Excellent news.

A few years back, I joined a class action suit against a former employer, and those of us who were on that suit, won. I recently got my payout, so now, my wife and I are going to invest in us a little bit. We’re buying an Elliptical machine.

My Knee.

My knee had been giving me some serious trouble. About a year ago I started having some real serious pains and I went to the doctor and they took an X-Ray of my knee and found that I have almost no cartilage left in my left knee. There is no telling what made it go away, but I know that when I flare it up, it stops everything. I know that at some point my left knee will need some kind of operation to correct the issue, but my goal is to keep it as healthy as possible, so far I haven’t had any serious episodes with it.

The last time I had a real serious issue with it was about 6 months ago, I stepped wrong going up the stairs and just about fell over, I couldn’t walk up the stairs and had to just about crawl up them. The very first time this happened I was getting off the couch and it felt like someone had stuck a rock in my knee joint and it popped out, I thought I broke my leg. I couldn’t get any kind of pressure on my foot. The doctor said the pain was from the bone rubbing against each other.

I have done some pretty serious workouts on my knee without any issues. I just need to be as careful as I can be with my knee. I think one of the most strenious workout I had done was with a personal trainer doing tire flips, that took every bit of energy out of me, but also involved a lot of squatting down and lifting the tire, which I think weighed about 100bs (not entirely sure.) and the first few times I would lift the tire my knee let me know it was there, but once I warmed it up, I had no issues.

So, now that I haven’t had any serious issues recently with my knee I’m going to dip my toe back into working out and see how my knee reacts. Just going to take it one step at a time.

It all starts at Day 1. Monday, November 12th.

Starting over.

Previous attempts have not worked as I would have wanted them to. So, it’s time for a “reboot” if you will.

What does this reboot consist of? Well, quite simply dedication. I haven’t dedicated myself to losing weight. It has gone to far, I’m 342lbs. Three Hundred and Forty Pounds. It’s embarrassing to say, and it’s a hard thing to come to terms with. Things that I used to be able to do with the greatest of ease, I’m finding gets me winded and it takes me a few minutes to catch my breath..

I don’t eat destructively or anything, I eat pretty modestly, I think. But the main issue is, I sit at my job, and I sit at home. I do get outside and work in the yard and garden. Obviously not enough to really get a calorie burn.

How will I change this? On my days off I have a membership at Planet Fitness, which 10 dollars a month isn’t bad. They have a 30 minute circuit, which is like a full body workout. I will hit the circuit 3 days a week and then when I get off work I will have to get into a groove of working out in the gym at work. For the time, I’m going to stick to cardio in the gym at work. I just need to get my body conditioned to be active.

When all else fails. Try, Try Again.

View my starting pictures

Just a reminder…

July 16, 1995 – The Columbian
Take yourself back to that soft summer night when you last saw the rocket’s red glare.
It was the 33rd annual fireworks show that capped the holiday over the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

There were 45,000 or so of you on the National Park Service grounds. Another 25,000 to 50,000 watched from vantage points around the city and south on the Oregon shore. The Columbia River was dotted with firefly lights of watercraft large, small and gigantic.

A television audience delivered for the first time through KGW-TV added 600,000 viewers.

This was Vancouver the place to be on the Fourth of July. It was the place known for having, whether by myth or magic, the largest fireworks show west of the Mississippi River.

And it was spectacular: Bursts of stars and red and white lights floating to the river under tiny parachutes. Flashes of orange light and the thumps of sound from shore to shore marked the launch of fireworks shells into the night. The brilliant bursts of light and sound drew oohs and ahhs of appreciation from young and old. It was exciting to watch and wonder what next would ride its light trail into the sky and burst into beauty.

This was Vancouver, and its fireworks show a mark of recognition and identity.

Summer festivals may come and go, but Vancouver’s annual fireworks display already extends past a third of a century.

When the sound had ebbed and the smoke cleared from the last shot, thousands headed home to Vancouver, Battle Ground, Camas, Washougal, LaCenter, Ridgefield, Amboy, Yacolt, Woodland and Portland.

A northbound traveler on the I-5 freeway after midnight told of a steady stream of cars returning south from Vancouver across the Interstate bridge to homes in Portland and beyond. It was like rush-hour traffic.

This was Vancouver, and on this night it achieved a magical quality.

If it is magic, then there has to be a magician. It is, and there is. He is Jim Larson, who organizes and orchestrates the show with the help of a few hundred of his friends all volunteers.

This show has been staged year after year.

People who don’t know think this is Vancouver’s show. They have come to demand this free event as an entitlement.

That’s the rub. It isn’t Vancouver’s show, but it should be. Vancouver’s leaders natural and political should understand that this event, more than any other, focuses regional attention on the city. But volunteers struggle year after year to make ends meet to raise $250,000 for that entertainment and safe fireworks. And they raise thousands of dollars for good charitable causes through sales from food and other booths at the site.

Financing is touch and go. Volunteers fret and sweat over the money. Will it be enough? Will fireworks sales cover the expenses?

Larson has waved his magic wand year after year. He’s scrimped and pleaded, borrowed and bartered to make sure it happens.

But this year, scrunching his bear-size frame into a battered chair at a staging area near the airport, he reflects weariness and irritation.

He thinks Vancouver, which reaps the rewards, ought to do more for this show.

“The city has not even paid its fair share,” he said.

Vancouver kicked in a paltry $10,000 this year, plus police and other in-kind services estimated at $12,000. Even so, city representatives pressured Larson to hire more outside security people for crowd control.

The city gave the Vancouver Festival $25,000 for its one and only event last summer. That fete, which flopped in most every possible measure, also received in-kind help from the city. The debts the effort left behind gave Larson some headaches. “We use the same sound, stage and lighting outfits as they did, and these guys worry about getting paid,” he said. “We’ve always paid our bills.”

There are other costs, too, such incidentals as trash cleanup and portable toilets.

The Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce isn’t at the top of Larson’s Christmas list either.

“The only help they gave us was to put a recording on their phone system talking about the event,” Larson said. “Big deal.”

Every year he worries the event will die. “If the state limits us to safe-and-sane fireworks (those that do not leave the ground), we might as well pack it in. If the Native Americans establish a casino near Washougal and are able to sell their more high-powered fireworks, you can forget about sales here.”

There’s another uncertainty next year as well. Larson will be working with four new major players: mayor and city manager of Vancouver, commander of the Vancouver Barracks and superintendent of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

And if the Fourth of July show should lapse for one year, Larson doubts it could ever be pulled back together.

Will he try to do it next year? “Yeah. Probably,” he says with a shrug. “I don’t want to see it end.”

“I’m not negative on fireworks, but I don’t like the problems they bring in the hands of unsupervised young people and I wish we didn’t have to depend so heavily on those sales.”

It’s pride that keeps Larson going, and such things as the television image of a 79-year-old bed-ridden woman who was helped to the site because she loves the show.

It’s knowing he and his volunteer army brought excitement, patriotism and identity to Vancouver.

Next year, though, he’d like a lot more help from his friends. The City of Vancouver ought to be first in line.

Tom Koenninger is vice president/editor of The Columbian.

Blast from the Past!

The Columbian
To spectators, the stunning TCI Presents the Fort Vancouver Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular appears like magic: enormous, sparkling explosions fill the sky, rising and falling in perfect synchronicity with a patriotic soundtrack.
The spellbinding show is a result of months of behind-the-scenes work by people with decades of experience.

“My involvement with the show started when I turned 21,” said Jim Larson, chairman of the Fort Vancouver Fourth of July Committee.
For his birthday that year, Larson’s father bought him a membership in the Elks club. “I was installed in the first part of June, and the Elks asked for volunteers to work the Fourth of July fireworks show down at the (Pearson) airpark,” he said.
Larson signed up and has been helping out ever since.
“It started off with digging trenches … then all the sudden I was really involved,” Larson said of his growing role. This marks Larson’s 35th year of working on the show, which has enjoyed a 37-year run.
The Fort Vancouver Fourth of July Committee counts on Western International Fireworks to deliver an astounding display each year.
“We have a long-time relationship with them,” said Larson. “They’re good people.
Western International Fireworks is co-owned by husband and wife Bob and Judi Gobet. They are the third generation to run the business. “My grandparents started the company in 1948 (and) my parents continued the business,” said Judi. In 1984, she and Bob took over.
“I’m real familiar with all the displays on the West Coast, and what’s unique about Fort Vancouver is it’s a very large display,” Bob said. “There’s a lot of hype about some other shows put on … (but) Vancouver is out-and-out, based on the sheer amount of shells and the quality of the shells, second to none. … It’s a world-class display, and it’s free. … It’s good clean entertainment.”
Beauty by design
“A lot goes on before you can get them up in the air,” says Judi of their fireworks shows.
So how does one go about designing the largest Fourth of July fireworks display west of the Mississippi? In late May, Judi begins by “writing” the show.
“First, you have to know what the shells do,” she said. “I have to plug in the timing and listen to the music. Then you use other products to accent and affect the mood of the music. … It is choreography.”
Though each show is unique, Western International’s Web site (www.western display.com) lists a formula for making a memorable display.
Start the show with a bang and create immediate excitement via eye-catching or unusual effects. Next comes what’s called “thrilling mid-show flights,” with shells repeatedly filling the sky. Each volley is selected to heighten the crowd’s anticipation.
Of course, a spectacular ending is a must, and can include flash curtains, long-duration shells and multiple break shells.
“You have to leave them with a finale that just knocks ’em over,” said Judi.
The fireworks used in the show come from far and wide. “Some of the shells are made right here in the U.S.,” said Judi, adding that others come from Australia and China.
While the visual display is the primary focus, the audio portion is important, too.
The Fourth of July Committee supplies the soundtrack and Western International makes the fireworks fit the music. Whitney Houston’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” is one of Judi’s personal favorites, so she was happy to hear it on the tape for this year’s Fort Vancouver show. “It’s a wonderful selection, so powerful,” she said.
One of Bob Gobet’s favorite songs is “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood.
“You can’t do Fort Vancouver without that,” Judi said.
Larson said the soundtrack always contains a good mix of contemporary music and classic hits. Portland’s Z-100 (FM) radio station produces the soundtrack.
Larson said he tries to videotape the fireworks show each year. The televised display is great “for people who can’t get out people in nursing homes or hospitals,” he said.
But no matter how good the TV coverage is, he said, “It’s still not like the real thing the noise, the smell.”
Unfortunately, Judi is typically too busy troubleshooting or overseeing other shows to make it to Fort Vancouver to see her company’s handiwork on the Fourth. So she always views a videotape of the show.
“It looks totally different than being there in person,” she said. Some colors, like turquoise and magenta, just aren’t captured well by the camera.
Bob credits Fourth of July Committee members for the superior quality of the Fort Vancouver show. “They know a good one from a bad one,” he said. “They do an excellent job. I just think the general public needs to appreciate all their crew does.”
Changing times
Larson and the Gobets have endured constant change in the fireworks field.
In less high-tech times, Larson said after the show he and the crew would make a bonfire from the leftover cardboard mortars and roast marshmallows while the post-show traffic died down.
Back when her parents ran the business, Judi said, electric firing of fireworks was just coming onto the scene. And with the advent of today’s computer-fired displays, there is a lot more control.
“As far as the appearance of the display to the general public, (computers) have made it a lot better,” said Bob. “The show is done the way it’s designed to be done.”
However, from a show producer’s standpoint, he said, “it’s more work, more difficult and more technical. Some little glitch in the computer can make it so complicated.”
Still, the sheer magnitude of the Fort Vancouver show makes the extra technical work well worth it, he said.
“It’s a lot of hard work to do it right,” said Bob, who has to deal with a myriad of agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration.
While all the regulations make it more difficult to stage the show, Larson and the Gobets say they appreciate the enhanced safety and the spectacular end result.

KRISTINE WHITE, for The Columbian

Copyright 1999 The Columbian Publishing Co.