Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Joe's hat

He was brought up in a time where men wore hats, even to work, even in less respected occupations. Why, me old curling hat, a Dickees hat I bought only because it reminded me of me old Grandpa Joe's work hat, the hat I wear adorned with curling pins, the hat I bought at Pickford Dry Goods in Pickford, Michigan, is what he wore to work.

Of course, his last work hat was different. It was an abomination of pressed, woven flat plastic, weaved to look impressive. It was what I chose to keep, along with his Rosary, when me Aunt, lookin' over his property, allowed us grandchildren a choice of. She allowed me to keep them both.

To my shame, I cannot find his Rosary, the one adorned with his name from the Rosary Shrine of St. Jude here in Detroit, Michigan. But I have his hat. I wear it just now.

It is dirty, oily, and fits a little tight. And I wear it because, well, I wear it. I think maybe I'll ask to be buried with it. You know, so I can offer it back to Joe when the time comes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The doctors pass the test

Now me Grandpa Joe had this friend, I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, who suffered from pancreatitis most of his life. I don't know how he dealt with it but he did. I'm not sure all that much could have been done for the man sixty years ago anyway.

Cloyce lived in Detroit for most of his life, but moved to another state, I believe Minnesota for what that's worth, at some point. And there he began feeling the symptoms of his disease quite acutely. He developed pain in his abdomen, and nausea. It became strong enough that he went to the hospital, where the doctors began performing a series of tests.

One after another they came back negative, confounding the doctors. A few days passed and the medicos still couldn't figure out the problem. On about the fifth day, a doctor came into Cloyce's room and said somberly, "Cloyce, I'm afraid you've got pancreatitis."

"Yeah, I know that," Cloyce responded.

Incredulous, the physician dropped his clipboard on the bed. He asked, more demanded, "Why didn't you tell us?"

Cloyce explained simply, "I wanted to see if you knew what you were doing."

Good old Cloyce.

Monday, December 10, 2018


I am increasingly of the opinion that we overdo Christmas. The secular world, in its drive for getting more and more things and keeping the economy afloat (as though buying trivial fluff is an obligation) has, no doubt in my mind, hijacked Christmas. But even among Christians, I believe we've become too much into the process and not nearly enough into the real point of the Holiday.

That real point is the birth of Christ. Cards and gifts are fine, but they kind of miss that point. I mean, shouldn't we be giving gifts and keeping in touch with family and friends all the time? If we're only doing that around Christmas then the whole thing strikes me as, well, shallow, even desperate. Christmas slowly becomes a backdrop; I believe that the most honest reason the Charlie Brown Christmas special had become so classic is that it puts the Nativity front and center and, properly, makes the froth the unimportant background.

I don't intend this to knock gift giving and celebration. What brings this on is an article I read this morning. You may find it here:

If we do things without meaning, then the doing, of course, becomes meaningless. I fear we are headed that way with Christmas, and I wonder if it might be better if the secular world did not celebrate it at all than to celebrate it shallowly. Christians should not either.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The train wreck at the altar

You think I'm going to write about someone's wedding, don't you? Well, the joke's on you. Sure, we all know marriages which have been disasters waiting to happen. But this is something completely different.

Yesterday I went to Mass at St. Hedwig, where I graduated from high school over 40 years ago now. It reminded me of a band concert from way back then.

I was in the high school band, playing tuba. Yes, it was surely the best use of Marty's blowhard ability ever, if the least inspired. We would have our Christmas concerts in the Church. The altar would be moved aside, and risers put in place for the choir. The band would be arranged below the choir, closer to the altar rail. Carols and hymns would be sung and played. Those concerts were always great fun.

Anyway, one year we set up for the concert. At seven that night we began. All went well for the first four five numbers; we sounded quite good, I thought. I played almost exclusively background as tubas do. I had the melody part for all of two measures in my entire high school band career, and I nailed it. But more on that, perhaps, later.

Anyway again, it was on about the sixth tune that we lost it. Mister Bacharowski, our band director, Mr. B as we were allowed to call him, tapped the dias. One, two, three, he mouthed, in the timing he wanted. Yet before he could raise his baton for us to start, someone jumped the gun. I don't know who, but it happened.

An instrument began playing, followed by his section. Then the choir began, and the winds, then the brass, and pretty soon there was the oddest cacophony of noise ever heard from a Church altar. Every voice, every instrument was rising, fading, and dying, the sounds mixing into themselves like a torrent of ill wind followed by quiet confusion. And then repeated. Every person and instrument sought something which would bring order to the mess. Everyone stole glances at everyone else, seeking some hint as what to do. Let me tell you, you cannot make order out of such chaos. It was an awful din. It wasn't even as organized as an orchestra warming up before a performance. You could at least glimpse a hint of real tunes, real organization in that.

Mr. B finally gave up, tapped for us to stop, turned and made some quip to the assembly, and returned to his minions. His raised eyebrow said to forget what just happened and move on. So we did, and finished the concert in proper style.

The song we botched by the way was Do You Hear What I Hear? There is a certain irony in that, don't you think?

Friday, December 7, 2018

Donut anxiety

For a few years I taught college prep test classes. In an attempt to make students feel more comfortable and, hopefully, more open to learning, we allowed food and snacks in our classrooms. So I thought little initially when a young woman brought coffee and a donut into class one day. She set down her coffee, put the donut on a napkin, and, with the rest of the students, dutifully opened a textbook to the page I had indicated.

I began to expound about English grammar. She listened quietly and wrote a couple of notes as I went along. After a minute of two she took a pinch, literally a pinch, hardly enough to call a crumb, off of her donut and ate it. I thought quietly to myself, and very calmly, 'Take a bite of the donut'.

I continued with my lecture. Before long the young lady had another infinitesimal bit of her donut, then a tiny, bare, meager sip at her coffee. 'Eat the donut,' I said to myself, a little more encouragingly.

Rules of the comma were the rule of the day, so I pressed on. She took another vague nip of her pastry. 'Take a bite of the donut,' said Marty to himself, becoming perturbed at her manner of consumption.

After an explanation of comma rule three and a note about such, another pinch of donut. 'Take. A bite. Of your donut,' I thought emphatically. By then it looked as though a mouse had been nibbling at it rather than a human being eating it.

Comma rule five followed comma rule four. Pick, pick, pick at the donut. She wasn't eating the doughy ring so much as slow torturing it. That pastry was undergoing a horrible, painful death. My pulse raced; a drip of sweat formed on my forehead. My blood pressure rose volcanically. In my mind I was yelling, 'For the love of all that's good and holy in this world, take a bite out of that stupid donut!

The math instructor appeared in the doorway. We tagged teamed our classes and she had arrived to do a math review. I finished up, gave a homework assignment, and rose to go to the other room to talk about the comma there. As I made my exit I took a furtive glance over my shoulder. The young woman had just had another atom of her snack.

'Eat that donut,' the math teacher thought calmly. I could see it in her eyes.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The day so far

I had to go to Electric Eel, the company I sell for, early this morning. That's no big deal. I drive to Eel in the wee hours regularly. But late yesterday I was speaking to a customer in Urbana, Ohio, a scant 15 miles from Eel. He wanted me to stop by today but couldn't meet until 9. No problem; I can handle that.

So I went to bed last night thinking, okay, I don't have to leave at 1:30 in the morning like I typically do. I can leave about 3:30 and make my trip comfortably. So I set my alarm for 2:45. That would give me plenty of time to run through the shower and be out the door by half past three.

I was wide awake and staring at the clock by 1:15. I was awake before then, I'm not sure how long, but you know how that goes. Even though you haven't heard the alarm, even though you know you have tons of time, there's simply no way you can force yourself back to sleep, is there?

I was on my way well before 2:45. The alarm on my phone let me know that as I drove south along I-75.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Hangin' Marty

Jury duty is a drag. Yes, yes, yes, I know how important of a right trial by jury is, although I'm not that sure how many of the people I sat with in the jury room yesterday I would want on a panel where I was in the dock. But so it goes...

The coffee was free but weaker than a skip's sweeping. The magazines were about what you'd find in a doctor's office: I read a Golf Digest article about whether Rory McIlroy would win the 2014. And as if jury service wasn't tedious enough, the movie they had us watch was Maid in Manhattan. I tried to doze, but that's difficult in a room with the least comfortable chairs imaginable. It was a long six (or so) hours.

Still, they paid us cash as we left, so that's something. We were given vouchers as we left the jury room, presented them to a cashier down the hall, and got forty bucks cash money on the spot. I never imagined that. Sure, that forty is already long gone. But at least I didn't have to wait eight weeks for it. And I didn't have to hang anybody for it either.