Breaker, One Two

They’re called step-twos … and, no, I’m not a dancer. You don’t want to see me swash a chasse, shall we say, across the boards any time soon – if at all. I can smooth the 88 keys on a moment’s notice and gracefully step off a curb, but to stride an Astaire memory or click an amazing Hine’s tap? Nah … not even close.

Dancing my way through life with other skills than, … well, … dancing are my commodities. My sellable contributions to society. All of us need to know what we’re good at … and what we’re not for the sake of all that’s sane in our heads. To attempt small household repairs such as I tried this evening, one must know, truly know, his place in life and recognize the historical pattern BEFORE attempting such a simple task.

Enter these step-twos as I’ve named them.

I must have a gnome. An invisible little pain in the ass who interjects delicious little detours into every industrious home improvement project I attempt. He shows up every time. Every. Single. Time. Look, I’m no do-it-yourself pro sitting here claiming the ability to challenge even the most amateur wood and screw guy to a nail gun duel. In my circle of friends, there are plenty of electricians, wood dudes, roofers, lawn ladies and gents, … all of whom couldn’t play Chopin or Scriabin, but would know far more than I about a two-cycle engine or metric vs standard tools.

Still, with that, I do know some basics … like how to turn a screw. Seems a bit simplistic, right? Step one.

My day started swimmingly. Other than a major snowstorm, lunch with dad was pleasant. Delicious pot roast at the local chain restaurant surprised my appetite as a breakfast cancellation earlier unexpectedly appeared. A few small banking issues and run-arounds aside, the day shoveled up nicely. Light winter snow moved easily as did my attitude throughout the hours.

At 4:08 p.m., a suggestion came across and into my right ear. “Do you think we could go to the store and get a replacement for the breaker that’s defective?”. As the driver picking her up from work a few days a week, it’s necessary that I listen. With the radio down in volume and attitude up in attention, I reluctantly agreed … knowing I have the evening free and quite confident the simple act of replacing a broken tandem breaker is very … very, uhm, simple. Step one.

I’m relaxed, yet very absent-minded at that moment. During the three minutes drive home, “Remove the cover plate, snap out the old breaker, loosen the two screws, pull out two wires … and place an old breaker into my happy pocket”, casually organized its grammatically graceful self in my brain. All set. Step one.

Ah, but step-two – the forgotten bastard child of my plans and the future success of any home repair project – had yet to appear. The gnome. I should have gnome it was coming.

Aaaaand … there it was. Twenty minutes into trying to remove the breaker, I couldn’t. The lady of the house, from the stairs above, spoke words I always like to hear: “Just let it go. It’s not working. Maybe if I try. Can I hold a flashlight?” It’s not her fault at all … except, maybe, I hadn’t planned on doing this project at all … today. Sure, it’s been six months. Sure, the breaker may not even be the problem with the dining room lights. Sure I’m no Tesla or Edison here, but … I’m a husband and need to try. The damn breaker wasn’t coming out, so I called my friend – an electrician … on my cell … that doesn’t work in the basement.

Are you starting to see the pattern here?

He stops by an hour later, being the kind person he is, of course. I’m a bit miffed at this point since supper is on hold, already in step-two attitude mode (marginally inconsolable), and considering a séance at that point. With an expected bad breaker in hand, I head off to Home Depot for a replacement … in the snow which, by the way, doesn’t seem nearly as friendly as it was only three hours prior. John, my friend, headed home after a long day. Can’t say I blame him. I was nearly an overloaded circuit of emotional distress.

Mindfully aware my electrician friend knows I’m not fully charged as a certified replacement tech, he made sure I had the original in hand. I did, showing the same to Mr. Electric at Home Depot. Save a small difference in the clip on the back, he assured me the twin I eventually scanned at the self-checkout would compel me, once again, to enjoy a fine, fine winter’s evening. He freakin’ assured me! … Again, I know what I’m good at … and not good at. Picking out tandem breakers is NOT my thing. I need Mr. Electrical Expert to help me. Side-by-side, the two lined up. That was my single, one and only metric guiding me to breaker box bliss.

Back home, supper at the ready two hours late, I sat on the sofa. Only fifteen minutes prior, off to my concession trailer I had to run in order to get my proper screwdriver. Why would I have a regular tool like that here at the house? Damn gnome took it … I guarantee it! Shrimp and spaghetti was delicious, btw.

Down to the basement I went, belly full this time hoping it would curb my, otherwise, crappy attitude. Step-twos are really unpleasant for a guy like me when looking into an open breaker box with one open slot, a new breaker that would’t snap in because the back hicky-clasp-doodle is different than the old one, I wasn’t able to get one of the wires to stay locked into its hole, and all of this had to be done in relative darkness due to the overhead light being directly behind me … casting a big head shadow over the whole project.

With one final heave-tightening, I got the two wires tightened. With that, as of this moment … one of those three goals have been achieved; however, there’s no cover and the breaker isn’t in place. I’m done. So. Done.

Here’s the kicker – and why step-twos need to chasse of the curb that is my life and get hit by a bus. The very fan-lights that didn’t work … the non-breezy, non-lit part of my life that caused this day of mine to go into a tailspin …

They still don’t work.

Welcome to the breaker hell that could be step-three. Please, Gnome more.

I Berned My Toast

Yes … a bandwagon stopped by my house at 3:05 this morning and I jumped on it:

Did I want to? Absolutely! However, I wanted to be above the fray … not just plop the Bern into a movie scene or local watering hole. I thought through long and difficult evening hours. What to do …. what to do? Then by-crumb, it hit me!

The result? Above.

I’m not a photoshop professional. At 3 a.m. with little sleep the night before, my already lackluster editing skills at the lower end of any elementary entry point were being challenged … but I DID IT. After 4 tries of convoluted, contorted belt Sanders rough drafts, I did it!! The fifth edition was a success. Yeah me!🤪

I considered other options. Winding through mental mazes of what-if I do this and that? Upon every stumbled idea, there was another meme appearing before me on my Facebook page. One after another. Bernie on a bench with Gump, with Sharon Stone’s legs, on Sheldon’s sofa, captaining the Enterprise, molding clay with Demi, on.. and on he lived to this day as no other multi-presidential candidate runner-up has ever lived. Good for you, Bernie, good for you!

We need this in America right now. We need the levity. Boy do we need the soft, mended mittens to comfort us. Good for you!

Glad to see happy once again take over the internet and begin to scrape off the dry, burned scars from all the scorched attitudes we have left over from bread left in our overheated political toasters. Cooling off, calming down … a respite from a rough few weeks, anyway.

We are doing ok. A toast!🥂 …. and my slice of life in the form of toast as well to all of you … Berned, of course, because … well, I had to.

Mother Hubbard is Crackers

This morning’s breakfast fare started with two Full Circle Market Organic Classic Round crackers … and, as of this point in time, ended there. I’m out of options with my favorite hotel cafe closed on Saturdays and Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboards open, but as the poem goes, “the poor Doug has none”.

Anticipating no baker, fruiterer, alehouse, or undertaker in my future … no tailer, cobbler, sempstress, or hosier, the remaining three hours of my day before opening my business look to be quite cravingly mad. Throw me a bone here, please. I’ll take anything.

Sarah Catherine Martin, to whom that poem is attributed, could walk through my office doors at this moment. Unless she’s carrying a tray full of bacon, rye toast, … a chocolate Clif bar, two over-easy eggs, and two glasses of iced tea, I’m not interested in what a two-hundred and fifty-two year old woman has to say. Granted, it’d be nothing short of a Guinness World Record miracle to have such a bicentennial-plus moment here in my humble hovel, however, I need food in my groveling belly.

I’ll survive. As they say, “such a first world problem”. A small trip down the road to one of many grocery stores – full to the ceiling with food – would work all this out. My beat up Honda doesn’t have to disengage as I have the option to casually drift through a drive-thru as well. Both of these choices, unfortunately, require I step out. Step out of very comfortable material surroundings such as the cotton garments keeping my apologetically happy appendages warm at the moment. Twenty-five degrees with a slight breeze outside. Yes, I’m not one to step out into that weather at the moment.

There was a time when cold and hunger didn’t matter. Youth and inexperience colored in the pictures – between the lines drawn by warmth and the need for nutrition. Days without a nugget or morsel tapping around in my belly were common. By choice, mind you, I pushed forward motivated by the words of Zig Ziglar and Earl Nightingale. These men didn’t advocate starvation as a means to an end, of course. I was busy making sales calls, talking to prospects, enjoying my work … that’s all. Youthful exuberance shuffling along with a fantastic company environment. Ah, the late-twenties and mid-thirties in our lives, right?

Enter Old Mother Hubbard in the winter of 2021. Bifocal nose-sliding syndrome is upon me as we speak, the back tweak has returned after a two day respite, my arms are sore after yesterday’s 7-hour work day, and quite honestly, I’ve had just about enough of this year already … with 357 days to go. I’ve gained three pounds since January 1st and since unfollowed a lot of folks on Facebook. Engaging, enlightening political conversations with friends and family aren’t happening anymore and eggshells are strewn everywhere I trod. Looking down at the slight pudge below, my core may be labeled certifiably, organically classic round … just like the box says. “Perfect for Entertaining”?, well … don’t know about that.

The local and national world I live in is crackers. I’m just one of many varieties. Organic classic round as it turn out to be. Tomorrow? Who knows. Would love to be Ritz. Hey!! Speaking of that, I bought a Mega-Millions ticket last night. Better go check the numbers. Odds are pretty good I didn’t win and will be sitting here tomorrow, again, in my cotton clothes wondering if Sarah Catherine Martin ever considered a career in food service. She’d make a great cracker salesperson.

Froliday

Love or hate. Toss portmanteaus aside into mental bins where other words you don’t use reside; or, embrace them everywhere you see such words as brunch and spork. Two separate becoming one new. A concept once reserved for marital bliss also now used for stabbing peas and scooping mashed potatoes. Marvelous.

My portmanteau for this season is froliday. The urban dictionary defines it as a merging of friendship and holiday. That is, a recurring, significant date between friends. I don’t agree. Especially now, the day after January 1st – a Friday – when this particular 24 hour span seems like a Sunday, but is a Saturday. The same weirdo Serling event happened last week as the Christmas holiday fell on Friday, the 25th. These Friday holidays mess everything up. Chief among them, my weak-end mind.

These every-so-often Frolidays are not right. Frankly, of all the laws Washington should consider, I’d be in favor of them passing a “No Holidays on Friday” bill. I’m not twisting a Scrooge-screw here or waving a white flag, … just move the days July forth or back to another day so I can get my Saturdays straight in my head. Certainly you can get behind me here?

C’mon now. As sure as I type, didn’t you once think, “What day is it?” today? Maybe said it out loud into the mirror as you shaved Christmas and New Year’s stubble off your face, or ran ruby red lipstick around once cookie ravaged lips? Holidays, in general, mess us up. Gets us all off our routines, anyway. Hygiene, diets, school, work, … all of it off the rails – and THEN we have to smoosh in remembering a day-after Saturday?

Too much, I say. Weekday holiday, then another weekday after? Yep. Good to go. This three-syllable, gobsmack day after, twice happening letdown that happens roughly twelve percent of the time has to be removed … permanently. How and by what means other than an act of Congress, I’m not sure.

Very few things I’m sure of lately, that’s for sure. How about you? Two days into a new year and to quote one of my favorite comedians “You’re doin’ good!”. Tom Papa nails it. We’re hanging in there with what we’re dragging into this new year. Nothing really changed except the date. If we have a few extra pounds flipping us out, they’re still here. Goofy co-workers sit close by, possibly virtual, and can be just as annoying as they were only days ago. Looking back to the 2020 work-a-day world a few breaths back, I see nothing different today, really.

Not to say we can’t have hope, however. We are doing good if we have hope in what this year will bring. Not false hope. Going back to the moon or becoming a movie star does not a bucket list make. Hope that a hug from someone you love will finally arrive at your doorstep. Hope for a better job you’ve been working hard to get. Hope for small, measurable upticks in your healthy lifestyle so well deserved from early morning jogs and disciplined eating. These are doable, wonderful hope-for soul stuffers.

It’s all what we work and hope for that makes all the difference. If we remember we’re doin’ good – new year or not – we’ll be just fine.

I hope to never again have a Froliday (as I believe it to be) in my life, yet I know this will never be a reality. I must begin to agree with the times and seek out a friend with whom I can have a significant, urban, holiday date. Whoever this happens to be, I hope said individual understands if our anniversary falls on a Friday, I will be understandably absent from the celebration. Saturday following is iffy as well due to my believing it is a Sunday. It’s all messed up, you see.

So glad I have a portmanteau to keep it all straight. Or, do I?

Snow. Beautiful Snow.

As the plow pushes the last of it down our street, it’d be irresponsible of me to not write a few words concerning this first snow event of the season. Here they are: “Beautiful, … and I’m over it already.” Adult words from a guy living seven days away from Christmas. Yes, I’m conveying curmudgeonly displeasure with pride in view of the fact that I’m no longer able to sled without ending up in traction, bend over to strap on skates, or simply walk with confidence outside without the fear of landing on my ass. Just because I can’t see little ice pebbles underfoot due to bifocals sliding off my nose should be reason enough for me to put all this p’erty fluffy stuff to bed. Don’t judge me.

Kids sure need to enjoy these fun flakes. (I’ll stick to mine that wiggle in and around the grapes in my cereal bowl). After being locked up in virtual learning, these young full-of-energy and nimble children have to burn off the energy somehow. They’ll enjoy it by spreading out snow angels and diving into piles of already heaped banks put into place by adult in their lives. Adults who, mind you, most likely had the same attitude I have at this moment as they muttered under their breath, “Doug is so right!”

As adults, we’ve seen this so many times. Three, or more, days of “it’s coming…” from every news source followed up by the pre-event trucks roaming up and down main highways throwing down that de-icer salt mix (if you’re lucky). Warnings not to go out unless necessary … (soooo old news in 2020, right?), and, yes, the predictable toilet paper, milk, and bread grocery store wipe-out run. School cancellations are mute now as a consequence of the pandemical quagmire, so kids have been robbed of the wake-up knock from dad saying, “Sleep in, no school today!”. That’s been replaced with, “Hey get your butt out of bed. I need you to help me figure out this new math we’re suppose to work on today.”

With all that, I’m so over this. Three shovel events within the day – two involving digging out automobiles – is enough for me. Look, I know so many have it far worse than I. My perspective is skewed in my favor, undeniably. Yes, the events of the day I experienced.

This writer’s elderly dad was pushing a snow blower up a slanted driveway yesterday. Purposefully written in a way to convey how uncomfortable it was for me to see him steadily shuffle his way around puffs of snow coming from a machine twice his size. This, after I couldn’t reach him by phone. Evidently, he was outside doing the very guy thing he’s been doing his whole adult life. Son and dad finished up a few little corners with the two shovels on hand (I got the beat up, short handled old one of course), we chatted a few words, … I left knowing he was o.k. and he wouldn’t be available for a drive-thru distanced lunch – the primary reason for an unsuccessful earlier call. Empty snow-day box checked. (As an aside here, the driveway would have been cleared … ahem … by me had it not been done; However, there was not a snowball’s chance of that if you know any dad out there like my dad …)

Some folks around here summer-drive in the winter. Slush, black ice, wind, snow? … Not a problem. A slice of our population owning sleds with four tires that are connected to a gadget in their car labeled “4×4” feel they have permission to pass at, or above, the recommended speed limit of 20+ miles over the posted number. Apparently, they believe that little chapter in the driver’s exam book explaining safe driving in the winter applies only to Pintos, paneled station wagons, rusted out Hondas, and Prii capable of only going 35 m.p.h. at best even with a hefty tailwind. I spend road time yesterday brushing off equal amounts of bad attitude, cuss words, and snow off my windshield than I care to admit. Once in the drive-thru lane at Arby’s, without my dad, making me hungry enough to swerve out of that lane, drive a mile down the road to Burger King’s drive-thru for a delicious Whopper, fries, and Coke-Zero…

Only to arrive back home – and shovel again. The postman, who I admire, needed a proper clean sidewalk, after all, and the remaining part of the driveway I didn’t clear earlier had to be done. Once that was finished, and my Whopper gobbled up, off to my concession trailer to check on things. This was the first day in a while no smiling customers were available to see in front of my window. As I stood inside yesterday, it was pleasantly calm. Not having to rush around during a time when I’d usually be three-handing orders, grills, and prep tables was unsurprisingly peaceful. I knew it would be. The waterlines didn’t freeze and the electric still pushed it’s way through the lines. The snow, ah, snow. Yes, I’m so over it … My good friend and customer, Jim, bladed the lot wonderfully that night. With that written, our city came by and plowed the whole lot closed. We know how this goes, right? The end-of-the-driveway plow in! … x8! With kindness and grace, Jim came back through later last night and did a snowy-spectacular job opening up my lot again!

One final snow day job left. Everything to this point was Honda-driven. My taller-than-I van still sat idle in the driveway under all the fresh-fallen snow. Broom and ice-scraper in hand, with darkness upon me, I went at it. Snow fell from above … down into my open cuffs and across un-gloved hands, into a loose hoodie, on top of sneakers that are sooo comfortable. I banged and twisted the wipers until they capitulated. Door handles and windows had no choice but to consent. After all this, one more final step: the blow drive. With just a few inches of unreachable blocks of Frosty’s torso on the roof, I had a few items to get at the store anyway, so …

See, in as much as I am somewhat aware of my, err, intellect, I can be so stubborn and kinda impulsive. The whole day was getting to me and I wanted it over. Walking around the van to get in – anticipating my drive to the store, with the fine dusting of snow underfoot – I slipped and fell sideways into a big pile of the crap I spent all day shoveling. Flannel, hoodie, bare hands, face … all of it planted in the white lovely pile of *%$!!. I reacted the only way I knew how…

… I laughed it off like a child. Brushed off my sorry self, drove to the store, bought my macaroni, bacon bits, dehydrated onions, Pyrex plate, and rolls. Twenty minutes later, backed the van into a clean driveway, set the trash out, then settled in for the night.

Two cleaned off automobiles sit in a snow-free driveway at present. The sidewalks are free of snow and ten minutes ago the trashman beeped his way to and then fro. I’m dry and warm. Today is a new day, right? I’m unquestionably over yesterday. Have other days been worse? Yep! Others better? Absolutely.

It’s a week away from Christmas. Santa lives surrounded by this white stuff all year long. He can have it. I’ll sit in the back of the sleigh with Ebenezer and shout, “Bah Humbug!” all winter long simply because I have an adult-onset inclination to enjoy a few flakes in a bowl so much more than seeing a million frozen ice ones jammed in my dad’s snow blower or experience dirty, stone-filled ice balls thrown on my windshield by wanna-be summer drivers.

That written, I’ve been sitting too long. My back’s sore. Oh, look … snow possible again this coming Thursday – Christmas eve. Beautiful, just beautiful.

Lightening Up Christmas

I have no childish Christmas list. Santa knows I haven’t behaved myself, so what’s the use. My present needs rise above the material. I need answers. One specific, clear one under the tree – to be perfectly understood here.

There’s the always question of “Why? … with no answer … ” that drives me crazy when I see certain things I don’t get. Circumstances or states of affairs driving me so crazy I get stuck on a mental clover leaf with no logical exit ramp to Saneville. This is one of them:

Off the Frankstown Exit here in Altoona, Pa., is the “Lights on the Lake” exhibit. It is a ride through the local park where there are, well, lights. Oh, and the display is beside Lakmont Park. For one price, a car load of humans can 5-mile an hour through, gaze at all the holiday lights that have been displayed for years (unchanged) … then exit. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, families and friends have been doing this for years. We did it once. Once.

This picture is courtesy of a good friend of mine. Here’s the thing. She took that picture at 6:30 p.m. just off the Frankstown exit, sitting well back from the actual entrance to the parking lot – where the line starts to wind around JUST to begin the car line – well back from the actual start of the light show. Confused? Let me clear this up: When her car full of humans arrived at the start, it was 10:00 p.m. … Yes, 10:00 Post Meridiem. That’s two-hundred and ten minutes of car lights before doing anything productive … and I ask, WHY?

At the time of this writing, I haven’t seen Susan to ask that question. Knowing her, the answer will be full of excitement and thrills. She’s a sweet person. Every ten minute update she provided on her FB page gave us heightened anticipation. Every. One. Of the fifteen she posted. What was absent from them? An a accompanying narrative as follows: “This is so logical. Let me explain the sane, rational reason why our family is now sardined in between hundreds of other irrational other families in their cars.”…

I’m not dumping a load of fault on her at all. This is an exciting time of year around here when all the lights are turned on at the park. I can’t understand why everyone decides to line up all at once … like the park is giving away free kisses from Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie … or, some crazy promo like that. Good for them, though (the park). On the day she was there (Friday), tickets per car were $20 each. I hesitate to write, “Lighten up on the prices, there!”, however, I’m going to do it anyway because I like to brighten everyone’s mood.

For all I know, there are good grounds for everyone waiting hours to get in to see these lights. When I was there years ago, the displays were … o.k.. I’ve seen more lit Santas on December 26th in the local bar than along the narrow paths in this park back then. Yes, it had all the yellow, red, and green bulbs on full display strung out like a tired Rudolph and advertising signs from businesses underwriting each display. Yes, it was Seinfeldian Festivus for the rest of us. Yes, I have no qualms about anyone wanting to see this local energy company and parent wallet drain every season … but for all that’s holiday-holy ….

… WHY car-tire yourself for hours upon hours to do it? This is MY holiday wish this year. I’m not asking for much here. I don’t want to know if the chicken or egg came first. I have no expectation of knowing the origin of our magnificent universe. Einstein’s Theory of Everything is still as elusive as it was when he was scratching it on a napkin and I find the need for concordances, study guides, pastors, and priests to explain the bible – a book written to give us simple folk guidance from a god – a being that should know we need clear, precise instruction – the most vexing of all puzzlers.

I just want to know: WHY? … and I’m inclined to believe the ramp off Frankstown Road will be packed again this weekend. A back-up full of cars loaded full of parents with wallets, hopefully, loaded full of 1’s … at least twenty of them … because it’s not cheap. Oh, and another hefty stack of 1’s to refill the gas tank, too, after leaving on fumes.

As others sit in that line this year and next … and next … and next, I’ll sit idly by a few miles away saving gas and time for more worthwhile endeavors. “Why?”, you ask. I believe I’ve answered that question quite well here.

An answer so simple, so easy. One unlike I’ll ever get from Sue, or any other wonderful patron of the lights. Most I’m sure to call my friends, yet, ones who drive me crazy as they sit hours upon hours waiting on the illogical exit ramp in my mind.

Who Ate My Brownies?

Yes, this is my adaptation of, “Who Moved My Cheese?” – the 1998 best seller written by Spencer Johnson. On this early morning of December 12th, 2020, who ate my brownies?

In my real life story, there is no Sniff and Scurry. Oh, and certainly no cheese; although, I’ve become fond of monterey jack on crackers lately. No Sniff and Scurry. Here in my tale there are only two humans. One who baked the delicious treats and one who thought the sweet, brown squares were, mostly, sitting around for his earlier birthday celebration. This was not as expected. Apparently.

As human #2 reads this, a majority of the brownies – that were in the container previously – may shift in her belly the same way my hopes did last night. Where there were many, few remained. This isn’t a serious indictment of her impulses. All of us have them with sweets, right? More to the crusty, delicious point: unspoken expectations.

Decades of birthday observances have been compressed into a head nod and slight grimace the morning of. That creaky walk into the kitchen when the first item on the agenda is no longer a bowl of Coco Puffs, but a few amber bottles accommodating little white pills and where-are-they bifocals located somewhere I can’t see. Nothing pleases me more than the sarcastic, self-generating, “Geez, it’s just a number” calculated response to my age being subtracted from the actuarial number I know waiting for me at the end of all this. Look, we know life has an end, right? I’m not a fatalist by any means. Life is wonderful. Every year we’re one year older, though, … someone ate those brownies.

Well, to be fair, not all of them. MOST of them. There were most a few days ago, then last night?… little. Expectations being what they are – unspoken, I should have known. Earlier, I did buy a few dozen cupcakes to hand out to my friends. (This is a tradition started many iced moons ago by my mom. She’s gone now, but I still try to keep it going). As compadres go, they scooped them up immediately, fist fulls at a time, as the hard plastic container in my hands wafted its sweet aroma into the world. For all intents, this was my birthday, candle-less, cake. I assumed as much that day until arriving home to see a pan of freshly baked, uncut, brownies on top of the stove. Oh, they (it) smelled so good. As an aside, one big whole pan like that is really NOT a bunch of brownies until cut into individual squares! It is, really, one big brownie birthday cake, uhm, ….

…Or, so I thought.

I can be pushy, assumptive, presumptive, stubborn, and/or obdurate (love that word). Human #1, obviously, knows this. Under those conditions, human #2 is placed in a rather strange shaped pan when baking some sort of life with me. Admittedly, it’s not my ingredients, but our recipe. She baked and filled the pan. I don’t know why and never asked. There’s cosmic stress these days in her job and I’m aware chocolate has a way of realigning her planetary system, albeit temporarily until the next covid meteor screams through her workplace universe. With that perspective, I’m telescopically aware she probably baked for her peace of mind without actual verbal confirmation.

And so we meet at last night’s problem. Someone ate what I assumed to be my birthday cake/brownies that were, alas, not. Days away from the actual celebratory day of my birth, my inquiry into the nearly empty pan was met with the snacky supercilious, “Hey, you snooze, you lose!”. Where there were many? … one. When I challenged the math, there appeared to be some high level backward, algebraic, formulaic back-stepping. I didn’t push to see the solution on paper because I want to see another birthday; however, after a challenging few days it would have been nice to, MAYBE, enjoy more than one brownie.

She said, I said. All about expectations and unspoken assumptions. Will I live not eating most of the brownies? Sure. She can have them … well, she did … not withstanding the wrangling we’re going to have once she reads this. Her numbers and mine will not agree, I’m sure of this. I’m also pretty confident I will walk away satisfied as the winner of a dispute I didn’t win.

It’s not about the brownies or my birthday, is it? Spencer Johnson was – and continues to be – right. Who moved the cheese? Goals, expectations, and assumptions. Today is 19 days away from 2020 being over. If anything, it has been a year of the unexpected popping up as every assumption and goal slowly drains down into the garbage disposal. Fatalism? Nah, just a crappy, stupid, disastrous, sad, scary, unpredictable year. A year when all our brownies – or cheese – haven’t lived up to our expectations.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of delivering a letter to a retired Home Economics teacher in our area. This note was sent to me from a former student of hers who wanted to express an appreciation for the kindness and love given to her years ago. Being in a better position to hand deliver the letter, I agreed. Unable to meet in person, I slid the note in the mail slot while talking to Mrs. C on the phone. I don’t know the contents of the letter, but can assume – based on my previous texts with my friend – it had something to do with recipes still being used from the late 70’s/ early 80’s, when classes such as these were still being taught.

Maybe, just maybe, there was a brownie recipe in that envelope and Mrs. C could mix up a batch on the sly for me. Nobody needs to know, right? Her family and mine have been friends for years. Human #2 doesn’t need to know. This way, all expectations are met, all assumptions graciously kissed, and goals achieved … conveniences 2020 doesn’t have in abundance.

I’ll gladly lick my fingers after each pleasant bite while sitting back watching everyone else chase their cheese. Expect me to share? Yeah, ok. I’ll think about it. Seeing as how I got less than my fair share of the last batch, odds are pretty good you don’t even have to snooze to lose.

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 Bear, Tim, and Harry

As the joke goes: A bear walks into a bar, places his arms on the counter, and says, “I’d like to …….. order a beer.” The bartender asks, “Why the long paws?”

This is a pun-unpleasantry I’ve read over and over during my years delving into books and magazines attracting my fancy. I love word play.

Granted, there are jokes – like this one – so over-used and worn I’d rather they never be spoken out loud again. Alas, however, I will most likely see it reappear in printed form, or, orally – both irritatingly so. Human nature dictates it. Bad jokes don’t die.

I can explain why this joke has been unbearably attached to my brain lately. Writing has been on pause lately and it’s as irritating to me as hearing a grizzled mammal swing open a tavern door – not that I even know what that sounds like. I don’t drink or frequent watering holes let alone hang out with alcoholic bears that talk.

Life is busy. That’s my excuse and I don’t appreciate it sometimes. Gosh, that sounds so ungrateful, doesn’t it? I’m healthy – save a few mid-fifty issues – and shouldn’t be complaining. My business is hectic with go-here’s and do that’s at odd hours with expenses due a few days before incomes. My legs beg for reclination time above my torso instead of continuously supporting a creaky, cranky back. This is 19/7 with 5 hours melted in for sleep.

At this very moment, I’m sitting in my wind-sheltered van waiting for customers to visit a welcoming food cart. It’s 55-degrees outside. Inside, I’m drinking a peach iced tea … hoping to wash down the rather kind ham and cheese hoagie I hastily purchased from the grocery store earlier. That was my noon breakfast. Life in the food truck fast-lane.

Yesterday was 70-degrees and sunny. Up is down with the weather in late October here in western-Pa. The small crack I must leave open in the door allows a cool breeze to flow in while there’s no sun to be found. Such a contrast from yesterday and the day before when we had even better weather. Close to 80-degrees and incredible skies. The day started out with this:

A soupy mess. I took this picture that morning hoping to write of the fog settling in my brain. A mist of quasi-frustration continuing into today …. a day when I actually have the time to write.

Those of us who love to write, but get off schedule because of life’s more important have to’s, eventually find time to put words down. We have to. Silence can stay silent only so long.

During my few minutes here, I’ve waited on two customers. Folks I didn’t see out of my peripheral vision for a few seconds as a result of this very breaking of my silence. They were very understanding. I blamed my inattention on you, my readers. I had to. It’s because of you – and my days long absence from this wonderful space – awareness was not paid.

… and, of course, that is mild sarcasm topped with a spoonful of thankfulness. No matter the circumstances in life, I am grateful. Yes, busy-ness is so closely tied to business. Life is to be lived out and outlived. We need to get every drop of yum extracted from the years we have.

My 7th grade Geography teacher said it best: “More than the years of your life … is the life in your years”. I don’t know if he came up with that or not, but it stuck. Mr. Hooper … what a guy.

A bear walks into a bar with his friend Tim, the termite. Tim asks “Is the Bar Tender?”. Tim has a friend, Harry the horse. The bartender asks Harry, “Why the long face?” ….Want me to continue?

I can’t. I just can’t. Maybe next time. For now, we’ll hit the pause button. Until we meet again.

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.