31 December 2007

Uninvited Visitors

December in Scottsdale is usually the coldest month of the year. This year was no exception, in fact, it seemed colder than any of the past 17 years we have lived here. One uninvited visitor was old Jack Frost who came barging in one night and stayed for ten. We tried covering up our sensitive plants and shrubs to no avail. He proceeded to wipe his frosty hands all over Grandma’s basil plants and our Arizona Yellow Bells, among others. He has since left us, thank goodness, but with no guarantee that he won’t return any time soon.

The other visitor, that none of us welcomes, was a flu/cold/sinus bug that hit me just after Christmas. I tried to dislodge the bug with Daquill, Claritin, Nyquill and Theraflu, but the best results came from a good old-fashioned salt water gargle that Grandma recommended. I’m still hoarse, but am now over the hump and on the down side of getting well. If you ever get the bug, heed Grandma’s call and use a salt water gargle! We had planned to go to a German restaurant New Year’s Eve, but had to cancel out. I was looking forward to some Sauerbraten und Rotkohl, washed down with a good Pilsener. Oh well, that’s a good resolution for 2008.

19 December 2007


As he quite often does, Rick Watson (Life 101) hit a memory button when he wrote about getting bread and milk in advance of a storm. The memory goes like this:

It was a big storm that had blanketed western New York and left our street covered in several feet of snow. The neighbors banded together and had potluck meals made from whatever stock was available. After a few days of no plows in sight, my wife and I decided to take a toboggan and hike a couple of miles to the nearest grocery store to see what staples we could find, as our family of nine was running out. A neighbor across the street asked us to pick up some milk for their new baby. When we reached the store, we found that most of the staples and just about everything else had been cleared out. We went to the dairy section and asked a clerk if there was any more milk to be had since neighbors needed some for their baby; the clerk said he would check in back for us. There was a couple standing nearby with a cart full of milk, who volunteered to give us some of theirs because “we don’t need it all”, but I refused with the reply that they certainly must need it or else they wouldn’t have taken it all. When the clerk returned with two quarts, we thanked him and went on our way. I don’t remember whether or not the couple kept all the milk. I certainly hope they put some back for the next person.

It took a few more days before the street was plowed and life returned to normal, but I never forgot the panic that set in on otherwise sane people when they thought they might starve to death before the next shipment of groceries would arrive.

13 December 2007

Where Or When?

The song “Where Or When” was written by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart for the musical “Babes In Arms” which debuted in 1937. I just recently listened to it and found that it could be classified as the theme song for the Alzheimer’s Institute. It certainly does help understand what an Alzheimer patient goes through, although the composers certainly didn’t intend it that way. These are the lyrics:

“When you’re awake, the things you think
Come from the dreams you dream.
Thought has wings, and lots of things
Are seldom what they seem.
Sometimes you think you’ve lived before
All that you live today.
Things you do come back to you
As though they knew the way;
Oh, the tricks your mind can play.

“It seems we stood and talked like this before.
We looked at each other in the same way then,
But I can’t remember where or when.
The clothes you’re wearing are the clothes you wore,
The smile you’re smiling you were smiling then,
But I can’t remember where or when.

“Some things that happened for the first time
Seem to be happening again,
And so it seems that we have met before
And laughed before, and loved before,
But who knows where or when.”

What do you think?

12 December 2007

The Clinton Theater

When we moved to Rochester, there was a movie theater about five blocks away - the Clinton Theater. The normal program included a newsreel, two movies, one of which was a “B” movie, an episode of an adventure serial, and coming attractions. Friday nights were when most of the kids in the neighborhood would be there because there was usually a western, where the good guys wore white and the bad guys wore black. We all knew to BOO the bad guys.

The admission was about a dime, but one could earn a bunch of passes by delivering a monthly program to houses around the area. I “signed up” for that one time and was autoed to a suburb and dropped off, where all the houses were served by mailboxes at the curb. Not being familiar with rural mail delivery, the other fellow and I decided that we needed to raise the little red flag on the side of the box to let the homeowners know that there was something in the box for them. After we had finished our round, we were picked up by the theater owner, who handed us our passes. On the way back home, we told him we had made sure to raise the red flags. Well, he told us that we shouldn’t have done that; the red flag is a signal to the mailman to stop and pick up mail from the box. It was too much to go back and lower all those red flags. I imagine the mailman was a little perturbed to have to stop at every mailbox, when not all of them had mail to be picked up.

I don’t remember ever again being asked to deliver the monthly programs.

Fearless Mice

According to today's Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk), scientists have genetically modified a mouse to be unafraid of cats. Maybe they'll be able to genetically modify jihadists to be unafraid of the rest of civilization.

07 December 2007

Smoke Rings

Congratulations to daughter-in-law, Sharon, for quitting smoking. She has tried a new prescription drug and it is working. Read all about it at her blog "Mimi's Blog" through the link on the right.

My own "adventure" with smoking started in 1949 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. My college roommate, Nelson, was a smoker. One day I asked him to teach me how to smoke, so he gave me a cigarette and I lit up. My first attempt was to suck in some smoke, then try to swallow it. Ugh! Don't try that at home! But after a few more drags I was off and running. I was 18 at the time, and trying to be cool. I was 36 when I quit, so I had smoked half my life. I tell people that it took me a day to start and 18 years to quit.

At one point in my quitting trials, I started smoking cheroots, until I found I had both a cigarette and a cheroot lit in my ash tray. Another time, I tried a pipe, because my Doctor said it was almost impossible to keep them lit. He was right; I gave them up because of the frustration level it built up. I had quit once for a 3-month period. The problem was that I hadn't convinced myself that I was ready to give up smoking completely. It took a few months of debate before I finally won the argument with myself. From that point on, no more cigarettes.

If you're thinking of quitting, talk to your family Doctor about the new prescription drug. My son, Jamie, has started on it now, and I pray that it will work for him. (I'm also praying that Gail and David will try it.)

02 December 2007

Joe Maloney

We lived next door to the Maloney family, Joe, Jim and their parents. In the 1940s, we played together; he was four years younger than me. One time, Joe’s mother bought him an archery set with blunt-tipped arrows. Joe was excited and went into the back yard and shot an arrow straight up; it came down and hit his brother in the top of the head. No real damage done, but that was the end of archery at the Maloneys.

Joe’s father worked as a night guard for the Rochester Psychiatric Hospital (the Insane Asylum, in days of yore), and Joe was used to going there and wandering around the complex. One day, Joe “borrowed” his father’s revolver and headed to the Pinnacle hill area, a wooded, hilly unpopulated tract on the southern edge of Rochester, where he wound up shooting himself in the hand and falling down a cliff. The firemen were called, by whom I don’t know, and rescued Joe. That was the end of “borrowing” his father’s revolver.

Joe worked at many jobs, including handling dynamite, or at least he boasted of it. He had been to Ireland to visit relatives and had kissed the Blarney Stone, so it was difficult to determine fact from fiction. I did find him at work at Haloid Xerox in a paint spray booth in the early 1960s. At one time he told me that he had had his colon removed and offered to show me his colostomy bag, but I declined.

He and I double-dated at one point, he with his fiancee, June, and I with a cousin of his from Ireland. Joe stood a little over six feet and June was about five feet four. They always seemed to get along well when we were together, however there was another side to Joe that I never saw. To read about that, go to http://www.dun-laoghaire.com/michael_maloney.html for the rest of the story.

01 December 2007

An Unpleasant Visit

I've been in a morgue only once, and that was more than I had ever thought would happen.

Gerald was the youngest of six children, about 5' 9'' tall, blue eyes. He had married, had children and then was divorced when his alcoholism got in the way of his life. He told me that he had never suffered a hangover no matter how much or how long he drank. He would run out the drunk then check into the hospital to dry out. In between bouts, he hung around those of us who did drink, but said he didn't mind. The last time he went in to dry out he was told that his system couldn't handle the strain of another treatment.
His sister had divorced my brother and moved into a house in Rochester with her children; Gerald would stay there off and on. When she moved to the suburbs, he stayed on at the house and started drinking again.
My brother and his son went to the house one day to check on Gerald and found him sitting in a chair in the basement with a shotgun to his chest - dead. The police were called and it was ruled a suicide. The kitchen cupboards were filled with almost empty whiskey bottles. Someone had told Gerald that one could always tell an alcoholic because they drained every bottle; we think he always left a little in the bottle so he wouldn't be so labeled.
The police wanted positive identification, but his sister didn't want to go, so my brother and I went. Fred wouldn't go look at the body so it fell to me. It was Gerald.
I hope I never have to visit another morgue.