The Gym

June 23, 2010


My idea of exercise is a good brisk sit.  — Phyllis Diller

In the past 20 years, we have belonged to one  type of club or another. We either played tennis or golf  and also “enjoyed” the available social and  fitness amenities the clubs offered. Then about four years ago, it all became too much to deal with and then the recession arrived, so we officially became un-clubbed. Lately, my  physical activities have been primarily taking walks with Kuno and the occasional ride around the neighborhood in the golf cart.

For her birthday, Donna wanted some manner of walking machine so we could walk in hot or cold or inclement weather. My arthritic knees groaned at the prospect. Nevertheless, the other day the machines of modern torture arrived and were set up by the fitness  people. There is one elliptical and one regular dreadmill. Both require you to walk or run as fast as you can to nowhere.

Kuno, being forever watchful of changes in any aspect of the household was the first to inspect the machines and spent a few minutes walking on the dreadmill. He then adopted more of a Woody type attitude toward the monster. Remembering his Shutzhund training, he barked at it and attempted to bite it. Reluctantly I called him off. But, he remains suspicious. As do I.

OK, so now after a couple of days using the machines, I have to say, they are not as bad as I thought they would be. I actually prefer walking in the air-conditioned, concrete walled basement to walking in the heavy, hot and humid summer air. Even if I am going nowhere.

Exercise is a dirty word. Every time I hear it, I have to wash my mouth out with chocolate.–Annonymous



June 22, 2010


Eq it-na pizza-margherita sep2005 sml.jpg

When a slice meets your eye and its a beautiful  pie
That’s amore
When its taste seems divine and you’ve had a nice wine
That’s amore……
Not Dean Martin

Pizza is over 120 years old. It is so ubiquitous,… yet so elusive.

I know I am treading on thin ice here, but I am  trying to figure out where to get  really good pizza. When you consider that there are  some 350 slices of pizza consumed every second  in the US, and less that five percent of them are really good, it is sad.

If quantity was the standard, then there would be many winners with all the “supreme” and the mega meatsa pizzas out there; or that really weird, nasty one with a cheese  stuffed crust. Just pile on  more stuff!

No thank you. With pizza, as with many things in life, more is not necessarily better.

There are lots of very good pizza places in New York. Every neighborhood has at least one. They say it is because of the water. But, I think the generations of Italians there  might help. My friend, Dominick’s grandmother made an outstanding pizza. I never understood her, but I understood her pizza.

St. Louis has a few good ones too.  I believe the Good Pie near St. Louis University is one of the best. There maybe a couple of places in Florida. I know of one in Naples. Also, maybe in the Italian neighborhoods of  Baltimore and North Boston, there are a few.

I know some will argue with me, but I don’t think the “Chicago style pizza” is really a pizza at all. And forget about any “pizza” produced in California, or with “California” in its name. Pineapple and salmon,  should not be permitted within 2 miles of a pizza. Chicken should be either fried or barbecued but never as an accessory to pizza.

I have sampled pizzas in about 20 states and a dozen countries.  Some were good, most were ordinary. A few were extraordinary.

But none have been as good as the pizza I had in the little town of Asolo about 30 miles northwest of Venice, Italy. The combination of wood fired oven, the toothy, but not tough crust and simple ingredients, made it the  best.

The second best was a margherita pizza from a  place run by an Italian guest worker in the Frankfurt, Germany”s suburb of Oberusel. His wood fired creations were as magnificent as their shapes were irregular.

OK, What makes a great pizza?  Obviously, start with the best, simple  ingredients, then a real hot oven. Nice surroundings, preferable with red checkered tablecloths. This means that you must eat the pizza no more that 50 feet from where it was cooked. My sister, Trudy is great at picking up pizza. She is a fast and careful driver. But,  the pie  just has to lose some soul sitting in that cardboard box on the way home even if it is 30 minutes or less.

After that, all you need  a fine Chianti or ice-cold beer and good company. Pizza is Italian, it is meant to be social event.

Have you had a pizza you would write home about?  Where?  Or, are you still looking?

Fast, Cheap and Easy

June 21, 2010

The other day I was talking with Rick, my neighbor.

Rick and his family own and operate the nursery across the road. Since they grow things and I grow things, we usually talk about the agriculture business, weather and customer preference for plants. This day we were discussing the current trend for people to want everything fast, cheap and easy, including his seasonal flowers and plants. Fortunately, nature does not work like that. She takes her time and has strict quality control standards. When dealing with nature, patience is required.

This patience does not fit well in the  “I want it and I want it now” philosophy. A lifestyle  fueled by the advertizing media and powered by companies obsessed with bigger profits.  To the ordinary citizen however, this is  the  fast food approach to life. Like fast food, it makes you feel full and immediately satisfied, but feeling empty and unhappy afterward. It also  carries a hidden cost that you pay for later.

It never used to be like this. There was a certain pride in quality and durability of manufactured products. Well made items took time and skilled hands. Whether it was a piece of furniture, an article of clothing or a consumer appliance,  America led the world in quality manufactured products. Now we lead the world in tanning salons.  

For example, Let’s say a craftsman wanted to make a desk.  He would begin by selecting the best wood and fittings then using the best manufacturing methods,  make a beautiful, long-lasting product; which would often be cherished and handed down from generation to generation. The desk was  priced base on time, skill and material cost.

The way it works now,  a mega marketing firm says they want the desk to be priced at say $89.99. Then the engineers and production people design  a product using the cheapest materials and short cut methods to meet that price. The result is often a product that will last long enough until the new “improved” model comes out next year. So you will buy that new one and throw the old one away. 

Just when did this throw away culture first take hold is difficult to say. When did we throw quality under the bus in favor of cheaper, less satisfying immediacy?

Maybe it began with the death of the returnable bottles for soda and beer. I guess we just got lazy and decided that taking the returnable bottles back to the store was way too much trouble. It was much easier to throw away the aluminum cans. However, in the 1970’s the cans began to pile up.  Then the whole waste management industry was created and recycling for profit was born.

Another reason we tend not to wait for a quality item is the slick marketing used by big corporations to try to separate you from your money. They tell you that you need this gee gaw now to make your life complete.

Have you ever seen those ads on the tv for some product like a vegetable chopper, or that idiotic snuggie blanket with arms? Ever notice nearly all the products cost $19.95 (plus shipping and handling). And in some cases, you get two products, doubling your value!…”if you act right now, you get it all!”. They do this because the marketing research says that people are willing to throw away up to $20 ( plus S&H) on a useless fad item. Give us your credit card number and you could be happy and thin like these people on the screen.

Tomorrow  however, I bet you will be less happy and it will be your wallet that is thin.

Father’s Day

June 18, 2010

Happy Father’s Day

This year is the 100th anniversary of Father’s Day. It was first celebrated in the USA  on June 19, 1910, in Spokane,  Washington.

The day was first promoted by this woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, who much admired her father, a civil war veteran, who raised his family after his wife died.

Image: Sonora Smart Dodd









Sonora Smart Dodd, The mother of Father’s Day

Father’s Day was not embraced with anywhere near the enthusiasm that greeted Mother’s Day. In fact for many years, the idea of Father’s Day was the object of laughter and scorn. It did not become a permanent, nationally recognized holiday until 1972.

My own father died 34 years ago in a car accident in North Carolina, while I was living in Frankfurt, Germany. I remember the last time I saw him in April 1976. As we said good-bye, I knew I would never see him again. That was one of the weirdest moments of my life.

Fathers are valuable in shaping and directing kids’  lives. Fathers teach kids all sorts of things. Some are big and important, others are small and important.

Five things my father taught me:

How to drive a car and change the oil

How to grow things

How to throw a curve ball

How to make an omelet

How to make a slingshot out of a dogwood limb

I think I got my sense of humor from him. He was good at telling stories.

He played minor league baseball and he liked cherry vanilla ice cream.

Whether you are a father or not,  I hope you get your

favorite  ice cream this Father’s Day!

daily planet

June 18, 2010

Do they teach geography in school anymore?

Geography Failure of the Day: To be fair, they do have very similar sounding names. [arbroath.]

Late edition….comment:

I don’t like professional basketball, and following last night’s riots, I like it even less.

See news link…,0,3239781.story

I just can’t understand the wonton destruction by so-called “fans”. It makes no sense at all. This is a very ugly face of America. I hope it is not the face of the future.


June 17, 2010

Did you see where Catherine Zeta -Jones just received the title of Commander of the British Empire? You now are expected to address her as “Dame Catherine” . This following on the heels (get it) of a knighthood for Sir Jimmy Choo is making me a little jealous and depressed. 

For a good part of my adult life, I wanted to have a title, particularly a title of nobility.  This desire was, born, nurtured and reinforced during my youth by my sister, Trudy. She  kept referring to me as, ” The Prince “. It was only much later that I realized that this was her pejorative term for me, because in her opinion,  mom liked me best. Was it my fault I was so likeable?

Well, you see  I became accustomed to  being treated with deference. However, since I determined that there was no genetic link between me and the Queen, other that we occupied the same planet, I knew I would have to acquire a title by another, more serpentine method.

Early on I thought well, maybe I should become a doctor, then people would call me Dr. Woody. That sounded cool. But, I realised that wanting to be called “Dr.” was not a good enough reason to become a doctor. There was all that studying and being around sick people and then there was the blood thing; so that gambit was out.  I also rejected the idea of becoming a Ph.d as silly and pretentious. I firmly believe that only people with a medical degree should be called doctors.

Next,  I reasoned, how about a military title? I always thought how much fun it would be for people to call me Colonel or Captain. I was well on my way too, then I got hurt and washed out of artillery school. I was glad at the time though, because of the war and all. I think it was for the best.  However, I did have a brief stint as a captain when I was sailing my boat around the Gulf and the Caribbean. People were always referring to me as “Captain” when they called me on the radio. But then, I sold my boat and became ordinary Woody again.

I forgot about the whole title thing for a few years, until this recent spate of honors hit the papers and I started checking the mail box for a royal notice from the Queen. Nothing. Then I thought, well, maybe the post office lost the letter. You know how they are with my mail. So, I called the British embassy in Washington D. C. and made some inquiries. To my utter shock and dismay, they had received nothing from Her Majesty about me. They were awfully nice about the whole thing and even invited me for tea, whenever I was in town. Nice chaps, but still no title.

I was just about to give up all hope when,  through my Italian connections, I found out that a title of Count or “Conte” was available. So, on my last trip to Italy I pursued the matter with the regional head of title ministry for Emilia-Romagna located near Bologna.  There, as best as I could make out, from my infantile Italian … with the acceptance of my impressive credentials, and the payment of an unspecified amount, and  after the appropriate investigation, waiting time and paperwork, I would be able to acquire the title of “Conte”. A Count, That’s perfect.

 I shall be known to all and addressed as,

 ” Conte Roberto della Citta’ e Campagna”.

But, you can just call me “The Count”.

Summertime scenes

June 16, 2010

 Not a lot of words today, Just some soft images of summer to enjoy.

Kuno and I took a walk through the garden and smelled the summer sweetness.


The Brandenburg Gazebo , a quiet place to read a book, write a blog or drink a glass of wine.


Kuno guarding the Contemplative Bench. A great place to have a morning coffee while appreciating the glade garden.


The Glade Garden, a changing tableau all season.


The nature trail. A nice place to walk. It is ten degrees cooler under the trail’s leafy canopy.


The gazebo’s pink knockout roses are a real  knockout!


Kuno thinking, “It’s time to grill those steaks”


A real St. Louis cardinal.