Friday, October 17, 2014

California Dreamin'

      I wish that you had picked us since we came from far away

     We didn't look this silly when we first woke up today

     We both have put on makeup and we're wearing crazy clothes

      I think  we look much better than the others that you chose.


I used to wonder what it would be like to appear on television. I was once in the audience of a nationally televised game show, but I can't exactly count that. I never could see myself on the screen and Monty Hall never asked me to make a deal. In fact, my friend and I weren't even chosen to sit in the section where the deals were made.

I was made up as Groucho Marx and my friend was Harpo. When we first entered the building we joined the others in this informal audition by standing along the wall in the hallway. A man preceded to walk back and forth choosing the ones who would fill the main section of the audience. What I wouldn't give to have taken pictures of that crowd!

I remember the man standing to my left was wearing a diaper and carrying what looked like the world's largest rattle. I am pretty sure that he was one of the ones picked, but I can't remember if he ever got to make a deal. It has been over forty five years since my friend and I stood in that hallway and some parts of the story  have been forgotten.

Those of us who did not "make the cut" were led to a different section of the studio. We were still in range of the cameras, but not able to be chosen as  contestants. That was fine with me at the time. I remember being relieved that my television career had been nipped in the bud. I would have been way too nervous to take this any further.

I would have to say that the drive to the studio was the most fun of all. My friend had a '65 Corvette convertible and we made quite a sight with the top down. People would smile and give us "thumbs up" at the stop lights. My friend was driving and never said anything in return. He would simply lift the prop horn that he was carrying and give them two short blasts. He made a great Harpo!

Even though we failed as far as "dealing" was concerned, we still had a pretty good time. We had accepted a bet that our roommates had made with us. They told us that we had no chance of appearing on any television show and he had taught them to never underestimate us.

I can't say that this story teaches us any valuable lesson. Sometimes I simply enjoy laughing at things that I have done in my life and sharing them with you. If this says anything, it's that we shouldn't be afraid to laugh at ourselves. Sometimes that can be the perfect medicine!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Moving Day

                      I think I heard that child again when he jumped off the chair

                      Or else there is a cattle drive that's taking place up there

                      This happens to me all day long and well into the night

                      It seems to me that people ought to treat their neighbors right.

I remember times in Glen Ferris when best friends would move away. Sometimes it might be to a nearby town, but sometimes they would move hundreds of miles and out of my life. I remember how bad it felt to lose those friends and the void it created.

After my divorce over three decades ago, my sons and I lived in many places. I rarely got to know people well enough to miss them when they moved and it probably went mostly unnoticed when I left the area. My sons were a different story. They made friends quickly so I'm sure they felt the loss.

Earlier in the week I lost another neighbor, but don't bother passing the Kleenex. The neighbor lived in the apartment directly above me and has made my day, week and year by moving. She is a single mom with a five year old son. I hope she is going someplace where she will be happy. I know that it will be a celebration here!

I can't be certain, but I suspect that they may have been a mother and son clogging team. That would explain the bits of ceiling plaster scattered throughout   my apartment. They might even have been practicing for their debut with Riverdance. I do know that they had very little consideration for anyone living close to them and there will be no tears shed by any of us.

When I became a single parent in the early eighties it was quite different. There were apartment complexes that accepted children and there were others that were called adult communities that did not. I didn't like it, but I had to live with it for several years until the laws changed and it was no longer legal to discriminate against families with children.

Everyone should be able to enjoy their home. They should be allowed to unwind after a busy day without wearing a hard hat to protect them from falling plaster. They shouldn't need earplugs to soften the sounds of a  child screaming like a banshee at midnight. I understand that things don't always go as planned. I learned that a long time ago as a single father with young sons. I have also learned that a large part of the problem is  lack of consideration of the adults. Of course, this is only my opinion.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bills, Chores, and Coffee Cans

                     There are some chores  I like to do, but some should go away

                     They are the ones I promise that I'll do another day

                     They're areas within my home that only I will see

                     But, even though they're out of sight, it always bothers me.


Many years ago, when I first started working for Kroger, I met a man named Bill Bennett. I should say that he was more of an acquaintance than a friend. We worked side by side during our shift, but rarely ran into each other outside of work.

Bill was a nice enough guy, but he had a reputation for being less than responsible with his finances. He was known for not paying his bills. He told me a story one day that I will never forget.

Bill told me that as his bills would come each month, he would write each one on a slip of paper and place it in a coffee can. When they were all accounted for he would reach in and draw one out. The one chosen was the "lucky creditor" of the month. This was the one destined to receive the minimum payment.The remaining bills were promptly transferred to his garbage can.

As you can imagine this didn't work for very long. Bill starting getting phone calls from everyone he owed . He would promise to send a payment shortly, but he knew it wasn't really going to happen. Bill told me he had reached the point where he quit answering the phone at all. There was no caller I.D. back then so he played it safe. Weeks had gone by and one morning the phone rang and Bill answered it without thinking. As you would expect, it was a creditor threatening to send his account to a collection agency. Bill promptly told them that if they didn't quit calling him, he wouldn't even put their bill in the coffee can. It would then have no chance of being selected.

There have been times when I have considered doing the same with my household chores. I would pick a job from the coffee can and complete it. That way I would not have the option of putting off cleaning certain areas that I had avoided.

Yesterday I decided to clean up my laundry room. I had put it off long enough and just how hard could an area that small be to clean? I got the answer to that question almost immediately. It turned out to be a nightmare! There were clothes from both of my sons on the four shelves as well as things that had not fit me in many months.

If you are going to clean an area correctly, you will always start out by making an absolute mess! I did not break that rule yesterday. I had piles of clothes for each son and myself scattered across my bathroom floor. After cleaning the laundry room itself, I proceeded to do laundry until the floor was completely empty. When everything  was clean I put my sons' clothes in a closet and my "wearable" shirts and jeans back on the shelves

My laundry room is now a thing of beauty and a joy to behold. I no longer need to squint when I open the door.I do hope that I can keep it looking this way. If it gets this bad again, I might not even put it in the coffee can.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Air Force Beach

            I did not know about the beach and what I should not wear 
           She should have given the "bare" facts before she dropped us there
            It took all week before we finally chose to go clothes free         
           We never thought that we'd be shown on national TV

The story that I am about to tell you happened over thirty years ago. It was originally included in Mr. Joe, but somewhere along the line it was omitted. It's the story of Air Force Beach.

I still couldn't believe that we were actually on the airplane. We were headed for West Palm Beach, Florida. My friend and I were finally taking a vacation together. Denny and I were the best of friends and had been working together at the meat plant for the past ten years.

I had a friend living in Florida and she had been asking us to come down and visit. In return for giving us a place to stay, we agreed to fill up her freezer as best we could. It seemed like a win situation for all three of us.

Carol picked us up at the airport and we quickly arrived at her condo. It was a beautiful three bedroom with two full baths and just minutes from the beach.

She was not able to take time off from her job so she agreed to drop us off at the beach on her way to work each day and pick us up on her way home. Our vacation would last a week.

I remember the first morning that Carol dropped us off. It was around 8:30 a.m. so we were the first to arrive. An hour or two later others started "showing up"...literally! Carol had failed to tell us that she was a nudist and that Air Force Beach was a nude beach! Oops!

Most everyone at the beach was topless, but few were completely naked. It seemed the local Rangers would come running over the hill to the beach in order to catch nudists and arrest them. There was always someone acting as a lookout to warn the others when the Rangers were about to show.

They had been circulating a petition for several months to have the beach become legal for nude patrons. Denny and I had no problem signing this when we were asked. Even though modesty had prevented us from joining the crowd, we agreed that they should have that right. 

That stretch of beach had been donated to the city with the condition that it be allowed to remain "clothes optional". The city was trying to take that right away.

The day that the petition was to be presented happened to be our last day there. They wanted to get all of the "coverage" of that moment so they had called the local television station. They came up with a great plan! When the petition was unscrolled, it was over fifty feet long. The plan was to have fifteen or twenty  nudists holding up the length of paper that happened to be just wide enough to cover their "assets".

Denny and I must have gotten caught up in the moment because we were the first two to volunteer. We decided that since we were a thousand miles from home and we would never see these people again, why not go for it. A few minutes later we were standing on the beach naked holding a petition in front of us and waiting for the television cameras to arrive.

Carol arrived to pick us up just as the news crew was leaving. We took her out to a farewell dinner and then packed our clothes and got ready to fly back to Cincinnati in the morning. 

I would like to think that the story ended there, but it didn't. That same summer I went back to Glen Ferris to visit my mom and grandmother. As soon as I saw mom I could tell she was mad about something. When I asked what was wrong she told me that I didn't need to worry about her. My grandmother was the one I had to calm down. I found out that somehow another station had picked up the story about our protest at Air Force Beach. My grandmother had been watching a news show when Denny and I came on camera standing naked behind the petition.

Friday, February 28, 2014

A Glen Ferris Memory

                               You never know what people you'll be meeting
                               They can all affect our lives in many ways
                                Sometimes they even leave a lasting memory
                                Like the ballgame that I played one summer day.
I think that most of us have memories that we cherish. Sometimes you don't realize at the time how special they really are. This blog is about a childhood memory of mine.

I grew up in a small "company town" that included a fenced in tennis court with a basketball  rim at each end.  While I have many memories of playing tennis on those courts, a certain basketball game is my fondest. It was a game that I played in when I was very young.

Normally, when older kids wanted the basketball court for a game, the younger ones were told to leave. This time was different. One of the older boys said that I should be allowed to play and I could be on his team. He said that I could be the one who passes the ball. I knew that I also would be the one to retrieve the ball should it go over the fence, but that was alright with me.

They called my new friend Zeke, but he didn't seem to like that nickname. He told me to just call him Jerry. Even though I wasn't really part of that game, I do remember watching him make shots from everywhere on that court.

I remember that "our" team needed one more basket to win the game when the ball rolled to me. I'm not going to say that I made the winning shot because that wouldn't be true. What I did was pass it to my friend, Jerry. I remember how he gave me a quick wink before he shot the ball. There was never any doubt in my mind that it was going in the basket. I had made a pass to the person who made the winning goal. I had been a small part of the victory.

I never saw my friend at the courts again, but I did see him play on television for years and years. He went on to play for West Virginia University and then for the Los Angeles Lakers. He is now a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. The first "assist" that I remember making in a small town basketball game was to Jerry West. That day he was my teammate and my friend. He grew up about fifteen miles from me.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Childhood Memory

                    It doesn't take a lot of time, just give what you can spare
                    It takes so little effort and you'll let them know you care
                    I remember times when someone smiled and turned my day around

                    It might be the best medicine that I have ever found.


It was the fifties and I was probably in the forth or fifth grade. It was a time before computers, cell phones and video games. It was a time when parents did not feel  responsible for their child's entertainment. They didn't seem to worry about whether or not we were bored. They had their own agenda and it rarely included us.

I lived in a small town in the hills of West Virginia. I had a paper route which included seventy-one subscribers. I delivered to every home in town except for one. There was one man who didn't want the service. I had heard that a he thought a nickle was too much to pay for what I had to offer.

There were railroad tracks not far from our home and they used to fascinate me. I would spend hours trying to learn to walk on them without falling off. I would need to learn the art of balancing myself. In retrospect, that would take a lifetime.

One day a friend told me something that I thought was very cool. He told me that I could leave a penny on the railroad track and the train would run over it  and flatten it. I'm not sure why defacing a penny and  making it worthless seemed so appealing to me, but it did. I began to listen for the train whistle. I waited for the times when I could place another penny on the track.

I wanted to share this new experience with someone. I wanted to show it to my best friend. I wanted to show it to Mead. He was an older man who lived a few houses down the street  He used to work on projects in the workshop that he had set up in his garage. Many days I would walk by and see Mead busy, but he wasn't like most of the adults that I had been around. He always seemed to find time to listen.

One day I showed Mead one of the pennies that I had placed in the train's path. He asked me to follow him over to his work bench. He placed the penny in a vice and drilled a hole in the center of it. He then turned it to its side and placed it back into the vice. He  started to hammer the sides of the coin. He would hammer the coin a few times and then rotate it before striking it again.

After a few minutes I realized what he was doing. Mead had been making a beautiful ring out of my smashed penny. When he gave it to me, it instantly became my most prized possession. I remember wearing that ring every day of that summer. Kids  seem to lose things and I eventually lost that ring. I wish that I still had it.

I don't think the ring was as important as the meaning behind it. It had shown me that I was worth someone's time. It showed me that I had value.After over half a century I still remember this one hour out of my life. I still smile when I think of Mead , the ring, and his workshop.

Sometimes the smallest act of kindness can change someone's day for the better. Sometimes these acts are remembered for a lifetime.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Groundhog Day and More

                  I apologize, but would you mind if I get back to you
                  I'm waiting for a rodent that will tell me what to do
                  I looking at vacations sites and places I could go

                  But, I must learn if we are getting six more weeks of snow.

 I like to consider myself an animal lover, but this time I think I smell a rat. I have been doing a little research on my own and some things just don't add up. I happen to believe that this year's Punxsutawney Phil was a ringer. I also believe that this is not the first time it  has happened.

While "Punxsutawney Phil" has been predicting our weather for 128 years, the maximum life span of a groundhog happens to be six years. That fact alone made me suspicious. Yes, I had finally spotted my first red flag. I began to wonder about the original Phil and if he had been given a voice in selecting his successor. Was this honor passed from generation to generation of Phil's family or were other groundhogs considered?  Was this amazing gift limited to the genes of one bloodline or is it common to this species?

I also had to consider something else. I asked myself  if nepotism was involved. The dictionary defines nepotism as favoritism shown or patronage granted to relatives, as to business. The questions seem to be endless in this mystery that I choose to call "Shadow-Gate". Was there ever a "Punxsutawney Phyllis"?

During the week proceeding the Super Bowl, I saw an interesting segment on ESPN. They showed an ape that had predicted the winner of the "big game" for the past six years. After some quick research I also discovered that an octopus, a porcupine and a "clairvoyant" manatee named Buffett had also been successful in choosing these winners. Some things may seem hard to believe, but facts  are facts. Nostradamus may have finally met his match.
I have to admit that I have done a few strange things in my lifetime so I will warn you about something in advance. If you happen to spot me walking into a local Sports Book on the first Saturday in May, (Kentucky Derby Day) with a parrot on my shoulder, think nothing of it. I happen to be an animal lover.       


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Old Habits Die Hard

              I wish I'd taken care of this much sooner

              I should have started way before today

              But, as far back as I'm  able to remember

              I've handled many things in just this way.


I was thinking that this would be a  great day to make my New Year's resolutions. Now is a good time to select at least one part of me that I will try to improve on. This year I think that it would be fitting to work on my biggest fault that I am aware of. I will attempt to stop procrastinating.

I  have been guilty of this for as long as I can remember. It certainly goes back to the early days of having homework. I remember an assignment that our sixth grade class had been given. It was around Thanksgiving and the New Year's Day parades were about six weeks away. We were to choose one of the parades and then write to the Chamber of Commerce of that city and ask them to send us brochures.

Within a few weeks some of my friends started receiving their packets. They would then bring them to school and put them on display. I had chosen the Rose Bowl and my letter was going to Pasadena, California. Well, as soon as I got around to writing it.

 I finally reached a point where I could no longer postpone my assignment. It was more than just waiting until Sunday night to finish my homework. I had put this off far too long and it was time for action. I could no longer blame the city officials of Pasadena for my lack of responsibility. I mailed my request.

It has been over fifty years since that happened and I still feel that I owe the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce an apology. The city that got the most blame turned out to be the one that responded the quickest. They made me look  less irresponsible than I  was. I still cannot watch a Rose Bowl Parade without thinking of Mrs. Reed and her sixth grade class.

Now, I will get on with my day. I am planning on cleaning out a closet that is filled with way too much clutter. I figure if I haven't needed it in the past five years, that might be a sign that it needs to be thrown out. I think I will even toss my collection of  "belated" birthday cards. I don't plan on needing them any longer. That would be a good start!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This Too Will Pass

                     Everything I've put inside myself will soon be coming out

                     My body might resemble an inverted water spout

                     "Good things will come to those who wait", and I'm receiving mine

                     They're just about to put a camera where the sun don't  shine.

The time has finally come for me to face the facts. My colonoscopy is Friday morning and nothing I can do will make that change. It didn't bother me in the least when I made the appointment before Thanksgiving so it should not bother me now. I should be glad that there are procedures available to "catch" things before they  have a chance to become serious.

I started thinking about the various procedures I have gone through over the past few years. I remember the pictures of my brain that I was given after they completed scanning for the tumor. They gave me a large envelope with 125 pictures of my brain and told me I should keep them in my car.

I'm still not sure why they recommended traveling with this information, but I did as I was told for a few years. I remember imagining being pulled over by a traffic cop and being questioned. He would have told me that I had done something stupid and wondered if I had a brain in my head. Aha! That must have been what my doctor had been thinking of. I could go to my trunk and pull out the envelope. I had proof positive that I did in fact possess a brain; I had everything from billfold size up to 8"x10". I had in my possession indisputable evidence!

I kid about a lot of things, but I also realize the importance of regular checkups. I have dodged more than one bullet by being tested and I'm not about to stop now.

Tomorrow morning I will start on my Jello and chicken broth diet. Later in the evening I will begin consuming three to four liters of TriLyte solution. From what I have been told, I should not venture far from home afterward. I have total confidence in my doctor and the procedure. But, I will let you know how it all comes out.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Voice Mail

                           We thank you for your patience and how can we assist?
                            I wish we could replace the hour of your life you missed
                           We hate to keep you waiting, or at least that's what we say
                            The truth is we can keep you on the phone almost all day.
I have been paying my bills online for quite a while. I have found this to be more convenient than buying stamps and walking to a mailbox. This also allows me to control the date that the payment comes out of my bank account. I no longer have to worry if my deposit will arrive before the withdrawal is made.

However, there have been times when the online process hasn't gone as smoothly as I would have wanted. During those times I have had to deal with something that I despise. I have had to deal with voice mail! My most recent experience was with my local cable company.

After an answering machine told me how valued a customer I was, I was placed on hold. I'm not sure how long I was left in this "cable purgatory", but I will admit to thinking about the professor and Marty McFly. I was wondering if they could have traveled to the past and "convinced" the creator of voice mail to just drop the idea and allow someone with an actual heartbeat to assist us.

After listening to roughly one half hour of continuous advertising ( broken up by regular assurances that a customer service rep would soon be with me), I remembered something that I was told right off the bat. I was told that the conversation might be recorded. Here was my chance to have free advertising. I would promote Mr. Joe: Tales of a Haunted Life.

I started by telling them that my sister and I had co-authored my memoir and told them where it is available. I then gave them a short summary of the book before starting to read from it. I think I was starting the second chapter when an actual person answered the phone. They asked how they could help me so I told them I would be with them as soon as I finished reading the page that I was currently on. That did not go over so well, but I have to admit it made me smile.

Promoting our book seems to be as difficult as writing it was. But, I think I might have found a partial solution. I have talked about it to my cable company, my gas and electric company and also the department of public works. Maybe this "voice mail thing" can also be used to the customer's advantage. I can see it now: Mr. Joe, coming to a voice mail near you.