It Was Nuts

Flam, paradiddle, and ratamacue. Give any high school snare line sticks, drums, and each player the promise of a Big Mac upon completion of the exercise, and they’ll crack off those rudiments faster than you can say, “Two All-Beef patties, please.”

I sell all-beef hotdogs at my concession trailer – almost as long as those high school basin-bangers above have been alive. I’m also quite familiar with the standard set of rudiments percussionists must know, being a certified K-12 music educator. Yes, I’m a piano-playing, full-time food concessionaire, blogger-slash-whatever it takes to get through lifer. It’s crazy. The turns and twists along life’s less than concrete pathways are unpredictable for most of us. Solid plans laid out early on do work out, for some, as they unfold in a perfect unity with the universe. Arguably, for most of us, we have to adapt to ever changing circumstances. Ever hear of that thing called, “2020”? It’s nuts!

Oh, and speaking of nuts…

Yesterday, I pulled my trailer into a rather tight space for an event, up on a knoll, overlooking a beautiful late summer afternoon. The gathering was a semi-large smooshing of humans celebrating the freedoms in America. I try to stay independent in my views when vending-attending these because I’m there for only one reason: to make as much money as I am able. Yes, “greedy capitalism” is in my blood because I can’t pay my bills with good intentions. That sentence is overstated sarcasm, of course, however some assume businesses exist for the sole intention of customer appeasement. Yes, this is important … but we need to be making money. Kinda the point of this event yesterday … I think; Although, I was too busy to pay any attention to the speakers many yards away under the pavilion so finely decorated with American flags, red-white-and-blue banners, and stars.

It ended up being a nice, profitable day. Unexpected. In one word, “nuts” – as we like to say when business is significantly better than what was planned. Extra trips to get more product, more dips into the bank bag for change, ice runs to keep up with soda, and the second row of burners on my grill fired up 75% of the time … all good indicators of a great sales day.

All during the early hours between negotiating my cart/trailer/van up the knoll in and around other tents and vendors, I was very aware of a wonderful tree smack dab in the middle of my specified spot. At no point in my fifteen years career have I ever had to work out a deal with an immovable, unemotional, vertical owner of a specific plot of land. No amount of words spoken convinced this new friend to move. I had to find a way around, about, above, across, against … Creativity in my soul, I cranked and creased my way into the spot. Van, cart, … and tree all together in one harmonious vendor space. That was 1/2 the problem solved.

Then came an uprising. Oh, not a bad thing, just rising up a 10×10 canopy over my cart. I’ve done this tent task so many times it’s a sleeper. One click here, one pull there. Repeat 4x. Done. However, on a gorgeous Saturday late morning in September, under a tree, not so much an easy thing to do as it was a stumper. The click-ups didn’t work so well. Apparently, my new friend had low hanging arms preventing my canopy from going up all the way. Yes, twig-twisting, cart adjusting, and more head-scratching for ten minutes until that problem was solved. Whew, right?

Once all was in place, coolers filled and grease-laden surfer dudes rode the breezy waves off my grill, the event was kicking off. “Freedom” was in full swing as my cash drawer was counted anticipating an average day that didn’t turn out to be such a day. And then it started.

Tap. Tap tap. Flam. Paradiddle. Ratamacue. Were my musical ears – so focused on the griddle – deceiving me? Was I too tired from the negotiating session earlier that I was hallucinating? Tapped out from overwork?

This went on for hours – semi-rhythmic light pitter-patter upon my ears. The non-melodic tones stopped occassionally only to restart at odd intervals, but I had no time to investigate as sausages and cheese-steaks kept slithering off my grill at an alarming pace. Ketchup, mustard, and onions distracting my every attempt to start looking around for clues to this dastardly deception.

Finally, after four hours, I exhaustively melted into a welcoming chair to enjoy a taco salad from a foodie friend food truck who was there. Head bowed down in submission to the moment, I saw – and realized – the culprits. These little buggers were all over the ground. Well, all around the ground perimeter of a 10×10 white canopy. Gee, I wonder how they got there? Bouncing off said canopy, perhaps?

I’ll give the tree some credit here for being capable of spite. Kudos. I know I interfered in its planned Saturday activities, but it wasn’t my fault, really. Was nut-bombing me for hours really necessary? Granted, I should have figured it out sooner. Also, the natural shade received was nice and I’m not compensating the tree for that. Money is too hard to earn these days. It doesn’t grow on … , like every grandfather says, … or, maybe it was upset about that, so throwing acorns was passive-aggressive behavior.

The day was nuts all around for sure. To say I was tired after all of it would be understating the facts.

Freedom can be celebrated. I am glad to be a part of any celebration – regardless of political affiliation or belief. Yes, I need to make money first and foremost. Yes, good intentions are important as well. I intend to keep doing what I’m doing as long as I can. I hope you do as well … whatever path you’re on, as twisted or unpredictable as it may be.

Just be careful of trees with nuts. They have a tendency to be a bit irritated if you happen to show up on an absolutely stunning, sunny day in September.

The Lab, King

He’s a handful. A handsome one, according to my good friend, Joel. His outlook? I’m inclined to agree. A king in his lavish world. So much so, he’s named, “King”.

Not hard to imagine why his name is beautifully attached to royalty from any imagined canine country. Labrador-Latvia, Canine-Croatia, or Doggie-Denmark would each welcome his highness into their castle of splendor with one glance upon this magnificent pose. He’s begging the question … if he could ask with words, “If not me, then who?”

No doggy. Simply, no doggy I know at this time in my life. One paw down slightly compared to the other, a smokey white light glancing off his right snout, and that sneaky, ever-so-slender reflection coming at us from his right eye all give us a sense of puppy pompiness. The circumstance of this photo opportunity was, I’m sure, 50/50 impromptu/planned as Joel loves staged shots. I’m almost sure there are treats and teases behind the scene, but not 100% digesting the suggestion. Regardless of the motivation, King is the king of this moment.

Moments like this, right? Pets and their owners. Correction. Humans and their owners. Kings and subjects, queens and servants.

Variations of this frame, in all probability, have been clicked through many camera phones since I started tapping moments ago. Long haired hounds and short-tempered toy poodles wearing tiaras on their noggins. Setters sitting behinds against not-so worn carpet. Beagles – bellying up in front of windows without stained glass panels – posing proudly for their subjects. Sit-stay. Waaait. All verbal commands falling on the floppy ears of flighty, figity, yet finely furred monarchical masters of our happy expectations.

We truly are subject to their royalty. They own us…and I’m glad they do. We’d be lost within the kingdom of our minds if they weren’t ruling from their cozy corner beds and lazy, droopy eyes.

Not just dogs, of course. Queenly cats and joker gerbils qualify as well. Pets are princely no matter what form they take and we gladly let them assume the role.

I don’t see Joel much. A few times weekly as we meet for a breakfast chat with friends. King is never at his side during these morning moments. Frankly, even without Covid restrictions, there’d be no room for his beefy frame … King, that is.

Joel is lanky, has very large hands compared to his slim shoulders, and is an expert woodworker … not that this fact has anything to do with his cantankerous personality. The hair he sports appears unkempt as the middle part holds it all at bay. One glance, and you’d spot his uniqueness right away: a specific sway in his gate, articulate thoughts when he speaks to you, and an insistence you get to the point of your story.

His claim of not liking me very much is testament to the exact opposite. My words frustrate him, but he listens with attentive ears every time knowing the outcome. That end result being his complete understanding of “my” unique qualities opposite of his. I ramble on because I am me … I tell quality jokes because I am me … and I poke him with words, again, because I am me.

Enter King in Joel’s life. Joel’s respite from the likes of me. King sits and listens to his words without judgement. He accepts all while rejecting none. In doing so, being a king who pardons all the day’s troubles in a servant who is seen as an equal…

…Which puts the picture above in a whole new perspective. Joel admits King is handsome. I do wholeheartedly agree! This peppy puppy is, indeed, “The Lab, King” – a stately one; however, look again.

King is extending a hug – an invite to all of us, not just Joel. I want to curl up under his two paws and rest for a few minutes. A non-judgemental, kingly hug would be wonderful just about now for all of us.

All of our pets want to be here for us if we’d let them. I have a feeling we do, otherwise we wouldn’t have them. Today is simply a reminder, I guess.

So, they rule over our hearts and, at the same time, serve our emotional needs when we require that space be filled.

Hug a hamster, or search out solace from a salamander. Rest assured they won’t understand your words. Hey, Joel never understands mine, but he respects my friendship just the same. There’s hope and peace whether animal or human, so keep plowing ahead in your fields and knocking on the doors of the castle. The King is listening and will welcome you into his world someday for a hug.

What a wonderful day that will be.

Love Bok Choy, They Say

A short treatise on one major food group.

This winter, take your tomatoes tobogganing, or your carrots caroling. Lettuce likes to learn about life and squash scampers to sharpen its senses. Vegetables are simply the best ever, when considered among the food choices we have spattered on our plates day after day. So some say, I guess.

I have, within my inner circle of winner friends, a meatless consumer who swears by a diet of whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, fruit, and … some veggies. Not quite sure, yet, what all she eats. Still working on figuring it out inside my McHead and flame-broiled britches. Nice, nice person, though, and a bit on the oddly-weird side, but so am I. That’s why we’re good nutty-buddy friends, I guess.

Writing “cow meat” will drive her hoofy-goofy, so I’ll alter it a bit. “Juicy steak meat”, dairy, bread, soda, cake, cookies, ice cream, and pizza are most excellent food groups as well. No denying that fact. However, veggies are the healthiest (they say), so a 2-3X daily intake of spinach, asparagus, or a slosh of canned peas and carrot mix should do the trick, right? Juuust a bit of sarcasm there … nix the canned smooshiness. No veggies in a can – evah!!

Ah, some freshly picked, slightly soiled, pre-washed greens would be just fine after rinsing and sauteing, perhaps. Maybe with a few spices, or rice? A tingling of turmeric, … a dash of dill seed? Whatever your pan desires is certainly fine by me. I have no preconceived ideas as to your nutritional notions when it comes to vegetables. Your onions, your choice.

Vegetable love can go a bit too far, though. The bag above hangs in our hallway. I’m not adverse to adoring inanimate objects at all. I have many a 2 1/2 × 3 1/2 pieces of cardboard with sports figures on them I’ve collected since my nose running, bike riding youth. These are collectibles, however, and – although not as valuable as once considered – still worth my time. This tote proclaims, “Love Your Vegetables!” not, “Eat Your Vegetables.”, “Try, Consider, or Ponder … Your Vegetables”. Love? … to what “end” … oh, that end. Never mind.

I do like broccoli and uncooked carrots. If you’re still with me, I thought I’d throw that little nugget in here to prove I’m not a complete anti-under soil fanatic. A nice leafy green salad with a few chunks of iceberg lettuce (yes, I said iceberg … dead ahead, I did) without a Titanic amount of dressing I can enjoy pre-meal, or as a dinner topped with chicken or steak bits. I’ll never Beatle it prior with the gotta have it words: “Love, Love, Love”, however.

Vegetables have their place. Among the annals of what has been written of love in the highest order? I think not. Amore, ascribed to a cucumber casually cuddled next to an agitated arugula isn’t my idea of romance. Cassava-Nova didn’t work as a leading man and Ginger left the island years ago.

Was this the message intended when an overly excited marketing executive decided to approve the imprint “Love Your Vegetables” on the side of this bag? Nope. I bet not. She/He probably wants customers to eat better … healthier. That was the depth of the mid-day convo over seltzer and danishes.

I know this. I want you to consume more veggies and less junk food, too. So should I as well. Just don’t love the idea of having to do it … and writing a somewhat sarcastic, short blog about an innocent little bag hanging in the hallway makes my small mind feel better.

… I’ll still never be seen toting around that bag unless I can stuff it with Oreos. Just sayin’.






Shades of Opinion

Yes, it’s a shameless plug for my business at the lower right edge, but I get to determine what goes and what doesn’t. This is my blog. My opinion, sarcastically written while a smirky, snarky corner smile reroutes sweat over my 95-degree, 85-percent humid, tired-pump heated face. Yes, my opinion is valuable … if only to me.

I sit on an uncomfortable metal chair waiting for customers to arrive. It’s another day of food sloshing. I don’t mind my customers at all, rather, they’re quite amusing. Attitudes can vary from an extreme euphoria on one end to a deep, cavernous malaise on the other … and all colors of “What the hell am I doing?” in between.

I’ve witnessed these various viewpoints as I stand in Doug puddles behind the grill. Varieties of opinions not only are expressed from my customers, but also live in my inward, laser-like unfocused, mind – where ideas disguised as shaded, nuanced ambiguities live. Back and forth we volley semi-words like “uhm” and “eh” in response to queries equally perplexing such as “wah?” and “meh?”. It’s a world I’m used to these days. The heat pounding off the earth is driving me insane. As well, forcing my body to stand erect hours on end – behind the ever-present bubbling steam table and grill contraption I designed for income-producing pleasure – is adding to my hotness (wow … did I just write that word as a descriptor for myself …?)

This moment of respite I shall take. A well deserved frozen moment in clock stoppage. No customers at the ready. Food in warmers. Sodas on ice. Flags waving a welcoming “hello” to passers-by. I am sincerely hoping – to the dismay of my accountant and checkbook – customers take their time considering whether or not to stop. I need this time to chill … literally.

This isn’t a normal time, to be sure. A one-hundred year pandemic is certainly bigger than my gripe about a few hours behind the meat monster grill cart. This isn’t my first hot summer and, hopefully, not my last stand under a catch-22, heat-holding, sun-blocking, sail-to-any-wind canopy. It requires four ratchet tie-downs as does my recent attitude … as if you couldn’t tell. I’m not at all angry. That’s not a word in my vocabulary. A jilted peddler, perhaps? Left behind at the peaceful alter of seller sanity? Who knows? I’m married to my profession – that’s a given – and I love what I do, so heat be damned! I sit here contemplating. Thinking. The metal chair is melting my attitude a bit … my thoughts go toward one word: SHADE.

S FOR SITS in life. The time to sit here and think. I am untroubled about the woes in our world. You shouldn’t be either. Be passionate about where you stand … absolutely. Live for what you believe. Breathe in the knowledge you have gained by being you. Give generously to others through what you have been given. All of these wonderfuls have enriched my life in the middle of being misunderstood, maligned, or mistreated. You have so much when it seems like you have so little.

H FOR HARMONY in life. Be happy. Nature wants us to be in harmony with her by being happy. So overused, but so true. I’ve heard it said it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. Whether this is correct, I’ve never confirmed … who cares, right? Twice last week, customers thanked me for the conversations at my cart. Not sure they could remember details if pressed, but I bet they remember being happy when they left. Emotions are strong motivators. This is why happy people perform better and are healthier. (I kinda want to debate this as I happily stuff my face, weekly, with pizza, sno-cones, burgers, and bacon). Force yourself to be happy those times when a tire is so inconveniently flat, a schedule is way out of whack, or your dog is up a tree. An insincere smile is always better than a sincere frown.

A FOR APPLES in life. Growing up, I never understood why eating a fresh, crisp apple after being outside playing always pulled me back from a fog. Fancy words didn’t suffice then, only, “I have to stop now …” echoing inside my head meant to head inside. The cold juice running down my chin signaled the beginning of a return to normalcy from what seemed to be a lull of neurological function. After a few minutes, the dizziness stopped, my mind cleared up, and life headed forward. Never knowing the cause other than a possible recurring drop in sugar, I went forward in life. We have these apples saving us every day. Small semi-lifeboats keeping us going. Kind words from friends, a special nod from a stranger, … finding a dollar or two in a pair of pants (preferably our own – don’t go random-reaching into other folk’s pockets) … these are small returns to normalcies we need to be on the lookout for daily. You have them. Keep looking.

D FOR DIGGING in life. Want to know more? Start digging into it. We have a local radio show featuring daily trivia questions. I love ’em! When I call in, I use the name my mom called me when we played trivia games together – as a way to remember our time pushing little game pieces around a board. Sports, Movies, Politics, etc … all subjects are covered while levels of difficulty vary as well. I won’t call in unless I’m Trebekian-sure of my answer for two reasons. #1) I am absolutely sure someone would recognize my voice ONLY if I got the answer wrong, and #2) I would feel guilty wasting the host’s time doing it any other way. Give or take a few condiment answers slipping off dawg questions, I’ve been pretty accurate. One step I always take is confirming my answer via research. I dig into the question … if time allows. If I can’t confirm my sneaking-suspicions, then it’s a no-go. Period. There’s the small treasure I’ve found. Whatever you want to know, or already know but want to know more about, find value in researching and confirming. Do the digging. It can be dirty work along the way and you may not get on the air, but the new information in your life is so worth it.

E FOR ENTERTAINMENT in life. My dad’s best expression, although he doesn’t know it, is “Here we go…”. The eye roll starts it. This is the best three-word phrase he could ever find in a vat of English words to say as a reaction to my reaction when something strikes my fancy in public. There’s no intention to embarrass my dad in public. He simply assumes the role of dad-as-chief-embarrassed when I openly, but respectfully, begin to speak my mind. Humorously, mind you, and always either self-reflecting or about the matters at hand. Never would I ever speak of others around or make light of the misfortunes of those less advantaged. My intent is to entertain those near and dear to me … including dad. He’s never entertained, though, and I don’t know why. One level, I suppose: serious. Or, he imagines my level of crazy and can’t relate. Whatever the case, I won’t stop because he needs conversational rabbits and magic hats in his life. Be open to entertainment or be that magician for someone. Amazing things can happen.

It looks like time has passed by … so much so I had to finish this comfortably sitting in my office chair at home. Problem being, I know in less than eight hours I must repeat the stainless-slamming once more in the heat.

It all sounds so depressing and I mean no disrespect to my business. Like I said, Doing the doing is hard in this environment. Heat, covid, masking issues, food, supply issues, rolls going bad, change shortages, on and on … all of the sludgery-buldudgery can get burdensome on this guy once in a while. The sit by the shade was a good thing today. Glad it happened due to it not happening very often. Darn customers making me get up all the time!

Go ahead … roll your eyes. Detect the sarcasm? Entertainment value only. I love my customers and will continue to be happy as each and every one of them lean on my cart for their food-stuffs. Sweating this out is a small price to pay for their happiness in a bun. Oh, and the conversations and attitudes will always be weird as nobody – including me – knows what the hell we are doing most of the time.

That’s ok. I think most everyone else doesn’t know either. In that light, we should all meet in the shade together and talk out our problems, … “eh?”

About “A Galaxy Close, Close By”

Take all the words you’ve forgotten specific to car parts and pieces, engineer them in such a way that they fit into a large bin labeled “Words Doug always knew about cars” … and there’s your answer! Your answer to a question you didn’t know you had, right?

Ask yourself this question: “What does a pianist – who sells Dawgs and writes a blog – know about cars?”

Nothing. Nada. Ziltch.

So, imagine my frustration each time a customer wants details about this automobile parked a few paces to my left. I know very little.

The owner pokeyed his young body by seven weeks ago to tell me the ’68 Galaxy was for sale, but neglected to give me any contact relevancy: his name, address, or additional information helpful to his cause. I’m floating here, and not just in a few parking spaces with my she-cart (yes, my metal business partner has a pronoun). I’m lofting, freely, in a huge, uninformed, vacuous mental space most times when the other metal heap arrives in conversation.

My customers who ask DO know some details. They tell me this-and-that’s about its engine size (if there is one in there … hood is locked), the interior originality, tire size, make and model details pegging the year of manufacture, “possible” asking price(s) due to current condition and restoration estimations, and the legality of parking on the street currently (local police have confirmed it is legal). I’ve come to surely know the body of said owner IS significantly younger than the body of this car … that is a fact. Other than this, I’m as lost as light in any black hole spinning ferociously in our universe …. eer … our Galaxy, shall I say.

Of course, one significant detail is missing: Price. There’s a price to pay and nobody knows. Well, not “nobody”.

The dude who is so eagerly motivated to sell the Galaxy knows. Or, does he? Furthermore, is “eager” allowed to be entered into the conversation? Eager, in my shifty little gear grinding mind, means telling me, the 4-days a week occupado-dude, – at the very least – a name and phone number IF he wants the secrets of this Galaxy to be revealed; Otherwise, why bother bothering a body busily bunning beef burgers and deliciously dripping dawgs in the first place? I’m the person most likely able to facilitate a sale faster than this hot rod could travel on its best day, so, why didn’t he share a financial flicker of hope my way the first – and only time – we met?

He told me the automobile was for sale. At what price? We may never know. The unknown about the Galaxy continues. What we have here is Sagan-esque dialogue combined with Lucas-style directing for the ultimate in Western PA’s version of, “A Galaxy Close, Close By” …

For sixteen hours a week, it’s been closer to me than any Carpenter’s lyric could ever long to be. And, for today, I had to imagine a larger, deeper meaning to derive any satisfaction from gazing upon it one more minute of one more day … the Galaxy close by delivered.

And here it is: There is no answer right now.

Everyone wants one, but it’s quite elusive and the dark matter of our current time. Great minds, fraught with distress, study the larger galaxy of societal equality with little results as deaf ears to opposing viewpoints reign. To some, politics trump science as the reverse spins true as well. Covid-19 is a seasonal flu strain vs. an all-out pandemic. Black is white anymore.

Maybe, the better way to phrase it is, “There’s no easy answer, anymore.” The Galaxy handed us a ridiculous 2020. Two issues, Covid-19 and the race debate/George Floyd concerns have us in a major tither where questions spew out faster than Fugaku can compute the infinite digits of pi. Pick any question related to either Covid or Race, and the answer isn’t as easy as you may expect … not because of an affirmation or refutation in return. WHO you ask is the “no easy answer”…

Opinions are so diverse across this country. Facts are even different from one news station to the other. The same medical question can be asked to one doctor on CNN or MSNBC which elicits a completely different response from a different doctor on FOX. Apparently, in regard to the Constitution, scholars can disagree on the basic ideas and rights set forth by our founding fathers. What IS the right answer to any question being asked these days? Heck if I know. Certainly, asking a civil rights activist a question – about race relations in America – would be a different from asking someone not affiliated, or actively involved, with the movement.

I’m just a simple guy staring into oppressive heat-laden mist these days. It’s a sure bet a 1968 half-to-more-than-a-third beat up Galaxy will be sitting curbside when I sputter up beside it again. This is a small universe of food and fun I’ve become accustomed to over the years and have aligned my easy answers with the questions I’ve had. Condiments, propane, weather, utensils, steam tables, grills, paper goods, etc… these are all small issues and small problems to solve.

The Galaxy, I must admit, is a small problem. I wish it would sell … or, be somehow moved to another location. The questions, although intriguing, are becoming somewhat of an insolvable pain in the ass as long as there’s no contact available.

Until then, I must suffer gladly through my recalcitrant automotive attitude concerning the constant remembrances, recollections, and inquiries. I’ll stand my ground and attempt to appease the unanswerable Galaxy’s questions being hurled at me through the resistance-less, sound-less space. I am, after-all, the foremost expert of all things automotive, right? As a final reminder, there is no monetary value placed upon this four-wheeled gem …

… But there is a price being paid … and I am paying it.

Sure hope Mr. “Ain’t been around” offers a nice commission for my efforts.

Sir Covid and Chocolate Milk

Needing to revisit this again, I say. Promised myself I wouldn’t, but the past 24 hours requires it due to the confusing rhetoric bouncing around in my brain like a bin full of hard rubber balls.

I fault only myself. The blame is here. I listened with rapt attention as my post-betrothed dutifully described – or, attempted to – the logic of this viral spread among people. She went into moderate detail about how all of us, at some point, will come in contact with Sir Covid and, depending upon our ability to fight his ferocity against us, will need to decide how to move forward as a society. Individually, our decisions will affect the community as a whole. Geesh, I hope I’m summarizing this fairly. If not, it’s been a good life … That’s it in a nut shell. Kinda.

Oh, and he may circle around the town only to revisit us in the future. We may, or may not, have an immunity against this future assault … if it happens. One does not know. At that time, I’ll still be pondering such in my brainiacal bin of balls, perhaps, wondering why I ever considered all of this a possibility in the first place.

Well, I am now … because she mentioned it last night and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s not quite 4 a.m.. I’m up processing possibilities over and over due to that damn conversation we had over delicious salmon, mac and cheese, a vegetable mix, and quite refreshing chocolate milk. Credit given where due, it was a home cooked meal my wife prepared after I worked an exhausting three days in the blasted heat. We didn’t scurry over to our usual Sunday evening restaurant fare. Instead, it was a quiet evening at home.

We can have back-and-forths, ups and downs, in betweens, and scurfluffles just like any normal couple. Our political, social, religious, economic, and familial views are – for the most part – on the same game board … although we have distinctly different game pieces. Every once in a while, she feels the need to arm-sweep all the game pieces off the board and change the rules. I, admittedly, give her good cause to do so. She sits with reason and logic, I bring chance, mystery, spontaneity, and risk-taking. I’m almost always right … she’s generally not so … (those last words inserted just for fun because I know she reads these …)

The “It” I referred to above was a casual conversation floating between our two personalities. This particular word exchanged centered around the following blip that appeared on her visual reader-radar and she wanted me to be aware of her opinion on the matter. I listened dutifully. It wasn’t a heated dialogue between us. Any normal folk ’round these parts darn near know there’s enough heat these days to choke a duck. We remained calm for a few minutes, ate our overly seasoned (but yummy) fish slab, and continued …

This is the video posted online by ZDoggMD. I checked it out earlier this morning. By “earlier”, I mean 1:30 a.m. while casually munching on a chocolate Cliff Bar … watching the screen saver slowly move right to left on our t.v.. Here’s the link: (Spoiler alert … I recap the video below)

https://www.facebook.com/ZDoggMD/videos/326793034987356/

Please don’t assume my position on the matter. I’m still processing my possible position posed by this professional physician who posted the promo.

If you did, or didn’t watch, he prefaces by saying: “Don’t watch the news”, then continues with four things we can do to mitigate the spread of the virus: #1) Avoid tight, crowded spaces unless you wear some kind of face covering, #2) Practice social distancing (get into the “vibe” of doing this), #3) Wash your hands frequently, and #4) Stay away from others if you feel ill with a cough, fever, chills etc … see a doctor. These are very practical things to do, according to this gentleman doctor. Pretty hard to disagree with any of this, right?

My disagreement isn’t with my wife, necessarily, the doctor, or the colorful balls NOT social distancing around inside my head STILL. A contention convention is being held at this moment within my brain … attended by synapses firing viral inquiries faster than I have answers.

I have more than one question, but one primary query remains at the top: When does this virus end … and what does the end look like? THIS was the paramount “It” last night between my wife and I. THIS is why I am revisiting an area of my overly tired brain once again at an early hour – not wanting to, apparently, give it a break.

My response to her: “Well, I guess everyone either develops an immunity to it, or dies”.

That’s all I had to say. Now, the inflection of “That’s all I had to say.” is really important here. “That’s all I HAD to say.” is significantly different from, “That’s all I had TO say”. The first implying “Them’s fighting words!” … the second, “I’m saying this as my opinion,” The latter being my intent. My wife, being the calm, astute, non-confrontational type, continued on with her platter of food in front of her, mildly silent … carefully choosing her words. “Well, we certainly don’t want anyone we love to die, would we? I think we should all do the best we can.”

I don’t know if I won or lost the game I wasn’t sure I was even playing … or, didn’t want to play in the first place. Regardless, It is still a question that goes on unanswered. There is no end to this – and that fact, to me, is meekly depressing. This virus is our century’s / generation’s Vietnam, in a way. A seemingly unbeatable, ongoing enemy that hides everywhere. We have abortive weapons, unproductive goals, and divisive leadership … all the failings proven ineffective over fifty years ago.

I’m not a fatalist. Just a guy who is lacking sleep, fixated on colorful balls, and working too much in the heat – which may, or may not, be affecting the way my perceptions seep into my words.

Sir Covid be damned. He’s around and to be dealt with, I guess. Can’t take him lightly according to Dr. ZDogg and plenty of other folks sporting more letters after their names than I. Just that one dang question, among others, dangling around my gray matter not going away any time soon, evidently causing me to lose even more sleep. Hey, don’t feel sorry for me at all. The mere fact I probably lost a small debate over dinner last night is a small consolation.

I have the pleasure of expressing myself here which makes all of “IT” ok. I feel better – two hours later. Not much of the big picture was solved and I still have questions, however, some of the rubber balls bounced out while I typed. There’s now room for air and a little less confusing rhetoric occupies the space.

I think there may some left-overs in the ‘fridge … maybe some chocolate milk, too.

Space in the Spice Aisle

“The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space.”


JOHN F. KENNEDY, speech at Rice University, September 12, 1962

It’s time to give our 35th President some skin … a high five, if you will. On this first Saturday in May, fifty-eight years after those famous words were spoken, he deserves prophetic props for rolling a crystal ball down bowling alleys of special-spacial circumstances. The exploration of space he saw coming – and for that, Mr. President, I salute you.

It has become a race for space. Specifically, a tiny little hometown market space by that same name in my quaint growing-up ‘burg. This county seat of approximately 5,700 shuffling day-to-day, non-city folk who weave in and about a few remaining retail stores, pharmacies, and restaurants. A nice area where a future spring found its way into our Slinky hearts in 1943 and America’s oldest foundry is still operating. A nestled in-between community I find myself revisiting frequently as a customer during this shutdown time of social distancing.

Roughly twice a week, I get the call. “Need some stuff”, is the usual request from my father who jovingly asks for my assistance, which I am more than happy to give. He is, thankfully, not entertaining the idea of crunching his way around the cereal aisle looking for granola, or considering squeezing melons near grandmas in fear of the ‘rona. I admire his willingness to go beyond the stubbornness I know he owns. So, the call comes ding-a-linginging across to my already busy Samsung … and I answer. Every time. Glad to.

It’s almost always the same dozen or so dairy, snacky, and bready things I need to buy for him from the “Hometown Market”. Yes, that’s the name. A quaint name in the quaint town called Hollidaysburg. This small brick grocery sits one block off a two lane by-pass in a small neighborhood space where most have walk-to-or-by access. The parking lot is on a slant, so the carts have an attitude. In and out, empty and full, these wirey, meshy ne’er-do-wells are in constant cage-match mode … knowing gravity pulls favor to their corner at every turn – provided, of course, all the wheels rotate in sinc and don’t klunk and wobble.

Inside is a wonderful elbowy space. Aisle (pardon the pun, couldn’t resist) need to admit the jamminess is more than your typical box store. It is, of course, SmallTown, USA, for a reason. My fellow air-breathers walk about, on any unrestricted day, laughing and touching … smiling and feeling … piling high their hungry carts with goodies from the shortened, narrow spaces inside this small mart. Products lining the shelves insist on having personal, intimate interactions as walker-bys don’t initate contact. Advil wants to know where you went drinking last night, the bananas are fruitlessly a-peeling for compassion, and soup can d-rivel on and on … it is a small, therapy-inducing echo chamber at times.

These are restricted times, however. Special-spacial circumstances. One particular day, for dad, I found myself firmly planted, masked, in the “mist” of it all. Fogged up and as confused as the nice gentleman I found myself next to. Two dudes, two brains, two registers open, and two carts with no concept of time, distance, reality, … or space.

NASA, we had a problem.

Both he and I felt confident we navigated our way through the store quite well. It was an unspoken, eye-nod only guys have at the end of a successful wife or dad mandated grocery list errand run. We knew it. The tape 6-feet on the floor, however, gave us immediate pause and dampened any celebratory, non-verbal bro-mancing. See, there’s only about a cart length plus a body between the end of the register line to the end of the product aisle. Not enough space for two “just met masked dudes” unless one of us jumped on the other’s Oreos. Furthermore, neither of us knew for sure which of the two registers was open, or, what tape on the floor was applicable to which one of us. The ugliness of the moment was upon us. Two stars circling the grocery store black hole of social distancing with absolutely no idea how to proceed. The idea of “what to do” was clear – to management. For us, not so much. So we did the only thing we knew. Shrugged our burdened shoulders …. and laughed.

We didn’t see our smiles. Didn’t have to. We knew the moment required calm because what else was there? Stuckiness of the moment required our inner silence to maintain the frustration while our outer voices expressed our joy of the moment. I’d love to quote the conversation, but it happened a week or so ago and “I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday and I eat the same thing every morning”, so …. (that’s my dad’s favorite saying, btw…). Really, though, the words aren’t as important as the message, right?

Space is important right now. It IS one of the great adventures of all time. JFK didn’t know how right he was almost 60 years ago. The quote starting my sunny Saturday morning blog said a lot. Re-read it. There’s so much more to unpack about leadership, vision, national pride, and adventure. It would do us all a great service to heed #35’s words and start paying attention to our individual and collective spaces again. Small, quaint hovels or large cities, we are a “pale, blue dot” in the biggest space of all, according to Carl Sagan.

The next time you find yourself masking your smile heading to a small space, remember there’s bound to be another doing exactly the same thing. You will meet. You will bump carts and be awkward together. Take that moment to laugh. It’s all we have in the space we share. Together.




Tea On, My Friends

Cautiously, but with absolute certainty, I approached my desk a few minutes ago – mug of organic tea in hand. What makes this rainy, dank morning different from all others was my unwillingness to stop pouring the scalding water until it reached maximal height inside this humorous, tall mug-o-mine. This familiar Monopoly-themed ever so comfortable porcelain vessel – in which I have found such a friend these past forty days and forty nights – is filled to the upper edge – as am I. Both maximum capacity. Filled as filled can be.

Sympathetic, small vibrations rang, however slightly, when I set this mug down on the glass covering all the to-do memos I never get around finishing. You have these as well, for sure. Small to medium sized bits of paper with pen and pencil marks noting names, addresses, passwords, cell phone numbers, dates, websites, bill due dates, some pictures, goofy memes printed and saved, important kid moments, receipts, etc… all stuffed under glass. If not there … clipped, hung, taped, sorted, filed, pinned, stapled, folded, glued, boxed, drawered, or tacked above, around and about the very place you sit and sip tea just as I am doing right now. Hoping upon dear hope you don’t spill any hot, commiserating, isolating-get through beverage on what is probably 99% unimportant paperwork if you are honest with yourself. But hey, This environment itself is a comfort, too. In my clutter I find peace.

Within this sort-of mess, the tea sits to my left – less full as I have sipped a few slurps off the top. The stapler I’ve named Edward, Clorox wipes and wide, red duct tape roll all breathe a deep sigh as they are beyond danger of spillage at this point. Yes, all three are currently on my desk among an old 1967 Billy O’Dell Pittsburgh Pirates card, vintage three-hole punch, and pair of drum sticks. All the usual clunky stuff you’d find on anyone’s desk in Normaltown, USA. Also erected to my immediate off-center is a stack of three clear packaging tape rolls – one on top of another. By my estimation, this engineering miracle is 6″ high with an empty plastic chocolate milk bottle (label removed) jammed down the middle – upside down, mind you. The bottle has to be upside down, like my early morning mind, because this is the only way one side of an antique, small gold plated wire plate holder would fit down inside between it and the inner roll side of the tape.

Snuggled comfortably in the two prongs is my recently sanitized Samsung phone which completes my not quite, hardly-at-all Rube Goldberg, sort of Frank Lloyd Wright homage. No moving parts except my occasional finger sputtering a stroke down to refresh the screen or one more gentle push on that annoying little tic-tak shaped button at the bottom to bring light to a dark, flat, 2-D impersonal world. It’s a solid structure I’ve built. So proud to avoid future chiropractic stressors on my upper neck not goose-necking while gaping over said phone, be stocked up on packaging needs through 2089, and have ease of access to data. Data read from a small, impersonal phone screen, through the lofty, quarantined, isolated, heavy supposed droplet masked air of uncertainty … into another larger PC screen of whiteness until I enter letter after letter of color and vibrancy.

Need to warm my tea. Be right back. This time, not so full … aaaand, I’m back – marked safe from over-filling.

To my point. I can, today, share with you #IsolationIssues. These are little tidbits of word-knowledge invented, at times, from within my thoroughly depleted, wiped clean of any conscious-currency brain. Usually those middle of the night / early morning moments sandwiched in between checking CNN, MSNBC, PRR, Fox news, MSN.com, Google, Facebook, AOL mail, Pluto TV, and my alien friends on planet SR59G67. Suffice to say, the knowledge and insight I glean from my three-headed, one-eyed, highly-intelligent super tall hot pink, interstellar confidantes far exceed any mastery of current affairs any of the previous media expert prognosticators offer at this time.

Anyway, I digress. Here are my #IsolationIssues to date as pulled, conveniently, from my cell tower of tape. I lay claim to them as original only as far as I have done no research to the contrary. Is that enough of a disclaimer? I don’t know.

“TO SUM, THIS ADDS UP. TO ME, IT’S A PARADOX IN D.C. TRYING TO FIGURE OUT OUR PROBLEM.”

“I’VE MIXED MULTIPLE LIQUIDS TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM IN POLITICS. HEAD’S UP: THERE IS NO SOLUTION.”

“I CAN’T BALANCE A STOOL WITH TWO LEGS … DRIVING ME CRAZY. I CAN’T STAND IT.”

“SVEN THIS IS OVER, WHAT ELSA WE GONNA DO? HANS DOWN, OLAF THIS SOCIAL DISTANCING ANNA MASKING CAN JUST KRISTOFF! … THE ICE-OLATION NEVER BOTHERED ME, ANYWAY… OR, DID IT?”

“IN DISNEY’S FROZEN, ELSA HAD NO MAN-DATED ICE-ELATION, OR DID SHE?”

“BEAST QUARANTINED. BELLE HAD A LARGE SCARF. MRS. POTTS OFFERED … ‘SO, SHAWL-DISH DANCING’ AT ITS BEST”

“6-FEET RULE FOR OFF-KEY VOCALISTS: SO SHALL THIS DUNCE SING”

“MANDATORY MASK LOGO OR FABRIC CHOICE? I DON’T CARE TO ME IT’S I’M-MATERIAL”

“EATING LUNCH OFF PLATES WHILE WASHING DISHES BY HAND? KITCHEN-COUNTER PRODUCTIVE.”

“I FEEL LIKE A DONUT. GREASY, GLAZED OVER, AND SO IN TOUCH WITH THIS EARLY MORNING WAKING UP RIDICULOUSNESS.”

“CLOCK SAYS 3:36 AM, BUT NOT TALKING. I SAY WEIRD TIMES IN WHICH WE LIVE, BUT TYPING. QUIET. SILENCE SPEAKS VOLUMES.”

“THESE DAYS, AS THE QUOTE SO APTLY SAYS, “LIFE IS A MASK-YA-MADE”

“MICK JAGGER, MICHAEL JACKSON, MICHAEL JORDAN … ALL RICH AND FAMOUS! THAT’S IT! .. MY NEW NAME IS MUG JODES”

“I NEED TO BORROW A BUBBLE-MAKER, GIGGLE MACHINE, POGO STICK, AND N95 MASK. PM ME”

“DECIDED TO FINALLY READ MY HOROSCOPE. DIDN’T HAVE ANYTHING ELSE TO DO DURING THE QUARANTINE. IT SAID I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO FINIS..H….”

“EASTER IN TIGER KING LAND. ANYONE SEEN CAROLE BASKET?”

“AM I CONCERNED ABOUT OVER-EATING DURING THE QUARANTINE? NO, BECAUSE I AM SO OVER EATING AT THIS POINT.”

Yes, I have issues, some extra Reader’s Digests if you want to borrow them … I’ll place them in a safe location on my front porch so we don’t have to be within 6 feet of each other. Too soon? I get that. I loved “Laughter is the Best Medicine” in those little bugger of periodicals. When my grandfather passed away, all his back issues were able to be saved and sit peacefully in my file drawer as a testament to my generationally gifted gene pool of goofiness. I get all this honestly. I have back issues as well. My L2 and L3 are bothering me lately.

He was a gentleman who lived into his 100th year. Most likely because he never tried to carry an over-flowing hot craft of flaming pekoe into his den. Ironically, I sit at the very desk of his I inherited upon his passing. He’d be so proud. Not of my attempt of tea-toting, but my tape tower upon which I’ve drawn inspiration for today’s post. He was a humorist who drew inspiration from life – as I have.

My tea has melted into a cold brew. I must exit and address the issues ahead. All of us should as we must. Carry your tea carefully, my friends.



Has It Been That Long?

Where does the time go?

Two weeks ago – if you asked me – I would have replied, “Not a chance.” to the question, “Do you believe there would come a time when writing every day, or every other day, on your blog would be difficult?”

This is a (minor) tragedy of this isolation. It is also my timely obituary of same. The bell has rung. Time to put the ‘ole boy down. Just about out of patience with an eely, slithery, invisible, politically-leeched, internationally famous infection known as coronavirus, the ‘rona, “Covid-19”, or whatever moniker you choose to slap on it.

It’s a constant of insolent data through mindless Coronavirus task force briefings, internet sloth and blather, hours of staring down into the same group of dirty dishes, opening cans of reasonably low sodium soup, and shuffling paperwork. Masking while asking, distancing and whincing, peering at my peers through little social media screens … these are the supposed normals to be accepted. They are also among little beat-downs in the heavy bag tied around my waste of time. Thus, almost two weeks of empty screens … no words to share.

I don’t feel alone, however. Most of us are really off any regular schedule. It’s 3:50 a.m. and not too uncommon for me to be up, but over on the Facebook side of my life, life is vibrant, colorful and very active. The friendly zoo cages of likes and opinions are happily unlocked which has been the case since the lockdowns started. It also reflects a time when crumb-critters-kiddos are in bed, dogs, cats and gerbils are nose-nestled in their torsos, and adults aren’t quite awake enough to spaddle each other (I’ll let you define that term). So, social media it is.

The problem before me has been experiences. I’m limited in my “Hey, you’s!”, and “Waz’ ups?”. Five to ten seems to be the magic number of humans the universe is allowing me to wallow with on a daily basis. Now, either I am a not worthy a higher number as determined by a supreme people-power-purveyor, or my lack of a regular shower schedule precedes me. I need interaction to create words. Imagination is wonderful to a degree, but when the heat is turned up from boredom and lack of human contact, interest burns as quickly as people run when you cough these days.

No disrespect to what we’re trying to do here. I get all of it. My blog is so insignificant to the bigger universe of ideas, models, testings, procedures, lives, businesses, countries, states, politics, finances, … all of the nouns we can assign to the times in which we live. This has been – and will continue to be – a big deal throughout 2020.

I’m not assigning blame to anyone for my current state of malaise. Ennui, unfortunately, is an intended consequence of isolation-idleness and I’m, quite simply, not happy about it. For example, “blah” and “whatever” should not be used in more than fourteen sentences daily …. but I do, and this is not good. I’ve organized throws and blankets by colors and size, rearranged my hoards of piano music eighty-eight times, flicked through Netflix until my thumb was numb, played enough hands of free internet poker to poke my eyes out, and have dishpan-man hands. All if this to, apparently, avoid writing on this blog – without knowing it.

Now, I don’t want to sell myself short here. In the midst of all, I have been keeping up to date with my dad’s grocery order and calling him every day. He has the same dozen-or-so items keeping him alive and I’m grateful for his dietary consistency. This makes my masked grocery trips for him quick and easy. His attention to necessary isolation has been a wonderful opportunity for us to connect as father and son.

As well, I have connected with my pianistic past by recording daily pieces … uploading them to Facebook for perusal. So, I can’t say all has been a complete waste bin of idleness. I have enjoyed some of the moments spent.

It’s now 4:50 .. Where does the time go? Well, today will be another day pretty much like the past forty-five. I’ll eat a Clif-bar, drink some hot tea, and scurry atop my fifty-ish feet, wearing out the path in the carpet I’ve worn down through many trips to the sad refrigerator.

All is not lost, however. May 1st I am opening up my business. After almost six months – four normal for winter break and two from mandatory shutdown – the community will once again have Doug’s Dawgs at their service for lunch. I am so opening up my world.

Experiences I need in a way only my idleness and eye-rolling can understand. There will be masking and social distancing because, because, be..cau..se….. those are the normals now. For how long? Who really knows. All I know is … there’s not a chance of ever saying, “never” when asked about anything because we don’t know what’s in our future. Ever. Just ask me. Maybe two weeks from now I’ll write about it? Hopefully sooner if I don’t have anything else to do.








A Rainbow

A Rainbow.

It has been a few days since words have appeared here, and quite a bit longer for a rainbow in the sky hugging Altoona, Pa. . Mr. Roy G. Biv was kind enough to make a visit Tuesday. Don’t know where he’s been and can’t recall the last visit when his magnificent colors broke through an otherwise dreary, overcast day. I don’t need perfect recall. All is forgiven because this visit wiped away any regret from past memories. He was here … time was sparkling, magical, and still…

…and now a few more days have passed. It’s Friday. Those words above were written this past Wednesday, early morning. Time is a funny, goofy idea as I consider these dizzying days during another stupid, … eer, whimsical week of prison, … eer, home holiday happiness.

Since the rainbow, I’ve gone a bit insane. Understandable in some 7-color, multi-hue way. My vibrancy is fading. It’s like I’ve been washed so many times. Put through the ringer – as my depression-worn grandmother would say. Jammed into the rollers like pizza dough, over and over, with coronavirus flour flying everywhere, clogging up my nostrils. I can’t breathe anyway. The heavy, homemade, flannel 10-layer cloth mask I’ve been forced into wearing is choking any life sustaining oxygen not only from my lungs, but also from any viable source within 6 miles of my house. A giant vacuum of Corona-suck, it is. But, it is color-fast. So no worries. Ugh.

Back to the rainbow. Ah, never mind. So over it.

Let’s see here. Oh, school has been cancelled for the remainder of the year! Yeah for that news (sarcasm)!! I’m a part-time music instructor at the local Montessori school and miss the kids I teach, privately. Instrumental lessons are now on-line with pixilated and delayed piano hands, no 3-D laughs, and difficult riffs, fingerings, and rudiments being taught through air. My “fellow” staff-mates (fellow in quotes … and they know why), are most likely missing the kiddos equally and feel as I do.

🤔What else? Fighting on Facebook with a friend over stupid sh*t. Well, ain’t that just something to be expected? She was upset that I, …wait for it … posted up an article without attaching an opinion to it either way. I must have an opinion, she opined, and railed me for not sourcing the article. I likened it to, well, here’s part of the reply:

I’m quite proud of the vegan dig. Don’t dislike vegans at all. As a matter of principle, I wish I had the discipline to do it. I’d be a lot healthier and happier not eating meat … but I had to make my point, absurd as it was. We made up – olive branched later. Forgave-forgot. If you think I will post up another article without checking the source, you’re right. I will. Need to Facebook fight once in a while. Reminds me people care … even if they’re the crazy ones. Or, did I admit I was earlier? I’m so confused.

Then there’s my FB video with the iguana and the rabbit. We’ll just move on past that room and look for other rainbows.

My dad is finally walking laps outside instead of around the inside of his stuffy two story house … for this I am grateful. He’s worked his way through this isolation and found a mental home that is satisfactory. I call every day. We laugh together. I like these moments with him

Ok. I have to end with the damn rainbow. Here’s my takeaway. A rainbow is like coronavirus news right now. We see only a part of it, but it never ends. It’s all pretty and such – full of hope and hype at the same time. There’s more we don’t see than we do. Both go around the world in one complete circle, quickly, and disappear as fast as they appear …. and we’re on to the next thing.

Not disparaging rainbows in general. Better times might find me looking for pots of gold or leprechauns. Right now, I’d rather be smooshed into rollers with dirty laundry than consider the magic in 7-colored, prismatic pieces of droplets miles in the sky.

I’m not depressed or mad. Just being real at the moment.

If I let a few more days pass, maybe I’d feel differently. Nah. For now, I’m going to continue to eat meat and fight with people on Facebook. Why not, right? My kiddos aren’t practicing, anyway.