Aunt Bess

February 26, 2013

The other day I read a story about a woman from France who lived to be 120 years old.

Except for those folks in the Bible who seemed to averaged about 800 – 900 years, this woman was one of the oldest people ever to have lived. Her biography stated that  she smoked two cigarettes a day, drank port wine and was not particularly athletic, but she did ride her bike until she was 90.
The oldest person who I was close to was my Aunt Bess.

Aunt Bess was born in 1898 and lived in western Pennsylvania most of her life. She was the eldest of 12 children of Tom and Mary Smith and 21 years my mother’s senior.
My earliest remembrances of Aunt Bess are the times we used to visit her and her husband Carl in the summer. They lived next to a veterinarian and it was fun to go over there and see all the animals.
Carl died in 1963, the day he retired as Postmaster of the Bradford post office. It was a sad day, but Bess continued to live in that little house when she was not spending the winters in Florida.
Since I went to college only about 20 miles from her home, I would often go to visit her on Sunday afternoons.
She would make her famous fried chicken and biscuits; always accompanied with generous lashings of butter. As Aunt Bess said, “Butter makes everything better.”
She would often send me down to the cellar to get a “jar” of her homemade wine. She had all these different kinds she made in mason jars. My favorite was cranberry. (One time, she gave me the recipe and the next semester I made a batch of the stuff in my dormitory room. It was a bit of a sensation as no alcohol was permitted in student’s rooms at the time,  but I figured I just brought the ingredients. The alcohol arrived on its own.)

But I digress.

Upon my return  back upstairs with the mason jar, she poured the wine in her best crystal stemmed glasses to have with our meal.
After dinner, we would go into the living room and she would turn on the tv set to watch the football. I could take it or leave it, but Aunt Bess just loved the game, especially the Pittsburgh Steelers. When they ran out onto the field, she would note with admiration in her voice ,

“Oh what marvelous specimens they are!” like she was observing some nicely disected frogs in biology class.
After college, I lost touch with Aunt Bess for a while when she sold her house and moved to Florida. I was working in New York and overseas then and only saw her occasionally.
When she was about 95 she came to live with my mother.

Her mind was still sharp. She did the New York Times crossword puzzle everyday. But her body was in decline and Trudy and my mother took care of her.
On one of my visits, Aunt Bess  noted it was 4 pm and asked me, ” Bobby, would you mind making the manhattans today?”

I said sure and went into the kitchen where I heard her  instruct me not to forget to add the cherry juice.
As I served her manhattan, she said, you know I told the doctor I drink two of these a day.

Smiling, I inquired, “What did he say?”

“He said, I could do whatever I want. Isn’t he a nice doctor?”
In all our discussion about her longevity, Aunt Bess always said she did not want to live to be 100, that she thought would be just terrible.

“Imagine,” she would say, ” living to be a hundred, I don’t want to do it.” She died at age 99.

Bess has been gone 15 years now and I still recall fondly serving those 4 pm manhattans to her while she fixed my crossword puzzle mistakes.

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Spring break road trip tips

February 21, 2013

As we approach the spring break driving season, as a public service, this Log is again providing driving tips to its readers in order that they may better protect themselves from the reckless behaviors of the less informed inhabitants of the highway..

Since there are over 200 million licensed drivers in the United States.  We must assume they fall into a normal statistical distribution pattern. That is 10% would be very good drivers. 20% would be good drivers, 60% would be average drivers and 10% would be bad drivers.  So, ten percent or 20 million people are bad drivers. These are the ones to watch for.

I have a question, do they even require driving tests anymore?

There is a lot of talk about cell phones and distracted driving. Let me tell you there are people out there who are distracted by their own breathing. They have no idea what the rules of the road are.

To protect myself against run ins with bad drivers., I have come up with a system of vehicle profiling. I know, everybody tells you that profiling is evil and you should not do it, but in my nearly 50 years of driving, it has proven to be a reliable measurement. I am sharing these  experiences and tips  with you.

Drivers of  BMWs and Porsches are aggressive, go fast drivers. They desire that everyone else get behind them. They are prone to tailgating at any speed and will pass on the right or left as fast as their shifting paddles will let them. Give them a wide berth.

Japanese or Korean made cars, especially if they are green don’t follow the rules of the road. They usually drive slow in the left lane and don’t understand the concept of right of way at an intersection. Be cautious when meeting these vehicles at a four-way stop.

Speaking of stops. The Missouri drivers handbook omits that chapter. Missouri drivers slow down for a stop sign but rarely stop.  Be watchful as they approach a stop sign, especially if the vehicle is a black SUV.

Florida drivers on the other hand will stop at the drop of a hearing aid or when trying to remember where they are going. This always happens in the left lane of Highway 41. Do not follow these cars too closely, particularly if they are early model big American cars.

Pickup trucks fall into two categories; old and new. The old pickups are more than likely to be full of some manner of household junk and tend to drive slow. They nearly aways have a broken tail light and the driver needs a shave and has a cigarette in hand  hanging out the window. The male drivers are just as bad.

The new pickups are jacked up behemoths with their huge tires singing as they wiz by you on their way to the next gas station. The drivers are usually young  and wear NASCAR tee shirts with the number 3 on them. Move over, let these monster trucks pass.

If you value your hearing, beware of stopping next to a boom box car at a traffic light. They are easily recognized by their deafening sound and vibrating side panels. There is stuff hanging from the rear view mirror and they are nearly always driven by young males in sleeveless tee-shirts. Be especially cautious if the driver is wearing a baseball cap on backwards and he appears older that eight. If he is eight or younger, he should not be driving anyway, but he can be forgiven if he has his hat on incorrectly.

Mini vans can be particularly  dangerous. Their drivers are predominately young females who are  either talking on the phone or yelling at the  kids in the back. They often drive fast and tailgate in a hurried effort to get where they are going to drop off the screaming kids.

I have many more profile examples, but these few will help you get started and be more watchful and safe in your travels.

One more thing, I don’t know why they even put turn signals on cars anymore. People don’t use them. The exception being  Florida cars whose left turn signal can not be turned off.

Have safe travels and a great spring break…if you can afford the gas!

Four-five-one

February 13, 2013

This is my 451st entry into Woody’s Blog.

I suppose there is nothing very special about the number 451. It is not even a prime number, being divisible by one, itself, eleven and forty-one. Nevertheless, when the people at WordPress informed me that this was my  451st blog entry, a special feeling of nostalgia came over me. That same feeling seems to arrive every time I see or hear the number 451.

I have been told that 451  is the temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit,  where paper ignites into flame.

Fahrenheit 451 is also the title of a book by Ray Bradbury written in the mid 1950s. It was later made into a movie in 1966.

It is a quirky dystopian story about the future, where a totalitarian government tries to control its citizens by controlling how they receive information. Books and personal thought are banished. In fact, the fire departments’ function is not to put out fires, but rather to locate contraband books and then burn them.

Government approved news and information is provided to the people via a 24 hour broadcast on ubiquitous flat screen, wall mounted TVs.

(Sound familiar?)

I have read the book and also have seen the movie a few times. In spite of Mr. Bradbury’s wonderfully turned prose, and the wide interpretation options he provides,  I prefer the movie in this instance. Not because of any electrifying cinematography and  big screen storyline, but because it stars my teenage heart-throb, Julie Christie!

When I was young**, I had a massive crush on the British actress. I could watch  Doctor Zhivago and Fahrenheit 451 for hours just to see Miss Christie in all her acting glory.

I even cut her picture out of a newspaper and kept it folded in my wallet next to my emergency $5 bill. It stayed there until it grew yellow and crumbly and the emergency $5 became my emergency $10. It was a sad day when I figured it was time to disposed of the picture. But I could not just toss her all wrinkly and yellow in the trash.  I decided I would do it in a Fahrenheit 451 appropriate way; by burning it. Obviously, a very poignant moment at the time!

Even to this day Fahrenheit 451 ignites my flame.

*****

**(“I’m seventeen and I’m crazy. My uncle says the two always go together. When people ask your age, he said, always say seventeen and insane.“– Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451.)

Other peoples money

February 9, 2013

There are two types of money that are spent in this world.

There is money that you have personally worked for,  and there is other people’s money, which by some degree of happenstance you get to spend. Want to guess which type is spent with caution and which type is squandered with reckless abandon?

At times I get criticized for being a curmudgeon on excess taxes, runaway spending and Government waste,  but dammit some things are just wrong.
Like finding out that a California school district was using school lunch money for landscaping and other pet projects of the school board.

Or the extremely wasteful behavior of the outgoing Defense Secretary who spent taxpayer dollars to “commute” between Washington and his walnut ranch in California. Over a $1 million of your money was spent to fly him back to his land of nuts each weekend.

I happen to know something about commuting and farming and as an expert in the field, I can say this spending behavior was wasteful and wanton.

He said he regrets the expense. I guess he does not regret it so much to pay for it himself. Hey Mr.  Secretary pay just 10 percent— show that you really mean it. Ha, never happen.

Well maybe the new guy will be more judicious with our money.

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You know, the corporate stockholder meeting season is about to begin this year as companies present their results for 2012.

One of the best parts is the annual meeting forum where stockholders get to skewer the CEOs on expenses and spending and corporate priorities.

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of the pomp, politics and platitudes of the staged State of the Union address we could  have a stakeholders’ meeting of the country. There,  the citizens would get to analyze the country’s  balance sheet and income statement. Then they could  have the people in charge explain why they wasted our hard-earned money. We could ask them questions and demand answers on progress for balanced budgets, reducing unemployment, real solutions to health care, education, housing and government accountability to its citizens when sending its military off to war. Maybe we could get to the real extent of government waste and mismanagement and do something about it.

Oh,  where have you gone Lee Iacocca?

……………

Did you know that Mr. Iacocca only accepted one dollar a year in salary. I wonder how many members of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of Government can say they would do that?

Some feel good news

February 4, 2013

Usually after reading the morning news, I get somewhat clinically depressed.

The state of world affairs it seems is becoming more difficult to understand and comprehend. It might be more war in the Middle East, or a mass murder of innocents which drives me into the depths of despair.
Sometimes it is the comical idiocy of the endless array of Darwinian candidates that causes me to scratch my head in disbelief.

Like the story the other day of a 48-year-old Florida man who attempted to steal $4.14 worth of chicken wings from the grocery store, by putting them down his pants.  I guess he was getting ready or his BigGame party. Kinda puts you off the whole wing thing doesn’t it?

Or , the 35-year-old California guy who tried to hide 24 quarts of motor oil in his shirt, pants and socks while walking out of a big box store without paying. Imagine, that’s about 50 pounds of canned liquid carbon material sloshing…. and  bulging out from Heaven knows where. When arrested, the man had an additional 50 quarts of oil in his car. I guess he was intending to start his own jiffy lube!

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Today’s story however, uplifted my spirits to heights I have not reach in some time. It was piece about three teenage classmates from Pennsylvania who scored the maximum of 2400 on their SAT test. A remarkable achievement for one, but three in the same class is extraordinary.

I am personally very much impressed as I think I scored 39 on my test back in the day.
At least two of the students intend to become  doctors and the third is leaning towards a career as a research scientist.

Hurrah for them, their parents and teachers.
These folks are real heroes. They show what is very possible when students, PARENTS and TEACHERS work together toward a achieve a stellar goal. These folks must be the  role models for all our young people, not the media fueled self-absorbed pop culture celebrities.

Congratulations, Julie, Ben and William! Well done.

At 28.6 pounds, Mikey is courageous and will bravely rise to any challenge.

If he was a little taller, he probably would be a Navy Seal. No, on second thought, he is not a great swimmer, so perhaps a Recon Marine would be more his style. Oorah!
I have seen him take on opossums, ferrets and other intruders. He will also herd a 600 pound golf cart with fearless resolve.

He knows one speed ; flat-out fast.
This got him into a bit of trouble the other morning.
It started out like any other day. It was about 8:30 I was just finishing my coffee and finalizing plans for the day, when Mike started racing from window to window barking like he was possessed by the devil of Sirius, himself.
I looked up to see the object of his excitement.
It was Raven, the black lab bitch from across the street.
Raven is about twice as tall as Mikey and swift as the wind. He can’t keep up with her, but likes to try, so I let him out.
As he flew out the door and hit the patio floor, I heard a slight cry, but he continued on at full speed for another 50 yards until he caught Raven.
There, they exchanged the standard polite smelling and canine small talk for a few minutes, then Raven had enough and pranced off. Mikey tried to follow, but started to limp in the grass.
I called him in and inspected his feet, thinking he picked up a burr or something.
I could find nothing, but noted a small amount of blood.
His limping continued, so about an hour later, Donna took him to the vet to make sure it was nothing serious.
When they returned, Mike had a pink bandage around his left hind leg covering his torn nail.
“A pink bandage!” was all I could get out before Donna replied,
“That was all the Vet had, she said she was sorry.”
Me: “But a pink bandage, I hope this does not cause permanent scarring.”
Donna: “Just have him tell Raven he supports breast cancer awareness.”

Mikey: “Oorah!”

mikey with pink

Not by bread alone

February 1, 2013

I just read a story about a “pastor” who not only refused to give a waitress a tip she earned, but wrote a vile, nasty,  insulting comment to the young server on the check.

This sanctimonious evangelist then became outraged when the stiffed waitress published the incident on the internet.

Applebee’s, the restaurant where the exchange took place, then fired the waitress. For what I do not know. If someone stiffed me in the way that pastor did, I would have taken out a full-page ad in the New York Times!

Pastor,  if your are too cheap or the voices in your head tell to not to leave a tip, then go to the grocery store and buy yourself a can of pork and beans and a hotdog and go home and cook your own godless meal. You have no business going to a food service restaurant.
Many of the people waiting tables there are single parents with kids to feed, clothe and shelter. They work hard, often 12 hours or more a day. They are on their feet all day, while putting smiles on their faces even though many thoughtless, selfish people try each day to get something for nothing like you did.

For this labor, the young woman you stiffed gets paid $3.50 an hour. She relies on tips to support herself. On a good day , with tips, she might get $9 or $10 an hour total. How much do you receive from your grueling 12 hour days tending your flock, Pastor? Do any of your church members send you insulting notes?
Now, I don’t know what type of pastor this woman is, but clearly her faith is short on charity and compassion.

The word pastor comes from the latin pastor and means tender of the flock; a good shepherd if you will. This woman does not sound like she practices what she is supposed to preach.

As for Applebee’s. Firing that waitress, is perhaps not the brightest PR move you have ever made.

I have never been inclined to visit your establishment and now the thought of ever visiting is a nauseating anathema.