Friday, March 31, 2017

The Wrath of God or the acts of men?

Okay, here I go, trying to make a sensitive blog on a sensitive question. But such concerns have never stopped me before.

I've heard many times when something bad happens that it is God's punishment. I have similarly heard that God doesn't work that way. So what's fella to think? Does God punish or doesn't He? And the short answer is: He might, we just don't know if or when. And I think it's nonproductive to fret too much over that point.

Still, I think a better way to phrase the issue is, does God allow bad things to happen? Yet even then I'm not sure that allow is the correct term any more than I would automatically say that he causes them to happen. My point is. Sometimes things just happen, things which may be interpreted as punishment. And in fact, the corollary is also often true: sometimes good things just happen. It's interesting though that when good things happen folks aren't so quick to question the motives of the Almighty.

Be that as it may, the bottom line is that God wills what He wills, and we simply don't know when, where, and how He does that. Many if not most actions are simply the result of human free will, and nothing more. So how about we concede that we don't really know God's intent, but we do know our own, and work from there?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Romeo in March?

Yesterday morning as I drove out the Van Dyke Freeway north of Detroit I found myself in familiar territory. So familiar in fact that as I neared the exit for Romeo, Michigan, my brain sent out the command, "Turn on you left turn signal". I ignored it.

About a quarter mile further along the road my brain again said, just a bit more insistently, "Turn on your turn signal". I kept moving.

Soon I was perilously near the exit. My brain enunciated very clearly, "Turn. On. Your. Left. Signal."

I drove past the Romeo exit. "You missed your turn!" my brain exclaimed.

No I didn't, Marty's brain. I wasn't going to Romeo. I was going to Imlay City about 25 miles beyond there to deliver two drain snakes and a cable. What gave my brain conniptions was that I am seldom that far north on the Van Dyke Freeway unless I'm going to the orchards around Romeo. For coming up on 40 years now, you understand, my family and I have went to Romeo in the fall for apples and pumpkins. My brain expected I was going there.

Why does it seem odd to be in familiar places at the wrong time? It did indeed feel weird to be near Romeo and not buying apples. In fact it felt odd to be there without the fall colors, seeing pumpkins all over the fields, and without taking the time to feed the goats behind what has become a regular stop when in the area, a neat little store called Frontier Town (whom I don't mind at all giving a plug; you should go there). It really seemed as though I should not have been near Romeo at all.

I suppose there's a psychological explanation for it. Ah well; explanations or not, I did have to stop at Frontier Town on the way back home to take in the aroma of its coffee, buy a couple pounds of it, and spend a few minutes trading tales with the proprietor. My brain felt better for it too.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Achy breaky everything

I'm getting old and achy.

I'll miss this curling season when it ends in April. But I'm ready for it to end.

It hasn't been a bad season. We've won our share of games and a couple of bonspiels, and I really like playing the at Tier 55 level. The competition is still good, and you see the same guys often enough that even more and farther flung curling friendships grow. Curling is perhaps the best participation sport out there. You can play it for a long time too; I think the closest comparison to that is golf, and I'm getting that bug as well.

But today my right hip hurts; in fact, it burns a little. My left knee isn't liking me very much this morning either, almost like I've overextended it. If that keeps up I'll have to consider a brace of some sort for next season, or wear one of those baseball catcher's wedges to give it more support. One of the guys has been doing that this year and says it helps.

My right shoulder has been stinging so badly that the last couple of months it often wakes me up at night. I'm sure the sweeping motion from curling isn't helping. And all of this is before recurring lower back pain.

I'd say don't get old but there just aren't many other options to aging. So stay active, get exercise, and keep going. Keep the aspirin and the Tylenol handy while you're at it as well.

Monday, March 27, 2017

I love baseball

I love baseball.

I love baseball because of the crack of the bat, the smell of boiled hot dogs, and the crunch of stale, salted peanuts consumed while watching a game.

I love baseball because of the Bird on the mound, Al Kaline in right, Ernie and Paul on the radio, and Willie Horton throwing a strike to Bill Freehan as he blocked the plate, causing the Cardinals to lose momentum and the Tigers to win a World Series.

I love baseball because it is the perfect game. Everyone, except the pitchers in the American league and too much of the organized game (and that is a true travesty), plays both ways, offense and defense. It ain't chess: it's more than chess. It's inspiration.

I love baseball because me Pops came out on a sweltering summer morning in North Carolina as we visited Mother's relatives one August, when no one else was up and about, even though it was already Noon, and I was tossing a ball up in the air and catching it, and he played catch with me. We threw the ball back and forth for hours, hours, until the sweat burned in my eyes, and I wasn't about to stop, because I was having a catch with my old man and I didn't want that moment to end.

I love baseball. It is the game.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sentimentality

The little blond boy waving from the living room window as I walked back to the Shop. The redhead who wanted to play 'guys' (role play with his action figures) at lunch. The preteen who played softball because her dad liked bat and ball games. I miss them.

Maybe I am more sentimental than I care to think.

For years I thought it was all behind me. I thought I was beyond sentimental. Then days come when I find out they're still here.

I watch movies about vampires, with Rifftrax commentary (and only because of that) with one. I go to venerable Major League ballparks with the next. I eat marvelous soups designed on the fly by the third.

And it's all good.

So you may as well be sentimental about it. Because it's all good.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Politically Incorrect

Indian American names. Irish American memes. Politically Correct assertions. What. The. Hell.

Give me a minute to process this.

Okay, I'm done.

To quote someone familiar to geeks everywhere: Get a life, will ya?

Get a thicker skin, please. Everything you hear is not an affront to you, okay?

Just. Sayin.

A bad pun

For about 45 years, my grandfather rented welding equipment. This included arc welders which had either 4 or 6 cylinder gasoline engines hooked onto generators to create the heat needed for making a weld. They were portable; they could be towed behind a car or truck from job to job on tires similar to what you find on cars and small trucks. You've probably seen them and mistaken them for air compressors.

One day my Uncle John was towing one of them back to grandpa's shop. He had just noticed a vibration when his pickup ground to a halt. A wheel bearing had gone bad and a tire came off the axle of the welder. This made the machine drop to one side and act as an anchor, which stopped the truck quickly and suddenly. Uncle John looked in the rear view mirror, helplessly watching the disconnected tire bounce across 4 lanes of traffic until it slammed against a parked car, severely damaging it. He knew he would have to go find the owner and do what he could to get the guy's car fixed.

About then the owner ran from his house waving his arms and vigorously exercising his vocal cords, obviously and understandably upset at the incident. But all my Uncle could think was, "You picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel."

Good, huh?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Assuring when assurance doesn't help

"One thing about my checks. They're always good."

That might be the worst sentence I hear in sales. And it was spoken to me a few minutes ago as I was given a significant check.

Maybe I'm just paranoid. I have no actual reason to suspect the check is not good. The man who gave it to me has been a customer for around 10 years. Yet before today he always paid cash (which is certainly nice) or with a credit card (which of course I could run immediately). Then this morning he gives me his first check, and his reassurance was not reassuring.

It seems as though every time myself or Pops before me heard those or similar words we'd have trouble with the check which was always good. Oh, I'm sure not every time. But admit it, when a body has to make it a point to tell you their check is good it actually makes it suspect. I had already agreed, on my admittedly unspoken word, that I trust his check. After that point, why must he assure me it's good? He even went to the point of showing me that his address was on the check. O-kay. Why would I not expect that?

I am sure the check good. But I ran it down to the bank right away just the same.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cloyce's classy dame

A friend of Grandpa Joe's, I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, wanted Joe to meet his new girlfriend. Joe had little interest in that; Cloyce was notoriously poor when picking out the ladies. "Nah. I ain't interested in none of your cattle," Grandpa said.

"Ah, come on, Joe. This one's a real classy dame," Cloyce insisted. So Grandpa went along with him. I suppose his curiosity had been piqued.

Joe became concerned as Cloyce drove into the wharf section of the town they were working in, parking in front of a seedy bar along the loading docks. "Why are we here?" Joe asked.

"She works here."

"Aw Hell", remarked my grandfather in one of his best Aw Hell tones. An incredulous Aw Hell I would imagine.

They went in and seated themselves at the bar, with Cloyce's classy dame as their server. After a bit of chitchat the woman nonchalantly reached under the bar and pulled out a pair of pliers. She latched onto one of her molars and began working the tooth back and forth, back and forth, until she triumphantly yanked it from her jaw. Tossing the tooth into a nearby wastebasket and spitting blood into an ashtray she said, "That one won't give no more trouble."

"She sure is a classy dame, Cloyce", Joe said, as he made for the door.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chuck Berry

I first met Chuck Berry in 1972. Uncle Mike had brought a copy of My Ding-a-Ling into the old barn for Pops to hear, because he thought Pops, his older brother, would think it funny (and because Grandpa Joe was gone). It offered an interesting juxtaposition from their fifties world. But I didn't at the time think it funny on its own terms. I thought it was funny because the adults were laughing at it. It was my first incursion into the adult world.

It was funny. Is funny. Yet it's sad that that was my first memory of Chuck Berry.

Later I bought a single, from the oldies rack at Kresge's, of Maybelline. Later still I found the indescribably fantastic Johnny B. Good. That is a rock anthem. I had truly found Chuck Berry.

It's sad that a novelty song was his first number one hit, because he deserved better. Yet it's also better late than never to be discovered, and so it was for me and Chuck Berry. He loved his music, loved to play his guitar, and always has fun with it, if You Tube is to be believed. And I believe it is.

Rest in peace, Chuck Berry. You are a Rock God.

Let the readers decide

As is usual during the Roseland St. Patrick's Day bonspiel yesterday, there was a limerick contest. This year's was won as in many years past by yours truly. Yet the great Irish limerick writer took some flack for his entry this time around, even though it was declared the best. I'll reprint it here and let you, the readers, judge its worthiness for first place. Before offering it though I want to say that Nick Keren is a great curler, a fine human being, and a true brother to me. He approves of this jest, emphatically. He will attest to that, and that testament and willingness to be the butt of a joke tells us he is a good guy. But we should never allow positive personal attributes to get in the way of a good joke, should we?

Anyway, here it is: the winning limerick from this weekend's contest:

Our third was a curler named Nick

Whose curling delivery was slick

Yet his sweeping was poor

And his team would get sore

And yell out that 'Nick Keren's a jerk!'

There you have it. Now tell me what you think. But if you disagree you're also a...jerk.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Grandpa Joe's electric bill

As I sat drinking coffee at the dining room table here awhile back, my wife entered with the mail. Stopping at one letter she asked incredulously, "Why is our electric bill in your grandfather's name?"

"Because it's not our bill. It's his bill," I explained. You see, the old barn which I now have was originally Grandpa Joe's. When he passed in 1991 Pops had the billing address changed to his house but kept his father's name on it. I presume it was so that he would know which bill it was; makes sense to me.

When Pops went home in 2013 that old barn became mine. And though I changed the electric bill to my address I kept it in Joe's name. Yes, so I knew which bill was his, but also because I like the continuity. It feels to me that some part of Joe is still here where I get a regular piece of mail with his name on it.

Maybe Pops felt that way too.

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day 2017

Ah, the Irish. There's so much of them in every one of us. That's not really surprising seeing as there are so many more Irish outside of Ireland than still living on the old sod. And when you have St. Patrick's Day celebrations in such diverse places as exemplified by Buenos Aries, Argentina, you know that the Irish mystique pervades world culture.

Why is that? Might it be that the soul of the average Irish personality resides in most all of humanity?

An easy examination of Irish culture gives many examples of Irish fortitude, courage, allegiance, patriotism, and an appreciation of simple yet profound human relationships. Who does not, if they have any sentiment at all in their bones, shed a tear when hearing O Danny Boy? Whoever will not feel their chests swell with nationalistic pride when hearing God save Ireland are indeed cold towards patriotism and their homelands and their brethren. Even sublime romanticism exists, heard through tunes like Black Velvet Band.

The more rambunctious bar songs of Irish lore appeal to the common thread of humanity. Have you heard The Wild Rover? A loser comes into his fortune and wins respect; redemption and respect indeed, as dreamed of by so many. Do not we all dream of that, to show everyone else that we've triumphed after all despite our flaws? How can we not believe in ourselves when listening to those happy tunes?

Acceptable extremes appear quite obvious in Irish lore. But do they not appear prominently in all human thoughts? The drunkard who believes God will forgive him if he makes Mass and does the occasional earthly good deed as did Darby O'Gill; will he not be forgiven by his faith in the simple acts which are the primary hope of redemption within the means of the most persons? The music was his, after all, wasn't it? Why? Because he did what he was asked to do within a legitimate frame.

The Irish are fightin', the Irish are sad and humbled; the Irish have been under the boots of their oppressors for centuries. Yet they hold true to what is true about who and what they are and about what defines them: their God. They recognize it even in their shortcomings. Their Irish guilt won't let them admit it, and rightly so.

Yet humanity requires that sort of odd pride, doesn't it? Perhaps it requires that profound and almost humble comment of the rebel Irish soldier to the union Irish soldier near him at Appomattox, when Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant in April 1865. The Confederate leaned into the Unionist and remarked, "You only won because you had more Irish than we did".

Ah, the Irish. They can teach us something, can't they?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Christmas from Grandpa Joe

I'm actually way ahead of the Christmas curve this year. I have three of my gifts at the ready. Each of my kids will be getting a roll of black electrical tape.

Of course, there's a story behind that.

Back in the Seventies, Grandpa Joe found a deal on electrical tape. He took advantage of a very good price, something like a nickel a roll as I recall, and bought (I am not making this up) 6,000 rolls. That's a lot of electrical tape. The marked price on the rolls was 79 cents apiece by the way, so it was indeed a fantastic price.

To be fair and right by Joe, it wasn't really a bad idea. He rented arc welders, which meant he had miles of inch thick, rubber insulated welding cable which required maintenance and repair. I worked for him at the time, and believe me taping the cables where they were worn, cut, or spliced was an ongoing chore. Still, 6,000 rolls seemed an insane amount in 1975.

The welding rental part of our family business has long since ended. We used many rolls of that tape, sold some along the way to our plumbing customers, gave some away, took some home, and still use what's left for the occasional power cord repair on the drain snakes we now sell and service. After a solid forty year run, we are down to our last nine rolls.

And I am giving my kids one roll each this Christmas as one last gift from their great grandfather. I think Joe's getting a big kick out the idea too.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The advantage of the curmudgeon

I have said before that I want to be a curmudgeon. You may wonder why someone so lovable as myself might actually wish to become such a person.

Go ahead. Ask. I'm waiting, so long as a curmudgeon may deign to ask.

Deign. What a delightfully curmudgeonly word when said snidely. I deign to ask that. I deign thou to deny me my right to ask that.

You do not. Ask, that it is. Nor deny me my right to respond. I shall answer anyway. I shall deign (ha, ha, ha) to answer your unasked address.

It is because I am increasingly aged. That, by itself, allows me to ask questions ordinarily dismissed as impertinent. I am increasingly older. Therefore, I am increasingly curmudgeonly. All will love me and despair!

You see, curmudgeons are loved because they are curmudgeons. They are too old to be held accountable, let alone responsible. They ask all the questions no one else will ask because they will not be seen as impertinent. Old curmudgeons are always seen as cute. You. Lose.

That's why I want to be a curmudgeon. I'm ahead of the curve.

Monday, March 13, 2017

We know not what

C. S. Lewis speaks of something which, in German, is called Sehnsucht. He translates that as the inconsolable longing. It is a wish, says Wikipedia, for we know not what. But we know not what, don't we? And it hurts very deeply, doesn't it?

We want what we cannot on this earth have. We want to be free and brave and bold and happy. We want peace and love; we want there to be no hunger or strife in the world. We want to be with our friends and families always, doing only the good things, the things which will make us truly happy. Simply, we want all the things not fully available in this world.

Lewis takes that a step farther. He argues, quite sensibly, one should think, that we would not have such a feeling if it were not possible that such a feeling could not somehow, someday, be assuaged. We live and love today, in this world, under these circumstances; but it is all so incomplete. Yet we hope there is more. But more than hope; in our hearts, we know there is more.

That is why we so often feel sad even with good things in good times. We're wistful. We have the knowledge that things ought to be better. We know that there has to be a somewhere where things are as they should be. We sense it; we feel it; we are, by a very taut cord, spiritually attached to it. It is there. It has Being.

And we are nonetheless detached from it as long as we live on this world. Therein lies the pain, the yearning; the inconsolable longing. We know that it is possible, indeed, we know that it is likely (if we know anything at all) and true. We know that things are not as they should be. We know that someday it will all be put to right.

If we wish it only because we need a sense of the ideal in order to make it day to day this world, and nothing more, then our actions are vain. Only if things will be as they should be in the end can any of our hopes and dreams and fancies of this world have meaning. Pretending is merely a child's game, a fool's errand. Only if we trust that that something better, that more perfect reality, exists, will our labors and sentiments be of value.

The inconsolable longing. It hurts. Hopefully you have it and hurt as well.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Cloyce's expensive steak

A friend of Dad's, I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, had decided that he wanted steak for dinner. So he went to the grocery store and bought steak, at the then whopping sum of $5 (it was in the early 1950s). But on the way home he decided, in Pops's words, to stop for a tall, cold one. Cloyce left the steak on the front seat of his car.

When he came out of the bar, the steak was gone. As I said this was early 50s, so folks rarely locked their car doors. Well, Cloyce was upset. But still, he really wanted steak, so he went back to the store and bought another even at the cost. He was that determined to have steak.

A few minutes later he walked triumphantly into his house. "Guess what we're having for dinner?" Cloyce called to his wife.

"Steak," came the reply from the kitchen. It turns out Mrs. Cloyce had been walking by the bar while Cloyce was having his cold one, saw the steak, knew it would go bad quickly on the hot day it was and just took it home. But she neglected to look for Cloyce, knowing that he was not necessarily in the bar as in the old neighborhood there were various stores all over and he really could have been anywhere. She just wanted to get the steak home and start cooking it.

So Cloyce had steak two days in a row. Pops said that it was considered a win-win.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Winter Wonderland?

Strange weather, eh? Two weeks ago it was in the 60s here in the D and now it's 19. It's supposed to be colder mid-week too.

I think the worst thing about it, and I'll readily confess that for me this is a first world problem seeing as a lot of my fellow Michiganians were and are still without power (a misfortune we have avoided, and best of luck to you all to get power back soon) is that it makes the earlier warmth seem such a tease. In February I was walking to a trade show in Indianapolis in my shirt sleeves. I'm wearing an insulated shirt as I pound out this blog entry. And again, I'm in good shape. I have heat. Still, to get a nice taste of spring warmth and have it taken back is a shock.

Pity the poor folks on the east coast too. Yeah, it's difficult to pity them, but have a heart. They just braved one severe storm and now a nor'easter is streaking their way, due to hit Monday. It's supposed to be a bad one too. At least Detroit is missing out on that.

All I can do now is think baseball. It's coming up very soon and should bring the return of regular warmth when it does. Until then, may your power return quickly and your toes stay warm.

Friday, March 10, 2017

It's funny now but wasn't at the time

A few years ago we had a serious health issue with mom. She was suffering fainting spells and eventually ended up with a pacemaker, but is doing well now. That allows me to view the incident with a bit more humor today, because, as with much of life, there is humor even in distress. Especially when the distress has passed.

While at work one day my phone rings, and I saw it was mom. I knew it because our phones tell us everything today, so as I took it out of my pocket the words 'incoming call Mom' stared back at me. "Hi Mom, what's up?"

I didn't like the uncertainty immediately obvious in her voice. "Do you have my doctor's phone number?"

"Yeah, somewhere, why?"

"Well, I blacked out and fell and hit my head..." I interrupted her to say, "I'm closing, ma, and I'm taking take you to Emergency."

"I'd rather you call the doctor to see what he says."

I replied tensely, "He's gonna say take you to Emergency."

"I'd feel better if you'd call him." So, not to make her any more upset, I said I would and then call her right back. The doctor, of course, though very nice about it, made it quite clear that I should not be speaking to him but rushing her to the hospital instead. I called her and said I would be at her house right away.

As I had a key, I let myself in. Mother was not to be found, until I noticed her bathroom door shut. I knocked frantically and said, "I'm here, ma, let's go."

"In a minute. I'm brushing my hair and fixing my lipstick."

"We're going to Emergency, not a wedding reception." I barked in dismay. "They're not going to say, 'oh, don't treat Mrs. Cosgriff, her hair's mussed' Let's go!"

"I'll only be a minute." she responded with the finality of tone that told me I would be waiting until she was good and ready to go. Being a North Carolina girl, she would not be pushed, and I knew not to push back when she became that way. It would only make things worse, cause them southern gals, when their dander's up, they's fractious.

So we get to the hospital, they take her in right away, and we begin to sit and wait. She was lying on a gurney as I sat next to her. After a while she opined, "Well, I hope they find something, but I've lived a good life, no matter what."

I said nervously, having been thinking about the never never myself all along and not wanting to, "Let's not talk like that, ma, let's see what the doctors say."

About half incensed she asked, "What, don't you think I've had a good life?"

"No one says you haven't, ma, but let's not think about that just yet."

"Well, I've lived a good life anyway." There's that finality again, so I clammed up. But I really didn't care for it that second.

An hour or so later as I was standing next to her she said, stating more than asking, "It don't look right, does it, you seeing your mother lying in a hospital bed with all these wires and needles."

"No, momma, it don't." I whispered. I couldn't help but remember barely a year before, watching my dad as he lay dying in that same hospital. She was right on the money. It didn't look right at all.

"But I've had a good life." she said again. Aw, c'mon, ma, didn't we just go through this? I felt the exasperation of Ray Romano.

So a few weeks and several tests pass, and the doctors became sure she needed a pacemaker. It was obvious that even Mom was now quite sure that her good life had an indefinite time left and that she needed to get about living it. I sat with her on that Wednesday morning, waiting for the procedure. She fretted, "I wish they'd hurry up and do it. I have to weed my garden.", getting fractious. "And I'm hungry. But you know they won't feed me until after they're done."

Several starts and stops later (you know how hurry up and wait hospitals can be), and after not too little worrying about all the things she had to do, they put in the pacemaker. After she left for the OR, the next time I saw her was back in her room, all rosy cheeked after a month of appearing grayish and wan. She was eating and complaining, "They better let me go soon. I've got to get to work on my garden, and you know the house needs cleaning."

As my siblings were by then with her, I slipped out to find her doctor. I advised him to release her soon for his own good, because them southern gals, they's fractious.

Mistrusting Authority

There's an excuse for everything. Everything except government and authority, it seems. We're not big fans of government, especially big government. But we don't mind legitimate authority. Indeed, that's part of what makes us conservative. We recognize that the individual, while usually the the arbiter of what's best for himself, isn't the final arbiter of what's best even for himself. We believe this for a stunningly simple reason: if he were, then he would have the right to punch in the face someone who kept him from what he wanted for whatever reason he wanted. Indeed, he would have the right to punch someone in the face for the sheer pleasure of it. He doesn't, of course. But that's because, if he is well grounded, he recognizes that he is not the ultimate authority on anything. He realizes that there is something beyond himself which he must honor and obey if he is to get along with his fellow man and become a better person. He knows that he is not the end all be all. As such, he will not hold suspect governments and authorities merely because they're governments and authorities. He will realize too that governments and authorities are made up of guys like him and will give them a certain allowance

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Frank speaks sign language

Frank never was loud about himself. He was the middle child after all, the second son, the second grandchild and in fact the second great-grandchild on the paternal side of his family line. They tend to be quiet. Yet that doesn't mean they didn't stand out on their own talents. Grandpa Joe recognized early on that Frank spoke sign language. Indeed, he respected that fact.

There was always this clear glass cookie jar in Grandma and Grandpa Cosgriff's kitchen, on the second tier of a triple shelf by the back door. It was about eye level for a toddler, someone about three years old, right where he could spy the crunchy, sweet delights beckoning beyond that clear exterior and metal cover. One with a red wooden knob. One always filled with oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, or cocoanut windmill cookies.

Frank never, ever, took a cookie without permission. Grandpa Joe, Great Grandpa Joe to him, always sat in his fancy carved wooden dining room chair by the kitchen table, aligned perpendicular with the back door but pushed right up against that kitchen table, guarded the cookie jar. Frank would toddle behind him, stumble towards the back door, the heavy wood inside door closed during the winter but opened to the latched screen in the summer, and would stop, season notwithstanding, to the side of the cookie jar, and wait.

Joe would give it a moment, knowing Frank was there. Then he'd take a draw on his cigarette, and glance towards the door. Frank would look him in the eye, raise a finger on his left hand, and point at the lid of the cookie jar. Joe would draw another puff on his smoke, then he'd nod slightly. Only then would Frank open the lid on the cookie jar, take a cookie, and toddle away munching on it.

Joe would laugh. "Frank speaks sign language", he'd say.

They understood each other, them adversaries, 82 years and generations apart.

Grandpa Joe and the broken glass

Grandpa Joe said a lot of things over the years. Some comments were offhand, some in anger, and some actually humorous. Many of them were sage, to give him his due. I've remembered a few of his words on these pages. Some of the forgotten ones will at times become unforgotten. One such popped into my head a few minutes ago.

One of my kids once dropped a glass on his kitchen floor during a visit. Naturally it shattered into a zillion shards which required cleaning up, and careful steps for awhile. As I began to admonish the boy (it was one of my sons but I don't remember which) Joe simply remarked, "Well, I've never known one to wear out."

There's something to that attitude. I don't think he meant to not chastise the lad, or not encourage him to be more careful in the future. I think what he meant was to say what had to be said and then let it go. It was only a drinking glass. They don't wear out.

I think too he was probably only being a grandfather (all right, great grandfather in this case) who didn't want the kid to get into serious trouble over an accident. He was softer at that age than he had been when younger. Still, I've come to appreciate what he said that Sunday evening long ago. When something's relatively unimportant don't overreact. Perhaps we can all learn from that.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It's easy being green on my dime

Now, I'm really not against going green. Really. But sometimes I think that big business is simply using the idea as a tool, just to save their own green.

Have you noticed that virtually any company to whom you pay regular bills always wants you to go green by going paperless? But do they offer you a buck, even a quarter, off your bill if you do? They don't? Then I say, keep sending me paper bills, darn it. I'm not going to give millionaires, billionaires, something for nothing, solely because they're appealing to supposed popular sentiment.

In like fashion, hotels have begun asking guests, especially those staying more than a day, if they would like to go green by not requesting new sheets or clean towels every day. I've had cards on my pillow saying that I would help the environment if I made my own bed. But what's wrong with this picture? Will I get a few bucks off my room if I do all this and help Big Hotel Chain save money (I'm sorry, 'go green')? I won't? Then make my bed and give me clean towels. It's what I'm paying for. Or how about this: how about I bring all my own towels and linens, and a vacuum cleaner and cleaning supplies and toiletries, and take care of everything in the hotel room myself and then stay free (or for next to nothing). No? You won't allow that? Then all that talk about going green fails to impress me.

It's easy to do almost anything on someone else's dime. Further, there's nothing wrong with demanding a dime for yourself when you are asked to do someone else's job. You want me to make my own bed and reuse my old towels in a $100 a night hotel? Then knock ten bucks off my tab. Otherwise, you're just being smarmy. I don't appreciate that, especially done with my time on my dime.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Hearing what they want

And other things about customers...

They always round down. Always.

"How much is that part, Cosgriff?"

"Thirty-three dollars."

"Okay, thirty dollars." No, thirty three. And then remember there's sales tax, doofus.

Then there are the ones who believe inflation is almost a daily event with my prices. They ask things like, "How much is that part, Cosgriff?"

"Thirty-three dollars."

"Wow. They done gone up since last week." No, they haven't. That part has been $33 bucks since 2012. If you paid more than that last week, you bought it from someone but me.

Then there are ones who haven't bought a cable in a couple of decades. "How much is that cable, Cosgriff?"

"$49.30."

"What? Last time I paid $33 dollars!" I don't doubt you did: in 1989.

Ah, customers.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Marty's best curling shot. Ever. Or, just see black.

I know, I know. It's gauche to brag about yourself. True bad form. But I'm about to do it anyway. To be fair, though, I'm also bragging on the young man who made me believe that the best curling shot of my life was possible.

We were throwing yellow stones, and we were in trouble. With my throwing the last shot of the end a black stone was the shot, scoring, stone of the end. Jordan saw a tight port, a path between two stones, which we could shoot our stone through to knock the black one out and score ourselves. It was a tight port; neither of us were sure it was wide enough for another stone to fit through. Yet it seemed all we had. "Just see black," Jordan told me. He meant to simply ignore all else and concentrate on hitting the black rock.

Admittedly, I wasn't completely sold on it. But I went down the ice thinking it was all I had. When I turned to reexamine things, Jordan said again, "Just see black". Confidence came over me, and I thought, 'Yeah. Just see black.'

He put his broom down. I threw my rock. I hit the line, I threw the right weight. Brad, Jordan's dad, started sweeping it. Jordan yelled, "He's got it!" Brad kept sweeping. Jordan's voice jumped an octave. "He's got it!" He yelled again, shrilly.

Brad stopped sweeping.

We went through that port and hit black and scored. I doubt there was a thirty-second of an inch on either side of that rock. The gallery whooped and hollered, and some banged the glass which separated the curling ice from the viewing area. I whooped; Jordan let out a yell. Several observers came to me afterwards and told me it was one great curling shot. A television shot.

Jordan deserves the credit. He saw it, called it, believed in it. And that made me believe too.

Friday, March 3, 2017

No more Suess

Yesterday (I apologize for being a tad behind the curve) was the birthday of Theodor Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Suess. He wrote many childrens' books, a few aimed at adults, and did editorial cartooning during World War II. 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. But in fact 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. Suess just made up things which matched his rhyming scheme. "What would you do if you met a Jibboo?" or whatever that creature was, cannot really inspire anyone, even a kid. With no further extrapolation, it's just dumb.

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 morally 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 Mr. Geisel 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 worthwhile lessons.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Curlmageddon 2017

It's coming. In fact, it begins tonight. Marty is running headlong into Curlmageddon 2017.

I play 20 games, and maybe as many as 24, in the next 17 days. My regular Thursday league game is tonight, them I actually play in two bonspiels (for the uninitiated, a bonspiel is a curling tournament) tomorrow: two games at a tier 55 in Chatham, Ontario followed by the first game of the Wild Goose Bonspiel in Kingsville (also in Ontario). Saturday and Sunday take up the rest of the latter tournament.

I have league games Monday and Thursday next week, then I spare in a league March 10. The week after I play Monday and Thursday as usual, with a two game tier 55 on the 15th and another on the 17th. Then I play in a St. Patrick's bonspiel on Saturday the 18th, another two game set.

Once a season I load up on the curling for a brief spell, and it's nice to do it towards the end because I like to play extra games as the season nears its close. I'll still have three weeks after this stretch, and maybe seven if the Detroit Club extends its season as it is considering. But for this minute, as of 6:45 tonight, Curlmageddon 2017 is on.

I'll keep you posted on the results. Including the anticipated aches and pains which I have no doubt I will experience.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday 2017

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent for Christianity in general, and Catholics in particular. It is a time of penance, something we all need. We all need to atone for our failures, for our sins.

Humanity is fallen; the world around us is fallen. That's why people do wrong, and genes mutate into cancers and such. Nothing in our universe is perfect, but there is a difference between we humans and the lower animals and inanimate things nearby. We can choose. We can decide whether to do well or ill. It is what makes us special, and separates us from all else.

But surely these next few weeks aren't for Christians alone? It would seem that no matter what you believe, or whether you believe anything at all, you would still think it a good idea to improve yourself, or to do good things for those in need around you. Even if you cannot bring yourself to believe in something beyond humanity or beyond the universe itself, you can still make the effort to make yourself a better person and enrich the lives of those whom you come in contact with day in and day out. It's the one area where the seriously religious and the secularists can surely agree with each other, don't you think?

So try to become a better person this Lenten season. Smile, help people, discipline yourself in the positive habits of mind and body. You might be pleasantly surprised as the good habits formed become a part of you. The folks around you may be downright shocked. And we'll all be the better for it.