Archive for December, 2014

The List

Friday, December 26th, 2014

listsAlice and I make very few trips to “town.” Back in our working days, especially when our son was very active in many extracurricular activities, we were often in town from early to late, on weekends and holidays, and in-between. When we reached the point in our lives where we didn’t have to make these trips, we found we didn’t want to. For years now, I’ve been making weekly trips to town on Monday mornings to do the shopping. We’re currently trying an experiment where I go every other week instead, but so far it is working poorly. The first “off” Monday, I ran out of lemons for iced tea (horrors!) and made a special trip to town just for lemons.

I treat my weekly trips like a military operation. I have my list, I plan my strategy, I get home around noon, have some lunch and take a nap. And if it isn’t on my list, it might as well have yet to be invented, because I just don’t browse on my shopping trips to town. There is a high probability I’ll get it if it is gettable, as long as it is on the list.

The list lives on the refrigerator door where it is handy. As we use things up, the item is added to the list. Often, as I’m getting ready to open the refrigerator door, I’ll scan the list to see if anything new has been added. Herein lies one of the great flaws of our system. You see, when I’m about to open the refrigerator door, it means I’m doing something food related. And the last thing I want to see is something that makes my stomach less interested in food.

For quite some time now, I’ve had an item that has needed to go on the list, but I haven’t been able to add it to the list. The item is Preparation H ™. It has stayed off the list because I haven’t wanted to broadcast my need to the family, and/or the outside world. And I didn’t want to be reminded of this need every time I grab an egg. So supplies dwindled, and no resupply was imminent. I considered using tape and a flap of paper to hide the unmentionables on the list, but never got around to it. Then the light bulb went off.

We’d recently spent the money to join Amazon Prime ™. For about $100/year, items are shipped 2nd day, and there is no minimum order size. The beautiful part is anywhere in the house where there is a computer (and there are lots) there is a connection to Amazon. In two minutes, I’d found what I wanted, placed the order, and can anticipate my order to arrive in an anonymous brown cardboard box with no explanations required.

The paper flap idea is out the window, and Amazon Prime ™ is in.

A Mystery

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

chicagoartAlice and I recently took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Chicago, mostly to visit the Chicago Institute of Art. We left home early Wednesday morning, arrived at the hotel around 1:00 pm, got rid of the car, got checked in, and hurried over the three blocks to the institute. We spent several hours wandering randomly through the rooms of this magnificent place. After a quick supper, we made our way back to the hotel where we collapsed after the long drive and so much sensory input.

The next day, Thursday, is a special day at the museum. They are open later than normal; until 8:00 pm instead of the normal 5:00 pm. We arrived just as they were opening, and stayed until they announced that they’d be closing. This day we got a better feel for where things were, and were able to start choosing places we wanted to go, and often finding them without too much help from the museum staff.

Near the end of this long but exhilarating day, we decided to make a stop in the museum gift shop. After wandering there for a half hour, we paid for our purchases and left so I could use the bathroom. It was when I left the bathroom that the mystery took shape that was to consume the end of our visit to the art institute.

I need to make you aware of two of my idiosyncrasies before I tell you about the mystery. First, I have very good near vision. Although I wear bifocals, I can read much better without my glasses than I can through my glasses. I am forever taking my glasses off and laying them down. Second, I have difficulty — how to say this delicately — evacuating my bowels, unless I am reading something.

OK, I walked out of the bathroom at the Chicago Institute of Art, looked around, and noticed my glasses were not on my face. I quickly checked my pockets, and they were not there. (I often stick them in my pocket when I’m reading without them.) I walked back into the bathroom, back into my old stall, and looked everywhere. No glasses. I looked into that small porcelain pond, judged the opening, and became convinced that my glasses could indeed have been swallowed into the Chicago sewer system. I *need* my glasses to drive, changing the 8 hours on the roads back home from routine to difficult.

I walked out of there, found Alice, and asked her if she’d noticed whether I had my glasses on when I came out of the gift shop. She said she couldn’t remember for sure. We walked back to the shop and asked the customer service people of any glasses had been turned in. Nope.

By this point my mind was going into outside-the-box mode. Clearly, all the rational solutions to this problem had been tried and found useless. I had a limited number of pockets, all of which had been checked and rechecked. The bathroom stall was of limited size, and contained only a few places where glasses could hide. These places had been checked too. I visited the stall next door, and found no evidence that dropped glasses had slipped under the partition.

In desperation, I went back to my former stall, sat back down on the seat with my pants in defecation mode. I stared ahead, thinking outside the box as much as I could. What if I had absentmindedly placed my glasses on the cloth shelf made my my pants. Where could they go if I’d just gotten up without putting them back on? I felt down to the place where my pant leg joined up with the top of the boot on my left foot. A delicious glasses-shaped bulge presented itself to my feel. Glasses came out, came onto my head, the world came into focus, and I strode out to face my wife, whose first words would assuredly be, “this will make a good story.” I think she was right.

A Man Secret

Friday, December 12th, 2014

bathroomI do a lot of sit ups. I’ve written about my daily routine HERE and HERE.

Hint: when a word is in a different color, clicking on it might take you to another interesting place in my blog. Alternatively, once my blog takes off, it might take you to one of my fine sponsors’ web pages.

Most every morning, I do a short workout with 15# dumbbells, and 200 sit ups. If I’ve done the math correctly, if I keep this pace up for another 7 1/2 years, I’ll hit 1,000,000 sit ups.

Now and then, mostly when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I’ll look at myself in the bathroom mirror and think, “with all these sit ups, I should be starting to look like Arnold Schwazenegger.” Then I’ll do something that is a secret among us men… I’ll pull in my gut, hold my breath, strike a body builder pose, and look in the mirror. The results are often disappointing. Now and then, though, perhaps due to a trick of the light, I’ll see the outline of something that might be an ab.

“Quick, come and see my ab,” I’ll shout.
“No wait it’s gone.”
“Now there’s two… oh shoot, they’re both gone now.”

After so many years of effort, I’m beginning to think that Arnold Schwarzenegger might be reaching a bit to high for me. Or maybe in 7 1/2 years when I turn 70 and 1,000,000 clicks over on the sit up odometer, the abs I’ve dreamed about will suddenly appear. I’ll be looking in the mirror waiting, hopefully with a camera handy.

Going to the Bathroom

Friday, December 12th, 2014

toiletAlmost 40 years ago, Alice and I purchased 26 acres and a house from her Dad and Uncle. We’ve been working on and living in that house since then. The house came without a solid foundation, was missing windows, had no electricity or plumbing, and had been the local haunted house for many years. We estimate it had been uninhabited for almost 2 decades when we bought it.

Once we got the foundation problem fixed, and enough work done on windows, doors, and minimal insulation, we made the plunge and moved out to our home in the country, intending to continue working on it while we renovated it. Water, we learned, could be carried in, but we desperately needed a bathroom. A call to the local health department got us some good news… outhouses were still in code, as long as they were constructed properly. So armed with the plans, I built the thing inside the house, assembled it outside over the pit I had dug, and we were in business.

At first, we used the toilet-paper-roll-in-the-coffee-can method for storing and making the necessary paper available for users of the facility. Downstate, Alice’s aunt, who had grown up in this same house, got wind that we had moved in and had an outhouse. On a trip up north to visit, she brought us a gift… a small shiny toilet paper dispenser, and a CASE of the toilet paper that folds up interleaved, one sheet into the next. We were grateful beyond words, because money was tight, and we had just been given, as Alice’s Dad had so aptly put it, “enough shit paper for a lifetime.”

Alice’s aunt happened to do custodial work at a school near Detroit, and they had decided to phase out this kind of toilet paper. They threw out all their stock, some of which was salvaged and saved for us. I think I know why that school system decided to phase out this particular type of toilet paper. I can imagine an influential parent or school board member ducking into one of the bathrooms, using some of the paper, then bringing up an issue before the board. You see, this toilet paper was not soft. It was downright scratchy. And we had a case of it.

Alice quickly found excuses for not using this paper. Long after we had indoor plumbing, and despite my gentle hints that it would be a huge blow for the ecology of the planet if we didn’t use up this perfectly useful stuff, she politely refused and standardized on the softer rolled stuff. When Steve came along and became capable of expressing his preferences (I think this capability came pretty early in Steve’s life!) he also declined to indulge in this eco-paper experiment. So it was left to me to use this bonanza.

Fast forward about 40 years, and the picture at the beginning of this post shows the total amount of this paper that is left. One more event in the bathroom, and it will be gone.

Now I can’t help but wonder how my body will react when I start using the softer-than-silk variety that is our current stock. Will I soften to the point that I’ll start buying food instead of growing it? Will I just turn up the thermostat instead of tossing another log on the fire? Will I buy a 4-wheeler so I can make the short trips out on the property? Slippery slopes are like that. Maybe I should check on eBay? I’m sure there are warehouses full of this scratchy stuff out there somewhere. On the other hand, I’ve always wanted a 4-wheeler…