Christmas 2004

Family & Friends,   

We are happy to say that 2004 was another great year that found us all happy and in good health – or should we say as happy (as can be expected) and as healthy (as conditions permit)?   I think we vote for the first version!  Especially now as Christmas approaches and we are all together:  Domenic, my mother, and I.  It is just nice to be together, and at these times it is hard to think about the past, or worry about the future – and that is a good thing!  You know what all the gurus say – live in the present!

It was a good year for the garden.  We planted a lot of stuff and actually got to eat most of it!  There were (in approximate chronological order):  strawberries, lettuce, swiss chard, fava, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes (three kinds), peppers (three kinds), beets, broccoli, savoy cabbage, and zucchini.  Oh, and don’t forget the grapes, although it was not a good year because of too much rain and cooler weather.  We didn’t even make any wine!  Domenic was a good gardener hoeing and watering the plants, Dad exercised pumping water from our well!

Dom and I made some great progress with his Radio Controlled plane.  A major breakthrough was just getting the engine started!  During the summer we went to an RC club in Phoenix (New York) and the guys were very nice.  They really taught us some good tricks and we had a successful first flight with their help.  After that we made our usual summer trip down to the Washington DC area to visit some friends.

We started with Mike & Berni David and got to see a lot more horses at the stable where their daughter, Stephanie rides.   We are learning more about horses every time and the different personalities they have.   Mike took us to a local High school where our goal was a limited flight of our plane – we didn’t see any signs saying “Flying RC  planes on school property prohibited” – so we knew we were good to go! Besides, Mike was the local person whose wife worked in the school district – so I felt pretty safe!  We got the engine started and we were all able to taxi it pretty well.  I tried a couple of take offs, but the plane banked left after take off and hit a tree.  Prompting Mike to ask ‘does it have any ailerons?’  Always the instructor pilot!

After that we saw Ron, Kathy, and Melanie Pfitzner – we had a great tour of the new Air & Space Museum Annex located at Dulles.  We had a riot in some flight simulator rides they had.  Ron did some research and found a local RC club and we decide to take a drive to their field.  We hoped there wouldn’t be anyone there and Ron convinced me that as long as we kept our eyes on the road and didn’t actually ‘see and read’ a ‘No Trespassing’ sign – we would be fine!    Of course, Dom and I weren’t local residents and we left ourselves in the hands of Ron’s ‘moral compass’.   Always an exciting ride!     We really hadn’t completed ‘official’ training on the model and wouldn’t normally be allowed to fly, but we were able to get through the questions (I think Ron answered most of them). 

Do you guys know how to fly?  (Boy, that was easy, we were both former Air Force instructor pilots and Ron is now flying for American Airlines). Our answer “yes” (we decided not to go into details).

Have you flown this plane before?  “Yes” (Good thing he didn’t ask how far or how the landing went?).

Have you had training on the plane?  “Yes” (At the club in Phoenix we had verbal instruction on the plane.  I got to watch an instructor fly it, and even flew it a bit myself!).

After that we drove down to Charlottesville and got to spend a few days with Rick & Betty Lehman (I hadn’t seen them in more than 10 years!)  It was a busy time, there daughter Rebecca was getting ready to visit Germany as an exchange student and their son Ryan was also into model airplanes and rockets like Domenic. Again, Rick took us to a local park and we did NOT see any signs saying “Launching of Model Rockets Prohibited” OR “Flying RC Planes Prohibited” – boy it is great being from out of town!

Ryan launched a few rockets and everything went fine (which wasn’t very exciting), then he took out a two stage model and we knew we were in trouble when it started heading for the ground at about the time the second stage was ready to fire.  Well, it plowed itself into the ground and actually caught fire (good thing it was a bit of rainy day!).

Ryan then took out a real handcrafted model that looked like something right out of Star Wars.  Sometimes the parachute landings can be a little tough and we were ready to catch it in the air as it came down.  Well, I outran everyone else and got to the model first and I did catch the parachute – but the model was dangling down by my feet and I crushed it!

After running out of rockets, we got the plane fired up and we all took a turn at taxing.   We had a lot of room, except for some high voltage transmission lines and were ready to fly.  Domenic took control, did a great takeoff and flew the plane around well for a few minutes – but those darned transmission lines kept moving closer (there was a pretty good wind at altitude which was blowing in their direction).  Dom had to do some tricky maneuvering to avoid them, and, as they say in accident reports (The aircraft impacted the ground at a high rate of speed) – but it didn’t catch fire!

Later that summer we again made a trip to Canada with my mom – she is a real trooper at 88!  We took her to the ‘hurricane deck’ at the Cave of the Winds – so called because they give you a rain coat and allow you to walk almost under the falls!  You take a real bath!   We also had a great meal in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Skyon Tower.  Grandma loves it and it is becoming an annual tradition.  Domenic got to eat two orders of Escargot – which just amazed the staff!

At our home Dom and I got a LOT of work done.  We replaced the main water shut-off valve for the house, and then we replaced the hot water heater, and put in a new gas range.  Dom was a great help and is really learning how to use a lot of tools.   We would cook out and eat under the grape vines almost every night.  Our cousin, Phil Pallioti, a master woodworker, gave us a complete lesson in how to build a cabinet with raised panel doors completely from scratch!   We then gave it a good paint job and Grandma was impressed with the new addition.

We also made out annual trip to the Mount Saviour Monastery near Elmira, New York.   It was a very nice time and Dom and I were allowed to take our meals with the brothers.  They had a baby lamb that still needed hand feeding and Dome got feed it with a bottle – boy, that milk disappeared in no time!

Domenic led a big effort to clean the garage and it is in a lot better shape (if only Dad would keep it that way!).  He also reorganized his room to make model construction easier.  We launched a few more model rockets at home and everything went pretty smoothly!

Oh, my efforts for family reform are continuing.  I took my mother to Federal Court one day and she got to meet both the Judge and the US Attorney prosecuting me.  Come to find out his mother’s family is from Italy and his sister has been back to visit.  He even knew a few words of Italian.  In September I started a six week jail sentence and got out in early November, just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I was very thankful! I could say much, much more but you can check the web site at http://www.AkidsRight.Org/actionc_syr.

I should mention that I was jailed in Auburn, NY.  Also home to a cousin of mine who lives there and has three children. Well… some of the conditions at the jail were bad and I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the local paper (which was printed).  A while later they also did a Front page story on the jail and mentioned my name – BUT, my cousin has the same name I do (John Murtari).  I can just imagine the great fun everyone in his family had explaining, “NO, that was NOT my (husband, father, etc..) in Jail!  Just someone from the radical wing of the family!”   SORRY JOHN AND AMY!

Let me close with one item.  My jail time has certainly taught me to appreciate so much of life we take for granted.  Just the very freedom to go where we want, eat what we want, or to sleep when we want!  Most of all, being able to be with family and friends (easily taken for granted!).  We all have worries and concerns with our families/friends, obligations we have to them, things we must do – we are all OVER scheduled!  PLEASE, don’t see those duties and people as burdens, but as a great Blessing!

Our Best Wishes for a Very Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year

- Caterina, John, & Domenic Murtari

© John and Domenic Murtari 2011