Drop the Ball Drop

December 28, 2012

This Monday night, New Years Eve, millions of people will gather in Times Square or around their T V sets to watch some hastily constructed, Chinese made, lighted ball drop a couple of hundred feet down a pole to symbolized the passing of the old and the beginning of the new year.
Now, this ritual has been going on since 1905, and I for one believe it is time for a change.

In 1905, the Model T was still 3 years away from production, the Wright Brothers had just made their historic heavier than air flight two years earlier. Theodore Roosevelt was president and 82 million American citizens had 8 more years before they would pay any Federal income tax.
Clearly, times have changed and we need to throw out this century old ball drop practice along with the buggy whip and the family farm.
The obvious replacement choice for the night’s entertainment would be an assembly of the greatest ball droppers of all time; the current sitting members of the executive and legislative branches of government.

These folks, having been raised to the level of royalty by their own proclamations, continue to put their own personal gain above that of their country or their constituents. They would no doubt relish the opportunity to grab the spotlight at this huge gathering.
The globally televised event should  be held on top of Big Debt Mountain …at its highest peak, Fiscal Cliff.
There, the news networks could position their cameras and event lights to catch all the action with color commentators selected from the White House Press Corps. The program would of course be taped for west coast viewing at a later time.
As the clock strikes 11:30, Members of Congress and the Senate would begin leaping off Fiscal Cliff , while millions at home pretend to sip champagne and eat caviar, as the real stuff became just wishes and dreams a long time ago.
When the clock approaches midnight, the Vice President, cabinet members and senior congressional staff would take their turns leaping off the cliff to the uncertainty below. By the way, this uncertainty, the same uncertainty experienced by 313 million Americans all year,  could have been avoided months and months ago, if these politicians just DID THEIR JOB on time and conscientiously like all other Americans are expected to do!
Finally, with just 2 seconds to midnight, the President, fresh from his latest golf game in Hawaii, the Speaker of the House, sporting  his new tan from his favorite spa and the Senate majority leader just in from having his head examined, will lock arms in an attempt to do the first ever synchronized Triple Lindy.
Down below, any members of the Supreme Court, still able to stand having avoided  earlier free-falling politicos, will judge whether or not the three midnight flyers “stick” their landings.
Happy New Year!

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The Mystery of the Hair

December 27, 2012

“…Let it fly in the breeze

and get caught in the trees

Give home to the fleas in my hair…”

Hair, 1967

The other day I was in the drug store waiting in line to pay for some items.

While standing there, I noticed on one of those little metal displays, a product that claimed to solve unwanted ear hair problems, before they became issues.
I was going to read further, but it was my turn to pay, so I tendered my money and left the hairy solutions counter for the wolfman behind me to enjoy.
When I got home, I met Donna in the kitchen.
Prepping her, I stated, ” I need to ask you a question. It’s sort of personal.”
“Uh, oh, what is it ?”
” When does ear hair become an issue ?”
“What ?!”
Me: “You know, is it an issue when you can hear the wind rushing through it, like leaves on a tree, …or when your hearing gets impaired, like with that ear wax thing?”
Looking at me like I just grew a third ear, she pronounced, “I would think ear hair, as with nose hair is an issue if you can SEE it!”
I glanced at Mikey and saw his impressive four-inch ears and his copious amounts of hair in and around them. I thought briefly of taking the juvenile route by referring her to Mikey’s stylish Wookie look, but thought better of it.

Instead, I replied, “But, I can’t see it.”

Donna: “Yes, but other people can and that is the point. It is a distraction. Besides it looks unkempt.”
Immediately, I had a flashback to a professor  in college, Dr. Kimelman. Herr Dr. Kimelman was a German professor from Brazil, (yep, that’s right) who taught mathematics. I remember concentrating on his moustache sized, waxed eyebrows and his hairy ears so,  I often did not hear his heavily accented explanations for the law of cosines I was supposed to be learning.

OK, I guess I can see why keeping unsightly ear tufts under control is important. I certainly do not want to become anyone’s distraction or  be mistaken for Chewbacca due to explosive ear hair growth.

But why is hair growing  in the hinterland of the ear considered hideous, but not if it adorns the great plains of one’s pate?

Hair continues to vex me.

Christmas, 2012

December 23, 2012

creche………………………………………………………………………………..

Tomorrow will be my 65th Christmas Eve.

I can honestly say, I don’t remember the first five or six. I do remember the seventh, as I was in the school’s Christmas play, cast as one of the wise men.

I was the one carrying the myrrh. I remember  wearing this hot grey beard and a heavy purple robe wishing I had the gold instead of the stupid myrrh. I did not know what myrrh was. Still don’t.

The next Christmas was somewhat unsettling to me as Noreen, the girl down the street told me there was no Santa Claus. I could not believe it. Why, I thought did everyone, especially my parents tell me there was one ?

Well eventually I got over the Santa Claus thing and was OK with Christmas again. That year, I won a turkey selling newspapers and gave it to the school’s food drive. I still remember Sr. Sylvester’s smile as I gave her the bird…er, I mean, the turkey.

As a teenager, Christmas Eve was all about Midnight Mass. I liked the ceremony and the choral singing, but I have to admit, I was pretty sleepy at times. Occasionally, when it snowed, however, everything seemed perfect.

For a couple of years there, Barbara, the girl across the street, who was 3 or 4 years older than me, organized a Christmas Eve caroling event. During these joyful times, this Lucy Van Pelt of the neighborhood directed me, her brother and other unfortunate neighborhood urchins to parade in the snow and sing off-key carols until some neighbor, unable to stand it anymore,  invited us in for hot chocolate.

Over the years, I seem to remember more about where I was or what I did at Christmas than any gifts I received.

I remember going to see The Nutcracker ballet,  Handel’s Messiah and lots of Christmas concerts. Thinking how someone could compose such beautiful music enhanced the wonder of the season for me.

I spent the mid 1970’s in Germany and thought Christmas there was very special. It was what we have come to believe a traditional Christmas setting should be. Snow falling, as people walked and visited with each other on cobbled streets. There were small shops and street venders selling little items and refreshments including Pretzelbrotten and Glögg wine. The lack of frantic big box “shopping” with car filled malls was, well… peace on earth. It created quiet moments for reflecting on the celebration of the Nativity. Even the regular ringing of church bells added to the serenity.

In 1977, we moved to Sydney Australia. There,  I experienced my first “hot” Christmas. No more snow and mulled cider for us. Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere is celebrated poolside.  Bikinis and shrimp on the barbie are everywhere…as is the English holiday greeting,

“Happy Christmas.”

I do recall a few spiritual moments during the sunset candle lit walks along the beach. The sight of thousands of hand-held candles moving along the shore with the Pacific’s waves softly lapping the sand as a choir sings silent night is impressive and memorable.

In recent years, we have tended to celebrate quietly with a Christmas Eve family dinner and peaceful reflection… interrupted periodically by the sounds of laughter as the results of the Christmas Quiz are announced and prizes awarded.

Christmas Day is spent quietly at home.

May you, and all those you love, experience peace and joy that is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Weather and Witchcraft

December 20, 2012

I was at home yesterday minding my own business,  reading my personal copy of the Old Farmers Almanac, when I received this emergency flash text message from John, alerting me that the super storm Draco was bearing down on me.

He hoped I was ready and  I had enough firewood cut.
I responded by telling him I just sharpened Donna’s ax and got gas for her chain saw. I also bought a bottle of Crown Royal for myself, I did not know what else to do to prepare.
He replied that he thought  I was ready.
I then logged on to the Weather Channel website to see what in the hell  John was talking about.
I don’t watch the TV weather channel anymore since Cheryl Lemke left. Too much empty-headed fluff on now for me.
Anyway, there it was,  winter storm “named” Draco coming out of the Rockies, heading east.

Having spoken to Aimee earlier in the day, I knew it was snowing in Denver. She said in typical Coloradoan fashion, while driving the kids to play, “…great day for the park.”
I turned my attention to this Draco drama being created by the “it’s all about us” crowd at the WC. They even provided a full-page explanation about why it is necessary, no down right mandatory to name these obvious threats to our American way of life.
Clearly, someone at the weather channel was viewing  way too much Harry Potter and got hold of a strong batch of that new government (state) approved weed while cloud gazing.
Well anyway, I went to bed last night with a head full of dread. Between this Mayan calendar thing and this new attack of  the dark Draco, was impending doom assured?
Well, I woke up at about 5:30 today to take Mikey out. It was 48 degrees with some soggy grass on the ground which annoyed Mr. Mike.

We did have a little rain last night,  some wind and thunder. But heck, I produced scarier stuff than that  in the bathroom this morning.
Come on weather channel. Stop with the nutty New Coke ideas and just report the weather.

Better yet,  bring back Cheryl Lemke!

For the love of dirt

December 17, 2012

Well, we have finished the harvesting of the early Hamlin oranges.

I wish I could say I was satisfied with the result, but I can’t. Although we had a good bloom last spring and significant young fruit though the early summer, , this year’s yield was a disappointment.
It is hard to say what went wrong. Maybe it was the excess amount of moisture we experienced in late summer. Maybe the young trees are still under stress from improper planting. Or maybe we just didn’t care enough or give the correct nourishment. Whatever the reason, we like many Florida Hamlin groves this year experienced significant fruit drop prior to harvest.
But, that is agriculture. Sometimes it’s good,  sometimes not so much. I do hope our Valencia crop in mid march will be better.
On the cattle side, our fledging operation is off to a good start. Under John’s watchful, experienced eye, we have enclosed 200 acres of quality pasture land, acquired a fine herd and even produced our first calf.

For over 15 years, I have enjoyed growing oranges and watching the beauty of  beautiful fruit maturing  from a fragrant bloom, but raising cows is a much different experience.

First off, cows are kinetic. They move. Sometimes so much so it takes you a while to find them among the live oak hammocks. They also make noise and have unique personalities.
I have to say one of the highlights for me has been the experienced I have gained “rounding up” the bovines.

In particular, a neighbor’s runaway cow, who seems to find her big red self attracted to one of my young bulls. Several times I have found her enjoying the greener grass in my unfenced pasture, while making furtive, flirtatious glances towards my bulls. More than once, I have walked her back up the road to her own pasture where she quite athletically jumped my neighbor’s fence to her proper place. Each time turning her big red-head towards me as if to say, ” I was just talking to those guys, honest.”

If my neighbor does not fix his fence soon and this party girl continues to visit my bulls, we just might have our first neighborhood love child.

I never had heard of turducken until Aimee attended Tulane University and a bunch of her friends cooked one up. It apparently is a big deal in New Orleans. The dish is a portmanteau** of turkey duck and chicken.It involves deboning the individual parts, stuffing, cooking, assembling and cooking some more. The technique is referred to as engastration and originated in the Middle Ages in Europe. 
The end product comes out looking like a Thanksgiving turkey. But it is without the bones so slicing it is a piece of cake…Turducken.

Every year Big Charlie, who is not that big since he lost weight (we would call him Little Charlie, but we already have a Little Charlie, so Big Charlie it is) has a Christmas lunch featuring the Turducken. Big Charlie is one of the Ford boys and runs by far the best service department in the land. He has a fondness for fine wine and cigars, scratch golf, classic Bentleys and of course, Turducken.
We had the Christmas lunch this week and it was as always very special.
With the house wine of the south, sweet tea,  flowing nicely, Charlie carved the birds and we enjoyed the moist succulent meat with all the fixings.

About an hour later, as I was heading back to work,  I developed such an overwhelming wave of sleepiness, I nearly had to pull over and take a nap. Several other people I spoke to later said they also felt the same way. Now, none of us ate that much food and there was no watching of football to induce a Thanksgiving like slumber.

My experts tell me it is the fault of the tryptophan in the turkey. Well, that may be,  but except for my sleep deprived army days, I never experienced that intense a narcolepsy before.
So now I am thinking, maybe, as a cure for my insomnia, I could eat a plateful (small) of  the Turducken about 8 pm each night and sleep like a baby.

……………………….

** a made up word. come to think of it aren’t all words made up?

If a tree fails to fall in the woods and you hear it, do you have tinnitus?
A while ago, I was experiencing a degradation of hearing in my left ear. I thought, well, maybe it is plugged up with ear wax.

I never thought too much about ear wax until about 15 years ago, when a physician cleaned wax out of my ears and I enjoyed the Naples Philharmonic for the first time. Since then I have had a couple more dewaxings. The last being conducted by Dr. Zorro when he discovered a monolith the size of Montana in my right ear.
Well, I thought I could do a left ear cleaning and not worry the busy doctor with such a simple procedure. So, I took a Q tip and using warm water began to melt and remove the annoying wax.
I was doing pretty well when, I might have gotten a bit too zealous, as I started to extract blood rather than wax.

Then I could not hear out of my left ear.
Somewhat concerned, I called Wendy and told her about the situation. She said I should never put anything smaller than my elbow in my ear.

I observed, “I can’t get my elbow in my ear.”
“Exactly” I heard her say through my right ear.

She advised that I probably punctured something in there and maybe I should see a doctor. Well, I said it does not hurt, so let’s see how it is tomorrow. I have a lot going on and I am traveling this week.

I waited a few days and there were still very muted sounds on the left side, but lots of bells and buzzing going on.

Donna said, “You know, tomorrow is Wednesday and Dr. Zorro visits the nursing homes on Wednesday to check on the old folks hearing, maybe you could pretend to be old and an inmate and let him look at your ear.”

” I don’t have to pretend to be old, I am old. Anyway, I think he would recognize me…and I don’t want him to call me a knucklehead… again.”

I waited a few more days and thought about hearing loss and getting older. I was reminded of a conversation my mother and I had about 20 years ago where she just kept nodding or saying,  “Say that again.” She clearly had not heard much of what I said. I then asked her why she was not wearing the hearing aid I had bought her.

She replied, “Son, sometimes there are things that one prefers not to hear.”

Now we had been talking for about half an hour, so this bit of news was a little damaging to my ego, so I swallowed hard , as she fished around in her sewing basket for the “stored” hearing aid, blew off the dust and installed it. She was able to hear and understand that which she previously preferred not to hear.

…………………………………

So now some time has passed and the tinnitus is gone and my hearing is back— good as new. Fortunately, the magical machine that is the body has healed itself again.

Once again, I can hear things that I perhaps I prefer not to hear.