Sharing The Wealth

I think  almost everyone observes some sort of tradition, and probably more then one.   Many are an attempt to resurrect a fond memory or experience while others are more mundane, driven by necessity more then desire.  Such is one of the traditions in our house which I refer to as the “Closet Cleansing”.  Living in an area where the seasonal changes are dramatic, we embark on the process twice a year.   Once in the Spring and again in the Fall when we purge our closets of all the stuff we have been wearing to exchange it for all the stuff we will be.  Sounds simple enough until you realize that you always seem to have more stuff then storage.  This I suspect is because we tend to, shall we say, suspend the life span of garments that should be relegated to an afterlife.

This having been an unusually warm Fall, the inevitable was delayed until just recently when I was advised by the COB (Chairman of the Board) that my closet was a mess and I should do something about it beyond moving things. I found this a little surprising since, if I don’t make a trip to Goodwill every week, they call to see if I am OK.  Well, they don’t always call.  Sometimes they send a card.  But, in the interest of marital bliss, I decided to take a stab at analyzing the inventory and identifying candidates for recycling.  How hard could that be. After all, I got rid of my bell bottoms and Nehru jackets at least two years ago.

Before progressing further, you have to understand that I have a knack for taking something of relatively little effort and turning it into a project of some proportion and this turned out not to be an exception.  Looking first at my shirts, I separated the short sleeved from the long sleeved and then again by dress, sport, and casual.  The short sleeve wasn’t too bad because I mostly wear polo shirts and tees in the summer.  The difficulty came when I divided them between those that are acceptable beyond the confines of the house and the real jewels that I wear in the yard or the shop, the issue being how many paint stains are too many.  After much careful consideration (i.e. which paint stains were of a color most compatible with my pants), I reluctantly threw away two.

Moving on to my winter wardrobe was not quite so easy.  I seem to possess a rather large collection of flannel and fleece shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, and other assorted pullovers, all of which by the way, fit, meaning there are no clunkers in the lot.   Why would I want to get rid of them?  The answer apparently, according to the COB is “you don’t wear them and someone else could”.  It’s hard to argue with logic.  So again, I sorted through the pile and selected a  couple that admittedly I haven’t worn since, hummm, we lived in Texas?  That can’t be right.  We left Texas in ’73’.  Oh well, in my world, age takes second place to quality.

After several grueling hours of painful contemplation and a degree of separation anxiety, I finally had a small pile of clothes that were suitable to be donated.  I quickly put them in the Goodwill box before my efforts could be reviewed, and stuffed the keepers in my closet, arranging them to give the appearance of space.  A couple of days later, I moved the box to my car for their trip to the charity.  Lifting one of the flaps, I gave one last wistful look at my old friends.  Hey, is that my black high top sneakers and what is that?  My penny loafers with the torn stitching.  This is insanity.  They are practically brand new.

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Enjoying A Fine Whine

Monday
Man, it’s chilly this morning.  I heard the strong winds last night.  I’ll bet the power is off.   No real surprise there.  When you live around this many trees, it is almost a given that after a storm, someone has lost their power.  This time, it was our turn.  But, we are made of pretty sturdy stock up here.  You live in Maine, you gotta be ready for  this.

I roll out of bed and run to the bathroom to get things moving, so to speak and, after I flush the toilet, I remember that the water pump does not work.  Bummer.  Need to get dressed and go start the generator.  After flipping the switch to the closet, and it remains dark, I grope around for some jeans and a sweatshirt and head downstairs.  I drag the generator out onto the driveway and  check the fuel.  It says 1/4 tank.  Not a problem.  I have two 5 gallon gas cans at the ready for just such an emergency.  However, it seems one is empty and the other is almost.  I use up what I have left and crank up the generator.  Once it is running, we have power to our furnace, refrigerator, water pump, several lights and assorted outlets throughout the house.  My wife says we are lucky.  I say it is all part of being a Mainer.

I prepare to leave and get the gas cans filled.  Note to self:  You can push that button all you want, and the garage door is not going to go up.  Of course not.  I knew that.  So I pull the release handle and raise the door manually and find it won’t stay up by itself.  Fortunately, I have an extendable pole  and it is in the garage, somewhere.  I wish to hell I had some light so I could see what I am doing.  Ah, there it is.  Once installed, I am able to escape, pleased by my quick thinking.

When I return home, my wife says “the water is just a trickle”.  Then I remember I flushed the toilet and we ran the water to make coffee.  I will have to restart the pump.  I have had this happen before and a pump guy showed me how to do it, about 7 years ago.  I grab a flashlight and retreat to the basement.  As I recall, I take the cover off that little thingy there and there is a little bar that you push to make the points contact and you hold it until they pop open by themselves.  Yes, after a few tries, it works.  We now have water.   I jump on the computer to see how bad the storm was, but of course, the computer in not on one of the outlets that are now powered.  So again, I rely on my extensive survival instincts and drag a long orange extension cord through the bonus room and into our master bath, plugging it in next to the sink.  Problem solved, once again due to my Yankee ingenuity.

So, how much of my town is in the dark.  A few keystrokes and I find it is ‘all of it’.  Further investigation reveals that it is actually about two thirds of the state, far worse then the ice storm of the 90’s where people lost their power for over three weeks.  First I panic, then I rationalize.  It is a lot harder to repair power lines in ice and snow and surely technology has improved since then.  We’re going to be OK.  A few hours without power is a small price to pay for the privilege of living here. A little inconvenience, but nothing a Mainer can’t handle.  We’ll just hunker down and since the TV is on one of the good outlets, we can still entertain ourselves.  Hmmm,  I’m not getting a picture.  Oh no, the cable is out.  Now what?  My wife reminds me that we have a small TV in her sewing room that will work enough to get the three local channels so I go down and get it and set it up in the living room.  Not exactly ideal.  It is an eight inch screen.  From where I sit, I can tell it is on only because I hear noise.  It is like watching a radio.

Tuesday
Power is still out.  Time to start the generator again.  It ran about 16 hours yesterday.  Today I will shut it down for a while during the afternoon and we will sit there in the dim light of day and concentrate on our cell phones and tablets.  In my case, it will be my tablet because yesterday  I plugged my cell phone into a, yep, outlet that did not work. I check the power companies website and find that they have estimates of when power will be returned, right down to specific streets.  Let’s see.  There we are.  We should have power back before 10 P.M. Saturday!!! Saturday!!!    That’s four days from now.  What are we supposed to do in the interim. Just put our life on hold.  Sit around singing Kumbaya?  I don’t think these guys are really trying.   My wife suggests that I do something constructive and get the butane portable camp stove out of the basement and she will cook me an epicurean feast of fried Spam and left over mashed potatoes and gravy.   It sure beats cheese and crackers.  The one bright spot of my day comes when I discover that the Amazon fire stick on the TV will allow us to watch Netflix.  Well, I guess this isn’t so bad after all, if you are prepared, like I am.  It’s all in remaining rational  and thinking things through.

Wednesday
Damn, another chilly morning.  I can hear the neighbors generator running.  When the hell are we going to get our power back?  Doesn’t anyone know we are stuck out here?  I know that recovery will take some time, but damn, they have had two days.  They must be getting close.  I crank up the generator, again, and throw the two now empty gas cans in the car and check the computer for any updates.  They now say we should be up and running by 5 P.M. Friday. Thanks a lot. I’m beginning to feel like I’m living in Puerto Rico.  I wonder if there is a local telephone number for FEMA.  I mean, I am a reasonable man, but this is getting serious.

Thursday
Still no power.  I am considering painting an SOS on my lawn.  I keep hearing that there are over 1800 repairmen working overtime and that they are coming in from several other states and Quebec.  So, where are they.  I don’t see any trucks. I don’t hear any activity.  Probably all down in the high rent districts.  My wife reminds me that those neighborhoods all have permanently installed whole house generators.  They probably don’t even know the power is off.  All I know is, I’m still in the dark and it’s getting a little old.  I went looking for my gray sweatshirt this morning and found it in the clothes hamper where I threw it, oh, I don’t know, last Sunday because Mondays are wash days.  But not this week.  Oh no. We can’t even do that.  Instead they would have us walking around in dirty clothes.  They don’t care.  Not their problem.  Well, it is mine and this is becoming a hardship.  I’m getting tired of just sitting here waiting.  I wonder if the Red Cross can help.  Maybe I’ll finish up the Spam with some eggs and watch Netflix.

Thursday Evening
About 6:30 my wife says she thinks we have power because the clocks on the range and the microwave are blinking.  Well, hallelujah, they finally came through.  And none too soon.   After all I have been through, I finally see the light.  Sometimes I guess it pays to be  patient and reasonable through these things.  Oh, I may get a little peckish from time to time, but I don’t really let it bother me.  I just take one day at time, like any old Mainer would.  

My wife just told me the cable is still out.  What the hell are those guys doing.  They have had four days to fix this.  Now they are messing with me.   Just because they are the only cable company in town doesn’t mean I have to stand for this.  There’s always Dish.  I could drop them like a hot horseshoe. It’s a good thing I’m not the kind of guy to complain and just suffer in silence.  We Mainers are like that.

 

 

 

 

 

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Purse-uing The Truth

Admittedly, I don’t know anything about cows, or not much anyway.  To me, farm is just another four letter word.  Oh sure,  I know what they look like and I think I can tell the difference between a cow and a bull. At least, I hope so.  I know they come in assorted shades of brown, black, white, etc and that some are dairy cows and others are bred for their meat.  I also know that their hides are frequently used in the clothing and fashion industry.  But, beyond that, not so much. 

I never gave any of this much thought until the other day when my better half was watching one of the shopping channels and they were hawking purses.  Now, I have to admit, I know about as much about purses as I do cows, and care as much about either one, which is not at all.  But one thing about the presentation did grab my attention.  It seems that these purses were made of leather.  Not just any leather however, but Italian leather.  Apparently, if I am to believe the presenter, and I know they would not lie to me, that is a good thing, because she kept reminding us over and over.

Now, here is the thing that bothers me.  How do you tell an Italian cow from an American cow?  I mean, if you were talking to a farmer and asked what kind of cows the had, and he said Italian, would you know if he was telling the truth.  I sure wouldn’t.  Because I’ll bet those cows don’t look any different then American cows.  And while we are on it, what about German and Spanish and Greek cows.  Do you ever hear anyone talking about them.  Have you ever read a label that said 100% genuine Irish leather.  No?  Me neither.

I’ve got to think that there is something special about the Italian cow that distinguishes it from any other nationality.  It can’t be their intelligence or they wouldn’t be a purse.  I suspect they eat the same things and graze like any other cow.  They must be about the same size or the manufacturers would be making wallets instead of coats.  No, it’s got to be something else.

Since I have a proclivity for unearthing the underlying facts for burning issues like this one, I spent a lot of time “thinking on it” and I have finally come to a conclusion. It has nothing to do with the cows at all.  It is all about the Italians.  They have a much better marketing, public relations, and advertising network then we do. They would have you believe that their BS is better then ours. Think about it.  You never hear about a genuine 100% American leather purse being sold in Naples.  Because to us, our cows are, well, just that, cows.  We have never learned to hype them.  And don’t even get me started on Italian gold.

But here is the question that I have yet been unable to answer.  If the Italian leather is soooo good, and therefore worth more moolah (pun intended), how come all the purses and coats are made in China.  Why wouldn’t they have caught on by now and started to use there own cows.  Or hey, maybe they are.  Would you know??  Just askin.

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Kicking The Tires

I don’t know how many cars I have owned over the years, but it has been quite a few.  Most of the early ones were clunkers purchased via private sales and I am sure the sellers were glad to see me coming.  But as the years progressed and I became slightly more financially stable (definition: was able to swing another bill and still eat at least twice a day) I moved up to buying my cars from dealerships.  Up until that time, I thought everything had a price and if you wanted it, that’s what you paid.  Can you say “lamb to the slaughter boys and girls”?  I did not know that cars sold for whatever they could wring out of you and I, at that time, didn’t even know how to spell ‘negotiate’, much less invoke it.

I remember my first experience.  I was wandering around a used car lot when I was approached by a rather large man who handed me his card which read “the round man with the square deal”.  I should have known I was dead meat, but I continued to look at several vehicles, secretly wishing I was somewhere else.  It wasn’t until he said “you know, I’m not going to let you leave without buying a car” that I got really nervous.  I thought I was never going to see my wife again, I had visions of physical restraints,  and suddenly I had to pee very badly.  That in itself turned out to be a Godsend.  I asked if they had a restroom and he said there was one over in the new car showroom.  So I trotted over there and was twice relieved, so to speak, because I was able to sneak out the other door and circle around until I reached my car.  Probably the only time that I at least broke even.

I never believed in magic until I observed a car which I had negotiated down to $22500 suddenly become $25900 once the deal was committed to paper. I have always harbored a sense of trepidation when I stepped onto a lot, and that is one of the reasons why.  Lesson 1) The guy with the big smile and the firm handshake is not, repeat, is not your friend.  He/she is under a lot of pressure from their sales manager to sell cars and rest assured  they are going to reapply that pressure to you.

Over the years, I have come to realize that car buying is a contact sport and you need to train for it just as you would for any competition.  So I try to incorporate as much savvy as I can manage.  I do a lot of homework on the web before I begin to shop and it makes a big difference.  I was buying a Camry once and after establishing a price, to include tax, title, and plates, I visited the dealership to see and test drive the car.  I then asked for the quote in writing so I could review it with my wife.  I later returned with my wife and a cashiers check, made out to the dealership, in the amount we had established.  This surprised the salesman as I had not stated that this would be a cash deal.  In fact, they had already drawn up papers to include proposed finance charges.  That’s when he uttered the now all too familiar words “I’ll have to run this by my sales manager”.  Shortly, he returned with the manager who advised that I needed to buy the extended warranty.  I said I didn’t want it and pointed to a poster touting Toyota’s high industry ratings for maintenance and safety.  After a lot of haggling, he finally said “well I can’t sell you the car for this amount”.  So I  stood up and in an elevated voice said “fine, if you won’t honor a written agreement, we will buy our car somewhere that will”.  Several heads in the showroom turned, and this of course horrified my wife.  I took her arm and we left. While we were walking to the car she asked me what we were going to do.  I said “we won’t get off the lot”.  Sure enough, as we got in our car, our salesman came toward us waving his arms.  He said they had decided to take my offer and, after a short display of indigence, we allowed him to escort us back inside where we finalized the deal.  Boy, that felt good.  For once, I was the round man with the square deal.

 

 

 

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Thumbs Up

The best cup of coffee I ever had came from a thermos in the cab of an 18 wheeler somewhere outside of Portland Maine in the wee hours of the morning during a snow storm.  I was in the Air Force back then and was stationed up in Bangor which was enticingly close to my home down in Boston.  You can drive it in about three and a half hours, assuming you have a car, which I didn’t.  So, with a desire to see my folks, and my girlfriend, mostly the latter, on many Friday afternoons I would don my dress blues, pack a small bag, and hit the road.  Normally, two or three rides would do the trick and I would be home by late evening.  My biggest worry was getting stuck out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.  Concern for my personal safety was never on the radar.

This all came back to me the other day when I read an article written by a gentleman, not quite my age who, in his youth, as a student, would frequent the by ways of Maine as had I.  The article focused on the good times he had had and some anecdotes about some of the people he met, which put me in mind of my kindly truck driver.  And, it would seem he never worried about who might be picking him up either.  It was just something you did to get from point A to point B, not more, no less.

My, how times have changed.  I, on occasion, see people thumbing, some with cardboard signs with their desired destination scrawled on them and I think how dangerous it is today.    I have long since stopped offering rides to hitchhikers for the sake of my own safety.  Part of that of course is the result of some degree of maturity settling in, but a great deal is predicated on the world we inhabit today.  It has changed.  We have changed.  We hesitate to take anything at face value anymore.  We hope for the good in people, but worry about the bad.  The trust is gone.

It is a shame that traditions such as this have, for the most part, met their demise, but it is probably for the best.  Of course, when the kids now have their own cell phones when they are five and there are more student vehicles in the parking lots then faculty at the high schools, I guess it is a mute point.

I do know, however, that even if I didn’t worry about my hitchhiking, my mother did.  She would always say “let me know when you get back to base so I will know you are OK”, and of course, that never happened.  I remember one time she gave me some postcards and said “you don’t have to write a lot.  Just let me know you made it”.  So, with the callousness of youth (also known as smart ass), I sent her one on which I simply wrote “Made It”.  A few days later, to my surprise, I received a postcard from my Mom that said “Good”.  Touche’

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Group Speak

“Whatever you think, be sure it is what you think;
Whatever you want, be sure that is what you want:
Whatever you feel, be sure that is what you feel.”

T.S. Eliot
1888/1965

I normally don’t write about politics because I believe it is a personal thing.  By that I mean that generally I don’t give a damn what you think and you could care less about what I think.  Therefore, anything I may write would simply be filtered through a paradigm of agree or disagree and then be dismissed.  My opinion would not change yours.

What bothers me however, is how politics has gripped our nation and has insinuated itself into every aspect of our lives.  You cannot escape it.  Suddenly, everyone feels an obligation to take sides and, once done, it becomes cast in stone. There is no room for discussion, reflection, or just listening to dissenting opinions. It’s my way or the highway guys, and if you don’t agree with me, I will just write you off, or hurt you.  It reminds me of the old saw “everyone is welcome to an opinion, as long as it is mine”.

Last weekend, I turned on a protest and a football game broke out.  I watched with some chagrin as players kneeled during the national anthem while others stood, arms linked in solidarity.  One team covered all bases and kneeled before the anthem and stood, arms linked during the anthem, after which, the crowd booed loudly at, I don’t know, something.  I thought “this thing has taken on a life of it’s own”.  A year ago, only one guy felt so inclined.  Then it grew a little, and more players decided to “make a statement”, whatever it was.  And now, look how far we have come.  Whole teams kneeling or remaining in the tunnel during the anthem, or standing with arms linked in a show of solidarity.  My problem is, I don’t have a clue what they are protesting or supporting.  Are they disrespecting the flag, the nation, the president, or, heaven forbid, me?    When they stand with arms linked, are they showing respect for the flag, the nation, the president, the team, or just each other.  I think the answer is probably yes, all of the above.   I think we have become a nation of group thinkers.  Our opinions are often hijacked and one group or another decides what is right, or wrong.  What is politically correct so to speak, and everyone joins ranks.  

I for one, have started tuning out the news, because it isn’t news.  It is opinion, innuendo, and spin.  Every story is scripted to not only relate an issue, but to also relate, some rather blatantly, whether it is a good thing, or a bad one, based on the bias of the publisher/broadcaster, and I am left simply to decide whether I agree or not, or if I even think it is true.  Sad.

Since, as I made clear in my opening statement that no one cares what I think,  I guess it can’t hurt to tell you what I think anyway.  When I turn on a sports presentation, it’s because I want to watch a game.  I don’t care what the players think, or feel, or want everyone to know about what they think or feel. I don’t need to be schooled by LeBron James or Colin Kapernick, or anyone else.  The playing field is not a pulpit.  They are not where they are because of what they think.  They are there because of what they do.  No more, no less.   So let’s knock off the BS before we start protesting the significance of the coin toss.  I’m sure if we look hard enough, we will find something about the Treasurer of the U.S. that at least some of us don’t like.

For the record, regardless of the issue or how popular it is, you will never see me kneel.  It’s nothing personal however.  You can brand me as you may.  I’m just afraid I won’t be able to get back up.  Just sayin.

 

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Young Love

I walked into the party’ and said you look ‘some kind of wonderful’. You didn’t say anything but gave me a funny look. I said ‘is there something on your mind that you’re not telling me’? You said ‘every time you kiss me I’m not certain that you love me’. ‘This time we’re really breaking up’.’I’m sorry, so sorry’. Then you began to cry. I said come on, ‘big girls don’t cry’. You replied ‘it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to’. I said tell me ‘it’s only make believe’. ‘Right or wrong, I can’t stop loving you’. ‘Where did our love go’? ‘Don’t you want somebody to love’? ‘If I can’t have you, I don’t want nobody baby’. I pleaded, just ‘one night with you’, ‘then you can tell me goodbye’. You said ‘that’ll be the day’.

Now ‘I’m Mr lonely’. ‘What becomes of the brokenhearted’. ‘Every day heartaches grow a little stronger’. ‘ I see you in all the old familiar places’. ‘I don’t have anything since I don’t have you’. It’s going to be a cold lonely summer’. It’s hard to make believe you’re happy when you’re gray’.

Then ‘one summer night’ I drove my ‘pink Cadillac’ to ‘Palisades Park’ and decided to spend some time at ‘the hop’. Walking in, ‘I saw her standing there’. I thought ‘oh what a night’. ‘I didn’t even know her name’, but I knew it was ‘now or never’. I walked over and said ‘hello little baby’. ‘What’s your name little girl.’ . ‘You’re just too good to be true. I can’t take my eyes off of you’. ‘Do you wanna dance and hold my hand?’

She said ‘I want to hold your hand and rock around the clock’. ‘Let’s get it on’. ‘Dance with me. Hold me closer and closer as the music sways’. I said ‘you are the answer to my lonely prayer’. She said ‘every night I hope and pray a dream lover will come my way’. ‘They say for every boy and girl there’s just one love in this whole world’. I’ve waited for ‘this magic moment.’

‘When we danced, I held her tight and all the stars were shining bright, and then I kissed her’. I said ‘come go with me’ and we wandered ‘down under the boardwalk down by the sea’ and wrote’ love letters in the sand’. It was ‘poetry in motion with her walking by my side’. I said’ since I met you baby’, ‘I can’t help falling in love with you’. I am ‘devoted to you’. I think we could be ‘happy together’. ‘ I can’t see me lovin nobody but you’. ‘ I want you to want me.’ ‘I’m leavin it up to you. Whatcha gonna do.’ You said ‘I must be dreamin when you say you love me’. ‘I’ll be there with a love so true.’

‘When the night has come and the moon is the only light you see’, you said ‘goodnight sweetheart, well, it’s time to go’. I said ‘goodnight my love, may tomorrow be sunny and bright and bring you closer to me’. ‘And then she kissed me’.

As I drove home I thought ‘what kind of love is this that turns my heart inside out’. I can’t believe that I met my ‘dream lover’. ”She’s so fine.’

For those of you “of an age” you no doubt will recognize a lot of what I wrote (everything in quotes) is either lyrics or a song title from the 50’s and 60’s. Back when music was something you could really dance to and understand the words. It also was a time when song writers and singers were apparently fixated on Young Love. For those of you that aren’t that old, well, you missed some great stuff. As I have recently heard it said “Enjoying music is like eating a candy bar. First, you throw away the (w)rapper.

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