Friday, December 8, 2017

Curling

I'm going curling tomorrow. I don't know that I want to.

It's a grand game, curling is. I've met a great many great friends through it, and that's a good thing. They are always in my heart. Still, I really don't want to curl tomorrow.

I've gotten my name on some hardware. But that's not really on my count. The boys, the girls, they've curled great a'fore me. I did nuthin'. They earned it, not me.

The triple kill lose the shooter, now there's a curling shot. I did not make it. Yet the stats don't show it.

I show it now. See ya tomorrow old boy.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Ruining a holiday favorite

This Saturday if memory serves me right, the classic Christmas special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer will be televised for, what, the fifty third year I think? I intend to watch, but I don't know if my family will watch it with me. You see, I think I ruined it for them.

We were watching it a few years ago, and my sense of humor wandered into the viewing. You remember the scene where he first meets his reindeer girlfriend? She asked what his name was and he replied, of course, Rudolph. He then asked her her name; she answered, "Mine's Clarice." I then said in my best Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lechter voice, "Hello Clarice."

I've been told that that joke ruined the show for them. But by gum, it was funny, if you ask me.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Exploding pandas

Like many a soul these days, I play online games. I play mostly on facebook, and have become somewhat adept at those games I play. You know how it is: you start playing and build up points, cruise through new levels, make your team stronger so that you play stronger teams and so on. It gets addictive, to be sure.

I've played WGT baseball for so long that I have a regular championship squad. Poker? I've played tens of thousands of hands, all with fake money. So I get get fake wins; it's not like it's fake news, right? I've played enough farkle, a dice game, that I'm so far advanced that it will be two years before I can level up again. Yeppers, I've wasted a lot of time on pointless gaming.

My latest addiction is Panda Pop. You save mama panda's babies in a variation of the old balloon pop games which have been around since Atari was a real player in the video game world. The panda cubs are trapped in bubbles in the sky and you have to save them, often using explosives. And it finally popped, hee, hee, hee, into my head this morning: I'm saving baby pandas by blowing them up.

Doesn't that seem somehow wrong? I mean, how do you save a life by blowing it to smithereens anyway? Especially lovable little pandas.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The useless handshake

When something gets ingrained, it stays ingrained. Especially when it's ingrained in Uncle Patrick.

Grandpa Joe and Uncle Patrick did a lot of work together. It was mostly short day projects around the Shop. When the work was over, Joe would always offer his hand to Pat and they would shake. It was Joe's signal that they were through with another well done job.

One day, at a time when he and Pat were not working together, Joe had gotten down on the floor looking for something or other. And as happens with many of us as we get older, he couldn't get back up. And as it was, Uncle Patrick was walking by. Joe held out his right hand to Pat...who took it and shook it heartily, released it, then went on his way. Without helping his grandfather up off the floor.

Joe thought it was hilarious enough that he told the tale over and over. It is pretty funny at that.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The boss of the applesauce

Last night I made a batch of Marty's World Famous Applesauce. If you haven't heard of it, you're in the wrong world. But it's so good everyone should try it. So as a public service, today I'm going to tell you how to make it.

First, get apples. I recommend red delicious, mackintosh, or the northern spy variety. They're okay to eat but make better sauce. Do not use gala or golden delicious; them's eatin' apples, and it's a sacrilege to cook those. They're that good. Similarly, using Mutsu apples for applesauce is a sin even if you aren't religious. Eat them as they are you heathen.

Anyway, peel and core the apples. How many, you ask? I dunno. How much applesauce do you want? I make my batches using 40 - 50 apples, and a good peeler/corer can do that many in about an hour. If you want to make a smaller batch I ask, why would you want to? To repeat: this is great applesauce. You don't want a wee bit. That's just a tease. It would only make you insane.

Now, put those peeled apples in a big pot and boil them down. Put about six cups of water in the pot with them to start. Without some water you'll burn the apples. But too much water isn't good either, as more liquid will form as the apples boil down. Stir regularly and stir properly, bringing the apples at the bottom of the pot to the top. You can handle that, right?

When everything's boiled down to a saucy consistency, with some small chunks of soft apples left for bulk, add sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The sugar makes it sweet, the cinnamon makes it cinnamony, and the nutmeg...well, I don't know what the nutmeg does. But if it ain't there your applesauce will not be good, and you will have failed Applesauce 101. Miserably.

How much sugar and stuff? I don't know. I just mix it to taste, so mix it my taste. How do you know my taste? I can't tell you everything you know, heh-heh.

Oh all right. Between four and five cups of sugar and about two teaspoons of cinnamon and one teaspoon of nutmeg. Don't forget the nutmeg. It's important for some reason.

Now, you eat it. You will be singing my praises as you do. If you've successfully made it to my taste of course.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Washington and morality

And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion...reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

- George Washington, from his Farewell Address

I have said many times that morality, indeed any issues of right and wrong, must have a God of some sort behind them. Without an objective norm to fall back on, any and all questions of good and evil, even issues of simple prudence, are nothing more than your word against mine. In such a case, problems would be resolved only through might makes right, whether at the hand of a single tyrant or that old saw consensus, which is but a name for the tyranny of the majority. We must do right because it is right on its own terms as instituted by the Creator of the natural law.

Consensus cannot make something right. Consensus is merely what the majority of the people at a given time happen to want which they are able to subject upon the minority. I have been told further that morality 'develops' as people 'discover' what works and what does not; that sounds like consensus in a varied form, and little more. Do we honestly believe that such is the best way to create good law and rational public policy?

Obviously it is not. We require a Supreme Being, a supreme and final Law, in order to do well and avoid evil. To those who object, which God?, I say, the one whom philosophy as much as religion insists is there. From that point we can safely speculate on how such a being would expect us to act. It is then when we start to cross into religious principle because at that point we begin to realize that people are special, that doing wrong against them is an evil in itself because it is an affront to their dignity as individuals. A dignity they have by virtue of their humanity, as given them by God. It does not come from them or anything they do.

So there is no reason to base morality and law on anything slippery such as convention, which can and will change as generations do. We need that eternal sense, that eternal reality, if we are to make a good society, and become good people. For any ideal of dignity must come from the religious ideal that everyone deserves proper respect. That cannot come from any simple human act. It can only come from above, overarching each individual. We recognize that and live accordingly, or we slowly perish.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Cloyce and locks

That old employee, friend, and erstwhile compatriot of me Grandpa Joe, the one I call Cloyce just to give him a name, was, shall we say, dense. A few straws shy of a bale. A brick short of a load. A bubble off plumb. A good guy, just not particularly smart. He was as sharp as a bowling ball. He had a room temperature IQ. He...you get it.

Years ago, Joe had bought a new trailer for carrying welders, pipe threaders, and other equipment around. But he had nowhere to put it, and wanted it as safe as could be. So he decided that the thing to do would be to get a heavy chain and solid lock, and chain the trailer to a large elm in his back yard. He went to the hardware and purchased the necessaries. On return, he sent Cloyce to lock the trailer up. "Lock her up tight!" were he last instructions to Cloyce. Cloyce went off to attend the chore.

After work that night, Joe was sitting on his back porch with a smoke and decided to go admire his new trailer. He walked up to it, looked it over, and walked around it just for pleasure. When he was half way around it, he saw that it was not locked to the tree. The chain however was wound as tight as could be around the trunk of the elm, the lock glistening in the evening sun and forced right up upon the trunk itself. That tree weren't going nowhere.

Joe got the key and rectified the situation, stopping occasional to wipe the tears of laughter from his eyes.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Locking nothing

You see things, obviously, when you take regular walks around the neighborhood. Some stay the same, some change, and some are downright odd.

For weeks now I have passed a house with not one but two sections of fence missing. Why they were removed I don't know, but I'm guessing it was to allow the owners to park their truck inside their yard. Even at that, I don't see why two sections of fence needed removal as the truck clearly could fit through one open section.

Be that as it may, what really puzzles me about this is that there is a gate one standing fence section down from the missing ones. On that gate is one big, honking lock.

I wonder, did someone miss a memo? What's the point of a very sturdy lock on a gate with a wide open yard? Oh, maybe there is some reasonable explanation. But it's more fun to presume it's stupidity, isn't?

Be honest. It is, isn't it? And hey, maybe it is stupidity after all.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Spending someone else's money

Yeah, I know I've said that I wouldn't dabble into political issues much here, and I meant it. But I did reserve the right to do it every now and then. Well, today is now. Or then, take your pick.

I am a political conservative. Why? For many reasons, really, yet one does kind of stand out. I think we have to be very careful about taking other people's money and spending it however we like. The essence of government spending is exactly that: taking other people's money and spending it however we like.

I'm not arguing against any and all forms of taxing and spending. We need government, and government does need money in order to work. Still, the idea that something should have public money spent on it simply because I want it spent, because the majority of voters want it spent, that way, is hubris, even arrogance. No matter how good of an idea it might be on certain levels, and especially no matter how good of an idea you may think it is, it doesn't automatically follow that you should force other people to pay for it.

The simple guideline is that government should generally only spend for a substantial public interest. I would look at the 18 basic ways of public spending as outlined in Article 1 of the Constitution as a good guideline. After that, we really shouldn't be too quick to demand, yes, demand, that individuals cough up their cash for what someone else believes right and just. Simply put, that is the tyranny of the majority. That's as bad as the tyranny of a king.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Cloyce and the broken welder in Rochester

Grandpa Joe rented arc welders, some of which were powered by six cylinder gasoline engines. He had a mechanic, I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, who worked for him part time. Cloyce was a very good mechanic, to give him his due. He also didn't drive. He also drank profoundly. One day when a welder was on the fritz in Rochester, about 30 miles north of Detroit, and no one else was available, Joe had me drive Cloyce out to fix it.

We loaded some tools and a box of commonly used repair parts into a pickup truck and off we went. I was a rather naive young lad of 16 and had only been driving for a couple of months. Consequently I was slow to read the signals that something was going seriously wrong.

At first it wasn't much. Cloyce had begun, well, not quite slurring his words but drawing them out. When he would speak to me he would start sentences with, Mawr-ty, and then say whatever he had to say. It didn't matter to me. I was just doing my job. Then he said with an odd emphasis, "Mawrty", almost like a command. I turned and said, "Yeah, Cloyce?". He was pointing his cigarette lighter, which looked like a pistol, at me. He made the sound of a gunshot - pschew - as he pulled the trigger, lighting a flame at me. "Funny, Cloyce", I said. But at the time I needed more than a simple clue that things were amiss. I needed to be hit with a pile of bricks.

The bricks fell on me when we were almost to our destination. "Mawrty," I heard, "Could you pull over to that pawrty store so I can get some Coke to mix with this?" I looked over to see him displaying a half drained fifth of vodka.

"Put that away Cloyce! Do you know how much trouble that could get us into?" I half screamed. By us, I meant me. I was the driver who knew what the law said about open intoxicants. And then I remembered, I'm 16. I don't know anything about fixing welders. He's got to get that thing working.

What to do, what to do? All I could think was to get him to the job and hope for the best. So that's what I did.

We arrived, and I made Cloyce stay in the pickup while I found the foreman. He came out of his trailer office and directed me to where the machine sat. It was on the other side of an eight foot berm. Great.

I drove over to it, got the tools and parts over to the welder and then got Cloyce and hobbled him over the berm next. He commenced to stumble around the machine, doing this and that and I don't know what while I prayed he would somehow get us out of the mess we faced. I faced. In a few minutes the foreman came along to check on our progress. He couldn't help notice the state Cloyce was in. He leaned towards me and whispered, "Is he okay?"

"Oh, yeah," I answered. "He's just got a neurological disorder." It was all I could think of.

The foreman looked at me with a skeptical raised eyebrow. But right then we heard the roar of an engine. Cloyce had gotten that welder running, Lord knows how.

The foreman pursed his lips and patted my head as if to say, all right kid, we're good, problem solved, but I know all you just did was give me an excuse in case I get asked. He walked away. I got Cloyce and the tools and parts back over the berm and started home gratefully. But the next time I took Cloyce to a job, I made certain there were no hidden bottles in the truck.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Another Black Friday

Once there was a day called Black Friday. It was meant to launch the holiday shopping season, and was known to start as early as 4 or 5 in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving. Yet that, it seems, was not good enough. We have reached the point where the sales are encroaching so far into Thanksgiving itself that there are stores opening as early as 3 or 5PM Thursday afternoon. We are now faced with Black Thursday.

There is something seriously wrong with this picture, something which speaks to a serious ill in American society. Why do we need these sales? Why do people think they have they right to them? And before all the rabid libertarian free marketers go livid about it (no one makes them do it, what about freedom?) let's ask you two things: aren't some folks (if not most involved, quite frankly) being made to do things?, and, isn't their freedom thus being sacrificed?

It is hard to imagine that the bulk of sales and support staff at stores would rather be working than at home with their families and friends on a major holiday. The same can be said of those working arenas for sporting events as well, or even at television stations and entertainment establishments. Why do we think we have the right to expect those people to have to work for our leisure?

This isn't capitalism. It's consumerism, and it's the worst example of bacchanalia. It is the time of year when we least like free markets, and perhaps the best time to remind those who do preach them that economics aren't everything. Simple, unfettered economics may well infringe on someone's freedom as well as any government attempt to stifle a reasoned liberty. Yet there is a difference. There's at least a small chance that, with a bit of discipline at the voting booth door, we might actually stop government. Is there any way we might stop the Invisible Hand?

Anything which does not practice a decent amount self examination and a reasonable self discipline will become a devil. The free market is no different. Yet it does create quite the hypocrites among its defenders, doesn't it? They express a disdain for coercion. Yet they sure don't mind the coercion which the markets force upon people.

That strikes us as violence against the person as hateful as any government encroachment upon the person. But the free marketers won't see it. They have their own god attending to their business. And it is not constrained by care for humanity.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789

Anyone who claims that we weren't founded on Christian principles, read these words well and carefully. And have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving in that light.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Non-denominational is good

It's all about the Benjamins, the saying goes. The Benjamins are cool, yes. But so are the Georges, the Abrahams, and the Andrews. Money comes like religion: by denomination. I have been paid by several denominations, often in a nice mix. Sometimes those payments have been a bit unusual.

Yesterday a customer's order came to $140.00. He said, "I hope you like change," and paid me in all five dollar bills. Yep, 28 Lincolns. Another time on a $470.00 tab a guy from Canada gave me 47 tens. He said it was what they gave him at the currency exchange. Hey, I don't care. It all spends.

But about 40 years ago Pops was paid off in the most unusual way I've seen so far. For a $1900 dollar machine he was paid with 1890 singles and a ten dollar bill. Yessir, One Thousand Eight Hundred Ninety dollar bills. The customer owned several laundry mats and most of income was dollar bills, from change to run the washers and dryers to buying the single load boxes of detergent from the self service machines. He lived on singles.

Pops didn't even bother to count it. The stack was impressive enough that he took the guy at his word. And it all spent.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Canada vs. The United States

While channel surfing yesterday I ended up watching a few minutes of the Toronto-Saskatchewan Canadian Football League playoff game. It was on ESPN News, so there must not have been much news to report.

Hey, my many Canadian friends, I joke!

Anyway, it reminded me of all the relatively minor differences between the two games, the NFL here with the CFL there. Let's see how many I can list:

Three downs instead of four.

A one yard neutral zone between the offensive and defensive lines.

12 men on the field per side rather than 11.

Numerous men in motion on the offensive side of the ball, and towards the line of scrimmage (that takes getting used to).

Red penalty flags instead of yellow.

The 'rouge', the single point a defensive team gets if the offense can't get the ball out of the end zone on a punt or kickoff return.

A longer field (110 yards) with deeper end zones (20 yards). They don't have a 50 yard line but a centre line at the 55 yard mark.

A wider field (not sure by how much).

No fair catches on punts, but a five yard halo to allow the catch.

A three minute warning at the end of the half or game. Apparently it takes longer for Canadians to see to their needs (Hey, I joke again!).

Is there more? Maybe. This is what I remembered, and without the help of Wikipedia I might add. Feel free to tack onto this list or correct me. And remember, this is what's starting your Monday off right.

By the way, Toronto won 25-21.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Baby it's cold outside

It's that time of year. That time where I have to ask myself how much longer I can take morning walks. Beyond there being snow and ice on the ground I have no hard and fast rules about when to give up the daily constitutional. But today left me thinking about when I should stop.

There were snowflakes wafting by me this morning. The skies were gray and the air chill, though the sun did try to sneak through the clouds. It was, at the risk of understatement, dreary.

I'll not quit for a few weeks yet, to be sure. So long as I can layer and not feel too much frost on my nose I'll keep going. Part of the trouble is that walking's become my favorite form of exercise. It offers change with continuity if only on a small scale, something regular readers will know I value. Sure, we have a motorized treadmill and an exercise bike in the basement. But man, they're dull, even with the TV or radio on, or a CD playing. At least walking through even the same neighborhood varies a bit: you can wind around it differently. And walking by itself feels like progress. Staying in the same place feels just like that.

So we'll see. Last year I made until the first significant snowfall, which happened in mid-December. December 11, I believe, was my last walk last year. So my goal is beat that. Otherwise, to the exercise bike!

At least, that's my mantra. Making it into reality will be the actual challenge of course.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Alternate universes

You see some odd things in my world. Let me see if I can paint you enough of a picture to understand a recent instance.

A customer brought in three eight foot lengths of drain cable to be repaired. No surprises there: we fix drain snakes. Yet instead of bringing them in singly or in a box, he had connected them together, so that they were in a circle with a twenty-four foot circumference. Oh-kay.

But he went farther than that. He twist looped that large circle into a figure eight, then folded that figure eight into itself to form a smaller circle. He tied that circle together with wire. After that, he looped that second circle into another figure eight, folded it into a still smaller circle, tied that one up with wire, and wrapped it up in four places with duct tape.

Of course, we didn't know all that until we went to fix the cables. The truth spread itself before us on the shop floor as we made what might be described as an archaeological dismantling of the circled cables. We wondered why this guy would go to such bizarre extremes. My brother Phil asked it best: "In what universe did he think this made sense?"

Indeed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This is sympathy?

As many of you know I'm not curling this year. I'm afraid my vertigo might be a problem while playing.

I was talking about this to my son Frank a few days ago. "I'm afraid I could fall and hurt myself, or hurt someone else while I'm out on the ice," I lamented.

"Yeah. Or you could burn a rock!" he remarked, a little too enthusiastic on the point. Or perhaps too critical, eh?

You cannot touch a curling stone in motion. That's called 'burning' the rock, and is illegal. If I were to become dizzy and fall, touching the rock at all, it would violate the rules. Still, can I live with such sympathy?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mud flap Cloyce

An old friend of the old man's, I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, was from Tennessee. One day when he wanted to visit home, he asked if Pops would like to tag along for the ride, so Pops did. Cloyce took the first shift driving, so Dad settled into the passenger's seat and promptly feel asleep.

He was eventually woken up by an odd sound. It was kind of between a rhythmic slap and thwap, slap-thwap, slap-thwap, slap-thwap, all in pretty quick succession. He raised his eyes to see that the noise was caused by the mud flaps of the truck in front of them. Cloyce was cruising along at 60 miles per hour about eighteen inches behind a semi trailer.

Pops was self aware enough to not shout out and maybe cause an accident. He raised himself, yawned, and asked pointedly, "Hadn't you better back off a bit, Cloyce?"

"I'm fine."

"I'm. Not." Pops had responded just like that, two one word sentences. He then continued similarly. "Back. Off."

Cloyce backed off about two feet.

A restaurant soon loomed in the distance, and Pops said to pull over, he was hungry. When they parked, he demanded the car keys. "Why?" Cloyce demanded.

"Because I never want to see a speeding truck that close again on purpose!" Dad drove the rest of the way to Tennessee, and home too. I'm not sure he was ever again a passenger of ol' Cloyce.

Monday, November 13, 2017

A tribute to drain snakes

I sell drain snakes. My mind is always in the sewer.

I get a lot of miles with that quip, yet it's sometimes not well received. My cousin Patty slapped my shoulder after I told it to a Dominican nun who is a common cousin. "You can't say that to a nun!" she exclaimed. Oh, I don't know. Sister Veronica seemed to think it funny enough. Patty was laughing too, so I'm not sure it was all that bad.

I'm actually wondering if I could profitably open a museum of drain cleaning equipment. I have several unique things already in my possession, and there's quite a bit more variety to drain snakes than you might think. At one point there were over 15 manufacturers in the US alone, although I'm not sure that's still the case. I know one company for certain no longer in production; actually two now that I think about it. Each company has or had many different models of their own too. It's not as though there have been only one Electric Eel for example.

Shameless plug time: if you need a snake, you need an Electric Eel. I say that because I sell them. But I also firmly believe they're the best drain cleaners out there. That's because they are.

There are all kinds of cutting heads too, and there are water jetters and drain inspection cameras as well. There surely is a varied enough array of equipment that a small building could house many items. And I could finally achieve my life long dream of being a docent.

I'll try to keep my mind out of the sewer for long enough to give it real thought.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Newark, North Carolina

I spent a few precious hours over three days last week with my son's family in relatively rural Ohio. There is a large cornfield right outside their back door perhaps 15 feet from the porch, just, and I mean only just, past their driveway. Once in particular I stepped outside and looked across the lightly rolling country, over the currently plowed up cornfield, and I smiled reflexively. I was ambushed by an old feeling, one I hadn't felt in years. I felt like I was back in North Carolina in my youth, looking out over the 13 acres of my grandfather's small farm. You could step off his back porch and spy a similar sight.

What goes around, eh? I find that the older I get the more often I am overtaken by old sensations, even those now decades old. This is not a bad thing. I wonder if it's what keeps us sane; there's something good to be said about continuity within cycles, of similarities with differences. We have the seasons, each distinct (in much of the world anyway) yet returning. It allows us change while also grounding us. We need change. But we need constants too.

So I had the opportunity to remember what it was like to be with me old Grandpaw Hutchins, up early and checking out the crops, if only for a relatively fleeting moment. I found in an instant a connection between my oldest son and the great-grandfather he only met once, and that as a six month old infant. We have a picture of them somewhere; I need to find it.

Anyway, what goes around. Life is good.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Jake Redux

While we nowadays do most of our own pickup and delivery for the Shop, at one time we had most things shipped. This meant that our large orders came truck freight. One day as we unloaded a shipment out of the trailer of a semi, the driver asked me Pops, "What are these things?"

Dad answered, "Drain snakes, parts and accessories. What people use to open drains."

"Oh." the man replied. After a pause he asked, "Know a guy they call Jake the Snake?"

Dad answered questioningly, "Yeah?"

"Ya like him?"

Pops figured by then the fella must know old Jake. Still, he responded tactfully, "I don't care for his company."

"Neither do I. None of the family does. I'm Ron; I'm Jake's brother." Ron went on to explain the family excluded Jake from all and any functions because all he would do is disrupt them in any way he could.

Blood runs thick, but apparently has its limits too.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Dad and Jake the Snake (not the wrestler)

Me Pops could hold his temper very well. He held it often when he would have been within his rights to lose it. Still, when he let it go, you were impressed. He let it go once on a guy known as Jake the Snake. And not the wrestler.

I'm not sure exactly how Jake earned his moniker, but I have a suspicion. He argued everything. If a part was available in red he wanted to know why it wasn't scarlet. If told cables were readily available in twenty-five foot increments he'd cry he had to have one thirty foot long, nothing else would do. Yet most of all he argued price. He argued price until the day Pops was sick of it.

Jake came in for some ten dollar part. "Ten dollars," Dad told him.

"You give it to me for seven," Jake countered, demanding rather than asking.

That set Pops off. He slammed the part back into its bin and yelled, and I mean yelled, "Get out of my Shop. I don't want your business!"

"You throwing me out?" Jake asked, appalled. "I can buy you out ten times over!"

Pops barked back like a drill sergeant, "The Hell you can, 'cause I'm not selling. Now get out of my Shop!" Jake stomped out, and Dad stomped into his office.

You could get away with a lot with Pops. But you could still push him too far.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hillbillies from the north of England

Now, me Irish heritage Pops, he married a hillbilly. A proud hillbilly. So being immensely proud of her meself, I'm a half proud hillbilly, me maw being from the western hills of North Carolina. And I do indeed wear that half badge fully proudly.

Now also me Pops grew up in the mixed village of nearly downtown Detroit. So mixed in fact that even a few pure Englishmen still survived there back in the day, when me Pops were young. One of them whom me Pops knew well was Mr. Britton. That be no joke, pun, nor misdemeanor. His name be Mr. Britton. Mr. Britton was a true, fine son of Olde England. And, having committed himself to the northern United States, he (to his shame) hated American hillbillies.

They was the scourge of the earth, them rapscallions of the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern U-nited States. He spewed venom at them always, everyways, and many ways in between.

Well, it happened that a long, tall, thin son of England, every bit of six foot one as it be, one appropriately monikered Slim, an emigrant himself of England as Pops recalled, delivered product to me Grandpa Joe's shop. And one fine morning, he came by with a truckload of fine product. And one morning, me Pops happened to see Mr. Britton opening his garage that he might take his fine Chevy out on a morning trek.

"Mr. Britton,' me Pops called, "I have here a son of your land."

The two exchanged greetings, after which old Slim asked, "So where are ye from?"

"Birmingh'm", answered Mr. Britton proudly, forgettin' the vowel.

"Ah, bloody hillbilly are ya?" responded Slim immediately. Apparently English folk from Birmingh'm were, in English parlance, hillbillies.

As Pops told it, Mr. Britton yanked his cigar from his mouth, tossed it angrily on the ground, stomped its flame out, and, falling into his Chevy, sped away. But Slim, he merely opined, "Ah well".

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Mr. Hannah, teller of tall tales

Old Charley Hannah wasn't a bad sort of fellow. I always fancied he thought himself a storyteller. He was more a teller of tall tales, quite frankly, and at the heart of it I think he just loved to hear himself talk. That lead to certain lapses in continuity when he spoke.

He was in the Old Barn one day years ago while Dad was off somewhere. As I worked on his machine and my brother worked nearby Charley remarked, "I bet I'm about as old as your daddy."

"Could be, Mr. Hannah," I replied. "Pops was born in 1936."

Old Charley began wistfully, "Nineteen thutty six,' and I felt a story was coming on. He continued, "I was fidteen years old in 1936..."

I don't remember the tale. I spent the whole time thinking, 'But, you said you were about Dad's age, but now say you were 15 when he was born, and that's not that close, so how could you, why would you think...'

About that time Charley finished the story and broke into a laugh. I read the signal and laughed too. But I don't recall a thing about what he told. I only remember my confusion.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Stay off the streets, pedestrians

I wish I owned the roads as much as a lot of pedestrians seem to think they do. I am sick and tired of folks walking in the middle of the road, only begrudgingly giving way to vehicular traffic as it approaches. Approaches slowly, mind you, because if Heaven forbid you hit them it's on you, despite the fact that they're where they should not be.

The lack of consideration for drivers as well as their own safety is appalling. This morning two people were blocking the farthest right driving lane walking towards me on a main artery four lanes wide, while the sidewalks alongside had no obstructions whatsoever. I could cut them slack if they were in the curb lane and the walks overrun with snow or debris or what have you, but they were clear and easy to step along. Why were those two idiots in the road? Then one woman, a phone to her ear, wove in and around cars at an intersection. You can't move when can't be sure of where some moron's walking next.

It's actually worse on side streets. I've come along high schoolers walking five abreast in the middle of the road, blocking it completely. Before you dismiss this as simply younger folks not thinking, I've seen it with adults all too often. Then, as I said, they'll only grudgingly part enough for your car, and I mean only just enough for your car to pass by, sneering at you as you do. They act as though you're the one intruding on their space.

I've been offered explanations but, quite frankly, none pan out. A guy told me it was to keep off the walks for safety; someone might run out from between houses and grab or rob them. Sorry, my friends, that's just grasping for justification. Why couldn't someone run from a crouch between cars and get you? Perhaps the walks aren't clear? But we've addressed that. It doesn't wash, either.

The short story is that it's arrogance. They walk in the street because they can, and it's a way of showing they own you. If you have a better explanation, I'm all ears. Until then, I hold that they ought to be smacked upside the head and told to be considerate of how the road was intended to be used.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The World Series

To Hell with the Super Bowl. To Hell with that very fictional college football championship. This is the summit of sports. The peak. The. Highest. Point.

Baseball is the peak. The point all others strive for, vainly. The Houston Astros sit there.

This is baseball.

No city, locale, region, no vaguely defined area, wants a Super Bowl more than they want a World Series championship.

Houston now has it. J. J. Watt is a great man. But he did nothing compared to what the Houston Astros just did. The Texans can now rot.

Houston won a World Series.

This is life. This is good. Life begins again in late February, when the first pitch of the Grapefruit League is thrown. See ya then.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween 2017

Tonight is Halloween, a day that I've come to look forward to more and more as time goes by. I think maybe it's the atmosphere: we simply don't have many days when there is a true neighborhood wide party feeling. My area, Woodbridge, and most neighborhoods I fancy, come to life in a manner which simply doesn't happen often.

Oh, they'll be the occasional annoyance, mild pushing and shoving, even an adult or two who want free candy. That last one used to burn at me, but not so much anymore. You can't let the twerps ruin your mood.

My family will take turns passing out goodies and walking around the hood. I'll wander a bit through my mother's yard, where my brother Patrick goes to town with the outdoor decor, and just be happy to be around it. Then when we're done we'll go inside and order the Charlie Brown Halloween special to cap off the night.

Happy Halloween all!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mom

She just sits there, mostly. Where she used to waltz around, barking orders, butting in on conversations, asking if everyone has had enough to eat, she now just sits. When she does offer conversation it's usually sudden and incongruent. "How's everyone doing your way?" she asks me out of the blue, right as my brothers are in the middle of ranting about something unimportant. I just answer that we're all okay. Silence follows.

Her right hand shakes, not tremulously but noticeably, but she takes it in her left to control it. It's an unconditioned reaction. You can tell. You just can.

I've begun driving her to Church on Saturday afternoons, even though I don't like her Church. But it satisfies my Sunday obligation, and, though it's the only driving she had still until then done, we feel she should not do that. And it was Dad's Church, Dad's Mass, so it's important to her to go there. She's an usher, like he was, and she smartly marches down her aisle collecting donations, although the other guy handles the cash.

She seems to like my being there, to drive and at Church. She introduces me as her son to the same people I met last week. I pretend it is new. So do they, bless their souls.

I'm no martyr. My brothers, especially Phil, bear the brunt of her illness. I do next to nothing. But the parents raise the kids, then the kids raise the parents, eh?

The trouble is, the kids know the endgame.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The true to himself jerk

I've come to discover that I don't much like the phrase be true to yourself, or any of its various incantations. I find it ultimately, as I find so much else, conditional. Left unexamined, it begs a lot of questions, the most important of which is, what if you're a jerk?

I mean, if a guy's a jerk and he just stays that way, isn't he being 'true' to 'himself'? Why shouldn't he, if being magnificently whatever he innately is is the standard to live by? He would be being true to himself. But we don't say that. We tell him, don't be such a jerk.

So I'm officially kicking a whole phrase into the pile of meaningless words (if unexamined) such as peace, freedom, education and so forth. I assert that you should not be true to yourself unless and until you have become a better person. That means asking yourself and answering honestly what actions and beliefs will make you positively better. Before you do that, I suggest that you should not be true to yourself. A child will always be a child unless he grows into adulthood. And jerks will stay jerks until they evolve past that.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Memories in the rubble

Yesterday afternoon I felt all kinds of emotions, running the gamut from, well, the sublime to the ridiculous.

I watched like a giddy child as a demolition crew tore down an abandoned house in the neighborhood. It's interesting how destruction enthralls us. Maybe we wish we were handling the levers of that scoop shovel ourselves as it ravenously engulfed and tore down walls. It's easy to be impressed by such power over otherwise strong materials such as wood and brick. I even filmed through my camera phone four minutes of the work. The once magnificent house of the middle class was a pile of debris in less than an hour.

Yet there was a sadness in the air too. Most houses in my neighborhood have stood since the 1890's, so that old girl was in the range of 120 years old. Workmen, professionals like brick masons, carpenters, plasterers (everything was wet plastered back then), electricians, roofers and more had pried their skills over several months to create a tidy Victorian home which had served as refuge for who knew how many for over a century. It had all fell down in a matter of minutes.

And there was a piquancy as well. The folks I knew who had lived there were a sister and a brother. Miss Jeter always had a laugh, smile, or honestly pleasant how are you. She had a big blue Buick she loved. I still see her and that car rolling across the hood. Her brother, Mr. Wilson A. Watson, was about as unassuming an old gentleman as you could know. He lost a leg in World War II and hobbled around as best he could with his cane. He would laugh and joke with you quickly, and wore a grin which was all sunshine despite his obvious challenges. He never in my presence complained over them. I don't remember when they died, and I'm ashamed that I don't know.

This world just keeps on turning. Yet every once'n awhile it does seem to stop to let us reflect.

Friday, October 27, 2017

A new door on the old barn

Hey Pops, hey Joe, you'll never believe what we did today.

We put a new door on the old Shop.

I think you guys'd like it too. We contracted the local handyman, who made the new one from scratch as the old door and frame were, well, um, not exactly done according to industry standards. He made it out of new wood, and boy is it solid. I'm surprised myself the old door stayed up so long. Between you two back in the day and me and Phil lately, well, it had been scabbed over so often the hinges should not have held up from the weight. Even at that, it had become so loose that it could have easily been ripped down.

Yeah, I hear ya. We were afraid too that a new door would stand out, making folks realize something was going on in the old barn and attract their mischief. So what'd we do? We took the old boards off the outer layer of the old door and nailed 'em to the outside of the new one. From the street, it looks like an old door on an old, maybe abandoned building. From inside it looks new and purty. Smart thinkin', eh?

Yep, there's a new door on the old barn. Shuts tight too. As I say, you guys would like it.

Until next time,

Marty

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Woodbridge wildlife

Nature is resilient. That's one of the reasons that I'm not all that concerned about global warming/climate change/nuclear winter or whatever it's now being called. Nature will rebound; it will adapt. I need look no further than my neighborhood, Woodbridge in Detroit, to see that's true.

Over the years we've seen pheasant, rabbits, and raccoons living vibrantly nearby. And along with them come the predators. I recall watching a hawk land upon the top of a utility pole, it's wingspan at least five feet, the large bird honestly majestic as it settled gently on its perch. It looked down at me like, yeah, I could take you. If I wanted to. I'm glad it did not want.

But recently an unexpected denizen has taken up in our area. Three times recently, right outside the Shop, my humble workplace, I've seen a beaver. I have no idea where it came from, although there is a larger block nearby which appears to have turned to swamp or wetland. I presume it comes from there.

If such a variety of wildlife can adapt to a central city, I'm not too worried about the world as a whole.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The polar opposite

As I related yesterday, I took my van to my mechanic. He tuned it up and it's running great. Yet there's still something wrong.

Driving home, I couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't quite right. It drove smoothly and accelerated well. It did better than it's done in a long time in fact. I couldn't quite put my finger on the problem though.

That's when I noticed this blank spot on the dashboard. That blank spot didn't look right at all. I wondered what it could be. I began to worry about what it could be.

Then I realized that my service engine soon light was not on. My mechanic had tuned up the van, and that apparently caused the warning light to stay off. So today, right after stating that I did not worry about idiot lights begin on, I'm concerned about the fact that one particular idiot light, one that I'm very used to being on, is off.

It'll be weeks now before I'm really comfortable driving the thing. Maybe I should have left well enough alone.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It's just a car

I took my van to the mechanic today. It's been running rough when accelerating, although when I get to speed it holds the speed well.

I tend not to fret about my cars. If they start and get me from point A to point B, I'm happy. To give you an idea of how little I watch my cars, I never, ever worry about the 'check engine' or 'service engine soon' lights being on. All they mean are that the mix of air and gas isn't spot on or that the engine is somehow not running ideally. I say the hell with that. Live with it; all those sensors cars have these days simply detect too many things too delicately. Check oil lights and heat gauges are the ones to watch. If you're car's running too hot or has low oil pressure, those are the real danger signs. If it's making noises it obviously shouldn't make, then be concerned. And of course, check fluids regularly. Otherwise, no worries.

Anyway, the old girl's been running rough enough that I figured it should be checked this time around. "Does the check engine light come on?" my long time and no doubt long suffering mechanic asked.

"It's always on, Sam. You should know that, " I answered.

He snickered, "Right. Well, does the light flash when you accelerate hard?"

"That it does. Then it stops flashing when I reach speed."

Sam responded, "It probably just needs a tune up. I'll put the tester on it and let you know."

Boom. No worries, no big deal. Don't worry so much about your cars, folks. I would have kept driving it if I'd known that was all there was to it.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Dumpster diving Dan

When we moved into our house, the upstairs bathroom had a nice mahogany toilet seat. But as with all things human made, it eventually broke. I went to the hardware and bought a decent replacement. We simply threw the old one in the common dumpster which we shared at that time with about six neighbors.

Several days later I happened to be in my neighbor Dan's house. Excusing myself to use his washroom, I saw a nicely refinished mahogany toilet seat. "When did you get this, Dan?" I asked.

"Out of the dumpster. Isn't it cool? Someone was throwing it out; can you believe that?" He had taken the thing, reglued and refinshed it, and put it on his commode.

I answered, "Yes I can, because it was mine. I can't believe you took something like from a dumpster!"

"It's perfectly good," he protested. But that didn't keep him from chastising me several days later when the seat had rebroken and left a blood blister on the back of his thigh. "You toilet seat did that to me," he whined.

"Serves you right dumpster diving stuff like that," was all I said.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Talk is cheap

There are many things which no one seems to oppose. We're all for peace, correct? Education? The environment? Observing the Golden Rule, perhaps, if such references are not too religious? Yet so often these claims ring hollow. They must, you see: for peace and education are just words. By themselves, they really mean nothing.

It is critically important that we bring up and discuss the questions which must follow these words if our actions are to mean anything; indeed, if the words themselves are at some point to be of value, of good use. WE must ask: peace under what circumstances? Peace for whom? Because of course peace in the sense of a lack of war was very useful for Hitler yet was a rather poor mantra for Austria.

Simply put, the next time someone asks you if you are for peace, or education, or the environment, ask them relevant questions before you answer. Ask them, peace under what conditions? Education to what purpose and in what manner? The environment for whom and how? Before these issues are addressed we have nothing but a shallow and insipid pool of vacuous semi-thought. Yet afterwards, we may actually accomplish things.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Squirrel bacon

Tonight, after work, I get to work some more. One of the problems with living in the city is the number of squirrels that need places to live. The large furry rats seem particularly adept at finding the worst possible place to homestead.

Such as the rafters in my house. This evening I will be repairing the fifth hole in my roof line where the obnoxious and definitely not cute little rodents have chewed their way into my humble abode. Obnoxious? That isn't even near to the best word to describe them. When you are woken up at four in the morning because of their skittering around in your walls and ceilings (I do so hope they're only skittering around) the thing you want most is a shotgun. Which is probably why it is good that I don't have one, or I would be repairing dozens of holes in my inside walls too.

They make my wonderful daughter say bad things: things that wonderful daughters definitely should never say except, one day, to husbands who deserve it. But as she has a loft type bed which puts her very close to the ceiling, I will cut her slack. The dancing of the rabid giant rats is closer to her than me in my more traditional bed, so I assume more startling and maddening. Still, I am mad enough all of five feet farther below them.

Some folks go on and on about animal rights. Animal rights? There is no animal with the right to wake my family in the wee hours of the morning. Well, maybe the dog, if she has to go out. But she's trained to do that and saves me a worse issue later, so she's being considerate. She has a reason.

I am told squirrel tastes like bacon. I like bacon. The little fuzzballs might be in worse trouble now.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Cloyce in reverse

A good friend of mine back in high school, I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, was the first of our troop to earn his driver's license. He was proud of that, as a teenager would be, and we envied him, as teenagers would. But the first time I rode with him proved to tarnish some of the luster on his driving ability.

I happened to be around when his mother asked him to go to the store for something or other, so I went with. He drove the few blocks to the old A & P and, seeing the parking lot jammed, decided he would show off his skills by parallel parking on the street. He pulled just past a space, lined up his seat with the driver's door of a parked car, shifted, then turned all the way around in his seat, arm over the back, and began to gently give the family's old station wagon gas. Rrrrrrrrr, the engine revved easily. But the car didn't move.

Cloyce looked confused, but went on applying the gas. RrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRR...but still nothing.

RrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. He was soon giving it too much gas. The engine was racing as though participating at Indianapolis yet would not even try to move. He finally let off the accelerator, and saw that he hadn't shifted all the way into reverse. The car was only in neutral. Seeing this myself, and seeing as this was in the days before texting, I began rolling on the floor laughing out loud.

Cloyce punched me in shoulder, hard, and made me swear I wouldn't tell anyone about this tale. But as I haven't seen him in ages and the statute of limitations having surely ran out, I decided to tell it today.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I'm not who you think I am

I certainly hope this post comes across as innocuous. That's my intention, just to write a fun post based on something that actually happened.

Last week I found myself needing a valve stem for an old sink. When I say old, I mean sixty to seventy years, if not more. Fortunately I knew where to go for the stem. There's a place called Tenny's Plumbing in Hazel Park, and they specialize in old, hard to get parts. They've helped me before, and I highly recommend them.

And they did have the part I needed. But before paying, I had to take a call, so I stepped back from the counter and dealt with it.

When I apologized and returned to the counter Mr. Tenny was there. He looked at me and asked, "You're Cosgriff, right? Bill Cosgriff?"

"No, he was my dad. He passed away a couple years ago," I answered.

He coughed and said, "Sorry to hear that. But Cosgriff was a black guy, wasn't he?"

"No," I replied.

"But he had two black guys working for him?" Mr. Tenny pressed.

"No. Just my brother and I."

He studied me more closely and ventured, "Your shop is across from Murray-Wright High School, on Rosa Parks. Just after a green house, back from the street."

"That's right," I said.

Tenny just kinda shook his head and said, "But Cosgriff was a black guy. He had black guys working for him."

"I'm afraid not," I responded. I even showed him my license, just so he'd know I was me. He then shrugged his shoulders, and I paid for the valve stem and left. It was all on good terms, and he just seemed to have a mental block about it.

And I think he still thinks we're black guys. Ah well. No harm no foul, right?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What I could buy with enough money

What would I do if I had all the money in the world?

I'd get lawn service before anything else. I hate yard work with a passion.

I would buy a Stradivarius, but only allow Orange Blossom Special to be played on it. Okay, and The Devil Went Down to Georgia. It's just a fancy fiddle after all, isn't it?

I would completely rehabilitate the Old Barn. Lord knows she needs it.

I'd donate heavily to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

I'd buy seasons tickets for one year only for the Detroit Tigers, and go to every game that year. And make someone else bring me hot dogs of course. Hell, I might even ride the Ferris Wheel and Merry Go Round. Or at least pay for a couple hundred kids to ride them.

Yeah, my dreams are simple.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Pops and Ty Cobb

No, Dad never actually met Ty Cobb. But one of his favorite jokes revolved around a supposedly true story about the famous Detroit center fielder. So why, as they say, let questions of truth interfere with a good story?

Cobb was visiting a ballpark one day in the late 1950s, openly lamenting what he believed the woeful pitching of the era. Finally he was asked, "So what would do you think you could hit against today's pitchers?" Bear in mind that Cobb's lifetime batting average was (and still is) a record .367.

Cobb thought about it for a minute, then answered, ".270."

"You'd only hit .270 against these guys?" the inquisitor responded, taken aback at an answer from someone known to be cocky.

"Give me a break. I'm 70 years old," Cobb said.

Rim shot!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Enough October for everyone

October is breast cancer awareness month. It is also anti-bullying month. It is as well Hispanic Heritage month and Italian Heritage month. It's even Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Month in the Carolinas and Georgia. There isn't a thing wrong with any of these things, of course. They're simply trying to draw attention, at least with some, to very important things. Yet as we strangle our calendars with months of this and months of that all in the name of calling attention to things, how long before everything becomes lost in an ever larger shuffle?

A cursory internet search will find that every month is a month for somebody, and the list offers everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. We find everything from National Fish Month to Political Correctness Awareness month. Thanks to our friends among the Wikipedia crowd, a quite certainly incomplete list can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_commemorative_months .

There are some interesting ideas shared within given months; October further houses both National Work and Family and LGBT History month within its dates. We could go on and quibble about all this emphasis on all these things and about which do and do not merit accolades or jeers; perhaps another time. The main point here is that very soon no one may pay any heed to these causes.

Remember the yellow ribbon faze? It launched ribbon after ribbon in myriad color and design schemes, all meant to make folks sit up and take notice of whatever the promoters had in mind. Does anyone notice those ribbons anymore? Surely not. The market gets saturated and even the most noble ideas become lost in the assault of metallic car emblems in ribbon shapes.

Will anything matter once everything matters? That's the worry we should have should we continue in the direction we tread. When we attach importance to all things great and small, don't we risk minimizing the really critical issues? Short of that, at the very least we ought to agree that we can live without Smart Irrigation Month.

That's July, by the way, if we can trust Wikipedia's editors.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The old bat

I still have it: the old bat. It was the first one I ever bought.

It cost me I believe five bucks of birthday money. It was at the K-Mart in east Dearborn: an Eddie Matthews signature model Hillerich and Bradsby Louisville Slugger. He was on the cover of the first Sports Illustrated as a member of the Milwaukee Braves, you know, and a member of the 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers. That last part was serendipity. He was not yet a Tiger when I bought the bat, but I used it proudly once he became one. Mom was with me when I bought it, patiently allowing me to look over the baseball bat selection until I finally made my choice.

I used it for years as I played pickup baseball in the old neighborhood. It served me well in my mind. I might even loan it out to you for an at bat, if you promised to hit with the label away from the ball. I used it until I was 12 or 13. It had begun chipping by then, and I retired it out of fear it would break. That was a thought that I could not stand. It would have killed me for that to happen, so I set old Ed aside.

He now sits in my hall closet more than 50 years after purchase and about 43 years after last use. 16 years after Matthews himself passed away in fact. The main chipping is on the knob, though there is a noticeable crack on the barrel just before the label. And although it is tempting to take it out to a batting cage and swing it one last time, I would never dare do that. I think I'd cry like a baby to break it now.

It's silly to be that attached to something so unimportant, isn't it? That old bat.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A minor family squabble

I come from a relatively large family; I'm the second oldest of seven. My sister Susan arrived a little more than a year after me. Consequently, she was just a grade behind me all through school.

One day a teacher asked me, as Susan and I stood in the hall near his door, "Cosgriff, just how many of you are there?" I answered that I had four brothers and two sisters.

"No you don't," Susan corrected me. "You have five brothers and one sister."

I was caught off guard for a moment before her confusion dawned on me. "Nooo, YOU have five brothers and one sister. I have four brothers and two sisters," I explained, surely in that denegrating voice elder siblings speak with towards their younger ones caught in obvious mistakes.

But I'm right, aren't I?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Going old school

I'm begining to go old school again. I've found myself buying the morning newspaper on a more and more regular basis rather than catching up on news through my computer. That's not to say I don't use my desktop or laptop for, especially, breaking news. But buying the paper does seem to have its advantages.

It begins with my now routine morning walk. There's a party store/gas station near the end of my usual route. One day at the end of my daily constitutional I just decided I wanted a paper. For a buck and a half day it's not a bad deal. And other things are at work too.

The newspaper never freezes. It never takes forever to load; if I'm reading and article which concludes on page 3D, I simply turn to page 3D and it's right there. And while there are adds trying top distract me they are easy to ignore. Nothing pops up on my newspaper page forcing me to click it off, nor does my text get shoved downward on the page where I have to scroll to keep up with, or look for that insolent little tiny box with the 'x' to click on, to roll what I'm reading back up. I also get the puzzles for my entertainment, and the comics are found nicely arranged on one page. No going to a couple dozen different web pages for a comic fix.

My computer and smart phone will always be available, and I certainly get my use out of them. Still, the morning paper has reacquired for me a certain charm. I read as I want to read, jumping from page to page I feel more quickly than my computer sometimes does. It's simply a nice way to ease into my news day. Into any day.

Wow. I'm loving golf and reading actual newspapers. I am getting old school.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The silent non-killer

Ah, Biology 10, the science course I took during my sophomore year at old St. Hedwig. I don't remember much about the course except that it was taught by Sr. Christine, a sweetheart of a nun, one of the most pleasant people I've ever known. Subject matter-wise, I really only remember the day when she spoke about how heart disease develops and affects the body.

Sister went over all the usual things which typically precipitate a heart attack: chest pain or pressure, numbness in the arms (particularly the left), sweating, difficulty breathing and so on. Then she lectured on something which none of us kids had ever imagined. She spoke about silent heart attacks, those where there are no obvious symptoms.

As Sister went on with her talk, several of us, myself included, began feeling our chests and monitoring our bodies. If the other students' thought processes were anything like mine, they were something like: 'No sweats, no trouble breathing, no cheat pain. Oh my God, I'm having a silent heart attack!'

The power of suggestion however unintended (Sr. Christine of course meant nothing, as she was merely teaching a section of a class) can be very strong, and rather childish, in adolescents.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cosgrove the horse thief

Mom's had a few brushes with celebrity. She met George Clooney once when he was filming a movie (Out of Sight, for those interested) in her neighborhood. She met Jennifer Lopez then too, but said that Clooney was much nicer.

Once she met Martin Sheen. He had come to Mass at her Church and somehow they were introduced. When told she was Ella Cosgriff, he asked, as so many people seem to about our surname, "Cosgrove?"

"No, Cosgriff," she replied. Then she repeated the family tale that we were once Cosgroves, but as an ancestor was reputedly a horse thief back in Ireland we had changed our name so as not to be associated with villainy. "Cosgrove was a horse thief," she finished.

The actor laughed out loud. "Really? I'll have to tell my lawyer that story. His name is Cosgrove," Martin Sheen explained to Mom.

The legend continues...

Monday, October 9, 2017

Reading within the lines

I wish I had read more in days gone by. Now I have a lot to read and nowhere near the time to do it. This is considering that I watch hardly any television anymore. TV entertainment quickly becomes the same old stuff; so too do movies I've found.

But it's finally struck me that with reading, you control the medium. No channel surfing, trying to discover something by chance. No risking ten bucks on a movie; let's face it, movies really are a great unknown. You're taking a chance that it won't be worth the time much less the money. I feel similarly with movies on TV, albeit with less cost.

Books, though, you control them. Yes, they do cost something. That's where patrolling discount shops and second hand stores comes in. The costs aren't so high. The risks are lower that you get a bad book than see a bad movie. You could, of course, get a bad book. But you at least get the chance to peruse it, at least a little bit, before purchase. And you learn what authors and genres you like.

When I discovered Ellery Queen and Sherlock Holmes I had built in supplies of new (for me) books to grab. Even before that, if you like a genre it's easy to find good, cheap books in subject areas you like. This summer alone I read my first book on black baseball, Shades of Glory, which I picked up at a discount store for $2.99. It was a good, informative, entertaining book. Similarly I'm now in the middle of The Kid, a biography of Red Sox slugger Ted Williams, which was at the same store for the same price and has been a good read too.

You get the picture. Can you turn on your TV and be assured of finding the entertainment you want? Maybe, but not necessarily. But your book is your book, and it waits patiently while you channel surf. That's a pretty good friend in my, uh, book.

Friday, October 6, 2017

High tide in Milan

I drove past Milan, Michigan yesterday, and it reminded me of something I had long forgotten.

Back when I was a teen, I was there with Grandpa Joe picking up one of his welders. It was at a Ford plant when they were doing an expansion. It had apparently rained the night before, and rained hard. Although we were in a building, there was a large pool of water, about three feet deep and a hundred yards wide on all sides. The welder itself was land locked on the other side of that pool. And the only way to get to it was straight through that water. "You have to drive straight," a foreman was telling Joe. "If you drift to either side the water's about six feet deep." Joe got out of the car and told me to drive through the water to the welder just like the guy said.

Thanks Grandpa.

Of course I did it; you don't argue with your grandfather when you're 17.

I drove that old Cadillac he had right through that water, straight as a tack. In my memory the water came to right below the driver's side window; how the engine didn't stall is beyond me. I was nervous and scared. But I got that Caddy through the ocean and right up to that welder, slowly but surely. But then the powers that be decided that the machine was too heavy to be pulled through the water by a car. They would get a bulldozer with a long heavy chain and drag it through the water.

And I would have to back the car out through the pool, as there was no way to turn it around. I hadn't known that when I started. I have no idea how we were supposed to hook up the welder now that I think about it.

But I backed through it and lived to tell the tale. The tale I remembered after 40 years yesterday.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Half in jest

Remember a few days ago, I blogged about the jokes that sometimes just pop into my mind? How some of them were silly, and some actually rather crass, or at least of questionable taste? I've had another crass one I'm afraid.

I was leaving a funeral home the other afternoon (you know, the other one), to find that an ambulance was sitting in the parking lot, lights flashing. I immediately thought, "Aren't you guys a little late?"

Am I a bad person?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

120/70

120/70. Man, them are some good numbers.

This morning I had my regular checkup with my regular doctor and I think those numbers tell it all.

120/70.

My blood pressure as of 8 O'clock this morning.

To say I'm pleased is understatement. Sublime understatement. It hasn't been that low since high school. Even then, I seemed to have the opposite problem. For my senior year physical it was 101/59; the doc then was concerned that maybe it was too low.

But now - contented sigh - 120/70.

Oh, I've somehow gained three pounds since June, and my pulse (48bpm) is a bit low. The Doctor chided me over those factoids. They have to complain about something, you know. I know how I gained the weight too: I have not in the least bit watched what I eat in the last few months. But for now...

120/70. I think I'll make it my mantra.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Helping me do my job

A customer brought a machine in for repair this morning. There's no real news there: we repair what we sell. Yet before he left he took a minute to tell me all that he had checked. "That'll save you time, Cosgriff," he explained. I thanked him and he went on. And the first thing I did as I began to work on his unit was to double check everything he told me he had done.

Part of me hates to be that way. But the fact is that when someone who doesn't know what they're doing begins to do something anyway, they miss stuff. Sometimes they make it worse. Sometimes I have to undo everything they did just to get back to square one. They don't do it on purpose I know. Still, it delays me rather than helps.

So unless you know what you're doing, and what I do isn't brain surgery anyway so I will allow that a guy could well be able to fix his own snake, be careful about trying to help. Even though you mean well.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Snorting Coke

No, it isn't what you think. But what a hook, huh?

The traffic light caught me as I made a Michigan left on Telegraph Road in Taylor yesterday. As it happened, directly across from me as I waited I saw a family restaurant which used to be a Denny's. It was a Denny's when I was in high school back in the seventies (the NINETEEN seventies, just to clarify). My friends and I back then ate there with some modest regularity.

One such time, six of us stopped there on a Saturday night after a movie for a late dinner. We ordered food and pop. Of course, with six people there were orders for a few different types of pop: Coke, Dr. Pepper, and likely even a Diet Pepsi were in the mix. The waitress as was the norm brought our drinks first.

Only she had apparently forgotten who ordered what and what was what. She had too neglected to somehow mark them as some servers did even then, with two straws for the Coke, one for the Dr. Pepper, and so forth. So arriving at our booth, the young woman improvised. She stuck her nose almost into a pop, snorted loudly and, deciding the first was a Coke, handed it to one of us who ordered one. Then she snorted the next, another Coke, and set it before the next of us, then likewise determined which was the Dr. Pepper and handed it out.

Caught between silent snickering and uproarious laughter, we did what teenage boys would naturally do. We laughed uproariously. The girl looked at us as if we were insane and asked if everything was okay.

It more than was. In fact, her entertainment was better than the movie we had seen. It brought a whole new meaning to snorting coke.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The simple truth

There is only one thing which it takes courage to say and that is a truism.

- G. K. Chesterton

Chesterton had a way about him, didn't he? He could cut to the chase better than anyone, and today's quote is a prime example of that.

Why is it so hard to mouth a truism? All truth is built on things so obvious that no rational mind would reject them. Call them truisms, axioms, first principles, self evidence; it's all the same thing. And all reason is built upon them. All that an anti-abortion activist need point out is that human beings have human babies and all other truths about the pro-life issue fall squarely into place. For the rational mind, that is. That's why so many pro-abortion activists are simply shrill. They have no rational option to offer.

Still, I can see where speaking a truism can be difficult. There is a degree to which they appear too simple, and simplicity can be scary exactly because of that. Another great British Christian, Mr. C. S. Lewis, famously remarked that he was never less sure of an issue than right after he had successfully defended it. That makes sense to me. It's daunting to believe that's that's all there is to it, so to speak. There's a part of us which has trouble believing the great questions have simple answers. The questions seem too great to have answers so obvious.

That's where trust comes in. No matter how obvious something may be, scientifically, philosophically, or theologically, we have to take a leap of faith to fully accept it. We see what seem to be apparent complications in the world and have a tough time cutting through all that noise to understand truth. That is why, to employ Mr. Lewis again, we must be obstinate in belief. Until the proof is incontrovertible that our position is wrong, then believe it is right. There's no shame in that. Why ought anyone abandon a position merely because the wind might be blowing against them?

There's no point making the world a more complicated place that it may seem, and certainly no point complicating issues through nothing more than ignorance and human frailty. The truth is indeed out there. It can be expressed in the most simple ways as well. Take strength in that. Take that leap of faith.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Sales and teaching are quite alike

I haven't been in a classroom now in over four years. I had taught various classes in various locations for 24 years. Now all that's past history, as me Grandpa Joe used to say.

For years I had the best of both worlds. I was using my college degree and, hopefully, helping high schoolers and young (and some not as young) adults in starting to make their marks on the world. At the same time I was working in a family business, keeping and deepening close family relationships. I still have that and the pride that goes along with it. And I do find that sales and education share certain traits.

I've ran training sessions and given product demonstrations for work which are very similar to teaching. You show how something is used, you help a customer determine what exactly they need, and you answer questions; you deal with a wide range of experience and adjust your approach to that. Hopefully it helps people along in their jobs as it (one likes to believe) helped students find their way in the world.

I really still have the best of both. Part of me would like to be in a more formal classroom again. The rest of me sees the big picture. It's not too bad of a picture either. I'm just waxing philosophic on this chilly Friday morning in Michigan.

We old guys get to do that. And it is leaving a smile on my face today. Why not? In a half hour I get to educate a young man on why his machine is shocking him, and I'm sure I'll feel that old satisfaction when I solve that problem.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Random Thursday thoughts

Yesterday was the 17th Anniversary of the last baseball game at Tiger Stadium. The then Kansas City batter, Carlos Beltran, who made the last out at the old ballpark is now the last active major league player to have actually played there. I find a certain symmetry in that.

I bought a cured ham once but never ate it. I was worried what it had had.

I've always thought that Darth Vader's mother's name should have been Ella.

The NFL is being really hypocritical on the Anthem issue. They enforce all sorts of regulations on the players without worry about their supposed rights. Why is this different?

Oh heck, I got nothing else. Next time...

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The special chemical compound

Sometimes at the Shop we have to heat things. Maybe two parts won't come apart, maybe a bolt won't loosen; you get the idea. Consequently we keep a large bucket of water near our work bench in case we need to cool hot metal. You know, for safety's sake. Because we Cosgriffs are all about safety.

So one day Pops was heating something or other while fixing a machine for a customer; I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name. When Dad finished he dropped the red hot whatever into the bucket of water. Cloyce asked, "Is that water, Cosgriff?"

With a twinkle in his eye Pops answered, "No. It's a special chemical compound called H2O".

"Oh," Cloyce responded with about half a laugh.

A few months later Cloyce was back, this time with a friend. Pops was heating something up again, and dropped the part in the water as he finished. Cloyce said to his buddy, "I bet you think that's water, don't you?"

"Uhh, yeah," the guy answered uncertainly.

"Nope. That's a special chemical compound called H2O," Cloyce responded. Dad said you tell that Cloyce was proud of that scientific factoid because he clearly did not realize that H2O was water.

"Really?" the man in turn responded, giving a curious eye towards Pops, who simply but mildly shrugged his shoulders. The man himself clearly knew H2O was water, but left it at that.

I believe Dad was happy that he did. After all, he was only cracking a joke however many months ago. He was not out to embarrass old Cloyce.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cornball humor

I have to confess, in fact I quite cheerfully admit, that my sense of humor is sometimes subtle and goofball. Do you care for some examples? You don't, I'm sure, but I'll offer them anyway.

I drive a lot for my job so I see many signs for many things. Most are ads, but some are for various attractions and activities. Some of course are just plain old road signs. Take for instance, as my son and I were driving to Boston in summer 2016. As we approached an overpass a yellow sign warned us, Bridge may be icy. And I thought, faux incredulously, what, today?

Many of the recreation signs indicate that after a turn and a mile or two you'll find Rolling Hills golf club or some such. I always think, so I'll go that way and find a five iron on the highway?

At times my internal jokes get borderline crass. Not that that stops me from internally making them, mind you. All around Michigan at one time were billboards which asserted that 1 in 5 children face hunger. I found myself thinking, so turn that kid around.

Yeah, I know. But you did have to choke back a snicker, didn't you?

Monday, September 25, 2017

This NFL National Anthem nonsense

I've been trying to stay away from social and political rants. They're ultimately not the most fun to write, and you risk offending a good chunk of your audience. Still, it's my blog. If I want to delve into social issues I will. So I will.

This whole flag protest business is nothing more than obnoxious. I believe it tells us all we need to know about the National Football League: it's okay if its players don't stand for the national anthem. Let that be as it may. That it won't respect the flag and the anthem just points out how arrogant the game has become.

I see the protests as nothing short of hyperbole, and for myself, well, I've been paying less and less attention to football for most of the last decade anyway. It's simply too brutal to be called mere sport. Then the constant overreactions after simple plays, touchdown celebrations and the like (I once saw a player celebrate a muffed snap which the quarterback immediately fell upon as though it was his doing rather than the error between two opponents as it was) are increasingly annoying. If I want sports entertainment I'll watch the WWE. At least they're honest about their intentions.

Then to have NFL commissioner Roger Goodell call US President Donald Trumps' words divisive is nothing short of disingenuos. His minion started this, not the President. True, Mr. Trump did not help things with his comments. But if Colin what's his name hadn't knelt first and the League not supported it, Trump would not have had the forum.

So it's just another reason not to watch the NFL anyway. If it doesn't feel the need to support the nation, fine. I feel no need to support it. That's the real bottom line; I hope that more people feel like me.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Grandpa Joe

I always knew Joe would be the last of my grandparents to take the final journey. He didn't take care of himself. He smoked like a chimney, as the saying goes. He took chances that would have surely killed any other man yet he, somehow, survived. Exercise? What was that?

He was the perfect candidate to outlive the other three.

He was not easy to get along with. But damn it, you could get along with him. If you wanted to. If you tried. We hear so much anymore about just getting along. Well, it took more than just getting along to get along with Joe. Yet he could be got along with. If you let go of your predispositions and tried.

He was tender. Yes, I know that those of you among my friends and relatives are laughing right now. Yet he was. He made me a simple little toy out of string and a button. He grinned as I played with it, laughed a bit, happy at the gift, happy at my glee. It lead to the only time I saw me Pops jealous, when he saw me playing with what his father had made for me. That's okay, I get it. The relationships between grandson and grandfather are different from that of father and son. The dynamics aren't the same.

But if I could have anything more human right now beyond my own father, I wish I had that string and button.

Friday, September 22, 2017

What are the odds?

Dad liked to play poker. Well, once years ago when he and his brothers and friends played almost every Saturday night he found himself on a hot streak which lasted several weeks. As most games were played at his house, Pops was teased a lot about marking the cards before the guys arrived for a game. So he decided one day to, I guess you'd say call their bluff.

He bought a brand new deck of cards to use for the next Saturday's game. He left it in the plastic wrapping until time for the first deal, which would be his. Dad was going to make a show of how that game would be fair by opening the cards in front of the guys.

So Saturday night came, everyone sat down, and Pops pulls out the new deck. You can all see for yourselves, fellahs, that this is a new set of playing cards which are obviously untouched, he says, or something similar. He gets a knife and cuts the clear plastic wrap, opens one end of the box, and triumphantly fans out the red-backed poker cards for all to see.

The guys saw the cards all right. Each card was red...except the one blue-backed card (which happened to be an ace of spades) amidst all the others. Sure, Bill, you don't mark deck.

Even Dad got a belly laugh out of that. As poker players might say about such things, 'What are the odds?'

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The feel of small town America

The things you see, the things you learn on the road.

Yesterday morning at 4:30 in the little hamlet of Arlington, Ohio (Flag Village USA you might recall) I saw two young teenage paperboys riding their bikes along the main drag, delivering (obviously) their papers. I don't think I've seen an actual paperboy in twenty years. And I'd have never let my boys ride unsupervised in Detroit at that time.

Then I came to Bellefontaine, Ohio. It boasts of having the first concrete street in America, dating to 1891. I saw the stretch of road; it does look like it dates to 1891. But hey, who am I to question Bellefontaine or its claim to fame?

Finally, during the afternoon I made a stop in Fairmount, Indiana. This small town holds 2,992 people according to Wikipedia (and who am I to question Wikipedia?). But more than that: the actor James Dean grew up in town, and is also buried there. And there's still more: Jim Davis, creator of Garfield the cat, grew up there. Talk about the proverbial sublime to the ridiculous!

Yeah, a bit of a shameless plug, that last line. However that may be, it does seem that you can see a lot of interesting things in small town America even until yet.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Kid Rock for Senate

I honestly don't think that anything will come of it; I accept the conventional wisdom that it's simply for publicity. But you know what? I could vote for Kid Rock for Senate.

I mean, why not? Aren't we taught in school that in America anyone can govern? Or is that only more progressive claptrap like the vaunted and self-serving tolerance and diversity they deign to preach?

But there is more. A friend of mine says, rightly I believe, that the left wing media will tell us who they fear the most, whom they most want not to win. And although it's been quiet the last ten days or so, it's clear the local media fear Robert Richie.

Stephen Henderson of The Detroit Free Press in its editorial pages had scorched him. That alone makes me want to vote Kid Rock. There's been rumblings from election officials that he hasn't filled out the proper forms yet. That too makes me want him to run. Heck, I might write his name if I have too, if he doesn't actually pursue the office.

I do have issues with him, particularly the vulgarity of some of his songs. But hey, if Beyonce can traipse around Washington singing filth (and getting praise from the Obamas in so doing), how can an honest liberal hold that against Mr. Rock, let alone against a conservative like me? Tolerance and diversity, after all.

This has the makings of the type of populist appeal which vaulted Donald Trump into the Presidency. I think that's what scares the media the most: that they might be in yet another election cycle made irrelevant.

So while I can't say this minute whether I'd actually vote for him on Election Day (as it's too far off and too much can happen) right now I say, vote for Kid Rock for US Senator from Michigan. If nothing else, the media frenzy will be quite delicious.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

First World Problems in Hessel, Michigan

I am a day late with a new blog post due to circumstances beyond my control. The Internet, the one and only, was out all over the eastern Upper Peninsula yesterday. So too was cell phone service. All cell phone service. I had to drive more than 14 miles to get a signal, and that on the shoulder of the road of M-48 northwest of Pickford. At least I could tell my family I had arrived safely.

Later on, back at Hessel, I could not get the TV to work. I spent a couple hours scanning and rescanning the over the air antenna before successfully having six channels.

The fact is that twenty years ago none of this would have vexed me. We had no cellphones and no TV. And we didn't care. We were happy to be in Hessel on vacation, doing things with family and seeing old friends. We did not need the modern world.

I feel a certain sadness and regret not only that those days are gone, but that I spent a significant amount of what little time I have this long weekend fretting over things which did not concern me not that long ago. To be sure, I'll still enjoy the weekend. But in front of a TV instead of observing the beauty around me.

I shall make time tonight to walk under the stars and hoping to see one quick meteor flash across the night sky. And perhaps a steadily passing satellite. It's the least I can do for myself after wasting so much of yesterday on the frivolous.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What the morning walk brings

As I take my morning walks these days, I always pass Sam's house. When I do I always think of his relationship with me Grandpa Joe. It was, ah, an interesting friendship.

Sam would come by the old barn regularly. His mission seemed to be to needle Joe. It must be admitted, he was very good at that.

Once Joe had me younger brother painting a car of his with a sponge brush and a can of off the shelf paint. Now, I know that's not the best way to paint a car, but it was Grandpa's car and Patrick didn't mind to get paid to paint it however he was told. Sam happened by and exclaimed emphatically, "You can't paint a car like that!"

"The hell I can't!" Joe replied with an incredibly equal incredulity. And the fight was on.

Another time Sam was paying a visit and Joe was going on about something or other which concerned him. When he finished his rant Sam remarked sullenly, "Ah, I don't care, Joe".

Joe barked in response, in an incredibly accurate and proper response, "Yeah, but I do!"

"I just said I don't care!" Sam yelled in reply. And the fight was on.

Similar events occurred countless times over the years. Sam would show up, a conversation would start, sometimes slowly, sometimes explosively, and those two old coots would end up arguing, howling at each other over some kind of nonsense.

The darn thing is, I think they both looked forward to it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mom playing solitaire

When we watch others playing games, it's kind of hard not to at least want to tell them what to do. Even when they're playing solitaire.

Klondike solitaire is the game of choice among my family. Grandpa Joe played it often; I remember fondly watching him play as we sat in silence at his kitchen table. Pops played it a lot too, sitting at our kitchen table contentedly reshuffling actual decks of cards for each new game. My 82 year old mother never played it that I know until Dad passed. Now she plays it all the time, I think because it connects her to him. But it's also good intellectual exercise, which is itself a good thing too.

I was visiting her the other day. We were at that same kitchen table where Pops played, and Mom was occupied playing Klondike even as we talked. And she had this four of diamonds which she could play on this five of clubs. Only she wasn't playing it. 'You could play that 4 onto that 5', I thought, but didn't say it out loud.

We went on talking about whatever. She kept on going through her draw cards yet doing nothing with that four of diamonds. Still I thought to myself, ever more insistently, you can play that red four onto that black five. Still also I remained silent.

The conversation went on. The four continued to sit untouched. The thought, 'Come on Ma, play the stupid four' repeated itself over and over in my head. Yet I still said nothing aloud, despite how increasingly anxious I was becoming.

Minutes passed by as we went on conversing. Finally she stopped, looked up from her cards and asked, "Do you want to me play that four?"

"Please, Dear Lord, yes. Would you play that four!" I responded emphatically.

"I knew it was there. We were just talking and I kept forgetting it."

I don't believe that for a minute. She sensed I was getting antsy and was driving that feeling along. Moms.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The spike in electric costs

I had several times heard of it happening to someone else. Now it's happened to me. And I laughed out loud.

Yesterday's mail brought me the electric bill for the Shop. Now, I'm sure there's been a simple mistake and that it will all work itself out. But whereas my electric bill is usually only about $90 a month, DTE Energy's current invoice for its services is $13,218.76.

Yep, Thirteen Thousand, Two Hundred and Eighteen Dollars. And Seventy Six cents.

I have no intention of paying it of course. It's nonsense. But as I say, I'm confident it will all work out in the end. It's just an honest mistake on someone's part.

Why do you think I laughed when I opened the bill?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Another 9/11

Sixteen years have now passed since what may become the defining point of a generation. Sixteen years, almost to the minute as this is being written, terrorists attacked the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and were overcome by the passengers of an airplane over the hills of Pennsylvania. All that time, and we still cannot make any sense of it.

The trouble is that there is no sense to be made. To be sure, we can understand the reasons for even such terrible actions, in the same way that we can understand the reasons Hitler did what he did. Yet that is not the same as understanding.

How do we, how can we, come to actually understand rape or murder or thievery, mass murder or any any other evil which may be added to such a gruesome list, if we are to be decent human beings ourselves? It is only in a warped mind where such heinous acts may be justified. As such, reasonable people simply cannot understand them. It is beyond their ability; it is to them pure nonsense.

So the goal today should be to remember. Remember the victims and their families, remember the countless acts of heroism that day, remember even the perpetrators of such despicable carnage if for no other reason than to remind ourselves that such twisted souls do exist, seeking the ruin of those those not in lockstep with them. But hopefully, remember even so that their redemption may be possible. If we are the good people we claim to be, even that shouldn't be so difficult of a task on so difficult of an anniversary.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The new old

The TV in my bedroom went out Thursday. I woke up in the wee hours of Friday (I tend to leave my TV on overnight nowadays) and there was a blank screen, with only a buzzing noise. Rats.

But all is well! I now have a new old TV, and life is good.

The truth be told, I felt yesterday like a kid at Christmas. I bought my daughter's old TV and left that one on all last night. I had no need to buy another; no shopping, no hoping they (whoever they are) had what I wanted in stock, no gas burned nor time taken. Just a shower after work and a stretch across the bed and boom, life was back to normal.

In fact, the room looks bigger now, with a flat screen TV as opposed to the old one I had had. And I still feel like a kid at Christmas.

Ah, life, I like you.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Just so far

I noticed this morning they've put new mileage signs on Interstate 75 south of Toledo, Ohio. You know, those markers which tell us Detroit is 89 miles away and the like? Well, the first new sign I saw had the distances to Dayton and then Cincinnati. That makes sense of course, their being in Ohio. But the third city listed was Tampa, Florida. It was from there 1,103 miles further south on I-75.

That was good for a chuckle. Then the next sign listed a couple Ohio towns again...and Atlanta, Georgia. It was a scant 852 miles along the way.

Methinks someone at the Ohio Department of Transportation has a sense of humor. Or an extreme case of wishful thinking. Or just too much time on their hands, who knows?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Solitaire-y confinement

I was stuck on a jury last week. Yes, I know that jury duty is an important function of the citizenry. I also know that it can be tedious.

To be fair, the court allowed certain diversions in the jury room for the (many) times we were left there to stew as finer legal points were hammered out between judge, prosecutor, and defense counsel. There were crossword and sudoku books, magazines, and decks of cards. Once as I sat impatient and bored, I grabbed a deck and began playing solitaire. Almost as soon as I began the face of the young woman sitting across from me lit up. "Wow. I used to watch my grandfather play that!"

Why, no, that didn't make me feel old at all. But the truth is I learned solitaire sitting at my own grandfather's kitchen table watching him play, so I actually could appreciate her sentiment.

When I had finished she took the cards and played a few hands of her own. Soon enough four guys - that translated into all of us grandfathers in the room - were watching her play and giving her tips when she thought she was beaten. 'Play the red 6 on the black 7' or, 'Move that stack to the other row' and such as that. She was quickly expert at the game and set the cards down, vowing to keep up her new tradition.

The passing on of customs from the old to the curious young. I guess jury duty can serve a higher purpose.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

See Sherman. See Sherman burn his hand

Sherman used to clean drains. That means that we saw him a lot back in the day; he worked until about 1990. Sherman also used to preface every sentence with the word, see. 'See, I'm doing fine,' he would answer when you asked how he was.

One morning Pops was welding an end on Sherman's cable. When Dad finished he noticed Sherman reaching for the cable as he turned off the welder. "Don't touch that, it's hot!" he warned.

"See, I know it's hot," Sherman answered.

A minute later Dad heard him yelp. He turned to see Sherman rubbing his hand; he had grabbed the hot cable full palm. "Sherman, I just told you that was hot!" Dad admonished him.

"See, I didn't know it was that hot."

Pops went and got the burn ointment from our first aid kit. Squeezing some out of the tube onto the wound, Dad said as Sherman worked the goo into his palm, "Are you going to be okay?"

"See, I'll be fine, Bill. See, I didn't burn it that bad. See, I didn't hold it very long."

I imagine not.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day

Labor Day weekend is upon us, and that means many things to many people. Mostly, it seems, it is meant to be a relaxing time with family and friends. There's nothing with that, of course. But what is Labor Day really, and how does it relate to conservatism?

It is intended, most would say, as a celebration of the labor of the working men and women of our country. Fair enough; labor in all its forms is the backbone of our economy. Further, a fair days' work is something which ought to be prized and seen proudly. The contributions which we make to society when we engage in wholesome work should be satisfying to workers and the beneficiaries of work on about the same plane.

Yet the honor of Labor Day is felt with particular pride in and around Detroit and Wayne County, and why not? As the cradle of the automotive industry and the famed arsenal of democracy during World War II, among other contributions to Americana, we should feel good about our place in history. Then too, with our local economy being so hard hit by the recession, we may well feels the pangs of economic restriction more keenly than many other places in the country.

So where does this leave us with regard to the right wing? Simply that, seen in the, ahem, right light, conservatism is a great friend to the worker. Conservatism respects the rights of all, particularly, believe it or not, those most susceptible to economic strife. Conservatism recognizes the value of work and of the worker, and more, of the rights inherent in work. We respect the right of the individual to seek gainful employment in an open arena of job seekers and employers working freely and respectfully towards everyone's best interest. Conservatism, if allowed to become fully operational, would let the market works its wonders, and everyone would benefit, as they did in the Reagan years and also, truth be told, in the Clinton years under a Republican Congress which did more for the general welfare than our philanderous ex-President.

In short, conservatives are for labor. With the right amount of consideration in return, we could see this current mess ended quickly and spectacularly.