a way to put him out of his misery. After that was done, the bunny was bagged up for the trash and my wife went and got out the hose to clean the sidewalk while I finished mowing.

I mowed slowly for the last bit of lawn. After I was done, I went across the street to scare the baby bunny out from under a car where it had fled. Then I went inside, got some baby carrots, and spread them out near the hole. It was the least I could do.

I feel terrible about it. I think I did everything that I could to avoid this tragedy short of raking the lawn, but I still feel bad that it had to happen.

NBC News Fake Hijacking

August 13, 2004 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs, Television 

This story talks about NBC News’ attempt to fake a hijacking of a helicopter in St. Louis in order to back a sensationalist story for the news:

Aero-News Alert: Non-Aviation Media Trying To Discredit GA Thu, 12 Aug ’04

American Association of Airport Executives issues alert, reports NBC trying to set up GA facilities and FBO’s Rebecca Morrison, Staff Vice President, Transportation Security Policy Department at the American Association of Airport Executives, has transmitted the following memo and requested widest possible distribution:

The following is a description of an incident that occurred today (11 Aug) at the St. Louis Downtown Airport, a large GA facility. We are sharing this story with you as there are indications that it might be repeated throughout the country. We would like to thank Bob McDaniel, the Director at the St. Louis Downtown Airport, for sharing the details of the incident outlined below.

Earlier today two Middle Eastern men attempted to penetrate our security. They telephoned one of my helicopter FBOs and asked about a charter flight. After discussion of price and directions to the business, they arrived an hour later. When the office agent asked how they were going to pay for the flight they produced cash. When asked for ID, they produced driver’s licenses from two different states and they were driving a car licensed in a third state.

Things didn’t smell right so the mechanic took them into the hangar to see the aircraft while the office person called the FBI and local police. The helicopter they were going to fly was blocked in by other aircraft so the mechanic was able to stall them by having to slowly shuffle the blocking planes. Meanwhile the two men got their backpacks and odd-shaped luggage out of their car. Soon the local police arrived and they were hauled off to jail in handcuffs.

After a little time behind bars, the FBI verified that the two men were employed by NBC New York and were on assignment to get a story of how easy it is to charter a helicopter for a terrorist attack. The men had stayed in a local hotel and purchased box cutters, leather-man knives, and other potential weapons at the local Wal-Mart using a credit card. The box cutters had been hidden in the lining at the bottom of the back packs and the other weapons were hidden throughout their baggage. They had audiotaped the telephone conversation with Arlene and were going to use it as part of a national news story about how easy it is to get information and directions to the location of the helicopter and then hijack it to commit a terrorist attack.

I doubt they will be back at our airport soon and this is a story that will never be seen since they were caught. A very “well-done” to my FBO and staff and the local FBI and police response forces. We have since learned that we were the first airport where this had been attempted and NBC planned to attempt similar penetration stories around the country. Please help me spread the word to other airports.

AOPA’s annoyed: [Ed Note: Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association – I’m a member.]

Proof AOPA Airport Watch concepts work

Here’s the proof that GA airports really are small communities and that the “residents” know when something is amiss. Yesterday, alert folks at a general aviation airport contacted authorities who nabbed two suspicious characters before they could cause trouble.

“This incident demonstrates the validity of the Airport Watch concept,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “Vigilant pilots and airport workers make the best security force because they know who does and doesn’t belong at the airport. They can easily spot the things that just don’t seem right.”

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The story begins as a man telephones an FBO at St. Louis Downtown Airport (CPS), not far from the Gateway Arch, and asks about chartering a helicopter. About an hour later, two men of Middle Eastern appearance walk into the FBO, pull out cash to pay for the flight, and present driver’s licenses from two different states as ID. Office staff notices their car is registered in a third state.

“Things just didn’t smell right,” said St. Louis Downtown Airport Director Bob McDaniel, “so the mechanic took them into the hangar to see the aircraft, while the office person called the FBI and local police.”

(Airport Watch guidance says to call local police or the FBI if you suspect an immediate threat to life or property.)

The helicopter was blocked by other aircraft, and the mechanic used that as an excuse to stall the two suspects, who began unloading backpacks and odd-shaped luggage from their car.

Local police arrived shortly and hauled the suspects off to jail in handcuffs. Police discovered box cutters and other potential weapons hidden in the bags.

And now (with apologies to Paul Harvey), the rest of the story.

After a little time behind bars, the two “terrorists” confessed that they were NBC employees from New York. Their assignment: A story on how “easy” it was to get information and directions to a helicopter and then hijack it. St. Louis was their first attempt; the network reportedly planned similar tries to penetrate security at airports around the country.

“Kudos to the folks in St. Louis for using the Airport Watch concept to thwart this ‘terrorist’ attempt,” said Boyer. “Praise, too, to the local police for responding quickly and appropriately.

“And to NBC, we challenge you to put this story on the air, as you have done so many anti-GA security references. But somehow, I don’t think we’ll see it leading Nightly News.”

I’m a student pilot – about a month or two from completing my training and receiving a Private Pilot license. This kind of stuff really bugs me.

Since 9/11, General Aviation (essentially, non-military and non-airline pilots) has been subjected to restriction after restriction. And for no good reason! The planes that I fly (Piper Warrior) have the load-bearing capacity of a Yugo with less space to do it in. With full fuel tanks, I can only carry about 600-700 pounds, and that includes ME! The Department of Energy has done studies, and a fully loaded General Aviation plane would be unable to breach the containment vessel of a nuclear power plant.

In the fall of 2001 (if I remember completely), a suicidal teenager crashed his Cessna into a tall building in Tampa, FL. It broke windows, and damaged two or three offices. It did not start a big fire. It did not destroy the building. An exploding microwave inside the office would have done more damage.

It’s time for the government to stop picking on the little guys, and concentrate on the big guys. At the little airport that I fly out of, nobody’s getting near a plane without being identified. New people (like me on my first day) are stopped and spoken to as soon as they are spotted. The merely curious are given rides or intro lessons – as we have seen above the real terrorists are arrested.

And SHAME ON NBC for wasting law enforcement resources by trying this stunt. They have enough to do already!

NJ Governor comes out of closet, resigns

August 12, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs 

In a press conference that I just watched, NJ Governor Jim McGreevey announced that he has come to the realization that he is “a gay american”. He also stated that he had an affair with another man, and apologized to his wife and family. He announced that he will be resigning effective November 15, 2004.

I watched the news conference via the net. It was a bit bizarre – a very well delivered upbeat speech about a totally unexpected topic.

Yahoo Article

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I am strongly in favor of gay marriage. I am even more strongly against infidelity. I’m glad to see him go.

(A Small Victory chimes in with Michele’s comments.)

Leah Athena Schlenker

August 12, 2004 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life 

Leah Schlenker

Welcome to the world, Leah.

You arrived on Monday, August 9, 2004 at 1:01am at Mercer Medical Center in Trenton, NJ. You came into the world at a respectable 7 lbs. 8 oz. and 20 inches long.

You were a little late getting here (9 days overdue), but once you decided to get here you got here fairly quickly. Your mother (Andrea Schwartz) managed not to need any drugs for your delivery, as she wished.
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Your birth was attended by your father (Scott Schlenker) and sister (Kirah Schlenker) and your aunt Tasha Schwartz.

The world that you’re coming into is a little scary at the moment, but it was that way when your parents arrived as well. Their decision to bring you into the world will make this a better place now and into the future. Your mother, father and sister are all good people – you’ll do fine. (There are lots of other fine people around you as well, but these are the important ones.)

Remember this – you’ll always have your friends Mark and Carolyn to fall back on, if you need us. I’m sure that you won’t – your family will do a great job raising you, but we’ll be here for a while yet as a backup.

Atlas Line (USA) Really Is A Dirty Shipper

August 2, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs, Weblogs 

In this article, I posted a link to Chief Wiggles’ site and a problem that they are having with Atlas Line (USA) regarding a shipment of toys for Iraqi children. Later that day I modified the post to say that things were resolved.

Apparently, this wasn’t true. This shipper has failed to get the deposit transferred to the Kuwaiti company holding the shipment, and has started leaving callers on hold when they try to get this resolved. We need your help.

See HERE for Chief Wiggles’ detailed post on the matter.

Then, call and make some noise:

Atlas Line (
President: Alicia Ludwig
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Atlas Line (USA), Inc.
650 Atlanta South Parkway, Suite 500
Atlanta, GA 30349

Phone: 404-766-4676
Fax: 404-209-8493

I just called, and they refused to put me through to anyone – “they are all in a meeting”. I am supposed to call back in an hour to speak to “Brian”.