Heeeere’s to Life!

How wonderfully nostalgic it’s been for me … finding a 24/7 Johnny Carson channel on Pluto T.V.. Shows from the mid-70’s through 1992 appearing before my so-much-after teenage year’s eyes. Those times – when I would come home after a late evening shift at McDonald’s – were so relaxing. A comedic and timely monologue followed by a possible skit, then three guests: one promoting an upcoming movie, another first time (or returning) comic, and an odd-ball act, or musician. Star after star, couch sitting their way through life with cigarette in hand, year after year in fabrics too large and too noisy even by today’s standards. Bob Newhart, Joan Rivers, younger versions of Jay Leno, Elizabeth Taylor, Anthony Hopkins, Tony Randall, Victoria Principal, … most of the stars who are now, well, dead graced the deep green shag carpeted dias back then, as the master of all talk shows reigned supreme. Speaking of … , I believe Diana Ross did make an appearance.

These days, we need nostalgia. Boy, do we need these look-back moments. At least I do. Life is hard. I need to sit back in my sectional sofa these days and be comforted by the bits and pieces of my past. The Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford cut monologues and Doc Severinsen outfits I saw last night pulled me into a wood paneled room and a polyester brown outfit with big yellow M’s on the sleeves.

I could wait only a few seconds to toss off that plastered on, odorous hamburger uniform so unpleasant even by that time-dated standard. My job wasn’t too demanding. Front-end sales – reserved for, possibly, the nimblest or those who were safest away from equipment 🙋🏻‍♂️ – found their way into my heart as I thoroughly enjoyed customer interactions and money transactions. With all that, I still needed to be done when arriving home at 11:15 on school nights – twenty minutes before “Heeeere’s Johnny” rumbled forth from Ed McMahon’s oversized pipes.

So relaxing it was. So fun to watch over incomplete math homework, likely never to be done History assignments, and English sentence deconstructions that likely, to this day, still lie un-erected on the thin, red basement carpet in my dad’s house. Pajama bottoms and t-shirts for an hour. A comforting, peaceful end to another day until that 6:33 alarm bell went off. Homeroom at 7:50, classes, then back to the Arches … only to return, five evenings a week, to an hour of a really cool friendship with someone who didn’t even know I existed. Someone who I cared about in a deeply comedic way … and who brought me to tears when he died on January 23, 2005.

Fifteen years. A lot since then. So much more from the years spent wondering why Burt Reynolds had long sideburns or Don Rickles found it so necessary to scorch everyone with his words. Many nights without any silly solace from a reportedly shy man who retired, gracefully, in 1992. Twenty-eight years without a show. Fifteen years without the always well-dressed host-pitable man who meant so much to my late adolescent years.

“That was then. This is now” as the lights go on in my mind. Heeeere’s Johnny!! I’m on air. Literally.

The challenges. Aches and pains are in different places. I study life, not History, English, or Math. My pajamas bottoms are not Batman and the paneled walls have been replaced by mortgaged, egg-shelled colored covered walls of my own. McDonald’s is a memory when I pass on the way to either the pharmacy or grocery store to buy apples, snacks, or Clif bars. I still need to answer to my dad, however, because he’s older and requires my attention … that hasn’t changed. He’s in my life just as he was many years ago.

And, so is Johnny Carson once again. I’m so happy – at least for a few, uhm, hours each night. Yes, the subjects in his monologues and most of the guests are gone now. Mickey Rooney, Charlton Heston, the gas shortage, Iran-Contra, Billy Carter, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, “It’s so hot … how hot is it?” audience relays, and Tommy Newsom’s dry comebacks … all pretty much gone in today’s three-dimensional realities, though I’m so glad they’re here, now, in my two-dimensional t.v. box 24/7 … any freakin’ time I want.

And, let me tell ya, those times are so, so often the past two weeks.

Thankfully, polyester is gone. Some material possessions I don’t want to revisit. Johnny? I do. As often as necessary during these last few weeks of a quite challenging year. He didn’t know me. Writing honestly, I’m not sure I knew myself as I immaturely sat on edge waiting for “Johnny’s Theme” – composed in 1962 by a, then, young Paul Anka – to begin. Daah-dam-dam-da-da … da-dum-da-de-dah! It’s not a blur. As clear as a trumpet’s bell these many years later. I hum it in my head every time – on key, being the musician I am – while Ed begins …

“And now, heeeeere’s….” And now is 2020. And now, here’s a year none of us expected, right? I’d love to sit back at 11:35 just one more time to hear Johnny tell us what to think about all this. One more time.

It can’t be. He didn’t know me, but he knew us. He knew what made us laugh. Boy, do we need that now.

I have a piece of that in my life every night, again. It’s not real time, but it’s real to me and that is what’s important at the end … when the final curtain comes down as it did on May 22, 1992. Over 6,000 shows, 29 seasons, and a final message:

“And so it has come to this: I, uh… am one of the lucky people in the world; I found something I always wanted to do and I have enjoyed every single minute of it. I want to thank the people who’ve shared this stage with me for thirty years. Mr. Ed McMahon, Mr. Doc Severinsen, and you people watching. I can only tell you that it has been an honor and a privilege to come into your homes all these years and entertain you. And I hope when I find something that I want to do and I think you would like and come back, that you’ll be as gracious in inviting me into your home as you have been. I bid you a very heartfelt good night.” May 22nd, 1992

Good night, Sir. I’ll see you in a few hours. Thank you so much. Heeeere’s to life!

My Lettuce is Bad

How about I just get this out of the way now: “Why did the iceberg lettuce rob a bank with a carton of two-week old milk as its accomplice? They turned bad.”

Yes, this is an elementary joke requiring a middle school sense of right vs wrong. You can bank on 99 out of every 100 adults – standing in line at AnyBankUSA – hearing that joke at some point during their lifetimes. Lesser know slang, perhaps, are the hair and money toss-ups into conversational salads. “My lettuce needs to be cut because I’m getting married tomorrow.”, or, “I’ll treat you to a nice dinner … the boss gave me a raise, so I can get some extra lettuce out of the ATM.” Lettuce consider the possibilities, right? … geesh, that is sooo lame and overused, … and stupid.

What is equally inane? My ability to over-buy sausage rolls, ice, … and lettuce for use at my business. No need to over-analyze this or insist that I spend insane amounts of lettuce on vitamin-B shots while sitting comfortably in front of Dr. Person, LFT-LMC-PhD. Granted, the couches are really comfortable and the mental inner-scents of peace sometimes calms my conscious in-hells, but none of this solves an overstuffed basket of carbs, frozen water, and green, empty, leafy vegetables. It’s what I do. Exhale. All is ok.

Extra brown lettuce pieces at the end of a few days could shred any ideas of my getting ahead in life. I buy bagged, easy to use stuff, not the round, have-to-chop-up and dice, cheaper lettuce. That is, if I ever did use the stuff. My food frenzy times don’t resemble a healthy fare market, save the occasional burger nestled on a bed of greens. So, why have it around for the 1 out of 100 who didn’t hear the lousy joke a few paragraphs ago … and want a burger sleeping on top of a green comforter? Why not take lettuce off the menu? Easy question … harder answer.

I can’t. I. Just. Can’t. Move over. I’ll sit next to you on the couch.

Sausages are easy. I go with my instinct – which is: I’ll probably not sell 50% more than I ever do, so buying an equal amount of rolls makes sense. Geesh. Ice? Soda bottles should disappear under an avalanche of frozen water as my profit margin melts over into an over-heated, macadam parking lot. This lettuce thing I have going on pushes my mental squeaky cart into another completely department where aisle spend shelf-ish time staring into fresh bags of pre-shredded lettuce knowing I can’t resist buying at least two bags … for, maybe, one burger. I know this. Even as my hand extends beyond the fine mist spray over the broccoli and weirdly shaped other veggies off to my left, … I know this weakness. So beautiful.

And now, it is sadly brown. Unopened, unappreciated, and never nestled under a burger, my lettuce is bad. So bad, I am forced to toss it in the can, of course. The end of so many bags of unfortunate choices of mine.

Sometimes we do those reaches knowing the outcomes. I know I have. Insert slang terms here … especially money. Investing money in known bad outcomes has been an experience of mine ( disclaimer: sometimes). Consider the phrase, “Stepping over $100’s to pick up $1’s” … None truer for me when testing the envelope of possibilities knowing it’s been sealed by fate.

Hey, I’m not complaining at all. Too many rolls, sodas, and veggies end up correct during my life, so for me to chow down on the three above means I’d choke on my own regret. Nah. No time for that. Do I want the money back I’ve wasted on bad choices? Damn straight!

Bad haircuts always repair themselves through regrowth. Bad life choices are fixed when we recognize them and find the humor inside the stress. I look for the little green sprightliness peeking around mostly brown lettuce in my life at times. Yes, the entire bag has to be tossed; however, experiencing the overwhelming joy when at first that freshness is overwhelming and the anticipation of good things around is emotionally churning? … Very much worth it knowing I’m buying more than I will ever need. I’ll make the investment of time and energy in someone even if I know there will be brown lettuce at the end. Why? Because there will still be some – perhaps a little – green lettuce in the bag at the end AND I’ll feel good reaching out, initially. It may be more than I’ll ever need (experience says it usually is) … so what, right?

Not a bad way to be. My lettuce isn’t that bad, afterall. Still wouldn’t want to see it comfortably placed below a juicy beef patty, though. Brown over brown doesn’t present itself very well. With that, I’m off to the store. Need a few onions and, yes, a bag of lettuce. Maybe two. Who am I kidding? Definitely two. I have enough lettuce to buy many as I want!!

A Brand New 52

2020, so far, has played us. Not like fools, mind you. We weren’t taken advantage of by a year so deeply sinister that it planned months of masking, delirious days of distancing, and financial fiascos years ahead of time. No, this year, itself, was bluffed into believing it had a hand in our positivity as the ball dropped on January 1st, precisely at 12:00 a.m. in New York city. Ah, yes. “2020 vision” … as I’m sure not to be the only one using this obvious phrase to describe what we should have seen coming …

… or, should we? In hindsight, there were no warnings. No tells, as they say in the poker world. No way of knowing, in 2019, the following year had wild cards to play from a deck of 54 – when we thought the year ahead had only 52. Fifty-two weeks of more freedom, joy, family, and good health. Two extra inserted jokers disguised as a virus and an unprepared nation … Yep, a stacked, heaping pile of numbers that kept rising, no ace in the hole, and no unifying face of the nation to win the day as 2020 began to deal cards … over and over … until we no longer had hands big enough to hold them.

No. We didn’t see this. No way did any of us expect 2020 to unfold into the disaster it has become. Maybe, just maybe, we believed the Presidential election was going to test our political patience, but that’s about all. We weren’t suited to handle the problems that came beyond that. What came across the felt, we felt, seemed to trump, yes Trump, the ideology of half our nation’s views. The other half spent minutes Biden their time (pun stolen from social media) until the final card was counted on some date on, or after, November 3rd.

Now, at least, I think we have some resolution on this. After all the post-election shuffling by one wheeler-dealer, we should be swearing in a new President on January 20th, 2021.

That’s seven weeks from now. As it stands and we sit at the table, this virus is still here – and it’s quite the pro at knowing what cards we have without even peeking over our shoulders. It knows our houses are not full – of people or hope like we had. It knows we’re not thinking straight, sometimes, because we worry about our finances, jobs, elderly relatives, schools, and communities. It knows some pairs are not together anymore because the emotional stress from the last nine months was just too much. It knows some faces are flushed and are no longer alive and aglow with vim and vigor for life. These once fresh, snappy smiles are now in the struggle of their lives … learning how to breathe all over again, or, perhaps holding the hand of someone they love.

This is what 2020 dealt us. All of us, whether you are sitting at the table or not, are playing to stay alive. This may not suit or be the most convenient, but we have no choice to play the game of pandemic poker right now.

However, we do have 19th century words of advice speaking to us from the well-worn sagely deck shown. If you listen, you will hear. They’ve survived two card wars before our time and solitary moments as one upon thousands sat in convalescent facilities hoping a grandchild would visit, or a lost spouse’s hand could hold their loved one’s heart one more time.

And it is these words:

Forty-eight weeks into a year of really trying to understand ourselves. Four weeks to go … four colors in a deck representing the four seasons we have experienced 75% of in limited glory. Spring, summer and fall – the magnificence of rain, sun, and leaves all tainted by a virus … with pure white snow to come, surely palen ahead of schedule. Thirteen, so unlucky, … hopefully the moon will cycle around our Aces through Kings, our 1s through 13s, to lower our numbers and help us become at least average again. I’ll take a push … a bet with my money back against the dealer. To hope for anything better – a winning hand right now – is a fool’s folly.

The virus is still here at the table and has the deck. For now. It’s 2020 and we’re here. The poker room is hugely huge and fully full with people of all nationalities, sizes, shapes, beliefs, and haircuts. This is such a unique game of poker, though. There’s only one freakin’ deck. The standard rules don’t apply and the dealer cheats.

Oh, although I’m a recreational player, can’t say I know how to win. Even if I had true 2020 vision, the chances of my figuring a way around the poker table here? Zilch. Nada. Zero. All I can offer up are my hopes and dreams of a better 2021. That’s it. A “Brand new 52” is dealt to us then – as this flippin’ year comes to a close December 31st at 11:59:59 when the ball drops, silently I’m sure, in New York city.

Oh, what a big deal next year will be!

Turducken, the Day After

Every Thanksgiving I feel older. The Friday day after feels farther away from holiday Thursday as the years calendar on … but …

I’m not that old … yet. You know, the old when huh? and what’d ya say? replace “You know it, girlfriend!” and “Way to go, bro!” in everyday conversations. Sure, I’m not thirty-something anymore, either.

Consider me one of the middle-of-the-late middle aged road, semi-aware guys plodding along life’s car pool lane. Every once in a while I get to shift the conversation in my head to creative ideas that automatically pop up – and these, then, exhaustively blow out my mouth pipe. Those along for the ride have no choice but to listen because I swerve my words into their ears. They’re stuck. Seatbelted into a friendship with me, they are … and, by the way, they love it.

“Turducken” blew out the other day followed by juvenile laughter. I saw it resting in a meme right in front of my eyes. I knew immediately this word was destined to be in one of my blog posts someday – and said as much to my friends sitting across from me. No sooner did the black smoke clear when one shot back, “Please, don’t. Why would you? It’s just a stupid word.”. “Uhm, yes, I know … a word … a funny word, and I don’t really know what it means – to be honest.”, I immediately replied, defending my youthful, inner sense of third-grade humor. To annoy even more, “turducken, TurDucken, TURDUCKEN!” … each one louder than the one before – just to secure my position among the least mature at the table.

I’m not that old … yet. Words like turducken can amuse me still. So do Lumpuckaroo and Cringidabingus, two words I have NO idea the meaning of and never took the chance to ask my, now, deceased grandfather. I chuckle thinking about them coming from his mouth every time he made a diagnosis of a personal illness or an American political problem. One of two things. Yep. Had to be Lump’ or Cring’ … this was his way-about. I think I got a bit of his genes, btw.

Unlike the aforementioned unprofessional, medically paternal funnery, I’ve come to learn turducken is a real thing: a turkey stuffed with duck and chicken – which makes the word increasingly more hilarious when followed by the definition … Or, is it just me?

Could be. Not going to argue the point.

Don’t want to disagree, or agree, whether you should like a savory three-meat at a time dish. I’ve never had it. Never spent valuable moments forking my way through it – if memory serves me well on my soon to be silver haired platter. I like meat separated, one at a time … unless on a club sandwich, bacon cheeseburger, or pizza.

Or, should I say, a Cluburgerizza.

Now, there’s another word I can spontaneously shout out someday. Unfortunately, it isn’t as funny as turducken, but I can make it so with a third grade snicker and twinkle my eyes in the direction of my friends. They’ll get aggravated and tell me to go sit somewhere else. That’s ok. I won’t because I know they need me around. In their mind, they’re saying, “Way to go, bro!” while refusing to say it aloud. Why? That’s what real Turduckenaires do. The folks who are so unique, so out of the ordinary, … you can’t help loving them once you, uhm, … meat them.

Hop in our car. There’s plenty of room.

Thankful Three

As has always been the usual treat, my dad brings way too much ice cream through the door. This. One gallon. Filled to the creamy brim with three distinctly delicious flavors – chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry – it is the all-in-one creme de cacao in his visiting glass of Neopolitan courteousness; Also, an over-sized contribution to the holiday to match his need … a need to belong. We welcome him in. Every time.

A holiday, three times a year event it is. Very seldom does he come by other times. Christmas, Easter, and today – Thanksgiving.

He’s an independent sort of guy, but wants to be a part of his family. We’re small since mom died eight years ago. Seldom will he turn down an invitation to be around, yet hardly ever he’ll call with an idea to go somewhere with us. Relatives are distanced or gone, for the most part, and his friend circles are closing in, save one who stays in touch every day. Walks are twice per day, routines are vital, health is extremely important, and my relationship with him is better than ever.

Today. Over the threshold, once again, one-hundred twenty-eight ounces of ice cream for three people. Again, it didn’t matter. An army of one-thousand Navy Seals or two toddlers skirting along in diapers, a gallon of neapolitan from the local market was coming through my front door today. This year, 2020, changed perceptions about a lot of things, for sure. When it came to my dad standing in front of an open freezer door with cold, frozen dusty air blowing across his masked generationally worn face? … everything had to remain the same! Good for him, I say. Good for him.

He came into a house where we positioned the seating arrangements 6-feet apart. A masked hostess greeted him at the door, took the precious gallon and placed it in the freezer next to all our frozen pizza slices, removed ham, potatoes, and green beans from the oven … and we ate. Three people, two sofa denizens and one love seat, tv tray dad discussed politics and grammar during a pandemic, Thanksgiving day, meal.

My dad, a retired English teacher, could probably correct some errors here. Surely he would find some. During dinner, we talked through gerunds, whom vs who, subjective vs objective pronouns, and why television personalities talk bad English, according to dad. He has his political views, I have mine … interrupted by the fortunate forgetful nature of his short-term memory as we’re on opposite sides of the national chasm.

Pumpkin pie time (whipped cream) with ice cream and coffee (the last of those three for the other two, not me … not a coffee guy) came quickly as it doesn’t take much for three folks to eat meat, a starch, and veggie. Ten minutes later, dad headed out the same front door he came in only one hour before – in tow, a partially empty one-gallon, three flavors tub of ice cream. As has always been the usual treat, my dad brings way too much ice cream through the door.

We never know, do we? This has been the most unusual Thanksgiving. So far, though, I’ve had my thankful 3’s. D-A-D; Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry; Ham, potatoes, and green bean casserole; My wife, dad, and I together.

Small? Of course. Had to be this year. A short visit? Yep. Dad had to get his second walk of the day in.

We’ll wait until Easter to see what the world looks like. It’ll be different than today, probably. Numbers will hopefullly come down as a vaccine could be among us. A new administration, a new attitude, a new way of life? Who knows?

Tell ya what. When Easter is flipped over on the calendar and we open the front door, dad will be standing there with a gallon of ice cream. Assuming he’s eaten all of what went home today by Christmas, that is.

Thankful Evolutions

Back in March of 2005, I started. Just what at the time? Not real sure. It was the beginning of 10,000 baby steps that continues to this day. Over fifteen years later, I haven’t yet matured into adult strides, i.e. grown-up thinking about my business. My attitude is still childish, – like opening up a Christmas present every time I unlock the door to my concession trailer or slide the window wide open to greet a customer. Every day is new. Fresh. Exciting. Record sales or rainy, blah days, I’m ok. Five-thousand, five-hundred days flipped over on the calendar since diving in this unknown pool of figuring out how to stay financially afloat, I’m ok.

In this type of business – as in all I suspect – a re-investment of capital is necessary to grow. What’s left over after the bills are paid (not including our own paychecks early on) goes right back in for development, research, new(er) equipment, advertising, employee benefits/incentives, etc … all the stuff to help urge our businesses along. As owners, we have to stay positive. We must never lose our energy, drive, or focus. These are the intrinsic qualities fueling the engine. Cliche? Absolutely! True? Most assuredly.

Since that day in 2005, I lost a lot of money. Two failed restaurants within two years, a depleted savings, and lessons I didn’t want to learn but needed to. Everything was right at the start, however, I sucked at picking locations. Sucked. “If You Renovate It, They Will Come”, right? Shoeless Joe … you there? Purchased equipment sat lonely with me as cars swooned by at the second location, and people hastily walked by at the first. My recipes were (and continue to be) tasty, customer service is “me”, and cleanliness exemplary. I knew what I sucked at and had to admit it: location.

Everything else being fine, why not go mobile? Go to the customer. Problem fixed. Enter small cart #1. Then cart #2 shown above. Then the trailer seen far right … fifteen years later. A van, one commercial kitchen, two carts, one trailer … and one guy who is still pretty excited about his business.

Why these words a day before Thanksgiving, 2020, from a simple hotdawg selling, piano-playing, blog-writing, strangely strange fellow? Because, I’ve learned being thankful is a process, an evolutionary operation, with baby steps under foot. In the business of simply being you, be thankful for all the little things along the way contributing to your magnificent self.

I could list all the crappy stuff – even today – that isn’t right in my business. But, that’s today and all of it will right itself sometime soon. None of it has to do much with the pandemic shut-downs or customers not willing to be out. Heck, I live in an area where a larger than normal number of people don’t mask or social distance anyway. Our numbers are going up. Period. Whether you’re a believer in the science or not, the local hospital is experiencing an increase in cases and inpatient admittances. Too many haven’t been willing to take the necessary baby steps since March. But, I digress.

-My thankfulness comes in the form of each 4316-9. That is the current number on my sales book today. Every customer is a baby step. Without them, I don’t survive as a business.

-My thankfulness is for each supplier of the goods I provide. I can’t process hotdawgs, sausage, steaks, or chicken. The rolls nestled around these juicy delicacies don’t just appear in my hands, either.

-My thankfulness is extended toward all the landlords who rent spaces to me so I can be open. They are my lifeblood. Customers and suppliers are not relevant if I can’t set up anywhere.

-My thankfulness wraps around money provided to me in the form of credit and financial services offered through the local banks. Personal service and help when needed has been so valuable.

-My thankfulness to all the local businesses who have allowed me to set up and serve lunch to their employees on site. Word of mouth through these lunches has been a tremendous asset.

-And, finally, thanks to all my family and friends who’ve stepped in to help over the years in many different ways. You know where I am. You know how things are. You’ve been there for every baby step.

Everyone above is so important. Investing in them is as important as placing one dollar in a new refrigerator, ad campaign, or employee’s IRA. They are the process of my being thankful. I’ve evolved – in no small part – with the help of their support and encouragement in spite of my stubborn nature and crazy ideas.

Find those people in your life that have been part of your thankful process. You’re magnificent today because they were there for you – maybe when you didn’t even know. In those silent moments you felt encouraged, they sat away thinking of you. That amazing business phone call you didn’t expect? That was their referral. A customer stopped by because they heard … through the proverbial grapevine ….? Find them. Thank them. All.

Some friends, as they look over silly FB memes of mine … listen to goofy jokes, or my pontificating about political punditry so ever-present in our world today, assume I haven’t matured at all. I proudly wear this jacket emblazoned with young, fancifully unsophisticated lettering embroidered on my soul. It is because of who I am, I can appreciate where I’ve been and what the future looks like as it evolves.

So, tomorrow is a weird 2020 Thanksgiving holiday, but it doesn’t have to be. Stay socially distanced and masked if that’s what you feel is necessary. I am. That’s me.

The day isn’t weird at all if you take a minute, or a baby-second’s time, to ask yourself a simple question: “Who, in this process I call my life, has been there for me?”.

The answer(s) may not be sitting across from you – especially this year – but I guarantee they are thinking about you. They always are because of who they’ve evolved to be: folks who want you to be the very best you can be – even if you’re not real sure what that is when you open a business and have no idea what lies ahead. It may be 10,000 baby steps or more, so be open to anything.

This is some Life, huh?

Eighty-four years ago, Margaret Bourke-White peered through her camera lens to allow us the privilege. A benefit, through a periodical time machine, to see the endeavoring of the largest earth dam – Fort Peck – being built during the Great Depression via the Public Works Administration. This was the cover of Life Magazine’s first issue. Ten cents, by the way. $1.87 +/- in today’s dollars according to inflation calculators I rely on to show me how little money I actually have. Compared to how much financial value I thought I’d accumulate by this time in my life, it’s a dismal decimal’s sum. Some life, huh?

Actually, life is good. We can’t all be wealthy, tech-saavy, sports fleet-of-foot, Ryan Gosling talented, or Anne Hathaway ‘perty. Tall, short, bald, hairy, and broke, … we’re all doing o.k., right? “O.K.” defined as lovable, breathing, and suitable for something. Whatever that something is in your life, you’re doing it! Some life, huh!

Counting today, we have 38 days to go. Thirty-eight more sunrises and sunsets until us older folks can R.I.P the 2020 paper calendar off our semi-glossed painted walls and you whatever-exers can side-swipe it from your smart phones in front of your glossed-over eyes. This has been the year of all years. No arguments from anyone except those disagreeing with one another over everything imaginable. Pick a random opinion – and there’s the opposite side raining down, in a nano-second’s time, somewhere among the social media cloud. Some life, huh?

There were a lot of issues in life this year – not just a few like there were on November 23rd, 1938. Dam them for having what seemed to be a simpler life. Twenty years removed from their pandemic of 1918, but in the throws of a depression, they kinda did have a simpler life. Lounging around radios after a casserole dinner followed by a few sing-a-longs as an adult, behind the ivories, accompanied grateful voices, they lived a life. Patched-clothed kids sat on the floor giggling, playing board games or made-up card games. Everyone did what they had to do. Simple. Some life, huh.

Ten cents to $1.87. A 1,770% increase in the value of a dime since those rug-around days. That growth … simple, but not so simple. Costs of goods and services mature, too. We know that inflationary pain in the economic side of the American story. It doesn’t take much interest to get our attention … on either side of the ledger. The Public Works Administration, although shut down in 1944, was a response to the depressed economy that needed an infusion of cash into schools, dams, bridges, and other public works projects. Part of FDR’s New Deal, this agency (not to be confused with the WPA) created a sense of pride and interest in America’s industrial core. Skilled workers went back to work building warships and airports … and the Fort Peck dam in Montana that employed 10,500 workers. Some life for them, huh.

I’m no historian. Jon Meacham, presidential historian of significance, would have me out-educated before I showered in preparation to meet him for a discussion as to who was better, Taft or Harrison. He’s an expert. I’m not. Rarely do I exercise my right to argue on social media because, “What’s the point, anyway?”. Almost everyone there is an expert in their own eyes and I see no point in debating someone who can’t be convinced against their will. Again, too many issues ping-ponging across the inter-net for me to keep up with … chief among them: the Covid-19 attitudes. Some life, huh?

So, I finish today leafing through my thoughts about what must have been an exciting day for Henry Luce, the publisher of what became Time-Life Publications from 1936-1972. What a day for him … seeing Margaret Bourke-White’s photo so majestically framed on the cover of Life magazine four-score and four years ago. Most assuredly and proudly leaning back in his office chair, puffing on a half-lit White Owl cigar, taking in the moment was he. Some LIFE he had in his lap at that moment, huh?

… and only a dime, too. Made perfect cents back then – when life was just a bit less complicated. Simple when seen through the lens of a periodical time machine, huh?

Speaks Volumes

Our common core, long before the insanity of diagrammatic digital black holes, is “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence. Freedom from British rule and, back in 1776, an alliance with the French government to assist in the war against Great Britain. Pretty simple, right? A lot easier than the “new” way kiddos are asked to, well, do math these days. Imagine powdered wig dust flying in frustration – attached to additive inverses, box plots, and dilations – as the original 13 colonies found their way on to recycled rags, instead of what actually happened …

Our founding fathers using common sense. Common. Every day. Sense.

I liked math in school. Actually, loved is a better verb. English, history, Geography? Eh, not so much. Math and Music were the sweetness in my nine-period jelly donut. I ate both up. Notes looked like numbers when I practiced , er… played, diligently behind the keys and digits sat as quadratic equations, transforming into beautiful music in front of my very eyes. Solving for X could not have been any more exciting. Oh, and then there’s: V=1/3Bh ! Do you remember this formula?

Finding the Volume of a Square Pyramid, it is! Are you getting excited? Capital B is the area of the base (LxW) times the height, then divide the product by 3. Simple. Common sense.

I could do some advance detective work – with the assistance of the great Pythagoras and his mathematical theorum – to determine the actual volume of this particular stone structure, however, the monument above speaks volumes on its own.

Passing by every evening on the way home, my mind isn’t usually focused on it. Today, being a day off, was worth the stop. Seventy-seven years ago, the Woodrow Wilson Civic Association erected this monument to honor “Our Boys and Girls” who served. Yes, “boys and girls” spectacularly engraved on either side of the words, “Honor Roll”. I did some public google-digging and found only one source for the W.W.C.A. in America:

WOODROW WILSON CIVIC ASSOCIATION NONPROFIT

Company Number 392011

Status Active Company Type Non-Profit

So, it’s a “thing”, apparently. The address (I chose not to post) is listed and coordinates nicely with the very street, a few blocks down, where I turn to head back out to the main route. The roundabout where the monument sits is back from a very busy intersection which coordinates nicely with the 28th, two-term, Presidential log. He helped craft the Treaty of Versailles, did what he could do to see us through World War One, and was instrumental in the League of Nations, a precursor to the United Nations. He died in 1924 – only three years after leaving the White House – and is generally considered one of the better, busy, men to sit in the Oval Office.

Why 1943 to build this monument? Why “Boys and Girls”, not “Men and Women”?, I don’t know. It speaks volumes … What’s inside the outside stone cover is up to the observers to appreciate on their own …

THAT is the “Life and Liberty” we are guaranteed. THIS is why monuments such as these exist. Not to define what we should believe, but to show the ultimate sacrifice of a few or many, and let it up to us, as individuals, to acknowledge and confirm an inner belief to ourselves. To, then, leave behind a possible tear to honor those who served and make every effort to right the wrongs they fought to change … in pursuit of Happiness they didn’t get a chance to live out.

Most members, if not all, of the W.W.C.A. are not with us. Maybe. A 21-year old back then would be ninety-eight now. IF I could find someone to talk to who was around when the monument was erected, it’d be worth exploring … AND if I could find some old, dusty paperwork in a trunk along with maps, all this may start to add up.

OH, wouldn’t that be awesome for a math geek like me!

One Day

The Ohio river flows 981 miles from the southern edge of lake Erie to its mouth on the great Mississippi river, passing through – and by – two hall-of-fame sports cities along the way: Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Combined, the two have 19 championships as follows: Steelers – 6, Penguins – 3, Pirates – 5, and Reds – 5. Unfortunately, the Bengals are one of a few NFL modern era teams yet to score a Lombardi, but hey, there’s time.

In 1975, nicknames were flowing for the Superbowl winning Steelers and World Series Champion Reds. For the Reds and Steelers, these nicknames were off the tongues and typewriters of sports writers … fluently-friendly they were – these words with the heft of a linebacker and the grace of a finely tuned, well-executed fast ball. The “Big Red Machine” including Bench, Rose, Morgan, Pérez, Concepción, Foster, Griffey, and Gerónimo took care of business pretty much the whole decade, not just that year. The “Steel Curtain” nickname came easy as well for the quartet of the Steeler’s defensive front four, L.C. Greenwood, Joe Greene, Ernie Holmes, and Dwight White.

Yep, 1975 was a year to celebrate the Ohio river’s glory. “La Belle Riviere”, as this magnificent body is so aptly nicknamed, has outlasted – and will continue to – the hoorays and cheers of those years. Forty-five years and millions of heart-breaking moments later, we have memories and, maybe, a few autographs and game day programs. The players are retired, coaching, or, well, … dead. This applies to many of us, too – the fan base who held on to our dads’ hand while walking into a stadium for the first time as a deep, rich announcer’s voice echoed throughout.

1975. Ohio river and two teams. Also the year a sit-com taught us one really valuable lesson. Not through really bad acting (which there was), or quite mundane script writing (which there was) or, kinda bad wardrobe choices (which there was), or my complete disdain for Bonnie Franklin (which there was), or my wish that the writers would never develop a plot around Mackenzie Phillips (which they never honored), or my sincere love toward Valerie Bertinelli (which WAS honest and for true 😍)… It was the title: ONE DAY AT A TIME.

This is a saying I toss back and forth once in a while with a wonderful friend of mine. Certainly not an original phrase, it has been twisted, turned, modified, memed, run up and down the motivational speaker pole, and shouted from the pulpits of every denominational oratoty. I claim no originality in posting it here. “One day at a time” has no greater meaning than it does today, or any day for that matter … especially in 2020.

My friend, with whom I transfer this glorious pentaword phrase, sometimes approaches her days cautiously, but even then, undaunted with silent resolve is she. Under the black light of a pandemical petri dish as all of us are, she’s a survivor’s survivor.

When we were born, the maker of our forms placed a timer on our spans. The width between coming and going we don’t know. All we’re guaranteed is that it’s significantly shorter than 981 miles and less important, overall, than the Ohio river to our great American society. Yes, collectively, we add up to a great team if we played as one; However, if 2020 has taught us anything, we ‘ain’t all wearing the same jersey, are we? Each one if us, simply, were given one-day-at-a- timers and it’s up to us to use them.

Those timers are the other people in our circle who make a difference and can help us when we need help. Friends who we reach out to with a text saying, “I’m sad today and here’s why …”, or “My job is frustrating me. Can we talk for a few minutes?”. These co-breathers, especially now, are the real champions in our lives. They go to bat for us. They stay under center when we seem to be running all over the field.

We have no fancy nicknames for these heroes in our lives, nor are there hall-of-fame buildings erected in their honor. Timers must suffice for now. No sit-coms will ever come close to script the lines, fashionably drape a cast, or hire a lead actress that will ever gratify my need to priviledge the timers in my life. I’m so ok with that truth.

Heading down one of the greatest unknown rivers in the past 100 years, we need all our friends to help us stay afloat right now. Reach out to a champion. Our world is not a bell-bottomed, steel curtained, big red machine forty-five years later, for sure. We have each other, though, and also one day at a time.

Both, together, make any show worth watching and walking into a stadium with a dad, for any day’s game, a championship moment.

Psychic Flames

This is the back window view from my concession trailer, the wonky-winky sticker added virtually to protect the proprietor; although, she knew that was going to happen, I suspect, if she’s worth every ounce of crystal in the ball resting comfortably on her velvety red table. I see this sign every day when firing up my propane tank on that side of my business and always wonder: Is there an external, psychic force – unbenounced to any living concessionaire – applying positive or negative energy to me?

Usually unanswered, this query goes. Usually. Today, I felt the force. It came quickly in the form of a short, blue flash of light. A propane brightness followed by a stench of burnt hair. This is not uncommon to me. I should have seen it coming. Rather, SHE should have seen it and warned me … somehow, through a telepathic, psychic foodie, synaptic sensory system. Twice this has happened in the fifteen years I’ve been twisting tubers on a grill. “What?”, you ask. Step #1) Hook up propane tank and turn on the nozzle, Step #2) Walk into warm trailer, Step #3) Not remember that I didn’t turn off the griddle the previous evening, aaaand Step #4) stick a long handle ez-lighter in the hole while, subsequently, clicking on the flame … score: four-burner chamber 1, Doug 0.

At that point, it just was. No sense arguing the point with any universe willing to listen. I raised a few eyebrow hairs I had remaining and tilted my head. Fortunately, two days prior I shaved. Also, most head hair was covered with a ball cap and arm follicles, similarly, with my hoodie sleeves. Save a few back of the hand stragglers gone the way of hair-burn obscurity, all was well.

All was well … everything except the remaining smell of hair torched by irresponsibility. Boy, does that linger, or what? Not only the smell, but the fact I walked through steps #1 through #4 without thinking. Shhh (🤫) .. it happens, right? No getting around accidental mishaps and misdemeanor maladies. The bothersome bugger to me is the always lingering, “Why?”.

“Why” didn’t I turn off the burner last night? I always do. “Why” didn’t I check to make sure the burner was off before lighting?

The “Why didn’ts?” and “Why dids?” in life. No wonder Ms. Medium across the lot fascinates my opening minutes so much. Problem is, she predictably predicts – or portends to – know the future, but can’t explain the whys of our past. No finely swathed clairvoyant can. It’s up to us to put the pieces together. We have to look at the tarot cards of our own printing, the crystal ball polished by our attitudes, and the palms exposed in the hands we were dealt at birth.

Why did my mom die from cancer after five years of the best treatment this area could offer her? Why didn’t the Covid-19 virus remain dormant – somewhere deep – so it wouldn’t affect millions of people around our beautifully populated world? These are two unanswerable “whys” in my tank as I sit here after seeing a blue, red, and yellow flash of light … a light I’m glad I wasn’t walking heavenly toward eight hours ago. I can’t Uber you to a Psychic hoping she will look into your eyes and find whys, brilliant answers to your questions right now. Depending on what you believe, an afterlife may, or may not, be that eternal flame of forever findings – the place where mom, possibly, is finishing Schubert’s Symphony and understanding why ovarian cancer has a mind of its own.

So, today ends where it started. Is there an external, psychic force – unbenounced to any living concessionaire – applying positive or negative energy to me? … or, by extension to you?

If you believe there is … sure! If not, perfectly fine by me as well – not that my approval or disapproval makes any difference in your life.

We make our decisions and move forward. Chance happens. Luck pops up. Possibility, probability, … fluke, fortuity, friends, and foes all are constantly flowing through the gas lines of our lives.

Just be careful where you stick your flame.