Friday, January 31, 2014

Charley - New Year's Reflections 2013

Charley's year was a hectic one at work. He took over as the Pattern Shop Supervisor about a year-and-a-half ago, which added a lot of new challenges (stress) to his job. The company has also been restructuring its culture and manufacturing process, which is never easy and particularly difficult in a company that is over one-hundred years old and has many employees with thirty or more years on the job. However, many of the upper management personnel have retired recently, effectively severing the moorings of this very large, very old ship.

The beginning of 2013 brought a young, energetic general manager, Johnny, who was keen on moving and shaking. Charley is an earnest, hard-working fellow that embraces new processes that clearly benefit the company. That made Charley the new GM's go-to guy. While Charley certainly could see the benefits to the company and was glad of the changes, the extra stress was not always welcome. This past year he created a new production board that tracks individual pattern maker's progress on their projects, he researched and purchased a CNC machine, is working on training patternmakers to use it, is augmenting his production process to leverage its abilities, and he headed up a new Continuous Improvement Program that solicits ideas from employees and provides a reward structure for ideas generated by individual employees and departments supporting the efforts. He was also the second chair on the AFS board. All this and he still managed the day to day operation of the pattern shop. He is lucky to have an excellent group of guys working for him, including a very competent Lead Man, and backups.
New CNC machine
Whew. No wonder he always looks relieved to be home, even though I saddle him with the care of two young kids while I go out for a walk and to write, all of which helps me maintain my scant hold on my sanity. (They don't nap.)

As you probably already know, Charley's been doing quite a bit of running. He and his running partner Dalt logged around six hundred miles last year. He schedules enough races to keep himself motivated throughout the year. The first would have been the Shamrock Run, but we were afflicted with the crud and collected our tee-shirts but posted no time. Charley also ran the Bridge to Brews, Portland Half and the Warrior Dash. He PR'd in the Portland Half with a 1:42:45, but was disappointed in the Warrior Dash. He had to run a later wave than I did, because we had the girls with us, and he got caught in a fifteen minute line-up at a rope wall. The girls and I were waiting for photo ops at the finish line and I was getting concerned when the forty-minute mark came and went. Then finally he came sliding down the mud-hill and trotted across the finish line. Doused in mud, bearded, and scowling, he looked like a warrior.

This summer Charley turned forty. Yep. Really.

At first he was thinking he'd like to have a big BBQ party and a band, but the closer it came the less enthusiastic he was about the idea. Then after a short sit at our computer, he looked around the wall into the kitchen and said, “There I did it. I just got us tickets to the Hops Baseball game on my birthday.” 

Cool! We went out to the Helvetia Tavern for dinner, decked out in our Boston gear and Hops hats and arrived in time to see Boston lose. It didn't dampen his spirits though. After all we were in a bar with freshly pulled pints, eating humongous burgers, alone together, (thanks Oma and Opa!) after which we were going to a ball game. A single A ball game, but who cares! A ball game in a stadium is pretty neat for us. Despite the Hops eventual loss, we had a great time at the game, and the game was really well played, with several of those moments that you hope to get at least one of during a game.

This summer Charley also became a brewer. He has brewed three varieties so far, a bitter (which isn't at all bitter), an amber, and an IPA. We have also had fun designing labels. Charley chose the photos and an effect he liked, I created the general layout and Tucker took both of these elements and turned it into something that looks professional. I would buy a bottle off the shelf, all they're missing are the warnings and a bar code. Each brew has a name, “Broken Boom Bitter”, “Ash Breeze Amber”, “Brooklyn Bombers IPA”, and a story. If you want to hear them, you'll have to come over for a sampling.

At our visit to Lina's he enjoyed spending time with his sister and brother-in-law Dave. Charley and Lina have an enviable relationship. They are each a stalwart friend and advocate for the other. At Lina's bachelorette party, waaay back in ‘98, we were in a bar celebrating, and a guy struck up a conversation with me—this kind of thing doesn't happen to me... He talked to me a bit, and while I wasn't interested—obviously, I'll admit I enjoyed the novelty of the attention. About thirty seconds into the conversation, there's Lina in her bachelorette finery, a cheesy bride to be tee-shirt and tiara, telling this guy to get lost, I'm married to her brother. He gave a whoa, hands up gesture and got lost. It was so cool... But I digress.

Charley and Lina had a great time catching up and reliving old times together. Charley also was in seventh heaven dining on Lina's cooking. Oh my, they know how to make amazing meals. I know it takes planning and effort, but she makes it look easy. She obviously inherited the Wachsmuth chef gene. She just brushes off the compliments and tells us how easy the recipes are. What she doesn't see it that it's her talent that makes it easy. I tried to duplicate a recipe they fed us called Halibut Fillets with Bombay Tomato Sauce and it was passable but didn't touch the tender fish, subtle flavor layers she was able to create. We followed the same recipe, from the same book! I think Charley and I gained five pounds each that week at Lina's.

This year at the Oysterville Regatta Eve gathering at Lina's cabin, Charley popped the tops of a couple bottles of the Broken Boom Bitter and everyone sampled, even those, like Tucker, who don't particularly care for the flavor of beer. Charley also went to the Oysterville Social Hour at the Stevens' house and entertained everyone with a discussion of the brewing process. He came out all grins as he recounted the conversation.


Charley has a very meticulous nature, well suited to the controlled environments you need as a brewer, and all of his brewing ventures have turned out really well. I would love to see us with a little Farmer's Market Stall in a few years, giving away samples and selling cases. Until then we are happily drinking his brews and sharing with friends, family and neighbors.

While Charley doesn't share our enthusiasm for the holidays, for the sake of the particular holiday, he always is out there dutifully decorating the house with lights and dragging plastic boxes of decorations out of our storage spaces, while the girls prance around in a state of delight.  He does however treasure the company of family and friends that the holidays bring.

Thanksgiving was at our house this year and we love getting our families together.  Charley and Clark had a nice opportunity to reconnect too.  After the third or fourth shared bottle of home brew the brotherly brothers decided to sign-up for Tough Mudder this year.  In case your not familiar with Tough Mudder, it is an obstacle course race that goes ten miles, featuring electrical shocks and pools of ice water to crawl through...  Feeling brotherly?  Sign up for their team!

The last few years our tradition has been to visit Lina and Dave for a weekend, a week or two before Christmas.  Charley looks forward to this immensely.  He spends the weekend tucked in with his family visiting, dining on Lina's amazing cooking, shooting clay pigeons, and in general having a good time.  This year he brought up some of his beer and we had great fun sampling, visiting, and sampling some more.  The next morning, although feeling a bit sluggish, Dave, Lina, Charley and I managed a three mile run, while Opa and Oma watched our little ones. The area they live in is absolutely beautiful and the run was as pleasurable as the company.

We spent our New Years in Oysterville in the company of Oma and Opa.  None of us could make it to midnight so the fun favors had to wait until morning.  The morning came and went.  Then the next day it was time to go home and still the favors were untouched.  With the car was loaded and idling, we got out the noise makers and poppers and rang in the new year.  We brought the remainder of the favors home and had a big celebration.  The girls were crowned with tiaras while blowing horns and popping poppers.  Thanks Oma and Opa!

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