LIFE In The TUBE – PART TWO
Later this week I will have my 40th and last session of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a procedure recommended after complications followed the clearing of my left carotid artery. The facility where I’ve been going five days a week is 35 minutes from home. You add travel time there and back plus about two hours in the tube, and pooh, there goes your afternoon.
Here are some things I will remember about this experience:
--You’re both thirsty and hungry after a treatment. Eating a clementine before you get out of the car to go in and another one the minute you are finished leaves you with tiny threads from the fruit stuck for hours in your teeth. If there is a graceful way of extracting these, I have yet to discover it.
--The word “repetitive” doesn’t come close to describing what MSNBC and CNN do every afternoon.
--The times I decided to skip watching cable “news” in the tube in favor of a movie were not totally successful. One afternoon I watched Dirk Bogarde and Ava Gardner in “The Angel Wore Red.” Set during the Spanish Civil War, Dirk is a priest who leaves the church because he thinks the hierarchy is more interested in power than people. Ava is a hooker, though if you look this movie up on the IMDb website she is described as a “beautiful entertainer.” Not incorrect but lacking in context. Of course Dirk and Ava meet and begin fleeing the chaos. The relic of a saint plays a big part in the movie and towards the end Ava has the relic and is running to take it to a safe place. She has been shot and is bleeding. Meantime, Dirk is one of 200 or so people who are about to be executed. At this point my session was over. I haven’t a clue how the movie ends.
--It’s not always wise to share personal information with your neighbors. One Sunday my car wouldn’t start and I had to call a tow truck. A neighbor came out and told me (a) I shouldn’t have bought a German car, and (b) that I never drove it anywhere. I corrected him on part b:
“I drive it 37 miles a day. I’m going to hyperbaric oxygen therapy in Woodbury.”
“I had a friend who did that.”
“How did he do?”
--The few times I’ve had to wait before the technicians were ready for me I’ve noticed a meager selection of magazines. The other day in a publication called Shape I read that a cellphone contains more bacteria than a toilet seat. Does that mean I would be better off holding a toilet seat up to my ear than my cellphone?
--During my drive to and from therapy, I’ve listened to a lot of country music CDs. Does anyone know the record for listening to one song over and over? Some days I must have played Bob McDill’s “She’s In Love With A Rodeo Man” sung by Don Williams 27 times. What will a nincompoop like me do if carmakers stop putting CD players in their products?
--During commercial breaks on the cable networks, I’ve thought of comments I might make to the Republicans at the gym. Here are a couple:
“Hey, Eddie, tell me is that degree from Trump University opening a lot of doors for you?”
Or “If Hillary had won, don’t you think she would have shut up about it by now?”
--The next time I have an MRI I’ll expect to be able to watch TV and see Ali Velshi of MSNBC while I’m in there.
--I could make this trip for another five years and still be very uncomfortable where a two-lane highway becomes four lanes and every car in the two merging lanes seems to be going 75 miles an hour, minimum. Plus the car suddenly in the lane next to me is all of three inches away.
The therapy seems to have worked. I’m thankful for that and for the insurances that will pay most of the cost. I know the tax laws have been changed and some deductions eliminated, but I wonder if a creative accountant could find a way of deducting the cost of 80 clementines as a legitimate medical expense.
(Posted February 27, 2018)
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EIGHTY
Having turned 80 several months ago, I feel it’s my duty to pass along to younger folks what to expect when you get to be my age.
DOCTORS: Not only will you see your doctors more often, many of them will begin to look worse than you do. Their smocks have also seen better days and have smudges on them, suspicious smudges probably from chocolate.
MEDICAL BILLS: Your medical statements will get longer, sometimes 15-16 pages long with row after row of odd notations. One recent statement said that Larry McCoy was “not currently a tobacco.” I take it I may have been a tobacco in the past. I’m looking forward to my status being defined in future statements. Will they say I’m “not currently a tomato” or maybe that I am “currently a trombone”?
DENTISTS: When you go for a cleaning, your dental hygienist will declare that you are doing a terrible job in the home care department and will list all the equipment you should use daily, or even hourly, to protect your gums, teeth and, just to be safe, your tonsils. There’s dental floss, a gum stimulator, little brushes that you gouge between misbehaving teeth and bitter mouthwash. If you did everything the dental experts suggest, there would be four hours left in the day for eating, sleeping, TV watching and two bathroom breaks.
NAMES: It gets harder to remember all kinds of things, including names, and people are annoyed when you call them by the wrong name. At my gym, the regulars include a Bill and a Bob, and I make it easy on myself by simply calling both of them Bill-ob. I say it so fast neither one of them notices.
TALL TALES: All your grandkids are now old enough to talk back to you when you make up ridiculous stories about Grandma. If you claim, “You know your grandmother used to go bowling with Abraham Lincoln” one of them will say, “No she didn’t. That’s not true.” It’s not their quick response that hurts. It’s the disgusted shaking of the head.
TELEVISION: Through absolutely no fault of your own, it will be increasingly difficult to understand what is said on TV, especially those British programs on PBS. The few actors who don’t have a heavy accent are schooled in the art of mumbling. After a blur of British English whizzes by, don’t be reluctant to ask your partner, “Did you understand any of that?” Odds are she or he will say, “Maybe two words.” Take that as a comforting response.
PHONES: The decline of civilization will be underscored in your mind when you learn that a new iPhone costs four times as much as your first used car. You will conclude that the universe is upside down when teenagers would rather stare at their phones for hours than borrow mom or dad’s car and drive around aimlessly for hours.
CHORES: When the younger grandkids come into the kitchen after dinner, you will be the only one there who has ever washed and dried a pan by hand. Or has even heard of doing so. There will be no volunteers to learn this skill.
MAIL: You never get anything important in the mail, but you can’t wait to see that there is nothing. The delivery seems later every day, and occasionally there is a letter that is sort of yellow and smells of cheese. You debate whether this should be immediately reported to the local postmaster or whether to devise a plan to catch the mail carrier sitting in the van eating Cheetos.
I’ve always liked the line by country music’s Billy Joe Shaver, “I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’m gonna be a diamond some day.” If that’s finally going to happen when you’re 80, you’d better get a move on.
(This appeared originally in the February, 2018 issue of the Great South Bay Magazine.)
LIFE IN THE TUBE
As promised after our talk at the gym yesterday, here’s the lowdown on what to expect when you start hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
You will be subjected to about three times the normal amount of oxygen, a technique that has been shown effective in healing various kinds of wounds. There is no pain. The most uncomfortable part is the start and the finish when they are pressurizing and depressurizing the tube. Your ears feel funny. It’s like being on a plane when the pilot climbs. Swallow frequently or keep your mouth open and there’ll be no problem.
I was joking when I said you’ll feel like a cigar in a glass tube. When you get there, they’ll ask you to take your clothes off. Is that a good start or what? When’s the last time anyone asked you to get naked? Whatever your answer is I don’t believe you.
You take everything off and put on a cotton top, a pair of cotton pants, and a pair of paper booties. The top has those four strings that never seem to tie like they should, so you may end up showing a little of your chest or a nipple. This undressing is done in a shed behind the parking lot. Another bad joke.
There are two dressing rooms with lockers and keys. I’ve found that the most frustrating/difficult part of this experience is usually untying the knots in the drawstring for the pants. Some people at the laundry they use must have a sense of humor and either leave tight knots in the drawstring on purpose or add a few. It has taken me five to seven minutes somedays to untangle all the knots. Trust me. You have to use the drawstring or your pants will fall down. The pants come in one size and are big enough to fit Trump, perhaps even the entire Trump family.
While you are going to these sessions, you can’t use deodorant or after shave lotion. This means you have to skip your morning locker room ritual of putting powder on your whatchamacallit. After you emerge from the dressing room, an attendant will take your temperature, your pulse, your blood pressure, your lung function and ask you to turn your head and cough. Ignore that last part, but there’s nothing stopping you from having a little fun and doing it anyway and see how the attendant reacts.
You will climb on a cart and they will give you a mask to put on your lap. Twice during the two hour session you will be told to use the mask to breathe a normal amount of oxygen for about five minutes. They also give you a sippy cup full of water. I don’t know about you, but in all my 80 years I had never been given a sippy cup before. Usually I don’t drink out of the cup while I’m in the tube, though I have managed to spill most of the water a couple of times, meaning that when they pulled me out my pants and top were drenched as though I had an accident.
They also attach a bracelet to your wrist before they seal the chamber. This, I was told, is your ground. I take that to mean if you didn’t have it on you would not be experiencing hyperbaric oxygen treatment but rather an execution from too much electricity.
You can watch TV or a DVD on a screen outside the chamber. I’ve been watching MSNBC, and it's just as bad as Fox News, beating the same story to death hour after hour. The first hour in the tube doesn’t seem to drag. The second does, big time
There’s not much room above your head in the chamber. To answer your question from yesterday, yes, there is room for an erection. So be my guest. Go ahead and have one, but what are you going to do with it? You’re in a clear glass cage surrounded by attendants, you creep.
After the sessions, you may be hungry and a little tired. Good luck.
See you tomorrow.
P.S. I know we agreed not to talk politics but if you haven’t heard, the Surgeon General has recommended hearing tests for all Republicans in Congress.
(Posted January 26, 2018)
A LETTER TO THE AP STYLE FOLKS
January 14, 2018
Editors, AP Stylebook
Dear Ladies and Gents,
What’s the limit, Folks? Are you going to put on the wire anything this president says? Have you given any thought to what’s bound to come one of these days from this character?
As the editor of the Gnaw Bone Bugle, Indiana’s smallest weekly with a paid circulation of 37, I’ve rolled with the punches, sucked my gut in, closed my eyes, bit my tongue and put “pussy” on the front page. And then, after the same routine on my part, let our readers see “shitholes” in their paper right next to an ad for the Gnaw Bone Country Store and Bakery (one of their cranberry scones will put you right with God for at least a week).
What’s the plan, if there is one, when this lunatic calls some world leader, say Iran’s Ali Khamenei, a “motherfucker”? You going to run that in full or scatter some asterisks in it? My background as an English major prompts me to ask when that day comes—and it’s coming—will you put a hyphen between “mother” and “fucker”?
Then there’s the locker room favorite “cocksucker.” Mark my word, it will fall from his lips and be reported and then some fine, fine Republicans will say they didn’t hear it. By the way, has the AP thought of asking all members of Congress to stop by your Washington bureau for free hearing tests? Just a suggestion.
What’s the thinking about whether to quote the man when he uses that short “c” word, the four-letter one I refuse to type in this letter? You going to run that or simply call it a vulgarity that rhymes with “runt”?
By the way, a friend in the publishing business in New York says Steve Bannon is peddling a book with the working title “Hillary Blew The Election But Not Bill.” If it finds a publisher that will be fun to watch how the AP and other news outlets handle it, so to speak. (My mother wanted me to go into real estate, and times like this make me think I should have listened.)
With regards and respect for the challenges you face,
Bob John Griffiths
Editor, Gnaw Bone Bugle
P.S. If any of you ever get down to Southern Indiana, please stop by. I can offer you some cranberry scones or sorghum. Nothing stronger in these parts during business hours. Maybe you could bring along some AP stickers to put on what we call our mobile unit, an old orange PT Cruiser. Thanks.
TEN RESOLUTION FOR 2018
-Advise Republicans at the gym that the correct name for the new tax law—one I will use in talking about it—is Trumpcare.
-Not raise my voice at the supermarket when Irene gives me half her grocery list and then goes and gets all the items herself.
-Tell CBS News President David Rhodes, in yet another letter, how wonderful it is when an anchor tells a reporter, “It’s good to see you.” I will suggest that the network go a step further and have the anchor ask the reporter “are you still dating” so-and-so? or “how’s the wife?” This would make for riveting TV.
-Not act surprised when I find two pounds of pine needles from our Christmas tree scattered in the back of our VW in July.
-Ease up on the jokes I tell a Republican at the gym who has three kids, all registered Democrats.
-Follow the lead of Walt Frazier by adding an “r” to any name ending with “a.” That makes for a city called “Atlanter,” a woman called “Rebeccer” and a country called “Americer.”
-Accept the fact that The New York Times doesn’t really have a sports page but prints a couple of pages a day about soccer spoiled by the occasional baseball or basketball box score.
-Not initiate conversations at the gym about dog psychologists because no one else seems to find the subject as ludicrous as I do.
-Immediately turn off MSNBC or CNN when they are talking about a two-day old story with a graphic on the screen screaming BREAKING NEWS.
-Stop keeping track of how many times one of the younger granddaughters immediately tells Grandma something I did that both deem worthy of a severe reprimand or perhaps reprimands.
We were recently prisoners in our own home. A crew of painters and wallpaper hangers invaded promptly at 8 a.m. three days in a row and day-by-day we were confined to ever smaller quarters as two rooms upstairs and one downstairs were redone.
While making breakfast or lunch, we had to work our way around a stuffed armchair and a wine rack temporarily moved into the kitchen, both so close to the dishwasher that the door would only open a couple of inches. It took a steady hand and eye to even drop a dirty piece of silverware into the washer. One of my deliveries ended up off target and retrieval took almost as long as the last two minutes of an NBA game.
One day Irene and I spent eight hours trapped in the living room armed with newspapers, books, mini iPads and a TV to keep us busy. While we sat, workmen climbed up and down the stairs, went back and forth to their truck and made their way to and from the dining room where they had assembled enough brushes, paint, paste and various tools (many of them electric) to put up 33 billboards in Ebbing, Missouri.
Smart alecks abhor silence, so naturally I couldn't keep quiet and tried to come up with something to say to Irene every time one of the workers passed by. Here's a sample of the lunacy that came from my lips:
--"How are we going to pay for this, Irene? There's less than 20 dollars in our checking account, and Social Security won't be in for another two weeks."
--"I called Mar-a-Lago this morning and let those cheap bastards have it. I was told my membership would get me five red hats. They sent only two."
--"Have you been near the foreman? No? He smells strange, really strange."
--"I'm telling you the doctor said he thought they probably would have to amputate. I don't know why you think I don’t need a second opinion."
--“Come on. No one’s hair is that color. He looks more like a traffic cone than a president.”
--"This guy at the gym develops IQ tests. He claims Rick Perry took one and the results were so low they didn’t register on the machine. Do you believe that?”
--"The market's down 400 points. I wonder what the hell is going on."
Except for a long conversation with one of the guys about skiing in Austria, the others ignored me as they should have.
Quitting time was four p.m. Maybe it was my imagination, but it always seemed more guys left the house than came in. Could it be there are still a couple of workers in the attic. I haven't been up there in months. Maybe Christmas morning I’ll ask one of the grandkids to go up and take a look. The chances of this getting done are probably better if I ask before we open gifts.
(Posted December 18, 2017)
THE DAY OF THE PRICKS
(I realize this is a one-joke pony, but indulge me—I just got out of the hospital.)
When I visit my primary care physician, there is usually a medical student or two who talks to me before the doctor. One result of this is you get to say everything twice. Another is it makes your visit even longer.
When the younger students have finished their questioning, they start to leave and say, “The doctor will be right in.” I respond, “No, he won’t.”
The older, wiser students say, “The doctor will be in.” I ask, “Today?”
I go to this guy because he’s thorough, knows my medical history and listens.
When I went to him two days after coming home from the unblocking of my left carotid artery, two medical students were awaiting me after my name was called. I explained why I was there, and one of the students said they needed to do an INR. This involved the pricking of a finger, my finger.
I’m on a blood thinner and when my skin is punctured I bleed a little longer than other people. One of the students tried to explain to the other what an INR is. “It stands for International something.”
“Yes, International Redness,” I said.
After the pricking, the student held something similar to the tip of a metal tape measure to my bleeding finger. There was some mumble-mumble between the two students before one of them went to get someone else, a someone who might know (1) how to do an INR correctly and (2) that INR stands for International Normalized Ratio, a measurement concerning how fast your blood clots. (Of course, I knew this without looking it up.)
When the third person entered the room, I was asked which finger I wanted pricked next. Being a graduate of Indiana University, I suggested that since my finger was still bleeding why not take the bandage off and squeeze. Ah, what a genius I am.
That’s what they did. Shortly thereafter the doctor walked in and said there was no need for an INR. So I had just undergone a meaningless prick.
The doctor did want to do some blood tests, and a nurse in the office who gets a regular paycheck for prowess came in and gave me my second prick of the day, filling five vials with blood. The doctor suggested I needed to see a specialist and his office arranged to get me an appointment the next day.
My guy also prescribed a blood test that isn’t done in his office. I went immediately next door to a blood lab for that. For those keeping score it was Pricks 3-Larry 0. Shouldn’t there be a prick quota? One a day is one too many. No?
(Posted December 2, 2017)
What I’m Thankful For
This will be my 80th Thanksgiving. That’s a lot of turkey, gravy, stuffing (with and without oysters), cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie. There’s much to be thankful for at my age.
For one thing, I give thanks that I’m still able to walk out the front door every morning and bend over to pick up the paper. I’m grateful that I don’t have a neighbor who walks her dog that early in the day. I’m not sure how I would handle being surprised by a barking dog while bent over.
Most days I remember my name and my wife’s, Eileen. Or is it Isabel?
I’m thankful I can go to the gym several days a week and most of the time don’t have to ask for directions to the locker room when I’m done with my workout. After showering, I usually remember to put on clothes. Most of the time my socks match, another reason to wear only white socks regardless of the occasion.
I’m glad I’ve never developed the habit of putting powder all over the parts that are central to being a man. At the gym, some younger guys (in their 60s) look as if they have walked naked through a snow storm before they put on their underwear.
Let me also express thanks that I don’t believe there has been any significant decline in my skills in the kitchen. When we have chicken cutlets, I’m the one who’s in charge of flouring them. (While I’m at it, I also do a large section of the tile floor. You could say I’m a floor flourer. There’s a possible new tongue twister if you collect such things.)
My omelet-making ability is undiminished, though I’ve learned over the years that my second omelet usually comes out better than the first. Knowing this, I should apologize for always taking the second omelet for myself and never offering it to Eileen or whatever her name is.
I’d like to thank New York State for recently issuing me another driver’s license. This was accomplished via email. There was nothing on the form I filled out asking about any bad driving habits, so only my next door neighbor knows I occasionally go into the house after doing errands and leave the car running.
Years ago I believed anyone 75 or older should have to prove they are still safe drivers. I’ve changed my mind. Many of us don’t drive fast enough to hurt anyone or anything, except maybe the rose bushes lining our driveway. Even if our garbage cans are badly bent, so what?
Another thing I’m thankful for is I can still ride a bike. To be honest, I should get someone to lower the seat. My mounting and dismounting are unattractive and not fit for viewing by anyone under 65, especially in mixed company.
During my years as a journalist, I worked many Thanksgivings and missed dinner with my family, which was a blessing to Isabel—I mean Eileen—and my two kids. I wouldn’t have known where to start if asked to carve the turkey. Do you begin at the neck and work your way down? Surely by now there must be a turkey-carving app that does all the work.
I’ll be home this year, and my son-in-law will be in charge of the carving. Happy Thanksgiving, particularly to those who will spend the day protecting us here and overseas or working in our hospital emergency wards. While they may miss a special meal with family and friends and a pro football game or two, after 80 years I know that a day without television can be a blessing.
(This originally appeared in the November issue of the Great South Bay Magazine.)
HERE’S HOPING THE SECOND TRY DOES THE TRICK
The hallway to the procedure room was familiar and so was the table I climbed on for my second catheter ablation in five months. Before the first go-around, I had been told inserting tubes in the groin and zapping the heart tissue that is causing afib, atrial fibrillation, doesn’t always work for some patients and has to be done a second time.
Last spring they pumped some drugs into me before I got on the table. Not this time. Because of the sedation in early June, I didn’t remember all the wires they attach to your chest and back and how long it takes. Two nurses in their 50s were attaching the wires and pads and talking.
“Where does this one go?”
“Why do you have three of those leads and I only have two?”
“Have you seen my glasses?” One nurse takes the glasses off her forehead, hands them to the other nurse and takes her own glasses out of her shirt pocket. The frames of the glasses looked identical.
Some of the discs being placed on my back were the size of small frisbees. There was a young man supervising placement of these discs. He had a long first name and an even longer last name. It was not Tom Hanks. When I was all wired up, they centered me on the table and put my head in what looks like a shallow spittoon.
Everything was ready except the doctor wasn’t there. While we waited, I mentioned that after a test at the hospital the day before I had gone to the cafeteria where there is a talking trash bin. When you put something in, a voice says “Thank you.” One of the nurses suggested the hospital would be better off raising salaries than buying talking trash bins.
The doctor showed up, shook my hand, called me “Comrade” (just joshing) and the next thing I remember the procedure was over and he was handing me the phone to talk to Irene. I slurred my words more than usual. “Come and git me, my little radish, they’ve drilled holes in my body and are trying to hurt me.”
You have to lie flat and not move for several hours after this procedure, and then they keep you overnight to make sure everything is okay. That means I had dinner there—chicken, peas and rice. The chicken was the only thing I could stab with my plastic fork, so I shared the peas and rice with my bedding. I wonder if they’ll charge me extra for that. If they bought green sheets, the mess wouldn’t be so noticeable.
Hospitals insist on putting patients in wheelchairs and taking them to the front door. After the test the day before the catheter ablation, I was waiting to be discharged when a man with a wheelchair appeared and said, “guy.” I took that as his way of saying “hello.” I got into the wheelchair and off we went, down the hall to the elevator and after we got off he looked at his phone and asked, “Is your name Guy?” He showed me his phone. His assignment was to pick up Mr. “Martin Guy.” Back into the elevator we went and back to where we started.
It’s too soon to know if this second try will get rid of my atrial fibrillation. Even if it doesn’t, I consider my hospital stay a success. Before being dismissed, a nurse went over some dos and don’ts for the next few days and showed me a form another nurse had filled out when I arrived. The form has my name, age, weight, medications and why I’m there. In the upper right hand corner, the first nurse wrote this note: “Allergy- FOX News.”
(Posted November 5, 2017)
REMEMBERING GOOD OLD HALLOWEEN
Most teenagers may know a lot more than I did at their age, but I don’t think they have nearly as much fun. Halloween is a good example. When I was growing up in Indiana, Halloween (or the week around it) was the most exciting time of the year, except for the state high school basketball championship.
Running was what made Halloween so thrilling, running like your life depended on it after doing something you shouldn’t have. Stealing a pumpkin from a porch, smearing car windows with soap, throwing eggs or shelled corn against a living room window, heaving rolls of toilet paper over tree branches.
If someone heard or saw us and flicked on a porch light, there would be a gasp from one of us before we all took off, running and laughing. Four or five blocks later we stopped, caught our breath and screamed in unison about what a great thing had just happened and that, best of all, there was no sign of the cops. We hadn’t been caught.
Where are today’s teenagers on Halloween? Staring at their smart phones and exercising their thumbs? You see a few stragglers, older kids trick or treating, but I don’t see any of them running or hear any giggling just before they turn over a garbage can or spray car windows with shaving cream.
It’s the little kids who take over the streets, in costumes, walking from house to house, carrying bags for all the candy they don’t need. Not only are they walking, they’re with their parents. A true Halloweener wouldn’t want to be seen with his parents. He has his heart—notice I didn’t say mind—set on doing something dumb and is in no mood to listen to reason or tall tales about the possible consequences of what he was about to do.
Everything today is so civilized and organized and proper. Where’s the fun, the adventure, the daring (and okay) the utter stupidity? Shouldn’t kids be kids?
Several years ago at lunch with two high school buddies (one of whom ended up a general in the Air Force) we couldn’t stop talking about the night a bunch of us cruised around town stealing pumpkins before smashing them on the high school principal’s front porch. More than 50 years later this display of immaturity was as hilarious and as exhilarating as it was the night it happened.
What are today’s trick or treaters going to reminisce about in half a century? “Oh, Charlie, remember that time we were out Halloweening and I got this humongous bag of Skittles from some old lady?”
My proudest Halloween is the time I made the front page of the local newspaper. “Vandals Let Down Street Lights” was the headline on the piece. Assuming the statute of limitations has passed, I will confess the vandals were Jim Painter and I. Although Jim was three years younger, he was just as committed to going through life doing goofy things.
We had discovered that if a chain on the street lights was taken out of its holder, the light would come sailing down and bounce to a jarring halt about three feet off the ground. This is how city crews changed the bulbs when they burned out. This sensation of the light seemingly headed for destruction never got old, and Jim and I must have let down 10 to 15 lights that night.
To this day, I’m proud of what Jim and I did. We didn’t break anything or hurt anyone. We had a really good time and got a heck of a lot of splendid exercise, running like crazy. Happy Halloween to everyone. And, Kids, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but try to show a little more initiative. Ditch the folks and get out there and enjoy yourselves. Do something that doesn’t damage people or property but is really goofy and worth talking about when you get old.
(This originally appeared in the October issue of the Great South Bay Magazine.)
WHAT’S THE WINNING ARGUMENT TO GET ME TO AUSTRIA?
There are some among us who think about sex every twenty seconds. No reason to raise your hands, we know who you are. I know there are also some among us who think about skiing every twenty seconds. I do, remembering favorite runs, their straightaways and where the tougher turns need to be made.
Despite all this lousy warm weather, it will get cold in a few months and before that happens I need to devise a solid plan to convince Irene that I’m needed in Austria this ski season. No, not for the whole thing but four or five good days on the slopes.
I need some help, some feedback on what might persuade her that I’m right, that Larry McCoy, his son Jack and his grandson Nicholas should go to Austria during the 2017-2018 ski season because:
It would be good for U.S.-Austrian relations, reassuring the fine people of Austria that not every American is a lunatic with yellow hair.
It would give me another chance to work on my German, which she knows is even worse than my English if you can imagine that.
I need to stop by the Darbo preserves plant in Stans, Austria and tell them in person that I managed to convince a King Kullen supermarket on Long Island to continue stocking their cherry preserves. The plant is right off the autobahn, and it wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.
Anyone who has two certificates on his wall from the village of Pettneu am Arlberg for more than 30 years of faithful patronage of their rooms, restaurants, ski shops, grocery store, bus lines and swimming pool should not be rude and not show up. I didn’t go last season and don’t want them to think I’m fickle after all these years.
It’s cruel and unusual punishment for any adult to go more than a year without an Austrian or German beer, fresh from the brewery. Even those of us with a demented cardiologist who recommends no alcohol can have a Radler or two and then switch to non-alcoholic beer. A Radler is a wonderful creation, half beer, half Sprite or something similar. It tastes good, quenches the thirst and leaves space in the belly for dinner or even breakfast if you have a very late night.
There’s a certain men’s room in Austria that needs an annual inspection to make sure the miniature soccer nets and balls in the urinals are still operating properly. (I could have said xxx does it still have balls xxx but that would have been crude.)
Both Lufthansa and Delta have lost my luggage in recent years and a fresh plane ticket to Munich would give one of them another chance to screw up thereby allowing me to bolster the Austrian economy by buying ski pants, a turtle neck, long underwear and ski socks before my own stuff makes its way to me.
It would give me more opportunities to ask terribly complex questions of our hosts in Austria and expect Jack or Nick to be able to translate it into understandable German.
Having paid into German social security for ten years, the Germans send me a check every month, and it’s only fair that I should reciprocate and spend some of that cash in Germany and its neighbor.
Every financial guru I know stresses the importance of going overseas every 12 months to verify that all your credit cards and your smart phone will work from foreign shores. This is simply a security issue.
During the summer when I mentioned Austria and skiing, Irene responded, “Why don’t you just go to Vermont?” My standard reply was that I wanted to go some place where I didn’t understand what people were saying. That’s a losing argument now because I don’t understand what many Americans are saying. Maybe we should just toss a coin—heads Austria, tails Vermont. The problem is I know I couldn’t resist the temptation to toss the coin under the couch and tell her it was heads. What the hell? If lying gets me on the Austrian slopes, so be it.
(Posted October 12, 2017)
I’ve been thinking about how I would like to go out. Not to dinner or a movie but my final moments. That happens when you’re turning 80, I guess. In most cases, of course, you don’t get to choose, but if I could, would I like to die while:
Making an apple pie?
Eating an apple pie?
Drinking a thick chocolate milk shake?
Reading a book by Donald Trump?
Skiing down the Rendlbahn in St. Anton, Austria?
Reading a book to Donald Trump?
Skiing to St. Christoph in Austria?
Taking a nap on the couch after lunch?
Watching Chris Matthews interrupt all guests after their first six words?
Reading a book by Hillary Clinton?
Skiing down the Valluga in St. Anton, Austria?
Stepping on the scale at the gym?
Playing three-on-three basketball outdoors?
Walking on the campus at Indiana University with Irene?
Sitting on the steps at the Water Tower in Chicago with Irene?
Taking a nap in the car at Jones Beach?
Laughing at something I just wrote that almost no one else would find funny?
Sitting in section 420A at Yankee Stadium? (While a game was on.)
Taking a nap on the Long Island Rail Road?
Skiing at Snowbird in Utah?
Eating a jelly donut (a Krapfen) in Munich?
Reading a book by Hillary Clinton in which she admits it’s not someone else’s fault that she isn’t president?
Having beers at the Augustiner-Keller in Munich with old friends from RFE?
Watching the sun set while eating at The Old Oyster Factory in Hilton Head with Irene?
Skiing down to the chair lift in Lech, Austria?
Riding a bike on a street in Kennebunkport, Maine next to the ocean?
Listening to Mike Pence tell his best joke?
Eating an ice cream cone with peanuts on top at Marvel in Lido Beach, New York?
Sitting in the car listening to a good song I’ve never heard before?
Driving through the Clinton County Fairgrounds in Frankfort, Indiana?
Eating a Polish sausage at Arnie’s in Whiting, Indiana?
Listening to Mike Pence try to tell a joke?
Driving from Chicago to Bloomington, Indiana listening to Emmylou Harris?
Splitting a Ritter Sport chocolate bar with Irene but taking the bigger half?
Eating lunch outdoors at any ski resort in the U.S., Austria or Germany?
Watching a night softball game in Bloomington, Indiana?
Skiing down Iliff’s Folly in St. Anton, Austria? (“Iliff’s Folly” isn’t listed on the official ski map but is called that by me and a few others in salute to a friend who made the run many times, not all of them in a vertical position.)
Reading a funny sign like the one I saw in a restroom recently, “Please open door before leaving”?
With a little luck, maybe I can revise and extend my remarks on my 90th birthday. Maybe.
It must be true that you’re never too old to learn because my wife of many years keeps offering nearly daily suggestions on how I can do things better, which, of course, means doing them her way. In a recent discussion on what we were going to have for breakfast, Irene said she was going to make French toast. I said, “Fine. I’ll slice some strawberries.”
I was then informed that I slice strawberries the wrong way. This was the first time in our 57 years of wedded bliss that she had alleged that I didn’t know beans about cutting strawberries.
“You slice them horizontally. They should be sliced vertically,” a familiar female voice said.
“What? What difference does it make?”
Millions, including me, are worried about what the lunatic running North Korea might do with all his weapons, but not Irene. She’s got her eye on the big picture—strawberries. I’m supposed to stand them upright and whack away rather than letting the little guys lie down and get comfortable before their world goes dark.
“They’re more attractive and bigger when they’re cut vertically,” Irene said, answering my question.
That was pretty close to the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard, but I gave a wimpy response, typical of men who have been married for a long time. “Ah, I see. I’m sorry I’ve made such a mess of our marriage by inept strawberry slicing and dicing. I’m such a loser.”
Because it was Mother’s Day, I went into a vertically-slicing mode and made a big production of it so Irene could see I was being a good boy. Who cares how strawberries look once they’re cut? You bought them to eat, not look at, right?
The French toast was delicious, and the strawberries, cut Irene’s way, tasted like good strawberries always do regardless of the skill or incompetence of the slicer.
The discovery of my long inadequacy in the wide wide world of strawberries came shortly after another upsetting revelation about food, this one involving our two younger granddaughters, ages nine and 13. They had come over to have cake and ice cream on Irene’s birthday and were each served a thick slab of luscious chocolate cake.
After noticing that their ice cream was almost gone but the chocolate cake was virtually untouched, I was told “They don’t like cake.” There’s no need to re-read the last part of the sentence. It says what you think it says.
How can you not like cake? Was it, heaven forbid, sliced incorrectly? Kids not liking cabbage and spinach I can understand, but cake? The older of the two girls likes broccoli. Would she eat cake if it were green and hard to chew? Is this failure to appreciate the virtues of cake something else that can be blamed on eroding standards in the American education system? As a public service, grandpa ate pretty much all the cake on both their plates. You’re welcome.
Less than two weeks after Irene’s birthday, we went looking for a card for our son, Jack, who was turning 50. While trying to decide among the store’s selection of cards for 50-year-olds, Irene gushed, “Oh, wow. Look. They make 80th birthday cards.”
I gave her a dirty look and shook my head. “Ah, hello. Your husband is 80 later this year. Remember?”
“Oh, that’s right.”
I may not know my strawberries, but I sure know my greeting cards. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they make cards for 120-year-olds. If you live that long, I hope it doesn’t matter how you hold the card—horizontally or vertically.
(I write a monthly column, the Musings of a Grandfather, for the Great South Bay Magazine. This originally appeared in the July, 2017 issue.)
QUESTIONS FOR MY HEART DOCTOR
Concerned that heart doctors might be running low on cash, my wife, Irene, had her aortic valve replaced the last week of March, and I underwent catheter ablation the first week of June. I had never heard of catheter ablation—a procedure where they destroy malfunctioning areas of the heart in an effort to eliminate atrial fibrillation—until I passed out for the second time in five years. Actually, it was when I came to that a cardiologist talked to me about it.
While it’s too early to tell if my procedure was a success, I’ve compiled a list of questions for the heart doctor when I have a follow-up appointment.
Dear Dr. xxxxxxx
When we discussed catheter ablation, I remember you said this was accomplished by going up through the groin. Did you tell me:
1. That you would go up both sides of the groin?
2. Is the fact that holes were made in both sides of my groin an indication that my situation was more complicated than usual?
3. Or is drilling holes in someone else’s groin just so much darn fun it’s hard not to get carried away and just keep drilling?
When we discussed the procedure, you said you would remove the heart monitor that has been in my chest for five years and replace it with a smaller one. Did you tell me:
1. That you wouldn’t put the new monitor in the same hole but would drill a second hole?
2. That someone (presumably a lady who worked at the hospital) would come to my bedside with skin glue and apply some on one of the new holes in my chest and within two minutes I would feel the way a piece of burning toast must feel?
3. That I would go home with four new holes in my body, two in the groin and two in the chest?
Before I left the hospital, a physician’s assistant came to see me and amused herself by ripping several small bandages off both sides of my groin, which if you don’t mind me saying it doesn’t take a medical degree to know this is a hyper-sensitive area, even when you’re so old you’ve delegated baby-making to others. The physician’s assistant also took out a pair of scissors, not in a threatening manner but sharp tools have a way of getting your attention regardless of the setting. Before she could do any damage, I looked down and saw two strands of blue thread, used to stitch up my wound, sticking out of the right side of my groin.
1. Did you use blue thread because we have talked politics a little and you know I’m a registered Democrat?
2. Would you have used red thread if you knew or suspected I was a Republican?
3. If I had told you I was an avid Bernie Sanders supporter, would you have chosen thread with a miniscule hammer and sickle on it?
When I took a shower the day after I came home, I found two of those patches that nurses like to stick on you and then attach wires to. One of the patches was round, the other square.
1. Are these recycled and should I bring them in when I next see you?
2. What’s the record for the number of patches left on a dismissed patient? Five, 25, 125?
3. Will Trumpcare, if it ever gets off the ground, put powerful, patriotic slogans on these patches? Maybe “Lock her up” or “Little Marco”?
Doctor, I know that’s a lot of questions. Be thankful I’m not asking you if you have ever had the “cardiac diet” breakfast served in the Recovery Room where “oatmeal” is grey dishwater with lumps in it and the “scrambled eggs” are harder to chew than a bagel. If you’ve got rid of my AFib, I will be grateful and just suck it up and learn to live with my four new scars. Thank you.
Some of my pieces are now appearing every month in the Great South Bay Magazine under The Musings of a Grandfather.
(Posted July 15, 2017)
Questions for Network Editors, Producers, Correspondents and Anchors
When you do a story on a medical study and simply say “researchers,” never identifying the group they work for, are listeners or viewers expected to:
(1) Get on the Internet and fill in the blanks on their own?
(2) Just assume “the researchers” aren’t five guys at Pep Boys who are curious as all get out?
(3) Conclude the network hired the wrong people and you would have done better in another profession, perhaps dry cleaning?
When an anchor, reporter or stringer says “between he and the police” on a newscast, are listeners or viewers expected to:
(1) Immediately blame such constructions on Betsy DeVos?
(2) Scream and text the grammar maven of the family who is almost always a woman?
(3) Conclude the network hired the wrong people and you would have done better in another profession, perhaps landscaping?
When an anchor states “the White House says it has cleared up” the matter of whether the president taped his conversations and then throws it to a correspondent and neither anchor nor correspondent explains how the subject was “cleared up”, are listeners or viewers expected to:
(1) Get on the Internet and fill in the blanks on their own?
(2) Trigger the fire alarm in the kitchen so they can’t hear any more of the broadcast?
(3) Conclude that both the anchor and correspondent would have done better in another profession, perhaps as mimes?
When a correspondent reports that someone “used the woman’s ATM,” are listeners or viewers expected to:
(1) Get on the Internet to see if women have a body part they’ve never heard of, something called an ATM?
(2) Tell themselves they don’t really need that third bourbon every night because no one could possibly have said that on the air?
(3) Decide to smash every TV and radio in the house?
When TV networks put up a “Breaking News” graphic over a story that is more than 24 hours old, what are viewers expected to think:
(1) This is a con job?
(2) The only thing “breaking” is the network’s credibility?
(3) After 24 hours shouldn’t the graphic be changed to “breakage?”
(4) All of the above?
It’s Hard To Know What To Ask The Doctor (or The Vet)
When there’s a medical emergency, you’re scared and overwhelmed and either don’t ask enough questions or the right ones. Irene, my wife, had chest pains recently and we went to a hospital and, though it didn’t seem like it at the time, things began moving quickly.
Our late Tuesday night trip to the emergency room was followed by several tests, a diagnosis that her aortic valve didn’t open properly, a transfer to another hospital and a Friday morning operation to make everything better.
The night before the operation we met the surgeon who explained what he was going to do, the potential risks and rewards. When he said Irene would be given a bovine valve, our daughter, Julie, immediately said “moo.”
I’m the trusting kind, and it was a relief to see that the doctor’s hands didn’t shake and his smock wasn’t the kind Indy 500 drivers wear with Pennzoil and Tums patches.
Within a week Irene was home, and then I began thinking of all the questions I should have asked. An internet search told me a bovine valve could be from a cow, a buffalo or a kudu. After looking up what a kudu is, I discovered there is a lesser kudu and a greater kudu. Isn’t that just swell. If the new valve does its job, are we going to find ourselves giving kudos to a kudu?
Since we didn’t ask what sort of valves the surgeon uses, let’s say the new one now in Irene’s chest is from a good old cow from the good old USA. Did it have a name, something besides Elsie? Is there an etiquette followed in valve replacements? Are you expected to write a thank you note to the owner of the cow?
When Irene is fully recovered and ready for a long car ride, should I avoid the farm areas we like in Long Island and southern Vermont because she will want me to stop the car so she can get out and graze?
During the time we lived in Germany, we bought a cow bell. It’s somewhere in a closet or our messy basement. Am I going to catch Irene sneaking around looking for the bell? Should I keep a close watch on her part of our American Express bill to see if she is secretly ordering salt blocks? (Just for the heck of it, I priced one the other day on the internet—a 25 pound block was going for $3.99. Is that a fair price?)
From now on when it’s time for shots will she need to schedule visits both to a doctor and a veterinarian? What are the chances this new valve will take control of her body and she will suddenly start walking on all fours? Who do you call in such circumstances? 911 or the SPCA?
She won’t like me saying it, but she snores a bit. If cows snore, is the “bit” bound to become a lot?
We have a follow-up appointment soon with the surgeon, and I need to figure out a way to have a private chat to run some of these questions by him. I don’t know what I’m going to do if he has a big picture of a kudu on his wall. Will I look like a real dummy if I don’t know if it is a lesser or a greater kudu?
I can joke about this because Irene is making good progress. Normally I show my essays to her. Not this one. I’ve already spent enough time lately in hospitals.
(This appeared originally in the June, 2017 issue of Great South Bay Magazine.)
FUN IN THE SUN CAN BE EDUCATIONAL TOO
I’ve been lucky enough to spend a good deal of time in beach towns with my grandkids. Based on those experiences, here are some suggestions on how to make a vacation in the sun entertaining and educational for both young and old.
BICYCLES On your very first outing, briefly take your hands off the handle bars, the way you did for long stretches as a teenager. This display of recklessness will prompt a scolding from one of the grandkids. In my case it was from an 11-year-old granddaughter riding behind me, “Don’t do that, Grandpa.” Naturally, I did it again. And again.
The young lady then informed me that she was going to write a book called, “Things Grandfathers Shouldn’t Do.” Judging by her tone, it promises to be a long book.
Children may be quiet when playing video games but not on a bike. My granddaughters bicker over whose turn it is to be second, to ride behind the adult leading the way. The importance these girls attach to being second probably is a result of being exposed their entire lives to the New York Jets and the Knicks.
MINI GOLF In addition to being fun, this is a marvelous educational tool, introducing youngsters to the concept of flexibility in math, language and real estate. Even if a little person took 27 strokes to get the ball in the hole, it will be recorded as a six by that compassionate scorekeeper known as Daddy. Through mini golf, kids learn that when an adult says “move your ball a little,” there are no shrieks of protest if they pick the damn thing up and put it 15 feet closer to the hole. All they will hear is laughter.
BEACH CHAIRS If there aren’t any chairs where you’re staying, don’t rush out and buy some. Look around. Are there chairs visible near other units? Could they be borrowed for a few hours or even stolen? If you’re caught in the act by the rightful owner or his friend, say you thought the chairs had been put out to be picked up by the garbage men. Make it immediately clear you know this doesn’t apply to the Chrysler convertible in the driveway.
EATING OUT Pick popular restaurants that don’t take reservations and then make sure you don’t arrive until at least 456 other folks are there, waiting for tables. These outings teach children discipline, patience and a fuller appreciation of the expression “I’m starving.” It’s likely that not every adult in your party will behave as well as the children.
The long wait will give you a chance to hear many stories from the grandkids. Who doesn’t want to listen to a tale from a seven-year-old that begins with the words, “When I was little?” Many a novelist wishes she could come up with such a grabber of a first sentence.
Pay attention once you’re finally seated. You will discover that two well-behaved girls, who back home insist that Mommy or Daddy must butter their bread, have miraculously learned this skill on their own. Both are happily buttering, cutting and devouring one hunk of bread after another. When the bread runs out, it’s wise to watch them closely so they don’t start buttering their arms.
The way to measure the success of any vacation—in the sun or otherwise—is how much your companions talk or write about it afterwards. At last report “Things Grandfathers Shouldn’t Do” was still being written. Like I said, it’s going to be a really thick book.
(This was first published in the April, 2017 issue of Great South Bay Magazine.)
EIGHTH GRADE SOCIAL STUDIES TEST- AUTUMN 2026
Select the correct answer(s):
What did President Donald J. Trump say after throwing out the first ball of the 2018 season at Nationals Park in Washington?:
1. Nolan Ryan told me he had never seen a ball thrown so fast. It was the fastest pitch he’d ever seen. I would have been a great, a great big league pitcher, but I was too busy making great deals and creating great, great jobs. My picture would have been all over the cover of Sports Illustrated. Even more covers than that has-been Michael Jordan.
2. The Nationals’ catcher is a loser, a real loser. Sad. That ball did not bounce before it got to him. He’s a liar. He screwed up and he knows it.
3. There were probably a million people in the park just to see me throw out the first pitch. Am I good for attendance, or what? Don’t believe what those dishonest reporters tell you. They’re scum. Believe me, a million people, easily. Most ever to be crammed into that ball park.
4. How did my hair look? Was it mussed?
What new institutions were established during Donald Trump’s presidency?
1. The Library of Tweets
2. The Repeal and Replace Museum
3. The Smithsonian Institution of Fake News
4. All of the above.
After the building of the Great Wall of Trump along the Mexican border, what restrictions were imposed?
1. No pole vaulting within 100 yards of the wall
2. All ads on the wall must be in English and no ads by media outlets except Fox News
3. Border guards could not bring meals or snacks to work but had to eat at one of the 37 new Trump Wall-eterias
4. No one of Mexican extraction was allowed within 25 miles of the wall unless they could show proof of a current U.S. country club membership.
What was Donald J. Trump’s slogan in the 2016 presidential election?
1. Make America Grate Again
2. Let’s All Grab Them Down There
3. Lock Her Up
4. I’m the only one who can fix it
When an alligator came charging at President Trump on the golf course at Mar-a-Lago, who came to his rescue?:
1. A Secret Service agent
2. A golf caddy
3. Jared Kushner
4. No one
(This was published May 8, 2017 by Eunoia Review.)
DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION AT YANKEE STADIUM
(This was published March 31, 2017 on Newsday.com)
I enjoy attending baseball games in person. I’m looking forward to the new baseball season, but it’s hard at times to see what’s happening on the field because of all the action in the stands. That was certainly the case last August when I saw the Yankees and Blue Jays play.
I was seated in the upper deck, section 420A, right behind home plate. In the two rows in front of me were five young boys in Yankee jerseys. The grown-ups with them, even an apparent grandma, took cellphone pictures of themselves and the kids from first pitch to last. What I took to be the dad of one small boy spent a minute digging the top of the jersey out of the kid’s pants so the number on the back would be visible in the pictures.
The mother of the boys, or at least some of them, kept looking to her right at the start of the game, presumably to see if the kids were behaving or had set anything on fire yet. Soon the boys—I’d guess between the ages of five and nine—took turns standing by her seat or sitting in her lap, periodically blocking my view. After dad bought a bucket of popcorn, the frequency of the visits to mom, the keeper of the kernels, increased as did my difficulty in seeing the diamond.
One boy had a glove. When it wasn’t on his head, it was on his hand, obstructing my view. His chances of a ball being hit into the upper level of seats were as good as my chances of being the 2028 Republican presidential nominee when I’ll be 90. Luckily the seats on both sides of me were empty, giving me room to maneuver to see. Sometimes. It would have been exhausting if I had been forced to ask a kid or adult every 15 seconds to please get out of my way.
One man spent most of the game with his head turned away from the field so he could talk to the grandma a row above him and show her pictures on his cellphone, taken I presume at previous games he had attended but not watched. He occasionally stood and faced grandma, apparently unaware of the possibility that the announced attendance that day could be more than two—him and grandma.
Tall beers were bought and shared by the adults, necessitating holding the can aloft, pouring part of it into a plastic cup and then passing the cup—more activities that had me making lateral moves in hopes of seeing the Yankees play. Or even the Blue Jays.
When the Yankees showed signs of a late comeback, dad and grandpa announced “rally cap time,” turning their baseball caps inside out and putting them on their heads backwards. The boys had to be shown how this was done. The Yankee rally fizzled. I blame that on the dad who had taken the now empty popcorn bucket and put it on his head over his rally cap.
After a 7-4 Yankee loss, I left the Stadium quickly, determined to get to the subway before a van loaded with kids whizzed by me, driven by a guy with an empty popcorn bucket on his head.
-0- MY ALL-AMERICA LIST
(This was published February 19, 2017 in Newsday.)
After years of playing basketball and setbacks from torn hamstrings and ligaments, I have finally made an All-America list. No, I’m not on it, but all my doctors are.
Topping the list is my Primary Care Physician (PCP), an Iranian-American Jew who always wears a yarmulke. I had never seen this doctor until the morning after I was mugged in a church parking lot in Rockville Centre. My primary doctor at the time didn’t work Wednesdays, and I walked into Dr. S’s office, told a receptionist what happened and was told “of course, he will see you.” He’s been my doctor ever since. He and his brother left Iran together and both became doctors. Whenever he talks about the brother, a pediatrician, my guy pauses before saying, “I don’t know how he does that.”
Years earlier my PCP had been a young doctor who worked out of his house in Oceanside and could frequently be heard speaking Latvian to his mother who I believe lived with him. For some reason, the richness of the various threads that makes our country (and medical profession) strong seem important at this moment.
My All-America list of doctors, all located on Long Island, is a fairly long one, not surprising for someone nudging 80 and fortunate to have good health insurance. More than a year ago when I needed a hernia operation the surgeon was a Japanese-American. Every three years I get checked for colon cancer by an American Sikh doctor. He too always has his head covered, with a turban even during the colonoscopy.
The doctor who made a small slit in my chest to slip in a heart monitor more than three years ago is a Filipino-American. Another physician in the same cardiology group is Chinese-American. Although I don’t see either of them often, I remember our conversations because they’re both skiers, as am I, and skiing always comes up. (While I don’t golf, I’m sure that skiers talking about skiing are as boring as golfers talking about golf.)
A few months ago I developed a stabbing pain in my lower back and by the end of the day I was holding on to furniture to move from room to room. Spinal stenosis, a doctor I was meeting for the first time informed me. He’s a Dominican-American born in the Bronx. I’m much better now, thanks to steroids and physical therapy. One of the talented physical therapists I’ve seen over the last few years for different ailments is a young man from Trinidad.
Having grown up in a small, mainly white Christian farm town in Indiana, what a wonderful mix of expertise and life experience I've been exposed to. What kind of country would this be, what kind of people would we be if we built barriers, physical or bureaucratic, to make sure only certain types of folks were let in it?
One good thing about getting old and seeing the same doctors for years is that they loosen up and tell you things they probably wouldn’t share with new patients. That includes jokes. For instance, are you aware that baseball is mentioned in The Bible? It’s right there at the start, “In the big inning.” Thank you Dr. M and all my other doctors.
Email to My Friends Overseas
To: BG (Canadian), LD (German), RE (Australian), MH (Romanian), TL (German), TA (British), RH (New Zealander), PK (Canadian/German/Australian), DK (Australian), MA (Australian), ST (Austrian), KHL (Austrian)
I don’t know how to explain what’s going on here. We have lost our way. Truth is no longer valued. We have elected a man who repeatedly says things that aren’t true. He has hired a propaganda minister who says if the president believes something then it is true.
Vulgarity and insensitivity are good, widely appreciated. Our president is fond of mocking those who disagree with him. Banks over here are always bugging customers to go paperless, and we have now become a factless country and are apparently proud of it. True information has no value. The president says something, it is reported and recorded and a day or so later he denies having said it and accuses the press of making things up. The propaganda minister and other underlings then engage in more obfuscation.
Reporters have talked with people who voted for the man, and many of them seem pleased by what he is doing. We are not the United States of America. We are merely the States of America.
The president can say the most inappropriate things about himself (how many times he has been on the cover of a certain magazine or how big the crowd was when he appeared somewhere) and we’re not offended or appalled.
Our president and his minions issue orders without thought of the consequences, without thorough consultation with the agencies affected. When things become a mess, we are told that isn’t the case, that things are running smoothly. The news media and most of the people in it are attacked and called dishonest. We can’t believe what is happening, and we flip on a TV channel to watch four people talk at once about how they can’t believe what is happening.
A top aide to the president has told the press to shut up and listen. This is a man who ran a white nationalist, anti-Semitic web site and who has just been made a full member of the National Security Council while the Director of Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been told there will be some meetings of the National Security Council that they won’t necessarily be invited to.
Our president is a man who doesn’t read but tweets. He is said to watch a lot of television and when he spots something he doesn’t like or does like he is compelled to tweet. Isn’t that sweet? There doesn’t appear to be a Mr. or Ms “No,” someone who has the guts to tell the man “no.” If there is no one telling him to stop with the asinine tweets about crowd size or alleged voter fraud, we’re in real trouble when there is a crisis and he relies on impulse rather than reason.
I have lived under a number of presidents whose policies I didn’t like. I have never before lived under one who scared me. A young American friend in Australia, young enough to be my son, tells me: “I'm scared for my kids. I used to be concerned. Often worried. Never scared before.”
People have gone out into the streets in great numbers to protest the new immigration rules, rules that the propaganda minister and others seem to argue were necessary because of the threat of imminent attack. Is it going to come to troops in the streets facing off against a population all decked out in pussy hats?
I hate Starbucks coffee and have often said I’m mystified why Starbucks has been such a success. Their coffee is way too strong and way too expensive. I went out of my way this morning to stop at the local Starbucks, my first time there. The boss of Starbucks has said he intends to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years. I and others are reduced to little gestures. We can’t let the bastards get us down.
(Posted February 1, 2017)
UNITED TRUMP INTERNATIONAL IS LAUNCHED
Eric and Donald Trump Jr. announced today that they have bought United Press International and renamed it United Trump International “to finally bring the truth to the American people and the world.”
In a joint statement, the sons of President Donald J. Trump said the new UTI would be committed to exposing the lies and distortions of all those very dishonest so-called people who pose as journalists for the main street media.”
The first news item sent under the new logo was about a meeting President Trump had today with a group of chiropractors:
“Supreme Leader Donald J. Trump told the National Association of Chiropractors and Metatarsus Manipulators ‘you guys are going to have plenty of work under my administration. Promise. We’re going to be putting that wall up so fast there is going to be a big, big demand for your services. Lots and lots of sore backs. I hope some of you guys speak Russian because Vladi Vladimirovich wants to be a good buddy and is sending over thousands and thousands of Russians to help us with the wall. What a great guy. Just the best.’“
A White House statement said 17,000 people crowded into the East Room to hear the Noble Commander-In-Chief’s remarks and that he received a standing ovation when he entered and left the room. According to White House press secretary Spice Spicer, both ovations lasted 15 to 20 minutes.
According to the Trump brothers, David Duke will be the Executive Editor of UTI. In a brief attempt at a phone interview, Duke said he was very excited to “have this chance to wake the American people up to what is really….”The line went dead at that point. Duke had said he was calling from his underground bunker in Louisiana.
Sources say United Trump International plans to “make spelling great again.” For example, the agency will drop the “c” in “attack” and will use only one “s” in “pussy.”
Posted February 8, 2017
NOTES I NEED TO WRITE SOON
Dear Dr. K,
As my cardiologist, perhaps you would like to put in my file that for Christmas breakfast I had steak, ham, bacon, and sausage along with scrambled eggs, potatoes, two pancakes, Kolach (a Hungarian nut roll), and three biscuits with jelly or honey. I also had two large cups of coffee. The day after Christmas it was the same story--steak, ham, bacon and sausage for breakfast as well as more biscuits with jelly or honey.
Dear Vice President-Elect Pence,
I’ve read that you believe those who are gay can go to conversion classes and be persuaded to change their sexual preference. Do you think that similar classes could set Democrats straight, so to speak?
BowTie Theater, Manhasset, New York
Every time my wife and I see a movie at your theater we have to sit through an ad claiming you folks have engineered “a revolution in popcorn” and that if we buy some of what you sell we will have “a better popcorn experience.” Is this what you would like to be known for, what your grandkids will brag about when you’re gone? A revolution? In popcorn? Get control of yourself. I bought some of your popcorn once. It was popcorn. Period. Over and out.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
Mt. Arlington, New Jersey
I had lunch at your establishment a few days ago and noticed a car parked in front of the store with New York license plates “FATTY 1.” Is that your car? Not to be rude, but if you eat your own food every day you could sure put on some weight. If it is your car, should I be looking the next time I’m in your neighborhood for a car with a FATTY 2 plate? And who might the owner of that one be?
Mayor, Mahwah, New Jersey
Driving by signs for your town recently I realized I don’t know what people from Mahwah are called. Mahwahites? Mahwahtonians? Mahwahts? Mahwahnese? Malcontents?
Michael McRobbie, President, Indiana University
I realize you were born in Australia, but is it not silly, perhaps even stupid, for a university football team with a record of 6-6 to play in a bowl game as I.U. did a few days ago? If a student got only half the questions right on an exam, would that be an exemplary performance deserving of special recognition? In the couple of minutes of the game I watched on TV of the Foster Farms Bowl with I.U. playing Utah, it was refreshing that there many empty seats in the stands. Who wants to spend money, even if some tickets were only $25, to watch a group of mediocre athletes or as you administrators insist on saying “student-athletes?” Ha, ha, ha.
The “Foster Farms Bowl” rolls right off the tongue doesn’t it. If universities are dedicated to searching for truths, should not all the post-season games be called Money Bowl I, Money Bowl II, etc.? I.U. versus Utah would have been Money Bowl XXVII or perhaps an even higher number.
David Rhodes, President CBS News
Would someone please inform the new afternoon anchor at the radio network (yes, Dave, there still is a radio operation under your command) that when he says the Dow Jones Industrials lost 113 points when the correct figure was 13 points those of us on a fixed income go a little crazy? As a CBS stockholder, may I suggest that when a mistake like this is made (as it was last Thursday) that the anchor be fined a corresponding amount from his weekly paycheck. My wife Irene, a Hungarian financial guru, follows the stock market numbers closely and when a 100 point mistake like the one above is made it can take me two to three days to calm her down and convince her that what she heard on the radio was wrong. The next time I hear this anchor make a market numbers mistake, I’m calling CBS News and demanding that the anchor get on the phone with Irene and explain how he screwed up. I guarantee that’ll focus his mind for a good bit.
(Posted January 1, 2017)
To A Republican At The Gym: Why Donald Trump Is Not My President
Ralph, you seem shocked this morning when I said Trump “is not my president.” Yes, he won the election, and I don’t want to get caught up in a discussion of the Putin-Comey influences on the outcome. I’m not sure I agree with Congressman Lewis that Trump isn’t a “legitimate” president, but he’s certainly not my president.
--Doesn’t mock former prisoners of war.
--Has a sense of humor.
--Doesn’t make fun of people with disabilities. (Ralph, if you had a friend who got drunk and made fun of the handicapped, you might cut him some slack because of the alcohol. How do you explain and excuse such public conduct from someone running to be president of the United States?)
--Doesn’t brag about not paying taxes.
--Doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously.
--Isn’t vulgar day in and day out and has a haircut that bears some resemblance to other haircuts on this planet.
--Doesn’t say, at least in public, that an opponent belongs in jail.
--Doesn’t belittle the parents of a dead serviceman.
--Doesn’t talk about grabbing women by the pussy. (You know that isn’t locker room talk, Ralph. In all the years we’ve known each other neither of us has ever heard that word in the locker room except guys talking about Trump having used it.)
--Doesn’t, for years, challenge someone’s eligibility to be president and then concede that person is eligible but claim the challenge first came from someone else.
--Doesn’t accuse a group of people of being rapists.
--Doesn’t make a ridiculous statement about Mexico paying for a wall along the U.S. border and then say U.S. taxpayers will pay for it initially with Mexico coming up with the money later.
--Doesn’t, after winning the election, continue to denigrate those who ran against him.
--Doesn’t continually make public statements before giving some thought to what he’s saying.
--Doesn’t continually say things in public that are either lies or distortions of the truth.
--Doesn’t refer over and over to the “dishonest media” or describe as “failing” any news outlet that has run a story he didn’t like.
--Doesn’t know more than the generals do about ISIS and isn’t an expert on hacking.
--Has read at least two books in the last year.
Ralph, as you know, I’m not religious but among the things that have mystified me over the last six months is how so many people who do believe in a higher being could vote for a man so disrespectful of his fellow men. Donald J. Trump is not my president. Is it possible he could change and win my respect and that of millions of others? Yes, of course, but the possibility of that happening is as great as the prospect of the New York Knicks winning the NBA championship this year.
(Posted January 17, 2017)
ME, CHRISTMAS CARDS AND THE MARINES
December 16, 2016
I’ve just seen a note online, congratulating someone for a “fantanstic career in radio and print.” Let me join in the congraeatulations.
Haste makes for mistakes. After lunch the other day, I passed a small pharmacy and ran in to see if they had any Christmas cards. Not only did they have some, they were very cheap and made in that most Christian of nations, China. The greeting inside the cards reads “Peace on earth and with you always!” It would appear that China has followed the lead of those capitalist dogs in the United States and fired all the editors.
If you don’t think strange things are happening as we await our new president to take office, take a look at what was in my email a couple of days ago:
You don’t have to know what the future will hold in order to take the first step.
Reaching the end of high school can bring more questions than answers. While many will come to a point where they must decide what to do next, only a small group will step forward armed with the honor and courage required to commit to the charge of the few.
Whether making it through 12 weeks of recruit training and earning the title Marine, or getting from ship to shore in a matter of hours to defeat our enemies overseas, Marines constantly face battles knowing that the only way to move forward is to win.
Marines have been winning our country's battles for 241 years, and they will continue to do so, because for them, every victory is a stride toward improving our communities and our world.
If you think the fighting spirit that lives within Marines lives inside of you, take the first step by filling out the form to be contacted by a Marine recruiter.
Stay connected with the United States Marine Corps
If you no longer wish to receive these emails, Please write to :United States Marine Corps, Southgate Road,
Arlington, VA 22204.or you can email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an Advertisement.
I’m pushing 80 and the Marines are hot for my body. What IS this country coming to? Should you think I was overly harsh about the firing of editors, take another look at the second sentence in the first paragraph and tell me what that means. Don’t we all come to a point where we have to decide what to do next?
Yes, it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars if I filled out the form and some poor Marine recruiting officer had to read it. But it might be fun to watch the recruiter’s face when I walked in the door, doing my best, of course, to hold my stomach in and hide the liver spots on my hands.
Five weeks from today Donald J. Trump, who knows more about ISIS than the generals and who is the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency”, will take the oath of office. I wonder who is going to be the first Republican in Congress to call for throwing out the 22nd amendment so Comandante Trump can serve more than two terms. I also wonder who is going to be the first Republican in Congress to call for his impeachment. Wouldn’t both of those be “Fantanstic.” Buckle up.
(Posted December 16, 2016)
Take a break from politics and meet Charity Melissa Thornton Smith Alexander, the only grandmother I ever knew. She had her first kid before she was 17 and at age 37 her seventh and last, my mother. Among Grandma’s other accomplishments, outliving three husbands.
Around this time of year I would sit at a table with her and help take coins out of cardboard Christmas stockings, donations that went to the church. She did other people’s laundry for a living and didn’t waste money or have any to waste. Christmas cards that arrived with a signature written in pencil were saved. The following year she erased the name, wrote her own and in the mailbox they went.
Melissa (like many people in her family she went by her middle name) made her own laundry soap. A large pot on the kitchen stove was packed with this smelly substance, and she would cut out a large chunk when there was wash to be done.
When my older brother Jim got a car, we would pick up and deliver laundry to her customers. I remember stopping at a Dr. Jones’s house. There must have been 274 rooms in that house and Dr. Jones and his wife were always very polite. Before Jim could drive, I think she drove herself to her customers.
She took me once to Detroit where three of her sons had gone to work. This was an exciting trip. Not because of the way Grandma handled a car on the long drive, but because of an older cousin in Detroit who was fond of skipping school. I remember being at a soda fountain with him when he screamed, “Come on, let’s go.” He had spotted a truant officer in the neighborhood, and we took off running. It was a successful run. If the officer was looking for my cousin, he didn’t catch him that day.
Another time I fell asleep in Grandma’s car in Indiana, and when she took a corner her passenger fell into the street. Melissa Alexander had a bad foot which made walking difficult, but she scurried out of the car that day to see how the grandson in the middle of the street was doing. I was doing okay, though falling on the street from a moving car is not conducive to a good nap. Remember that, please.
In the winter I loved to sit with my back to the coal stove in her living room and listen to her talk about old times, particularly stories about me when I was a baby and had pneumonia and there was concern I might not make it. She talked a lot about a son, Edward, who had drowned. She thought Ed and a buddy had been roughhousing and things got out of control and her second son ended up drowning. The other boy, she predicted, would end up confessing what happened on his death bed. If he did, we never knew it.
Thanks to Grandma I learned how to pluck a chicken. (She wrung their necks. Mom used a knife to accomplish this. I thought Grandma’s technique was more efficient.) My memory says she made the biggest and best sugar cookies in Indiana. They probably weren’t nearly as big as I think they were. I had many dinners at her house that were entirely home-made bread or buttered toast dipped in cocoa. Delicious.
Grandma liked to eat raw hamburger and gnaw on chicken feet. Fortunately, I don’t recall her ever suggesting we do the same.
She was a devoted listener to “Ma Perkins,” the radio soap opera, and had a neighborhood reputation for knowing what to do about burns. Women who had burned themselves in the kitchen would come to see her. I think her treatment consisted of butter and blowing.
Before my senior year in high school, my folks moved to southern Indiana, and I stayed behind with Grandma, perhaps shortening her life by ten years. Whenever I had a buck or two in my pocket, I had to get rid of it. More than once after dark I decided to take the Greyhound bus to Indianapolis where I went to a movie or walked and walked around the downtown area until I was exhausted.
Being around me, she picked up some of the lingo I thought was so daring that I used it constantly. One early morning after an excursion to Indianapolis she was waiting in her rocker when I came in the door. “Well,” she asked, “are you done catting around?” Whatever my response was, I’m sure it was smart-alecky and not among the ten best things ever said to a grandmother.
With the uncertainty, economic and otherwise, that comes with a new president, especially this one, if you get a Christmas or Hanukkah card this year from Irene and me, our names will probably be written in pencil. Feel free to send it to someone else next year.
(Posted December 1, 2016)
ADDING SOME SPICE TO A ROUTINE EVENING
Although a visit by young grandkids is always enjoyable, the truth is not every moment spent with them is a home run. Sometimes a harmless accident can enliven an evening that has been lacking in excitement.
My house was recently the scene of such a little drama, starring a cordless telephone and a piano with a fallboard, the technical name for the cover that goes over the piano keys. The telephone was on top of the fallboard, hereafter referred to simply as the cover, when someone on the premises lifted the cover slightly and, voilà, the phone disappeared.
This was our home phone, one we are more comfortable with than our cellphones. It couldn’t be seen. It couldn’t be felt. Even the fingers of the smallest grandkid eased under the cover couldn’t reach it. We knew the phone was there because when you called the number it rang loud and clear somewhere inside the piano.
Everyone gathered around the piano. What a warm scene. It was almost as if the older folks expected Doris Day and Gordon MacRae to appear and to start singing “By The Light Of The Silvery Moon.” Those with cellphones…Let me rephrase that -- Those with cellphones who knew how to use them turned on the lights on their phones and held them close to the keyboard, hoping this would show where the phone was and give clues as to what could be done.
The young ones were fascinated and delighted. They had never seen anything like this. Neither had the adults, but we were wondering if the house phone was now lost for good and whether every time we got a call we would have to tilt the piano and speak really loud.
After the cover was raised up and down and up and down and defeat seemed certain, one of the cellphone beams revealed a screw under the cover. A screwdriver was obtained and the screw loosened followed by loosening a screw on the other side. The cover came off and there was the telephone. We were all delighted, adults probably more than kids. The phone had been rescued. A sharp-eyed little person spotted a ballpoint pen inside the piano and retrieved that. Wow. A bonus. At least one adult, me, looked to see if any 20 dollar bills had settled behind the piano keys. Nope.
Now we had to put the two screws for the cover back on. There was zero confidence among the adults assembled that we would be able to figure out how to do that. Certainly not that night and maybe never.
Fortunately, we all know someone—a son-in-law, brother-in-law, and uncle (one person not three)—who understands how things work and would stop by sometime and make things right. THE man showed up a couple of days later, used his cellphone light to assess the situation and within five minutes had the screws back on and the cover moving smoothly up and down. It really wasn’t much of a challenge for him. Show off.
(When he makes these house calls, he always asks if there is something else he can do. There is but where to start? The gutters on the house need to be cleaned. The dryer in the basement has started making a screeching sound and moves about 16 inches closer to the furnace every time it’s used.)
One of these days, when their parents aren’t around, I plan to ask one of the younger grandkids to look at my cellphone to see if it has a light on it and, if so, show me how to use it. I’m hoping it does. That way I’ll be prepared the next time the cordless house phone goes missing.
(This appeared originally in the March 2018 issue of the Great South Bay Magazine.)