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.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Coil your cables

Me Grandpa Joe rented welding machines, as many of you by now know. He really wasn't fussy about much, but one of those things was his welding cable.

Each machine typically had to have 150-200 feet of cable while in operation. These cables were copper coated rubber and were about an inch thick. He always made sure that they were rolled in loops which were easy for a man to carry on his shoulder. On this point he was very particular; it could take forever to unknot even one cable. That was just time wasted, he rightly believed. Coil the cables, tie them off, and stack them nicely when the job was through, that was his mantra.

Once Acme Steel Processors (not the company's real name) rented ten welders from Joe and had them for a couple of months. When the job was over, Joe himself happened to be the man who went to pick them up. He was greeted at the Acme plant with a pallet of unrolled welding cable. But worse than that. All his beautiful welding cable, more than 2,000 feet, was piled in a jumbled, knotted mess upon it. His fuse, short anyway, was set.

About then the foreman came up to Joe and said, "There was trouble with one of your welders. The plant manager wants to talk to you."

Joe barked, "That's just dandy, because I want to talk to him too."

Grandpa stormed into the plant manager's office. The manager, I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, never had a chance to open his mouth. Joe lit right into him, a blast of emphatic, rough English, yet with no expletives more than Joe's liberal use of the mild one 'hell', explaining exactly how little he cared for discovering his cable in one God-awful mess. That was not how he delivered it, Joe vigorously orated. It was gonna take hours to sort out, he, um, explained. I've been told it was quite a harangue. Those who did not know Joe must understand that when his dander was up, whole neighborhoods knew it. Hell, to use his favorite word, small towns were made aware.

Before Joe could wind down Cloyce did manage to say, "You don't have to be so loud, Joe."

"Hell yeah I do!" Joe bellowed. "I want everyone in here to know what I think and I don't want to have to tell them each individually!" He was off again.

I don't believe Cloyce ever got to make his point. He was probably quite happy to get back to the mundane tasks of plant managing once Grandpa left.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Everything's off

One of me Pops best friends was a guy named Ben Gamble. Ben was from Alabama, and like many southerners during the 1940s and 50s had emigrated northward for jobs in the auto industry. He landed at Chrysler himself.

After a few years, there were extended layoffs; Ben was told his would be 3 or 4 months. He decided that, with that much time, he might as well take the family to old Alabam for an extended visit. So off they went.

About eight weeks after they had left he was informed his layoff was over. He was to report the next Monday. So he and his wife packed the kids up, and early Saturday morning began the return to Detroit. You must remember that at the time, with no freeways, it was a long two day drive from northern Alabama to Detroit.

They got in late Sunday, and Monday morning Ben reported to the Chrysler plant where he had worked. He was told by a suit to wait a few minutes, and he'd be back with his exact assignment.

A few minutes passed, which became an hour, then two, and finally four. Eventually the suit returned with a new layoff notice for Ben.

Ben proceeded to tell the suit, in gloriously colorful language, that he did not appreciate being called in all the way from Alabama and having to put his family through that trauma only to be laid off again right away. He then went to that guy's supervisor and told him in no uncertain terms what he thought of the deal, then to that guy's superior, and finally to one more suit above him, all in spectacular manner. He wanted to make absolutely sure Chrysler understood the depths of his anger.

"Bill,' he said to Pops as he brought his tale to a close, "By the time I was done I was laid off, paid off, told off, and run off!"

But I bet it was worth every word.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The end of an era

I wake up this morning to find that the Detroit Tigers have traded star pitcher Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros. The longest era of unreached potential for the franchise is now past history, as me Grandpa Joe used to say.

This edition of the Tigers never lived up to its billing. Sure they made two World Series, in 2006 and 2012 respectively, yet were embarrassed in both. Mismanagement and a lack of real fire in the players doomed them. I blame mismanagement more so because part of the mistake has been managers who could not, and I wonder if maybe the right term here is would not, inspire, cajole, or kick their players' tails into higher gear. Because let's be honest: they had the tools. The tools were simply misused.

Jim Leyland, I've said it before and I'll say it again now, was not a good manager. He got a career pass for 2006, yet people forget that as cool as that season was the Tigers actually backed into the postseason. They were 19-31 the last fifty games. Take away the wild card and they were not in the playoffs. Then they did not make the playoffs again until 2010. And Ausmus is his clone. They do not, did not, call out their players to greatness. A Sparky Anderson would have won a lot more with the teams Leyland and Ausmus have had.

Now we get to watch years of painful rebuilding. That's never fun, and never certain. I'm left to wonder if a friend of mine who believes the Tigers will never win another World Series is right. It was hard enough to win one before all the expansion of the last 60 years. It was hard enough to win one when you had the horses. Now, well, all we can do is wait and watch.

And regret what might have, what perhaps should have, been.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

How you might win at Texas hold'em

I've been playing a lot of online poker the last few years. I've yet to play for money, though. The idea of actually risking anything beyond the penny ante simply doesn't appeal to me. Still, I like the game enough to play even for pretend stakes. And even then, I think it should be played seriously. Why? Because one day you might want to try playing with real cash, and if you play poorly in practice, you'll play poorly for real. Yes, that's a dad saying. But like most of what our dads have said, there's a lot of truth to it. They do get smarter as we get older.

So here's a few tips which I find useful when playing. They're from an amateur, me, and I'm sure many of the pros would not endorse them. But I feel I've done well playing Texas Hold 'em the Marty way.

It's almost always bad to go all in on the first two cards. You should only do it with a pair of Aces, or with Jacks or better when you hold the fewest chips at the table. The game changes too much over five shared cards, and you lose often even starting with that pair of Aces. Generally speaking, don't go all in on two.

You will lose more hands than you win. That's the nature of the game. So while it's okay to be aggressive, and you do have to be a bit of a bully to play well, the cards will be against you more often than for you. Be selective with your aggressive play, and remember there's a fine line between aggressive and foolish.

If after the turn you need two cards to earn a decent hand, play conservative and be ready to fold quickly. The numbers are against you; you aren't likely to get both cards.

Bet from strength. If you have a hand which, in studying the cards, less than 4 can beat you, be aggressive.

I do not like the bluff. It's too dangerous. Still, you should make small bets or make small calls often enough even with lesser hands to keep your opponents unsure of your tactics. Part of the game is creating uncertainty about your motives when at the table.

Beware the wild bettor. He's either very aggressive or very stupid. Don't get into raise wars with them. They're depending on luck and, I mention again, the cards are generally against you. Let the others at the table deal with those players. They'll usually burn themselves out within a few hands.

Don't call a high raise unless you know you've got the cards to beat it. I know, you can never really 'know'. But a clear headed study of your hole cards against the common ones will usually give you all the information you need.

I think that's all for now, although I believe I'll share more tips later. But I can't give away too much, of course. I may play you one day.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What ought to offend us?

The grim reality of the 2010s versus the goofball racism of the 1960s. I wonder which is worse?

I'm watching the old TV show F Troop the other day and imagining how terribly offensive it must be considered today in some quarters. With its jokes based, in this case, on Red Indians and Japanese culture I'm surprised it's on free TV let alone cable. From Karate with Love is this particular episode, if you care to look it up. F Troop has also parodied Germans, French Canadians, Mexicans, Russians and, shockingly, the US Army. Horrors.

Now let's compare this to the currently popular Game of Thrones, a gore fest in the name of realism, where also an actress has publicly complained that the amount of male nudity must equal the amount of female nudity. There is a double standard here which much be addressed, we are told. And we are not expected to be upset or concerned with such flippant attitudes about propriety anyway.

I don't know about you, but I think screwball comedy mocking almost everybody and anybody without regard to feelings superior to presumed high art made for prurient interests. Give me honest lampooning over gritty reality any day. Quite frankly, it's more honest with itself.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sports and fighting

My beloved Detroit Tigers were involved in a brawl. Three separate melees in fact, all during the course of yesterday's game against the New York Yankees. One was a genuine fight. That is sad. Fighting has no place in anything which pretends to true sportsmanship.

So yes, you can gather from that that any and all sports which involve trying to inflict serious physical harm upon others are, I will vehemently argue, immoral. UFC and MMA come immediately to mind. So does prizefighting, boxing primarily among those. Intentionally trying to physically hurt another human being into submission is immoral. Period. Even when all involved agree. Perhaps especially so.

So it is too when it occurs within more legitimate sports and games. Most sports and games recognize this and mete punishment accordingly. This is good.

Some however do not. I've mentioned a few, yet there are more, this despite what they think.

Hockey comes immediately to mind. A five minute major for fighting amounts to telling a recalcitrant child, "Go over there and think about what you did". Because that's all it means. Take a player out of a game, hurt someone, sit a minute, and all is right. There is nothing more shallow and transparent in 'discipline' than this.

And it is so very transparent.

Fighting must be banned from sports. All sports. Period.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Let it go

"Don't have a catastastroke." I think it was one of Grandpa Joe's favorite phrases. Yet I'm sure your interest is in the term 'catastastroke' It's so unique that I'm not sure how to spell the word. But Joe used it a lot.

That's kinda ironic really. Those who still remember him no matter how fondly also remember how he could stir up a honest's nest on a dime. He got mad quickly, and often, it seemed, without significant provocation. But when the time was right, he was the first to caution against that catastastroke.

I think I get what he meant. Maybe he didn't live his own words as well as he could have but that can't make his point wrong. We're all hypocrites to one degree or another yet that doesn't condemn the good we do or the best things we say. I think what Grandpa meant was actually fairly simple. Don't make things more than they are, and when things get tough, just relax and deal with it.

So go out there today and deal with your work or your chores or what have you. And if things go poorly, well, deal with it. Don't have a catastastroke.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Mother and the solar eclipse

All right, I'll be one of those who say that yesterday's solar eclipse, though exciting and unique, was not as awesome as I had hoped. I thought that 79% coverage would leave Detroit more in twilight than sunlight as if through a filter. Still, I had fun. But more so because of other reasons.

My brother and I were working yesterday and taking turns studying the developing eclipse through an old welding helmet of our Grandpa Joe's. Around two, almost a half hour before the event reached it local apex, Phil said that he thought our mother was interested in seeing what it looked like. Well, as we are self employed, and as you do things for Momma, we had an obvious inspiration. We locked up the Shop for about 45 minutes and went to see Mom, who only lived a couple blocks away.

I'm glad we did. She seemed happy and excited to be able to actually look at it safely. She commented giddily on how different the neighborhood looked in pale sunlight. And I got a good picture of her wearing Joe's old welding helmet, a picture a Facebook friend rightly remarked would always be a treasure. I think it meant more to me that she was getting such a kick out of it than what I did.

Hey Joe, did ya see Eller with yer old helmet on?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Living the dream, if just for a moment

There's this picture I know which will mean nothing to many folks. Most pictures don't I'd imagine. They're someone else doing something else, and that's that. Most pictures are innocuous that way I suppose.

Some are captures of moments which mean little but for the excitement of that moment for those involved. Some are public and capture the peculiar importance of what it is the photographer was shooting. The VJ Day sailor and nurse, his great embrace and her great acceptance, reflect that sentiment. A birthday party or wedding are more the embalmed history of those being partied to or being married show that as well. They are important to all involved or at least, to those photographed.

And then some pictures tell a story which we would all embrace should the tale behind the picture be known by all. I know one of those.

My father loved country music, especially the twangy bluegrass genre which found its way into northern cities such as Detroit as the great northern flight fed them during the hungry days of industry after the Second World War. He met his wife that way, as he had become friends with her brother, my uncle, who himself had fled an impoverished North Carolina in the days after the war seeking a better life for his family. His extended family had, being among them my mother, came north as well. So my parents met. So is my personal history at its' start written.

Years pass, and time yields towards itself. Dad never lost his love of country music, and never lost his love of its history both personal and in its music. He became a salesman for a company, a national company of which he was merely its local rep. And that took him beyond his proscribed territory. It took him to cities which were beforehand out of his range.

He once found himself in Nashville, Tennessee, for a trade show, where he had a few moments to himself. So he took some of those moments and he went to downtown Nashville, to see the Ryman Auditorium where many of his country music heroes had performed. He took a tour and stumbled into an opportunity to envisage himself among country music's elite. He could have his own picture made at center stage as though he were performing among the country music elite.

They gave him a cowboy hat and a guitar. They told him to take a certain spot on the stage, strum the guitar, look one way, and smile, and they would take a picture. He did it all. And he came out looking, as if in an analogy he had used often himself about others, as a kid in a candy store. He looked like a country music singer in his own right.

He was smiling as though it was meant for him to be there. As though he should be there. And as though he was comfortable, right where he should be.

He was a kid smiling like a kid living his wildest dreams. No doubt he was. I see it in that picture I know.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday stream of potato chip consciousness

I like rippled potato chips better than regular. They're heartier; they don't leave chip dust in the bottom of the bag or bowl and I don't believe they leave so much grease on your hands. Yep. I like rippled chips.

On Thursday I bought a bag of Italian sausage flavored chips. They're okay, but I never thought of there being a difference between spicy Italian and sweet Italian. These were spicy. And it's odd to taste a flavor where you don't feel that flavor should be. Italian sausage flavor should be in Italian sausages, not chips. But it was the only bag left and it was on sale. I had to buy it.

Of course, being the last bag left at a sale price could mean one of two things. Either they are really popular or they are really not so popular. Ah, ya pays ya money, ya takes ya chances.

The Canadians were way ahead of the curve on potato chips. Years before we had them in the States they had dill pickle, ketchup, and most wonderfully of all, salt and vinegar chips. Now I see here in Michigan chips flavored 'all dressed' and purported to be the most popular flavor in Canada even though I've never seen them in Canada nor do many (if any) of my Canadian friends claim to know anything about them. Then again, I'm not exactly known for hanging out in Canadian party stores examining their potato chip emporiums.

I like rippled potato chips.

Oops, I've come full circle. Time to stop.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The big race between Pop and Tall Glass

Pop Turner lived near the Shop with his brother in law, who we called Tall Glass. Pop's real name was Frank; I don't recall what Tall Glass was actually named. Okay, some people called him Goldie because his last name was Goldsmith. We called him Tall Glass because me Grandpa Joe stuck that monitor on him. He drank from a long, tall glass, Joe always said with a smile.

Pop and Tall Glass got along well, but as with many families sometimes a little animosity would break out. Usually this was just a shouting match, and usually when they'd both been drinking. Yet it was rarely more than that.

One such rare day occurred while me Pops (not to be confused here with Pop Turner of course) and I were the only two in the Shop and were having a coffee. As it was a warm summer day we had the big truck doors open, sitting by them to catch a breeze. After a minute or two we heard the ruckus. Pop and Tall Glass were at it; the gist was that Pop wanted chicken but he wanted his brother in law to go get it. Tall Glass resolutely would not.

Soon Tall Glass appeared, staggering down the alley in drunk fashion. He was yelling, "Come on man, no. Stop it," as he stumbled along in slow motion. Next Pop appeared, likewise speed and balance challenged. He was yelling at Tall Glass to go to the store for him, and was in slo-mo function as well. Only Pop was brandishing a shovel, holding it uncertainly above his head like a bat, ready to beat Tall Glass into doing his will.

If he caught him. The guys made their way down the alley, probably the slowest, most serpentine chase scene on record anywhere. Dad and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. Eventually Tall Glass fell, allowing Pop to get with maybe 15 feet of him. He begged his brother in law for mercy.

Dad sighed, "I better go do something before one of them gets hurt." He went out and gently took the shovel from Pop, explained firmly that wanting chicken wasn't reason enough to bust a family member's head open, helped Tall Glass off the cement, and escorted the two to their respective homes, making them promise to behave.

Ah, memories.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

It's time for Rifftrax

Tonight is Rifftrax live night. If you're not familiar with Rifftrax, it's a comedy thing where three guys mock old and new, good and bad movies. On nights like tonight they broadcast live to theaters throughout the country, originating in Nashville, Tennessee. Tonight's film is a mocking of The Five Doctors movie from the Doctor Who franchise. It should be good.

Granted, their kind of humor isn't for everyone. But like a lot of good comedy many of their riffs (jokes) actually make a kind of sense. When they question sparkly vampires, as they did when lambasting the Twilight films, it actually makes sense. Why would vampires sparkle? Why, also, would werewolves eat muffins for breakfast, as they do in the Stephanie Meyer, uh, classics?

I'm just skimming the top here. Rifftrax finds and mocks all those old school short films which we were subjected to years ago. It mocks them well; if you know who Mr. B Natural is, you are on my page. Check out their website. There's something for everyone.

All right, enough of this. I'm beginning to sound like a commercial, and I'm not. I simply love Rifftrax. And you should too.

This has been from a non-compensated spokesperson I assure you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Eating from the can

"I don't wash dishes. I wash dish," me Uncle John used to say. You see, he had a habit of eating his food right out of the can. It saved time and effort. And let's face it, an awful lot of our food can be eaten that way.

Tuna, Vienna sausages, mechanically separated chicken, most vegetables; even things such as Spam can be eaten raw (or at least unheated). But Uncle did crease the envelope a bit. He would eat soup from the can for example. I was never sure enough about that to try it. One of the more unusual things he did sell me on though was corned beef hash. I tried it myself that way, straight from the can, and it was really okay. Roast beef hash not so much, but still good.

We hit a point where we would debate what else might be good enough thus consumed. Most things are just fine eaten out of the can it turns out. About the only thing we each agreed upon heartily was beef stew. Beef stew had to be heated. It was simply too chunky and the gravy too much in globules to be enjoyed on the cheap.

So, use less water and soap my friends. Eat from the can!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Feast of the Assumption

Today in the Catholic Church is the feast of the Assumption of Mary. As the doctrine goes, The Mother of Christ was taken straight into Heaven.

Conservatives, and perhaps especially conservative Christians, are too often said to denigrate women. Yet here is an example of a woman being exalted above every man who ever was save Christ Himself. Mary is the greatest creation there is, has, and ever will be. And she is venerated above any man.

If there's a greater respect for women, I simply cannot imagine what it might be.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The neighborhood miscreant and the tar roof

The old barn, the shop I now have, was once me Grandpa Joe's. Like so many commercial buildings, it has a flat roof.

Years ago this young boy, I believe he was 8 or 9, decided that that roof was the ideal playground. He was climbing up onto it constantly, and no matter what Joe did the kid would always find his way back up there. He finally resorted to something he did not like to do, as for all his faults he hated ratting anyone out, even a brat. He went to speak the kid's folks.

"He's going to get hurt running around on my roof," Joe explained. But the dad blew him off. "Boys will be boys," was all he said. Mom said, "I can't watch him all the time." Grandpa left them, unsure what to do.

Well, as the old barn had sprung a few leaks, him and me Pops went up one morning before work and spread a layer of thin tar across the roof. Then they opened.

It wasn't long until Joe could hear the boy playing on the roof again. But this time he just went about his business.

A couple of hours later the boy's mother came around with a complaint. She was dragging along her kid, who covered head to toe in roofing tar. It was on his clothes, his skin; it was even in his hair. "And he's gotten tar all over the house. It's going to take forever to clean everything up," she emphatically explained.

"Sorry, lady, I can't watch him all the time," was all Joe said. Then he went back to work.

The boy however never climbed back on the roof.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Three days

What's the old joke? That the difference between a good haircut and a bad one is three days? Well, I'm on day one.

I got a haircut yesterday. There were six chairs in this place and it was packed. Then one chair came open, manned by an elderly gentleman whom I'd say was in his eighties. As it wasn't anywhere near my turn I found myself looking up and down the row of waiting customers. But no one would go to him. Eventually I stood up, and tentatively went and sat in his chair. I asked for a regular haircut.

Now, it wasn't the best haircut. Neither was it terrible. Once I was back home I did spend a few minutes cutting off straggling hairs as I looked in my bathroom mirror. Still, it looked all right. And I find myself a bit upset with the men who would not let the old fella cut their hair.

The old gent was only trying to make a few bucks. Why were you leaving him hanging? And it's just your hair, guys. It'll be okay after three days.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Grandpaw and any given bee

Me Grandpaw Hutchins was the most mild mannered, easiest going man I have known. Nothing seemed to bother or rankle him. He just moseyed on with his life.

Of course, using the word nothing is rarely accurate. There's always something, the famous 'they' say. And there was something with Grandpaw. If he got strung by a bee, that bee had too die. It. Had. To. Die.

Before even tending his wound, Grandpaw would grab the fly swatter hanging by his back door and he would stalk the culprit. With a stealth generally found only in the most experienced ninjas, he would make his way through his house, keeping a steady eye on the miscreant, waiting for the right opportunity. Eventually the insect would settle somewhere, to be stunned in that instant before death by the hard, fast, and true slam of Grandpaw Hutchin's swatter. Justice had been served, North Carolina style.

Then he would become again mild mannered Grandpaw Hutchins. I loved that man.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Songs stuck in your head

This is probably in at least semi-poor taste, but I'm going to write it anyway. I mean well, honest. At least, I don't really mean ill.

As I'm sure most of you know, country singer Glen Campbell passed away this week. That's sad news of course. I liked the man and I liked his music. He had charisma, and he had several easily singable tunes in his repertoire. Wichita Lineman, Summer Nights, and, of course, Rhinestone Cowboy, arguably his signature tune.

And that's the rub. I can't get Rhinestone Cowboy out of my head. I hear it constantly these last couple of days. But any song which you can't get out of your head simply becomes annoying after a while.

Believe me, I've tried to shake it. I keep trying to play some of his own other titles in my head and they just won't stick. I try to hum Summer Nights and it flips right back into Rhinestone. I try things far removed from his songs and they fold right back to Rhinestone. Paul McCartney's great ballad Yesterday even bailed on me. In my head I began it, to no use. It went something like, Yesterday...all my troubles seemed like a Rhinestone Cowboy, dat-dah, riding off on a horse...

Godspeed Mr. Campbell. I'll miss you and your music. And I mean no insult this morning good sir.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The toe tee

Some things, you just don't know how they happen.

I rose this morning to take my morning constitutional. I got dressed, got my keys, wallet and cell phone (all the standard items a guy needs these days) and was out the door. Then I thought I felt something in my shoe when I went down the front porch steps. But as soon as I was on the sidewalk everything felt fine. So I kept walking.

Nothing more happened at first. But once I was about four blocks away I definitely felt something. Leaning against a tree, I took off my shoe and, holding it upside down, shook it. Nothing.

Huh? So I felt under my foot to discover something under my toes. Taking off my sock and reaching inside I found - I am not making this up - a blue broken golf tee.

How in the world did such a thing get inside my sock? It was a fresh pair which I had rolled together after taking them out of the wash and putting them in my sock drawer a few days ago.

I got nuthin'.

Monday, August 7, 2017

I hate these lines

There are phrases which I hate, everyday phrases which we use all the time. Well, if you catch me using one, swat me across the side of the head with a halibut. Please.

I don't want to make you feel bad, but...

I already feel bad, with that lead in. So I think you did indeed want me to feel bad.

I don't wish to intrude...

Well, you just did. So I believe that you did mean to intrude.

I don't want to tell you what to do...

Haven't you already begun to do that?

Are you doing anything?

Well, yes. As I'm always doing something, then obviously I'm doing something just now aren't I?

I don't mean to interrupt...

Yes you do. Because you just did.

There's more to come. Just give me a minute.

And that also is a phrase I hate, because they usually need more than a minute.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Donald

I do not know what to think of him. The Donald, that is. I simply do not.

I like him as much as I liked Dutch. I loved, I love, Ronald Reagan. He was the only President I ever fervently voted for. Dutch, that is. I voted for the Donald because I didn't feel I had much other choice.

But I do not know what to think about Donald. I admire his forthriteness. He is very forward. We all know that. This is a good quality. It really is.

I do not know what to think.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Reality and TV

The grim reality of the 2010s versus the goofball racism of the 1960s. I wonder which is worse?

I'm watching the old TV show F Troop this morning and imagining how terribly offensive it must be considered today in some quarters. With its jokes based, in this case, on Red Indians and Japanese culture I'm surprised it's on free TV let alone cable. From Karate with Love is this particular episode, if you care to look it up. F Troop has also parodied Germans, French Canadians, Mexicans, Russians and, shockingly, the US Army. Horrors.

Now let's compare this to the currently popular Game of Thrones, a gore fest in the name of realism, where also an actress has publicly complained that the amount of male nudity must equal the amount of female nudity. There is a double standard here which much be addressed, we are told. And we are not expected to be upset or concerned with such flippant attitudes about propriety anyway.

I don't know about you, but I think screwball comedy mocking almost everybody and anybody without regard to feelings superior to presumed high art made for prurient interests. Give me honest lampooning over gritty reality any day. Quite frankly, it's more honest with itself.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Same difference

Chesterton believed that the farmer in India had a lot in common with the farmer in England. They each wanted rain. Can that be said of the English and Indian utopian?

I am not impressed with calls for individualism. Being an individual requires little; just don't be like Jones. That is within the power of everyone.

But being like everyone else, ah, there's the challenge. Getting up in the morning, doing your job, being nice to people; there's the challenge. Being considerate of that old hag down the street, there's a challenge. Being agreeable with the one preaching his worldview, there's a challenge. Liking the fellow who doesn't like you; there's a challenge.

Sameness is a challenge. Difference requires mere obstinacy. We are all capable of that.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Ode to pistachios

Ah, pistachios, pistachios, how do I love thee?

Seriously, how do I love thee?

I had never eaten pistachios before recently. I never had an interest in trying them. But I've tried them and I like them. Why?

Is it only because they are tasty, because they are. Very tasty. Or does psychology play a part?

One of my current favorite TV shows, I am not making this up, involves pistachios in a subplot as a running gag. And where did I try first try pistachios? When visiting my son and his fiancee in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. I can't get enough of them now. Pistachios that is. No offense to the Brooklynites.

Or is it simply that they're new to me and I'm just gorging myself? The trend may soon run itself out.

Let's hope not. Ah, pistachios.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fun with technology

Color television (it sounds exotic to type out the entire word rather than just say TV) was relatively rare in the late 1960s. At a time when $100 a week was a decent income while color sets cost better than $300, they were something of a luxury. Still, parents then as now liked to treat themselves and their families to the newest technologies, and fads tended to spread quickly. In the Bill Cosgriff household circa 1969, as the color fad rolled on unstoppably, this meant that Pops had decided to buy a color TV for the family room.

I don't remember all the details of that old console. But it was big to a 9 year old, huge indeed, and took two hulking delivery men to carry it into the house and put it in place. Dad plugged it in and put on a channel, which happened to be showing an episode of Gilligan's Island. And the picture was black and white.

Pops began playing with the dials, the contrast button and what have you, and still no color. His frustration mounting and with nothing making a difference, as a last resort he went to the instruction manual, a thing real men don't do unless a last resort. No color, despite trying everything the manual said to try. He was ready to call the appliance store, the manufacturer, and perhaps even the President himself to rant about this travesty to a working man and his family. I don't blame him; I would have been upset. Anyone would have.

Then someone, I don't know who, produced the then current issue of TV Guide. It showed Pops clearly that yes, Gilligan's Island was on that channel at that time. It also showed that the particular episode was in black and white. The first season of Gilligan's Island had been filmed in black and white. The TV was fine.

As Dad slowly calmed down, laughing about it within a few minutes (I never thought to try another channel, he would soon joke about himself) we settled into a family night watching our new color television. And our new TV brought us many wonderful nights of entertainment for several years. Even, or perhaps especially, as we would knowingly tune into a black and white program.

Friday, July 28, 2017

As we know it

News flash: the world is going to Hell. Do what you will, think what you will, hope what you will, the world's heading straight into the fireball. It's going to happen.

But that doesn't mean today. In fact, it likely will not be today, nor anytime soon.

If I've learned anything after 57 years on God's green Earth, beyond the right to speak like an old guy (things was differnt when I was a boy I tell ya), is that we ain't perfect. Some of us is less perfect than others, all the way to being downright evil. I mean that. Because of that (outside of Divine intervention, but that's not the point here) the world will destroy itself one day. It will happen. You cannot stop it. You are not and will not be in a position to affect it. Period.

I'm not saying not to work for a better world just the same. You certainly should act within your sphere to do what you can to forestall the day of reckoning. But never mind the peripherals: fake news, President Trump, North Korean nukes, Brexit, any ism you can imagine, Obamacare, Fox News over MSNBC. You cannot affect them on a broad scale. Stop fretting.

Be nice to your neighbor. Help directly someone who needs help. Do your job well. Discuss the issues even, among friends and charitably. I personally believe giving the Almighty His due wouldn't hurt either. But stop feeding the beast. You're not then delaying the end of the world. But you just might be helping to bring it if you stoke the coals for the people actually driving the train. You might then be helping the end come before it must.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Uncle John's driving test

Okay, I'll admit up front that the title is a hook. A quite misleading one at that. But this post does involve me Uncle John, and it is about driving tests.

Back in the day many of us Cosgriffs lived and worked near Wayne State University in downtown Detroit. Now I can't speak for how they are recently but as I hear few complaints I think they're much better. But in the seventies and eighties WSU students were notorious walkers and drivers. Notorious that is for weaving in and out of traffic in their vehicles and vaulting across the street on foot trying to make their classes. Warren Avenue between Interstate 75 and Trumbull Avenue, a course about a mile and a half long, was the major roadway where all the action took place. It could be a harrowing drive if you didn't pay attention.

Uncle John noticed this as well as the rest of us. He used to quip that the road test for new drivers ought to be making it from I-75 to Trumbull along Warren without killing two people.

You caught that, didn't you? He was willing to spot you the first fatality because in that stretch of road you were going to kill somebody. And it would not be your fault.

Personally I think old Zeke had the right idea.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Silver Linings

Yesterday morning just before five o'clock I left da UP of Michigan figuring to get home in time enough to do a few hours work and make my golf league. Just after 6:30 I was sitting on the shoulder of southbound Interstate 75, north of Grayling. The pulley had decided to dislodge itself from the power steering on my van. What to do, what to do?

You look for silver linings. And In fact yesterday I saw several.

First and foremost was that we live in an advanced internet age. I took out my phone and searched for 'Grayling road service'. A tow truck was picking van and Marty up within 35 minutes. Not knowing where to take the old girl, the tow driver suggested a good local mechanic. We were there by 7:45 and, happily, they could have my van fixed in a few hours. Cool.

Of course, I hadn't planned on taking my morning walk yesterday, but by then I had the time. I hiked the almost two miles into Grayling proper to a nice little restaurant and had an Irish omelette: Corned Beef and onions. Then of all things I was able to meet up with a good friend I hadn't seen in about ten years. He happened to be in town for work, saw on facebook where I had lamented my predicament, and said he had a few minutes, let's meet and catch up. And soon enough the van was finished. I was home by five in the afternoon.

Yeah, it's a little bit flippant, but when bad things happen we do need to look for those silver linings. If we do, we'll find that sometimes they're very bright too.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The sentimentality bug

Hessel, Day Two, July 2017

This morning I put on my ‘Green Monster’ T-shirt which I bought at Fenway Park, to realize it has been almost a year since I bought it. It will be a year next Tuesday that my son and I were there. Wow.

I saw too that my other son had tied together and labelled four small US flags, ‘2017’. These are the flags which he, my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter and myself had been given which watching the Fourth of July parade in Cedarville barely 18 days ago. And I thought something more like, double wow.

I thought I had sentimentality licked. I was afraid for years that I’d be too sentimental as I got older. For the longest time I was okay with things moving on. Life happens. You move on. You handle it.

But in the last three or four years I find it ain’t so easy. Oh, I’m not living in permanent melancholy. So long as I’m occupied, so long as I’m not face to face with some stark reminder, things are okay. Yet when those reminders jump out at you, well, they remind you.

Still, I’m happy at that. Fenway Park and that recent parade do indeed tell me that all is well. Sure, the moments are past. But they were great moments, and sentiment reminds me of that. It reminds me too that the day will come when we will remember, and sentiment won’t tinge our memories at all.

Friday, July 21, 2017

What's a bike rack for?

The things you see that you never expect to see. I suppose, that you’d never possibly imagine you would see.

While sitting in the pleasant hamlet of Hessel, Michigan, reading a Father Brown mystery – I knew I’d like Father Brown after I’d read his first story, where he identified a fraudulent priest because the man had questioned reason – I looked up to see a Jeep Cherokee drive past. It had a bicycle attached to the bike rack on the rear bumper.

Are you with me so far?

Nothing unusual about that of course. What struck me as odd was the walker, fully open, strapped to the car along with the bike. You couldn’t fold it and put it in the back seat? Even if it couldn’t fold, you still couldn’t simply open a door and put there? Surely it was more trouble to attach it to the bike rack than do that.

It doesn’t really matter I suppose. But I do wonder.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Name that arc welder

As many of you know, Grandpa Joe rented arc welders. What you may not know is that each and every one of them, almost 250 at the height of his business, had Joe Cosgriff names. Each was JC 1, JC 2, and so on. As a side note they each had serial numbers from the manufacturer, and Pops knew every serial number by heart. We'd test him often as kids. While dutifully standing beside a machine we'd ask, JC 135? Dad would immediately reply "5CW11276". It worked every time; we witnessed the proof. I've always been impressed by that.

Anyway, many of the welders had what amounted to nicknames. There was Old Number One, Joe's first welder, the one he started the business with. Nokomis was named after Nokomis, Illinois, the town where Joe bought it. He also had MichCon, acquired from the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company, and Gray Trailer, purchased from Gray's Rentals. I don't remember where that place was though.

There were two called long underslung, JC 27 and JC 33 respectively. Their carriages were made so that the welding machines themselves sat low into the whole unit. I believe it was an attempt to create a lower center of gravity on four wheeled trailers. Four wheeled welders were notoriously bad to tow. It wasn't unusual for them to veer all over the place behind a vehicle once you hit about 40 miles per hour. A lower center of gravity helped them tow straighter at higher speeds. I can say through personal experience that 27 and 33 towed much better than the average welder.

He had two Lincoln 600 amp electric welders which looked like large bombs. We called them A-bombs of course. 'Where's that A-bomb going Joe?' was a question which likely startled many a passers-by. There was snub nose, a snub nosed Hobart. Imagine that.

There's more but memory escapes me just now. I'll bring everyone up to speed soon though.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Potted meat and liver mush

I do not have what I consider unusual tastes in food. Yet that does not mean that there aren't odd foods which I like.

My wife returned from shopping today with a couple cans of potted meat. I should not like it: meat which spreads like butter doesn't sound appealing on that ground alone. Yet it's good: way too salty, perhaps, but I like salty things. There is one rule to follow, though, with stuff like potted meat. Do not, under any circumstances, read the ingredients. Just eat and enjoy. Nothing that tastes good could actually be bad for you, right?

Now you really, truly do not want to read the ingredients in liver mush. Yes, liver mush. It comes in little grayish one pound cakes and is available all over my other home state, North Carolina. I think it's called scrapple on the east coast. Either way, it's mondo good with onion and mayo on plain old white bread. You simply slice a bit of it off the cake and hey presto, instant culinary delight. Just always remember the rule.

Vienna Sausages are worthwhile too, though I suppose they aren't really all that odd. I think of them as baby food for grown ups, just like the Gerber custard pudding that rocks so well on the palate. But once more, don't read the label on the can. I am eternally curious about what exactly constitutes mechanically separated chicken though.

So anyway, at least every now and then take a chance, set aside health issues, and eat something that's probably not good for you. You'll thank for me it, and I promise to visit you in the ER if there's any unfortunate aftereffects.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Suess was an idiot

I am not a fan of Dr. Seuss. His unusual approach to teaching kids to read, using imaginary creatures and made up words, is widely credited as a good way to reach kids through fantasy. Yet his books really aren't very good for any purpose.

For starters, the best way to learn to read is phonetically. Teaching kids to read by rhyme, and indeed with the use of nonsense words, actually limits vocabulary and the development of reading proficiency.

Then, too, his imagination was not the imagination of a Tolkien or C. S. Lewis. They developed worlds where the interaction of the characters told compelling stories. Seuss just made up things which matched his writing scheme. "What would you do if you met a Jibboo?" or whatever that creature was, cannot really inspire anyone, even a kid. It's nonsense.

But perhaps the way in which his writing was most awful was in the lessons it presumed to teach. Take 'The Cat in the Hat' for example. Basically, this cat half destroys a house while the children's mother is out, miraculously cleans it up, then the tale ends encouraging kids to be dishonest with their parents. That's not a lesson we ought to be teaching our young, especially in this age of moral relativity.

Or The Butter Battle Book, written during the Cold War, which essentially equated the United States and the Soviet Union by demonstrating our relationship as an absurdity: they simply butter their bread on the other side, you see? That's nothing short of simplistic, mindless hogwash.

That Dr. Seuss has had such a profound effect on our reading habits is not a good thing. It is high time to remove his books from our shelves, and give kids better reads. At that, they may actually learn.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Whither Ties?

Why can't we have ties? Why can't a game end with each team having the same score? Why must there be a winner and a loser? And aren't some ties in fact really good games?

The National Hockey League has held for several seasons now 'shootouts' to break ties. Soccer has had championship matches decided in like fashion. If there's a dumber way to break a tie I cannot imagine what it is. Such a process cheapens, indeed I would argue that it mocks, a victory anyhow. Winning on luck is nothing to be proud about.

There is fear, now that the National Football League has cut overtime periods to 10 minutes, there will be more ties in football this coming season. But so what? If teams played to a draw, it's a draw. Let it stand.

Even in championship games, why can't there be co-champions if the result is a tie? They're only games after all; entertainments; diversions. They aren't really that important.

Let ties stand. If it buggers your standings or your ratings, or especially if it buggers your demand that someone must win and someone else lose, I don't think you're particularly sportsmanlike at all.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The blue green ceramic tiger bank

It's about a foot long, 5 inches high and 3 inches deep. The plug is so dry rotted that I hate to remove it. The entire thing is painted blue-green rather than orange with black stripes, so that the stripes don't stand out. Its eyelids are gray, Lord knows why. It holds a red flower in its tail. I've had it for 50 years now. It's a ceramic tiger bank and I have no idea why it caught my seven year old eyes back in 1967.

There was a sale of some kind going on at old St. Dominic's Grade School. Everything available was on display inside a glass case outside the principal's office. I saw that tiger bank and I wanted it. It was two dollars and seventy five cents, a fortune to a little kid back then. For whatever reason, Mom was kind enough to give me the money for it.

It sat on her knick-knack shelf in the living room for years, but I used it as intended. I put my change in it, taking some out from time to time, oh, I don't know, when the ice cream truck was near or something. Soon after I got married it came down the street to my new house. It sat on a bookshelf next to my bed ever since and I'd kind of forgotten about it.

Until this morning. It caught my eye for the first time in ages, and it struck me how long I'd had it. I brought it down, brushed it off, and sat it next to the computer for blog inspiration; he's going right back upstairs when I'm done. I'm not ashamed to admit I have a tear in my eye as I hammer this out.

I guess this is my way of telling my kids, although I hope that they are hoping along with me that that day is a long way off yet, that one of them better take the stupid ceramic tiger bank for safekeeping. Someone needs to protect their Nana's investment.

If it's any extra incentive, there are still a few coins rattling around in it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Discount prices?

Why? Why do new guys, guys I've never seen before, think they can work me down on price?

Can you do that at Meijer? Can you do it at Home Depot or Kroger, or your neighborhood hardware store? Would you expect that, when told your tab was $220 at any of those places, they'd just round it down to $200 for you? You wouldn't even ask, would you?

Then why do you feel like you can ask me?

Yes, I'm in sales. Yes, I've admitted here that I don't mind a bit of negotiation, if there's volume. But for anybody to believe that a $220 dollar sale calls for me just giving you 11% or thereabouts off, what planet are you from?

Okay, I have a chip on my shoulder right this minute. Can you imagine why?

Monday, July 10, 2017

The last shot

He always bought every shot. Every beer.

Uncle Frank. My Uncle Frank. To his family, to my children, he was Oggie, or Oggs, for whatever reason. To me, Uncle Frank.

He retired to da UP, to Hessel, in the Les Cheneaux Islands. We visited there often. We still do.

We drank a few beers together, mostly Old Milwaukee. We had a few shots, mostly the house whiskey.

He always bought.

One day, back in 1996, in July as we visited, he asked me to help him take the trash to the dump. I did so. He asked me afterwards if I might like a shot and a beer. I said yes, I might like that.

We made a side trip to his haunt. We had a shot and a beer. They seemed that day to last a long while that day. We talked a while, as though we had known each other a lifetime.

Our drinks were almost spent. He asked if I might like another, and I said yes, I would. He ordered. I said, Oggs, you always pay. Let me pay for these.

He stared at me for a very long moment. Then he just said, okay. I paid. We clinked shot glasses and downed our shots. We sipped at our beers. For another hour we talked just like old friends. I drove him home.

He passed away that night. I had bought him his last shot and beer. I am proud to have done so.