Tag Archives: Stories

Another of Life’s Little Surprises

Have you ever had the opportunity to know, or as in my case, to work with a really memorable character?  One of those rare individuals who stand out from the crowd due to their life experiences, their sense of humor, or their easygoing curmudgeonry?

Well, I have.  His name was Bill and I had the good fortune to work with him for about eight years beginning in the late 80’s.  Bill was a human warehouse of humorous anecdotes regarding things that he had seen and done, the source of countless limericks learned in his college days, and wellspring of unique descriptive phrases which I came to realize were mostly of his own creation.

Bill was 15 or so years my senior and as he moved closer to retirement age he began to describe his problem with weight control as “Creeping Obesity“.  It’s a concept with which many folks who are in, or moving beyond, their middle years can readily identify.

Two events that I’ve experienced over the past two days caused me to recall Bill’s Creeping Obesity and to recognize a parallel condition that I’ll identify as Creeping Dotage; dotage being a nice word for senility.

Like most people, I have a smartphone, an iPhone in my case, and I carry it with me for nearly 100% of my waking hours.  If it’s not in my hand, it’s in one of my pant’s pockets, or sitting on a table or desk in front of me.

Two days ago, I was walking through my kitchen when I thought of something that I needed to check on.  I’ve known for some time that the answer to any and all questions can be found with a quick and simple Google, so I reached into my pocket for my phone.

But it wasn’t there! No problem, I must have left it on the desk beside my computer. Nope, it wasn’t there.  Maybe I left it downstairs when I was checking the weather on the TV.  Nope.  Did I leave it in the laundry room? Nope.  The bedroom? Nope…… and on and on and on!

I walked through and searched every room in this house at least 3 times without finding the phone.  As I was approaching total exasperation, I walked for a fourth time into the den where I had been watching TV.

As I was approaching the chair in which I normally sit, something in the deep recesses of the back of my mind told me to look down. There, laying in plain sight on the Persian carpet, but perfectly camouflaged, was my iPhone.  The phone, in it’s jet black case, presumably had fallen off of my lap as I had gotten up from the chair and had landed face down in an area of the rug which was equally dark.

Fast forward one day to yesterday.  Sitting in the living room, I remembered that I wanted to check on a baseball score from the previous night, so I reached into my pocket to get my phone, but wait, it’s not there!

Two days in a row!  Surely not! This can’t be!

By this point, I’m confident that you know the drill and will understand that after 3 or 4 circuits of every room in this house, my iPhone was still AWOL.

Equally concerned with the sieve that my mind was apparently becoming and with my inability to locate the missing phone, in desperation I walked one last time into the room which serves as my office.  I scanned the desk and moved everything that was on it.  No phone.  Then that same remote place in the back of my mind whispered to me, “Move the office chair!

iphoneI reached down and grabbed the arm of the chair.  But wait!  What’s this?  As my hand wrapped around the chair’s arm rest, I realized that it had also wrapped itself around my perfectly camouflaged iPhone which had been hidden in plain sight resting on the jet black arm rest.

I’m pleased to report that it’s after 2:00 pm.  It’s been over 24 hours since the last unfortunate incident and the iPhone is resting peacefully on a piece of lily white paper just to the left of my computer as I type these words.

Yes, Bill.  I hear you.  Undeniably, it’s Creeping Senility.

Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

Whiskers vs Beards

Is there a distinction between whiskers and beards?

I’m not sure I would have ever thought so, but for an article I read many years ago which pointed out that men sporting facial hair who happened to have the reputation for being ne’er do wells, villainous, or simply in disrepute were more often than not described as wearing whiskers.  Whereas, men with facial hair who were admired, of high character, and just all around good guys were adorned with beards.

On October 15, 1860, 11 year old Grace Bedell of Westfield, NY wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln, who at the time was running for the office of President of the United States.  In it, she wrote:

I have yet got four brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin.

Within a month, Lincoln had grown a full beard, softened his visage, and shortly became the 16th President.  It’s interesting to note that after assuming the office, his “whiskers” were thereafter most often referred to as a beard.  At least by those residing above the Mason-Dixon Line.

I’ve grown a few beards in my time, at least five that I can recall.  I’m referring to them as beards because I’m presuming that I don’t qualify as a ne’er do well.  Two were grown during my college days, two during my working career, and the last being the one I’m now maintaining.

my-beardDue to my Scottish highland ancestry, the two college era beards were of a reddish, auburn hue, while the two grown during my middle years slowly morphed into shades of light brown.  As you can see, my current effort has taken on a somewhat more philosophical shade of white.

gabby-hayes-4I seem to think much more deeply about things since I began to let it grow a few weeks ago.  As such, I can’t decide whether the beard makes me look more like Ernest Hemingway, Leonardo da Vinci, or Sigmund Freud.  Others have suggested that perhaps Gabby Hayes would be the better comparison.

As a footnote, the mustache adorning my upper lip has been in place without interruption since 1973.  Beards, and/or whiskers, may come and go, but the ‘stache is here to stay.

But back to whiskers vs beards.  Facial hair on men is quite common these days, but I rarely if ever hear it described as whiskers.  I’m quite confident that this is not due to a general decline in the numbers of ne’er do wells and villains.  On the contrary, those numbers are decidedly on the increase.  I can only assume that the term whiskers has fallen out of use due to the never ending evolution of language and the words we choose to use.

A decent beard has long been
the number one must-have
fashion item for any

fugitive from justice.

–  Craig Brown

Sleep with Honor

HammockI’m a fairly pragmatic individual, so when I find that my eyelids are growing heavy, regardless of the time of day, I’ll say to myself and to anyone else within earshot, “It’s time for a bit of sleep with honor.”  Invariably, this will lead me to the nearest sofa, recliner, bed, or other comfortable flat surface for a few moments of repose and restoration.

I began using the phrase, sleep with honor, during my Junior year of college.  Thankfully, the Vietnam War was beginning to wind down and the Paris Peace Accord had been signed.  Then President Richard Nixon gave a speech on January 23, 1973 in which he described the accord as providing the means for the U.S. to obtain “Peace with Honor” which had been a campaign promise he’d made way back in 1968.

The Vietnam War had been a hot topic on college campuses all across America since the mid-60’s and squarely on the mind of all military draft eligible male college students.  For that reason, the phrase Peace with Honor resonated with me, and many others, as representing something which I could and would heartily embrace.

Even as a college student, I was never a believer in late nights or burning the candle at both ends.  Whenever I found myself growing weary, I assumed that my body was attempting to tell me something and that I’d be wise to pay attention.  As I referenced earlier, I’ve always been a bit pragmatic.

Consequently, I never hesitated to call it a night and head to bed when the mood struck, regardless of the fervor with which I had been studying or (perhaps more likely) the intensity of the party that was rolling along in the apartment next door.

In response to the inevitable inquiries shouted in my direction by apartment mates and friends as I left in search of peace and quiet in my own apartment, I’d simply reply, “It’s time for a bit of sleep with honor.”

And I’d then go softly into that good night.

 

Photo by Mateusz Dach from Pexels

In Praise of Peanut Butter

You possibly may recall that in my last post, my wife had sent me to the store in search of, among other things, peanut butter.  Hold that thought for a moment.

I’m a child of the 50’s, the 1950’s to be specific. Compared to the culture and society that we have decided to saddle ourselves with in the 20-teens, the 50’s were a simpler and more innocent time.

Today happens to be the first day of the new school year in my neck of the woods.  As such, traffic conditions have gone from simply being atrocious to approaching near gridlock in many areas.  This is largely due to the fact that today’s school age child requires transportation to school with the preferred method being catching a ride with Mom or Dad in the family car. There are some children who ride the school buses which add to the traffic snarl, but almost no students simply find their way to their school of their own accord.

Mother seeing children off to schoolThere were school buses in the 50’s, but the predominant method for kids to get to their school was on foot, as in walking, or on a self-powered bicycle.  Personally, I alternated between these two methods.  From the 1st through 6th grades, it was a rare occurrence for either of my parents to drive my brother and I to school.  When I reached junior high school, commonly known as middle school today, I had no choice but to ride in a school bus because of the distance involved.

I completely understand the reasons why kids are chauffeured to school in such great numbers these days.  It gets back to that culture and society that we have decided to saddle ourselves with.  So, enough said.

Gastronomically speaking, school lunches were similarly simple and innocent back in the 50’s.  Our school year was roughly 9 months in length.  Assuming a 5 day school week for 9 months, there were approximately 200 days per year on which I took my lunch to school in a brown paper bag.

By the way, where I went to school in the 50’s, there were no teacher work days and the concept of a spring and/or winter break from classes had not even been sighted on long-range radar.

200 brown bag lunches per school year meant the preparation and consumption of somewhere close to 150 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Those were prepared using only creamy peanut butter.  My Mother considered crunchy peanut butter to be too exotic for general consumption.  Likewise, only white bread was eaten in my family. Whole grain breads, or any bread exhibiting even the slightest tinge of color, were never consumed in my house.

Peanutbuttersandwich

Before spreading the peanut butter on the bread, my Mother would first apply a healthy amount of butter.  It was probably margarine, but no peanut butter sandwich I consumed between the ages of 5 and 15 was considered to be complete without a slathering of butter separating the bread from the peanut butter.  It’s just the way it was done.

The remaining 50 or so of my brown bag sandwiches typically consisted of a slice of bologna (we knew that it was really called baloney) layered between two slices of the same lily white bread, each of which had been generously coated with mayonnaise.

Keep in mind that those brown bags were not insulated and the schools I attended were not air conditioned.  Likewise, these were the days before zip lock plastic bags.  Loose fitting waxed paper was the preferred method of wrapping up a sandwich for later consumption.  Depending on the weather, there were times when the mayonnaise would take on a sort of yellowish transparency by the time our lunch period rolled around.

In any event, my Mom’s homemade sandwiches were head and shoulders above those made by the lunchroom ladies.  Those often featured stale bread which had been lightly misted with water in order to soften them up a bit.

We had never heard of gluten, GMO’s, monosodium glutamate, or the concept of “healthy eating”.  Somehow, we managed to survive childhood in spite of that.

Which inexplicably brings me back to yesterday’s trip to the grocery store to get, among other things, peanut butter.  As I was scanning the multiple varieties of peanut butters being offered up for purchase, I came across one that I had never seen before.  Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter.  Now I love peanuts; especially the salted-in-the-shell kind you can get at baseball games, so I threw all caution to the wind and bought a jar of the extra crunchy variety.

It’s been a real game changer for me.  Eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with the extra crunchy stuff is the culinary equivalent to walking barefoot over a gravel driveway.  I may never go back to plain ol’ creamy.

Back in the day, if my Mother had had access to extra crunchy peanut butter, I would have never needed the token variety in lunchtime fare offered up by those baloney sandwiches with their transparent mayonnaise.

Bon Appétit!

 

The Epitome of Slothfulness

An otherwise nondescript, lazy Sunday afternoon was interrupted by my spouse’s sudden and totally out of character desire for a peanut butter sandwich.

The fact that we were out of bread, not to mention peanut butter, resulted in my launching a hasty excursion to the local supermarket with her final suggestion ringing in my ears, “You know, some Pralines & Cream ice cream would be good too – and make it crunchy peanut butter!

Upon arriving at the store, I found the parking lot jammed to near overflowing with cars, reminding me that this was the last day before the beginning of the new school year. I knew then that I was about to pit myself against a thundering herd of young Mom’s frantic to get their hands on that last ream of notebook paper, package of #2 pencils, and/or tube of Elmer’s glue.

I serpentined through the congested aisles with the ease of an Olympic skier negotiating the Giant Slalom. Making short work of the peanut butter and ice cream, I decided that a bag of chocolate chip cookies would not go unappreciated. My timing was impeccable as I found the “10 items or fewer” checkout line was at that very moment empty of shoppers.

Moments later, I was crossing the parking lot to my car, mission nearly completed.

It was as I was putting my bag into the backseat that I noticed the shopping cart that had been left unattended in the empty parking space on the other side of my car. The cart was perfectly positioned to be rammed into another parked car by an inattentive driver hastily pulling in to one of the few open parking spaces available in a nearly full parking lot. To make matters worse, a shopping cart return corral was no more than 20 feet away.

I walked around my car and began to push the cart toward the return area while muttering something to myself on the subject of the short sightedness of inconsiderate, self-absorbed SOBs when I noticed the woman who had just then cranked up her obscenely super-sized Cadillac SUV in the parking spot next to the one in which the cart had been left.

While I can’t confirm that she was guilty of leaving the shopping cart unattended, I can say that the expression on her face immediately reminded me of the biblical admonition, “The guilty flee, where none pursue.