Bob Cayne's Why Is That? Archive
DID YOU EVER BOND WITH A PENGUIN?
Did you ever jump in a puddle not caring if you got wet and muddy? You wanted to make a big splash, didn’t you? Was it on the way to work?
Did you ever make an impulse purchase and regret it later? How about the expensive outfit in your closet with the price tag dangling from the sleeve?
Did you ever experiment in the kitchen by emptying the refrigerator and combining ingredients without measuring a thing? Were there rave reviews at the dinner table, or do you eat alone?
Did you ever open a book and read the last chapter first? Do you avoid surprises, or are you simply curious? Don’t you know the butler did it?
Did you ever stand up to a bully––decide that enough is enough and bravely turn the tables on the jerk? Satisfying, wasn’t it?
Did you ever see a double rainbow? You stood there and marveled at Mother Nature, didn’t you? Many do.
Did you ever fed the hungry? Is it on your bucket list? You can’t image how satisfying it is. Why not go to a food kitchen tomorrow.
Did you ever make eye contact with a cop while exceeding the speed limit? Was he going in the other direction? You just knew he was going to pull you over, didn’t you? Didn’t matter, did it?
Did you ever write to the president of a company expressing dissatisfaction with a product or service? It felt good when you mailed the letter, didn’t it?
Did you ever teach a youngster to drive a car? When the kid practiced parallel parking did an insurance rate hike come to mind?
Did you ever fall asleep in church? Was the nudge in your ribs gentle or abrupt? Did you yelp?
Did you ever fall asleep on a bus and miss your stop? Or did you wake up in time? Aisle or window seat?
Did you ever write a poem? Did you use love, above, you, true, and blue? That figures.
Did you ever go on a scavenger hunt? Have you ever heard of a scavenger hunt? Organize one; meet your neighbors. Well, some.
Did you ever call in sick and go to a ballgame? It was the opening game of the baseball season, wasn’t it?
Did you ever leave home without your tickets to an event? Did you wish you had the piano with you because that’s where the tickets were?
Did you ever try to write a book? Does it begin, “It was a dark and stormy night…? No need to find an agent.
Did you ever get seasick or airsick? Was anybody sitting next to you? Was it a stranger?
Did you ever talk a cop out of a ticket? Still dining out on the story, aren’t you?
Did you ever go skinny-dipping? Was it in a lake or a pool? Were you alone or with friends or in public? Why?
Did you ever make a bucket list? Is there anything on the list you can afford? Anything, at all?
Did you ever bond with a penguin? I have. (Picture proof, above)
NEVER GET A HAIRCUT IN A STRANGE CITY
February 16, 2018 Sandy retired from his job at a brokerage firm and moved to Arizona. “I wanted to relax and play golf twelve months a year,” he said. But, he soon tired of leading a one-dimensional life and took a job with a sliding-shelf manufacturer.
He talked about his frustration as he measured our kitchen cabinets for new shelves. “My mind was going to waste,” he said, “I used to be a whiz with numbers–eighths and sixteenths were a piece of cake. But it dawned on me that I was losing it, I couldn’t add up fours, fives and sixes on a scorecard. I decided to give up golf.”
He pushed his baseball cap back on his head, “I’ll tell you a funny story. Last week I was in Las Vegas making sales calls. I needed a haircut so I wandered into a barbershop and sat down in a chair against the wall.
There were three barber chairs, all empty. A man was sweeping hair off the floor and paid no attention to me. After a minute or two I asked if I could get a haircut. He said, ‘Sure,’ and pointed to the first chair. I sat down and he began to cut my hair. He clipped away and we were engaged in small talk when three girls wearing smocks entered from the back room and started to whisper to each other. I asked who they were.”
He said, “They are the barbers.”
“I asked who he was. ’I’m the janitor. I’ve worked here for 20 years. I’ve watched them cut hair every day. Heck, there’s nothing to it. I figured you are in a hurry and I can give you a haircut. No problem.’”
Sandy removed his baseball cap, revealing a hatchet job. “Look what he did to me,” he said. “And this is after one of the real barbers tried to patch it up. Even worse, it cost me twenty bucks.”
• • •
Flashback: I was on vacation in San Francisco with time to kill when a small two-chair barbershop beckoned my presence. It had a black and white checkered tile floor, vintage glossy-white metal chairs and a handlebar-mustachioed barber who welcomed me. I felt like I was like stepping into the 1920s. There aren’t many shops like that. The barber said, “Thanks for stopping by, have a seat.”
I had good vibes at first, but the haircut began rather unpleasantly. Cold, metal hand clippers inched up the back of my neck––old clippers with dull teeth that ripped as many hairs as they clipped.
“This is special day,“ the barber chirped. “We are closing the shop today after more than forty years.” (Gulp) I showed up a day early; I wanted to escape.
The haircut took forever, I felt trapped as he dragged the comb back and forth, snipping and reminiscing about the shop’s history, all the regulars and “in my day…”
When he spun the chair around to the wall mirror I resisted the urge to scream. All I could think about was where can to lay low for six months.
My wife’s review was brief, “Who scalped you?” she asked as I ran through the living room. “You look thirty years younger.”
“Forty,” I replied from the closet.
February 8, 2019 How many English words do you know? Words you actually know and use. Take a guess: 1,000 3,000 10,000? More? Fewer?
Think of a number let’s see how close you can come.
The English language is said to have about one million words. The actual number is debatable because some words have more than one meaning. Enter a word in dictionary.com and you will find many meanings or ‘word families.’
The number of words we know varies by demographic group. Researchers call it a ‘word gap.’ For example, children from upper-income families know about 1,000 words when they begin preschool compared to 700 for working class families and 500 for welfare families. The word gap refers to access to information rather than wealth.
By age 8 students know 10,000 words. High school seniors know about 20,000 words. University educated people know about 40,000 words. Most adults have a vocabulary range of 20,000-35,000 words.
How does the number you chose compare with the averages?
People who read mainly fiction outscore those who usually read nonfiction because fiction has a wider range of vocabulary. When we speak we use about 5,000 common words that are easily recognized.
This vocabulary discussion is hardly a scholarly thesis, far from it. I used it as a prelude to asking if you find some words more important to you than other words?
I sailed through life without thinking about such nonsense. But a time came when I realized I was unhappy. I guess when you get older you begin to analyze things more. There were a few roadblocks interfering with my wellbeing. I knew I had to address the problem but wasn’t sure how to go about it.
I had to simplify things; there were too many complications. I came up with an analogy that I was carrying a load of bricks on my back. It was time to start shedding them. And the best way to do it was to say, “No.”
“No” is a word with multiple meanings. It is also the word that changed my life. I found that saying “no” to somebody lightened the bricks on my back. I told myself “no more” when my marriage was wrong–for both of us–and had to be ended.
When I say “no” I mean no harm, I say it seriously because I don’t care to do things just for the sake of doing them, particularly when saying “yes” will interfere with my happiness and wellbeing.
I’ve said “no” to stuff I was doing repeatedly for no earthly reason. I played bridge at a bridge club almost every afternoon. That left little if any time for new ventures, accomplishments and excitement.
My life changed when I learned to say “NO!” to mean it and enforce it. Brick by brick the load lightened and the guy in the mirror began to smile. That’s when I knew “no” is the most powerful word in the English language.
WELCOME TO SCOTTSDALE
February 1, 2019 In my first job back east the dress code required I wear a suit and tie even though I was chained to a desk in a bank’s accounting department.
That was decades ago. Now I live in Scottsdale where bank employees wear relaxed, open-collar career apparel and you can’t tell a vice president from a drive-in teller. The relaxed look extends to healthcare professionals–my doctor wears golf shirts every day. Why, he was Fonzie on Halloween when I showed up for a physical and my physical therapist wore a tutu.
Once I got over my initial shock, it was helpful to discover that people who wear lab coats around here mostly specialize in fumigation and asbestos removal.
Welcome to Scottsdale, Arizona, the laid-back land of flip-flops, sandals and sneakers. I should mention a road sign I observed early on while driving on Dynamite Road: Discharging firearms is strictly prohibited by law. As you might guess, the sign was riddled with bullet holes. Is it any wonder why Scottsdale likes to be known as “the west’s most western city”?
Headed this way? Add a few earth tones to your wardrobe. Reds and greens are mostly found on traffic signals and tourists. Authorities confiscate raincoats and mufflers at the state line and snow tires are a felony–we don’t even have slush.
Dignified stuff like they wear in say, London, gets you hauled in for observation…and you’re booked if you smell like aftershave. Casual Fridays elsewhere are semi-formal to us.
The day I arrived Scottsdale’s high hit 121 degrees. The clothes people were wearing would fit in an envelope. The sun shines 299 days a year–we don’t dress up for nobody.
In late November, after Thanksgiving dinner has been polished off, a deluge of outsiders from Topeka floods the area. Scottsdale’s average age goes up about a decade, immediately. Cataract surgeries double, the freeways are rife with AAA decals and you can’t find a parking spot until April.
I’m not complaining. Merchants do seventy percent of their business in those four months.
Scottsdale leads the league in face-lifts. Plastic surgery being the local industry that it is runs a close second to tourism. A favorite pickup line is, “Are those things real?”
As far as recreation goes, guys hang out in Safeway watching halter-tops and dark glasses shop for mangos. Some say the best views are in the applesauce aisle owing to the fact that applesauce is on the bottom shelf.
There are plenty of good lookers showing just enough skin to get your attention. They play tennis and shop during the day. In the evening they make the social scene, ooze charm and wait patiently for five handicappers with money clips to enter their life. In the interim there is always a constant flow of real estate agents who self-parked a sedan with a SOLD4U license plate. It’s not a good sign when the suitor whispers, “Shall I call Uber…or did you drive?”
I’m reminded of a line from a gossip writer who was invited to a Scottsdale party where those who were there were there to be seen. Upon receiving the invitation he phoned the hostess and asked, “What time do you think the party will peak?”
Check, please. Where’s my hat?
January 25,2018 I overheard a group of women say they were fed up with sorting through dating site creeps. A lady with silky white-hair who was holding court dazzled them with a daring new slant on dating. “It’s surefire,” she said, “and doesn’t involve awkward moments.”
Decades older and more than amusing, the matriarch delivered a Theresa Talk (Ted wouldn’t discuss this sort of thing). The process she ascribed to was hardly seductive. Nevertheless, “it works like a charm,” she said. “Actually, it used to work like a charm.”
“Ladies,” she began, “You have computers, handhelds and dating sites. What on earth for? All you need is the daily obituaries.”
Obituaries? The young ones laughed, mostly from shock.
“My friend Judy, a widow on the far side of hot flashes, couldn’t compete with younger women. Her friends, three to be exact, were in the same boat. Together they devised a strategy. Read the obituaries. Find a deceased wife and viewing information. Memorize every detail about her. Study her family like you’re cramming for an exam. Google the husband, the rich guy you aim to scoop up. Check each link. You will meet him at the service.”
There were rules: scrub up, dress conservatively, wear a string of pearls and forget anything that suggests good legs. Have your hair styled and nails manicured…you will be shaking hands.
The matriarch’s friends invited her to go along. “We met in the funeral home’s parking lot,” she said, “and practiced solemn expressions. An usher led us to a row of seats where we prayed and glanced around (casing the joint, if you will) without being obvious.
“Judy led us forward to greet the family. We remembered the plan: never make eye contact until you meet the widower. We stood behind her like a brick wall so she could hold him captive. Brent was his name, a meticulously dressed man who didn’t recognize her. Judy explained she was a friend from his wife’s garden club, country club or bridge club. She oozed sincerity; even made a sound that passed for a whimper and said she had lost her husband…she understood his pain. He nodded, said he appreciated her thoughts and thanked her. She wished him well, clasped his hand and said, ‘I’ll be in touch, I promise.’
“I was ready to celebrate her success, but the others had three more viewings. They wore me out. Judy said it’s easier in the city. The chapels are only five minutes apart. You can walk then go to dinner.”
The matriarch continued, “After a week or so and never longer––these guys go off the market fast––the women made a dynamite casserole and took it to the residence. If the widower was home, great if not she left it where he would find it and taped a note to the door with her contact information. At times they didn’t have the home address so they attended the burial and followed the mourners to his house.
The strategy worked. Why wouldn’t it, they knew all about the guy beforehand, the obit was like a resume. It took two years, but their lives were reborn.
One by one they chose a long-term investment over chasing slugs online and landed a keeper.
THEY'RE NOT LIKE CHILDREN
January 18, 2019 Part of the appeal of having a dog versus a child is they walk right away and you don’t have to add a room to the house. Dogs figure out where to sleep using the Columbus System: they find a spot and land on it…usually near a cool air vent in the summer and a warm one in the winter.
Golden retrievers are my favorites, there’s a certain charm about the way their tails wag like windshield wipers when approached by strangers. I had a golden named Gus who always acted like he was running for office. He would have handed out business cards.
Gus was seven-weeks old and the size of a golf club head cover when I got him from the breeder. He didn’t make a peep on the way home. In fact we weren’t sure he had a voice box because he never barked. After he was housebroken he’d sit by the door to go out with his legs crossed until somebody saw him. I thought about teaching him to ring a little bell with his paw but it wasn’t necessary–he held water like the Hoover Dam.
Knowing that Gus wanted to go out was one thing. Sooner or later he was ready to come back in. He’d sit quietly on the front step until one of us realized he was missing.
Early on Gus chewed up a pair of slippers and gnawed through a potted ficus tree stem. The day he went after the TV remote like it was beef jerky was a forty-two dollar snack and the final straw. We put him in a kennel and went to Florida where I wrote dog-for-sale ads on the beach. But Gus went through puberty while we were gone. He was a model citizen after we picked him up.
I took Gus everywhere, often without a leash. We walked around the neighborhood and he would find fallen tree branches two- and three-feet long and carry them home.
I took him to a small lake in our community and threw a tennis ball as far as I could. He’d plunge into the water, paddle out, bring the ball back, turn around and get ready to do it again. There was no quit in him; the exercise was therapeutic.
At home I’d whisper, “Anybody want some ice cream?” and Gus would bolt for the refrigerator. Sometimes I tossed an ice cube on the tile floor and he chased it around the kitchen. He raced to the garage door when I said, “Anybody want to go for a ride?”
He leapt into the back seat and put his front paws on the console so he could see where we were going. Besides he liked to push my right shoulder and I’d push back as we drove. There was one small problem a golden retriever in a Chrysler with navy blue velour seats is a nightmare. The seats turned blond with dog hair. I wrapped duct tape around my hands to get it up.
One day a new neighbor called to say, “Gus is on my porch. We have a female show dog in heat and Gus won’t leave.” Another neighbor who lived next door called in a rage. “I just got back from the store,” she fumed, “When I put an armload of groceries down to unlock the front door Gus ran off with a roast.”
Well, he was a retriever.
MEMORIES OF THE SUBURBS
January 11, 2019 Years ago we resided on 216th Street in Euclid Ohio, a quiet residential community with giant maple trees that cast long, refreshing shadows on hot days. Our neighbors were friendly, shopping was convenient and the k-12 schools were within walking distance. The houses were 30 years old but you wouldn’t suspect it, neatness counts. Besides 50-foot frontage doesn’t take much pruning.
At one point the grass in our front yard emulated my receding hairline so we decided to do something about it. The Connors who lived in a two-story yellow house across the street from us expressed interest in sodding their lawn, as well and we smelled a package deal. The first landscaper we talked to snapped it up. “This is October,” he told us, “the perfect time to lay new sod.” Google wasn’t around then so we trusted him and signed a contract.
On Friday afternoon dozens of rolls of fresh sod, three feet high, showed up. They were piled on the tree lawns for spreading the following day.
The pleasures of Friday evenings in October start with high school football and we could hear Euclid’s marching band in the distance. Horns honked after the game signaling a Euclid victory and all was well until we were about to close up shop for the night. Screeching brakes outside snapped me to attention. I blurted out, “My God, somebody’s hurt!”
Well, not really. Teenagers headed home from the game spied the sod on our tree lawns and started landscaping the street. They sodded it curb-to-curb. It must have looked like a fairway but we never got to see it. Driver-training manuals don’t cover what to do when you hit a lawn in the middle of the street, at 30 mph in the dark. A startled driver slammed on her brakes and skidded sideways–quick stops on loose grass lack traction. Shredded sod flew everywhere. Frankly, I’d never laid eyes on a funnier sight.
Along the same lines I recall the way galvanized garbage cans stood like soldiers on tree lawns each Tuesday evening for Wednesday pickup. For one reason or other I wasn’t prepared for what happened, mainly because I was asleep. But being awakened by the sound of galvanized cans hitting pavement one after another is also an Oh my God moment.
Turned out to be the same deal. This time it was teenagers romping down the street dumping cans. I pulled on a pair of jeans, jumped in the car and headed them off a dozen houses away. As soon as I got out of the car the kids knew they’d been had. I marched them up the street house-by-house like I was herding sheep as they cleaned up the mess. A neighbor applauded, one even shouted thanks when I walked back to get the car. I returned home triumphantly. Almost. I opened the door and heard, “Your fly is open.”
Fortunately I laugh easily.
THERE'S NOTHING ON
January 4, 2019 I have nothing but warm memories of the days before cable television. We seemed satisfied watching What’s My Line on Sunday even when we had to get up to adjust the rabbit ears because the channel came in fuzzy. Free access is what it was. Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, Steve Allen and many others kept us amused and we didn’t have to buy a ticket.
Along came cable television to rule our lives. They stick a gun in our backs and make us buy packages of 38 shows even though less than five are worth watching. Semi-retired journalists looking for a job submit scripts to feed the demand for new programming, which is why the other 33 channels are lousier than dime novels.
It’s a severe challenge today to find a news channel that reports the news without making it a high wire act. I can’t imagine my news heroes of the 20th century–Walter Chronkite, Chet Huntley or David Brinkley–refereeing shouting matches between alleged experts and mindless nitwits. I don’t get it. The way to get ratings these days is to be the biggest bully, belittle the other guy and shout louder than everybody else. By the time the argument ends there is no time left for actual news in case a war breaks out. The winner gets to stagger off with an Emmy, I suppose, for feeding us imbecilic drivel instead of actual news.
Such nonsense spills over to daily life where it is nearly impossible to avoid political issues. I happen to like contract bridge and I play regularly. One day my partner mentioned something about Donald Trump and a lady at the table became inflamed about what he said. He wasn’t even talking to her so I suggested she go outside and let the air out of tires until she got over it.
Our cable subscription comes up for renewal in June and there is always a rate hike–enjoyment killers is what they are. I call Cox Communications and ask for the customer loyalty department, as if there is such a thing. Naturally nobody offers to adjust my bill. Noting that I’m a 20-year subscriber doesn't faze them, even threatening cancellation fails.
Being caught in the middle last June I scaled back service and made our life at home more enjoyable. Now we watch classics like Downton Abbey, As Time Goes By and Boston Legal. Then we switch to Curb Your Enthusiasmfor culture.
HOW TO BUILD A HOUSE WITHOUT SHINGLES
December 28, 2018 The best way to set this scene is to say the schools I attended didn’t offer carpentry classes. The same goes for plumbing, electrical work and flooring.
Escape with me into a dream world where the calmness and sanity of life are destroyed during home construction.
Mine began the day we approved construction on a new house, which is the same thing as being trapped. We set ourselves up for inconvenience, discomfort and expensive upgrades.
My wife at the time had worked her way through college as secretary for a designer whose portfolio included mansions, yachts and castles. He visited us in Scottsdale on his way to the Grand Canyon and we showed him the developer’s plans. He offered suggestions like “remove this wall, make this the powder room and put the kitchen over here.”
Then he borrowed my warmest jacket and went to the Grand Canyon.
The builder was excited about the changes. And why not, he was knocking out streets full of replicas; this project was a change of pace, and the upgrades could bankroll a ninety day Crystal Cruise.
We lived ten minutes from the construction site making daily inspections a cinch. They were also a headache. Framers ignored change orders and framed windows that we deleted. The plumber ran pipes to the wrong kitchen location. But that wasn’t the winner. His best move was burying the kitchen hot and cold water lines against each other in the cement foundation and then installing a continuous circulating hot water system. We couldn’t wash a head of lettuce in cold water.
Flashback. I went through house building once before, how did it work out? That was the time a sales person suggested special grout for the white tile kitchen floor that “withstands spills and stains.” Turned out to be industrial strength epoxy grout. I found it on the cabinet doors and drawers from the workers’ hands and it wouldn't come off. I recall drafting a letter to the builder mentioning what I would do to him 89 days after a medic says, “You have ninety days to live.”
The cruelest moment this time came when the great room wallboard had 36 rectangular holes the size of a switch-plate scattered about. The job superintendent explained, “The alarm company’s wiring hasn’t been done so the holes provide access. We’ll cover them up and nobody will ever notice.” His explanation didn‘t float. I invited the construction company owner to take a look and discuss the situation. He agreed that patching was the answer after which I said, “Suppose I sell you a new Mercedes and the day before you take delivery I drive a bucket of golf balls into the side of it. Then I send it to Dent Wizard for bodywork. Will you take delivery?” He said, “Um, I see what you mean.”
The wallboard came down. While I was pleased, it wasn’t easy to stay that way. I woke up the next morning in pain.
I had shingles.
December 21, 2018 As the NFL season winds down, despite global warming we get to watch 300-pound behemoths in sleeveless uniforms play football in a driving snowstorm. What’s more fun than freezing weather, 40-mile per hour winds and a slippery field?
I’m not sure. I paint my face, tape my ankles, turn on the TV and watch them defy frostbite.
My dad and I had Cleveland Browns season tickets for years. Below-freezing December weather was uncomfortable enough, but the wind coming off Lake Erie whipped through the stands and made 78,000 people shiver like wet dogs.
Our aisle seats were in the second row of the upper deck on the 30-yard line. In front of us were six bookies with their bets taped to the railing in front of them for easy viewing since taking their hands out of their pockets was out of the question. Otto Graham could throw a bomb to Dante Lavelli or Jim Brown could explode for a touchdown and they'd sit stone-faced like they were watching the Nuremberg trials. “Son,” my dad said, “it doesn’t matter if the Browns win or lose, bookies never lose,” a lesson that slipped my mind later in life.
One section to our right a manufacturer’s rep named Rocky Flogg sat with his friends. Everybody called him No Neck Rocky–but not to his face. Rocky was built like a tree trunk, a cylindrical mass of humanity topped off with a head. No neck to speak of. Rocky was a rep for a golf apparel manufacturer. He hung around golf courses and tour events all summer for business purposes, but golf wasn’t his favorite sport. His game was football. Rocky was a tried and true Cleveland Browns fan.
Rocky shared season tickets with three friends. “Each of us took something in the way of food, beer or booze to the games,” he told me. “We went to the games and set up shop. It was like a smorgasbord. My mother made mouthwatering chili so I brought a crock of it to every game.”
“We loved the chili,” one of his buddies said. “But the stuff was no big deal for Rocky, he’d been eating it his whole life; for us it was a delicacy. Besides, Rocky was a boozer, he’d rather drink.”
When the Browns took the field, Rocky hit the bottle and drank full throttle. “Sometime in the third quarter,” his buddy said, “Rocky would pass out, it was like clockwork. It was predictable, we could make book on it. He’d go off the air like he’d been hit with a sucker punch.”
By the third quarter Rocky’s buddies couldn’t wait for him to keel over. They watched the game with one eye and kept the other eye on Rocky. According to his pal, “We sat there freezing our butts off. But as soon as he hit the deck we spread him out to keep our feet warm.”
December 14, 2018 Some folks talk about all the classy restaurants they’ve frequented, snazzy, candle lit rooms where quail eggs are served on a wedge of something from Tiffany’s.
I on the other hand talk about ‘10 Cent Beer Night’ at an Indians game played 44 years ago at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Coating a hot dog that night with Bertman Ballpark Mustard was like putting the tiara on Miss America.
Joe Bertman began making the mustard in his garage in the 1930s. The stuff makes a hot dog taste better than filet mignon. For a long time it was only available in gallon jugs at their warehouse. I loaded up once a month. We even gave it away at Christmas. Now it’s in over 150 stadiums and sold on Amazon under the ‘Stadium Mustard’ brand.
As for the game that night, Cleveland played Texas. The crowd got plowed on dime beer and went berserk. The late Tim Russert, who was attending law school in Cleveland said, “I went with $2 in my pocket. You do the math.” Drunks got into it with some of the players and the dugouts emptied, players waving bats. Naked fans streaked the field and the Indians forfeited the game. That’s the Cliffs Notes version.
If you piled up twenty-feet of treasury bills they wouldn’t be worth as much as Bertman’s mustard recipe, that’s how good it is. I collect great recipes; even if they come from concession stands. Look at it this way, how many Michelin Stars did Jacques Pepin accumulate when he cooked at Howard Johnson’s?
You didn‘t know he worked at Howard Johnson’s? Deduct 10 points.
One of my neighbors told her friends, “I keep my sweaters in the oven because I eat out so much.” Most of us bought into the story until she hosted a party and made a marinated shrimp dish that made me forget where I parked the car. I left with the recipe.
The prime rib chili at Pebble Beach belongs in the Golf Hall of Fame. Full enshrinement ceremony, please. I emailed the Tap Room for the recipe, but the chef gave me the cold shoulder. I called the manger and struck out again. I called back and asked for the chef. I said, “It’s Valentine’s Day, you’re lousing up a marriage if you don’t come through.” It worked.
The marriage didn’t.
Sometimes it pays to be a math major. I asked a waitress if she could ask the chef for an exceptionally good salad dressing recipe. “I’ll try,” she said, “but the chef is quite busy.” Several minutes later she discretely delivered the goods folded small enough to fit the palm of her hand. When I got home and opened it I needed a calculator. The recipe made one gallon.
Time for some Stadium mustard. It’s unbelievable on scrambled eggs.
LET’S TALK ABOUT MASCOTS
December 7, 2018 Let’s talk about mascots, the ones you see wearing fuzzy outfits with big heads running around at sporting events, whipping up the crowd, urging the team on.
Bear Bryant, Alabama’s legendary football coach once said, “It’s hard to build school spirit around a math class.” That’s where mascots come in. You’ll find mascots for both amateur and professional sports prominently displayed on products and apparel, sports equipment and uniforms, signs, billboards and ads, stationary and supplies. Even on things that fly, float and race around ovals.
Sports fans are proud of their team’s mascot. Ask your tattoo artist.
That brings me to my favorite: Scottsdale Community College’s mascot. Apparently (this is merely a guess) the athletic department, charged with coming up with a school mascot conducted a focus group interview in a grocery store. Shoppers in the produce department were instructed to select the fruit or vegetable of their choice and wave it high in the air, over their heads.
I’m still guessing. That particular day artichoke prices had been slashed, drastically. I own a shirt adorned with Scottsdale Community College’s Artie the Fighting Artichoke. I wear it to special events. The rest of the time it’s parked at the back of my closet.
You can‘t help but think Artie is a credit to America’s fruit and vegetable growers, can you? I mean how many institutions can you name with mascot from the plant family?
I found a few.
North Carolina School of the Arts, for example, has The Fighting Pickle. Their supporters would say pickles are nothing but shriveled up cucumbers and cucumbers are vegetables so that counts. I doubt it.
UC Santa Cruz has Sammy the Banana Slug. Sorry UC, the banana is merely fruit by association–as in Sammy the Slug likes bananas.
Brutus The Ohio State Buckeye (buckeyes are nuts that grow on trees) would arguably be the most famous, followed closely by Syracuse’s Otto the Orange.
Delta State has The Fighting Okra (and a “Fear the Okra” video).
Let’s cook an artichoke, buckeye and okra in orange juice and sell it at concession stands (with a banana on the side).
If you wonder whether Scottsdale Community College conducted mascot research at Kroger’s or Safeway, they didn’t. The student body came up with the name because they were mad at the administration. They voted in 1972 to embarrass the administration for what they claimed was an excessive allocation of funds to sports instead of academics. Artichokes beat out Scoundrels and Rutabagas.
Life is short. Smile while you still have teeth.
November 30, 2018 I was waiting to see an executive and struck up a conversation with a woman who said she’s a ‘neatness’ consultant.
“If you’re here to shape up Ed,” I said, “you’ll find him under a pile of phone messages. He doesn’t return calls.”
“Thanks,” she said. “Are you a neat person?”
“Yep, my spices are lined up in alphabetical order,” I said proudly. “And my shirts face the same way in the closet, if you’re into that.”
“Are they arranged by color?” she asked.
“That’s pushing it,” I replied.
The conversation got me thinking about orderliness and dumb sayings like ‘there’s a place for everything and everything should be in its place.’ I say baloney.
I know a man who piles papers and files on his desk and credenza, even on chairs and the floor. But ask for a file and he can point to a stack without looking and say, “Halfway down.”
I get annoyed at people who crow about their spotless homes; meanwhile their bedrooms look like they were struck by a cyclone. These people need to be flushed out. Fake orderliness should be a felony. If the bedroom door is open grab your smartphone, take a picture and post it on Facebook.
Ever attend a party at a one-bathroom home and one of the guests has Crohn’s disease?
Sorry about that last one. My parents taught me, “Clean mind, clean body–pick one.”
Let’s discuss the world of academia. How is it that a professor knows the theory of relativity but doesn’t know how to comb his hair or where to find a drycleaner, shoemaker or dentist? Does emeritus after his name mean the egghead closely resembles a slob.
Here’s an orderliness trick. When seated at a dinner table, before the meal is served slyly slide your silverware an inch or two toward the person to your left. See how fast it comes back. That’s called territorial rights. You can wear yourself out trying to get away with it, but they use peripheral vision. People resent you invading their space.
Yard work is a place where orderliness counts. The way people take pride in their landscaping varies. My favorite is a ranch-style house with a well-groomed bent-grass lawn and eight feet of freeway guardrail serving as a fence. It isn’t there purely for amusement. The house faces the end of a street and the guardrail protects the residents, not to mention the living room furniture, in case a car doesn‘t make the turn.
Let’s give the guardrail a pass, but ask yourself this: what about living with high-beam headlights aimed at your window all night?
Speaking of cars, need a ride? Uber and Lyft are the ticket, but there’s a lesson to be learned. For better or worse, even if the car looks brand new, stick your head inside and look around. Suppose it smells like aftershave or you have to wedge yourself between a kid’s car seat and a beach ball–then what?
Finally, a short discussion about handwriting: Neatness counts; end of discussion. And why aren’t all celebrity signatures legible? Ever try to read one? Suppose you get one that looks like it was signed with a ballpoint pen tied to a weed eater–and you were going to sell it on eBay? Do you hand it back and say, start over?
Sure glad I got to type this.
November 16, 2018 I received a Happy Thanksgiving email today from Science Care. If you haven’t heard of them–and even if you have–please read on.
Science Care’s reason for being may be a touchy subject for some–but it is a subject that comes up while families gather together.
Perhaps this column will prompt you to start a conversation. Please consider it. Look at my suggestion this way: the words thanks and giving are meaningful during the holidays; this is the season for giving.
Science Care is a remarkable organization that gives hope to future generations through an end-of-life option that you or your loved ones may not know about. Body donations are extraordinary gifts. They contribute to the advancement of treatments for conditions like Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, ALS, arthritis and many other medical diseases. The list goes on and on, that’s only the beginning.
Science and medical research depends on such gifts. There is no cost for final arrangements.
Science Care works with the world’s most prestigious, well-respected medical schools, research hospitals and medical device companies. They help support physician and surgeon training programs and assist in the development of medical products, procedures and treatments.
Sooner or later we are all faced with end of life preparations. We prepare wills, living wills and healthcare powers of attorney. Then the subject of burial and cremations services comes up along with their hefty price tags.
Consider one more step, donating your body to science. No matter how many tangible items you may leave behind, can there be a better, more lasting legacy than advancing medical and personal health research?
Visit www.sciencecare.com or call 800.417.3747 for more information. Learn what to expect. You will be amazed at the process. The website explains in detail why people join. There are research stories, testimonials and donor stories. Find out how Science Care donors are making an impact on medicine.
Science Care has a HOPE Program for hospice patients and the terminally ill if you are inquiring on behalf of a loved-one.
Please make a difference in the world. Even if it’s one you haven’t considered before.
THIS WEEK'S TWITTER CULTURE
November 9, 2018 In search of culture this week we turn to Twitter where everybody from literature majors to racetrack touts tweet about the world and what is going wrong with it.
Assistant: “Wow. Can I type messages and watch porn on it?"
Alexander Graham Bell: "No. You talk on it. What the hell is wrong with you?"
Before you join a meal kit delivery service read this: Pizza comes to your house already cooked.
Mugger: Give me your wallet and watch.
Me (handing over wallet) Okay, I’m watching.
I don’t mean to brag, but I hit the hamper at a 60% clip when I heave my shorts across the room.
Daughter: "Daddy can you make me breakfast?”
Me: “Can't you reach your Halloween candy?”
Salesman: 15 minutes could save you 15% on car insurance.
Me: Great, I’ll take 100 minutes.
Salesman: That’s not how it works.
With every hour of sunlight we lose, I move up a belt loop.
All yoga is 'hot yoga' if you watch from the back of the class.
School of Hard Knocks:
Me: Sorry I’m late the door was locked.
Teacher: You have a lot to learn.
Crook: You’ll never take me alive. Wait, are you wearing jeans?
Batman: Dude, you’re a third tier villain. You’re lucky I’m even here.
Teacher: Turn to page 96.
Me: (dyslexic) Nice.
Touchy Shopping List:
Me: Why do men feel uncomfortable buying tampons?
Her: Chill out. No one thinks they're for you.
Sister Mary Rose could really put away the beers. She was my favorite, bar nun.
The dentist gives me toothpaste when I leave. Step up your game gynecologist.
The candle store doesn’t do Brazilian wax jobs.
(According to my police report.)
Why doesn’t anybody talk about Jesus’ miracle of having 12 close friends in his 30s?
Her: I used to date athletes.
Me: (kicking shorts up from floor; catching them in midair) What do you mean, used to?
Opening Line of a Novel:
“Take me, take me now,” she said breathlessly, as I started the car.
If mom says she doesn’t have a favorite kid, she has one but you’re not it.
Thanks for joining today’s Twitter Tour. Suffice it to say you didn‘t run across anything you’d want to translate into Latin.
PEOPLE I'VE KNOWN
November 2, 2018 Bruce Sherman was as memorable as anybody I’ve known, a cherished companion. He had a devil-may-care attitude that made him a magnet for trouble. We went to the same barber, Sam Ventura. Once in a while Sam would nudge me and say, “Bruce had another adventure. When you see him ask about such and such.”
Everything that happened to Bruce was an adventure. Sam and I had a pact: never paraphrase one of his stories. We had to hear his first-person account. Besides, Bruce got excited and that added to the entertainment value. When he got going you couldn‘t wipe the smile off my face. You see, Bruce stuttered.
His escapades ran the gamut from frivolous nonsense to life-threatening terror. He enjoyed reminiscing about them because he had “survived another potential disaster.”
When he asked, “D-Did I ever t-tell you about the t-time…” I was on the edge of my chair.
Bruce owned a plastering company. On Wednesday mornings he visited job sites and he played golf in the afternoon.
His company happened to be renovating a high-rise apartment on a street in Lakewood, Ohio where railroad tracks cut across the street and parallel streets, as well. The crossings had signs warning drivers to beware of approaching trains, but there were no gates to stop traffic.
One Wednesday, as he approached the tracks on his way to the golf course he warily inched his way up to the tracks because a hedge on the left blocked his view.
He leaned over the steering wheel to make sure the coast was clear. But it wasn’t. An oncoming train was a few feet away. Bruce slammed on the brakes but the locomotive rammed his car snapping off the front bumper like the pull-tab on a can.
Bruce was terrified. He told me, “The d-driver’s s-side fender w-was n-next. I s-saw a h-headlight f-fly past the w-windshield.” Another impact folded the car’s hood back toward the windshield. Through it all, Bruce sat petrified as his car was being demolished.
The train ground to a stop and Bruce fled the wreckage. He said, “I r-rang the f-first d-doorbell I saw and a-asked to use the p-phone.“
The police arrived soon after. They checked to make sure Bruce was safe and conducted an investigation. Afterward, a cop asked if Bruce needed a ride. He said, “No th-thanks, I r-ran in the h-house and c-called m-my C-Cadillac d-dealer. I b-bought a n-new c-car. It’ll b-be here in a c-couple m-minutes.”
That afternoon Virginia Sherman watched the news as she waited for her husband to come home for dinner. The lead story was about a car-train wreck in Lakewood. She thought, gee that car looks like Bruce’s. The camera zoomed in on the wreckage and she saw his license plate dangling from the bumper. She panicked. Bruce had been in a horrible accident and she hadn’t heard from him all day.
She frantically called the Lakewood Police Department. The cop who answered assured her that Bruce was okay.
“But I haven’t heard from him all day,” she sobbed. The cop asked, “Does he drink?” She said, “Yes.” The cop replied, “I think we both know where he might be.”
And he was.
ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE (ESL)
October 26, 2018 I’ve been thinking. Why do immigrants sneak across the border instead of entering legally? Why not use the front door where we say welcome to America? There must be a reason.
Please stop at the guardhouse and say, “Where do I sign up?” It doesn’t matter if you speak Spanish, French, Italian, German or Swahili. You can learn English along the way.
There’s a thing called English as a Second Language (ESL) that’ll get you up to speed.
Of course it’s not exactly a crash course. Huh? You noticed I said course twice in one sentence? That’s nothing stick around.
Once you come through the gate, quicken your gait. (See what I did there?)
Look, English is complicated. It takes eons to master the way we Americans communicate. (If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth how come the plural of booth isn’t beeth?)
Don’t be in a hurry to enter a spelling bee. We drop in a letter here and there to change a word’s meaning. It takes a PhD to figure out the difference between tough, though, thought, through and thorough. Those words mean strong, done, idea, nevertheless and accurate (but not in that order; for homework, figure it out).
Speaking about spelling, a classic McDonald’s sign said, “OVER 10 BILLION SEVERED.”
Like everybody else in the world you probably like to text. Be sure to learn the difference between your and you’re. You’ll be surprised how many Americans type “Your an idiot.”
Column intermission while I pare a pair of pears.
I’m not sure how punctuation works in your country, but around here punctuation matters. As crazy as dropping a new letter into a word seems, adding or forgetting a comma really screws up a sentence. The most common examples are:
What time do we eat grandma?
What time do we eat, grandma?
Woman without her man is nothing.
Woman: without her, man is nothing.
Caesar once said about Gaul, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Shame on Caesar, he omitted an expected conjunction. According to ESL he should have said, “I came, I saw and I conquered.”
There are so many exceptions to the way we speak; I can’t go into detail about grammatical scruples like splitting an infinitive with an adverb. As Winston Churchill said to a person who criticized him for lousing up a sentence, “”This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”
I wish you luck with English as a second language. You’ll be thankful it wasn’t your first.
By the way, if you hear someone say, ”To whom am I speaking?” it’s safe to presume the butler is speaking.
THE DAMNABLE DISEASE
October 20, 2018 She won’t mind me saying this. In fact you may already know that Dr. Terry Martin (one column to the right…and close to my heart) suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS).
Terry compares the symptoms she experiences with those of an MS challenged chap in Ireland named Trevis L. Gleason who she ran across when he wrote a column for everydayhealth.com titled Happy in Spite of Multiple Sclerosis. Coincidently, that same publication carried a story about Terry Martin’s MS a while ago.
Travis was known as Chef Trevis when he worked in New England, New York and (as he puts it) beyond. At the height of his culinary career and not yet forty years old the ‘damnable disease’ struck leaving Travis hobbling and wobbling. MS cost him his job and his marriage. He rented a cottage in Kerry, Ireland and never looked back.
Travis and Terry fight pain and exhaustion daily. Adding to the MS, Terry went through triple-bypass surgery and Travis had a hip replacement. Yet they manage to find the joys of life.
At first Terry didn’t think anything was wrong, other than a stiff neck. “I was traveling, making speeches and dealing with serious fatigue. I thought it might have been my thyroid. But after a series of diagnostic tests I learned it was MS.”
Terry and Trevis are role models.
Trevis explains what the disease is like. “Luckily, I had hold of both banisters of the stairs this morning. I looked down at my legs and feet, as they weren’t sending up much in the way of sensory signals. You know the feeling: I know they are there, but they are as much deadweights as they are active participants in the day’s activities.”
Terry agrees. She says, ”I shouldn’t walk without help so I use a cane or my walker. I lean on Bob sometimes or do what my granddaughter calls ‘furniture walking’ from chair to table. I have very little feeling in my legs; they are numb. I’m not ‘grounded’ the way I once was.”
Terry is grateful that people keep her moving, balancing, talking and writing. She stays mentally and emotionally aware. “MS taught me teamwork,” she says, “along with dependence, empathy and humor.”
In a recent column Trevis wrote, “So we get on, we live and we try to live well.”
Terry adds, “Follow the advice I give my therapy patients: Live in the present, be hopeful, and do what’s best for you.”
GOD'S PLAN FOR AGING
October 13, 2018 If this hasn't reached your inbox yet, today's column is a public service:
Most seniors never get enough exercise. In His wisdom, God decreed that seniors become forgetful so they would have to search for their glasses, keys and other things-thus doing more walking. And God looked down and saw that it was good.
Then God saw there was another need. In His wisdom He made seniors lose coordination so they would drop things requiring them to bend, reach and stretch. And God looked down and saw that it was good.
Then God considered the function of bladders and decided seniors would have additional calls of nature requiring more trips to the bathroom thus providing more exercise. God looked down and saw that it was good.
So, if you find as you age you are getting up and down more, remember it’s God’s will. It is all in your best interest even though you mutter under your breath.
There are nine important facts to remember, as we grow older:
9. Death is the number one killer.
8. Life is sexually transmitted.
7. Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
6. Men have two motivations: hunger and sex and they can’t tell them apart. If you see an old man with a gleam in his eyes make him a sandwich.
5. Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks, months or maybe years-unless you give them your email address.
4. Health nuts are going to feel stupid one day, lying in the hospital dying of nothing.
3. All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.
2. In the 60s, People took LSD to make the world weird. Now People take Prozac to make it look normal.
1. Life is like a jar of jalapeno peppers. What you do here today may be a burning issue somewhere else, tomorrow.
Share what you’ve learned with others while I go to the bathroom.
THE EYEWEAR MONOPOLY: HOW TO BEAT IT
October 5, 2018 If you wear glasses, even sunglasses, listen up.
Chances are you shelled out a premium buck for designer frames, but I’ll give you 8-5 that the designer didn’t design or manufacture them.
An Italian company, Luxottica pretty much owns the global eyewear industry and their glasses retail for 10 - 20 times what they cost to make.
Estimates say Luxottica manufactures almost 80% of the frames engraved with hoity-toity designer names. Those Prada, Burberry and Tiffany glasses perched at the end of a socialite’s nose came from Luxottica. Even BVLGARI and Versace frames pinched between an executive’s fingers for effect were made by Luxottica. All with gigantic price tags.
You say you don’t need prescription lenses? Luxottica has you covered. They design and manufacture famous brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley, both top sellers, and both accommodate prescription lenses.
Do you buy your glasses at LensCrafters or Sunglass Hut? Surprise: Luxottica owns them. At the Scottsdale Quarter, one of Scottsdale’s top shopping destinations, they are across the street from one another–posing as competitors.
Forking over a bundle for designer frames is just the beginning. You may need to liquidate a stock portfolio to pay for prescription lenses. Those babies come in single vision, bifocal and progressive lens types. They correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Choose from aspheric, photochromic, polarized, polycarbonate, anti-reflective, blue light reduction, scratch-resistant UV protection and god knows what else.
Each time my eye doctor writes a new prescription I hide my wallet under the mattress. This year I hid under the mattress because the local optical store quotes ranged $500 to $600 for digital, progressive, scratch-resistant UV protected lenses.
I’ve purchased rimless designer frames online from stepanistyle.com for several years. They have a good selection and the prices are reasonable, certainly less than what optical stores charge. I wear $79 Tom Ford rimless frames that retail for $460.
But prescription lenses are another matter. Several local opticians passed because they don’t drill rimless frame lenses. Those that do quoted prices from $500 to $600.
Then I hit pay dirt. After a turndown I asked, “Do you know where I might go to have the lenses ground?” The clerk said, “Yes, I’ll give you the name of the wholesale optical lab that grinds lenses. They support the eye care retailers in Phoenix.”
I had Avante Optics on the line in seconds. Sure enough, they welcome the public and their prices are about half what the retailers charge. They also sell frames although I had new ones from Stepani and didn’t price them.
You, too, can beat the monopoly. Find discount designer frames online. Then search for a “wholesale optical lab” in your city. The key search word is wholesale, not discount.
Final thought: Check out carecredit.com. Their financing options from 6 to 24 months are interest free. Just make the minimum payments and pay the full amount by the end of the payment period.
September 29, 2018 I’ve known a few lulus in my day–folks whose personalities range from extraordinarily intelligent to downright goofy. But they all had one thing in common: they were good for a memorable quote.
I guess it started in elementary school. My teacher’s name was Iryl P. Fast. Honest. The first day of school he wrote I. P. Fast on the board and said, “That’s my name. Get it out of your mind once and for all.”
Our family doctor, Doc Temple would open the examining room door and say, “Well, let’s see if you’re worth saving.” His diet advice was, “If it tastes good, spit it out.”
Jerry Murphy’s family invented Murphy’s Oil Soap. You might have some under your kitchen sink. He liked to say, “Our company is located on Cassius Lane, but we call it Muhammad Alley.”
Walter Waetjin, president of Cleveland State University, summarizing a monthly meeting of the college’s brain trust said, “Well, let’s see if I can sweep up the crumbs and make a cake.”
Chuck Shaw opened a restaurant called Till Forbid. He said, “Business was so good that we opened another one upstairs called Heaven Forbid, then one on the third floor that we call God Forbid.”
Dan Coughlin after attending a barfly friend’s wedding: “We walked into the church, an usher took my wife’s arm and asked, ‘Smoking or non-smoking?’”
Bob Kitchler, president of White Dove Mattress Company, proudly claimed, “I stand behind every mattress we sell.”
George Opdyke summarized a TV station’s Christmas party this way, “Nobody slept a wink except Gloria Brown, and she slept six times.”
Peter Kinsey, an ad agency executive, rushed into an upscale men’s store and asked to use the restroom. On the way out he said, “Just wanted to see if I could pee without buying anything.”
A department store model approached Kinsey as he came through the door and offered a fragrance sample. “Would you be interested in Colorado Sage?” she asked. Without breaking stride he replied, “How do you know my name is Sage, Colorado?”
Chip Corlett describing a Halloween party he attended: “I went as a chainsaw killer. I jumped up on the porch, revved up my chainsaw and removed the front door.”
Danny Cronin who was colorblind showed up wearing a purple suit. He bragged that it was “custom made by the Hong Kong tailor.” A friend, John Leininger said, “Next time take somebody with you.”
Finally, Bob Rotatori, a defense lawyer was in court awaiting a pro bono assignment when a defendant told the judge, “I want Mr. Rotatori.” The judge said, “Well, you’re not getting him.” The defendant turned away muttering, “My s**t be looking dim.”
LIFE'S LITTLE INSTRUCTIONS
September 21, 2018 A dose of this will cure anything. (From a poster on my doctor’s examining room wall.)
Sing in the shower • Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated • Watch a sunrise at least once a year • Leave the toilet seat in the down position • Never refuse homemade brownies • Strive for excellence, not perfection • Plant a tree on your birthday • Learn three clean jokes • Return borrowed vehicles with the gas tank full • Compliment three people each day • Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them • Keep it simple • Think big thoughts but relish the small pleasures • Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know • Floss your teeth • Ask for a raise when you feel you’ve earned it • Be forgiving of yourself and others • Over tip breakfast waitresses • Say “thank you” • Avoid negative people • Buy whatever kids are selling on card tables in their front yards • Wear polished shoes • Remember other people’s birthdays • Commit yourself to constant improvement • Carry jumper cables in your trunk • Have a firm handshake • Send lots of Valentine cards. Sign them, “Someone who thinks you’re terrific” • Look people in the eye • Be the first to say “Hello” • Use the good silver • Return all things you borrow • Make new friends but cherish the old ones • Keep secrets • Sing in a choir • Plant flowers every spring • Have a dog • Always accept an outstretched hand • Stop blaming others • Take responsibility for every area of your life • Wave at kids on school busses • Be there when people need you • Feed a stranger’s expired parking meter • Don’t expect life to be fair • Never underestimate the power of love • Drink champagne for no reason at all • Live your life as an exclamation, not as an explanation • Don’t be afraid to say, “I made a mistake” • Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” • Compliment even small improvements • Keep your promises (no matter what) • Marry only for love • Rekindle old friendships • Count your blessings • Call your mother
SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 Dear (place name here), If you’re not in my phone’s contact list, thanks for thinking of me.
Looking back on the unwanted phone calls I’ve answered I think less of myself. But I’m not alone.
Rotary phones with sticky dials caused wrong number calls. In those days there was no caller ID so you answered the phone. The polite thing to say was, “I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.” Someone who shall remain nameless enjoyed wrong number calls. A caller would ask, “Is Sally there?” “Yep,” he’d reply, “but she’s upstairs with a customer.” Then he waited … quietly. Usually there was a click. But once in a while he met his match: a character with a fast lip and they shared a few laughs.
Mistaken identity can be a culprit. When a man named Eddie Uhas worked for the Cleveland Indians there were actually two people named Eddie Uhas in the phone book. One night Indians outfielder Larry Doby hurt his leg sliding into third base and was carried off the field. After the game a reporter called for a medical update but awakened the wrong Eddie Uhas. “Sorry to bother you,” he said. “How’s Doby’s leg?” The disturbed recipient replied, “They had to amputate,” and slammed the phone.
Unwanted sales calls can be like a pine needle under your cuticle. We’ve all had our share. I’ve sworn at aluminum siding salesmen and cursed out candidates for office; vilified people offering free cruises and told air conditioning salesmen where to stick their filters. But those are the recorded robo-calls that can’t fight back.
After listening to an annoying sales presentation I asked if the caller could hang on for a minute. He said, yes so I put the phone on hold and took my wife to dinner.
There is an election on the horizon and pollsters are in season but they never call me. That’s disturbing. If there’s anybody I want to lie to it’s a pollster. They’ve been wrong for years so who am I to louse up a good streak?
These columns run about 500 words or less. That whacks out room for a tech support discussion.
When I was a bachelor, I taped a greeting on my answering machine: “Sorry I can’t answer your call. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you. Oh, and please sing your message. Here’s a head start … dum-dum de-dum-dum dum.” BEEP.
If you’re starved for entertainment give it a whirl, particularly if your friends have a sense of humor.
September 7, 2018 Joe Madigan and I met for lunch every couple months. Some lasted for hours because we enjoyed reminiscing––invariably spinning tales about memorable incidents in our lives.
He was a sportswriter. Baseball was his favorite sport and for many years he covered the Cleveland Indians. As a kid he wasn’t athletic enough to pursue a career on the field, instead he got to write about the game from a vantage point in the press box.
Sportswriters have an unwritten creed, no cheering in the press box, but Joe secretly rooted for the Tribe. His game accounts reflected his loyalty whether the team won or lost. Dale Mitchell’s diving catch of a screaming line drive robbed Al Kaline of a triple in the Tribe’s 9-3 loss to Detroit last night.
Being on the road with the team for six months was rugged and Joe decided to spend more time with his family. He opened a public relations firm. Years later while vacationing in Tampa he stopped at Al Lopez Field. Lopez had been a major league catcher and then manager of the Cleveland Indians.
It was the offseason; the parking lot was vacant. Joe pulled in, parked the car and sat for a few moments thinking about Lopez and the years he covered him in Cleveland. What a tribute it was for Lopez, the first Tampa native to play major league baseball to have a ballpark named after him and it was the training site of the Chicago White Sox.
Joe noticed an open entrance. He walked in, stood for a moment to admire the field where he covered spring training games when the Indians played the White Sox. He walked down to the field opened a gate by the first row, stepped on the field and took a seat in the first base dugout. He thought this is where I belong.
Nobody was around. Let’s play ball. Joe trotted out to left field, his regular position, turned facing home plate, leaned forward and put his hands on his knees prepared for the first pitch. He clicked his tongue simulating the crack of the bat––a soaring high fly was coming his way. He turned and took off chasing the ball over his head. He sped toward the outfield wall extended his gloved hand and made a sensational over-the-shoulder backhand catch.
As Joe tipped his cap acknowledging the roar of the crowd reality set in. A member of the ground crew stood nearby watching him. Joe was embarrassed. He said, “Just reliving a boyhood dream.”
The ground crew member replied, “Many do.”
A GUY WALKS INTO A BANK
September 1, 2018 Memories from a banking career in Cleveland:
Life is strange. You can’t just walk up to a bank teller and demand money. Well, you can if you have a gun, but it won’t get you far.
An older man came into our branch bank in Maple Heights a couple times and scribbled something on the back of a deposit slip all the while looking around to see if anybody was watching. He looked confused, on edge so he put the paper in his pocket and left. The employees noticed him and brought it to the manager’s attention. He came in a third time and scribbled another note on a deposit slip. Then he presented it to a teller. It said, “GIVE ME ALL YOUR MONEY. I HAVE A GUB"
A guy robbed our Chagrin Falls office. The getaway car was a brown Corvette. (Seen many of those on the road?) A telephone repairman working on a pole outside the bank saw the robber run out of the bank, pile into the Corvette and speed away. He called the police. A Chagrin Falls squad car spotted the Corvette and gave chase. They raced through three municipalities. Each time they crossed a municipal line another cop car joined in. When they got to Highland Golf Course the Corvette jumped a curb, raced down a fairway and plowed into a lake where the robber was arrested. Imagine being there for a leisurely round of golf and winding up in the middle of a chase scene. Fortunately, no shots were fired.
We had a branch bank in University Heights located at a busy intersection. It was a freestanding building with tall, wide 12’ by 8’ windows. A window was cracked and a glass company was at the bank with a replacement. The window was so big that the workers asked the manager and assistant manager to help hold it in place. A cab happened to be driving past the bank and the cabbie noticed two men in suits with their arms spread out against the window so he called the police. Six cop cars descended on the bank–sirens blaring.
This was my favorite incident:
I managed a branch in a strip shopping center. One rainy summer day a customer exclaimed, “There’s a car parked in front of the bank and it’s on fire!” We called the fire department immediately. A four-door sedan was billowing with smoke. I locked the bank’s front door and rushed everybody to a back room in the event the car would burst into flames and explode. Within minutes a fire truck was on the scene. Fire fighters surrounded the car, smashed the windows, tore open the doors and hosed down the interior. They slashed the upholstery open and pulled the stuffing out to make certain there were no burning embers. Moments later a man smoking a pipe, with an armload of groceries innocently meandered down the sidewalk–until he saw the mess. It was his car. “Before I got out,” he said, “I lit my pipe with a wooden match and slid the match back in the box. I thought I blew it out.”
TICKETS, GET YER TICKETS
August 24, 2018 I’m a sports fan. But not the kind who tapes their ankles, paints their face and drinks beer in the bleachers.
It takes all kinds, doesn’t it? I’ve been a sports fan all my life. My life dates back before maniacal rooting was invented. I grew up in Cleveland where the bleachers were so far away nobody hit a baseball that far. I suffered through the Indians’ losing seasons for years. As a kid I peddled Cokes at Tribe games, climbing up and down the steps in the lower deck lugging a couple heavy, galvanized buckets filled with glass bottles and ice. Cokes were a dime; I cleared 10 percent, a penny. My buddy, Gus White sold hot dogs. He carried a big, wicker basket with a metal container filled with hot water and the dogs plus a pile of buns, mustard and catsup squeeze bottles and napkins. Oh, tongs to fish the dogs out of the water. A hot dog went for 50-cents so he made a killing: a nickel. I lagged behind drumming up business yelling, “Wash your dog with a Coke.” (Sounds like a pet groomer’s slogan, doesn’t it?)
That reminds me of a dog trainer in Scottsdale who handed out “Sit Happens” bumper stickers.
Clevelanders got lucky twice: the Tribe won the World Series in 1948 (the first time in 28 years). In 1954 they got to the Series but were swept by the Giants (then the New York Giants).
Cleveland’s glory years began when the Cleveland Browns were organized. They played in the All-America Football Conference for four years beginning in 1946 and won all four championships with a 52-4-3 record. They were so good that the AAFC folded. Then they joined the NFL and kept their string alive: from 1950 and 1955 they reached the NFL Championship game every year and won three times. My dad and I had season tickets in the second row of the upper deck behind a group of stone-faced bookies––their wagers taped to the railing. Ah, those were the days.
Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. The Indians made it to the World Series a month after I moved to Arizona. Really. That was in 1995. I watched them tank for 41 years and blew town 30 days too soon.
But wait, there’s more. That same year, Art Modell stabbed Cleveland in the back and moved the Browns to Baltimore. If I stayed it would have been the final blow. I would have been committed to a room with mattresses on the walls.
Now I’m an Arizona sports fan. The Diamondbacks (who won the World Series in 2001 and are in first place as I write this), the Cardinals (who made it to the Super Bowl in 2008), the Suns and Coyotes.
Maybe this beats all: we have 15 (count them f-i-f-t-e-e-n) major league teams in greater Phoenix for spring training. Folks east of the Mississippi are shoveling snow while we’re eating peanuts, drinking beer and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
I don’t care if I never get back.
HABITS TO STOP
August 18, 2018 Your brain loves to be efficient. Once it learns something and does it over and over, it becomes routine–like breathing.
Consider if your habits are productive or not. Focus on eliminating the bad ones––like being busy. Being busy is a state of mind. You have too many unplanned things going on. Think about all the actions in your head. Take inventory. Put them on your calendar in order. Simplify your life; your brain will be more efficient.
When you leave life to chance, you aren’t setting goals. That means you aren’t pursuing your dreams. In this scenario, you are living someone else’s dream. If you fail to plan long-term goals and set intentions for your life living day-to-day will ruin your life.
If you are a “scarcity thinker” put a stop to it. Scarcity thinking means that you believe life is limited––it only has so much to offer. There’s not enough. Not enough time, not enough money, not enough fill-in-the-blank. People with scarcity mindsets think there are always a winner and a loser (never two winners). They resent competition, are fearful, entitled and think small.
On the other hand, people who are abundance thinkers always believe there is more to come, they invite and welcome competition, they default to trust, they think big, are thankful, and confident.
Don’t get in your own way. If you have negative hurtful thoughts about yourself, you are getting in the way of living a better life. Stop surrounding yourself with people who don’t support you.
Consider this: you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely.
Stop comparing yourself to other people. Always remember: your only competition is yourself.
If you multitask and do a bunch of things at once, now is the time to stop. Why kill your productivity and time management? Why feel overwhelmed and out of control and exhausted?
By stopping these habits you will begin improving your life. The results will be incredible.
SELLING A STORY
August 10, 2018 Hey, have I got a story for you. We all enjoy good stories; every culture has used them to communicate.
I’ll never forget the day my two-year-old granddaughter hopped up on the couch next to me and said, “Grandpa, read me a story. I’ll help you with the words.” She couldn’t read but if I tried to fool her with a few phony details she was all over me.
From childhood on up good listeners stay tuned, eager to know more about the journey as it unfolds. Keep their attention engaged and their imagination active.
Story telling is the way individuals passed down beliefs and experiences from generation to generation. Good ones engage various parts of the brain, draw people in, grab their emotions, evoke empathy with the characters and make them visualize the various elements.
Storytelling is a valuable tool in the business world. But you’d better know your audience. A lengthy tale with a great payoff will lay an egg when told to an audience of button pushers who can’t sit through a 30-second commercial.
Short bursts of attention-getters are a powerful way to drive a point home. If your delivery resembles the narration in an army training film you’ll be drowned out by snoring.
Here are a few points to consider when you craft your message.
Use a conversational tone and common words to help your audience relate to you as a person. Come across friendly, put the audience at ease.
Understand what the audience values and what they don’t so you will tell the right story. Find common ground with them, it helps create empathy. If an audience relates to the story you are telling they will be all ears.
Sell your story. Believe what you are saying, otherwise you risk genuineness. People don’t necessarily buy a product, service, or idea. They buy the story that’s attached to it. Focus on what the audience needs.
Make the audience the hero. You’ll be their hero.
THE TALKATIVE DOCTOR
August 3, 2018 If you are like me, you hope your doctors will get to know you better than just a name on a patient list. Unfortunately, the system works against us; doctors are limited to 15 minutes with each patient.
Sometimes that’s all a visit requires, and that’s fine until you show up with a lot to talk about and the doctor acts like he’s dropping by to say hi on his way to hot date.
A few years ago I got lucky. I found a gabby medic. I showed up with a runny nose and bloodshot eyes. After taking my vitals in an examining room the nurse said, “The doctor will be right in.”
You know what that means.
I listened to the doctor laugh and cajole with a patient through paper-thin walls for a half-hour. Finally, I had a belly full and walked out. On the way I told the receptionist, “I’m leaving. I’ll send an invoice for my time.” Then I went home, made a dozen phone calls and kept getting turned down: “Sorry, we are not taking new patients.”
One time I went to a specialist who was a real character. (How many doctors have skis leaning against their office wall, in the desert?) We hit it off and he said, “Book my last appointment, we can jaw without a time limit.” His office was in a medical complex that functioned like a condo association. Each doctor purchased a suite, set up their practice and paid association dues. The specialist was president of the association. He told me that a cardiologist purchased a unit, began a practice and applied to be on staff at a local hospital. The hospital performed due diligence and his application was rejected.
I asked what happened. “Well,” he said, “the cardiologist had been in surgery preparing to implant a pacemaker in a patient when a nurse unwrapped the pacemaker and discovered that the cardiologist bought it oneBay.” I said, “You’ve gotta be kidding.”
“There’s more,” he said. “During another implant procedure, the guy dropped the pacemaker on the floor, picked it up and wiped it off on his scrubs.” I said, “I hope they stopped him.” “You bet!” he said. “The surgical staff damn near tackled him.”
The cardiologist packed up and left town leaving unpaid association dues in his wake. “Once his account is delinquent for 90 days,” the specialist said, “his ass will be mine.”
THEY GOT ME THIS FAR
July 20, 2018 At my age (editor’s note: he’s between social security and death) it’s only right to salute the doctors and nurses that got me this far. Gathered for a group photo the camera would be on a drone at 32,000 feet and it would look like the 8th Infantry Division showed up.
I’ll tell you about a few.
We called our family doctor Doc. He’d take out his stethoscope and say, “Let’s see if you’re worth saving.” Doc treated me for measles and mumps and chicken pox, put broken bones in splints and gave me green pills as parting gifts–even if I was just there to pay a bill. He said the pills were ‘good for everything except preventing child birth and killing rats.”
Measles were quite common then and they were contagious. Health authorities tacked a MEASLES QUARENTINE sign to our front door warning the neighbors not to inhale as they walked by.
Then there was my first eye doctor. We were face-to-face, separated only by the retinascope. A meatball sandwich I ate at lunch was backing up and I was afraid to exhale. The doctor kept going, “Hmm, hmmm…” like I was missing an eyeball so I asked, “What do you see?” But he kept humming.
The ear, nose and throat specialist I’ve gone to for decades likes to open the examining room door, recognize me and say, “I hope you’re not going to cry.” Once, he put an instrument in my nostril and exclaimed, “Oops, damn, I wish I hadn’t done that.”
After waking from sedation after a procedure the attending nurse read me my Medical Miranda Rights: “No driving, no making important decisions etc., for 24-hours.” I asked her if everybody obeys the rules. She said, “Oh, no. We had a patient who called us the day after his procedure. He walked into the kitchen the next morning and found a pile of power tools on the counter. The man had gone to Home Depot and cleaned out Aisle 4 without knowing it.
In pre-op before eye surgery an anesthesiologist told me she was going to give me a shot that "will put you in a twilight state." She added, “If somebody in the operating room yells ‘fire‘ you’ll probably be the first one out of the building.” During surgery I was in a semi-awakened state and began to cross my legs. All I remember is the surgeon yelping, “Don’t do that.” Then the anesthesiologist knocked me for a loop.
PS: The photo of my ENT, John Raines, was taken the day he retired from practice. John was in my nostril more than my index finger.
July 20,2018 Change of pace this week, a story from my book Nothing Major as told by Ben Wright, the former CBS-TV golf analyst.
It happened in the early hours on Saturday at the Western Open in Chicago. I got up to relieve myself. I had a dry cough at the time and started to cough as I flushed the toilet. My upper bridge left me––my teeth swirled and disappeared. I dived after them but the suction was so strong that I was glad to get my arm back.
So now I’m trying to practice a tight-lipped delivery in front of the bathroom mirror. But I was lisping and spitting.
I phoned the maintenance man and told him my situation.
He said, “Are you honestly suggesting that I should go down into that area? And, if I did find them, you’d wear them?” With that, he hung up.
I called our executive producer-director Frank Chirkinian and said, “Flank, I flussed my teef down the john.”
He said, “You drunken Limey swine, what bar are you in? We’ll send a boy to pick you up.”
I said, “Flank, I’m not in a bar, I’m down the collidor flom you.”
He said, “Meet me in the lobby in fifteen minutes.”
When we met in the lobby I gave him a big smile with my teeth missing and he said, “Gee whiz, you have a problem.”
I told him I wanted to go in search of teeth.
He told me I’d never find teeth on a Saturday morning.”
When I arrived at the television compound I asked if anybody knew a dentist. Our associate producer, said, “I have a 10:00AM appointment, you can have it.”
I dashed to the dentist, Dr. Russell Fu. A 26-year-old Chinese gentleman answered the door. He asked, “What appears to be the problem?’
I said, “The ploblem, Dr. Fu, is I’ve got no teeth.”
He cancelled all appointments and took impressions of my upper jaw. Four hours later, at noon, he delivered a set of false teeth that fit perfectly and said, “No charge!”
I went out to tape my spiel to the camera, really pleased: I’m Ben Wright I’ll be reporting play from the seventeenth hole, a dogleg left, 456-yards, all that stuff.
Then they played it back, as a courtesy. When they did there was a set of clockwork clackers anchored a foot from the flagstick and the teeth were perfectly synchronized with my voice.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED
July 6, 2018 Words of wisdom from an old Andy Rooney column. Enjoy.
That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.
That when you're in love, it shows.
I've learned ....
That just one person saying to me, 'You've made my day!' makes my day.
That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.
That being kind is more important than being right.
That you should never say no to a gift from a child.
That I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help him in any other way.
That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.
That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.
That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.
That life is like a roll of toilet paper.
The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.
That money doesn't buy class.
That it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.
That under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.
That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.
That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.
That love, not time, heals all wounds.
That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.
That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.
That no one is perfect until you fall in love with them.
That life is tough, but I'm tougher.
That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.
That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.
That I wish I could have told my Mom that I love her one more time before she passed away.
That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.
That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.
That when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, you're hooked for life.
That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.
That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.
A CONVERSATION WITH MY DOCTOR
July 1, 2018 A recent appointment with my primary care physician included a conversation that’s worth sharing.
“I’m working on a new business plan,” he said, “a hypothetical plan.”
“To improve your practice?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, “I know it’s impossible to change everything because my practice is well established. You have to start out from scratch. But what I’d like to do is emulate the new primary care doctors that are coming along. There is a national nutrition strategy that’s a fundamental building block for disease prevention. Patients start with a registered dietitian that does all their screening tests. Then they see a physician."
I told him, “My, primary care elationship is extremely important. As I age you are my medical quarterback."
He continued, “I think we should start patients at a young age and have a dietitian formulate their eating program throughout their lives, and tell them what’s new. Everybody should see a registered dietician. Primary care doctors can’t talk to you about nutrition because we’re worrying about what the government wants us to do.”
I asked, “What percent of your patients have ever, I mean EVER interfaced with a dietician?”
“Wow, it has to be low," he said. "I would preach what nutrition really is; for example, the toxicity of some manufactured foods. I’d educate people about high frucose corn syrup. The dietitian would reinforce how patients should read food labels and explain why. If the United States population did that the diabetes rate would drop dramatically.”
I said, “Schools are remiss in that they don’t teach students good dietary habits, let alone how to get a job, how to be a parent, how to raise a child. You just get thrown into the world.”
“I do think nutrition education would help people,” he said. “The healthcare organizations started grading us. They have performance measurements to see how we are keeping you healthy. We have this whole agenda of what we have to do to you and it’s not necessarily what you want. The dichotomy is: “I don’t want you to do that to me, I want you to something else.” Well, it’s hard to do both.
"In my life I learned to eat less sugar, good vegetables, good carbs and good protein. As you get older you get tired, fatigued all the time, especially when you work out. Why look back at your diet and see there were no healthy fats? Learn about them."
That might be a pretty good homework assignment, eh?
June 23, 2018 I read that June 21st was National Selfie Day. I find that depressing because I come from the box camera era. Box cameras were fat and lumpy. The film–eight pictures to a roll–was black and white. Family albums consisted of people in weird outfits mugging for the camera. My favorites were bathing beauties at the beach in one-piece bathing suits. Bikinis hadn’t been invented. Grandma stayed home, her bathing suit had a hole in the knee.
Geez, I’ve seen everything from box cameras to smartphones, B&Ws to selfies. In between were the joys of color film, slides, my Minolta camera and learning to develop ‘an eye’ for the perfect shot.
Coming from the Midwest I’m familiar with fall foliage, heck my street lit up with color in October. But there is nothing like a photo journey to New England, a flight to Boston and 10 days of aimless driving admiring Mother Nature’s annual explosion of color. The photos I took stack up pretty well against abrupt selfies with celebrities. "Look everybody, that’s me with George Clooney at Spago in Maui–see the spinach stuck to his teeth? Can’t wait to post it on my Facebook page."
At my age it’s fruitless to take selfies. First of all I’m not interested in telling people in France and Belgium about my daily doings. Besides, the people I hang with are so wrinkled that they should wear burkas–and those are the men.
It’s okay if the younger generation displays their lives. Hey show me a picture of your car and I’ll show you a picture of my walker.
DNR IS IN OUR DNA
June 16, 2018 When you drive to work or the store or where ever, after you reach your destination, have you wondered how you got there? You forgot because you were on ‘automatic pilot.’
A while back I sat at a red light admiring the scenery, maybe daydreaming. When the light turned green I just sat there––I drew a blank, forgot where I was headed.
Maybe I forgot to aim when I left home.
I’m convinced that Do Not Remember (DNR) is part of our DNA.
I’ve spent decades drawing blanks and it has nothing to do with dementia, a very serious subject. I always snap back from my foolish actions. Dementia patients do not.
I have a theory: Scientists know our DNA contains DNR but they won’t tell us. And it increases as we age. In time, it takes over––just ask grandpa
After the red light thing happened I laughed. It was no big deal I was headed for the barbershop. I only get a haircut every five or six weeks so I gave myself a pass.
Editor’s note: He has gone to same barbershop since 2005.
I even turned left out of my driveway when I should have turned right that day. My absentmindedness varies.
Give me a break I’m between social security and death. My DNR dates back to my teens. I was fourteen years old. I loaded a toothbrush with Brylcreem. OK, I wasn’t paying attention that time, but it might qualify as an early warning.
I walk into rooms and wonder why I’m there. I’ve even lost track on my way to a room.
Cooking is a passion of mine but it loses its luster when I stare blankly at the refrigerator’s contents because I can’t remember what I'm looking for.
One final theory: Excessive DNR leads to fake hearing loss. Your spouse yells, “Where are you going?” You pretend you didn’t hear her because you don’t know. Or you fake it because the last time she asked you answered, “To the basement,” and she came back with, “You’re going the wrong way.”
Sometimes you just can’t win.
THE JOY OF SILENCE
June 1, 2018
“How wonderful it is to be silent with someone.” – Kurt Tucholsky
“Button your lip!” - My Dad
We have funny ways of remembering things. The first quote reminded me how satisfying quiet times are. Then the second quote (which after decades remains a lesson to be learned) came to mind.
That aside, the joy of sitting silently with someone you love and admire ranks among the top-ten joys of my life and is the reason for this column. There is immense comfort when I look across the room and see my better half quietly engrossed in a book or working on her laptop. The image never loses its luster. We can be engaged in different activities yet an unspoken bond permeates the room.
How many people are lucky enough to have a similar experience? The complicated world we live in makes a quiet oasis all but nonexistent. Take heart if you are caught up in the swirl, be patient, the golden years will reward you. That’s my vantage point.
Aches and pains aside, the greatest luxury of retirement is togetherness. Surprisingly sharing a box of Kleenex is pretty good, too. It is okay to cry. We cry together wiping away tears of pride, sadness and sentimentality––scarcely uttering a word. Our strength of union is that strong. We watch Undercover Boss just to get to the end. Our tears flow because the employees get unexpected rewards. After that we turn on Curb Your Enthusiasm and scream with laughter.
It’s amazing how much passion, wisdom and understanding a lifetime brings. We have incredible conversations, lest I’ve led you to believe otherwise. We are partners in every sense of the word.
We rarely go more than a matter of minutes without smiling, giggling or laughing out loud. I covered that in last week’s column: Laughter is the Best Medicine. A sense of humor beats anything Walgreens dispenses.
Ah, the joys of togetherness. You’ll know you’ve arrived when your heart rate quickens.
LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE
May 26, 2018 A sense of humor is better than anything Walgreens can dispense. 100 percent guaranty. Just hang a TV screen over the prescription counter showing a George Carlin comedy routine and see how many customers forget they’re there to pick up a prescription.
It’s amazing how a little amusement can reduce stress, fight depression and adjust attitudes. You have to wonder if the FDA has researched the soothing effect of a good punch line.
We are daily victims of morbid news, utter chaos and vicious backbiting. I buck all that by hunting for humorous nuggets–they are my focus. If somebody says, “You make me laugh,” it’s like being awarded a bronze star.
When the chips are down laughter trumps medicine. One time in pre-op before a serious operation my surgeon was late so I spent the time bantering with the nurses and orderlies. A lady in the next cubicle overheard our conversation and said, “That man must be frightened, he never stops talking.” Heck, I was having fun. Before long the surgeon breezed in, handed me a clipboard and said, “Sign this so I can prove I didn‘t drag you in from the street.” Everybody laughed. Then he asked if I was ready to go into surgery and I nodded yes. “OK, he said, “the nurses will wheel you to the operating room and I’ll go oil the chainsaw.”
How’s that for relieving tension? An injection from the anesthesiologist helped, as well.
Speaking of anesthesiologists, on another occasion they wheeled me into surgery and I couldn’t believe what I saw. I was in a rather small room lined with metal shelving. My immediate reaction was, “Good grief, are you operating on me in a cheesy storage room?” That’s all I remember. The anesthesiologist had me off the air like I’d been tasered.
Medical professionals are under the gun to limit the amount of time they spend with patients because the administrative burden takes up two-thirds of their time. But many are good conversationalists and you will find they often have a good sense of humor. So try to engage your doctors with relaxed dialog. The time spent may be worthwhile.
If you’re at a loss for a conversation starter, tell your doctor you have a good stock tip: Buy American Thermometer. It’s selling for 54, but if you stick it up your butt it’ll go to 98.6.
HEY, THE STONES ARE BACK AGAIN
May 18, 2018 If you have Ticketmaster on the phone, hang up. This isn’t about a rock group coming to town although it does involve screaming, writhing and acting like a maniac.
The headline should read: WHAT LOOKS LIKE GRAVEL, FEELS LIKE BOULDERS AND HURTS LIKE HELL?
The answer: kidney stones. If you’ve had them you know what I mean.
Kidney stone attacks come on as abruptly as a pie in the face … but lower. I was walking to my car on a lovely summer day when I felt like I’d been stabbed in the abdomen. My first thought was appendicitis; the pain was on the right side. I called our family doctor and explained what happened. He said, “Appendicitis comes on slowly, you have a kidney stone. Go to the emergency room.”
That was 40 years ago. There was one stone, it was small and I was able to pass it at the hospital. Since then I‘ve manufactured enough gravel to pave a driveway. Mine come in bunches so passing them is out of the question the screaming would go on for hours. I opt for immediate relief.
Kidney stones are jagged little rascals––often calcium-based. They are painful when they move or block a passage. If a stone sits quietly in a kidney it poses little, if any problem, but once it enters the ureter on its way to the bladder, brace yourself.
An outpatient surgical process called lithotripsy that uses ultrasound shock waves blasts kidney stones into small particles. One surgeon gave a few to me in a pill bottle as a parting gift in post-op.
There are other procedures to remove stones using instruments and telescopes. Sometimes stents are used to dilate the ureter to help urine pass. The stent is removed during an office visit by the surgeon without sedation. So there is no earthly reason to discuss the process here.
Women say the pain is worse than giving birth. Men are positiveit’s more painful. May you never know the difference.
THE BIG BOX EFFECT
May 11, 2018 Recently I had an appointment with my ear, nose and throat specialist to cauterize a chronic nosebleed. He was particularly chatty as we waited for the numbing agent in my nostrils to take effect. He talked about his thriving practice in a rural setting back east and how his specialty training had served families across three generations.
I imagined him cauterizing a kid’s bloody nose, curing a sinus infection or surgically repairing a deviated septum as the child entered adulthood and eventually treating the next generation. His pride of accomplishment and affection for his patients was indisputable.
Then his tone changed. “One day,” he said, “a health insurance company began calling on large companies in the area and offered their employees reduced-premium health insurance.” The only catch was the providers who accepted the insurance were on a proprietary list. “And I wasn’t one of them.”
On one hand the insurance company thrived by cherry-picking big businesses. Hundreds of employees benefitted from lower premiums. On the other hand before long the doctor’s practice was on the ropes.
His story seemed to parallel that of a big box store appearing on the scene to the detriment of mom and pop retailers who are forced out of business.
“Can you imagine the decision my wife and I had to make?” he asked. His medical practice was riddled by the exodus––so much so that they decided to sell the practice and move their family across the country. Unfortunately that isn’t as easy as it might seem. “Years ago there were young doctors eager to buy a practice. Now potential buyers are scarce. They point to a chair and say, ‘I’ll give you twenty dollars for that.‘ Besides, my equipment was 15 years old and the cost of crating and shipping it wasn’t practical.”
The doctor and his wife had been to Arizona and the idea of living where the sun shines abundantly put a positive spin on the relocation process. Besides, greater Phoenix is rife with sinus and nasal conditions. I’m a prime example.
So here he is, well established in north Scottsdale and eager to tell his story. He goes back east for a week every few months to help take care of patients and extend friendships. That, too, is a good thing.
Before leaving I asked, “Are your children happy about the move?” He grinned. “We can’t get them out of the pool.” All’s well that ends well.
May 4, 2018 Some of my older friends (those between social security and death) frequently obsess about the finality of life. Such was the case during a social lunch with Gloria (not her real name).
Gloria and I were chitchatting, catching up about this and that and solving the world’s problems. The conversation was as far from discussing death arrangements as one can get when Gloria came out of left field with, “ What do you think about ‘green’ funerals?”
I pinched my nose to block a swig of iced tea that was on its way out.
“I’ve never heard the term,” I said wiping my face. “What’s a ‘green’ funeral?”
“You may not realize this,” she said, “but ordinary American burials involve chemicals like embalming fluids that end up in the ground. Green or natural funerals are environmentally friendly.”
I get queasy about morbid discussions, especially while dining and it made the sauce on my pizza taste like it came from a lab. I quickly changed the subject. “You’ve given me a homework assignment,” I said, “I’ll read up on green funerals. By the way, how is your salad?”
“Quite green,” she replied and we had a good laugh.
A good bit of my psychology career was spent in palliative care, yet the green burial subject never came up. Gloria gave me new information to consider.
I learned that green burials conserve natural resources, reduce carbon emissions, preserve and restore habitats. Each year traditional burials include 20 million feet of wood, 4 million gallons of embalming fluids, 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete, 17,000 tons of copper and bronze and 64,500 tons of steel.
Good grief. Who would have imagined that?
The Green Burial Council, a nonprofit, encourages environmentally sustainable death care and 54 percent of Americans have expressed interest in exploring green funeral options and their lower costs.
There are other ways to preserve a body such as dry ice or a nontoxic agent, but the most environmentally conscious move is to pass on embalming altogether.
I believe in donating one’s body to science and medical research. Give hope to future generations. There is a no cost program for final arrangements. For more information visit www.sciencecare.com
WHAT'S YOUR GOAL?
April 28, 2018 Do you set goals? Not goals to eliminate negative thoughts, feelings or life situations. I’m talking about realistic goals. For example, a goal to relieve stress by improving the way you respond to negative situations and events.
If you aren’t goal oriented think about stress management… way you can reduce stress.
Begin by confining yourself to today’s problems. Adding infinite battles from yesterday or speculating about tomorrow complicates life.
Evaluate the tension in your body. Check your posture. Do you feel tension? Rotate your neck, flex your shoulders and check your back.
Tension stems from exhaustion. Neither your mind nor body can relax. You may be disheartened by the truth, frustrated at a circumstance or overwhelmed by what lies ahead. You may be overthinking things you should have done. Mental exhaustion creates anxiety. Before long your body feels like an ironing board … a folded iron board.
So change the way you respond to things. Down shift your mind; get it out of overdrive. Instead of struggling and resisting change set goals to achieve peaceful acceptance. Remember, psychological problems are at the root of physical problems. Relax. Take a soothing hot bath; get a massage do a few exercises to get the kinks out. Pretend your body is a noodle.
Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up in the morning with a smile? Happy about the things you were thankful for when you went to bed? Be appreciative for your health, family, friends and your home. In times of uncertainty keep the basics in perspective. You are alive. You are loved. You can breathe.
Every thing is relative. Let your enthusiasm rise from the doldrums. Be appreciative.
Feel like that and your friends might think you are wealthy and privileged.
IF YOU CHANGE NOTHING, NOTHING WILL CHANGE
April 21, 2018 I’ve known intelligent, successful people who say they are uncomfortable, always searching for something new: a new relationship, a better income opportunity or a distant place to relocate. But when the ideal opportunity surfaces––it’s there for the taking––they stall, afraid the change may be painful, cause rejection, or lead to failure. They turn their backs on the possibility of comfort and happiness and continue having pipedreams. People do it everyday.
Please, avoid such a rut.
There are always positive change opportunities, but for many of us change represents uncertainty that leads to insecurity and fear. Change isn’t easy to deal with, but it’s something to embrace openly. Put on a smile, even if it’s forced, put your head down and plow forward.
We desire change as much as we fear it. We say things like, “I’m unhappy in my marriage, but I'm afraid of being alone.” Or, “I’m sick of spending my days in a corporate cubicle, but I make decent money.” Or, “I can’t stand home ownership, it’s the pits, blah, blah, blah.” You get the idea.
So we resist change and wind up stagnant, holding on to what a vibrant future begs us to release. Change is part of life. Whether you like it or not, some change happens with or without your approval (death, divorce, or disability). Life has a way of forcing us to change.
Here are signs that it’s time to ditch the rut:
When you find yourself romanticizing about the past to escape the present.
When you feel numb because you’ve lost passion and motivation.
When you resist good opportunities out of fear.
When your current situation doesn’t support your growth potential.
When you lie to yourself and others to avoid the truth.
When your relationship feels superficial.
If you settle for less than you deserve, repeat this mantra:
‘I do not settle; I am worthy of my desires.’
April 13, 2018 Tragedy struck one night on a hazardous Arizona highway. A woman’s car was hit almost head-on by a SUV. She grabbed the steering wheel and braced for the impact when her car crashed into the mountainside. The SUV carrying a young family of five on their way to the Grand Canyon flipped on its side slid over the cliff and plunged more than 500 feet.
The woman couldn’t recall any of the events for several days. She didn’t remember the first responders who arrived in near-record time, the ambulance ride to the emergency room or being hospitalized for over a week with a severe concussion and broken bones. She had no idea who contacted her family or how they happened to be with her at the hospital. “Who were those responders?” she wept and expressed her gratitude when told of their dedication to medical emergencies.
Medical Emergencies cover a lot of ground from bee stings to trauma cases, childbirth to cardiology. The emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics who are dispatched to answer 911 calls are an incredible breed.
These front-line people provide immediate care. They are capable of caring for and resuscitating patients going into cardiac arrest, saving people from burning buildings, car wrecks, terrorist attacks, shootings, stabbings, domestic assault, strokes, seizures, overdoses, immobilizing injured people and, yes, even dog bites. First responders deserve a medal for versatility, if nothing else.
Paramedic is the highest level of EMT certification. They perform advanced life support (ALS). They administer IV fluids, injections and medications, and perform advanced respiratory procedures. They are also skilled in basic EMT functions: treating wounds, performing CPR, delivering babies, performing patient assessments and inform hospitals of patients’ conditions.
Rescue teams usually have a paramedic as the lead member since they have the most training and decision making power. Their leadership skills include the ability to perform complex life-saving functions in extremely stressful crisis situations.
In many cases the team also sees if the spouse or children need assistance and notifies family members. In celebrity situations they protect the patient’s privacy.
First responders are physically fit. While EMTs don’t have to bench press a Chevrolet, they do have to lift and transfer patients to a stretcher and control defiant patients.
Today’s column is a thank you note to first responders who work day and night, weekends and holidays. Your proficiency and dedication, often times your anonymity, is warmly appreciated.
April 6, 2018 Okay, I admit today’s subject is a bit delicate–but listen up. If the ailment doesn’t apply to you I’ll bet dollars to donuts that people you know cope with it.
Is this about Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?
Yes, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1989. I’ve lived with it for 29 years. I can tell you the closest parking space to the men's room at every Arizona resort. I only patronize the best.
IBD is no laughing matter, certainly not at first. Tell your primary care doctor that porcelain is your best friend and changes are you’ll be referred to a gastroenterologist who will run a TV camera up your keister and call it a colonoscopy. In 1989 they didn’t sedate patients like they do now, so I watched a monitor as the camera snaked through what seemed like the I-5 and CA-163 interchange. Maybe I was watching the Travel Channel.
A word about preparation–it’s okay to joke about these things because laughter beats anything Walgreens dispenses. Well, except the stuff you use to “prepare” for the colonoscopy. The day before you clear the runway by drinking a cocktail manufactured by a company that makes incendiary bombs. Then you await the result. The chemists who concocted the recipe made sure there is an element of suspense: nothing happens right away. That’s just enough time to grab an armload of reading materials. You’ll ride the porcelain for two hours. I passed some cotton candy I ate at a circus when I was a kid.
Now, all of the above aside, if you have IBD symptoms you will know you are ill. The toilet paper shelf at Krogers will only last you a week. A routine colonoscopy for people over age 50 also screens for colorectal cancer, the second most common cancer and cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. Catch it early before it spreads. Detection and treatment is important.
Trust me, the colonoscopy is a cinch. One anesthesiologist said, “Count backward from 10,” and I was off the air by 7. The hospital gown is the bad part. Patients in pre-op look like Gucci is hosting a trunk show for their Exposure Collection.
Now, please roll over on your left side.
WHO'S IN CHARGE? YOUR MIND OR YOUR BRAIN?
March 31, 2018 If you follow postings at www.letsfaceit.care you’ve probably seen links to brain research stories that include photos and drawings. Your brain is a physical entity and the center of your nervous system.
Then there is your mind. No pictures or diagrams here, nothing to see––just the moods, emotions, instincts and judgments that you experience all of which control your brain. Your mind is the court of last resort––the final word.
Having said that (not a good way to begin a sentence) your mind is capable of lying to you. It may make excuses and at times try to convince you not to take actions that are in your best interest. In other words, your mind may prevent positive changes from taking place.
Your mind wants you to be comfortable and when we stretch our comfort zone too far or too long it tries desperately to get us back to ground zero––at any cost.
Here are three ways your mind acts as a deterrent:
“Marie Osmond lost 46 pounds. Hey, it’s easy, she has people cooking for her and money to buy diet food.” This kind of mindset creates a negative thought about something positive.
"Life is supposed to be easier and enjoyed more." Of course life should be enjoyed. But sitting on the couch all day eating Fritos is lazy behavior. The path of least resistance is usually the path of least reward.
"I’ll get to it later." Care to bet? You can always do it later, but your later self will feel exactly the same way. Think about it: Why will you be more disciplined then? You know you won’t be.
The good news is your mind has extraordinary positive effects on your brain when they compliment each other––like when you do something creatively or have an idea that turns out to be productive. As Nike says, “Just do it.”
Keep a pad and pencil on the nightstand. You might get a brainstorm at 3:00AM. Or would it be a mindstorm?
SHOULD GOLDEN AGERS WEAR FITNESS TRACKERS?
March 23, 2018 Today’s topic is: Should Golden A Wear Fitness Trackers? Admittedly a weird spectacle, if ever there was one.
Editor’s note: He’s an octogenarian, and he wears one.
In the old days I thought the watch I’d worn for 40 years was everything I’d ever need. But you can’t beat a Garmin Vivosmart HR’s razzle-dazzle features like heart-rate monitoring, step counting, stairs climbed, sleep tracking, inactivity alerts, weather forecasts and music controls.
Right off the bat the sleep tracker came in handy. I sleep, nap and nod almost continuously. My Garmin needs a Tesla battery just to stay charged. When I’m off the air the four-hour tracker looks like a flat line. It doesn’t blip when I get up to pee, which is a problem.
The step tracker feature comes in handy because it “dynamically adjusts your goals based on your achievements.” I already know my goals: 37 steps to the refrigerator and 45 steps to bathroom. Multiply those by 6 times and you have my daily goal. But I do other stuff, too––like grocery shopping. I was disappointed the day I walked up and down every aisle to get extra credit and found out that steps are measured by arm swings. I was holding on to the cart.
There’s a stairs climbed feature but I don’t use it. Are you kidding me? I live on the first floor. I get the GOAL signal by stepping up a curb.
The Garmin is waterproof to 50 meters––overkill for a guy who avoids puddles––but I do wear it in the shower. Who knew I’d be able to tell time when I wash my knees? The first couple weeks I kept hearing music in the living room when I left the shower; iTunes was playing on my iPhone. I was stumped because I don’t listen to music on my phone. The user manual doesn’t cover melodic showering, so that didn’t help. It turned out that my tracker and iPhone are synced. As shower water hit the tracker it advanced the features and once in a while it turned on the iPhone’s iTunes feature. You can disable the feature but if you sing in the shower it comes in handy.
All things considered, I say phooey to naysayers who think golden agers wearing fitness trackers look silly. Oh, there might be a few snickers at the physical therapy gym, but so what?
By the way, upgrade if Garmin comes up with a shuffle tracker. How handy would that be at night?
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
March 16, 2018 I’m long enough in the tooth to compare the medical profession decades ago when I was a snot-nose kid to what it has morphed into today.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following has nothing to do with senility, but we’re not entirely sure.
Things change rapidly. In my lifetime the black Ford sedan with running boards and big white sidewall tires that took our family on weekend picnics turned out to be the prototype of a rocket that takes nut cases to Mars. Granted, going to Mars is no picnic, but you get the idea. Over time, little things get complicated.
Our family doctor, B.A. Temple, MD, we called him Doc, handled everything. If you busted a finger, had an ache, affliction or disease he was your guy. He’d open the examining room door; approach me and say and “Well, let’s see if you’re worth saving.” If he looked puzzled, and he rarely did, you were sunk.
If Doc Temple was around today he’d cure nagging problems with ‘green pills’ that he kept in a gallon jar. “Those suckers,” as he liked to say, “can do anything except kill rats and prevent childbirth.” At the end of an appointment he handed me an envelop of green pills. I suspect he gave them to people who were just there to pay a bill.
I miss Doc. Recently while engrossed in an interesting book I discovered that I exhale when I turn the page. Grab a novel and try it, you’ll see. Then again, maybe you won’t. It’s barely audible unless you hear a wheezing sound in the back of your throat, like I did.
The book was about cops, detectives and forensic specialists in a frantic crime scene investigation and I was really into it when when I had a coughing jag and lost focus.
Doc Temple’s not around. I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I check to see what’s in the medicine cabinet? Do a Google search? Call my primary care doctor and wait a week for an appointment? Call a specialist and if so, which one? Go to urgent care or the emergency room? Dial 911?
I’m a one-stop shopping guy so I went to the nearest hospital’s emergency room. After a chest x-ray, EKG and other testing the diagnosis was acute bronchitis with bronchospasm. I’ll give 8-5 odds that the AMA waited till George Carlin died before hanging that tag on a hacking cough. Carlin would do a 20-minute routine and we’d be rolling in the aisles.
Meanwhile, Doc Temple would have said I have “the crud” and knocked it out with green pills and a bottle of his ‘white lightning’ cough syrup. The emergency physician prescribed a synthetic corticosteroid drug and an albuterol inhaler.
CONFUSED OR AGITATED?
March 10, 2018 Agitation. Confusion. Imagining things. Do any of those words strike a familiar note?
They are common symptoms of dementia. They are also signs of delirium, a dangerous but treatable condition.
If you care for an older adult recognize the difference: Delirium is a medical emergency that needs immediate evaluation and care.
Not all healthcare workers are familiar with delirium symptoms. As a family member you may be the first to spot the problem.
At first glance there are similarities.
Delirium patients may be agitated––even paranoid––due to confusion and hallucinations. They may also be quiet and withdrawn, or dazed. Some patients may have ‘mixed delirium’ rapidly switching from dazed to upset or euphoric, and back again.
There is a telltale difference between the two conditions. Dementia develops and worsens over months or years. Full-blown delirium episodes are abrupt––they are apparent in a matter of hours or days. Delirium has red flags: a rapid onset of symptoms, an abrupt change in behavior or frequent changes in mood.
Whatever the new behavior, there are noticeable changes that include confusion, memory lapses, anxiety or lethargy, garbled speech and a seeming inability to pay attention to what’s happening.
The exact cause of delirium isn’t known. What doctors know, based on their own observations and patient cases, is this: severe or chronic medical conditions can trigger delirium. Medication, changes in diet and infection may increase risk of a delirious episode.
In older adults, urinary tract infections, fevers, dehydration, poor nutrition, pain, metabolic imbalances, alcohol, exposure to toxic substances, extreme stress and sleep deprivation may be the culprits.
Holiday activities can result in confusion. Gatherings, unusual visits, travel, stress, missed medication, even food allergies. Holidays are often such a departure from the norm that we find them exciting, rewarding and motivational. Then we reach our sixth decade and it is best to begin a transition. We may not be able to do everything we used to do.
Think about your capabilities. Establish a safe zone. Then embrace the best things in life that are available to you.
THE DREADED HOSPITAL GOWN
March 2, 2018 HuffPost: “On January 11, 2018, officials at a Maryland hospital were investigating the situation of a discharged patient captured on video incoherently wandering a frigid street in only a hospital gown and socks, as several people in uniforms looked the other way.”
Naturally, I watched the video.
A therapist saw workers wheel a female patient out of the hospital and leave her at a bus stop. A bus stop!
It’s hard to imagine the indignity the poor lady went through. I blush when a medical procedure begins with, “The opening goes in the back.” They have to pry me out of the dressing room.
Are wide-open gowns all they make? Does my ass have to be on display before, during and after a procedure? Where is the fashion industry when we need them?
I examined the situation, as a public service.
Patient gowns are a $76 million business. They cost $2 to $3 each. Who would have guessed? You’d think they’d be under a dollar. The twill-tape tie must run the price up.
There have been several upgrade attempts. The College of Textiles at North Carolina University took a shot at it. They plowed through a $263k grant and spent two years fumbling around. Meanwhile, gowns where I live in Arizona still have a bay window.
Hackensack University Medical Center went for broke. They hired Nicole Miller to fix the rear view problem. That gave me hope. I delayed an MRI in case her design makes it to Phoenix.
Amid a rising tide of patient complaints Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove commissioned Diane von Furstenberg who submitted a wrap design with a full drawstring and snaps down the sides that offer patients “full coverage in the front and back.” Ta-da.
That gave me even more reason to anticipate a concealed future.
But none caught national attention because designer solutions are expensive. The medical community refuses to pony up to protect our dignity. Really? Like charging $35 for an aspirin isn’t enough to cover the added cost?
At least imaging venues don’t marble benches. Otherwise it would sound like an audience applauding.
For $263,000 couldn’t they just move the opening to the side?
HOW SAFE IS YOUR SCHOOL?
February 22, 2018 Looking for answers on what needs to be done to secure our students in the wake of the Parkland, Florida tragedy? Look no further than the Lakota Local School District in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In an open letter to the Lakota Community, Superintendent Matthew J. Miller talked about safety initiatives that have been implemented in recent years to protect the students and staff.
“Some aspects of our district safety plan are visible to the public, while others are not,” he said. The schools have safe and secure entrances. There are strict procedures regarding how visitors are admitted. Lakota increased the number of uniformed members of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office and the West Chester Police Department. Their visible presence allows them to build relationships with the students and become another trusted adult to confide in.
They continue to investigate and introduce new protocols––several that will be announced in the coming weeks. Staff and student training takes place all year long––natural disaster drill for fires or tornadoes. Lakota uses ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training about what to do in the event of an intruder.
Students’ health and well-being is part of safety and security. Lakota pays attention to social and emotional needs by continually expanding mental health services. Their partnership with Mindpeace, a non-profit advocate for access to high-quality mental healthcare is in place in high schools and will be in junior highs next year.
Grant Us Hope is another Lakota partnership. Hope Squads, peer-to-peer suicide prevention groups encourage students to “see something, say something” when concerns arise about fellow students. The concept is tested regularly regarding questionable social media posts and is encouraged through the Text-a-Tip program in partnership with local law enforcement.
“The work never stops and safety plans are never finalized,” Superintendent Miller said. “Safety protocols are reviewed regularly by a district safety team which consists of district administrators, all of our School Resource Officers, a member of our school board and representatives from our local law enforcement agencies.”
Lakota’s safe education practices might be worth national attention.
WHO ARE YOU?
February 17, 2018 Who are you? How well do you understand your character, feelings, motives and desires? I’m asking because if you want to better understand others, you must first understand yourself.
Get to know the different parts of your own personality, your tendencies and patterns. That’s called emotional intelligence; it helps you navigate relationships and the way you connect with others.
Self-awareness improves your ability to infer the mental states of others, a skill known as ‘theory of mind’ or empathy. Self-awareness and empathy are intimately connected. Once you are aware of what makes you who you are, you can understand differences between yourself and others and what makes them tick.
Not surprisingly, both self-awareness and empathy are considered to be two of the main pillars behind emotional intelligence. Empathy is technically other-awareness––the counterpart to self-awareness.
Empathy is not just about the ways you are similar to others, but how you are very different. It’s impossible to empathize if you think everyone is like you. If you don’t understand another perspective you project your perspective onto them.
If something is unimportant to you, closeness to a pet, for example, it will be difficult to have empathy for a person who has lost a pet. You may feel sorry for your friend’s sorrow but empathy isn’t in the mix.
You hear peoples say, “I feel your pain” when they try to empathize. But if they haven’t been in the same situation they can’t feel the pain. Sympathy is different than empathy.
Here are 5 effective ways to begin improving your self-awareness. Practice them often, even in the car:
Personality Quizzes (on-line everywhere)
Talk Less Listen More (really)
DAILY ACHES AND PAINS
February 11, 2018 Daily aches and pains are part of growing old, but I needn’t be reminded of my advanced age. It’s not necessary to ask me if my favorite movie is The Great Train Robbery.
I play competitive bridge with golden agers who pass time discussing their medical problems and emergency room experiences. They told me about cataracts before I had them, trifocals before I needed them and a handicap-parking permit before I wanted one. What’s next, comparing bypass scars?
Once in a while I run into a crony at the supermarket or on the street and get a blank stare. I might say, “Hi, I’m Bob Cayne, you were at my bridge table last Wednesday. Nice to see you.” It usually triggers a smile and a LOUD response, “BOB CAYNE, I REMEMBER BOB CAYNE.” That means the old geezer is congratulating himself; he remembered me.
I had lunch with three friends not long ago. The waitress brought lunch and said, “Jim?”
My friend raised his hand and said, “Over here.”
I told him, “No, she said Jim–you’re Tim.”
Speaking of lunch, a noontime conversation was mostly small talk until the food arrived. After a few bites Wally, an elderly gent, wiped his chin and said, “I’m doing something interesting.”
“Tell me about it,” I said.
“I’m taking falling lessons.”
I look at the humorous side of growing old. We kid each other about things like hip replacement surgery, memory lapses, and so forth. My late friend, Dick, who I knew for many years played golf regularly into his 70s. But his game deteriorated, it wasn’t like he thought it should be, so he decided to seek help. He asked the club pro if he could schedule a lesson. The pro asked, “A half hour or an hour?”
Dick said, “My attention span is about as long as that of a two-year old. Anything over five-minutes is a waste of time. I’d forget what you taught me.”
He thought for a moment and asked, “How about a series of 12 five-minute lessons? I’ll pay you for an hour.”
The pro agreed, and it worked. Dick’s game improved.
SO HOW WAS YOUR WEEK?
February 4, 2018 The 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open began on Wednesday with a 24-year old nitwit, naked as a jaybird, streaking a fairway. Then it got really crazy.
Why? Everybody contributes to the spectacle. Waste Management the title sponsor, TPC Scottsdale, the PGA Tour, the host Phoenix Thunderbirds, the players, the spectators, the …
Well, everybody. That’s why it’s the highest attended tournament on the PGA Tour––and it keeps growing.
Most Tour events are a snooze compared to what goes on every February in Scottsdale, Arizona; once again we saw why.
The gates opened before dawn at 7:00 AM. And the crowds surged through like they heard a starter’s gun. They raced en masse to the par-3 16th hole … about a mile away. It’s like strolling is a felony. The Thunderbirds Launched a Breakfast Club for them this year that included a disc jockey and breakfast burritos.
By 7:30 the general admission stands were bulging with humanity. Not quite everybody was there. Check the concession stand lines and you’d think they were giving away money. The lines were that long.
The 16th hole, surrounded by corporate boxes three stories high, accommodates 20,000 people. And it was jammed every day. You won’t find that anywhere else.
719,179 people turned out for this year’s tournament eclipsing last year’s record of 665,434. Saturday’s crowd of 216,818 made golf history. Any questions?
The gate receipts have yet to be counted but so far the Phoenix Thunderbirds have distributed more than $120 million to local charities.
Most of the players enjoy the week as a change of pace. They get heckled for poor shots and the crowd roars for birdies and eagles. What would you expect, it’s the greatest party on Tour.
So how was your week?
WE HAVE OUR OWN SUPER BOWL
January 26, 2018 Welcome to the biggest keg party in the southwest conveniently located at the TPC Scottsdale. Talk about a perfect way to prepare for the Super Bowl.
In Scottsdale, before we make popcorn, tap a keg and tape our ankles for the Super Bowl we watch the “Greenest Show on Grass” the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
If you think a Brady-to-Gronkoski TD pass is exciting, watch 20,000 people go nuts over a Phil Mickelson tee shot and you’ll come out of your seat. That’s right, 20,000 beer-slamming fans fill the grandstand surrounding one hole, a par-3. The setup resembles a mini-football stadium.
Forget about polite fingertip golf gallery applause, the mob responds to golf shots like they stuck their finger in a light socket. When a rowdy gallery gulps beer under the broiling Arizona sun, a “Quiet Please” sign is a waste of time––proof that silence is not required at golf tournaments. They hoot enthusiastically as players emerge from a tunnel under the stands leading from the 15th-hole.
USGA-ish behavior doesn’t apply here. This is the rock concert of golf tournaments. The mania makes Ohio State-Michigan, World Cup Soccer and March Madness seem like a lawn party.
In spite of all that…
Guess how Waste Management handled the debris that 665,434 people left behind last year? (By the way, that set a new PGA Tour record.)
Waste Management left the venue spotless. Just like they have since they took over as title sponsor nine years ago. They replaced garbage cans with compost and recycling containers and solar-powered compactors. They recycled, composted, re-used or converted to energy more than 1,700 tons of waste. Not a speck wound up in a landfill.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open is a showcase for recycling. Even the signs on the golf course are re-used from year to year. Waste Management leads by example hoping to inspire golf fans to go green.
“Learn it here, use it everywhere” is the motto.
That’s quite a challenge since attendees range from regular golf fans to corporate hosts and their guests plus the beer-stained tee-shirt crowd and stiletto-heeled honeys stalked by Oakley-wearing bronzed wolves.
Nevertheless, Waste Management and recycling prevail. Compare that to the aftermath at the Super Bowl.
IT'S FLU SEASON
January 19, 2018 It’s flu season and it’s bad. According to the Centers for Disease Controlevery part of the continental U.S. shows “widespread” flu activity. You’d think traffic would be minimal with all the people out sick, but here in Arizona the winter tourists are like locusts. Flu shots east of Mississippi must be 100-proof.
I should go to the doctor but I’m waiting for the fire department to hose down his waiting room. You can hear wheezing and hacking from the parking lot. Patients wear surgical masks and use their own pens–to sign in.
There was a TV program about Wrigley Field that showed a guy power-washing restrooms with a giant hose after a ballgame. The nozzle must have been set on ‘blast’ because it threatened germs, bacteria and everything else including the wall tile. Fortunately, the toilets were bolted down. The guy is missing an opportunity. He should buy a fire engine and hose down medical waiting rooms. Shark Tank’s billionaires would claw each other to get a hunk of him. Mark Cuban would have him hosing down cabs, busses, trains and planes.
A study released yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says “we may pass the flu on to others just by breathing.”
Uh oh, now it’s not safe to avoid people who are wheezing, hacking and coughing. We have to avoid people who are exhaling. Mark Cuban may alter his course and search for an inventor who can design a forehead fan that blows contamination away from your face.
In the case of the college crowd, iPhones with built in fans oughta do the trick.
Most experts say the thing to do is stay home and avoid contact with other people. That’s why I’m on my stomach typing this under the bedspread.
SPREADING YOUR WINGS
January 12, 2018 The training wheels were off. The first 10-feet were iffy as the handlebars did figure eights searching for a groove. My father loped along with a firm grasp on the seat. He urged, "Pedal faster!"
The faster I pedaled, the steadier the ride. I sailed along nearing what felt like the sound barrier. “Way to go, dad, way to go.”
Oops, no answer. He quit a dozen houses back. It was a solo mission.
I never looked back.
You’ve gone through a similar experience, haven’t you?
Once you get up enough speed to feel the wind in your face you have your first taste of freedom.
You thought your parents lost their minds when they said you were too big for training wheels. You saw your bike and panicked. They had been removed, probably while you slept.
You went on to ride a bike without training wheels, drive a car, swim across a lake, graduate college, find a job, get married, buy a house and have kids.
Yes you did.
If you have doubts about what lies ahead rest assured, you can do it.
You’ve done it before and you can do it again.
PONDERING IS NOT A FELONY
January 5, 2018 Are there times when your life changed? Small, gradual changes may not be memorable, but think about the sudden, abrupt ones. When you encountered a startling situation did you take a step back? Did you evaluate what just happened? Some major events are dramatic and hard-to-swallow. It takes time to digest them. Take the time.
My patients say they try to stay busy––they go out of their way to avoid thinking about the problem whether it involves work, personal life or something else. I ask, “Why didn’t you give yourself permission to sit and think?”
Pondering a problem is not a felony. It’s a valuable resource that should never be viewed as negative or depressing.
Gain a new perspective on your life. Private moments lead to a healthy, fulfilled mind. The bigger the event, the more time it takes. Days and weeks, even years may be necessary before you can satisfactorily bring about closure.
Digesting big events varies from person to person. Some turn to creativity––they write, listen to music, or paint––they get involved with things that quiet their minds. Others immerse themselves in work. Some even avoid work by traveling to faraway resorts. Do whatever puts you in a thoughtful, introspective state. Go for a walk or sit in the sun. Bottom line: find a way to let go.
Important: don’t let your mind wander. It will go so far astray that the experience will be far from pleasant and less than enjoyable. Just ponder the circumstances without being judgmental or guarded about your internal state.
Honesty and clarity are the keys to resolution.
By the way, not all thoughts need be taken seriously. Our minds are designed to create and imagine many ideas and possibilities. Haven't you jumped from one thought to another without rhyme or reason? The thought process lets your mind play instead of judging you personally. Negative thoughts don’t mean you’re an inherently bad person. The most positive minds experience their fair share of negativity.
JUST PUT ME UP ON A LIFT
December 29, 2017 Our car went in for regular maintenance recently. The windshield sticker said it was due at 10,300 miles. I mentioned to the service agent that a dashboard alert said three tires had low air pressure and guessed that the change in temperature from summer to fall had something to do with it. He said he'd check it out.
I asked what service would cost. “15,000 mile maintenance is $250,” he said.
My voice leapt an octave, “Nice try,” I said, "the speedometer reads 10,300 miles.”
“Yes, but …”
I interrupted. “So how much is regular maintenance?”
“Just do the regular stuff. Nothing else.”
I retired to the customer lounge for a donut, fruit salad and the morning paper, courtesy of the dealership. When the car was ready I paid the tab and happily motored away.
Wait, that part’s not true. The dealership gave the car a bath and it looked pretty spiffy until the heavens opened up in the parking lot. I wouldn’t say it happened fast, but the rain beat the automatic door lock and 'fasten seat belt' beep.
On the way home, waiting at a red light, the same dashboard tire alert caught my eye. It was back, blocking the other instrument readouts pending further action by the service department.
I’m telling you all this because a while back I was an emergency room patient and it’s apparent that a trip to the hospital is like taking your car to a mechanic. Whichever the case, check your bank balance before they start running tests.
The minute you arrive you’re at their mercy. The mechanic takes your keys. The hospital takes your clothes. Either way you’re not going anywhere. The good news is you can wander around and kick tires in the showroom; that beats being bedridden counting ceiling tiles in the emergency room.
In each situation, after you explain why you are there the attendant says, “We need to run a few tests.” That means, “No matter what we find, we’ll make it sound like we have to call in specialists and, of course, amputate your wallet.”
Memo to self: Check available credit before surrendering car keys or clothing. Prepare for the worst. If the attendant begins to hem and haw brace yourself. That’s a prelude to, “We’ll have to keep your car (or body) overnight.”
Worthwhile tip: make sure your financial planner is on speed dial.
YOU CAN DO IT
December 22, 2017 Oh, how I remember the terror I faced and my sweaty hands. I wasn’t sure I could do it.
The first 10-feet were iffy. The handlebars zigzagged like windshield wipers until I found a confident rhythm. No training wheels this time, they were gone but dad loped along with a firm grasp on the seat as he urged me on., "Pedal faster! Pedal faster," he rasped breathlessly
And the faster I pedaled, the steadier the ride. As I closed in on what felt like the sound barrier I hollered, “Way to go, dad, way to go.”
Oops, no answer. He ran out of breath a dozen houses back. It was my solo mission.
I’ve never looked back.
You’ve gone through a similar experience, haven’t you?
Once you felt the wind in your face. Once you saw the beauty of the landscape unfold you were tasting the sweetness of freedom.
You'll never go back, either. You thought your parents lost their minds when they said you were too big for training wheels. You saw your bike reduced to two wheels and panicked. The training wheels had been removed, probably while you slept.
You didn't think you could ride a bike without training wheels, swim across a lake, drive a car or graduate college with honors, get married, buy a house and have kids.
But you did.
So, if you have doubts about what lies ahead rest assured, you can do it.
You’ve done it before; you can do it again.
You've faced obstacles and overcome them.
“We create our fate every day we live.” Henry Miller
December 15, 2017 Your fate is determined by your attitude. Think about that. The things around you are neutral––until you give them meaning. The way you assess a given situation–the questions you ask yourself–controls your mood and drives your destiny.
You decide your course. For example:
• I was amazed at the way the principals of a company treat their employees. That’s what made me decide to join them.
• I liked her the moment we met, but something didn’t seem right. I followed my instincts.
• I used to raise my voice in situations like this. Then I changed my approach, toned things down and became a better communicator.
Being in the ‘right place’ at the right time can be a secret to success. Success leads to happiness, but it’s up to you to recognize opportunities and take advantage of them.
Ask yourself, “What do I really want?” Have a vision. Realize that the ‘right place’ is other than the four walls you reside in. Why be housebound, get out in the fresh air and experience life. Try new things without fear of failure. You might get lucky when you least expect it. How, you ask? Chances are luck will find you.
Adopt a positive attitude; change your demeanor and perspective. That will help move you forward. Shed negativity you haven’t been able to control.
Here's a powerful question to ask yourself, use it as an attitude adjustment when necessary: Who would I be and what opportunities would be available to me if I unload nagging thoughts that keep me up at night?
Worrying can be poison. If you think it prevents bad things from happening you are kidding yourself. Quite the opposite, worrying strips you of joy and contentment. It prevents you from doing productive things. It saps your imagination and leads to ulcers.
Seek piece of mind. Come to peace with problematic thoughts. Learn to be happy where you are––both physically and emotionally. Be grateful for what you have.
Years ago I asked a lady how she could be so calm. “Things get easier once you understand what’s not meant for you,” she said. “I learned to accept reality and realized that wasting energy over impossibilities is mere fantasy.”
How true. Reality trumps fiction, every time.
THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE
December 8, 2015 I don’t know about you, but I feel like invoicing my doctor for time wasted before I make an appointment.
Medical offices are inefficient, so we should charge an inconvenience fee. Hand an invoice to the receptionist as you check in and say, “Here’s my estimated inconvenience bill based on the amount of time I wasted during previous visits. I’ll adjust it if my blood boils in the waiting room, examining room ... or while I’m practicing self-defense among sneezing, wheezing patients in the reception area.”
If a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 carrying 175 passengers goes from Cleveland to Denver on time why can’t my doctor go from room to room on schedule? Why don’t medical schools include punctuality courses? I’m pretty sure nursing schools teach students to slap a blood pressure cuff on patients before they have a chance to sit down. I bet they even have time trials. If blood pressure tests were left to doctors––when mine finally shows up––my systolic reading would have a comma in it.
One time my ear, nose and throat guy arrived just as the nurse said, “The doctor will be in shortly.” I took his picture by the clock. It’s in my wallet––next to a shot of my primary care guy dressed like Fonzie on Halloween.
Editorial pause: Yes, that’s true, on Halloween my primary care physician wore a black, leather jacket, black boots and had his greased-hair spiked. That same day (honest) at a physical therapy appointment, my therapist walked in wearing a tutu.
I’ve spent decades in examining rooms staring at posters, wondering if my intestines really look like that. My urologist has the best posters, male and female. I like to take inventory of the Q-tips, tongue depressors and cotton balls in case there’s something worth snitching. You can’t go wrong with latex gloves––one size fits all.
If I’m stranded in the examining room long enough I check out the electronic equipment and wonder if any will be used on me. I mean, what kind of illness calls for that long hose? Oh, what’s in all the squeeze bottles?
The scariest piece of equipment is the eye refraction contraption, the one where you put your chin in an indentation and lean forward. The doctor is on the other side holding his breath so you can’t tell he had onions for lunch. One time we were face-to-face holding our breath in dead silence for the longest time until I whispered, “I’ve had wives I haven’t been this close to.”
Speaking of eye doctors, before my first appointment with a retina specialist I read his impressive biography: Harvard Medical School, law degree with honors on a Rhodes Scholarship. We were face-to-face at the refraction contraption and I blurted out, “Wow, this is exciting, after decades a lawyer’s finally looking me in the eye.”
Hey, did you notice I didn’t mention the usual vintage, dog-eared magazine selection? Not to mention the scale results (c’mon, deduct the 10-pounds of clothes I’m wearing).
THE SELFIE PHOTO ALBUM
November 30, 2017 Email from a friend vacationing in Paris:
Hey, check this: a picture I took with the Eiffel Tower sitting on my right shoulder. Neat, huh?
Here’s my favorite: I’m face down at the pool with the Arc de Triomphe balanced on my ass. Check back for new pictures tomorrow. I’ll be in London staging a shot of Big Ben coming out of my shorts.
What gives with the selfie craze? Extending an arm was the way Nazis saluted. That is until iPhone users did it and aimed backwards. Photography used to be an art form then Apple fucked it up.
People document every move they make. Like I care where they are? Do I give a rat’s ass that Lindsay Lohan passed out in a club with my buddy next to her on the floor playing paparazzi?
Thinking about it makes me crazy. One day in Ft. Lauderdale I took my iPhone to the beach (just to see if it would skip like a stone). The next day, I added $42.66 a month to my cell bill for an iPhone X.
Then I checked into therapy.
In addition to getting an attitude adjustment, my shrink, who is a part-time venture capitalist, came up with a landslide business opportunity. We started a new business: Selfie Photo Albums.
Selfie Photo Albums take the guesswork out of what to do with the shit in your camera. Save and protect those valuable action shots in an authentic naugahyde selfie album, made from the hides of farm-raised female naugas.
Portrait or landscape Selfie Photo Albums Fit ‘Em All. Panoramic shots, too.
You get preprinted tabs so you can file pictures by category:
People crammed together in theater aisles
Celebrities holding my camera
Celebrities who seem pissed off
Shit eating grins
Shots by people with 50” sleeves
Guess who she is
People who smile with spinach teeth
Flash or No Flash, take the quiz
Today only. Rare cell phone special:
FOR SALE: iPhone
Never held at arm’s length
Certificate of authenticity included
$2,999, or best offer
IT’S ALWAYS AN INSIDE JOB
November 23, 2017 When I write about self-esteem, readers ask if they can boost the self-esteem of someone they love.
That’s a tough subject, but it's not mission impossible. The thing is: self-esteem is the way we feel about ourselves.
It’s always an inside job.
Nevertheless, aiding and abetting isn’t a felony. So …
… be supportive. Listen closely; understand why your friend scowls at the mirror while brushing their teeth.
Tell him/her you like what you see, always have … and why. Describe their valuable traits (there must be some if you have a true friendship) and express each characteristic directly.
Do it often and in person.
Don’t get into their careers, education or things like that (lousy performance reports or failing grades could be touchy subjects). There may be problems you don’t know about.
Let your friend vent about failure or lack of self-esteem without commenting or interrupting. Just listen. You aren’t a mechanic trying to determine why an engine sputters.
Focus on the way you see your friend as a person. Explain how much you value their friendship. Bring up times and events from the past that were mutually enjoyable or beneficial––even ones that are memorable for all the wrong reasons. You might both break into laughter over them––after years pass we see things in a different light.
Know how your own self-esteem works. Then, if asked perhaps you can share a tip or two.
Share how you coped with a situation similar to theirs.
Constructive comments about mutual situations are good.
Keep this in mind: what was good for you may not be the solution. But it may be an option to consider.
If none of the above seems appropriate, just listen quietly. Sometimes that’s all a person needs.
It’s always an inside job don’t make it about you.