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

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 !

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Enjoy this day with your Family and Friends!

 

Fa, la, la, la, la.

We Have Ways Of Making You Jolly

Throwback Thursday – 12/31/14

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PART OF VISITING family for the Holidays is going to drop in on those relatives you don’t get to see very often. We devoted part of yesterday to that.

I must admit that Rose and Ray are the only people I know who actually live in a “Gated Community.”  Well, that is, if you exclude from “Gated Community” those places where the gates are topped with razor wire and all the residents have colorful nicknames. Rose and Ray don’t have colorful nicknames and I didn’t see any razor wire. But there was one disturbing element, not counting the fact that all of the homes inside the gates cost more than some U. S. Navy warships. Let me explain.

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Haven’t We Seen This Movie Before?

WE’VE BEEN WATCHING A LOT OF TV LATELY.

The movie theaters are closed and most of our favorite eateries are Drive-Through only again.

Like most people we have been grounded by this virus thingy. As a result my wife, the lovely and Queen of All Cable Channels, Dawn, and I have been living in our sedative chairs in front of the 40″ Flat Screen. I have to admit that I am not as savvy as I should be about navigating my way around all of the channels that are available. Therefore, Dawn is also wearing the Captain’s Hat. she hits a few buttons on the remote and about five million options appear. I sit in awe. The World is our Oyster Pizza.

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Driving, Driving, Driving

Driving. Driving. Driving. Changing Lanes. Changing States.

It’s a long drive from Indiana to Southern Texas and back to Indiana. We just finished making that round trip and we are about to do it again.

We break each half of that Great Circle Route into a three day journey. Long gone are the days when I could spend 12 hours behind the wheel. These days after about 300 – 400 miles my brain turns to fudge and my butt turns to cheap plywood. Going on a trek of approximately 1150 miles each way is not to be taken lightly.

Driving. Driving. Driving.

Day One: On the road from near Corpus Christi heading north. After a full day of playing Dodgeball with 18-Wheelers and “Wide Load” Haulers we are still inside Texas. We drive from Corpus north through Houston on a Sunday afternoon. The roads are jammed and beyond comprehension. When I realize that I am beginning to babble we stop for the night in Lufkin, Texas. That is all I can do with my Old Geezer eyes and reflexes.

Moments later, really after a number of hours sleeping in a strange hotel bed it is time to get up, get gassed up, and coffeed up. Pulling out of the parking lot we head North again then veer to the East into Arkansas. We are entering a different world.

Yesterday I was driving North through the skyscraper forest of Houston and today it is rolling past

(c)Ken Steinhoff 561-727-9645

small town America – places like “Cooter,” Missouri. I don’t know the story behind a town named Cooter, but I cannot imagine anyone bragging about being from Cooter.

Driving. Driving. Driving.

The car thermometer says that the bright and sunny day is in the mid-80s, but for mile after mile along the side of the road it looks like there are the remnants of a wintertime blizzard clinging to the ground. It’s not snow that we are seeing but cotton. Along our route we have been seeing large trucks loaded with huge plastic wrapped bales of Cotton. For some reason the shippers have decided to leave the ends of each bale uncovered and the turbulent air along the highway plucks out a steady rain of Cotton onto the road.

Driving. Driving. Driving.

Most of our route is along the Interstate Highway System, but part of the way in Texas, Arkansas, and Illinois is on State Routes. That is where you can see the unusual and unique. Roadside attractions that are incredibly uninteresting. I’m sorry folks, but a historical marker and museum dedicated to an event or local hero I’ve never heard of just doesn’t make me want to pull over. To be truthful, the most unusual thing I saw along our trip was in Southern Illinois – a dead Armadillo belly up by the side of the road. I didn’t expect to see an Armadillo that far North. My guess is that it was hitching a ride on one of the Cotton Haulers and when he saw that he was heading toward Chicago he threw himself to the pavement in desperate attempt to avoid that.

It is a long drive from Terre Haute, Indiana all the way to Corpus Christi. I think the drive home is more difficult because of the curvature of the earth. Going from South to North is uphill. I wish that Carl Sagan was still around. I’d ask him about that.

“Billions and billions of bits of Cotton along the uphill drive through Texas, Arkansas, right past Cooter, Missouri, all the way to Indiana just made your trip seem longer.”

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.

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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.

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