Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2021

I Should Buy Some Purple Spandex

Baskin Gym

I was sitting in a local coffee shop when I looked across the street and saw this view through the caffeine. It reminded me of a blog posting from a few years back.

Here it is.

I LIVE VERY CLOSE TO MY favorite gym. It is only about a five minute walk from my home, but, of course, I don’t walk there – I drive. It has all the latest equipment and a highly- trained staff that can help design for you a really healthy and vigorous workout program. You can also get top notch diet and nutritional planning advice there as well.

I don’t care about any of that crap.

It’s my favorite gym because it is right next door to a Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream store. I can just imagine myself doing a really healthy cardio workout in the gym and then zipping next door for some hand-packed peanut butter and chocolate ice cream. I’m never going to do that, but I can imagine it. I’m so glad that the two places are so close. Talk about your city planning! I should send a “Thank You” card to the zoning board. They got something right for a change.

I really do love going to that gym – really, I do. I just stand outside, with my ice cream cone and watch the folks inside sweating and grunting. Every once in a while someone comes outside and joins me. I think they realize that I’m having a better time than they are.

One time some yutz came out from the gym and started to berate me for my dissipated lifestyle. That was his phrase – “dissipated lifestyle.” – And how he was a much better person than me. I licked my cone and nodded, but didn’t say anything. That really fried his Twinkies. He flexed his muscles and got right up in my face and said that when we both get to 50 years of age I’ll probably have already dropped dead and he’ll still be healthy. I told him my guess was that he’d stroke out on his Stairmaster long before reaching 50, and that, anyway, I’m already way past 50 years old and “you can lick my Rocky Road.”

I’ll Be Calling You…Ooo…Ooo…Ooo…Ooo.

SOME THINGS ARE INEVITABLE. Some things are expensive. Some things are inevitably expensive.

That was a big part of my day yesterday. I went cellphone shopping. I didn’t want to. I had to.

I have to admit that this shopping excursion was overdue…several years overdue. My phone was, literally, held together with Scotch Tape. About six months ago it had started to disassemble itself. I never knew that the two parts of the plastic shell were held together with glue. I know it now.

Over the years (about five at least) I must have dropped that phone a dozen times. There were so

many cracks in the glass screen that, in the right light, it looked like a street map of Houston – or like my eyeballs on the Monday morning of a three day weekend. People who saw my phone were asking me what it was. When I’d tell them they would LOL all over the place. Something had to be done. It should have been done a long time ago, but I don’t like cellphone shopping. Nobody does.

The coup de grace dropped on me two nights ago when I tried to order a pizza.

The speaker had been doing no more than mumbling for some time, but when I called the Pizza Hovel I could hear the young lady on the other end but she could not hear me at all.

My cellphone had become just a “Cell,” no longer able to be a real phone. That was the straw that broke Alexander Graham Bell’s back. I had to go shopping. I could no longer avoid the issue.

The second thing yesterday morning (Coffee came first) I headed off to “The Phone Store.” As soon as I walked through the door I could see that this was going to be fun …not. I was the only customer in the store and there was only one other person there and she was “The Manager.” She took one look at my pitiful piece of gear and said, “Oh, my God, what happened to it?” Rather than tell her the long story I just said, “It’s old.”

I did explain to her that I wanted to get a new gizmo and move everything from my phone to the new one. That’s really all I wanted for sure …that and the ability to order a pizza. She logged in to my phone and said something positive. “Fortunately, you’ve backed up almost everything so, even if I can’t move your files from this piece of trash you have them in the cloud.”

She showed me a couple of different phones and explained the features of the dohickey and of the packages available to me. I was actually going to save money and have unlimited data. I like that. According to The Manager I was lucky that my decrepit phone hadn’t dissolved itself into a pile of plastic and silicone. Who was I to argue?

Now I am at home trying to figure out what is what and how to make my new thingamabob do more than tell me the time. I think this is going to take me about a week and a few phone calls to 611 for help. I’ll do what I have to. I’ll beg. I’ll listen. I may even whimper if it might help.

You Gonna Eat That?

This is a throwback from a few years ago about food, health, and some other stuff.

“FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD!” WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT and, all too often we can’t live with it. We eat too much. We eat the wrong stuff and there are people who eat, yet are starving.

We have TV shows featuring the lives of people who have hit 600#, making themselves into virtual prisoners in their homes. Following that show will be another about Anorexia. In between there will be ad after ad for dubious products to help us slim down or bulk up. I can’t keep it all straight in my feeble head. I need to think about food on a small scale.

No matter what I might donate to help feed the starving it would never be enough. I have to start with myself

Read more…

The Cookie Monster Is My Hero

Sometimes there are just too many choices. Every day I am faced with the tasks of making choices as soon as my eyes pop open.

Get up or not get up?

Matching socks or just grab any old two?

It goes on like that until I have made the choices that will make m,e presentable to the world.

Once I get downstairs I am faced with an unending Q&A. It goes on all day. It seems like I can’t go anywhere or do anything without having to make choices. My only respite has been a those few precious minutes in the early evening when I’m able to relax, pour a cup of coffee, and nibble on a cookie or two….or three. But, now even that oasis has been overrun by a stampede of “Choose me! No! Choose me!” When I go down the Cookie Aisle a the Supermarket I am ambushed by a wall holding Twenty-Seven (Read ’em – 27) different Oreo Cookies! How am I supposed to make a choice for my evening snack when I am faced with that?

Jesus only had 12 Apostles to deal with. I have 27 Cookies staring at me. This is gonna be rough.

Ever since I was knee high to a Cookie Jar I loved the Oreo cookie. It was a simple chocolate cookie with a sweet layer of white stuff. Pulling the Oreo apart and eating the “White Stuff” side first was half the fun. I still do that. It’s Tradition! Now, with 27 different Oreos I am going to be hyper-busy pulling them all apart in the Krafty Oreo Test Kitchen. Here is a list of all the choices I am now faced with. Brace yourself.

1. Birthday Cake 2. Fudge Dipped Thin Bites 3. Mint Thins 4. Thins Bites 5. Chocolate Thins 6. Chocolate Oreo 7. Peanut Butter 8. Fudge Dipped Mint Thins 9. Red Velvet 10. White Fudge Dipped Thin Bites 11. Mint Oreo 12. Oreo Thins 13. Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. 14. Spring Oreo 15. Dark Chocolate 16. Golden Thins 17. Fudge Covered Oreo 18. Carrot Cake 19. Mega Stuff Oreo 20. Pistachio Thins 21. Golden Oreo 22. Most Stuff Oreo 23. Oreo (The Classic!) 24. Lemon Oreo 25. Double Stuff. 26. Toasted Coconut 27. White Fudge Covered Oreo.

I had originally thought that there were just 25 varieties, but I was corrected by the nurse at my doctor’s office. I told the Doctor about my personal obligation to sample all of the Oreo varieties. He looked at me…then smiled. I think he was seeing himself behind the wheel of a brand new Ferrari.
It is going to take a while for me to sample all of these new Oreo cookies. I’m not going to try to get it all done over a weekend. I’m going to have to pace myself. Every night I’ll sample a few cookies along with my coffee. I am not a glutton, but I assure you that none of the cookies will go stale.

I have cleared a space in the kitchen where I can store all 27 packages of Oreos. We don’t use oven all that much.

Too Many Miles

THE LAST FEW MONTHS have been rather busy. Since last October my wife, the lovely and excellent Navigator, Dawn, and I have driven from Indiana to south Texas and back three times. At roughly 1250 miles each way that adds up to… (Musical Interlude while doing the math)…7500 miles. Most of it on various Interstate Highways, but we also had to deal with some State and local roads.

We saw Speed Limits vary from 50mph up to 75. Of course, the adherence to these limits was a purely mythical exercise. We did see cars pulled over by The Law now and then but only in certain states.

Mississippi: Lots of Speed Traps

Arkansas: Lots of Speed…

I don’t mind moving along at a brisk pace, but I don’t like feeling like I’m pedaling a Marx “Big Wheel” compared to the Monster 18 – Wheelers that are roaring past me at 100mph. I’m not exaggerating.

During our first trip south last October we drove I-30 across Arkansas from just outside of Memphis to Texarkana. Drivers on that road look upon the speed limits as a challenge. That night I got on Amazon and ordered a 2021 Road Atlas. I wanted to find an alternate road home. That had our return trip go along I-55 through Mississippi. That is my new favorite road. We could move along at a zippy rate without having to challenge NASA re-entry speeds.

One other thing that we noticed as we moved from State to State: The number of roadside billboards advertising “Ambulance Chaser” Attorneys. They must be keeping that branch of the advertising world alive. In Illinois alone I counted nine billboards screaming at us from some Personal Injury Lawyer who calls himself “The Hammer.”

How dignified.

Not that I’m making any snap judgments, but “The Hammer” has his picture on his billboards, and to me he looks like a refugee from any number of Gladiator movies… in a three piece suit.

Each state has its own crop of these lawyers who seem to be loitering along the road just waiting for an accident to happen. I bet that they would arrive on the scene of the crash before the ambulance.

I recall that there is one in Mississippi, a woman, who advertises herself as “Mama Justice.” How Quaint.

I don’t mean to say that there is nothing worth seeing along the roads of America. There is beautiful countryside and towns and cities. It’s just the tacky billboards that bother me – those and the surprising number of truly bad drivers that are out there cluttering up the Interstate System. Maybe it’s them who have spawned those shyster’s billboards?

We covered a lot of miles in the course of our three trips to Texas. Covering that much territory is tiring no matter how pleasant the conditions. A good meal along the way can lift your spirits and keep you going. I think we discovered the best way to achieve this traveling Nirvana.

We covered 7500 miles without once stopping at a Waffle House.

It Was What We All Needed

In this hustle-bustle world where we all find ourselves these days we don’t often get the opportunity to lift someone’s spirits and “Make their day.” I recently had that opportunity.

We were down in Texas for most of January and February – right in the middle of the winter storms that wreaked havoc in most of the state. Where we were in the Corpus Christi area did not escape the troubles. We were without power for several days and had water pipes burst that had us all seeking shelter in a local church that miraculously still had power.

As the week progressed everyone in town was feeling the stress. No power and, even if you had water, it was under a “Boil Order” to make it potable. Fortunately, there was one large supermarket in town that was open and trying to service all 5000 souls. I was sent to the supermarket several times to try to find water and food.

Not surprisingly the store was crowded. Everyone I saw looked haggard and worn down. The aisles were jammed and there were many empty shelves waiting for trucks to arrive from San Antonio to resupply the store.

At one point I was at the end of a crowded aisle in the Meat Department. Shopping carts were tied up in a gridlock as people were looking for anything they could take home. Moving in any direction was almost impossible. Caught in the middle of this traffic jam was a woman with her cart completely stuck and unable to move.

One look at her and I could see that she was on the edge of a complete breakdown. The stresses of the pandemic and lockdown and now with the power outage and freezing temperatures it all had pushed her to the brink. She was physically trapped, surrounded by other desperate people. She was on the verge of tears. Looking around she yelled out, “I want to back up. That’s all. Please let me back up.”

She was starting to panic.

People could see what I did and began to give her some leeway. She started to back up with her cart and get some room to move.

For a reason I still can’t understand, as she backed up, I began to make “Beeping” noises like a truck moving in reverse. The woman stopped and looked at me. I hadn’t meant to upset her or anything it was just a spur of the moment bit of silliness. I just shrugged and she smiled. Then she laughed out loud and began beeping as she continued to back up her cart. When she got her cart free of the gridlock she looked back at me again, laughed, and started moving down the “Bread Aisle.”

Thirty seconds earlier she had looked as if the world was crushing her and now she was laughing with a smile on her face.

I was feeling stressed myself, but our little beeping interaction lightened my heart as well as hers. Could there be something as out of place as two strangers making beeping noises in the middle of a crowded supermarket?

A moment of laughter surrounded by all that chaos.

It may have been a rough time for all of us but those few moments made our day

Microwave Madness

I love my Microwave Oven.

It does what I ask of it. It makes me feel well fed and it warms my innards. There aren’t many things in this world that can make that claim.

I use my Microwave Oven to heat up my favorite frozen burritos. I use it to make my favorite instant Oatmeal. What more can I ask?

My Microwave is a Thousand Watt device and I know just how long I need to set the timer thingy to get my yummy stuff done properly. I know just what I need to do and, PRESTO! I have a bowl of hot Oatmeal! I don’t need to think about it. If I do have to think about it…that’s where I get into trouble and my Oatmeal goes airborne.

If I am at home, in our own kitchen, with our own warm and friendly Microwave, Life is good and so is my Oatmeal. I know that I can trust that Microwave. I know that it will not trick me or try to fool me into exploding my frozen burritos.

Trust is important in a Microwave.

Earlier this year my wife, The Lovely and not a fan of frozen burritos, Dawn, and I had traveled to visit with Family in Texas. While the visiting was grand the traveling presented me with a variety of Alien Microwave Ovens.

On the road we were faced with different Microwaves in each hotel along the way. I knew that would be the case. I just knew it! This was not my first rodeo. So, to avoid crushing problems with my Oatmeal and/or frozen burritos, I didn’t use those Alien machines for anything other than heating up a pastry copped from the Hotel Lobby Breakfast and Coffee Buffet. Their Microwaves were of questionable quality and wattage. I wasn’t about trust them with anything as important as my morning Oatmeal.

Once we arrived at our destination in Texas I felt that my Microwave Angst could safely be shed. One Microwave. One new and reliable machine. One good steaming bowl of Oatmeal and/or formerly frozen burrito.

My needs are simple.

In my dreams.

I discovered, much to my dismay and the need for a fresh roll of paper towels, that the Microwave Oven in our temporary kitchen was not a 1000 Watt appliance, but a 1200 Watt Destructo-Matic Furnace. While I knew that 90 seconds in our Microwave at home produced flawless Oatmeal this 1200 Watt Hiroshima Machine worked much faster and hotter.

90 Seconds at home. 55 Seconds in Texas.

“Houston, we have a problem!”

In a sense of misplaced trust I set the timer for 90 seconds and walked away. While I was away in blissful ignorance that Steel-Making Blast Furnace heated my Oatmeal into a Quasi-Magma and erupted – sending my Oatmeal off on a 360 degree Diaspora onto the walls and rotating base of the Microwave.

I never knew that Oatmeal could fly with such force.

Later that day, as my need for a hot lunch arose, I popped a pair of frozen burritos into that same, now Untrustworthy Microwave.

My Mama didn’t raise no fools! A couple of whining neurotics perhaps, but no fools! I wasn’t going to leave my frozen burritos alone inside that Microchipped Inferno. At home I would have set the timer at a few seconds shy of three minutes. In Texas I set it for a minute less and hit the Start button. I stayed, staring at my burritos as they rode the merry-go-round in the Microwave.

At little more than one minute my lunch began to twitch on the plate. Ten seconds later they began to disassemble themselves. The tortillas opened up and the filling oozed like a Hawaiian lava flow. I hit “Stop” and rescued my now Soft Tacos. They were still quite edible, but just mutated from their original form.

Lesson Learned: Never trust an unknown Microwave.

Other Lesson Learned: Hyper-Microwaved Oatmeal is not easy to clean from the rotating base without a mild abrasive and a few curse words.

It’s not easy, but it can be done.

Let’s Eat!

She Just “Sort of” Robbed The Bank

Today’s post is an “Oldie But A Goodie” from September of 2015.  It is one of my personal favorites and, as bizarre as it seems, I assure you that it is completely true.

 

I WAS CHATTING WITH THE USUAL SUSPECTS the other day when the topic of bank robbery came up. Sometimes they scare me. This bunch of Geezers couldn’t rob the Food Bank, let alone an actual – “Money in the vault, Can I see some ID, please,” type of bank. This group would be called the “Don’t forget to take your meds gang.” Even so, they would be a bigger threat than a person I once knew who really did try to rob a bank.

Read more…

Crunchy Lunch Anyone?

As I have mentioned before my wife, the lovely and talented, Dawn, and I have been watching a lot of cooking shows recently and we have had some really tasty dishes cross our table as a result. I think part of these new and delicious meals is an attempt to expand my diet beyond frozen Mexican food and Manwich.

Inadvertently, I think that I may have killed that golden (and crispy) culinary goose.

Can I help it if I mentioned a news story that has been voted an appetite killer in our home? Yes, I suppose I can.

“After spending almost two decades underground, Brood 10 cicadas are due to appear in U.S. states between Georgia and New York this spring…”

And Indiana, and a bunch of other states.

It wasn’t so much that I mentioned this story about these pesky bugs, it was that I reminded Dawn about a visit to an Indiana State Park we enjoyed (up to a point) a few years ago.

We had rented a cabin in the Park and were just kicking back and relaxing when the State Park Rangers announced that there was going to be a presentation open to all Park visitors…a presentation of recipes on how to cook, eat, and theoretically enjoy, the millions of Cicadas that were infesting the Park.

If you are unfamiliar with Cicadas allow me to inform you about them.

They are a truly ugly, noisy, and prolific species of insect. There entire purpose seems to be to hatch from their buried eggs by the millions, fly into the trees, bushes, and any place they can. They then start making a loud and annoying mating call (up to 100 decibels). They mate. Then they bury their eggs underground, and then they die. Their ugly little corpses pile up until they are eaten by other critters. Actually, that’s a lot like the life cycle of Hollywood Starlets and some Comedians I’ve known.

The very thought of cooking and eating them is enough to make my body trigger a number of unpleasant reflexes. We did not attend the Park Ranger’s presentation. We’ve never even been back to that State Park.

Now I am seeing news stories about this year’s expected inundation of the ugly little bugs. There are different kinds of Cicadas that have different hatching schedules. Some hatch every year while others stretch it out as long as seventeen years. That’s the bunch we are going to get this year. Billions and Billions of noisy seventeen year old teenagers. Thank God they don’t drive.

Even though the very thought of eating Cicadas does not appeal to me I know that there are some people walking the streets like zombies for whom a Cicada Sandwich sounds tasty. I don’t care if they are crunchy, low carb, and gluten free, I’m not going there. I’ll stick to my frozen burritos and Sloppy Joes.

For those of you who are interested in chowing down on Cicadas I am including some disgusting information for you.

Ordinarily I would wish you a cheerful “Bon Appetit,” but in this case all I can come up with is “Save Yourselves!”

Here is a ten hour loop of Cicada Sounds. Pleasant dreams.

Cooking With Cicadas

One Man’s Collection Is Another Man’s Trash

Lately I have been seeing a lot of things online about people and their collections of this that and the other thing. It seems that if it exists there is someone who collects it. I was never much of a collector. I left all of that to my older brother.

Jimmy was just a little guy when someone gave him some stamps and an album to stick them in. That gift lit the fuse in him and he became a serious stamp collector…or a “Philatelist” as he chose to be called. He kept on collecting for decades and turned his hobby into a significant bankroll.

I saw how much pleasure he got out of his stamp collection so I figured that I’d try it.

I found it to be mind numbingly boring and my collection soon found its way into one of my brother’s albums.

“Stamps: Free to a good home.”

I tried coin collecting. I was a failure at being a Numismatist too. At least the stamps were colorful. The coins were as exciting as dirt.

As the years passed and my brother and I moved on our separate paths his collecting gene kept him accumulating stuff while I went in the other direction and worked hard at getting rid of things. I began to suspect that one of us was adopted. He was dark and muscular. I was pale and flabby, but I had seen our birth certificates so there was no doubt about our lineage.

It was in the 1970s when the next Great Collection Storm began. I started collecting British Sports Cars. I didn’t let it get out of hand. My collection topped out at One. They take up room.

I was living in Cleveland. He was in the suburbs of Washington D.C. It had been awhile since I had driven down there to visit him, his wife and kids. I just assumed that he was still into Stamps. The stamps had become residents in a safe deposit box silently gathering in value. He had started a new collection that gave him both pleasure and the need for additional space.

I was both shocked and mystified when I walked into their den and saw row after row of shelves on

every wall filled with Beer Cans. Empty beer cans.

It had never occurred to me that anyone would collect beer cans. I don’t drink beer. I don’t like beer. I don’t have even one beer can, full or empty, in my life. He had hundreds. Of course I was given a detailed tour informing me about the “vintage” of each can. My brother made a good docent. The tour did not end in a gift shop. I have to admit that his display was both overwhelming and disturbing. Someone had to have chugged all that beer. His wife was nurse and couldn’t show up for work smelling like she hung out with Clydesdales and their daughters were significantly underage.

People love to collect things. They all have their own reasons, much like I have my reasons for not collecting things. My reasons result in a lot less dusting, but who am I to shake my head and go “tsk, tsk.”

I never criticized or belittled my brother’s collection of beer cans. It could have been worse. He could have collected Italian Sports Cars.

Does This Answer Your Question?

NOT LONG AGO SOMEONE ASKED ME A QUESTION.

They wanted to know where I got all of my ideas for my Blog. After more than 1500 postings since 2014 I had to think about it myself. Finally I came up with an answer.

Question: Where do I get all of my ideas?

Answer: I dunno.

Most days I just sit down at my computer and start typing. That doesn’t require much concentration so while my fingers hit the keys my brain wanders off like a stray cat looking for a free meal.

Some days my fingers produce something vaguely interesting – Some days Most days not. That is when I have to start doing some research. I don’t like doing research. All that data gets in my way and I don’t believe half of it anyway. I did a lot of research while I was in school. I didn’t like it then and I still don’t. I prefer to just spell out my reaction to what I see in front of me and as long as I’m awake there is no shortage of stuff there for me to see.

I guess you might call me a “Knee-Jerk Writer.” I see something, I react, my fingers start twitching and there you go – another blog goes online. There is not a lot of Creativity involved there, but since my Muse is usually a cup of coffee. That’s how it happens.

God knows enough people have shortened “Knee-Jerk Writer” to just “Jerk” over the years that I no longer take offense.

I recall one blog post from a few years ago that was the perfect example of that.

I was in my usual pre-viral place at St. Arbucks trying to come up with something witty, interesting, or at least cogent. I was having no luck at all. My coffee was getting warm (I get iced coffee year ‘round) and people were beginning to stare. My solution was to get a refill and hit the “Off” switch on my brain.

That day I had been trying to write in one of my cheap Dollar Store notebooks. The computer was at home. I was hoping a more manual approach might help.

I sat back, let my eyesballs roll to a nice bloodshot white, and sipped at my coffee. My pen took over. For the next twenty minutes my pen wrote about… itself. When I eventually looked at the notebook there was a good 500 word essay about my pen and how well it worked.

Who was I to argue?

When I typed it into the blog lineup for publication I added a few pictures and corrected my spelling, but other than that I left it alone.

I started doing this blog ,“Down The Hall On Your Left,” in 2014. For five years it was a six day a week project. By the end of 2019 I was exhausted and after a short hiatus I kick started it up again as a weekly thing. There have been more than 1550 postings since 2014, some of the quite good if I say so myself. The one when my pen wrote about itself was not so hot in my opinion, but blog statistics have shown that particular post to have been in the top five most read entries.

Go figure.

(https://johnkraft.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/houston-were-cool-no-problems-here/)

(In case you are interested, the most popular post was the one about the dead deer by the side of the road with a “Get Well Soon” balloon tied to its leg.)

(https://johnkraft.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/get-well-soon/)

Pop Goes The Wall

 

I know that this will hardly come as a shock to you, but…

THERE’S A LOT OF STRANGE STUFF IN THIS WORLD.

One small example of this has been all over my Facebook lately. There have been daily, sometimes more than daily, postings by someone I don’t know myself who has been cluttering up the world with updates on the medical woes of her pet pig.

If this had been about her child or some other human relative I might cut her some slack, but IT’S A PIG FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD!

I know…there are some of you who are thinking that I am an insensitive lout. I’m not. I have my own emotional support thing. Mine is a frozen burrito. It gives me comfort and pleasure, but I’m not going to pollute the internet posting pictures of it spinning around in the microwave on its way to becoming my lunch.

OK… I will now step down from my soapbox…my emotional support soapbox.

“Now for something completely different” – Monty Python.

Well…it is different, but in some ways it has some similarities. It is about one thing that has served in more than one capacity, but just not very well.

During the past year our ability to go out shopping in real brick and mortar stores has been seriously impaired by this virus foofaraw. Everyone has turned to shopping online and having stuff delivered right to our front door. It works surprisingly well and has made that Bezos fellow very happy.

With every package that UPS or the Post Office drops off at our place it is a safe bet that our purchase will come swathed in Bubble Wrap. Even if it makes no sense there is Bubble Wrap. Did that book need protective Bubble Wrap? I ordered some socks from Amazon and they came in a large box filled with Bubble Wrap.

Bubble Wrap. All around my socks. It’s like being on a crowded bus surrounded by fat people.

I felt the urge to waste some time and learn about Bubble Wrap.

Circa 1957 there were two grown men: Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes who collaborated to create what would come to be known as Bubble Wrap. They were nice guys I guess who created something but had no idea what to do with it. It was like coming up with a cure for a disease that doesn’t exist. When they did come up with a niche to be filled by their creation it was…stupid. They tried to market it as…Wallpaper. Wall Plastic to be more accurate. They were clever inventors, but lousy Marketers.

They got patents and formed a company – “Sealed Air.”

Sealed Air muddled along on the verge of bankruptcy until 1971 when an outsider was hired to run the company.

BINGO!

A fresh pair of eyes launched Sealed Air into the Center Ring. Today, Sealed Air is a Fortune 500 company with sales of more than 4.5 BILLION Dollars and 15,000 employees.

Some people create Bubble Wrap while other people spend their time documenting the ups and downs of a sick pig.

I’m going to go have a burrito.

Mipissssissippi, Misippiss, Mippiississ,…Texas

SOME DAYS THINGS WORK OUT FINE…and then other days – well…

Mipissssissippi, Misippiss, Mippiississ

I do believe that we have become “Snow Bunnies” of a sort. Consider that we have made three – count ’em, Three trips since October from our home in Terre Haute down to south Texas. It is only a two and a half hour flight, but we have done these trips earthbound. In these days of Nasty Viruses we feel better avoiding both Airplanes and Airports.

Driving to and from Hoosierland to the Coastal Territory near Corpus Christi, Texas is about 1200 miles each way. I say “about” because it depends on your route. You can save a few miles by driving through Arkansas and squeezing your nervous system through Downtown Houston. We have done that a couple of times and I will do almost anything to avoid doing it again. On this last trip to see the family and to NOT see Midwest ice and snow we followed a different route. It added about 100 miles each way, but it lowered my blood pressure and my heartbeat significantly.

Rather than drive through the Arkansas Pinball Machine of Route 40 where Big Rig Semis outnumber cars 25 to one and the speed limit is restricted only by Einstein’s Theory about the speed of light. Instead we cut straight south and went through the lovely State of Mississippi border to border.

Interstate 55 in Mississippi is my new favorite stretch of highway. It is well maintained, not overly busy, and goes through some beautiful countryside. They also had a Road sign that made my feeble mind drag up some old cliches and stereotypes. Hopefully, nobody will be offended, but if they are…too bad. I can’t let a joke get away from me so easily.

This is the sign that we saw posted every few miles.

What caught my jaundiced eye was the part about throwing trash on the highway. I read that and my twisted sense of tacky and tasteless humor kicked into high gear. It was a good thing that we made no stops inside Mississippi other than the obligitory rest stops to… relieve ourselves, shall we say.

As we plunged southward through the Magnolia State (As I learned from another sign) my mind concocted this short monologue.

“We were driving through Yalobusha County, heading south, when I saw a sign along side the road. Do you see that sign? The one about there being a $250 Dollar fine for throwing trash on the highway? Well, I saw it and it has brought back a sad memory that still haunts our Family to this day.

Seeing that sign made me remember about that unpleasant day when our beloved, though hard to live with, Cousin Billy Bob Beaureguard ran afoul of The Law. It was not that he hadn’t done the same thing dozens of times, but this time he got caught doing it in front of that State Trooper.

Billy Bob was caught up in a technicality when he was driving along and got into an argument with his youngest son, Jasper, and threw him out of his truck while driving down the highway just outside of Coffeeville. That boy, Jasper, was no good to begin with and everybody knew it. The Judge knew it too and instead of charging Billy Bob with any ‘Attempted This or That” he nicked him for that $250 dollar fine because everybody knew that boy, Jasper, was trash.”

You can see why I would not want to say that out loud in front of any Mississippians. They might either be offended by the cliches or upset that I was airing the Families dirty laundry in public. I thought of it and we wisely chose to continue driving until we were across the State Line.

(We are just skipping Louisiana here. I’m in enough trouble.)

 

 

 

 

 

Krakatoa Christmas

DON’T CALL ME SCROOGE, but I am glad that the Holiday Season is over. It’s not that I don’t enjoy getting together with family and friends, sharing good memories, and hopes for the future. I truly do love all of that. It is just that I find it all so very exhausting.

The “Holiday Season” starts with Halloween (Like it or not.) and doesn’t end until after the New Year’s Day festivities. For some people the end doesn’t come until the Super Bowl. Personally, I could not care less about that. I might care if the Cleveland Browns were in the game, but I‘m not holding my breath on that.

For over two months everything is in a whirl of shopping, eating WAAAAY too much, traveling, being pleasant with everybody, and wading through the tons of catalogs that overflow the mailbox. I find it all more than I can deal with calmly, maintaining a clear brain, and a digestive tract that doesn’t resemble Krakatoa West of my Liver. By the time the New Year starts I am a shambles. This year was even more difficult. I think I now know what all of those discarded Christmas trees feel like after a ride through the wood chipper.

This year we spent most of December in Texas. We drove there and back. Let me do the math for you – that was a round trip of about 2500 miles.

Ho Ho Ho

We split The Going and The Coming into three days each way. I can no longer do those marathon drives of 700 miles in a day. My butt just can’t take it anymore. Fifty years ago I could have made the Texas trip in two days, but no more. Back in 1970 I drove from Bar Harbor, Maine all the way to the Washington D.C. burbs in one day. That was about 750 miles in one day! I was young and foolish.

I’m not young anymore.

After traveling like that I need several days to recuperate. I can’t get up at 7 AM, make tea and coffee, and be a sociable breakfast companion. I need to stay in bed unconscious and eventually be a passable lunch companion.

I think what I need to start doing as the Holiday Season approaches again is to go into training as if I was going to compete in the Olympics.

I’ll start in July. I will spend hours sitting in an uncomfortable chair. I will start practicing on my Christmas present wrapping skills. This year everything I wrapped looked like it was done by an arthritic Orangutan.

Another area I’ll need to work on is Eating…Holiday Eating. That means eating too much, doing so at odd hours, and having a severely unbalanced diet. Cookies will become one of the major food groups. Did you know that there must be twenty different kinds of Oreo Cookies?

So you see…it’s not that I don’t like the Holidays. It is more like the Holidays have passed me by. I find that all of those things I took in stride in my youth now require some serious preparation. I’ll be ready when this year’s Holiday Season rolls around. I don’t want to face another year with my intestinal tract taking no prisoners.

Groundhog Day Redux…And A Few Days Early.

This is the last Friday in January. Groundhog Day is officially next Tuesday and I have no intention of doing anything on that day that might be considered work. So…

Here is a repeat of a Groundhog Day post from a few years ago. It was a tragic and bloody day. Everyone knows that Groundhog Day makes sense only in a small town in the hills of Pennsylvania – not in New York City.

HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY!

Unless you live in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania today is just another Friday. If you do live in Punxutawney, Pennsylvania then this is the one day in the year that anyone gives a hedgehog’s patoot about your town. Today is the day when the Network Morning Shows will give you a 90 second live cutaway to see the annual Groundhog ceremony…and then that’s it until next year.

Read more…

How To Make A Killing In Massachusetts

I saw a little item in the Real Estate section of the news recently that had my brain come to a screeching halt.

Does the name “Lizzie Borden” mean anything to you? If it doesn’t, it should.

While the O. J. Simpson trial may have been The Trial of the 20th Century the Lizzie Borden trial has that title for the 19th Century.

Picture if you will: Fall River, Massachusetts, in August of 1892. It was a quiet day until the calm was ruptured by the horrifying screams from the Borden Home. Inside the house were the mutilated bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Borden. Both of them had been savagely attacked with an axe.

There have been Movies, TV Shows, Dramatic Stage Plays (I was in one a few years ago), and even Rock Musicals about Lizzie Borden. She was arrested and tried for the murders. There was evidence, but no one could believe that Lizzie could do such a horrible thing. She was acquitted. She walked out of that courtroom and lived in Fall River until her death in 1927.

Now the “Lizzie Borden House” in Fall River is up for sale for a cool $2 Million Dollars. In recent years the house has been a very spooky, if well appointed, Bed and Breakfast and Museum.

“You too can sit on the couch where Lizzie’s Daddy had his head sliced and diced!”

I suppose that there are people for whom this house and it’s morbid history make it a “must see” destination, but not for me. I would rather to stay in a luxurious hotel where the only meat cutting takes place in a four-star restaurant.

                 Daddy’s Last Nap

I can just imagine that there will be a string of “Looky-Loos” who will want to get a free tour of the house and snap a few pictures to show the relatives back home. 

  Don’t go into the Bedroom Momma!

If I was the Real Estate Agent trying to sell this house I would hire a few local Community Theater Performers to just wander around the house in period costumes…covered in blood. I’d have a Lizzie Look-a-Like, give her a bloody hatchet, and let her walk around singing”I’ve written a letter to Daddy.” Of course it would make no sense and be in terribly bad taste, but I don’t think that would scare away any potential buyers. They might even get a History Channel Special out of it.          

 

When I did that Theatrical Production a few years ago I learned an interesting tidbit of information about the whole bloody mess. It seems that after Lizzie’s Mother passed away Daddy remarried to a woman with a son (that was my role.). The story goes that on the day following the murders Daddy had an appointment scheduled with his attorney when he was going to be changing his will to leave the house to the new Step-Son and leaving Lizzie and her sister out in the cold. Daddy didn’t make it to that appointment.

Did Lizzie do it? You tell me, but I don’t think that the Real Estate Agent is the only one making a killing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real And Unreal…Estate That is.

SOME DAYS i WONDER IF WHAT I SEE BEFORE ME IS REAL. Some days I’m sure, but, then again…
Not long ago while we were down in Texas for the Holidays my wife, the lovely and native Texan, along with Alex our son, were on a grocery run. That involved ordering online and then going to the Supermarket to fetch our stuff like a pack of dogs.
My favorite part of these trips to the HEB Supermarket had nothing to do with groceries. A few hundred yards from the Supermarket was the only St. Arbucks in the area. I was burning through my accumulated Reward Points like a house afire, but that’s why I’d been saving them. I knew that we would be going for groceries via the Drive-Thru Lane at St. Arbucks. This one day, however, there was something different. 
I placed our order online before we even got close. When we arrived at the St. Arbucks there were at least a half dozen cars ahead of us. There was going to be a wait. We had time to just look around and gawk. Dawn noticed that the car in line ahead of us had California license plates inside a frame that proclaimed them to be L.A. Dodger fans. The fact that we were in a rental car was the only thing that kept us from ramming into him.
When we finally inched up to the ordering speaker I spotted something taped to the big Menu Board. It was a Business Card. Whoever had taped it there must have been waiting in line just like us and figured, “What the heck. Why not.” They had to have gotten out of their car, pulled out their tape dispenser, and walked over to the Menu Board.
I had to know what was up.
I didn’t get out of our car, but I did hang out of the window like an Irish Setter so I could read the card. It belonged to a local Real Estate Agent who will remain nameless here. How desperate she must have been for business that she would think to herself – “Hmmm, I’ll bet a lot of people decide to buy or sell their homes while waiting in line for a Frappuchino and a Cookie.”
After seeing her card sadly taped there we still had another ten minutes in line and I began to recall my last dealings with a Real Estate Agent.
Agent Dan sold me a house in Cleveland back in the Seventies. He also sold it for me a few years later. He was a real Pro. He was also an Ex-Luftwaffe Fighter Pilot.  After “The War” he bounced around Europe for a time and ended up in Cleveland along with thousands of other “Displaced Persons.” There were very few job openings in Cleveland for Ex-Luftwaffe pilots so he ended up selling houses. Somehow his war experience made him an Ace Real Estate Salesman. I doubt if the desperate card-taping St. Arbucks agent could match my Agent Dan’s resume. Few people could.
By the time I got my Venti Iced Coffee and Dawn and Alex got their Non-Coffee Confections I began to feel sorry for the woman who had stuck her business card in the waiting line at Starbucks. I think that maybe her career has been shot down by someone tougher.

There Has To Be A Better Way There

I MAY NOT KNOW WHERE I AM ALL THE TIME, BUT I’M NEVER LOST.

At least that is how I like to think I’m getting around in this world. One method that I use to find my way is with maps. I like maps. I love maps. I have always loved maps.

Maps are Functional Art.

Just before we started off on our latest One Conestoga Wagon pilgrimage to Texas I noticed that my Road Atlas was severely out of date. A 2015 Road Atlas ain’t gonna get me anywhere but lost. I needed an update. I toddled off to Amazon and ordered the 2021 edition of the “Rand McNally Road Atlas.” I was going to be up to date in The U.S., Canada and Mexico. All those maps would be like tossing candy bars in front of a crowd of kids. I wanted to curl up and look at them all, go over each page and imagine myself there. Did I mention that I love maps?

My Amazon order was not going to come in time for our Indiana to Texas trip so I had it sent to Texas for us to use – hopefully to get us a better routing for our way home. Driving from Terre Haute to just north of Corpus Christi is a little shy of 1150 miles and it’s not a fun drive. Our route took us from Indiana into Illinois, south into Missouri (boring), and then across Arkansas on the most crowded road I’ve ever driven on. Route 30 in Arkansas has about 25 fully loaded Semis for every car. The speed limit was…irrelevant. There were times when, just to keep from being run over, I was going close to 90 MPH. At that speed trucks with over-sized loads passed me like I was standing still. It was like being inside a Japanese Pachinko Machine.

My brand spanking new 2021 Road Atlas arrived the day after we arrived at our destination. For me it was an early Christmas Morning. My new toy had arrived!

OK…The way I look at it is that instead of driving through Houston again on the way north (Another Pachinko moment) and having to scream through Arkansas again like a .22 Caliber bullet in the middle of a Howitzer barrage we will drive East on I-10 into Louisiana and then north through Mississippi. It may add a few miles overall but it should significantly cut down on my stomach acid production and jaw clenching bad dreams.

Here’s Hoping.

Once our trip back to Indiana is complete I will report on how and if things went. I hope that there will be no “Film at 11!” links about our trip. It’s the Holiday Season and I don’t need any more Drama. I am already craving boredom.

Down at the end of today’s offering I have posted a link to a song that, to me, talks about maps and, again to me, about driving through Houston and Arkansas. It is called “Columbus” and is performed by an incredible Irish singer, Mary Black.

Let’s Start A New Year

New Year 2016 2

We made it through 2020, more or less, and now that we have crossed into 2021 I suggest that we start it off correctly – as God intended.

Watch a lot of football.

Spend time with Family

Nurse your aching head and make no sudden moves.

OK?

We’ll start over next Friday with more of the usual nonsense.

Merry Christmas! 

 

Merry Christmas To You All Around The World !

christmas

 

 

 

Enjoy this day with your Family and Friends!

 

Fa, la, la, la, la.

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