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

Archive for the tag “Writing”

You Gonna Eat That?

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

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

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

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

Read more…

The Cookie Monster Is My Hero

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

Get up or not get up?

Matching socks or just grab any old two?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Was What We All Needed

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was starting to panic.

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

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

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

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

A moment of laughter surrounded by all that chaos.

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

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.

Merry Christmas! 

 

Merry Christmas To You All Around The World !

christmas

 

 

 

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

Berlin_Checkpoint_Charlie_089

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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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.

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.

Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln…

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

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

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

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

      Me before my morning coffee

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

Back to Ralph Lincoln…

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

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

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

 

As I Was Saying…

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

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

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

I’m doing it right now aren’t I?

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

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

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

We were wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

And so I keep writing.

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

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