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Friday, May 31, 2013

Critters anyone??


Are you an animal person? I guess you could say I am.

We always had some form of critter hanging around when I was growing up.

Dogs, cats, a goat, a pony, several turtles, fish... just about anything except snakes and birds. Some of the critters were memorable, others...not so much.

We had a cat when I was small. Actually, he was my sister's cat. Isn't that how it usually goes? It “was my Mom's cat”, “my sister's cat”....hardly anyone admits to saying “my cat”. But I digress. This cat's name was Goofy, which was quite apt. He would take off racing in a straight line, then do about 3 somersaults in a row! Just because he could. Maybe he got a real rush from it. He never said why he did it , he just did.

Primarily an outdoor cat, he would upon occasion slip indoors. This was back in the 1950's when it was still politically correct to have an outdoor cat. While we children were delighted to have a semi-feral intact male cat roaming the house; our parents were somewhat less than enamored when discovering the spray on the walls, and the “surprises” under the beds. Goofy would be unceremoniously relegated outdoors to keeping our property devoid of rodents once again.

Another quaint game he played was called “Lure the Dog into Chasing Me”.

Living in a semi-rural area, dogs wandering about was a fact of life. Once again, this was in the dark ages of the 1950's before a dog wandering about was considered a threat to society.

When Goofy spied a dog in the area, he would purposefully parade back and forth at a reasonable distance. Nine times out of ten, the dog would play along and take off after the cat. Goofy would lead the canine on a merry chase; across the meadow, through the orchard, around the yard. All the while, the dog would be gaining on him. When it appeared as if ol' Goofy had underestimated his opponent, he would flip onto his back, hold all four paws up in the air, all his claws unsheathed. One could hear the dog howling for a mile as it's underside was raked by razor sharp claws. Goofy would get to his feet, cast a glance that said “Sucker!” to the yelping dog, and saunter off.

Another memorable critter was Max, the Scottie dog. Max was a cute little brindle terrier. A very sweet dog, she loved to play outdoors. Summer, snow, she didn't care, so long as she was outside. Oh yeah, Max was short for Maxine. One of her favorite games was chasing a large kid's play-ball (you may recall the type, about 18” around, bright colors, used to be sold by the five-and-dime stores) around the back yard pushing it with her nose. She would make about half a dozen laps of the place, racing as fast as her stubby little legs could carry her, trying for all the world to bite the thing. Finally, she would concede defeat, leave the ball wherever it lay, and amble back for a long drink of water. Usually from the garden hose. But, hey, this was back in the 1960's before everything you touched could kill you.

Forty-one years ago today, I met the beautiful young lady who would become my Lovely Bride. While seemingly a disconnected statement, it has relevance to my narrative. We have been married more than forty years. The other evening, I was mentioning to her the fact we have had some form of non-human life under our roof for the vast majority of that time. It is odd how the things you talk about in the still of the night are some what different than they were thirty-five or forty years ago. Recounting the dogs, cats, gerbils, birds, etc. would probably not have been a thought in our minds back then.
Some time, we will take a look at some of the more noteworthy pets, but not today.

What started me on this path occurred early this morning. We have a dog, and we have a cat. The cat began her career as our daughter's cat. Our daughter was visiting our local Humane Society, and fell in love with the most adorable little white kitten. However, Cera (the cat's name) didn't really click with our daughter's young family. As so often happens, Mom and Dad become the default place of residence.

We have had Cera for quite some time, with a brief stint at my Lovely Brides' Mother's to keep her company in her waning days.

While I would not go so far as to say I am Gaga over cats, I do like them. They are cute, and cuddly, and can be charming. Cera is a good cat, she and I care for one another.
In fact, it was following my morning shower that I realized just how tolerant I am of Cera.

We had a couple of bath towels folded neatly in the laundry room. I had forgotten to bring them upstairs for a while. The other evening, I picked up these white towels, and took them upstairs. They languished on the cedar box in the hall way; not fully committed to the rack in the bathroom, not relegated to the “spare towel” spot in the linen closet.

This morning, I grabbed one of these towels to use, hanging it on the back of the door allowing easy access from the tub.

Upon completion in the shower, I take up the towel and begin using it.

I began to notice some fluffy stuff tickling my nose. I attributed it to dryer fuzz. Then, I began to notice a white film on my arms. As I didn't have my contacts in at this point, I was not quite sure what I was looking at.

Then, I see a wad of rolled up cat hair on the towel!

While the towels were in the laundry room, Cera had been utilizing them as her personal lounging spot. Being a white cat, the hair was not immediately visible to me.

No, I didn't get mad,  disgusted, or cuss. It was such a ludicrous thing to have happen; all I could do was shake my now cat-hair bedecked head, turn the shower back on, and start over.
I was combing cat hair out of my beard and hair for the next 2 hours.
You just gotta love critters..
sheez...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tech Revolt

We had computer issues over the weekend. Friday morning, I noticed a strange message on the screen. While not verbatim; in essence it said “Tough luck, Charley. You have a myriad of unspecified issues. To diagnose the plethora of problems, connect to the internet.”
Well….how do you like that?
The machine was smart enough to let me know it was dealing with more than a case of cyber sniffles; yet not smart enough to tell me what was ailing it. Furthermore, the ridiculous thing insisted I connect to the Internet to find the problem.  
Is it just me, or is this similar to telling someone with a broken leg to jog down to CVS to pick up some Motrin?
The primary problem was, I COULDN’T CONNECT TO THE INTERNET!
So, being the hip, tech-savvy sexagenarian I am, I snatched up my Smart Phone (another oxymoron) and called my Internet Provider. This is always good for some entertainment.
First, one realizes after they have “tapped” (you don’t push numbers on smart phones, you tap. Much more friendly and less aggressive) about 18 different numbers,  one has entered a request for the Full Blown Television, phone, and internet service, with up-dates every quarter hour of Australian surfing conditions.  After much frenzied tapping (“jabbing” is more descriptive), one hits the end call button in the hopes their order is cancelled.
After a couple deep breaths, emitting some inappropriate witticisms, and banging one’s head against the wall, the redial button is tapped.
Again, the litany of prompts and responses yields access to another synthesized voice asking you to go through the process of running diagnostics on your line. For some reason unbeknownst to me, it is necessary for one to have the flexibility of a gymnast to press a button, hold the by now annoying phone, and stick a straightened paper clip in the “reset” port. At some point during this stunt, you have sneezed. The sneeze is registered by the one-track mind of the synthesized voice.  Suddenly you find yourself submitting a request for Full Blown Television (now in HD, they upgraded in the past 20 minutes), phone, and internet.  A flurry of finger jabs follows, finally culminating in punching the end  call button.
After a calming walk around the block, stopping for some libation and convivial conversation at the local gathering place, and bruising one’s knuckles when punching the brick exterior of the house; the not-so-smart phone is retrieved from the waste can it found itself in, and the redial button is nonchalantly pressed.
This time….this time… you have out-smarted the system. When the synthesized voice begins with it’s recitation of prompts, you do NOTHING. You say NOTHING. Someone, somewhere once overheard another saying if you don’t say or do anything, you will get to a real person.  Smugly you wait, knowing your moment of assistance is just around the corner.
Then, you hear it “Good-bye.”
After a long sip of Grand-Dad’s special cough syrup, counting to 100 three separate  times,  and meditating upon the goodness of God; you pick up the ridiculous phone, re-insert the battery, put the cover on and hope for the best. You firmly, purposefully mash the redial button.
Again, the voice (oh… the voice… that voice which will haunt your dreams for nights to come), only this time you state simply, clearly, pleasantly “Representative.” The Voice (hey, that would be a good name for a TV show!) pleasantly states “I could not understand you. Could you please repeat that?” You take a deep cleansing breath, and state “ Rep Re Sen Ta Tive” The Voice then states “I think you want to order Full Blown Television, phone and internet. Is that right?” 
A few minutes later, the futility of cussing out a stupid, idiotic, no-good piece of junk machine dawns upon you.  You also recall those ominous words “This call may be recorded for quality and training purposes.”  Translation: “We know who you are, and we know where you live.”  With relief you notice that at some point during the rant, you hit the end call button. The line was dead.
Finally, after 2 more attempts, you are able to be connected to the Technical Service Department.  Here you have the luxury of listening to the same fuzzy sounding rendition of Moon River about 16 times while being told at regular intervals your call is very important, and someone will be with you shortly.
After running down to the pizza joint on the corner, watering the flowerbeds, and feeding the dog; you hear a REAL LIVE PERSON on the speaker of your phone. Oh Happy Day, you think! With glee you pick up the barely intelligent phone, and see the low battery light flashing. In a frenzy, you find the charger, managing to jam it in place, and plug the proper end into the wall outlet before the call is forever lost.
Now, the real fun begins. After the cursory introductions, the how are yous, etc; there is just one thing between you and  correcting the problem. You cannot understand one another!  After three fourths of an hour of pushing that, re-setting this, disconnecting the other; you are no further along than you were at the beginning of the whole ordeal. In exhaustion, you concede defeat for the night. Wearily, you ascend the stairs to bed, and a fitful sleep troubled with dreams of carnivorous PCs and homicidal Macs. You wake in a cold sweat, The Voice echoing in your mind; “Do you want television and fries with your order?”
Hope like the new day dawns eternal!  With a renewed determination, you take up the barely above invertebrate intelligence level phone, find the proper number and dial.  You are taking matters in your own hands. You have just called Dan.
Dan the sound tech and IT guy from church. Dan, the one who can get the most cantankerous system functioning. Dan… the computer Fix-It Guy Extraordinaire!
Able to leap tall monitors in a single bound, he shows up about an hour later. With a steely eye he assesses the situation. Calmly he clicks, he scans, he deletes, he re-installs. After a couple of hours, the recalcitrant machine is humming like a brand new car. He smiles as he receives several pieces of green paper with pictures of dead Presidents on them.
The computer works marvelously, almost like a dream. “Look!” you exclaim to your Lovely Bride “Some one sent us pictures of kittens!” All is right with the world.
Alas, all dreams must end. By Sunday morning, the no-good, lousy, miserable thing was up to it’s not so cute tricks.  Being Sunday, and the following day being Memorial Day, I was not about to bother Dan. Everyone needs some rest, time with family, and for their wallet to recover.
So… today, my Lovely Bride talked with Dan. After some consultation, she determined to get a new modem, one with Wi-Fi as well. This way, our neighbors can hack into our computer much more easily than before.  Dan arrived once again. From the account I received, after much clicking, and un-installing and re-installing, he got the new modem setup, the computer de-bugged, and all is well.
Again, his face lit up when LB gave him more pictures of dead Presidents. Such a simple, happy fellow he is.
Now, here I am, using my lap-top with the internet (which I have not been able to do for sometime), and itching to set up my amoeba intellect phone for the Wi-Fi. Why would I want to do that, you ask??
Good question.  I guess I just can’t wait to talk with more Tech Support people.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


The other day I passed the new “Welcome to Eastlake” sign. Let me clarify, as I had passed the new sign scores of times. I should say “the other day I was able to take a moment to actually look at the new 'Welcome to Eastlake' sign”.

The new sign stands at the corner of Vine Street and S.O.M. Center Road. The former Welcome sign and plantings had succumbed to injuries sustained when a car crashed into it. It is my understanding the remains were interred in a private, non-disclosed location. A brief memorial service for the former sign was held at the time of interment.

 The new one is a bright blue, white, green and brown affair. White space, lots of white space, is apparent. A nice font welcomes one and all to the city. There is a rendering of a river, bordered by Lodge Pole Pines, cascading over a waterfall, and forming either a wider river, or a lake; depending upon one’s perspective.

Huh…. A waterfall. I was somewhat puzzled by this being part of the sign. Having lived in Eastlake for 3 decades now, I have yet to see any magnificent waterfalls. The nearest “waterfall” I could recall was the Daniels Park dam. Yet, that was washed out in January of 2005 during heavy rains and flooding. Besides; can a man-made “low head” dam be called a waterfall?  Yes, water spilled over it, creating a falls. Regardless, the dam was located up-stream of Eastlake, in the City of Willoughby. 

Having grown up in Mayfield Village, the Chagrin River has been a constant in my life. I cannot recall any natural falls upon the Chagrin, save for the ones located in Chagrin Falls. The nearest natural falls to the Chagrin I am aware of are Buttermilk Falls. It is important to note that “Buttermilk Falls” are NOT made of buttermilk. If they were buttermilk, come around July, a more apt name would be Yogurt Falls.

Two rather significant points however; these falls (they are captivating to observe, exciting to traverse) are located on a tributary stream to the river. Secondly, Buttermilk Falls are located in Cuyahoga County. A pretty far stretch to suggest Buttermilk Falls would be represented on a City of Eastlake sign wouldn’t you say?

Thoughts of the waterfalls raised further questions regarding the Lodge Pole pines.  Here again, stretching my memory, I could not for the life of me recall stands of Lodge Pole pines. White pines, larch, juniper… yes. Stately Lodge Poles??? Not so much.  

Again, the only Lodge Poles I can recall are located in the Chagrin Reservation Park, and the Holden Arboretum. 

The Chagrin is bordered by cottonwoods, maples, oaks, ash, hickories, and the above mentioned conifers. Not a Lodge Pole to be found along her banks.

Surely, one can appreciate my puzzlement over these seeming inaccuracies on the welcome sign.

Maybe someone found it in a Bargain Basement sale.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


There was a fire in Willoughby last night. Two of them, in fact.

One was at our daughter and son-in-law’s house, crackling merrily in the fire ring. Three generations relaxed, telling stories of years past, sharing jokes, sharing life. Not deemed a significant blaze; it never made the news.

Simultaneously, there was another fire taking place not far from Downtown Willoughby (or “DTW” in today’s penchant for acronyms and text able words).  Unbeknown to us at the time, one of my former customer’s now abandoned buildings was ablaze. In an ironic twist of 21st Century “information now” technology, my Lovely Bride called from Fairfax Virginia, where she is visiting one of our other daughter’s. They saw the big news on Facebook. Her concern was whether we had power in our portion of Lake County.

 At first I thought it was a phone prank. You recall the old gag “Hello” “Hi… is your refrigerator running?” “Yes it is.” “Better go catch it! HAAAAAA” ,,,Click.

Nope her inquiry was legitimate, as the report was over a thousand without power.  It took a phone call from Eastern Virginia to inform us as to what was happening 3 miles away!

I began to think of fires in my life-time. The smoke drifted over the years. 

My Dad came upstairs in a very excited state. He told me to get dressed; we were going to the barn fire.

Barn Fire?? What?? He must have meant bonfire. Mom, Dad, my brother, sister and I piled into our ’54 Chevy convertible. We pulled onto the road, heading north. I could see the glow in the sky before we left our drive.

A farm along the west side of S.O.M Center was surrounded by fire trucks, police cars, cars of volunteer fire-fighters. The focus of attention was the large 19th Century barn behind the house. It was ablaze, flames spouting from the roof, side walls, and the hay mow.

My school friend Billy Bowles lived on this farm with his family. We met in Kindergarten. Billy was the first person who shared with me the palate pleasing delight of putting a little (not too much, just a little) salt on ripe apples.  Three days prior to this night’s event; I had been playing at his home after school. We had been in that same barn; marveling at the collection of original Conestoga wagons, stage-coaches, horse drawn carriagess used by former Presidents. Even an iron clad horse drawn affair, one of the first armored conveyances for money and other valuables.  These items were owned by Howard Schultz, a once in a life time character. Howard owned large parcels of property, including this particular farm. He didn’t have room in the buildings at the farm he resided on for all his collection and his beloved horses. The coaches and such were stored here.

We watched in respectful silence as the barn was destroyed, finally collapsing in a huge shower of flames, sparks and burning debris. The only things left of Howard’s treasured collection were the iron wheel rims, now warped from heat, the odd bit of brass or iron trim. Perhaps enough to fill a 1950’s era pickup truck bed.

A few years after this calamity, a fire broke out in Howard’s horse barn. We went. My Dad, who was on council and a friend of Howard’s, stuck around to console him after the blaze was extinguished. Not all the livestock was lost; but a fair number were. Howard was devastated. His horses were more than rental horses for the park trails, they were his family.

When I was 19, I had met my future Lovely Bride in the spring. The summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college were a blur of days working for the Village, and evenings spent with her. One morning, upon arriving at the Service Department, I was asked by our sole full time fireman why I didn’t show up for the big fire the night before. This was in pre-cell phone days; the volunteers (of which I was one) were summoned by the old, Cold War era siren mounted on a pole behind city hall. I was with my girl, and out of earshot of the siren. It turns out; the house we had lived in while I was a child had caught fire. The place was un-inhabited at the time, but was pretty well a total loss.

Another memorable fire occurred in the small town I went to college in. Bluffton still is a small village; home to Bluffton University. Back in my day, it was nowhere near as sophisticated, known by the less formal name of Bluffton College.

Bluffton is a quaint little town, situated along the banks of the Big Riley Creek. It offered nearly all the amenities of its larger neighbors of Lima or Findlay. However, the town, while not wet, was not entirely dry, either. The down town boasted two watering holes, offering the finest in 3.2% alcohol beer that could be had. I cannot recall the name of the one establishment; the other was called simply Stoney’s.

Stoney’s was rustic, creaking wood floors… a scarred stained bar, the wood tables and chairs easily dated to the Johnson Administration; Andrew Johnson that is. There was a well worn pool table, with even more worn cues. I think the last time the weathered wooden frame building had seen a coat of paint was prior to the Korean War.

 Ambiance was a term unknown to Stoney’s. The clientele was nearly as rough hewn as the place itself. Local farmers, trappers, day farm laborers were typical. During the late summer and early fall; a cadre of Mexican migrant workers joined in the mix. We college guys, oddly enough, fit in quite well.

 I was introduced to a culinary delight which was unique to Northwest Ohio; A grilled baloney and Swiss cheese sandwich, with spicy brown mustard. Served with a icy cold draft, in a frosted mug….truly there could be no higher epicurean attainment.

My Lovely Bride and I married late in my sophomore year; we took up residence in Bluffton. I graduated, and we remained 4 more years. It was toward the end of our tenure on a bitterly cold winter night, we were roused by sirens. A phone call informed us of the dire news: Stoney’s was on fire!

We drove the 6 or so blocks to the center of town to stand in a milling crowd of on-lookers. Some were nearly distraught as they witnessed the center of their social life erupting in flames. Others rejoiced as a beer hall was being destroyed.  The place went up like tinder; within a couple of hours, there was just a pile of smoldering rubble. The last I knew, the property is a parking lot for the Laundromat.


Although I had not been in Stoney’s since the Spring of 1973, there was still a tug of nostalgia. A chapter of my youth had been finished. 

Now, I prefer to enjoy a fire with my family nearby. My son-in-law Eric has an innate gift for fire-building. Just as some men come from generations of wood-workers, or preachers, or lawyers; Eric comes from generations of fire masters. 

There is a place in Northern Pennsylvania we frequent. It is tucked away atop a mountain abutting the
Allegheny National Forest. It is quiet, secluded, and fairly wild; just the place for a relaxing get away. It is de rigueur that we have an outdoor fire. Whatever the meteorological conditions, a fire will be made. No one can build a fire like Eric. It is a source of professional skill; much like a sculptor finishing a masterpiece.  Do not ever be so denigrating by calling this a “campfire”. That would be similar to calling the Space Shuttle “an airplane”, a Corvette “a basic car”, a nuclear powered aircraft carrier “a cute little boat”

Eric’s fires create their own mini wind patterns. The heat radiating (blasting like an open hearth furnace) causes those sitting about to keep moving further back, until a respectable 10 yards separates them from the blaze. Being able to melt glass bottles in one of Eric’s fires is standard. Failure to do so is considered a sub-standard performance.

 A proper Eric fire will result in National Forest Service fire bombers doing a fly-over, anticipating the forest to be ablaze.

“Uhh… NFS control, this is Eye in the Sky. Negative on a forest fire. Repeat… negative on a forest fire. It is that guy from Ohio again. Stand down, repeat stand down. Should I dump my load anyhow?”

Yet, these are the fires over which men share their hearts; their dreams; and their deepest concerns. Bonds are forged in the smoke and flames which cannot be duplicated elsewhere.  Relationships with family, friends, and the Lord are discussed. Yes silly jokes and exaggerated stories are told. And relationships with one another are strengthened.

Fire can be a very good thing.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Water


While finding myself in the temporary role of bachelor, I have been adapting well.

I have been leaving the seat up, throwing my used towels on the bed, and emitting biological sounds with abandon. Hmm... two new things out of three ain't bad.



I also realized there isn't a great deal of conversation with no one else around. The dog and the cat, while able to convey their thoughts, are not the most erudite of discussion partners. To frustrate matters all the more, their areas of interest are fairly narrow. I can only debate the merits of one cat litter brand over another just so many times.



So, I pointed the squared off nose of my Jeep up the hill to my daughter's home. There I was greeted by one and all, including the grand-dog; an off-the-wall German Short-haired Pointer who thinks he is part beaver. He demonstrates this conviction by reducing tree branches, quartered fire logs, and such to the approximate size of toothpicks with on-going regularity.



Our grandson is at the age he is making momentous discoveries. A recent one has been Di-hydrogen oxide; also known as “water”.

There is something about little boys and water. One is drawn to the other like iron to a magnet.

They just go together like peanut butter and jelly.



I watched as he turned on the outside spigot ( a recent accomplishment) to fill a small plastic bucket with chilly Lake Erie water. Then, in an attempt to cleanse himself of sand from his sandbox, he stepped into the bucket.

For those who are unaware; cold water can trigger a reaction in boys. He found himself being more wet than intended.

Dutifully, our daughter escorted him to the house, to emerge shortly in warm, dry attire. Within 5 minutes of his re appearance, the bucket was filled with water. However, a sense of pragmatism seized his little mind. This water was not for splashing or spilling; on no. He found a little plastic watering can which just barely slid into the bucket. He would fill the can, then dutifully set about watering every flower, shrub, tree, and blade of grass over 2.5” in height.

Genius, pure genius. He was achieving his goal of playing in water, getting soaked, and NO ONE COULD reprimand him! He was “helping” and being “a big boy”. Mom, Dad, Papa all smiled approvingly as he splashed, spilled, filled the bucket, got wet, etc. Not a word was said about “enough” or “you are soaked” or “stop doing that, you are only making mud.” It took me back to one of my early experiences with water.



My memory raced back over 5 decades ( or 2 score and 10 years ago, if I kept track like Lincoln did) to a fast flowing stream, swollen by spring rains. I grew up in Mayfield Village when it was a real village, and it was quite rural. We had several acres, and lived beside a large working farm. There was a lazy little creek which meandered through the pastures, bisecting our property into east and west portions, and continued upon its merry way to where I did not know. Probably the coast of China, or so it seemed to a small boy.



On this particular day, the usual benign brook had become a torrent, roiling along, carrying tree branches and flotsam from up-stream further down-stream.

The neighbor boy, Johnny, and I were transfixed at this display of Nature's power. Simultaneously, it occurred to us that racing sticks upon the current was the proper thing to do at the time. We dashed about the sodden meadow, gathering up bits of anything which would float in order to compete against one another.

Then, it happened.

One of the sticks had gotten lodged against a clump of meadow grass bent over by the water.

We attempted to free the impromptu vessel by tossing rocks at it. This resulted in lodging the stick deeper into the grass. There were two bridges over the stream; one about 100 yards up-stream behind Johnny's Grandpa's chicken-coop, the other about 75 yards down-stream under a grove of trees on our property. We determined each was a bridge too far.



After much debate, we decided whomever had the longer legs would have the honor of stretching their legs across the water, thereby kicking the stick free. How to determine whose limbs were longest?

Simple; we would sit beside one another, extend our legs, and voila the winner be thus declared.

 
I was raised a trusting soul. Growing up in the 1950's we all learned the merits of fair play, truth, justice and the American Way. Therefore, it never would have occurred to me (oh the naivete!) that Johnny would have scooted himself back about 3 inches, to create the illusion that my legs were longest. Three inches was a good choice, any thing more would have raised serious questions about why I didn't tower over him when walking side by side; any thing less would have opened up debate about thickness of boots, etc.

 
This was one contest I was not thrilled to have won. Reluctantly, I approached the creek bank. The original plan was for the one who was not kicking the stick to grasp onto the one taking all the chances. Somehow in the adaptation from theory to practicality; this minor detail was lost.

 
I lowered myself on the creek side, grasping the wet meadow grass as tight as 5 year old fingers can grasp. I stretched my flannel lined blue jean clad legs across the torrent. I knew I would soon feel Johnny's vise like grip on my shoulders. I kicked, hard. I felt the grass pulling loose. I saw my legs, followed rapidly by the rest of me, go under the water. What I didn't feel was Johnny's vise like grip on my shoulders.

 
Under the murky water I went. I grasped at any and everything. Freeing the stick had suddenly dropped down the list of priorities. Desperately, I grabbed a large clump of meadow grass. While pulling myself ashore, I made a mental note to never wear flannel lined blue jeans if intending to go in water. Finally, I felt Johnny's hands pulling me up the creek bank.

 
Keeping a tradition of males since Adam said “Guess we should have had the peach.” upon getting booted from Eden; I made a droll remark along the lines of “Well, gotta go change. See you in a couple minutes.”

Upon slogging to the house, and casually remarking to my mother the water is a bit cold for swimming, I made another discovery.
 Being Grounded.

My mother was far too wise to restrict me to the house; she was no fool. I was, however, restricted to an approximate 100 foot radius of the house. This didn't stop me from getting rammed by a ewe when I got between her and her lambs. It also didn't stop me from falling out of an apple tree I was attempting to climb while wearing cowboy boots. Nor did it prevent me from bestowing multiple handfuls of just picked wild violet blossoms from the other meadow upon my Mom. But, it did keep me out of the creek.

 
I was brought back to the present by the high pitched laugh of our grandson, and the frustrated shout of our granddaughter, his big sister.

 
I chuckled while surveying the water-logged flower beds, knowing it could be much more dramatic.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Time Travel


Today, I took a different route to the office. I would love to say this was a conscious, self-improvement tactic. Instead,  I turned at the traffic light at the bottom of the hill where I should have gone straight. I realized my goof about 200 yards later.



I would love to be able to say I was meditating upon vastly ponderous matters. The simple truth is, I was on auto pilot, and Otto the Pilot determined the road to the park seemed like the thing to take.



Oh well, not being one to fret over such a little thing, I continued upon my way. Besides, the school bus 6 feet off my rear bumper made it difficult to easily stop and turn around. Relaxing, I gazed about at all the changes this little road has seen in the past many years.



I began that wonderful bit of time-travel known as “Didn't Used to Be...”



I recalled when the curbs and sidewalks didn't used to be along the roadway. It was a winding, two-lane, dirt-shouldered rural road when we arrived in this town.



I thought back to the time when the street with the bigger, more ornate homes didn't used to be there. Only woods stretching up the hillside; filled with hardwood trees and hidden patches of wild blackberries.



Since I was committed to a road less traveled this morning, I decided to do it right.

I drove along a road, looking at the development that didn't used to be in its present spot. Rather, the land was owned by a private preparatory school, and had woods, meadows, and riding trails.



I turned onto the state route which borders the Chagrin River. My thoughts went back to the Native Americans whose feet laid the foundation for this piece of two-lane. They referred to it as The Flint Trail. Just think of all the didn't used to be things those folks could comment upon!

Past a park that just a few years ago didn't used to be there; another new housing spot that didn't used to be there; rather; a picturesque weathered barn set beside a fallow pasture with second growth woods creeping back occupied the spot.



Eventually, I parked in front of the office building that didn't used to be here, across from a now bustling airport. It didn't used to be this way; I recalled it as not much more than a well-mown grass landing strip with some pre-WWII hangars along the sides.



With the closing “click” of the Jeep's door, my time-travel ended. It was a pleasant little trip, nice to get away for a short while.



I set off for my job, with a company, in an office building; all of which didn't used to be here.




 


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Monday, May 13, 2013


WARNING

This writing is somewhat devoid of the usual humor.

Readers are advised there are not too many

giggles contained within. Guffaws are

non-existent.

Thank you.


This morning, while heading into the office, I heard a not-so-new song on our local country station.

Yes, I admit it; I listen to the country station from time to time. I realize this may be a shock to some who have the belief my radio can only receive a certain Moody Broadcasting station. Nope, it has diversity.

The song was “If I Die Young”, by the Band Perry. The story line is a young girl singing about the possibility of her too-sudden demise. While the “why” and “wherefore” precipitating her demise are some what obscured, there is the haunting refrain of “the sharp knife of a short life”.

That has stuck with me through-out the day. Oh, I have heard this song numerous times; but not before have the lyrics lingered in my mind.

This is not the “OH MY... this song is stuck in my head & driving me nuts!!” thing. No, Brad Paisley's “Southern Comfort Zone” and the Getty's “In Christ Alone” are usually stuck in the re-play loop. While not Mozart, they do surpass “Pop Goes the Weasel” or “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”

Recently, our daughter-in-law's younger brother was killed in a traffic accident. The young man was only 23. Family and friends who knew him are feeling the sharp knife of a short life. Cliches come to mind, Billy Joel singing “Only the Good Die Young” makes a resurgence in one's memory. Then, Life goes on.

Yet, what constitutes a short life?

Is there a line denoting when a sufficient amount of time has passed?
Is a life counted in length of days? Or number of experiences one has?
To some, I have seen relative length of days.
From my perspective, I am looking forward to many, many more sunrises.

Is the pain of losing a loved one lessened because of an accumulation of years?
From personal experience, I can attest such is not the case.

And... sharp knives.

Geez; Life is filled with sharp knives.
The undeserved angry response.
The quickly spoken critical word
The “joking around” which no-one else finds amusing.
The forgiveness with-held.

How many survivors regret the last words which were passed before a person was lost?
How many times have we thought “If I had it to do over....”?

The Lord knows I have wielded far too many sharp knives.

He also knows how regretful I am.

One thing about crossing a few hills; one either mellows, or one becomes more acidic.

I attempt to keep in mind the advice of Thomas Jefferson: “When angry, count to 10. When very angry, count to 100.”

The wisest man Solomon wrote: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

I also try to remember the words of a First Century Middle Eastern carpenter “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself....”

Then, his brother turns around to state “but no human being can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

Life has enough sharp knives of its own.
The life cut short.
The debilitating illness.
The relationship torn apart.
The loss of a beloved pet.


We don't need to add more to the mix.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mom's Day


Mother’s Day; images of families gathered about the elder matriarch, her children, and her children’s children beaming toward her with beatific smiles typically come to mind. If one listens attentively, the sounds of harps and angelic choirs can be heard.   Bluebirds chirp merrily in the blossom bedecked arbor, and all is right with the world.
In the real world, such is not the case.

Let’s face it; there isn’t  anyone on this planet today who can honestly say they have never had a difference of opinion with their Mother.
I only know of one little Jewish mother who could honestly say “My Son, the carpenter, is perfect!” That would be Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

Can you imagine being one of His siblings? All your life you would have heard: ”Why can’t you be like your older brother? He never caused me such heartache. OY! You kids are making me meshuga !”.
You would reply:  “But, Ma… what about that time He stayed at the temple and you guys were almost home and you discovered Mr. Perfect wasn’t with you?”

“That’s different… He is a very devout boy! Not like you…at the rate you are going, you will have your bar mitzvah at 30!”

What about Mothers of other historical figures?
Can’t you just see Mr. and Mrs. Washington sitting around of an evening? She speaks up; “Dear, have you looked at young George’s teeth lately? They are a mess! How is he ever going to amount to anything with a smile like a jack-0-lantern? Now, I heard a nice young dentist has setup practice in Chantilly. Maybe you can make an appointment.”  Mr. W. (from behind his copy of the Williamsburg Blab: “Uh huh…yes dear.”

Or, William Shakespeare’s Mother:  “Billy. Billy!! Enough with the writing already! You never go outdoors. You never play with the other boys. You hardly talk with anyone…all you do is write these silly “plays” as you call them. Go outside and run in the damp, dreary, chilly English air; it is good for you.”
Genghis Khan’s Mom would admonish him: “Gengie… why must you spend all your time with these horses playing war? I am worried about you. This is so violent! What is bothering you? Come on, tell Mommy all about it. “

Can’t you just hear Napoleon’s Mother? “Nappy, you aren’t short; you just haven’t “caught up” with the other boys yet. Besides, even if you are puny… I mean short, you can still do wonderful things. Have you ever thought about being a school teacher? You have a very strong personality, perfect for teaching.”

Certainly  we all have fond memories of Mom’s advice and support. Not the “sit up straight” “don’t slurp your soup” “remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’” “if you say that again, I will wash your mouth out with soap” things…those are standard issue Mom-isms. 
The times she single-handedly put a broken heart back together. The times she was one of scant few people in the stands watching a Little League game, who can forget that. The times she told you she believed in you. How many times she said “I love you because you are you.”

To a greatly deserving, often times overlooked group without whom none of us would be here:

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What If?????

The other day, I was staring out the patio doors, musing.
I do that often; stare and muse.
While it may appear as though I am idly wasting time; the wheels are always turning.
Except for when they are just sitting there idle.

I was pondering one of the great "What if???"s of Life.
Oh sure, there are the standard "What if??" questions.

What if....

The South had won the Civil War?
JFK had not been assassinated?
Alexander the Great wasn't so great?
Napoleon stayed home with Josephine rather than going to Belgium?
Superman and God got into a fight?
Al Gore had not invented the Inter-net?

I was lost in thought; pondering a much deeper, troubling subject:

What if English majors wrote hit songs??

Can you imagine?

Johnny Cash would sing "I descended with great velocity within a circular conflagration."*

The Beach Boys would extol the driving skills of "The diminutive elderly woman who resides in Pasadena"*
Of course, "Please assist me, Rhonda"* would have been a smash hit.

Hank Williams and Willie Nelson would become emotional about "Azure Ocular Organs Emitting Liquid Saline While Being Exposed to Precipitation"*

Even today, Psy would be dancing to "In the Manner of Gangnam Residents"*

And... what would Duck Dynasty be without ZZ Top's "Extremely Well Attired Gentleman"* to open the program?

Ha!
Waste of time?
I think not!

"Being seated upon the ship receiving device protruding into the bay"* --now that would be a waste of time.


*(of course, I am referring to "Ring of Fire", Little Old Lady from Pasadena". "Help me Rhonda", "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain", Gangnam Style", "Sharp Dressed Man", "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay")

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spring Confirmed

The other day, Spring was confirmed.
No, it isn't the wonderful mid 70° temperatures. It isn't any date on a calendar. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Northeast Ohio knows full well what jokesters calendars can be.

It was not the daffodils and crocuses. Yes, they do provide that initial burst of color, and promise that all is not a frozen wasteland. Yet, they tend to look most "un-Spring like" when drooping over a couple inches of April snow. Robins are year 'round residents; we see them at our feeders in the depths of Winter.

Spring was confirmed in the gray half light before dawn. Further confirmation came as the day went on in sight, sound, fragrances of evening, and sensations.

A red-winged black bird along the riverbank burst forth in his distinctive song. A killdeer flitted across the hill overlooking the river, it's "Scree-scree" cry alerting others to the presence of a marauder. Likely, a raccoon or feral cat was prowling about. Upon the fresh breeze coming in the open window, the throaty rumble of a large American made motorcycle could be heard. As it drifted away, I could envision the rider taking on the curves and hills of Reeves Road.

Spring was further confirmed in the photo my Lovely Bride took of a solitary recently hatched robin occupying the nest near our door.

The fresh air flowing through the open windows of my Jeep touched my cheek. With just the slightest bit of coolness, it affirmed Spring was here.

While walking in the metro-park that evening, I received further confirmation. The sounds of children enjoying the playground; the sight of young couples walking hand-in-hand, the myriad of violets bursting from the ground all gave testimony to Spring's long awaited arrival. Yes, I can now put away the snow shovel with confidence.

The fragrance of honeysuckle blossoms lingered in pockets along the trails; offering a sweet surprise.
Inhaling deeply, the warm, damp primal earth scents created an undertone of promise. Spring is here, Summer is coming, and Winter is gone.

Confirmation came while observing a small herd of deer browsing in the golden light of the setting Sun. Shafts of light danced upon the backs of the deer as they moved, The white of fawns gleamed as if neon.
And.... while lost in thought watching the deer, I received undeniable confirmation that Spring is indeed here.

A mosquito bite.
Two of them.
Maybe January does have it's up-side.