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 – 2020

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Shifting Gears

Sometimes changes are thrust upon us by circumstances beyond our control. Being the Wannabe control freak that I am I do not like such changes – but like everyone else I have to accept and live with them.

I’m dealing with one such change right now.

With all of the Fooferaw about this virus thing I’d been hearing about there was one change that really tossed my routine into the laundry hamper of my life.

For a number of years I was used to getting up in the morning, driving down to the nearby St. Arbucks and writing for an hour or two. Six days a week I did that – and then that Corona Sumptin or Other butted in.

St. Arbucks became a Drive-Thru only and I was left on the outside looking in. Horror of Horrors! Oh, the Humanity! My writing sanctuary was taken away from me. Why didn’t they just cut off my fingers and gouge out my eyes? I don’t care what any says – writing at the Kitchen Table just wasn’t the same. There were just too many distractions.

Circle The Wagons!

This sudden and sadistic exile didn’t completely stop me from going down the street and getting my coffee. It just changed the How and Why of it all. My trips for coffee became social outings rather than creative efforts. I would abase myself by going through the line and getting my coffee handed to me from a small window. Doing it that way ended my free refills (Sob, Sob).

After being handed my plastic cup of iced coffee I would drive around the building and into the Kroger supermarket parking lot and join four or five other exiled coffee sippers who had set up an impromptu and ad hoc Gypsy encampment. Instead of writing every morning I was now spending my time chewing the fat with other retirees. It was a pleasant diversion, but nothing was getting written.

It was during this caffeinated diaspora that I restarted this blog with a weekly rather than a daily output. Writing any longer Fiction became almost impossible. All I could produce were 500 – 700 word bursts of extended random thoughts.

This Parking Lot Coffeehenge of circled SUVs went on all through the Spring and Summer. It was in early September that things began to look up. It was then that they unlocked the doors at St. Arbucks. We could go inside to order, and we could stay inside but there were only a few randomly placed seats. Our solution was to loiter outside in what the Manager of the store called “The Patio.” The Patio was about five feet wide and thirty feet long – not a traditional design. This same crew of Geezers was happy to move from the parking lot to The Patio just because it also opened up their emergency access to the Men’s Room. There were a few available tables available I was additionally happy because I could now get my free refills! This “better than nothing” improvement was a relief but it was still not helping my writing.

In Mid-September my prayers were answered…to a degree. Actually it was a lack of degrees that made me smile. We had a cold snap that made our early morning Patio Parties unbearable. I was not going to sit out there when it was only 8 degrees above freezing! I was the first one of our Senior Citizen Play Group to move inside. They were nice fellows but I wasn’t going to freeze for them.

For the first few days I was inside all alone and, wonder of wonders, I was able to write again! After about a week of icy temperatures the guys began to join me inside. Their Senior Bones had begun to object to the chill. On most days this group would begin to arrive at about 7:30 AM. When I was inside all alone I began to be creative, but when they followed me into the warmer interior everything fell apart again. My only solution was to come in even earlier than they could handle.

The St. Arbucks had returned to their earlier business hours opening at 5:30 AM for the Insomniacs and Methheads who were still up from last Wednesday…and the odd writer or two. I altered my schedule to arrive at about 6:00 AM to give me a good 90 minutes of writing time. It works for me. I get my work done and I remain a Social Animal.

I am once again a Happy Scribbler.

Six Kolaches Over Texas – From 2017

 

kol1SOME THINGS ARE WORTH EATING.

Other things are not.

A nicely done “medium-rare” steak – Yes. A “well-done” steak – No.

 Fried Chicken – Yes. KFC – No.

Airline Cookies, Cheap Mexican Food, and Beets – No, No, and No.

Kolaches – YES!

Kolaches? Wazzat?

Sit and learn, my child.

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Few places in the world produce more delicious pastries than the kitchens of Eastern Europe. I grew up enjoying the wonderful delights from my Aunt Annette’s ancient cookbook. That may also be part of the reason I graduated from size Medium to Large before I could read.

Kolaches are a Czech creation I believe, although there are variations from all over Eastern Europe.

When we were down in Texas with Family for Christmas I learned that kolaches are BIG in Texas. A flock of Czech bakers must have avoided Ellis Island and came into the country through Houston.

A few days before Christmas, with all of us caught up in a severe holiday hunger, it was decided that kolaches were needed – Now – and lots of them. Somebody had the phone number of the local Tex-Czech Bakery and – Poof! Kolaches appeared on the dining room table. More like 6 dozen.

These Czech Old World pastries that are as popular as Dr. Pepper and Barbeque in South Texas are a phenomenon. Some people might say that they look like your basic Danish pastry, but I wouldn’t say that in front of any Tex-Czech baker. They take their Old Country kolaches roots very seriously. I think wars have started over less.

There were about a dozen people around that table, ready to pounce on the six dozen kolaches. Those kolaches didn’t have a chance.

whitetip

Picture, if you will, a school of Great White Sharks circling six dozen wounded sea bass. Apricot, Cheese (Not Danish), Prune (Still not Danish), and Cherry sea bass kolaches were devoured at a frightening rate.

Yumilicious!

Now, in complete honesty, I am not a big sweets person all that much anymore. Advancing age and A1C have tempered my childhood appetites – but I joined in the Great Kolache Feeding Frenzy of 2016. My personal score that day remains a family secret. I held my own, but there were a couple who could easily consider turning Pro.

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There were six dozen kolaches at the start. By the end of that session there were five dozen MIA. In its own way it was both soul stirring and frightening. The surviving kolaches quickly disappeared under aluminum foil and were secreted away only to be wolfed down in a midnight raid on the kitchen. There were no survivors.

Back in Terre Haute (That’s French for “I want another kolache.”) I had my mind set on visiting the one place in town I knew of where kolaches could be found. As I drove up to the front of the building I saw a sign in the window – Closed! Just shoot me now. Go ahead, get my taste buds all worked up into a dither and then close down my one and only hope.

That was no way to end 2016 or start off the New Year!

Illegal drugs can be found almost anywhere, but … but … I want my kolaches! What do I have to do to get some kolaches? It’s a long drive to both Texas or to the Czech Republic, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do!

brucefromfindingnemolaughing1

Tangos, Accordions, And Something Else

As I’m sure you know by now if you have followed this blog very long – I am not a fan of cold weather. Cold weather to me is anytime the temperature drops below 70° F. When I see the thermometer head South I know that it is time to break out the Woolens.

When it starts to get cold, by my own personal definition, I am notified by my body that unless I do something soon, I can be considered certifiably insane. Cold weather just hurts and my ancient body screams at me that the warm weather is somewhere South of here.

This is all strictly a personal observation. While other people shout “Hooray!” when it gets icy cold and wax their skis while humming “Jingle Bells” I go out and buy the industrial size bottle of Aspirin and hum “We’re Having a Heatwave.”

I’m not a fun person to know for almost half of the year. I grumble and groan, wrap myself in electric blankets and guzzle hot coffee. You can always spot me – I’m the jittery guy wrapped up like an Egyptian mummy.

The reason I go through this Rite of Winter is that there is nary a joint in my body that fits right. To give you an Automotive Analogy – my body is like an old car that has been put together by a group of teenagers using parts scavenged from a junk yard filled with the remains of a 200 car pileup on the Interstate from outside of Butte, Montana. Nothing fits right. Never has. Never will. I’ve often wondered if WD – 40 might mix well in a Margarita.

Let’s face it … my body is like Satan’s Erector Set.

Despite all of this skeletal nonsense I have tried to never let it stop me from doing anything. By and large I’ve been successful – but not always. I cannot play the piano and I cannot juggle. I think my piano failings are more due to a complete lack of talent, but you never know.

When I walk across the room I have a limp, but I also learned to Tango for a show I was in some years ago. I’m not saying I was a great Tango dancer, but nobody threw things at me. I’ve raced cars, flown airplanes, and performed on some very famous stages.

OK, I’ll admit it…I can’t play the accordion either. That is something that many people I know are grateful about. My parents tried to get me to take lessons as a kid, but I couldn’t hold it right. I had to hook it on the wall to push and pull the darned thing. It looked like I was trying to give it artificial respiration.

All the beauty was lost.

I’ve been on this earth a long time now…a lot longer than some people expected, and I’m taking life one day at a time. I’ve outlived every man in my family going back three generations. There has to be a reason for that.

Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln…

Seven score and fifteen years ago (that’s 1865 in case you don’t want to do the math) Abraham Lincoln had a bad experience at the theater. OK…so it was a bad night for Mrs. Lincoln too, but at least she got to sleep in her own bed that night.

It was not the best of marriages to be sure. He was rather busy with that war thing and Mary, from all reports, was very loosely wrapped. A nineteenth century Dr. Phil might have been helpful, but Abe was 6’4″ and Mary was 5’2″ and they just couldn’t ever see eye to eye.

They did get together on one thing however – having children. They had four sons. Unfortunately only one of them lived to adulthood, Robert Todd Lincoln. The family line continued with Robert’s children and does so until today. I know this because I stumbled across a little news item about  this fellow.

 His name is Ralph Lincoln, an 11th generation Lincoln and a third cousin of Abraham Lincoln. This split screen picture (that’s Ralph on the left) does show a bit of a family resemblance but I don’t know if I wholly believe this. After all there have been mornings when, before my coffee, I think that I look a bit like that guy from Game of Thrones.

      Me before my morning coffee

People are always trying to claim a connection to famous people. There have been any number of people who will swear on a stack of bibles that they are descendants of the last Czar of Russia (and therefore entitled to a piece of the action.) The British Royal Family is always having to deal with “relatives” who pop up on a regular basis wanting a Palace and a Title.  My favorite connection to fame has to be the Barack Obama Plaza truck  stop in Ireland. I’ve been there and it’s a good place to have lunch and top off your tank. Rubbing gas caps with the rich and famous.

Back to Ralph Lincoln…

In the exhaustive research that I’ve done on this story (all 7 minutes of it) I read somewhere that there are no direct descendants of Abe Lincoln still alive…so, this means that Ralph is an “Indirect” descendant. He claims to be a third cousin of the late President. My guess he is one of those cousins who have been removed once too often. As far as that goofy picture of Ralph alongside of Abe is concerned all you need to do is put on a scruffy beard together with a soulful look and my third cousin Margery would look like Honest Abe.

I don’t know for sure if Ralph Lincoln if actually related to Abraham Lincoln. If he is he certainly has the makings of a unique pick-up line. “Hi, there, Gorgeous. How about if I Proclaim your Emancipation?” Of course, if he is not really related to our 16th President the only advice I can give him (other than “Don’t forget to take your meds) is “Don’t go to the theater. It’s a trap!”

Abbey Lincoln: has never claimed to be a cousin of Abe Lincoln

 

As I Was Saying…

“Why use ten words when a hundred will do quite nicely, eh?”

Those words were spoken to me by my wife this morning. I had been trying to explain something to her. I was simply trying to make myself understood when she made the comment above. I must admit that her synopsis of my explanation, which took only twelve words, was perfectly accurate. Twelve words that clearly stated what I was halfway through page two with.

All I want is to make sure that both you and I understand fully whatever it is that I’m trying to say. I want there to be no ambiguity or confusion so I will present a complete explanation of all… OK, I’ll acknowledge that I do tend to ramble on.

I’m doing it right now aren’t I?

What can I say? I’m a fan of words. Language to me is a great and wonderful toy. On some occasions it is like a Rubik’s Cube puzzle that needs twisting and turning to find the solution. Other times the words, any words, are like a cryptic and mysterious code that makes no sense at all until you find the key, the right words to make it sing.

This is the reality whether you are writing Fiction or Nonfiction. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between them anyway. At least it is with me.

I started writing when i was just a kid. I’d started reading even earlier. At the age of six I had my own library card. Once I learned how to read the books in the “Children’s Room” I knew that I could write better ones. I found a collaborator (Marty who lived down the block) and we began cranking out Cowboy and Indian stories that we thought would take the world by storm.

We were wrong.

Like any writers, of any age, we were always looking for approval (Positive Reviews). Marty went to the public elementary school nearby. I went to St. Mary’s Catholic elementary school. What better places to find critics? Marty took our stories to his teacher. I took them to Sister Mary Butch.

Marty’s teacher thought that our stories were the best thing since School Lunch Macaroni and Cheese. She praised our efforts and encouraged us mightily.

Sister Mary Butch said that we were wasting our time and that we were both going to Hell.

Marty got support and encouragement. He grew up to be a Doctor. I was belittled and damned to eternal perdition. I’m still looking for a sympathetic critic who isn’t my wife. Thanks, Sister.

As a result of these early literary traumas I’m still writing. Behind me I have left a trail of Fiction, Nonfiction, Textbooks, Speeches, Five years worth of Blogging, Jokes for Comedians, and the odd Theatrical opus or two. All of it just because that nun didn’t recognize juvenile genius. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And so I keep writing.

I have a number of the proverbial Works In Progress stacked up awaiting editing, a second draft, or a future as kindling. I am determined to finish these stories, but I’ll tell you one thing – I’m not taking any of them over to Sister Mary Butch.

A Little Face In The Crowd

I find that the older I get I spend more time, while sipping my coffee, thinking about my younger days. It doesn’t take much to get me wandering back to the days of my life when I lived in a narrow valley in Western Pennsylvania.

These days my time is filled with thoughts of hi-tech computers and low-tech viruses. Neither of these are the sort of things that make for lingering memories. The things that did, do, and will continue to generate memories involve the people I’ve known and the places I’ve been. Today and tomorrow interest me less than the thousands of my yesterdays.

When I woke up this morning and turned on the TV in the bedroom one of the first images I saw was of a classroom. It reminded me of one in the elementary school where I was introduced to the world outside of my family. St. Mary’s Catholic Grade School was already old when i was enrolled in 1952. The school was started in the 1870s.

I was born in 1946 smack in the middle of the first wave of the Post-War Baby Boom. The hundreds of thousands of soldiers returning home from the horror of World War Two were thankful to be alive and they celebrated by starting families. My father was too old to be taken into the military, but he  got caught up in the spirit of the day and there I was six years later sitting in a classroom alongside 59 other First Grade Boomers. I sat there with the others, all of us staring at Sister Avila standing by her desk in her black and white nun’s habit.

You read that right. There were 60 kids in my first grade classroom and there was another classroom just as full across the hall. We were packed into our rows of little wooden desks like sardines in a can.

And we learned.

We learned how to sit quietly with our hands neatly folded on the desktop. We learned to stand up every morning and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. We learned how to read. We learned how to write in cursive. We also learned how to get along with 59 other kids.

We learned how to be the good kids everyone expected us to be.

That expanding bubble of Baby Boom kids continued all through my school years and it is still there even now. Now, however, all of us who sat in that crowded first grade classroom are hitting 75 years of age. We are the Senior Citizens who are filling up the hospitals, nursing homes, and cemeteries.

Today the desks at St. Mary’s are occupied with a new generation born in this century. The classes are smaller now. There isn’t a rush to build new schools like there was in the 1950s. The old schools that had been filled to the walls with the sons and daughters of the returning veterans are being torn down and replaced with Health Clubs and Organic Food Stores.

My generation – The Baby Boomers are now fading from the scene. The nation’s population is still growing but at a slower pace. There might never be another classroom with 60 little kids squirming in their seats and practicing their penmanship. Today’s teachers are horrified when they are faced with more than twenty curious faces staring at them.

In 1952 our stern-faced nuns in black and white struggled through the turmoil and managed to have most of those 60 youngsters turn out just fine. If there was one most important thing we learned in those crowded classrooms it was how to work together and not be afraid to ask questions. Those skills have served us well over the years.

Thank you, Sister.

 

 

 

 

My Childhood In The Distant Past

Reluctant as I am to say so I must admit something: I am an old man. My youth was in a Post-World War Two 1940s and 1950s.

I was born in 1946 in Cleveland and raised in a small town in the hills of Western Pennsylvania and, in many ways, I lived a childhood rooted in the 19th century. Whenever I tell someone of my daily life they react as if I was telling them a story about an earlier time. They find it hard to believe when I tell them that my mother bought her fruits and vegetables from a man with a horse drawn wagon, we had bearded hobos knocking on our door for a handout, and quarantine signs on our front door whenever a kid got one of the many childhood diseases.

When I moved from The Valley to go to college in The Big City people were amazed and amused when I told them about The Pony Man.

There were few times more exciting for the neighborhood kids than those days when the old wooden wagon piled high with fruits and vegetables and pulled by a pinto pony came down the street. The Pony Man’s name was Carmine and the pony was Tony. My mother would make her selections and drop her money into the basket that sat on the seat next to Carmine. Business concluded Tony would move on to their next stop. Tony knew the route by heart.

A remnant of the Great Depression were the Hobos who “Rode the rails” from coast to coast looking for work. Many of them had been wandering for decades unable to leave the life on “The Road.” Our house was just two blocks up from the river and the main railroad tracks that carried passengers and

freight up and down the Valley. It was not unusual for a Bearded Hobo to knock on our back door looking for a handout and/or an odd job. My mother was a soft touch and handed out a lot of sandwiches. I once found this symbol scrawled on a tree near the house. It meant that a nice lady lived there.

There were also “Tinkerers” who would walk through the neighborhood shouting out “Knives sharpened! Pots Fixed!” Tinkerers were itinerant repairmen, the original “Jack of all trades” workers. They would help the neighborhood Mothers by pounding out dents in their pots and pans and grinding the kitchen knives sharp again. Those were not throw-away items.

Given recent events in our world most people are seeing the word “Quarantine” for the first time. I grew up seeing that word a dozen times a year.

In the 1950s there were a number of highly contagious diseases that were often called “Childhood diseases.” Measles (3 different versions), Mumps, Chicken Pox, and others would sweep through every

year and the local Board of Health would try to control the diseases by posting “Quarantine” signs on our front door. It meant that no one got in or out of that house until the disease had run its course. My father had several bouts of staying in local motels while I and my brother were sick.

In the Summertime the Quarantine was sometimes violated on purpose. When the word got around that a kid had measles or whatever the neighborhood mothers would throw a “Measles Party” to deliberately expose their kids to the disease just to get it over with before school started again in September. It was somewhat perilous, but effective.

A child’s life in those days in my small town was certainly different. It was a much simpler time in many ways than today. However, it also had its own terrors that no longer exist. Every Summer there was the looming fear of another epidemic of Polio, a disease that is rare today thanks to two men names Salk and Sabin.

I could tell you more stories of my childhood in the time-warp Valley where the modern world collided with earlier days when everyone knew everyone else, your child’s milk came to your door in glass bottles and three cents would send a letter across the country.

Perhaps I will. Let me know what you think I should do.

You Have To Keep Active

I must admit that since I retired, lo these nine years ago, I have experimented with any number of ways to creatively waste time. There are many people who would say that this blog shows that I have elevated it all to an Art. I’m not going to argue with them. I don’t think that I could win such an argument.

So…(aside from this blog) some of my other temporal thumb twiddlings have included belonging to a Dart League for three years. I suck at darts but that doesn’t stop me from proudly displaying my three championship trophies. I was the worst player on the team, but that was my role – to lower the team handicap to balance the presence of a Dart Savant on our team. That guy couldn’t miss. He was scary good. I was just scary bad.

In another effort to fill my days with something passably interesting that would also get me out of the house before my wife, the lovely and patient beyond the statute of limitations, Dawn, started arranging kayak lessons for me, I began doing plays with the local Community Theatre. I did four shows with them before my endurance for late rehearsals wore thin. I’m a Geezer. I need my sleep.

Other avenues needed to be explored.

I think I may have found the perfect thing to occupy my mind that doesn’t involve sharp objects or driving home at midnight when the streets are filled with marauding raccoons. I am part of a Barroom Trivia Team.

Every Monday evening at 7:00 PM I haul my trivia loaded brain to a nearby Pub for a two hour long test to see who knows more useless information. My kind of game!

I feel that I’m there representing all of those Liberal Arts Majors who are still under-employed twenty years after graduation, but who can to this day name every major artist in 16th century Belgium. On our team I am far and away the oldest member. That gives me an edge when the question involves History or Early Television Programs. Most of the other players are under 30 years of age. They wouldn’t know Calvin Coolidge if he walked into the room or who played Tonto on The Lone Ranger . Of course, I’m totally in the dark when it comes to things like “Who was the biggest selling Rapper in 2014?”

I had a birthday recently. Which one is not important except to my Cardiologist and to the people who keep sending me junk mail peddling Hearing Aids and Cemetery Plots. I did receive one gift from my lovely and forward thinking wife, Dawn, who knows what I need even if I don’t.

She bought me a book – “The Ultimate Book Of Trivia.”

This thing is 349 pages jam packed with more trivial information than PBS and Congress combined! It is the ideal book to have with you when you are seated in the loo after a Twelve Course Taco Bell Banquet or entering that Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest I see on ESPN. You will have plenty to read.

I hope that this book will help me on my Monday night Trivia contest. It couldn’t hurt…unless i drop it onto my foot. It could easily break a toe or two. Next week I am going to wow them all at the Pub when I toss out the fact that the shortest U.S. President was James Madison who was only 5’4″ tall. If they ever make a movie about him Tom Cruise will play him…in lifts.

Circling The Wagons

One of the things that I used to write about rather frequently in this blog (Pre-Virus) was my early morning Playgroup at St. Arbucks, AKA – “The Usual Suspects.” It was my wife, the lovely and always welcome, Dawn, who named this gathering of Geezers as my Playgroup. I came up with “the “Usual Suspects.” I think her choice is more accurate.

We are a bunch of mainly retired gentlemen who get together to get out of the house and give our wives some peace. Our ages range from early 60s up to the mid 80s. Some of us were teachers while others were Chiropractors, Store Owners, and Whatever I was. We have one fellow who is still working. The rest of us look down on him. We had one female member of our group, but she wised up and moved out of state.

Almost everyday of the week we meet over coffee to discuss just about any topic except politics. We have that restriction as a health measure to avoid heart attacks and assault and battery issues. If one of the crew does start to bring up something political I will loudly interrupt with, “How about them Cubbies?” just to change the subject.

During this time of restricted social gatherings and face masks our normal meetings inside the nearby Starbucks were seriously disrupted. An alternate solution was called for.

Fortunately our Chapel of St. Arbucks (Patron Saint of Jittery People) is located adjacent to the parking lot of a Strip Mall that can accommodate several hundred parked cars. Each morning we would get our coffee via the Drive-Thru Lane and then move over to the larger parking lot.  We circled our wagons (SUVs and Sedans), pulled some lawn chairs from the trunk, and carried on without missing a beat. On most mornings we had a circle of 5 to 7 vehicles. The only problems that ever arose with this arrangement were the occasional rain and swarms of gnats that found us much too attractive. 

Actually there was one other problem that plagued our Parking Lot Playgroup. One of our noble Geezers had a real hearing problem and maintaining a good Social Distance caused a lot of shouting of “WHAT?” It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had remembered to put in his hearing aids. His hearing was bad, but so was his memory. Too many mornings he would leave his hearing aids at home on the kitchen table so everyone ended up shouting at him over their coffee. 

A couple of weeks ago our prayers to Juan Valdez were answered and we were blessed when the Starbucks reopened the doors to their cafe. So far the weather has been pleasant and we have been meeting on their outdoor seating area. The lawn chairs are back in the trunk and the gnats haven’t found us. As far as I’m concerned this arrangement has an even better positive aspect: By ditching the Drive-Thru lane and ordering inside I am getting my iced coffee free refill once again. That’s all that is really important.

Life as we know it on this planet will continue.

At 5AM All Time Is Warped

Ever since I retired I no longer have to get up early to get to the office and solve the problems of the world. I can sleep in and start my day whenever I darn well please.

Well, that’s the theory anyway.

The reality is considerably different. I know that I’m retired. My coffee maker knows that I’m retired. The world knows that I’m retired.

My body does not know I’m retired. Or at least it is pretending to not know.

No matter what time I crawl into bed my internal alarm clock pries open my eyes at about 5 AM. Try as I might to roll over and sleep until later it just doesn’t work. Once my eyes pop open at 5 AM I am up. 

There is not a lot for me to do at 5 AM. No stores are open – not even Starbucks. The sun isn’t even up yet. So, I end up watching TV while I’m getting dressed. And there is not much of a selection at that hour even with 200 channels. That means that while I am struggling to figure out how socks work I am tuning into “The Cowboy Channel.”

At 5 AM I am treated to ancient reruns of “The Roy Rogers Show – Starring Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys!”  It’s his show so he gets top billing. Second billing goes to his horse, Trigger. After the horse comes Roy’s wife “Dale Evans – Queen of the West.” She may be the Queen, but Roy’s horse gets better placement in the credits. She must not have had a very good agent that she lost out to a horse for all those years.

Poor Dale lost out on another thing too. Roy (Real name: Leonard) had his horse named “Trigger” and a dog called “Bullet” – all rough and tough. Real macho for the “King of the Cowboys” even though dressed like a member of the Village People. Dale on the other hand, even though she is a Queen, has to ride around on a horse named “Buttermilk.”

“Buttermilk?” What kind of a name is that for a horse? I’ll bet that if she had had a dog it would have been called “Cottage Cheese” or something equally non-threatening.

That whole show was a collection of weird stuff and anachronisms. On one hand it was your classic western shoot-em-up with posses and outlaws. Their town (Mineral City) had wooden sidewalks and hitching posts. Everyone wore gunbelts and rode horses – except for one guy who drove around town in a Post-World War Two Jeep. I never could figure out that bit of business. In the confusing Old West setting of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans where did their “Comedic Sidekick”, Pat Brady,  get his gasoline? His Jeep always seemed to be possessed by evil automotive demons, driving off on its own. 

Was it a Cowboy show or was it a Sci-Fi  Western? Nothing made sense to me. I’ve been watching that show for years, since I was a kid, and I always found it to be one of the most confusing things on television. Even the Three Stooges made more sense to me. I’m hoping that there is a lost episode that might show up one morning where we might get to see Buttermilk kick Trigger’s Palomino butt.

L to R – Dale Evans, Trigger, Roy Rogers

 

Throwback Day After Thursday !!

 

OK, OK, OK! I will admit it. This old blog post from 2017 is considered by some people to be of questionable taste. They are entitled to their opinion. They’re wrong.

I’m also entitled to my opinion. I think it’s funny.

So there!

Let’s Hear It For Gluttony

THERE AIN’T NUTHIN’ LIKE A GOOD BURGER. It doesn’t have to be fancy (and probably shouldn’t be). It doesn’t have to be expensive. It sure doesn’t have to be in some high class restaurant. But it has to be prepared with gluttony in mind.

About a five minute drive or twenty minute crawl from home is a small neighborhood joint (that’s the only appropriate word) that does a burger right.

This particular watering hole has been around for about two million years. It is on its third or fourth owners now and doing well. It is probably also on the Hit List of the American Heart Association.

Over the years it has grown from a serious drinker’s bar, into a Punch Palace where the main attraction was drunken brawls, into a neighborhood friendly gathering spot. With each reincarnation the food menu has grown and improved. Today it has become a place for Breakfast as well as for Lunch and Dinner –with no brawling allowed.

It is more of a “Sports Bar” now. That means that there are multiple big screen TVs mounted high on the walls. They are generally ignored in favor of the food.

The Star of the Show – foodwise – is the “Tweety Burger.” It has nothing to do with a small yellow canary and Sylvester the Cat. “Tweety” was the name of one of the original owners back in the Dark Ages.

The current owner is a young (30ish) gent who is trying to turn the place from a “Joint” into something more socially acceptable – a place where you could take a date for a nosh without having to worry about a fist fight breaking out. The new Boss is also expanding the definition of the “Tweety Burger.” For the longest time it was just a very tasty ½ pound burger with fries – yumilicious to be sure. But now, the sky is the limit.

Every month now there is new version of the “Tweety” on the menu. Last month’s burger had Ghost Pepper Chiles and Creamy Marshmallow between the buns. I passed on that one, although it did sell well. I like spicy, but I don’t think that food should hurt.

This month the Special is the “All-American Tweety” – a burger that goes where no cardiologist has ever gone before.

Read the description for yourself.

 

I was in there last night and my wife, the lovely and ever tasteful, Dawn, suggested that each “All-American Tweety” should come with the business card of a good heart specialist. That is being taken under advisement.

I asked our waitress, Susie, who has worked there for years, if many people are ordering that monster of a burger. She shook her head and said, “More than you would believe.” She had a look of concern on her face. I think she was going to be expected to administer CPR if one of her customers keels over mid-burger.

The owner is counting on some seriously hungry (or deranged) people who will down that full pound famine-buster – and then want dessert. That is when Susie will trot out the “Fresh, Hot Donuts,” drizzled with hot chocolate sauce and powdered sugar.

Just what the Anesthesiologist ordered!

I think I’ll stick to my usual order – the Tweety Junior, which is more than enough for me. When it shows up at the table I tell Susie, “I thank you, My Doctor thanks you, and my Aorta thanks you. Pass the ketchup.”

It Either Is Or It Isn’t…Isn’t it?

I learned something new recently and while that isn’t Front Page News it does merit mention on these pages. What surprised me about this is that it had to do with the English language. I’m pretty good with my native language but this was something completely new to me.

I’m talking about: CONTRONYMS.

Growing up I learned about Synonyms, Homonyms, Antonyms, Paronyms, Pseudonyms, and even Acronyms, but I never heard of Contronyms.

Contronyms are words that have two contradictory meanings. They are really their own opposites.

I think I like Contronyms. They appeal to the rebel in me. They also may be an explanation I can fall back on when I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.

While they may be somewhat rare in the Wide World of Nyms they are not obscure words. It’s their usage that makes them unusual. For Example…

“Apology” – A statement of contrition for an action, or a defense of one.

“Dust” – To add fine particles, or to remove them.

“Left” – To Remain, or to Depart

“Bound” – Heading to a destination, or restrained from movement.

These words, literally, can have you coming and going, hither and yon, to and fro, or even this and that. 

I’m a fan of language. Without it I would have a really hard time writing this Blog. There would be a lot of blank space between the punctuation marks. It might be difficult to get my meaning across if my sentence looked like ”      “, –  ” !”

That might work if I wrote only on Monday mornings after a rough weekend and the readers had taken their vows of silence very seriously.

If I had never learned about Contronyms my life and my writing would not have changed all that much. When I am working on a Fiction Project it is usually a story with distinctively “Noirish” overtones. I try to create a shadowy mood and dialogue that is basic and to the point. Symbolism doesn’t get a lot of space on my page. I can’t imagine that my Fedora-wearing hero would be using very many Contronyms while skulking down the dark alleys down by the Waterfront. It might be a challenge though.

” I asked the night watchman if he’d seen the burglars.” He told me “I seen the men bolt.”

“Bolt I said? Was he telling me that the crooks had fled or that they were securely tied up?”

“Oh, No, Mister Detective. Bad guys left here.”

“He was at it again. They left or they were left here waiting to ambush me? What was this guy trying to do – confuse me?”

You see how using Contronyms would be an unneeded complication? If there is one thing I don’t need in my writing it is any sort of “Handicap.” 

“Handicap” – An advantage provided to ensure equality, or a disadvantage that prevents equal achievement.

 

 

 

Throwback Day After Thursday !!

OK, OK, OK! I will admit it. This old blog post from 2015 is considered by some people to be of questionable taste. They are entitled to their opinion. They’re wrong.

I’m also entitled to my opinion. I think it’s funny.

So there!

Get Well Soon!

dead deer get well soonHOW CAN ONE TRULY DEFINE what is, “Bad Taste” and what is not. Just as “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the same can be said about humor. What one person thinks is funny another may not. In fact, I think you can be rock solid sure that for whatever one person thinks is funny there is another person who won’t laugh.

Such is the case of the picture to the right.

I think it is funny and I’ve had others say that it is “In bad taste.” Of course, if I ask them to tell me the difference, they fall silent.

One person tossed out the “bad taste” thing, saying that the balloon was what made it so bad. I then asked him if it had been a Get Well Card instead of the balloon would they have approved?  That was met with stony silence. That was kind of nice compared to his whining. He was also upset when I said I would have done as much for him as was done for the deer.

Somehow I don’t think he’ll be bothering me again.

Judging from the appearance of the deer I would guess that it had been there for a day or more. The sympathetic balloon delivery person probably had seen it there by the side of the road and made a special stop at a local Dollar Store for the balloon. I doubt that the driver who hit the deer just happened to have the balloon with them. If he/she/it already had the balloon in the car then there was someone in a nearby hospital who probably got a card attached to a salt lick.

Deer are, in many ways, nothing more than big, antlered, squirrels. They don’t pay attention to the traffic and tend to stop and stare at the headlights of approaching vehicles. If that vehicle is a Vespa or a bicycle then the deer has a good chance of making it across the road. If that vehicle is an 18-wheeler Peterbilt… Well, let’s just say that chances are the deer won’t be home for supper.

Earlier this summer my wife, the lovely and with a heart of gold, Dawn, and I drove from Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Get Well Soon”) to Michigan. Along the stretch of Interstate Highway from Indy to the Michigan state line we counted about a dozen deer in need of “Get Well Soon” balloons. All of those deer may have been part of a suicide pact or they were scofflaws when it came to traffic safety.

Someone else suggested that they were all part of a club where they “played chicken” with the cars and trucks. I’d never heard of such a thing until he told me that the first rule of the club was, “Never talk about the club.”

I don’t know how much credence I can put into that idea, except that it would bring a whole new perspective to the old question –

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Meat Me In Terre Haute

Everything is up to date in Indiana. If there is a Trend, Fad, or Fashion floating around it will eventually bob to the surface of the Wabash River in Terre Haute. It may take awhile to get there, but it will. The latest example of this is – Fanfare Please – A Vegan Restaurant.

The only reason that most people in this town might look into a Vegan Restaurant is to see if the diners are using utensils or are they just grazing? I wish the owners of this new eatery success, but let’s be honest, Terre Haute is “Carnivore Country.” 

And I am a Carnivore. Thank you. Thank you very much.

It was just recently, in the middle of all of this stay home and don’t even think of going anywhere  business, that my wife, the lovely Texas Carnivore, Dawn, discovered “The Boulevard of Beef, The Highway of Heifers, and The Supernova of Steak.” Sitting in our mailbox was an ad trumpeting the glories of The butchers at Omaha Steaks.

We had seen ads for Omaha Steaks for years, decades even, touting really expensive meat. Their prices were so high that it would have been cheaper to buy a cow, keep it in the backyard, and slaughter it in the garage. Then a couple of months ago things changed  when we got that Virus Season advertising brochure. Included in the ad was a hefty coupon that lowered the prices into a range that wouldn’t make our wallets explode.

We ordered. We ate. We smiled. We decided that we wanted more. One thing that those folks in Omaha knew how to do was to lure us into becoming repeat customers. Offer us a lot of really good Carnivore Candy – Sirloins, Strip Steaks, Filets, and everything but the hoofs, and you have our attention.

So, for the last month or two we have been eating well and enjoying every bite. I grant that looking forward to a Friday Night Meat Feast is not everybody’s idea of Heaven but they didn’t have a barrel of A-1 beside them like I did. Dawn and I were enjoying every bite.

One thing we learned very quickly was that once we placed an order for a bunch of stuff it was like we had erected a billboard with our mailing address on it. We have been getting ads from every meat maven in the country offering us steaks often at ridiculously low prices. Some are such apparently good deals that I have my doubts about their origin. Did this Sirloin come from a cow or some other miscellaneous creature? I don’t want a steak with tire tread marks on it or a burger that died a natural death.

Like  I said, we are happy and enjoying this Carnivore Carnival. If it isn’t your thing and you are someone who thinks “Meat is Murder” then go ahead and drop into Terre Haute’s new Vegan restaurant and have an Eggplant Burger with a side of French Fennel Fries.

When You Gotta Go

How long has it been since you could go anywhere on a vacation? It may be months but it feels like years, decades even. I’m beginning to understand how Robinson Crusoe must have felt stranded on that desert island. But unlike Robinson Crusoe I have access to the internet. I also have a very clever and creative wife who knows how to make a computer do things Bill Gates never dreamed of.

Because we are unable to travel anywhere like we usually do we have had to find an alternative way to satisfy our Wanderlust.

One of the most important and well liked things about traveling are vacation pictures – and, boy, do we have some great vacation pictures.

One night, a couple of weeks after this virus business began, we decided that we just had to get out of town for a while. We grabbed our passports and headed off on our “Corona Grand Tour – 2020!”

Our first stop was London where we dropped in on our old friend Queen Liz and her family.

Yes we were dressed a little casual but they didn’t seem to mind. Dawn was able to borrow a nice hat but I turned down the offer to borrow one of Prince Charles’ fancy outfits.

After a few days of slumming with the Queen over tea and crumpets we moved onto the Continent to visit another old

friend. Francis has some pretty fancy digs in Rome and he took us out onto his balcony so we could get


a really nice view of his compound. I did spruce up a bit for this visit. I wore my baseball cap. Francis was wearing his cap so I thought it was OK. I hate committing those fashion faux pas. They can be so embarrassing.
We had a good time in Rome but we soon felt the need to move on so we headed south to visit another lifelong friend and a landmark spot in North Africa.

Casablanca.

We could have gone anywhere, but with all the gin joints in all the world we knew that we’d have to walk into Rick’s. Everybody goes to Rick’s. Dawn and I have always enjoyed dropping by Rick’s. You never knew who you might run into because for years everybody who was anybody stopped by for a drink. We liked to visit Rick’s to hear Sam play the piano. As time goes by it just doesn’t get any better.

Listening to all of the great music reminded us of the time we spent in Hollywood working with the stars. Our favorite was the time when Dawn and I taught John Travolta all of those fantastic Disco moves that he used in “Saturday Night Fever.”

He was really a very good student

Traveling, even when you are having a good time, can be exhausting. When that happens to us we like to stop by and visit some old friends who live in Florida. We decided to take the bus down South and it turned into quite an adventure.

After all our travels last month we had a wonderful relaxing time with some of our friends in Orlando even though some of them could be a little Goofy, but we love them all.

The Angel Is In The Details

 

“People come and go so slowly here.”

It wasn’t the Cowardly Lion who said that and we are certainly not in anyone’s Oz. In fact, it seems that we are stuck in an opposite place – “Bitter Reality Land.”

The strange reality of the last month and more has created a new world. I’m not saying that it is one that I enjoy or even understand completely. It is…different – Different in a number of ways that are unfamiliar in my experience and I feel sure is unfamiliar in our collective experience as a nation. It is all rather upsetting. Stores that I like are closed. Restaurants are reduced to drive through lanes and forget it if you need a haircut. And then there are the masks.

“Who was that Masked Man?”

The doors at my bank are locked and you can enter by appointment only. Inside everyone is wearing a mask, including the person who handles mortgages and the like. That masked man is known as The Loan Arranger.

I know that I am not alone when I say that I do not like wearing a mask. I find them uncomfortable and they make my glasses fog up. The Where and When I am supposed to wear such a mask is revealed daily by a variety of contradictory “experts” who can’t seem to agree on anything. They don’t exactly inspire confidence and confidence is what people need right now. I do…and I’m people too. I can prove it. I watched all of Game of Thrones.

Things have changed while we are living, and in some cases dying, with this virus business. But change is a nonstop thing and, in time – long or short – we will start to rebuild our daily lives. Like any reconstruction project the target of the restoration will be different than what it was before no matter how hard we try to make it an exact copy.

As we restore our personal lives we will make changes big and small intentional and accidental. My question is how do you think your life will be different – post virus? Will it be better or worse? How do you want it to be different? This is something I think that we, each of us, have to start thinking about now! Think about it now when, like it or not, most of us have plenty of idle time on our hands. I know how I’m going to approach this.

How I intend to plan my life, however long or short that may be, is to carry around a small notebook and a pen so I can jot down my own personal thunderbolts of wisdom. I know that I want there to be changes. There will be changes in the things that I do and there will be changes in how I respond to other things as they affect me. There will probably be some big changes, but most will be so small that I will be the only person who will notice them. I’m cool with that. After all, in the larger scheme of the universe, I am nobody else’s business. I have no desire to control anyone else and I certainly don’t want to be someone else’s android.

I R2 D-etermined to allow that to happen.

I’m going to start planning my new Chez Krafty today. I will not be caught in a New Life without have a set of detailed blueprints. This brush with a planetary scare has made me realize that I have spent most of my life just drifting. I have drifted from one career to another, from one hometown to another, from one relationship to another, and from one set of standards to another.  But from now on I will be controlling the tides. Many, if not most of the things and people in my life will remain – but there are going to be changes. If there aren’t any changes it would prove that I just haven’t been paying attention – and trust me –

I have.

Faces

Faces.

Everybody has one with the exception of those people we meet who turn out to have two, but we try to avoid them. As a youth in Pennsylvania there was a character who had been in a horrible accident and was known locally as “No Face Charlie.” That is another story for another day.

What I’ve been thinking about lately is what The Face, my face, your face, everyone’s face, tells us about the person. It’s not a matter of “beauty.” What constitutes beauty changes constantly. A great beauty from the 1890s in America would today be posing for the “Before” picture in an ad for the Weight Watchers diet program.

When we meet somebody for the first time we hear their name but, more often than not, we instantly forget it because we are looking at their face –  making a million snap decisions based on what we see there. “Is this person friendly or hostile? Do I find them attractive or not? Is that their real hair color or a dye job?” First impressions are important and in many cases completely erroneous. We all try to make a good first impression so we strive to look our best, hide our flaws, and behave like a civilized human being. We may dress up, shine our shoes and make sure our zippers are up, but it is what we show in our face that says to the world who we really are.

When I’m seeing someone  for the first time I find that my initial judgement is at the corners of their mouth. Are their lips going up at the corners or down, or are they held tight in a straight line? I’m not thinking about what i’m seeing, it’s just an unconscious response. My brain puts it into a file folder and my eyes move on. Is this person looking at me or are they trying to locate the nearest exit? Do they look happy to be meeting me or are they silently calculating how long it will take to get away, having already made their decision about me? All of this takes place in a few  seconds at best – just long enough to say, “I’m sorry – your name again is…?” When I get to the end of my analysis of their face I put the various pieces together and make my thumbs up or down decision.

There are those people who we meet in our day to day life who make instant and lasting impressions on us. How else would you explain “Love at first sight” or “I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley” reactions? I know that there have been people whom I’ve met and took an immediate dislike or distrust to. Those have usually been people running for public office. But there have also been some, a few, people who upon meeting I would have felt safe giving them the keys to my car or my bank account numbers.

Have I ever felt the “Love at first sight” reaction? On an hourly basis. I’m an easy mark. Of course it never gets beyond that initial hormonal backflip. Otherwise I would be known as a stalker. I just chalk it up to an instantaneous response to a collection of facial features that I find attractive; both eyes are in their proper location, the corners of the mouth stop before getting all the way to the ears, there are ears. I guess that I’m not all that fussy. I can think of only 2 or 3 times in my life when I acted on my “Love at first sight” reaction. That girl was gorgeous. She hit all my buttons. It didn’t work out well. Those fourth grade romances rarely do. I was a little older when I felt that immediate tumble again – but Ann-Margret didn’t feel the same way about me. The last time I fell head over heels in love with someone upon first seeing their wonderful face was with a real live person who existed in my real world. I tried to get her to notice me, but I really don’t think she ever even knew my name. if she had known it I don’t think that when she saw me she would have screamed, “That’s him Officer!”

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. That looking deep into someone’s eyes will tell you all you need to know. I don’t know about that. What with Lasik and cataract surgeries, colored contact lenses, corneal transplants and breast implants I don’t think that the eyes can hold my attention as well as they would have in Shakespeare’s time. Does that make me shallow? Probably.

Looking at someone’s face when meeting them is quite an exercise in human nature. It may have started as a survival technique. That first impression may have triggered a “Fight or Flight” response at some time before morphing into the social event it is today. What I find even more interesting is how the human face and it’s components change over time along with my ability to read them. That first impression may give me the basics, but over time the more subtle things can be learned with a quick glance at a face. I discern if the other person is angry or sad, feeling well or poorly, even whether I’m about to be kissed or I should get ready to duck.

The human face is a magnificent puzzle with so many pieces that can tell so much. Conditions can and do change not only what those pieces can tell you,but whether or not you can interpret them correctly. It is akin to trying to read someone’s mind and we all know how dangerous that can be. I can’t tell you the number of times I have read the signs to mean one thing when they actually meant the exact opposite and I end up running for figurative cover being followed by an icy stare.

While William Shakespeare may have written “The eyes are the windows to the soul” I tend to think that they are more like a chain link fence – allowing you to see whatever is made visible to you, but keeping you from getting too close a look at what is hidden away. We will all continue looking at someone’s face and making those snap judgments. It’s human nature and who knows – you might just fall in love. 

 

 

 

I’ll Be Back Someday

We are taking a break from Saturday Fiction while we come up with something worthwhile.

If you have any suggestions feel free to pass them along.

Meanwhile, I’ll be busy…somewhere, doing something.

I’ll Be Back

 

We are taking a break from Saturday Fiction while we come up with something worthwhile.

If you have any suggestions feel free to pass them along.

Meanwhile, Ill be busy writing the daily blog.

By The Sea, By The Sea

 

GUESS WHERE I’M AT? NO. NO. NO, NOT THERE EITHER. I AM IN FLORIDA -The Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood Area. What am I doing down there when there is a perfectly good winter going on in Indiana without me? Well, for at least a few days, that is the idea.

Ever since our five week visit to Ireland I have been cold – freezing even. I needed to do something or I was afraid that I would not survive to see another Springtime. The cold feeling exhausted me. I was empty Physically, Emotionally, Creatively, and even Socially. I felt like I was an empty shell with freezer burn. I hated feeling like that and I don’t think I was very good company for anybody. I was either silent or snapping at everyone – and that’s just not like me. Going to where it was still warm so I could thaw myself was the solution. So here I am in Florida.

Read more…

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