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

Archive for the tag “Blogging”

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

Games… Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?

I’m not very athletic. No, let’s face it – I’m not at all athletic in any way shape or form. It’s not that I haven’t tried. As a kid I played baseball with the other kids. I played touch football in the streets. I was embarrassingly bad at basketball, but I tried.

As an adult I tried to play golf. It is supposed to be a very sociable game, except the way I played it I was always off by myself limping through the shrubbery looking for my ball. I gave up on golf and other Sports in favor of Games. Games don’t require any physical skill or talents of me.

Of course, it is important to know the difference between Sports and Games. Getting them mixed up can be both shameful and dangerous. If you aren’t sure which is which, there is a simple way to differentiate between the two.

If you have to say, “Hold my beer” before playing – it is a Sport. If the activity is one that you can do while still holding your beer – it is a Game. Can you play Basketball while holding onto your bottle of Bud? Of course not – ergo, Basketball is a Sport. But there is no problem holding onto your Brewski when it is your turn in Chess. Chess is a Game.

Checkmate!

This bit of knowledge has really helped to cut down on my pain of public embarrassment as well as my pain of pulled muscles and scraped knees. I’m never the last one picked to be on the team when playing Games. When I was still trying to play Sports most of the time teams were being chosen I got picked last just so both teams could have the same number of players.

These days it’s all Games for me. I played on a Dart team for three years. I wasn’t any good, but that was my role. I helped to mess with the team handicap, so I contributed in my own special inept way.

Lately I have been playing on a Trivia team. Monday nights at a local watering hole I call upon my trash bin of a brain to come up with obscure bits of information from deep within my nooks and crannies of gray matter. If I come up with the right answer I can do my own end zone dance and hoist my Diet Pepsi (I don’t drink alcohol any longer). If my Random Access Memory Software comes up with the wrong answer (Oh, the Humanity!), I can just shrug and move on. I have never pulled a muscle playing on Trivia Night. I came close one time when I chug-a-lugged my soft drink and had a serious episode of Brain Freeze.

As Clint Eastwood said in his Dirty Harry movie, “Magnum Force,” –

“A MAN’S GOT TO KNOW HIS LIMITATIONS.”

It has taken me most of my lifetime, but I know that I am a man who knows his limitations. I know that I can only eat so much chili before I turn into a gaseous fire hazard. I know that I can stay up only so late before I fall asleep in front of the TV curled up in the Rip Van Winkle Memorial Chair.

I know my limitations….and I also know a lot of useless information and I can hold my drink while playing.

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.

Cutting Remarks

 

“If you prick me do I not bleed?”

I have never seen the “Merchant of Venice,” but that line is part of a famous monologue from that Shakespearean play. It came into my mind recently when I went to get a haircut.

What with all of the disruptions to our lives this year the little things like haircuts have been few and far between. My last ride in the Barber’s Chair was in January of 2020. As I write this the calendar on the wall insists that today is September 9, 2020. That is a long time to go without getting a haircut.

I get haircuts not “Styling,” so I’m not terribly picky about where I get my hair cut. All I ask is that the person doing the cutting has been trained and that they listen to me. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

It was 10 AM when I trundled myself and my nine months worth of increasingly graying hair through the door of the franchise hair cutting place. I hesitate to call it a “Barber Shop.” There was no revolving barber pole by the door. There was no “Barber” in there, just a very nice young lady who looked about 12 years old to me. She was going to cut my hair. I’m sure she has never given anyone a shave…other than her own legs perhaps. I wasn’t there for that. It was my head or nothing.

Whenever I have a new person cutting my hair I always start by telling them that I have a bump on the back of my head. It’s not a tumor. It’s not going to explode. It’s not going to bleed unless you stab it (See quote at the beginning). It is just a reservoir of fat and miscellaneous tissue. My doctors have expressed no concern about it. The only uproar came a few years ago when a newbie haircutter freaked out in mid haircut.

But not today.

The 12 year old reminded me that she was the person who cut my hair in January. At least there would be no screaming today.

When I sat down in her chair she commented on the mountain of hair on my skull.

“Shall I just get out my Sheep Shears?”

“Ha…Ha…Ha”

Those Sheep Shears might have worked, but I didn’t want to get involved in all the wrestling on the floor I’ve seen in real sheep shearing.

That gal may have been younger than the shirt I was wearing, but she knew her way around a head. She had me shorn and shaped within fifteen minutes. It would have been quicker if I had not had ears that needed navigating around. Fifteen minutes (Van Gogh would have been done in half the time) after I sat down I was feeling the breeze for the first time in months.

 

I’ll tell you one thing – the next time there is a Pandemic around here I’m going to get my head shaved and start over from scratch.

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.

 

 

 

 

Old Dog … New Tricks

JUST BECAUSE I’m retired doesn’t mean that my brain is sitting on a shelf in a dusty glass jar labeled “Abnormal.” Far from it! I am always looking to add new skills – new arrows in my quiver if you will.

It has been almost eight months since some pesky virus I’ve been reading about began throwing monkey wrenches into everyone’s daily lives.

This stop at the Malfunction Junction in our lives has given me the opportunity to discover and master a new skill. It may be that a new avenue could be opening up before me because this Old Dog has learned a New Trick.

The reality is that we are all doing less out in the world and are relying on having the world shipped to us. We are getting groceries, clothing, books, cosmetics, medications, and some things that are none of your business, delivered right to our front door. Everything comes securely shipped in sturdy cardboard boxes.

I love unpacking all of our deliveries. It’s almost like Christmas Morning without the electric trains and the pine needles. I take the scissors and neatly cut the sealing tape, open up the flaps, and lift out our goodies. After that I set the empty cardboard boxes to the side, out of the way.

Aha!

It was on a day like that when the handsome young UPS guy stopped by our house so often that we considered adoption that we were faced with a pile of empty boxes. I spent a couple hours struggling with those boxes to get them crammed into our recycling bin. That was not a good solution to the growing population of boxes that were filling up the downstairs bathroom. They were coming in faster than I could get them out. This problem was going to require some thought.

I sat in the kitchen with a large box. There was not enough room for the both of us. One of us had to go. Finally, I saw the solution in front of me. I began to tear the blasted box to pieces. I was stronger

than the box and in less than a minute I had that humungous container reduced to a neat little stack of cardboard pieces no bigger than the crock pot. I was deliriously happy. I knew how Einstein must have felt when he realized the “E” did, in fact, equal “MC².”

It didn’t take me very long to get into a destructive groove and those boxes were disappearing faster than taxis in a thunderstorm. I was disassembling the boxes like a tornado going through a trailer park. That Recycling bin in the back yard was taking all I could give it with room to spare.

I am living proof that “Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks.”

I can already roll over, heel, stay, and sit up and beg. Now I can add “Knows how to destroy cardboard boxes.”

It may not be much, but it’s better than nothing.

Isn’t it?

Throwback Day After Thursday From 2015 – Let’s Play, “Spot The Flaw In This!”

What with all of the Fooferaw lately about the Postal Service  it brought to mind a Blog Post from 2015 about an old friend of mine. So, here is an encore posting of:

“Let’s Play ‘Spot The Flaw In This’.”

inverted JennyABOUT EVERY SIX MONTHS or so we get a piece of mail from the Postal Service touting their “Stamps by Mail” service.

This Postal Service program supposedly can save us time and gasoline by sending postage stamps directly to our mailbox on the front porch. There would be no need for us to get out of our jammies and drive all the way (four blocks) to the Post Office to buy stamps.

OK, I get the concept, but with the advent of the internet there are now millions of people paying their bills online, communicating with friends and family online, and sending birthday cards, etc. online. Currently I write an average of two checks per month that require me to use postage stamps.

I’d wager that since the demise of the Columbia Record Club (look it up) that the number of stamp bearing mail items has diminished greatly. Almost all of the mail that we get is catalogs and other pointless junk mail – and virtually all of that is metered mail with no stamps at all.

We still get the “Stamps by Mail” advertising thing, but let me tell you the real reason we don’t bother signing up.

About a year ago an old friend told me this story and I believe him.

He runs a small business and thought that the “Stamps by Mail” thing might be a good time saver for him. So- he signed up and anxiously awaited the delivery of his first load of postage stamps from Benjamin Franklin’s favorite government service.

A week or so later when my friend toddled out to his mailbox he discovered one of those little pink slips of paper telling him that there was a parcel waiting for him to pick up down at the Post Office.

He told me that this was not unusual, so he got out of his jammies, put on some adult clothing and fired up his car to go get his parcel.

Of course, when he got there he had to wait in line behind the usual collection of people sending sweaters to their grandchildren in Florida and manuscripts off to publishers who will never read them or will just slide them under a table leg to take care of that annoying wobble.

He had to wait about fifteen minutes to get to the head of the line. He presented the pink slip to the clerk who then disappeared into “The Back” for another five minutes. When the Postal Service clerk returned he handed my friend an envelope which would have easily fit inside the mailbox at his home. He took the envelope over to the empty counter out by the P.O. Boxes and tore it open. Inside was another envelope proudly announcing that it contained his delivery of “Stamps by Mail!”

What a time saver.

When my friend first told me about this I too was skeptical. It was just too – too – Post Office for even the Post Office to do.

He swears that it is a true story and as time passes and I read of other Masterpieces of Governmental Ineptitude my skepticism fades into a head-shaking “I’m surprised they didn’t send it to him “postage due.”

And The Beat Goes On

 

While most of the world has been staying home this year we decided to not let it all tie us down to one place. We are, by nature, people who love to, want to, need to, travel. We are not going to let reality get in the way.

I can’t prove it, but there were rumors in the family that somewhere in the obscure and leafy branches of the Family Tree there were Gypsies. Gypsies who came and went leaving behind the gene responsible for Wanderlust.

It is Wanderlust that has people moving from one part of the world to another. It had some of my ancestors leaving Lithuania and ending up in Cleveland. Wanderlust did that and the fact that my grandfather was a deserter from the Czar’s Army. The Czar frowned on things like that in the 1890s. He didn’t like it when you stole his horse on the way out of town.

I was born with a double dose of Wanderlust and it has had me on the move all my life – and I never stole anyone’s horse (Don’t believe the rumors!).

Dawn’s ancestors must also have had a genetic run-in with those Gypsies somewhere along the line because she can match me Wanderlust for Wanderlust.

Unfortunately, with the current state of the world being a true mess, traveling is not easily done. My wife, the lovely and also Wanderlusty, Dawn and I like to travel a lot. We get to visit family in Texas several times a year and other trips both in the States and abroad have me frequently filling out those “Hold Our Mail” cards at the Post Office.

Not this year. This year we are forced to take mythical vacations.

I know that I posted a blog back a few months ago about this, but we have not slowed down. Our Pilgrimage has continued.

For example: In our minds and online we have traveled to china, Japan, Russia, France, England, and just about everywhere else. I think the only continent we haven’t been to is Antarctica and that’s too cold for me. Don’t believe me? Well, we have pictures to prove it.

Here is a picture of us in London visiting the Royal Family.

And the Pope. He has a nice view from his balcony.

Earlier this year we even managed to visit the International Space Station. It has the best views of anyplace.

This doggone Covid-19 virus has brought about some profound changes in our day to day lives. We have all had to make adaptations and this is the one that we have chosen. Putting these pictures together has required itinerary planning, Selecting the right clothing, and scheduling time to take our photos.

As our Around The World Journey has continued we had met some interesting people and seen some glorious sights. It was just a week or so ago when we were  in Italy and checked out the Leaning Tower. Its still leaning and so am I at the end of a long day on my feet.

Just the other day we flew off to Argentina because we had the urge to dance the night away and what dance could be better for that than the TANGO!

Can we dance or what?

Who dares to tell me that I have two left feet?

 

 

 

Summer is turning into Autumn but that is not stopping us. We have taken a short breather at the request of some magazine publishers. We are going to appear on a number of popular magazines. That one up at the top, the National Geographic, is pretty nifty looking. Don’t you agree?

Why have we done this? Why have we cut ourselves loose from the insanity around us? Why have we insisted on our Freedom? Here is why. The words of Sojourner Truth.

 

Murphy’s Law Theater

There is a well known aphorism called Murphy’s Law that warns “If something can go wrong it will go wrong.” We’ve all had times when it seemed that Murphy’s Law was the ruling force in our daily life – even more so if you ever worked in Theater.

A couple of weeks ago while deeply stuck in the morass of Virus Isolation and in desperate need of video entertainment (other than aged sit-com reruns) to keep me from doing something I might regret later I started plowing through our Cable TV listings.

Old movies and Australian Cooking Contests weren’t going to do it for me. I thought I might have a winner when I located those Pro Corn Hole Matches on ESPN, but I couldn’t handle the suspense. I needed something that combined Serious Culture along with a sizable dollop of Goofiness. That meant that I needed to head toward Cable TV’s Red Carpet – the BBC.

Downton Abbey may have had a good chunk of Culture about it, but it sure didn’t have enough Goofiness to satisfy me. I needed more. I needed a combination of Masterpiece Theater and the Three Stooges. I kept looking.

I thought I had a winner when I was on time for the BBC World News, but then they went and did the European Weather with all of the temperatures in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. They lost me with that. I did not want to have to do math. I wanted entertainment – good solid and mindless entertainment.

Then I found it.

“The Goes Wrong Show” is perhaps the funniest thing I have seen in a Sunth of Mondays! (Work with me here.)

The IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) describes the show as “A series of brand new, handcrafted, half hours of theatrical catastrophes as The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society undertakes more (overly) ambitious endeavours.”

I would simplify that to read, “Imagine the worst Community Theater production you have ever seen then multiply it by ten.”

Doing Live Theater is “Murphy’s Law” with better lighting. It is not a case of IF something will go wrong, but WHEN. “The Goes Wrong Show” takes all of those “WHEN” moments and crams them into thirty minutes of insanity before a live audience.

There are only six episodes available now but that is enough to give you a rollicking evening of television and possibly a hernia from laughing until you pass out. I’m sure that more will be coming. More better be in the offing or I may have to drive to London and raise holy Hades.

My favorite episode was entitled “90 Degrees”. The title referred to the temperature in the sultry American South where the action takes place, but the Technical Crew thought it was an instruction and they built part of the set at a 90 degree angle from the floor.

Chaos ensues.

There is a Christmas Special Show where Santa gets roaring drunk, a magical Snowman ends up in his undies, and an Elf gets stuck in the chimney. A Christmas Carol it ain’t.

I don’t usually review or endorse TV shows or movies, but “The Goes Wrong Show” is wilder and cleverer than anything I have seen in a long time. It may take you a bit of sleuthing to find it with your local cable TV outfit, but, trust me, you will not be disappointed…unless you’re a humorless sourpuss who thinks there is nothing funny in the world.

Bah, Humbug!

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

 

Guest Blog … Kindergarten Means “Garden of Children”

It is my pleasure to have a Guest Blogger today: Jennie Fitzkee – a Teacher who has helped make learning a joy for years of young children.

Thirty Years of Wonder

Kindergarten Means “Garden of Children”

Kindergarten Means “Garden of Children”

My garden is a new venture every year.  We bought an older home with an established flower garden in 2002.  When summer arrived I couldn’t wait to see what  would bloom.  It was a joy to discover new flowers.  Since then, we have watched and learned, occasionally adding new flowers to the garden.  Yet, the changes every year are often drastic, thanks to nature.

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These daisies were never there.  And now they are prolific.  Yet, no two are alike.  Big, tall, just budding, small… they’re all different.  

Flowers are much like young children.  They grow at different rates, have their own agenda, fight for the sun, take a backseat to other flowers… some are strong, some are weak.  I have watched our flowers grow and change for many years, like I have watched children grow and change over decades.

What have I learned?  Give them plenty of care, but don’t force changes.  Accept their beauty.  Be ready to help.

What children need and what flowers need to grow hasn’t changed.  I keep that in crystal clear focus.  Times might change, but children and flowers have not.  Kindergarten means “garden of children.”  They are nourished with stories, music, nature, and dramatic play.  The Arts are the roots to grow children.  Providing opportunities for unbounded creativity is the fire to want to learn.  I know this firsthand.  I pay attention to every child, nourishing them like I do my flowers.  Some need hugs, some need academic challenges.

The point is, every child is different.  Friedrich Froebel understood children and what they needed.  He established the first kindergarten in Germany in 1837.  It was radical at the time.

A Brief History of Kindergarten
Published by Redleaf Press, 2010

Friedrich Froebel, a German educator, opened the first kindergarten in Blankenburg, Germany, in 1837. During the 1830s and 1840s he developed his vision for kindergarten based on the ideas of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the later Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. These progressive education reformers introduced the concept that children were naturally good and active learners. At the time, this thinking was quite radical. The common belief until then had been that children were little creatures who needed stern handling to become good adults. Play was seen as a waste of time and proof that children should be tamed so they could be more productive.

Undaunted, Froebel argued that teachers should use music, nature study, stories, and dramatic play to teach children. He encouraged the use of crafts and manipulatives, such as small building blocks or puzzles. He also promoted the idea of circle time for children to learn in a group. Froebel proposed that children acquire cognitive and social skills by us- ing their natural curiosity and desire to learn. He believed women had the best sensitivity and qualities to work with young children in developing their emotional skills. Consequently, Froebel opened a training school just for women.

Froebel’s ideas were so new that the Prussian government closed all kindergartens in 1851, fearing a socialist revolutionary movement. Nevertheless, the concept spread quickly throughout the rest of the world, and by the end of the nineteenth century, many countries had started kindergartens for middle-class children. Then, between 1900 and the start of World War I, England and France began to establish free kindergartens for poor children. Kindergartens also reopened in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, and they still serve children who are three to six years old.

The word kindergarten means “garden of children,” a beautiful metaphor for what happens there—children growing like flowers and plants, nurtured by a positive environment with good soil, rain, and sun, as well as an attentive gardener.

Today, Froebel’s words and findings are still spot on.  Yet, schools are more concerned with academics; they forget (or don’t understand) that young children need to experience – touch, build, experiment – before real learning can happen.  Frank Lloyd Wright attributes his success in architecture to the blocks he had as a child.  Yes, building with blocks.

I will forever champion children, give them opportunities to explore and ask questions, challenge them to do more when they’re excited, and give them support and love along the way.  They’re my garden of children.

Jennie

The Heat Is On

I will be the first to admit it. I am easily amused. You want to see me giggle – just start telling me “Knock -Knock” jokes. It doesn’t take much to get me laughing. I’ve been known to cut loose with a belly laugh even when it’s me who has slipped on the banana peel.

Laughter is a good thing. It is even therapeutic. Laughter has super healing properties. Those properties are enhanced tenfold if a whipped cream pie is being thrown. That’s a Scientific Fact. I saw it on my TV last Saturday morning.

For the last few months the world has been engrossed with contemplating it’s own navel and avoiding anything that might involve enjoyment or other people. I’m sorry, but that will never do. If I can’t slap my own knee at least twice a day I might get awful surly and start making bad puns. My funny bone needs tickling on a regular basis. Fortunately in the last few weeks I have found something that appeals to my 11 year old sense of humor.

What is funnier than seeing grownups playing a kid’s game and looking really silly in the process? Nothing!! That is why I am glad that we have discovered the #1 hit show on Netflix : “The Floor Is Lava.”

This show pits teams of adults against a room where they must jump from tables to chairs to sofas that are immersed in a roiling sea of Special Effects lava. They must try to cross the room without falling into the lava and disappearing forever into syndication. The team that completes the challenge and escapes the room wins $10,000 bucks and a $29 dollar Lava Lamp.

Big Time Show Biz this ain’t. It’s more of a combination of “Survivor”, “American Ninja Warrior”, and anything on “C-SPAN.”

I did a little research into this show, at least seven or eight minutes worth, and learned that if you want to be a contestant on “Floor is Lava” the producers want you to be in good physical condition. That leaves me out – something for which I will be eternally grateful. I guess they don’t want to have a contestant keel over dead on camera. Even with that fitness restriction we have seen some players take some serious head shots when they leap from a chair to a table and land face first and then slip below the surface of the “Lava.”

I don’t know how long this show will be on the air. They have only 10 episodes “in the can” as they say. It would not surprise me to learn that it will be picked up for another season. After all, “Gilligan’s Island” ran for three seasons, but they had Ginger and Mary Ann. “The Floor Is Lava” only has a “Host” who looks like the stock boy at the Dollar Store.

“The Floor Is Lava” is one of those things that has appeared on the scene at just the right time. This world needs something to laugh at that doesn’t require any thought or analysis. “The Floor is Lava” is nothing more than self-induced slapstick humor. It makes no sense. It has no real purpose. There is no “Message,” and who wouldn’t want to have their very own $29 dollar Lava Lamp?

Couch Potatoes need not apply.

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?”

A Guest Post From “So, Here’s The Deal”

I followed this Blogger’s work for years and now I am following her awesome new Blog – 

“So, Here’s The Deal.”

https://soheresthedealblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/15/risk-vs-retreat/

 

Risk vs. Retreat

So, here’s the deal… The subject of risk came up in our house the other night. It was stuck within a discussion on vulnerability. (Boy, is that a fraught with fear topic!) As with most weighty topics, it planted like a seed in my brain and has been running around ever since. What are we willing to risk in our lives? What will we do to avoid that risk? Or any risk? What are the “sure things” that populate our days and our brains? And what are the imagined absolutes we’re inclined to place in jeopardy? (Bonus points if you can list the “sure things” in your life.)

If you play the stock market, you take certain financial risks. Hopefully, you go into that with your eyes wide open, having done a little research, and never put more into a purchase than you can afford to completely lose. Over the course of our lives, we have seen some stocks go wildly up that green line and others tank to the point they no longer exist. Such is the name of the game. You have to know exactly what you are willing to risk.

I suppose the same can be said for playing the lottery and going to the casino. We’ve done both. I once won $40 playing the lottery and I admit to occasionally purchasing a PowerBall ticket when the pot is over $100M. We laugh about the $2 we spend as being a risk against our retirement funds. We really aren’t taking much risk on a lottery ticket. Not much at a casino either. We view casinos as “entertainment” and amazing opportunities for “people watching”. The amount we are willing to blow at the casino is strictly an entertainment fee, usually something along the lines of $20 / day. (Of course, we haven’t been to the casino in quite a while, so we might up it to $25, adjusting for inflation.)

Over the course of my parenting life, I’ve taken risks in what to concentrate on and what to let go when raising a child with autism. Looking back over the last 35 years, I think most of those risks have paid off. A few have not, including table manners, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Over the course of my life, I’ve taken risks on clothing and shoe purchases. Some have paid off big time. Some have been huge mistakes that became paint rags and chew toys. Then again, I rarely make risk vs. reward decisions in that department.

Over the course of that same life, I’ve taken those more daring risks when it comes to interpersonal relationships. These may be the most intense risks we can take. Risk, when it comes to relationships, are often weighed based on our experiences and history. We build a metric over time against which we measure almost everything.

Hormones can kick in and blow that whole risk vs reward thing. Your brain is stuck in that reward mode and risk seems impossible to grasp. Of course, if it all blows up in your face, the results go into that experience and history box. Good luck using that information if it all kicks in again.

But sometimes, a person comes along – whether a potential friend or partner – and your risk vs reward meter starts ticking, measuring the possibilities. (That meter is not infallible, but it sure is handy and you should keep it in working order.) And then, you have to decide – leap or not. If you’re of a certain age, failure is certainly an option. If you’re a kid, failure isn’t in your vocabulary.

That risk-o-meter is an interesting gadget running around in your brain somewhere. It leans toward failure and a determination that risk just isn’t worth the potential pain, but somewhere, I hope, in the back of your mind is a little voice that’s whispering, “You might not fall, ya know. You might grab the brass ring and soar!”

It’s a good voice and maybe we should listen to it. (Can’t hurt to pack a parachute either.)

May you fly on wings of eagles!

Hey! It’s Time For Some Fun Fiction!!

Please Note ! This piece was originally written in the 1980s to be performed live onstage. I did it a few times in bookstore readings and Story Telling events. They had no idea what to make of it.

Imagine this scene as a part of an old Humphrey Bogart movie or some Film Noir epic. Lots of shadows and sinister music. The only difference is that my detective is not the hard-boiled type. He is closer to  “Poached.”

This was the first episode of a series called “The Henway Chronicles.”

***

The Coffee Shop

A steady drizzle was falling – giving the dark city streets a sugar glaze that hid the bitterness of the late night.

As I walked into the coffee shop the red plastic counter stools gleamed a promise of hot coffee and maybe something to fill the void inside me.

A flash of green caught the corner of my eye. Sitting in the last booth next to the aging Wurlitzer Jukebox was, perhaps, the best looking woman these eyes had ever seen. And these eyes have seen everything and not liked most of it. Dark red hair the color of Irish heartbreak fell to her shoulders, a cup of coffee, half gone, sat in front of the lady who was completely gone.

The flash of green was a crisp $100 bill that she was spinning on the Formica tabletop.

I told the guy behind the counter, an old friend I’d never met before, to give the lady a refill – on me. He just grunted. He’d played this scene a hundred times before.

Déjà Vu on a damp night.

“HI, Doll. My name’s Henway. I’m a Dick – head of the best P.I. outfit in town.”

She looked up at me with two green eyes that flashed more than the Century Note and gave me a look that said both, “Hold my hand,” and “Go hold your own.”

I sat down and waited until our cups were filled the hot inky coffee and my old pal went back to his station by the cake dish.

“Tell me about it,” I said. “Maybe I can help.”

Those two emerald colored eyes looked over at me and her two too red lips parted. “Raaazzz,” was all she said. I used a napkin to clean my glasses.

“I think I understand,” I said with a nod.

“Your guy’s been two-timing you and tonight he got a little too rough when you called him on it. You ran out of the house in tears and now you’re here at 3 in the AM, afraid to go home. All dressed up and no place to go – right? And the hundred? You keep that pinned to your slip for emergencies. It’s enough to get you bus fare back home, right? Your name is Lily, you’re a Taurus, and you think men in pointy shoes are a turn-off, right? You had fried clams and a Valium for dinner and you think Barry Manilow sucks like a Hoover. Right, Dollface?”

They don’t make paper napkins like they used to.

It was obvious that the lady had a problem staring her in the face. I got up from the booth.

“I guess I hit too close to home, huh kid? Well maybe you just need to be alone to work it all out, right?”

I tossed a dime onto the table and it rolled a lazy figure eight around two crumpled napkins and came to rest in a pile of sugar next to her spoon.

“Here, call a cab and go home,” I said. “It’s late and a swell looking dame like you shouldn’t be out alone on the streets in this neighborhood. Nothing but Freaks, Geeks, and Low-lifes out there this time of night.”

I turned to leave, my thoughts already focusing on the last piece of German chocolate Cake I’d seen sitting under the plastic dome on the counter.

“Hey, Mister?” I heard her say in a voice like white silk.

“Hey, Mister?”

I stopped  and turned.

“Yeah, Dollface?”

“Raazzzzzze.”

Some people just ain’t got no class.

 

It Is Time

TIME PASSES. TIME ALSO ARRIVES. AND TIME HAS ARRIVED HERE.

This blog has been going since November of 2014 with well over 1500 postings of varying quality and meaning to be sure.

But now I feel that it is time to pull the plug. Today will be the last day for this blog.

I am tired. My mind is tired and my body is not as cooperative as it used to be. I feel unable to sharply observe the world around me and I don’t really have anything left to say.

To those of you who have been with me on this excursion from the early days – I thank you for your mysterious loyalty and the countless comments you have launched in my direction.

So, as I wrap up this chapter of my life, I urge you to love one another.Tell people that you love them. Hug them often. Don’t let them feel lonely.

Thank You and Goodbye.

John

Merry Christmas To You All!

christmas

 

 

 

Enjoy this day with your Family and Friends!

 

Fa, la, la, la, la.

Taxes On The Spin Cycle

 

THE WORLD IS MADE OF PEOPLE, THINGS, AND EVENTS. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell one from another. Which is it? Am I reacting to the person, what I am seeing, or what is going down? I guess the reality is that, in most cases, it is a combination of the three.

Such is one unusual thing that happened to me in, of all places, the neighborhood laundromat. The laundromat is not my usual haunt. I don’t think I have any “usual” haunts just a bunch of verifiably “Unusual” ones.

Read more…

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