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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Super? Foods

The other Sunday, I was listening to the radio in my Jeep on the way to church. It was early, as we hold Worship Team practice (or in my case, Worship Team Comic Relief) 90 minutes before the service begins.  Being early on a Sunday morning, the variety of programming on the radio is somewhat limited.

A press of the button and one station brought forth the obligatory “Elderly Screeching Soprano” conspiring with a wheezy pipe organ to commit auditory homicide to a here-to-fore much loved hymn.

With a push of the button, my ears were treated to “Classic Polka Hits from 1948” being played on four accordions; none of which were in tune with the others.

My frustration rising a tad, I took a swig… I mean a sip… of my coffee and punched another button.  The nasal hog-calling voice of a country preacher filled my Jeep, nearly causing me to dump my coffee. I have not the faintest idea what he was carrying on about; I just knew I wasn't up for it.

Mashing another button and the hyper-excited tones of the discoverer of Hooka-Pooka rattled about my brain. Hooka-Pooka! The NEW Super Food! The intrepid discoverer disclosed how he and he alone, found this extremely rare, yet extremely powerful food while lost on an exotic island in the South of Lake Erie.

There, hours from the nearest winery, burger and beer joint, or t-shirt shop; the prospect of ever having frozen custard again fading fast, he stumbled upon it.

Tucked away in a crevice of a South-southeast facing ravine he spotted something unusual. It was not an empty carry-out container, it was not a token from an arcade…. It was the dim outline of the mythical Hooka-Pooka plant!

This plant was practically revered by the Original Inhabitants of this remote island. Old French fur-trapper’s journals tell of “la puka-d’ huka” being eaten and being “tres bon” in flavor. The accounts would go on to claim an increased “joie de la vie” and having “un coer de lion”. The first recorded use of the exclamation “Laissez la bon temps rouler!” in the New World was discovered in the midst of a lengthy, enthusiastic recounting of Hooka-Pooka.  Oh sure a few malcontents also recorded the next day they were “malade conne une chien”. Some even claimed to have heads “gros comme une maison”.

Somehow, the Hooka-Pooka had been lost. It had been assumed the Year Without a Summer of 1816 had caused the delicate, fragile plant to become extinct.

NOT SO, exclaimed the discoverer. Quickly he sold his house, car, liquidated his stocks and bonds, and borrowed himself up to his eye-balls in order to purchase the pristine half acre of real-estate which housed the ancient herb. Paying off some zoning board members, and a couple of building inspectors, he soon had a modern state of the art processing and packaging facility erected. Now, his mission (besides paying off loan-sharks) is to spread the Good News of Hooka-Pooka to the entire world!

For only $19.95, you can have 3/5s of an ounce of pure, high-grade Hooka-Pooka extract. Use it in beverages, drizzle it on your granola, enjoy its robust earthy flavor by itself. All it takes is less than one milli-liter of this wonder concentrate to potentially see immediate results such as long life, increased vitality, and never-ending Joy. Toss in great hair, no BO, and a Mensa qualifying IQ; well, who can possibly say “no thanks” to a deal like that?

Great.., another new Super Food, be still my beating heart.

For seemingly eons, the news of some hitherto unknown food source screams from radio, TV, e-mails, inter-net side bars… you name it.

Seeds which one provided a verdant green coiffure to comic sculptures are now the key to vitality. Dried seaweed now may extend longevity, plus lowering your LDL cholesterol. This particular fruit will give you the complexion of an 18 year old! Drink this, you will shed years! Take this pill regularly, and you will live to be 108, and only look 35 when you cash in your chips.

Then, it struck me…why are no super-foods ever found in your pantry? Why aren't there headlines shouting “Generic mac-n-cheese clears arteries!”? Why are all the super foods found in exclusive markets clear on the other side of the next county? Places like Joseph the Trader and Global Marketplace? Why is it I can’t just drop by the local convenient store and snag a pound of chia seeds?

Which set me to thinking; the entire purpose of these wonder workers is to minimize, if not reverse, the effects of aging. We all want the wisdom of a 50 year old, but housed in the body of a 20 year old. This is not a whit different than Ponce de Leon’s quest for the Fountain of Youth.

Which then begs the question; if one does not want to age; why consume things which left to their own devices, will mold and decay? What type of sense does that make?

That makes as much sense as travelling East in order to go West. As logical turning right because you really wanted to turn left. This is akin to putting on a CD of bagpipe and drum corps music to help lull you to sleep.

Again; what type of sense does that make? Let me tell you what kind: Nonsense!

If you desire preservation, with not the least sign of ever being affected by Time; there is only one choice, my youth coveting friend.

And that esteemed choice is (drum roll, please)…
.
The humble TWINKIE!

Wait a minute. Don’t scoff. Don’t shut me out as a crack-pot.

When, I ask you, was the last time (or the first, for that matter), you've seen a spoiled Twinkie?
I rest my case.

Ages from now, archaeologists will pick through the ruins of our lost civilization. There amongst umpteen bazillion batteries of all sizes and types, various remote controls, discarded “electronic devices” and in-numerable articles about Oprah Winfrey will be perfectly preserved, golden colored, rather oddly shaped items of yet to be determined matter.

A museum display (virtual, of course) will state: “Supported upon a semi-rigid platform, the matching objects are lovingly protected by a clear plastic like film. This, in turn, is adorned with examples of a long extinct written language. Scholars have concluded these objects were highly venerated, as they are found in all cultures in all parts of the Earth. Earliest examples of these objects have been dated to c. 1930. Debate continues as to whether “Twinkies” is a singular term, or plural.  Most interesting, no one has yet to determine a purpose for “Twinkies” ( or “Twinki”). There is consensus, however, they would not have been intended as a food source.”

There, next to the Twinkies, would be a bag of potato chips. The plaque would read, in part; “Interestingly, these arbitrarily shaped flakes of matter share one thing with “Twinkies”: BHA”

Ethicists in the far distant future will debate “What was BHA and its impact upon ancient Earthlings?”
The central questions would be

--BHA; was it a form of religion?
--If BHA preserved things “for freshness”, Who or What was “Freshness”? What was the purpose for such preservation?
--Was BHA a substance so potent that it was used for specific, unique substances?
And The Biggie:
--IF BHA halted all signs of degradation, why didn’t the people use it themselves?

My puny mind wrestled with these problems, finding no resolve.

Getting off the freeway, I pulled into Rocco’s Snax, Gas, and Gas. Strolling to the welcoming bullet proof window to pay for my fuel; I saw it. There it was, a box of Twinkies.
Determining it is better to be safe than sorry, I snatched up two packages of those suckers.
If Father Time is going to catch up to me, that ol’ boy better put on his runnin’ shoes!

TRANSLATIONS:
la puka-d’ huka – made up French gibberish for a made up plant

tres bon”- very good     joie de la vie- joy of life     un coer de lion-heart of a lion  Laissez la bon temps rouler  Let the good times roll    malade conne une chien—sick as a dog  gros comme une maison-the size of a house.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

COUPONS

The other evening I braved the frozen wasteland, the wolves and polar bears in my quest to retrieve the mail. It was amongst the most harrowing 80 feet I have ever traversed!

Upon opening the mailbox, dimly illuminated by the streetlight,  I saw it! The envelope! No, not THE Envelope; rather it was the regular monthly blue envelope packed with value coupons.  Yippee.

The envelope languished on our table for a few days until  in a moment of reckless abandon, I tore it open. I have to admit the reckless abandon was borne of abject boredom. Flipping through the roofing companies, the heating and air conditioning guys, and pizza joints; it struck me.

Why do virtually all of these super deals say “New Customer Special!” or words to that effect?

Let’s say, for example, I am a regular customer of “Cheezee Louisie’s Pizza” There it is! A coupon…three dollars off a large super-deluxe pizza! Oh happy day! My favorite one! While visions of pepperoni are kicking up their heels, I see the fine print: “New Customers Only”

“What the heck?” I ask. For all these many years I have been a loyal customer! My money helped keep the lights on! I have helped pay for Louisie’s BMW! Not once have I ever gotten an extra topping for free! Never have I had a “large” upgraded to an “extra-large” at no charge!

Now, some new-comer, an interloper… a… a usurper!... gets to save three bucks off a ‘za I helped to create?!? Putting bacon on it was my idea!

“Louisie”, I says, “You need to put some bacon on this bad boy!” Next thing you know, Bam!... bacon on the pie!

Where is the honor? Where is the fidelity? Where is the appreciation?

I’ll tell you where….in the big, brown dumpster behind the shop! That’s where!

All my life I remember my Mom, my Aunts, my friends’ Moms… all saving and using coupons while shopping. Some people even saved coupons from various cigarette brands. These could be redeemed for nifty stuff like picnic baskets, hand tools, a new putter… and the Grand-Daddy of them all: Your Very Own Iron Lung!

All of which got me to thinking.

What if coupons had been used throughout history???

Is the Sphinx a result of “Irsu’s Patios and Pyramids Company” offering a “free decorative statue of your choice with each pyramid purchased”?

 Did it end up in its present form due to a compromise between Pharaoh and Mrs. Pharaoh about the design? He wanted it to be a manly representation of himself; she was the Original Crazy Cat Lady and wanted a gigantic feline. And---taah daah!---we have the Sphinx!

Did Hannibal (the real-life one, not the fictional one of movie fame) end up with elephants on his military campaigns solely because he had a “Try ‘em! You’ll like ‘em!” coupon from Petrarch’s Pachyderms?

Did Herod send Three Wise Men to Bethlehem because he couldn't pass up the “Three can travel for the cost of two!” coupon from Belshazzar's Travel Agency?

All through the pages of History, the evidence of coupon usage is apparent.

I offer as evidence the choice of Columbus’s ships; the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.  Come on, we all know the guy was on a tight budget. He could have had ships with names like Round Earth Voyager, Plunderer, and Lollipop.  

But no.

Obviously, he got a coupon from “Smilin’ Al, the Seafarer’s Pal” in the mail.

A deal that was too good to pass up. “Buy two ships ending with the same vowel; get a third same vowel ship FOR FREE!”

Did the Dutch really cheat the Natives when they traded for Manhattan Island?

Incidentally, the name means either “hilly island” or “place of intoxication” in Algonquin, according to documents written at the time. Or it could  also mean, “let’s go to the hilly island and get good and drunk”.
But I digress.

Perhaps, the Algonquin’s; noticing first Henry Hudson sailing around, naming rivers, bays, and automobiles after himself; then the Italian Verrazano poking around naming the skinny part of the river after himself. Then the Portuguese explore Gomez was cruising up and down the rivers giving places impossible to pronounce Portuguese names.

Then, they hear the word on the street was the Dutch were antsy to establish their turf in the New World. They decided to write out some coupons:

” Crazy Land Deal! $24 in trinkets, beads, and what-not takes all! No Closing Costs! No Points! No Inspection! First $24 takes it!”
 Peter Minuit cut that puppy out of his weekly buckskin news, and cashed it in!

On and on it goes.

 Jefferson didn’t negotiate a super bargain with the French for the Louisiana Purchase. He had a coupon “Buy one city below sea-level, get half a continent FREE!”

Lewis and Clark didn’t just stumble upon Sacajawea. No, they saw the smoke signals: “Hire a guide for one mountain range, get discovery of ocean No Extra Charge!”

And so it continues. These little slips of paper spur commerce along yet to this day.

I continue riffling through the pile on the table top; window replacement companies, drive-way seal-coating, dry-cleaners…
Wait… what’s this?
Ten Dollar Haircut?

Gotta go! See ya later!!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Look Ma! No Bacteria!!

It has been a little chilly in Ohio lately.

A good old-fashioned cold snap has moved in.  It was not unusual for early morning temperatures to be 12, 15, even 22 degrees below zero.

Taking the dogs out in the pre-dawn darkness has been somewhat invigorating, attired only in flannel pj pants, sweatshirt and crocs. Why the dogs insist upon wearing that, I will never understand. Neither they nor I dilly-dallied a great deal. Get the job done, gang-way… open the door!

So it was, while overhearing one of the never-ending weather related discourses at work, someone mentioned “At least this cold kills the bacteria outside. That is a real good thing.” Which started the wheels to turning…

Bear in mind, my degree is in History, with an English minor. I am neither a macro nor micro biologist. However, I do know the proper use of the semi-colon and the colon in a sentence.

At first blush, the concept of a bacteria free world sounds pretty good. No colds, no pneumonia, not even a case of upset stomach. We would not have to sniff the milk jug before pouring it on our shredded wheat; it would be perpetually fresh. No more “plastic container roulette” at lunch; is it green or is it edible?  It would always be good! In the words of Nat King Cole: What A Wonderful World! Oh yeah!

(If the reader has been paying attention, they would have noted in the above paragraph two examples of proper colon and semi-colon usage. But I digress.)

For several minutes, my mind ran unfettered in a bacteria free world! No hand sanitizers! No antibiotics! No worries about eating 4 day old left over pizza! Oh happy day!

Then, a little nagging thought began to worm its way to the forefront. “There are good bacteria, and there are bad bacteria” Little Nagging Thought was saying. Here now lay a conundrum.

Let’s suppose there were no bacteria at all. Think about it for a moment. The simplest biological task of digesting a meal would not be possible. Without going into disgusting details, take it from me; good bacteria are “good” for a reason.  If you doubt this assertion, just take too many antibiotics next go-around. You will come to greatly, may I dare say; dearly, appreciate good bacteria.

If there were no bacteria, the oceans, lakes and rivers would be clogged with the remains of un-decomposed fish and marine mammals. Our fields, woodlands, and lawns would be piled with formerly animate birds, deer, saber-tooth tigers, woolly mammoths, maybe even the stray Sasquatch or two along with every other critter which had traversed the earth.

It would be very easy to research one’s ancestors. All that would be needed is a trip back to the Olde Country, rummage around for a while, and voila: Great-great-great-great-great-great you get the idea Granddad Padric, twice removed.  You know, for a guy who died a few centuries ago, he looks pretty good. In fact, cousin Thaddeus has his nose!

Admittedly, this would be an anthropologist’s dream come true. No more speculation; this is what Cro-Magnon Man looked like, and Cro-Magnon Woman, and Cro-Magnon boy, and Cro-Magnon’s neighbors, his dog, his cat, the guy who did the stunning artwork on the cave.  There they would all be, just as pristine as the day they cashed in their chips.

Can you imagine a world in which every blade of grass, leaf, shrub and tree never decomposed? We would have piles of dead vegetation as high as Mount Denali! Worse, there would be no nutrients in soil from decomposing matter. The Great Plains were so fertile due to eons of tall grasses living, dying, and decomposing to provide nutrients for new grasses. This would make it extremely tough to grow crops or any type.

When someone says they are in…ahem… “deep stuff”, they would be speaking of fact, not a euphemism.

If there were no bacteria, you can forget about hopping into your set of wheels and firing that bad boy up. Forget using your gas range, or turning on a light bulb for much of the world.  There would be no oil or natural gas reserves. Coal would be something inconceivable. And, those little sparkly things most women desire, forget it. No coal means no shiny diamonds.

Soon, I was in a morass of chaos brought on by a bacteria free-world. The implications were mind-boggling. Just as I was about to cascade down a slippery slope into the gaping jaws of a long dead coelacanth, my desk phone warbled.


It was my boss, telling me if I didn’t get back to work, my career with the company would be extinct. And that , despite living in a bacteria ridden world, would land me in some really deep stuff!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Céad míle fáilte

It is early February.

Deep within the swallow’s heart, a stirring begins. While not understanding why, the tiny bird finds itself drawn to an ancient former Spanish mission. Far to the South, a turkey vulture feels the tug of Buzzard’s Roost in Hinckley Ohio. With a flap of its great wings, the homely bird begins to wing Northward.

Deep in the recesses of a cold lake, a steel-head trout discerns a faint scent being carried on the current. Before reason can dictate, the fish is swimming against the current to the place of its original spawning.

All are inexplicable migrations; yearnings about which Man has wondered for eons.

So it is with me.
 On a cold, snowy winter’s evening, I could no longer resist the tug of just what I don’t know. Upon regaining awareness, there it was in my shaking hands. Oh… how often I have found myself in this situation in the past. I glance down, knowing what to expect; yet not really cognizant of my actions. There, as if to mock me, were the words “How the Irish Saved Civilization”

Yes, once again, I had been subconsciously drawn to Thomas Cahill’s work. My Irish soul heard the silent call of the book; “Come! Learn once again of your heritage!  Do not be ignorant or deceived by the world’s stereotypes!”

This is not my first, nor my second or third visit with Mr. Cahill. 
No, much like the swallow, vulture, and trout; the reading of Irish culture (yes, there is a culture. It is not an oxymoron) has become nearly an annual event.  And, much like my avian or piscatorial friends; I have absolutely no idea why!

Perhaps it is a preparatory event prior to the recognition of St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps it is a means to re-stock my arsenal to combat the onslaught of ridiculous myths and stereotypes. Perhaps it is to replenish a well of Irish-ness which has been drawn nearly dry over the previous 12 months.

Regardless of the reasons, once again I am drawn into a world of pre-Christian customs (good and bad), ingenious architecture, heroic poetry and legend. Gratefully, I feel my spirit being refreshed. The aridness of the desert is becoming quenched. Life and vitality stir anew.

I read of petty kings, of inter-tribal livestock (and slave) raids. The wildness of a wild, beautiful island which geologically speaking,is a part of the New World at the very edge of the Old seems fitting. A wild, unique land which brought forth a wild, unique race of people who have impacted every continent of the Earth, from politics to literature to music; the Irish have influenced all.

Incidentally, under ancient Celtic Law, the only persons who could travel un-molested between tribal holdings through the no-man’s-land of the wilderness were Kings, Priests, and Writers.  Everyone else was fair game for thieves, slave-traders, and cut-throats.

The impression of a young Briton who had become enslaved by Celts, to shepherd sheep on the wind and weather swept hills of present day County Mayo. A slave who would escape, travel by foot to the Eastern shores of Eire to board a ship bound to unknown lands. A former slave, who embraced Christianity, became learned in the monasteries of Gaul and Saxony, could have enjoyed a comfortable, secure life. Yet, the slave-priest had a vision; a man of Eire calling to him, pleading with him to return to the land of his enslavement to bring the people the light of the Gospel.  Such is the true Patrick, not a semi-mythic figure who literally “drove the snakes from Ireland”. Although in a metaphorical sense; such is exactly what he did.

As I run my hand over the worn covers and curled pages of the little book; I think of my own Irish-ness. I recall a conversation with my siblings while seated in the sunny Florida room of our parent’s home. Dad had been interred beside Mom.  As the late afternoon light of a late November day began to fade; boxes of this and that were brought forth. Amongst the old photos, the grade-school projects were several things my sister had brought back from her trip to Ireland.

She looked at the items; a pair of clay pipes, a little souvenir lamb of fine Irish wool, a couple other small items.  Gently pushing them across the glass topped table toward me, she said “You should have these. After all, you are the most Irish of us all.”

What had been said partly in jest, I took as a supreme compliment; I thought of those rugged cliffs of Mayo, being assaulted by wave and wind, snow and rain, since before Time was. Yet they still stand, as if defying the lesser elements of wind and water.

I thought of a race of people who had withstood regular raids by Norsemen, harsh Anglo-Saxon rule, hardship upon hardship; yet they stand firm, having overcome all oppressors. 

I think of a people who were amongst the first in the world to recognize the rights of women. The rights to hold property, to vote, to rule, a people who refused to subjugate females; but hold them as equal to any man.

I reflect upon monks in tiny huts, clinging to the edges of cliffs, laboriously writing the words of the classic literature in order to preserve it; while on the continent of Europe; great libraries and countless volumes were being destroyed by hordes of ignorant barbarians.

The legendary outlook of a people, who can find humor in the most outlandish things, struck me. There is a old joke that for the Irish, we run the emotional gauntlet from Depression to Despair; yet only the Irish can find that to be absolutely hilarious.  

My thoughts run as free and wild as an Irish stag through the bogs and across the hills. I hear the song of pipes and harp, I am carried away to a rugged land surrounded by a raging sea.

So it is; as Winter crosses the mid-point and Spring is actually more than just a distant dream, I find a need to have my Irish spirit renewed.


It is only appropriate I say:  “Mr. Cahill, my most sincere thanks. Yet again you have saved this Irish spirit. Go raibh maith agat

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Still more Life with Ike

Many of you have asked, “How is Ike?”

Upon reviewing my folder marked “Columns”, I realized the Chronicles Of Ike have been noticeable scant. It is not that I don’t care for the little guy; I most certainly do

It is just that…well…giving a day by day account of a dog’s life has the potential to be somewhat boring. One can only read:

“I woke up. I ate. I went outside and did my thing. I came in side and begged part of a banana from the lovely lady. Took a nap. I woke up, and got a drink.  I barked at the neighborhood cat. Barked at a squirrel, and then played with my new chew toy. Took a much needed nap. Awoke to save everyone from a blue-jay once again. I ate again.” And, so it goes. Not the most riveting stuff ever written.

But, time has progressed, and so has Ike. He will be two this spring. The cute, cuddly animated Beanie Baby which invaded our home has grown into a stately, dignified, handsome dog. Finally, his head is growing into his ears. I no longer worry a stiff gale will pluck him aloft like an autumn leaf. He is a classic looking Bulldog.

My Lovely Bride, having long ago cast aside any hopes of training me, has spent a good deal of time working with Ike. He has been learning all sorts of things; waving Hi, rolling over, sit, down, heel, come front… all manner of doggie things. He has also been learning obedience, agility, and (I am not kidding) “canine freestyle”.

From what I have been told, and can comprehend it is a form of dancing, albeit with a four-legged partner.  Kevin Costner may have danced with wolves; LB dances with Bulldogs. I have yet to call her “Dances with dogs”… it may not be terribly well received.

The idea is to pick music which corresponds to the dog’s stature, gait and movements. This is then coupled with various Obedience and Agility maneuvers, which result in a rhythmic dance. To me, “Low Rider” comes immediately to mind. For some reason, I can’t picture Ike grooving to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies”. 
The big recital is coming up in a few weeks; so I will be as surprised as anyone to hear what was chosen.

Just the other day, LB and I received quite a surprise in the mail. A large, official looking manila (did you call it “vanilla” when you were a kid, too?) envelope, addressed to her. Hands shaking with excitement, she opened it.  Contained within, accompanied by a letter of achievement and congratulations were……  Ike’s RN!!

Imagine that!?! We had no idea he was even enrolled in school! And to think he is now “Ike, RN”. Wow!!

This did go a long way in explaining the dog hair on my laptop, and the data overages on our cell phone bill. Obviously, he took courses on-line. When he was at dog shows, training, etc; he would sneak into LB’s phone and catch up on his course work.

I was so proud; I could have popped a button. Just as I was about to call the local paper and have them send over a reporter pronto and cover “Local Dog Gets Nursing Degree”; my Lovely Bride pointed out “RN” means “Rally Novice” and is an American Kennel Club Obedience title.

Well, I’ll tell you what….my disappointment was no less than realizing I missed the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Prize Patrol…..again. Still that is pretty cool, getting his first doggie title.

It’s just that any thoughts I had of his getting a good job, and picking up some of his own freight were pretty much over.

However, all may not be lost.

Recently, LB auditioned for a local indie play/movie project. The new thing in live theater is incorporating previously shot video with live action. This is something I incorporated in our church productions about 6 years ago.  But I digress.

She was cast in the role of the Judge. Upon receiving the full script, and reading through it; she noticed the leading character’s BFF is a Bulldog. When she asked the producers about the part, she was told that another dog was in mind.

However, when she initially sent a recent photo of herself, it was the photo of her and Ike when he got his title ribbon at a dog show. The producers went back, saw Ike, and (drum roll)… he is now the leading dog!

The ironic part is, he has more appearances than LB! Proving once again, W.C. Fields was right; “Never work with children or animals”.

As of this writing, he is taking it all in stride; curled up on his doggie blankets, snoozing in front of his toys.
Life for Ike and Life with Ike is good.

HEY!!!   I wonder if he ran the Prize Patrol off?? Hmmmm.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015

Happy New Year.

No, seriously. I sincerely hope 2015 is a happy, new year. Lord knows this old world can use it.

Many have asked me “Why only one column in December?”

The reasons are many and varied. Busy with writing and re-writing, and re-writing again, our Church Christmas production. Getting things done for Christmas, shopping, wrapping gifts, etc. We enjoyed a much needed trip to Virginia to visit our daughter Aubrey, son-in-law John and wonderful grandchildren Gwen and Rocky over Christmas. Being a proud Father at our son Gabe’s graduation was tossed into the mix over the same trip.  Add an end of the fourth quarter drive at work to finish the year well above quota (which I did); well… any and all are sufficient cause to not write.

But, the answer is far simpler; I had a fairly moderate case of Curmudgeon-ism. No one wants to hear from a certified Curmudgeon; especially at Christmas, Chanukkah, Kwanza, or Winter Solstice, whichever one chooses to celebrate.

And, like clock-work and in relative silence, the calendar page turneth.

Each year I resolve to not make any resolutions. So far, my record of success has been impeccable. Oh, don’t think for a moment I am beyond any form of self-improvement. Just talk with my Lovely Bride, she will quickly dissuade you of any such silly delusions.

Rather, I make lists. Lists in my heart and my head; lists of things I would like to achieve over the ensuing 365 days.

The Perennial Chart-topper is this: to be more Christ-like. I hasten to point out this does not entail having a holier-than-thou attitude. In fact, it is far from such an outlook. It is a personal admonition to me to see people through His eyes, to hear their words with His ears, and to feel for them with His heart.

Hot upon the heels of Number One is Number Two, to not forget Paul’s commandment to men in the book of Ephesians; “Husbands, love your wives even as Christ loved the church that he gave Himself for her.” Anyone who has been married more than 2 months knows this can be a challenge at times. Especially when the toilet paper is replaced coming down from the back of the roll, not the front!! (note: If there were toilet paper in Paul’s day, would he have still written that? Hmm)

Breathing down Number Two’s neck is Number Three, again from Paul found in Colossians; “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, lest they be discouraged.” In my simple little mind, this extends to our four wonderful children we got through marriages, and our eight so far (hint, hint) amazing Grandchildren. The world is discouraging enough, our children and grandchildren need to be encouraged; particularly by their parents.

At times, Life being what it is, I find myself falling upon the words of my namesake; James. His timeless encouragement to realize when things happen, it serves to strengthen my faith. That when I lack wisdom, to ask of God, and He will provide wisdom and guidance greatly. I have found, as the years flow past like a river, that I need to ask of Him more and more. It is amazing how much I don’t know!

This is followed by a boot in the rear to be a better friend. None other than Solomon wrote there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. I am blessed to say I have several friends who fill that bill. I pray I will become the same to them.

Another on my list is to never forget John’s inspiring words, particularly when it seems at times as if we are being assaulted from all sides. As the rough-hewn fisherman so wonderfully put it; “Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world.”

If along the way I lose some weight (after all, my body is a “temple of the Holy Spirit”, and the temple has been enlarging somewhat), get more things accomplished (whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord…for you serve the Lord Jesus Christ),  then that is great.

Except, this year; somewhere near the top is: Get at least a second book published this year.


Oh, yeah… and to make sure the Publisher’s Clearinghouse people have my phone number. I know they must have stopped by when I wasn't home last year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ladylocks

I thought of my Dad the other day. This in itself is not so unusual; as I think of my Dad often. What set this particular series of thoughts in motion was unique, however.

The other day my Lovely Bride and I made a journey from Lake County to the local cell phone center located in Woodmere. As this entailed crossing the Lake/Cuyahoga County line, we made certain all our papers were in order and up to date.  While not quite as involved as making the trek to the western bank of the Cuyahoga River, it was still quite a cultural undertaking.  Fortunately, having grown up in the Hillcrest area (how many of you remember your phone number beginning “H-I-2-****”?), I could still pass as an Eastsider.\

After spending some time resolving the i-phone issue, we wandered about the other stores. Then, as we were exiting the parking lot, there it was; gleaming like a diamond on a black velvet drape; that distinctive script logo-type: Davis Bakery/ Delicatessen.

For those readers who have lived in the Eastern suburbs of Cleveland within the past 70 or so years, you may recall Davis Bakery. For those who have grown up elsewhere; I can only extend my condolences for not having known this true gem.

Frantically,  I pointed to the beckoning lights as LB patiently awaited the traffic signal to change. In my excitement all I could emit was a primate like “Oooo! Oooo!” similar to a spider monkey spying a ripe banana.

LB nodded, and pulled across the boulevard into a space directly in front of the door. Barely able to contain myself, I yanked on the  car door handle, only to realize it was yet locked. Nanoseconds before I began a simian type tantrum, she unlocked the door. I scampered into the welcoming arms of fresh baked Jewish rye bread, rich deli aromas, and heaps of baked goods.

I must have looked like a madman when I acknowledged the middle-aged lady’s greeting with a desperate “Do you still have rye bread?!” She chuckled and asked how many loaves I wanted. I expressed my desire for one loaf, and headed toward the dairy case, to grab a dozen jumbo eggs which were on sale.

Clutching the eggs, I turned toward the register. And then I saw them; Ladylocks.

 Instantly, I stopped, transfixed by the golden brown, and delicately tapered shell filled with a rich butter-cream. Instantly, memories of Dad came to mind.

I don’t know if this pastry is widely known beyond the Lower Great Lakes and some East Coast regions. They consist of a very delicate, flaky pastry, approximately 5 inches long, tapering from the large open end, to a smaller bottom. The void is filled with a rich buttery cream, usually vanilla flavored although chocolate and other flavors are seen. Finally, the whole concoction is dusted liberally with powdered sugar.

 Basically, it is a diabetic-cardiac patient’s worst nightmare.

Dad practiced self-control fairly well (see Dad’s Hammer November, 2013  for more about his legendary self control), except when it came to Ladylocks. Put a Ladylock before him, and he would be tempted to dicker with the Devil.

There are men who cannot pass a sporting goods store, men who cannot pass a hardware store and men who cannot pass a drinking establishment.  Dad couldn’t pass Davis Bakery without picking up a box of Ladylocks.

I don’t know how or when his addiction to this confection began.

Was he tempted into a dark alley by a seedy character in a ratty trench coat beckoning “Pssst, hey kid. Wanna see a really nice little pastry?” 

Was it peer pressure from school pals “Hey, Hoppy! Go ahead, take a bite! All the kids are eating Ladylocks!”

Could it have been during a time of dark despair, deep in the Great Depression that he stumbled into a dimly lit storefront, leaned upon the counter, and demanded “Give me some of the good stuff.” ? With a glint in her eye, the lady behind the counter reached for the most potent thing available; “Here, Bub. This will help you feel better.”, while pushing the seductive form toward him.

Or, was it innocently enough, while at a wedding reception a careless adult left their dessert unattended, and he took a small nibble?  BAM! The floodgates were flung open; the sugar rush began, never to be slackened.

Whatever the circumstances, he became a lifelong Ladylock junkie.

 I remember many times when he would burst in the door from work, a white cardboard box tied with white string in his hand. We knew by the tell-tale grease spots on the bottom what was within; Ladylocks.

Mom would sigh in resignation, knowing her lovingly prepared dinner would be ruined by a husband and houseful of kids bouncing off the walls from the sugar highs. But, what could she do? She had unknowingly married a Ladylocks Junkie.

Between bites of pastry and slurps of coffee, Dad would often reminisce of bakery trips long past. He told of setting foot on American soil again upon his return from the War in Europe. Most sailors and GIs went off in pursuit of a good stiff drink, or a steak dinner, or female companionship. Not Dad. He set his sights upon the nearest bakery and Ladylocks. He bought half a dozen, found a bench to sit upon, and devoured the entire box.

Throughout my growing up years, Ladylocks have been there; like a well worn, favorite coat. In good times, in bad times; Ladylocks have materialized from a white box tied with white string.  Some families have macaroni and cheese as a comfort food, others homemade chicken and dumplings. Dad found his solace in Davis’ baked delights.

My Lovely Bride was introduced to Ladylocks early in our dating relationship. If I am not mistaken, the circumstances were eerily similar to most appearances; Dad coming through the door, a silly grin on his face, grease spotted white box in his hand.

We knew that it had been either a particularly good day, or a particularly bad day at work. Or, it was just a run-of-the-mill day and he could no longer resist the Siren Song wafting across S.O.M. Center Road as he drove past the bakery. Although the Interstate had been long completed and taking the secondary state route was not necessary, his Pontiac would find its way to a spot outside Davis’.

LB and I married; college took us far from Northeast Ohio, to a land devoid of Ladylocks. We soon discovered other delectable treats, such as sugar-crème pie and fresh picked musk melons.

But, when we would return, Dad would typically have Ladylocks waiting for us. To him, there was no higher, finer offering than fresh made Ladylocks.  

Sadly, it was then I discovered my taste had changed. What was once light, fluffy and delightful had now become heavy, sodden, and just okay. I had never noticed the residual sensation of grease upon my tongue and roof of the mouth before. I had paid no attention to the unbelievable sweetness before. Now, it caused my teeth to ache and throat to constrict.

I didn’t tell Dad, I knew it would break his heart. It may very well have resulted in disinheritance and banishment from the family. So, I kept silent. For the sake of unity and harmony, I endured Ladylocks when we visited with Dad.

I cannot recall the last time I had a Ladylock.
 It has been decades.

Which now found me standing before the display case; vacillating between “to buy or not to buy”? That was the question. Several times I caught myself about to signal the lady patiently waiting at the register. Several times I thought how much Dad would enjoy that one with all the frosting in it. To buy….or not to buy, I wrestled within myself.  Above the counter was the old familiar string dispenser, a length just beckoning to be wrapped about a box and tied securely. Boxes were lined upon the back counter. It would be easy… oh so easy.

I turned, took two steps… and turned back to the display.

I stared at the pastries, my heart awash with memories. After what seemed a semi-eternity, I whispered, “No, they are all yours, Dad. You enjoy them.”  Turning my back upon the tempters, I walked quickly to the register.

“Do you want some pastry?” the middle-aged lady politely asked.

“No thank you, Ma’am. I was just enjoying looking.”


Gathering my bread and eggs, I glanced at the gleaming bakery case, the treasure safe within, as I exited the store. With a smile, I began to hum Bob Hope’s theme song; Thanks for the Memories