Monday, November 30, 2009

What to Do When Times are Rough

Sitting here eating a plate of pretzels and the remains of a bag of ripple potato chips. Got an extra large bottle of refrigerated, filtered, water, too. Breakfast.

The chips are leftover from Son's snack time last night. The pretzels are leftovers from Spouse's work on Thanksgiving to the next day. Spouse worked from 9 p.m. Thursday until 5 a.m. Friday. All employees were told to bring in some sort of snack to see the staff through the night. (Interestingly, when Spouse worked at Old Navy the store supplied the food.) Anyway, there was so much food that only half the bag of pretzels was eaten. So Spouse brought the rest back here.

They're holiday pretzels, shaped like Christmas trees, bells and stars. Or maybe they're snowflakes. Kind of cute. I'm eating all of the broken pieces first. I like to do that. Eat the damaged pieces first and leave the whole pieces for last. That way it's not so depressing when the bowl, plate, bag, is nearly empty. Same for chips, although finding whole chips in a bag is not easy.

Maybe I'm wrong but it seems to me potato chips used to be larger. I suppose that's a sign of age. Everything was better in the 'olden days'. When I was very young it never occurred to me that I was living in the 'olden days'.

Spoke with my mother over the weekend. Couldn't reach her on Thanksgiving Day. Either she was taking a nap or was down in the community room. But she mentioned how my sister, Judayl, had called and they were talking about life in The Old House. Judayl said it wasn't all bad. She remembered lots of good times. Times we laughed anyway.

That's true. Everyone in my family can complain with the best of 'em. Or worst, depending on one's point of view. But we can laugh at pretty much anything, too. Even while we're complaining. I guess we just accept the the old adage: Life Sucks - And Then You Die.

My first job was at a pizza restaurant. The owner's son and I were good friends. He liked to pull out a bowl of lemons from the refrigerator and walk around the place saying, "Life is just a bowl of lemons."

The thing is, it is so true. Life really does suck. And then we die. But that doesn't mean we can't have laughs along the way. It's the lack of laughs, I think, that really makes people unpleasant. And I don't mean just laughing when things are going well. Any slob can do that. It's laughing when life really sucks. If you can do that you can survive to find the next good time island in the sea of disasters. It's what I find most wrong about Spouse's family. They cannot laugh at bad things. Bad things are serious, and they have to be treated serious. Both of those positions are true, but they leave out the fact that there is still humor. Grandma Amy was telling jokes while laying on her deathbed in immense pain. She referenced her last husband, who had died a few years earlier at the ate of ninety-something. She and the young nurse attending her got to talking about marriage relations for some reason and Grandma said of step-grandpa, "He still had a wiggle to his waggle." When the nurse told us what Grandma had said I saw Grandma smile. Twenty-four hours later Grandma would be gone.

It's okay to laugh and make fun of oneself when things are bad. Sometimes it's the only way to survive.

That, and a plate of Christmas pretzels, a leftover bag of ripple potato chips, and a bottle of filtered water. Maybe I'll open my last bottle of pop and really splurge. Son's been teasing me because the pop has been sitting in the back of the refrigerator for about a month or two. I told him I would drink it. When?


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Home is Where the Heart Is

We do what we want to do and we find reasons why we have to do those things.

We avoid what we don't want to do and we find reasons why we can't do them.

What's funny is that the only people we fool are ourselves. I generally can see through the rationalizations of others fairly easily. And they seem to have no problem recognizing mine. And we call each other on it, pointing out the silliness of the rationalized argument.

In the minds of others our arguments are merely excuses. In my mind the arguments of others often fall into the same bag.

The problem, as I see it - and remember, I wear trifocals, so my vision can be quite blurry at times - is that we are taught that what we really want is never important, worthwhile, or something to be grasped at. Only evil and greedy people seek their selfish desires. Good and decent people only seek to satisfy others.


It's all lies. Why don't we just say what we want? Probably because we will be criticized for wanting it, and we can't stand that. Or, we fear we will be criticized.

I suppose that is part of the dissatisfaction so many bear toward me. The older I get the less disposed I am to hide what I want. When I am asked to come visit and say no, the only reason I give is that I don't want to come. I'm not supposed to say that. I'm supposed to say that I can't come. Of course the others will see right through my pitiful reason for not being able to come, but at least I didn't confront them with the truth that I just don't feel like it.

When I tell people I prefer to stay home now I am reprimanded for my selfishness. I should be thinking of others. Well, you know what? For nearly fifty years I did that. I always went when I wanted to stay home. I never pushed my desires ahead of others. They had a party, or get together, and I went. But when I had one, they stayed away in droves.

So as far as I'm concerned I paid the dues and got nothing in return. I was not happy for being at a place I did not want to be at. I got no reward for, being there, I as often as not wound up sitting alone, or merely observing. H*ll, I can do that at home.

Funny story (to me). And I swear that it's true.

When I went in for outpatient surgery on my arm (had lumps removed), while waiting for the surgeon I was listening to the snores of a man two stations down. A woman sat patiently at his bedside. Suddenly, with a snort, he woke up. Grumpy. He asked where his doctor was. She didn't know. He got up and began pacing and complaining. Finally, he said - and this is what I so love about the memory - "I didn't come to the hospital to be ignored. If I wanted to be ignored I could have stayed home." And with that he marched away.

Five minutes later a surgeon showed up and looked around. "Where's my patient?" "He left. Said he couldn't wait." And with that the surgeon took off screaming at the local nurses.

I know how that man felt. This holiday season I am not planning on doing any visiting. I don't want to.

Of course, that doesn't mean I won't. I talk big. H*ll, I am big. But as Carol used to say about me: You're just a big pussycat.

Sometimes cats will scratch. Usually when they're afraid.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I've Been Chicken Most of My Life

I grew up in rural Minnesota. Our place was the original homestead of what had once been a large and thriving farm. By the time we got there the farm had long since ceased to be farmed. The property had been divided and sold off. And the original owners were dead. My parents had five acres – three which stood dormant most of the time.

We inherited half of the out buildings. The people my parents had purchased (were purchasing) the property from had built next door and had the cow barn and the horse barn. We had the machine shed, the milk shed, and the root cellar. And the original house.

Being so far from town (ten miles to what could be the closest ‘city’) allowed us certain freedoms people in the city did not enjoy. One of these freedoms was the right – and ability – to raise chickens.

One spring my mother ordered one hundred little chickens. Alive. We originally put them in the porch area because they arrived before the snows had melted. Eventually, we would fix up the milk shed for them. Ultimately, those which were not killed by other means would become supper.

There were four “other means” for our chickens to die. One of our dogs liked to kill them. Crazy Charlie, who mother refused to accept as a guilty party until he attacked her. He was her dog and she had defended him mightily. But the day after he tried to bite her he was dead. Don’t piss off my mother.

The second way was wild animals. Mostly hawks and owls. We were rural, but there were enough properties that fox and such stayed away. Too many dogs. But birds didn’t care about dogs. A few learned they should have cared about Crazy Charlie, who had learned how to take a bird down out of the air. I saw it done. Most impressive. Especially when you realize he had to teach himself the trick.

The third way was the neighbor boys. Three of them. They sat in a treehouse with B-B- guns and shot about fifteen before my sister Gayanne caught them. That became a messy scene with the police and everything.

And then there was the fourth way. A most unexpected way to die, I thought. At least, I thought so at first. By the time the chickens were all gone I had learned something about chickens. And about people, I think.

You see, the chickens would find the current weakest chicken in the flock – and peck the poor thing until it died. It would have few tail feathers because the stronger chickens had pulled them all off. It would be weak because whenever it tried to eat or drink the other chickens would come and harass it. I attempted to intervene on behalf of these poor creatures, but one can only be with a flock of chickens so long. When I wasn’t there it was constant harassment. Until it died. And then the hunt was on to discover the next in line.

The hawks and owls may have taken three. The dog got six. The neighbor boys got eight. The chickens themselves killed at least twenty. Of the one hundred we started with, we were only able to take a little more than 50% for ourselves. Maybe it didn’t matter. They were all doomed to die anyway. I don’t know.

But it has been my observation that people behave very much like chickens. Not each and every individual, but groups of people. And that is something else: A person may act one way when she (he) is by herself (himself). But put that same person in a group and you might see an entirely different behavior. Group mentality is powerful. It’s how riots are formed.

In school, at work, on ball teams, I have observed that there will be a ‘weakest’ member. And that member is going to be made fully aware that they are weakest. Many times this is in ‘good-natured fun’. But sometimes it can be quite cruel. I have seen people driven out of work for it. A friend of mine suffered a nervous breakdown.

It seems to be built into our nature to be a lot like chickens. We see weakness in someone else and we exploit it. We peck at them, keeping the wound open and alive, draining them of their capacity to heal and continue. They grow weaker and weaker and weaker, until they die. Sometimes for real, but always personally.

I thought of this when I read a posting by LaughingWolf. It’s interesting, and I have read and heard of things like this before. To be honest, I have also pulled my share of feathers throughout my life. But that was back when I was on the strong team. Now that my turn has come I am less disposed.

As a people we seem to have a hard time with charity. We can give money, food, and clothing. As we should. But at the same time we will mock and condemn the weak. They can easily become objects of our humor and our disdain.

We are not all that way, to be sure. In fact, not every chicken pecked at the weak. Like people, the chickens seemed to form their own ‘cliques’. That Gang Clique, as I used to think of them, was the one which actively sought out others to harass. Other cliques tended to be more passive, but did strike out should an ‘outsider’ approach. And then there were the loners. Some were tough, and even the Gang Clique left them alone. Most just went along, not bothering if another chicken came close.

I think people are like that. I also think that everything good – and bad – that a person can be and do is inside each of us. Various things in our makeup will cause us to turn one way or the other. Ultimately, we behave without thinking about it. That can be fine and good. But if we’re pulling feathers, perhaps not.

But sometimes it’s just hard to resist. Isn’t it?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Just a couple of follow up points on the local food shelf.

I don't know how many people it serves but, as I wrote yesterday, I was about 100th in line when I arrived ten minutes after it opened. Today we got an inkling of the number when we cashed in the vouchers for a turkey and potatoes.

The potatoes are Minnesota potatoes. Normally, I prefer Idaho potatoes. All for Minnesota in most things, but Idaho produces a very fine potato. Minnesota potatoes are good. Just not as good as Idaho.

However, part of the process of getting the turkey and potatoes was signing something indicating the value. This exposed the food shelf's account balance to us. Spouse was the one who actually saw it, but the total was more than $14,000. Yes, that is a correct figure. Fourteen thousand dollars. I'm not clear is this is how much the food shelf has spent or how much it owes. Hope it's money spent. Otherwise the food shelf is in dire straits.

A manager had to come and show the cashier how to process the vouchers. We were her first customers with them. While we thanked the manager I told her my place in line. She was impressed, but then responded by saying more than one hundred people who signed up for the Thanksgiving meals did not show up. Either they forgot the food shelf was only open on Monday this week, had no transportation, or decided not to avail themselves of the charity after all. If the latter I hope it was because they are going to be with family or friends.

I expect we could go to relatives, but Spouse works Thanksgiving evening and most of the next day. The day of Thanksgiving is one of the two or three heaviest shopping days of the year. Besides, it costs money to travel. And I'm no longer keen on visiting relatives. Few were keen on me before we lost so much. They're even less disposed toward me now and I am not keen on going to their houses.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Line Goes Ever On

So I'm just back from the food shelf with most of our Thanksgiving Day meal.

I arrived within ten minutes of when they opened. There could have been as many as 100 people ahead of me in line. I counted more than fifty before the line went around a corner. And within minutes of my arriving there were twenty to thirty behind me.

We came in all sizes, ages, and shapes. Fat. Thin. Tall. Short. Old. Young. Marrieds, Singles. Not sure.

Of course with so many people it was inevitable that we stand and wait. Now for most people that is simply one of life's necessary inconveniences. For me it's a little bit different. Not much. It's just that my body interprets standing as a major exercise. And so within fifteen minutes of arriving people are checking out the windows to see if it's been raining. The good news about this is that people don't tend to crowd too close.

Anyway, the volunteers also came in a variety of sorts. Happy and cheerful. All business. Even grumpy. Not sure what she was doing there if she was in such a bad mood, but I'm glad she was there.

For whatever reason she had Miss Grumpy didn't want to deal with me and sent me across the room. Not sure what that was all about and I don't know that I really care. Let Miss Grumpy deal with someone else. I got the Ladies Helpful. They gave me a filled with stuff and told me to follow the arrows on the floor. As there were no arrows where I was I had to then make a search for them. They weren't far away.

For some reason the arrows bypassed Lady Extremely Friendly and her partner, Smiles Pleasantly. Instead, I found myself at the milk line where I was asked if I wanted one or two cartons of milk. I said I would take two, if that was all right, and I thanked Mr Very Nice, who then added that I could choose one item from the bread table and one item from the sweets table. I took a bag of Harvest Grain bread, cut into 18 nice slices, and a plastic see through container with three frosted long john type rolls.

As I was heading for the exit Lady Extremely Friendly and her partner, Smiles Pleasantly, flagged me down. Would I care for cranberries, pumpkin mix, and condensed milk? I used to like cranberries. They were one of my favorite things on the Thanksgiving table when I was very young. But those were fresh cranberries, soaked the night before. These were from a can and, if memory serves me right, look like jello. Son wouldn't take a taste without being threatened, and Spouse wouldn't at all. So I passed. The pumpkin was tempting, but I haven't ever made pumpkin pie. Unless I did as a kid. Lady Extremely Friendly showed me the recipe on the can and I got a can on pumpkin mix and condensed milk. I guess we'll be having pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Spouse will like that.

So what else did I get?
  • A box of Swiss Miss hot cocoa mix. Spouse's favorite.
  • A bag of sage and onion cube stuffing. Don't know how that will work. Spouse makes the greatest dressing from regular bread laid out overnight to get hard.
  • A can of cut yams in light syrup. I like yams. Oh, these came from Lady Extremely Friendly, too.
  • Two packets of turkey gravey mix. Not sure what that's about. We've always made our gravy from drippings in the roast pan.
  • A bag of fat free marshmallows. Fat free. Good for me. Lots of sugar though. Not sure how marshmallows fit in with Thanksgiving.
  • Two boxes of Jell-O gelatin. Lime and Strawberry.
  • Two boxes of macaroni and cheese dinners. Spouse likes these.
  • Two cans of apricot halves
  • Two cans of whole kernel corn
  • A box of Crispy Rice cereal, which is a generic version of Rice Krispies, I suppose.
  • Oh, and vouchers for a 16# turkey and a 10# bag of potatoes
Now true, some of these things are things we would never have purchased on our own. But without them we wouldn't be having much of a Thanksgiving Day meal.

I looked at some of the faces as I stood in line. One tends not to do that a lot. People in give-a-way lines tend to avoid eye contact. For the most part we were a quiet lot. A couple of people knew each other from their neighborhoods. I didn't recognize anyone. But there was one young woman who's face seemed to snap a picture in my mind. I don't know if I can describe why well, but I'll give it a go.

She was young. I'll guess early twenties. She had on a nice leather coat. I happened to be at that place in line where it had bent back to go past the entrance as she arrived. She looked around quickly. It was that look that said "Let me find out where I need to be right away so I can go hide there." And that's what struck me. Everything in her face told me she didn't want to be there. She wanted to be someplace else. Anyplace else. But she had to be here. That was key. She had to. I wonder what my face said. Fortunately, I don't have to look at it, so I don't really know.

I'm guessing she is a recent addition to the needy line. I make this guess not just because her clothes were still very nice, and because she still had a cell phone. But because her face said that facing this kind of humility was a new experience. But she's young, and there is certainly a lot of hope for her. And if her face is any indication of her future, I would also venture to guess that she will do fine. But I hope she never forgets the feelings she has now, nor allows those feelings to make her hard and bitter. What I hope is that she will be filled with gratitude over the people who made this day possible for her and whatever family she has, for me and Spouse and Son, and for the more than one hundred others who were there with us.

The holiday season is upon us now. It is a time when many of us look upon ourselves with a new sense of loathing, disgust, and general shame. At the same time, it is a also a season when we look at others with a newfound sense of gratitude, appreciation, and thankfulness.

Some of you give to food shelves. Sometimes you may wonder if it's worth it. It is. And on behalf of those of us for whom it is worth it, I say Thank You.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Warm November Evening

Here's wishing I had something clever and worthwhile to say. Once again, my lack of education and experience leave me a dull write and a even more dull read. Pity.

One of the things about growing up in a small town without cable, cell phones or internet: one can get a completely false idea of just how clever one is. The internet is quite an eye opener. I have only met a few people online, but generally they are quite fantastic people. Well educated. Well skilled in the things I wish I were well skilled in. There are some pretty impressive people on this planet.

Pity I'm not one.

Guess I'm jealous.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oh Quit Moaning

So I was at the heart clinic the other day. Wasn’t looking forward to going. Not at all. You see, I was supposed to be tested for sleep apnea in July. That was the month I lost my health insurance. We couldn’t afford to pay for the test, so I canceled it. Then, also in July, I was supposed to return to the regular clinic and have my blood retested for the doctor treating my diabetes. Couldn’t afford that either. Didn’t go. In November I was scheduled to have another echogram on my heart. Well, last year I had insurance – and it refused to pay. Took us ten months to pay it off. That, and the monthly premium for the insurance that wouldn’t cover it, contributed mightily to our losing the house this year. In any case, I canceled the echogram.

I was going to cancel the doctor visit, too, but Spouse insisted. Of course, Spouse insisted I keep the insurance – which paid for some of the cost of prescriptions. But I went.

I didn’t get yelled at like I always do about sleep apnea. It came out early on that we had lost the house and I no longer had insurance. But I felt no better leaving than I did arriving. Actually, I felt a bit worse. You see, he just confirmed what I have always suspected to be true: it’s all my fault.

Why is it all my fault? Because – I’m fat.

All of my problems are a result of being fat. If I wasn’t fat I wouldn’t have lost my job. If I wasn’t fat I could get a new job. If I wasn’t fat I wouldn’t nearly die every time I climb up those effing stairs to get to the apartment. If I wasn’t fat I would fee good about myself. If I wasn’t fat I wouldn’t have lost my house. If I wasn’t fat the weather would be nice. If I wasn’t fat the economy wouldn’t have gone into the toilet. If I wasn’t fat we could have found a cure for diabetes, aides, leukemia, and who knows how many other diseases? If I wasn’t fat there wouldn’t be war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So much misery. Just because I’m fat.

Well, so much for the bad news. I’m fat.

The good news is that I’m intelligent.

Now I didn’t argue this point at the time. What would be the point? But let’s consider the facts as they were presented to me.

1. All of my misery is a direct result of my being fat
2. Only I can change my being fat into my being thin
3. I know, and have known, this for a long time
4. I am still fat, despite knowing all of this

Pardon my wondering, but where is the intelligence in that equation?

You see, there is a fundamental problem with thin people looking at fat people and thinking, “If they really wanted to be thin they could.”

At some level that is absolutely true. But only at some level. There are a host of other levels which come into play and CANNOT be ignored. Self-esteem is major contributor to the equation.

People think fat people are unhappy because they’re fat, and if they would simply stop being fat they would be happy. In some cases that is completely true. But not in every case. Some people are not unhappy because they’re fat. They’re fat because they’re unhappy. And simply changing their weight is NOT going to change their mood. Why? Because their mood is not based on their weight. Their weight is based on their mood.

The reasons why anybody has low self-esteem are complex and varied. To a point everyone has to deal with it. Nobody is liked by everybody, and nobody is great at everything. But some of us happen to be a bit more gullible about some things than others.

To be told by one’s mother that one is hated, useless, disgusting, and never should have been born in the first place, all while being struck with whatever weapon was handy, affects one’s self-esteem. Should one grow up and get over it? Yes. One should. One should do a lot of things. But when such beatings, physical and verbal, occur regularly, and one accepts the truth of the words being inflicted, it’s hard. I’m sorry. It just is.

And when others reinforce the words with words of their own. The boy who was friendly simply to get one in range of the rock he was holding. Would be friends and lovers who saw one had something, and once they had got what they wanted no longer needed one, and so no longer behaved as friends. All of these things make a difference.

Should they? I guess not. And according to what I am told, strong people, smart people, good people, overcome these things.

Well, I guess I am not strong. I am not smart. And I am not good. So what am I?

I am fat.

And until that changes I will be miserable. Never mind that I have been fat for less than half my life. And never mind that I was miserable before I was fat. If I would just lose the weight I need to lose I could return to what I was before I was fat. Miserable.

Where’s my motivation?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why I Read

When I was growing up in the 1960s one of the big reading outlets was comic books. Most adults looked on them with disdain, and so-called "true readers" wouldn't have anything to do with them. But the truth was, comic books inspired reading.

I read them voraciously. My sister, Gayane, was a big reader and often got comic books from Mother, Aunt Cile, and Grandma. I didn't get them often. I learned to read, but few seemed to encourage it. My sisters taught me before I was five. And I learned that comic books were a wonderful source reading.

For me, they helped spur imagination because often the writers and the artists worked together. We got to see what the story creators envisioned.

Back in the 60s comic books were featured items at all big grocery stores. They came wrapped three together for a quarter. And some big comics (thick) were fifty cents each. I would save my quarters up and hang out by the magazine rack while Mother shopped for groceries. When she reached the checkout I would have one or two packages of comics. There was little teasing if I was buying Batman or Superman, but anything else brought ridicule. So most of the time when I read the other comics they would be Gayanne's.

But Aunt Cile would buy me Classics Illustrated. I bought the Casper, Spooky, Wendy, and Nightmare comics on my own. When I dared.

I don't see comics around anymore. I think one has to actually go to a comic book store. Even when I've been at Borders or Barnes and Noble I haven't seen them. Guess I don't know where to look. But I think it was a very good idea for grocery stores to carry them. They inspired me to read. And that kept me out of a lot of trouble while filling my head with dreams and imaginations.

Casper was one of my favorites. I liked the Harveytoon Comics. But something about the idea of a friendly ghost appealed to me. I loved the cartoons, too. Those often made me laugh. Hot Stuff was another favorite.
Beetle Bailey comics were usually purchased by Gayanne. These were cute, and good for a quick read.
Sugar and Spike were great, but they weren't easy to find. I have tried finding the cover image for my favorite issue, but no luck.
The Classics Illustrated were fantastic. If it wasn't for Classics Illustrated I never would have read the actual books. But seeing them in comic book form inspired me to grab the books without pictures to read. These included such classics as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, White Fang, The Three Muskateers, Frankenstein, and Jungle Book, to name just a few.

I miss comic books. You know, if I could find Classics Illustrated for some of the current best selling novels I just might be inclined to read the actual books.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Finding Something to Do

When I was young, grade school kind of young, I developed an interest in schedules and standings. It sprang as an accident when my mother bought me two copies of Baseball Digest. She knew I liked baseball and figured I would like the magazines. To be perfectly honest, there wasn't a whole lot in them I found interesting. But the one edition did have something which I found just fascinating. It was a grid showing all 24 professional teams and the dates when each played where.

About the same time I was given a diary. Not being able to keep the diary up I did the next best thing. I translated the schedule grid into my diary. Now I could jump to any day throughout spring and summer and know which teams were playing where.

But that wasn't enough. I elected to then devise a means by which I could pretend to play every one of those games. That way, the teams I wished were best would be. It would prove to be the beginning of a lifelong interest in pretend leagues.

Using two decks of ordinary playing cards I devised a way to play each game, granting an "edge" to better teams, and "penalties" for weaker teams. And I played the whole thing out. Uh, my team did win the World Series, by the way.

Eventually, I expanded my play to include Hockey and Basketball. And knowing that no two seasons could be the same I began to devise my own schedules. I learned just how complicated that can be. I also learned how to schedule play-off grids, and tournament grids. By the time I was in high school I had become quite good at it, and began to view all tournament grids with a critical eye. It amazed me how people who just had no clue at all were given the task of devising these things.

One thing I always wished for was some way to automatically calculate random events, and to store and calculate season averages. Wasn't I happy when home computers came on the scene? I wrote a strategy baseball program on an Atari 800. Use all by 2 bytes of the available memory. The program was stored on a cassette tape and took five minutes to load. But once loaded it ran very fast. After all, it was a strategy program and had no graphics.

I played nearly two seasons with that program. It actually took longer than a year to play a season because each game took more than an hour to play. At some point in the second season the cassette tape became damaged and I lost the program. My backup didn't work.

I used to think I was unusual in this joy I got from playing make-believe seasons with make-believe players. Then I learned it is actually quite common. Lots of people find living vicariously this way to be a great stress reliever.

Personally, I do not like the video games for playing sports. They all require something which I do not like at all: dexterity with game controls. That's not what interests me at all. Timing when to swing a make-believe bat on a television or computer screen doesn't do it for me. What does do it is being the manager, giving the steal sign to the runner on first, and getting pissed off because he gets thrown out at second. Or putting on the hit-and-run and watching it succeed.

It's kind of like writing a story. Ultimately, I am in control and have the final say on everything. Yet it is interesting to just let the players play sometimes and see how they do.

Not sure what brought this up. Hope you're having a good day.

What do you do to amuse yourself? Anything you made?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What We Should Have Done

Well, yesterday I showed you one of the things we tried selling through our gift business that nobody (except me) wanted to buy. Today, I thought I would show you what actually is selling.

I hope I don't get sued or anything, but I'm referencing the Collections Etc. catalog we got in the mail the other day. It's got all kinds of cool things in it. "Over 1,500 Items - $14.99 or less!". They've got a website, so you can view all of their stuff.

I enclose a scan of the cover. Love the FREE SHIPPING. We tried that, too. Unfortunately, it didn't help. But maybe we should have tried selling the same kinds of things these guys are selling. Perhaps we would now have a viable business and still be in our house.

You know, if I thought I could look like this woman I would wear pajamas. I would love to look like her. Not sure Spouse would be keen on it, though. But the sad truth is I more resemble the snowman on the tricycle.
Oh, if only we had had the good sense to sell this charmer. We'd be rolling in the dough. Or in something.

But, we didn't. So instead of being in front of the feet we're behind them. Get it?

Saturday, November 14, 2009


When I was dumped from my job back in 2002 I didn't try to re-enter the same industry. I was already aware that I was on the 'old' side for it, and getting another position - when I was without a position - would not be easy. Or desirable. I didn't like the work.

Spouse's company was in the process of moving out of state so it was only going to be a matter of another year before we were both out of work.

We opted to start up a gift business. We sold a variety of things, mostly household, but a few tools and toys, and the first year went very well. After expenses we had made roughly $5,000 profit. That became my wages for the year. But of course the economy began collapsing about then. One by one, and then five by five, and finally everybody, began to stop making purchases from us. Our inventory went stagnant. We exhausted my severance pay trying to breathe new life into what was clearly a failing effort. Ultimately, we weren't even able to sell at cost. People just didn't have any money. And that included us.

What we wound up with was a mish mash of inventory. Things that had sold at one time but were now passe. Or had never sold in the first place. More than once I picked the wrong products to push. People don't like the things I like. I discovered to my dismay that white people won't buy porcelain figurines of black people, no matter how attractive they are. I thought they were cool.

When we had our big sale last June we put not only our personal things up for grabs, but also the business inventory. A lot of things sold, but not everything. With the exception of some new toys we had (a retail outlet Spouse worked at had us selling toys out of their store - until they went out of business) when the sale was over I declared the entire inventory as "sold". What this means is that, come January, Spouse and I will have to fork over the sales tax on those items the same as for everything that actually did sell. Basically, Spouse and I bought them.

One of the things we bought from ourselves was this lamp. It's a frosted glass bust of Jesus. Fairly plain looking in the day, but quite fantastic at night. It was in Son's room, but since coming to the apartment he's hardly in his room, so he brought it out. It sits on top of my computer monitor now. I took a picture of it, but the picture didn't come out that well. I had to muck about with the balance in order to see it on my monitor.

I still think it's cool and wonder why nobody would buy it. They bought other lamps from us which weren't half as cool. It isn't actually on a whole lot. The apartment is naturally dark and this lamp is more of a bedroom night light than an illuminating lamp.

But I like it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Bear's Breath is Sweet

Yeah, I know. It's Animal Day. But I stumbled on another stupid test and I just had to take it. I mean, how can you pass over a test with the title, "What kind of Toothpaste are You?"

So I took it.

You Are (I am) Spearmint Flavored Toothpaste

You are thoughtful about most things in life, and you tend to spend a lot of time alone just reflecting.
You are a true introvert. You need your space and privacy to feel recharged. You savor your alone time, even when you're brushing your teeth.

You live a slow pace of life, and you enjoy every moment more than most people. You stop to appreciate what you have.
You are in touch with nature. Nothing makes you feel more at home than being outside without another human in sight.

Spearmint. Hmm. I was hoping for Wintergreen. Love the Certs lozenges of that flavor.

So, what about the results?
  • I spend a lot of time alone - just reflecting
Well, when one is alone there isn't a whole lot else to do. And if people hate being around one, one is apt to be alone.
  • I'm a true introvert. I need my space and privacy. Even when brushing my teeth.
What's with this even business? Who brushes their teeth in a crowd? Teeth brushing generally means bathroom time. And unless one happens to be a kinky sort of mood bathroom time is alone time.
  • I live a slow pace of life and enjoy every moment more than most people.
I've always said people were unhappy. Now I've got proof!
  • I'm in touch with nature. Nothing makes me feel more at home than being outside without another human being in sight
If things don't improve financially soon that's exactly where I'm going to be. At least I'll be happy.

So, because this is Animal Day, I also took another test: "What's Your Energy Animal". Apparently, there are only four possible results. Don't know what the other three could be, but there was a picture of a tiger. I would love to have been a tiger. Instead,

You're a Big-Hearted Bear

Although one animal is usually dominant, keep in mind that "we all have tendencies of all four animals," says Hadady. Here are the typical characteristics of a Bear:

Face shape: Broad, round or square.

Body type: Often stocky, carry excess weight in the belly. (I think being fat put me in the 'bear' category right off.)

Social style: You love to socialize with friends and family
(SO NOT TRUE) and often cook, sing or tell jokes (SO TRUE).

Spirit: You crave the comfort and fulfillment of meaningful relationships, but too often you settle for a pastry instead. (Hey. The poor take what they can get.)

With others you are: Compassionate, warm and patient. (It's easy to be compassionate, warm and patient when one is alone. [see earlier test])

Best traits: Loving and kind. (What can I say? [humble smile])

Worst traits: Unadaptable to change, overly sensitive (Where the hell do they get off saying that? [get it?])

Ideal job: One where you can freely express your words, thoughts and feelings (NICE); one that involves food (VERY NICE). Bears are often writers (COOL), teachers or chefs.

Food cravings: Sweets. Unfortunately, your sweet tooth puts you at risk for abdominal obesity and diabetes. (I'm not at risk. I'm fat beyond description and I do have diabetes.)

Worst eating habit: Turning to food in times of emotional stress. (Only when there's food to be eaten.)

Ideal exercise: Any kind of team sport. (I said swimming. They changed my answer. Are they calling me a liar?)

Weight loss goal: Break your emotional attachment to food and turn to friends, not sweets, in times of stress. (Where in the hell did this come from? I thought I was taking a test about my energy animal and suddenly I'm being lectured by a quiz about how fat I am. Sheesh.)

So. So much for Animal Day, huh?

The Bear has spoken. Now it's time to hunt up something to eat. I'll eat slowly by myself, enjoying my reflective thoughts on my minty fresh breath.

Just makes you wish you could hug me, right? Well, buy yourself the largest stuffed bear you can find and squeeze it tight. The sensation should be about the same.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Deep Water

I was reminded the other night about how we used to go swimming in the gravel pit.

All over our state there are places where heavy machinery was used to dig out the earth for various purposes. I don't know what they all were, but in some cases I expect they were taking clay to mix with aggregate and stuff for patching/making new roads. When the work was completed the pits were abandoned and the earth left to heal its scars on its own.

In some cases, particularly where there was a lot of clay, water would begin to accumulate. For one thing, the pits were deep, and they would take in a lot of ground water. Then there would be heavy rains, winter snows and such, and the pits would begin to fill with water.

I don't know the average depth of these pits, but I do know it wasn't unusual for them to be more than one hundred feet deep. There was one not far from where I grew up that was purported to be at least that deep. And it had mostly filled with water. Rumor was, someone had used some sort of sonar thing and determined the water level was around ninety feet. It had a kind of shelf around the edge. I suppose the old road used by trucks hauling. Anyway, we used this gravel pit as a swimming hole. Well, once.

Chris was the one who brought Stephen and me to the pit. He had been swimming there with friends all summer and wanted Stephen and I to experience it, too. None of us were good swimmers. In fact, I couldn't really swim at all. Stephen wasn't much better. Neither was Chris, but Chris had no fear about most things.

There was about a twenty foot difference between the top edges of the pit and the water surface below. A kind of cutaway ramp was how we reached the water. Someone had created a pontoon raft out of a pair of old empty oil drums and some wooden planks.

After swimming about for a few minutes Chris then told us how they liked to go up to the top, take a running start, and then jump out into the water. "Better than a diving board," he said. He then showed us how it was done.

He explained that one wanted to make as wide a target (without belly flopping) as possible to slow and reduce the rate of descent. But if one were to drop in straight one could go quite deep.

This is where my curiosity and my stupidity combined against me. I decided I wanted to know how deep I could drop. (As if there would be any way for me to measure it.) So I took an extra long running start (for some reason the amount of space one runs before jumping makes a huge psychological difference) and leaped high and out. As I felt myself beginning to drop I pinned my hands at my sides and came down feet first as straight as I could. (Remember, I couldn't swim, so there was no way I was diving in head first.)

Now I had jumped off diving boards into pools before. But those boards were only a few feet above the water line and the deepest pool I had ever jumped in was twelve feet. In those cases I would feel my feet touch bottom and I would immediately push myself back up to the surface where I would flounder to the pool's edge - and ultimate safety.

This time I was jumping from twenty or more feet above the water. And ninety feet isn't twelve. I went down more than twelve feet.

I have no idea how far down I went. How could I measure it? All I know is that I could feel the water sliding past me and I knew I was still dropping. Fun, fun, fun. Until I felt the need to breathe again. The problem was, I was still going down. I waited a bit longer, assuming I would slow down, stop, and begin to rise again, but I kept going down.

Now my brain finally began to catch up to my actions. The thought occurred to me that if I was already running out of breath, and I was still going downward, getting back to the top before I drowned was becoming more and more problematic. I had just placed myself in a very stupid - and dangerous - position.

Now I have been known to be calm in a crisis. When the house burned down I was the one my parents credited with being rationale and calm. At the same time I can panic with the best of them. I was the first one out of the house when unexplained crash happened and I was certain a ghost was out to get me.

So now I'm still getting into deeper and deeper water, and I'm running out air, and I need to get back to the top. My arms and legs spread out and brought me to a quick stop. Now I'm literally crawling my way back up toward the surface, certain that I'm not going to make it.

Now here is where the laws of physics worked in my favor. I had taken a big breath before jumping, and air is lighter than water. So my body was now in a hurry to get to the top even without my will.

Clearly, I made it to the top. But now I saw the poor choice of having jumped so far away from the cliff. Shore wasn't close. And I couldn't swim. I was still in trouble.

Fortunately, Stephen had been sitting on the makeshift pontoon, and with the pontoon were a couple of canoe paddles. He called to me, and between my thrashing and his rowing I got on board. But I was done swimming for the night. And I never returned to that place.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What We Do to Our Children

So Son is bored, bored, bored, bored, bored with life in an apartment. In this apartment in particular. He wants to go places and do things. Unfortunately, all of the places he wants to go to, and all of the things he wants to do when he gets there, cost money.

Today he began by suggesting we go to the golf course. It's an excellent idea. It would get us outside and breathing non-cigarette smoked air. But they don't let people play golf for free around here. In fact, it can be quite expensive. At $20 per person for nine holes at the executive course, and another $20 to rent the cart, we would be spending no less than $60 for a short round of golf on an executive course. (There is no way I could walk it. I would have a heart attack and die. Not necessarily a horrible way to go, but the timing would be poor.)

Later, he suggested we drive to Otsego and go to the batting cages. Another not-so-bad idea. But even the batting cages aren't free. Or cheap. I don't recall the exact price, but in order to get a good amount of bat swinging in one has to be get a lot of tokens.

We've had cool fall weather in Minnesota, but the snows which fell earlier have all melted away, and the recent snows and rain which were predicted failed to show up. So I expect the golf courses and batting cages are actually still open despite it being November. But even though we just got a pile of money in the mail, it would be kind of irresponsible to spend that much money on fun when we weren't able to make November rent on time.

So we stayed in the apartment and Son amused himself with his Wii and GameCube, interrupted on occasion with efforts to find other things to do.

I wasted the day. Can't write with a steady stream of interruptions. So I played computer games and interrupted those on occasion by laying on the bed and wishing I was either asleep or had lots of money so we could go golfing or visit the batting cages.

One of the things Son did to try and amuse himself was rummage through boxes. He showed up at the desk holding three of my sports trophies. One was from 1971. It was a second place trophy from the Soderville Athletic Association for playing baseball. We would have won the championship had it not been discovered that our coach was cheating.

The second trophy was from 1979. It was a consolation trophy from hte Mounds View Parks and Recreation Department. That was the year my brother had convinced Stephen, Chris, and me to join him in a a touch football league. We would have won the championship there, too, except I got married on the day the play-offs began and we had to forfeit the first game, which put us in the consolation bracket. No double elimination.

The third trophy is probaby the best of the three. It's from 2006. It didn't come from any league, or association, or anything like that. It came from a group of 11 boys I coached at Willie Mays baseball. It's an open baseball glove on a stand. Both are made of plastic. Resting in the glove is a new baseball, signed by every member of the team. They write, "Thanks Coach for a great year!"

It was, too. It was a difficult year in many ways, but once again our team won the consolation trophy. (As coach I didn't receive anything for that.) We had to win three games in six hours with a heat index of over 100 degrees. Son got sick from the heat. So did players from other teams. I cried when it was over because I had failed to pay close enough attention, believing I would see the signs before it was too late. I was wrong, and it cost Son and other players. When Son got sick I tried to end the game by forfeiting, but the parents, umpires, other team, and league officials wouldn't allow it. We had to finish that consolation champion game. We did, and our team won, but I have been banned from the league for my horrible behavior. (I also tried to end an earlier play-off game when it got dark and began to rain. Once again no one would allow me to forfeit, but I took Son and went home. I - and Son - were punished for this infraction against youth baseball and had to sit out a game.)

Not all parents liked my coaching style. To be honest, few did. And not just in baseball. I also coached several of Son's basketball teams. Until they ran me out of that, too. You see, I don't coach youth teams with idea they are going to win. I coach them so that they learn how to play the game and have fun doing it. This means just getting better, or even just learning how it is done.

To the horror of my assistant coach I actually drafted a girl onto the team on purpose! I had seen there were three girls who had chosen to play youth baseball instead of youth softball. I knew in my heart that unless these girls were very good they would not be given a fair chance. And based on the skills chart only one showed any promise. The next happened to be in the same round as Son's best friend, and I chose him instead of the girl. Son's best friend isn't exactly a sports legend himself. (He had never played baseball before and didn't know how to do anything.) So when the third girl's round came up I had first pick. I picked her. My assistant had argued and argued against it, but I didn't even bother to argue back. I just picked her.

Turned out she didn't know much about baseball either. We played 15 games, and for the first 14 she was a sure out. But then so was Son's best friend. But those two players made me feel a zillions times better than I did when the team won those three game to claim the consolation championship.

Son's best friend became a better than average defensive player. When the season began he couldn't throw the ball ten feet. (Ever see the movie, Sandlot?) By the end he threw out a fast runn from the third base position. It was a great play. And the girl finally got a hit.

To me, that is what youth sports is all about. But when the leagues are playing, I am the ONLY won who coaches that way. The others all shunt aside their 'weak' players and focus on the 'good' ones. When Son's best friend played basketball last year his coach told him to just stand under the basket and collect rebounds. Didn't teach him a thing. Everything I had taught him before was tossed away.

We ruin sports for our children now. Son had no interest in signing up for even basketball this year. And he's good. He has played defense against all of the so-call 'great' players in his class. He shut them all down. They all begged not to have Son play defense against them. They got their wish. He quit. He has no interest in sport politics. He just wanted to have fun, and it isn't anymore.

When I was young, it was.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Day Off

Took a lazy day today and didn't do much of anything. According to some that's what I do every day. Won't argue. They just may be right.

Thought a lot about Stephen today. Some of the things I was reading made me think of our friendship. What would life be like if Stephen were with me today? There is no way to know, of course.

That's the problem with aging. People start leaving and not coming back. Some day it will be my turn. There are those who are probably eagerly awaiting the day. Others don't like to think about it. I confess that it isn't something I like to dwell on. But when I think about Stephen, and Daddy, and Lynahr, and others, I find myself being forced to consider it.

If Stephen were alive I wonder if I would play more tennis. We used to play a lot of tennis. We drove around a lot. We didn't actually go anywhere. We just drove around. Went to a lot of movies, too. I liked going to the movies with Stephen. And after the movie we would find one of three pizza restaurants to visit.

Life has not always been hard times. There are a lot of happy memories. Lots of them.

But I do miss Stephen more on some days than others.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Heck of a Week

This week has gone surprisingly well. Mostly. We did hear that Spouse's niece's son, a five-year-old, took seriously ill. They brought him to the local doctors, who weren't able to diagnose him properly. Neither did they recognize the seriousness of the illness until it had become frightening. The poor little guy developed pneumonia. Fortunately, they were only an hour away from Children's Hospital in St. Paul, which takes all children - even when the parents can't afford health insurance. They had to drain the fluid from his lungs, but we received an email today that the procedure went well and he's recovering nicely. Don't know when he'll be out of the hospital.

Threats to our children. I cannot think of anything which frightens me more than when Son has been sick. When he went to the hospital as an infant I wasn't able to speak. When we had to call 911 because he was coughing so hard he started to bleed, it was all I could do to keep myself from racing in a panic. There is no fear like the fear of losing a child. There just isn't. For those of you without children - you're lucky. And unlucky at the same time. There is also no love like it.

But other than that the week was filled with good news. For one thing, lots of unexpected money came our way.

It began when a friend of ours who had left the state felt led to send us a large sum of money in the mail. She wrote that when she was wiped out someone had taken care of her, and now she wanted to pass on the blessing. She gave us two hundred dollars! I was stunned. Spouse broke down and cried. This was the friend Spouse withdrew from when she announced she was lesbian. But she remained a friend anyway, and eventually Spouse learned to deal with things. I'll say her name is Wealote, because I've never known anyone by that name, but it has the same meaning as the real person. Wealote is probably one of the kindest and most generous people I know. You know, it's funny, but thirty-one years ago Wealote had wanted to marry me, too. Spouse was just more aggressive. (She lost by winning.) Maybe that's Wealote's motivation. It's her way of telling Spouse, "Thank You."

What was interesting about this money was there was a chance we would not get it. Wealote send the money in cash. And the postal delivery person put it in the wrong mailbox. And the people who received it opened it. Had they kept the money we would not have known anything about it until Wealote contacted us again. And we would never know who wound up with the money. But even here amongst the poor there is a code of honor which people follow. The card - with the money - was slipped under our door during the night.

The same day we got Wealote's money we received two other things in the mail. One was from my mother, who sent twenty-five dollars. For a person on a fixed income that is a lot of money.

Still the same day we received a refund check from the heart clinic. Turns out the heart echogram thing that the insurance I still had last year wouldn't cover didn't cost as much as we wound up paying. We got a check for another twenty-five dollars.

And then today we got another refund. This time from the house. Since we lost the house the insurance company refunded us for money we had paid ahead of time for covering it. That was another five hundred and twelve dollars.

So we got a lot of money this week. God does take care of us. But in my mind and heart that means more than money. The love behind the money, and this means Wealote and my mother.

And, to be completely honest, there is also a shame in needing the generosity of others. Maybe it's good to feel the shame and maybe it isn't. I don't know. It is good to feel loved.

That I do know.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Smoke in Your Eyes

Another day with nothing to post. What an interesting life I live.

You know, one of the good things about living in an apartment with several hundred boxes stacked around the rooms is that there isn't any room to vacuum.

There also isn't a whole lot of room to cook. But that's fine as we only have an electric stove. Can't cook anything decent on an electric stove. Gotta have a real flame.

The disadvantages of the place are a few, but the worst is the cigarette smoke. It's everywhere. Just about everybody around here smokes, and opening a window means letting in the smoke. What a drag.

Officially, this is a smoke free building. But since everyone smokes within arm's reach of the building that's just a joke. All of the hallways smell like a two-bit bar from 1967.

But the people are nice. We're all in the same boat, so to speak. And as regards noise and such, this is probably a better place than any apartment I've ever lived in before.

Just wish they didn't smoke all the time.

But they're honest. I'll take that over liars and thieves who don't smoke any day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How it Goes One Never Knows

Tried twice now to write a post on two different subjects. No good on either post. Figured nobody cared and dumped it. So I'm writing this. Nobody cares yet, but I'm not writing anything I think is important, so that's all right.

We were at the food shelf the other day. One of the things they gave us was a bag of malted eggs. You know the kind. They're really popular at Easter. I think that's when these were made. Easter. 1976.

Another thing they gave us was a box of pasta shells with cheese. I had it for lunch. Oh my God! I don't know what the orange stuff was, but it certainly didn't taste like cheese. But, since beggars can't be choosers I ate it - or as much as I could stomach. And now I'm thinking I might be using the bathroom for other reasons than it's original intention.

I realize it's horrible to complain about food when it's free, but the truth is, it wasn't good. Not for me.

Somebody must actually like the shells and cheese stuff or they wouldn't keep making it. Unless it's made exclusively for food shelves. Don't know. If you haven't tried it I don't recommend it.

As to the malted eggs - well. We'll let that rest, too.

Not everything at a food shelf is like that. We got a box of Cremettes Spaghetti noodles. That's a good brand. And we got some canned vegetables, Rice Krispies, Cheerios, and a package of frozen chicken. Some of the brands we get I've never heard of or seen before, but generally the food is good.

I guess my point is this: If you give to a food shelf, Thank You. I know we don't live in the same area, so I'm not getting the actual food you donated, but you, and people like you, mean people like my Son get to eat instead of go hungry. For had we not gone to the food shelf this week Son would not be eating tonight. Once, we gave, too. Now we take. I hope you never have to. It's not a good feeling. Not good at all.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ice Cream Has No Bones

So it's been nap time again. Strange how sleep picks odd times to visit now. And sometimes during the night it refuses to come near.

I guess I'm being paid back for my youthful years when I often banished sleep from my presence. I often spent nights awake. My first steady job was at a pizza restaurant. I started work at five-thirty at night and worked until close, which was midnight on Sunday, one o'clock in the morning Mondays through Thursdays, and two o'clock in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays. After work it could be two or three hours before I tried going to bed.

Later, in my college days, I again worked a pizza place, and this time I, certain waitresses and cooks, would gather at an all-night restaurant and talk until dawn.

When I wasn't working I was with Stephen, playing tennis until the lights went out on the courts at midnight or one. Then we would find a pizza place and get something to eat.

And when none of those things was going on I would read. Sometimes all night. Often all night.

So now I'm old. The local pizza places close around ten. Too expensive to stay open, and with internet, cable and movie rentals nobody sits down at a pizza place to eat anymore. Haven't the energy to work them anyway.

Can't play tennis anymore. Even if I could, Stephen is gone. I don't really enjoy it like I did. Neither do I enjoy the pizza hopping late at night without him.

Still read, though. Sometimes all night. Or, I write.

But even those nights when I manage to catch hold of sleep before midnight we tend to wrestle with each other more than relax and rest. And my legs hurt all the time, so I wake a lot.

I used to wonder why "old people" took naps in the day. Now I know. It's the best time to sleep. It's when sleep can most easily be captured and kept.

Well, I'm up now. We'll be eating a late supper. Spaghetti. Almost like the old days at J's Pizza. All I need now are Chris and Stephen. After we had placed our order we would get to talking and then I would say it; the phrase that always made Chris laugh.

Because, as you know, ice cream has no bones.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Time to Vote

You have UNTIL SATURDAY to visit Writtenwyrdd's blog and vote on the Halloween Contest entries. Follow this Link. A reminder that mine is there some place. But don't worry. You're not likely to vote for mine. There are some pretty good stories there.

Other than that I haven't much to say. The Voice in the Wind has gotten kind of thin. Can't compete with the gale force winds which have been blowing.

Have a good day.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Treat or Tricks

Well, the entries are all in the voting has begun. You have ONE WEEK to visit Writtenwyrdd's blog and vote on the Halloween Contest entries. Follow this Link.

Mine is there but I'm not going to tell you which one it is. I haven't read them all yet, but I've already found two I like. Won't say if one is mine, but clearly the competition is going to be tough. Some very good writers have made submissions.

Meanwhile, I am not holding my breath about winning.

It was Halloween last night. My costume was to dress up as someone intelligent. Scary, huh?

Actually, we did not celebrate Halloween. Celebrations cost money. We didn't even buy candy to hand out, which is just as well. We got one knock on the door all evening. I guess in a low-rent building parents don't figure they're children are likely to get much. So the children must have wandered the streets of the neighborhood, frequenting the houses. Had we purchased candy we would now be eating it all ourselves. The knock may not even have been a Trick-or-Treater (we didn't answer the door).

I remember Halloweens from when I was young. My costumes were always home made. Sometimes my mother would purchase a plastic mask, but most of the time everything was home made. I went as ghosts, hobos (it wasn't politically incorrect in those days), indians, fat ladies, cats and other things.

Back in the 60s candy was cheap and people would hand out loads of it. Despite living in the country we often made great hauls. Mother would put us in her car and drive us around the area, hitting the four small towns which made up the school district. She may have put fifty miles or more on her vehicle. But gas was only thirty cents a gallon back then.

The best treats were candy bars. Milky Way, Three Muskateers, Snickers, Baby Ruth, and Hersheys were the best. Didn't much care for Butterfingers. Candy corn was another biggie. And home made popcorn balls and red delicious apples. The idea of lunatics putting crud inside treats wasn't known until the end of my run.

Gayanne, Helvie, and I would come home and toss our stuff onto bed sheets. We would sort it all out and make trades. Generally, there wasn't anything left by Thanksgiving.

It's different now. Home made treats are a thing of the past. Nobody wants to be accused of poisoning someone. But those things are most likely to get tossed anyway. Candy must be factory wrapped now.

Sometimes I miss the fun of Halloween. Of discovering where teachers lived (so we could avoid those areas the rest of the year). Of seeing how others didn't have much more than we did, or perhaps had a lot more. It was quite an experience and an education.

It's a thing of the past for me now. Even Son is too old to go out, and we can't even hand out treats. Not that anyone came anyway.