Mike Rice

"We loved reading this creative, unique kind of sports story. The author, John Heldon, effectively uses flashes of past and present to inspire all who read to reflect on what we love most about college sports."

- Mike Rice, Head Men's Basketball Coach, Rutgers University and Kerry Rice

Yours Truly and Mike Rice

After reading "Ark", these were kind words from them, especially the "what we love most about college sports" part. Sadly at the moment, Coach Rice is undergoing, I would say, "what we HATE most about college sports." He's been suspended for 3 games and fined heavily for his conduct during games and practices.

I'm not pretending to know the whole or the half of the circumstances, although I probably know more than most, being an active booster of the team. The Athletic Director, who does know all there is on this matter, is one whose judgement I trust, and thus, all I can say is this "is what it is."

That's as far as I'm going to stick my big toe in this puddle, because I'm not taking sides or pointing fingers. What I do what to do is to offer a vision moving forward, for the coach. You see, I've met Mike Rice many times in various circumstances, from the court to his home, and off the court he's the nicest, calmest guy you could ever meet. However, with the first whistle of practice, or the opening tip of a game, a mania overtakes him, like an over eater to a dinner bell.

The truth is, we all have personality flaws, and this is his.  It's a translation of his passion for the game which has clouded his message.  Saying that is the easy part, because it's in his DNA.  (His father is the only ANNOUNCER to get thrown out of an NBA game by a referee).  Not that he's done anything, like throwing a chair, or throttling a player, which other successful coaches have gotten away with.  Also, his players don't understand the reprimand.  They know  he doesn't want them to fail, what he was like when they decided to come play for him, and that all jockeys whip the horse differently.  They all know Mike Rice has two kids of his own, and 13 or so of them on the team.  They know he's been there for them, late at night, one on one over a slice of pizza, working through their problems far removed from the court.

So as I'm writing this, I'm imagining Mike Rice working on this one area that's stopping him from being a complete, successful, big time college coach, in the eyes of those that matter.  It's his "razor's edge", as Maugham put it, his path to salvation, which is most hard for him.

I'm betting his Will, which hasn't failed him to date, will get him through this, and he'll enjoy the long term success he deserves, At Rutgers, of course!  He knows, as well as I, he's not the George Blaney, or Associate Head Coach type.

We all have our flaws, and I'll admit to one of mine:  giving unsolicited advice, albeit well intentioned.  Since Mike is young enough to be my son, I'm giving it here, because I don't want to see him fail.


David At The Clark's Inn

The Clark's Inn is our half way (sort of) stop in Santee, SC en route to our Florida condo.  It meets our criteria for a traveling over nighter:  clean, reasonable rates, a cut above restaurant, and a dose of rustic charm.  An added plus for me is I rarely sleep well the first night away from my own bed.  At Clark's, I sleep like a baby (I'm sure the 12 hour drive has something to do with it, but not all).

The Inn's halls were already decked when we got there, which was a plus since this was our first visit during the Holidays.

Last year, around the time my book, "Ark" was published, I mentioned the event to our favorite waiter extraordinaire, David Van Wynsberghe.  Using the term 'waiter" doesn't do him justice.  As he's taking care of you, he's more like a friend.  He makes my martini as well as I do (I don't tout many of my abilities, but this is one).  He has that perfect timing of delivering the meal at a  pace between too slow and too fast.

You get my drift.  He's a rarity among servers in a business where most food is chucked at you in this moderate range of establishments.

Anyway, after the book was published, I sent him a copy after he told me what an avid reader he was.  Month's went by, then I got a phone call from David praising the book.  He said he could hear my voice reading it to him.  That's the fun part of meeting an author, and hearing their voice.  Their books then seem like audio books as you read them.

                                                     "Genna" and David Van Wynsberghe

As we entered the dining room this trip, we were happy to see David, since he was off shift our last two stops.

"Will that be a Bombay Sapphire martini straight up, like in the book?" David asked with a smile.

I nodded with a smile, but was hoping he remembered other parts of "Ark", and not just thinking I was a lush!  He didn't disappoint:

"John, after I read your book, I got a surge of school spirit.  I organized a reunion committee, and got more involved reconnecting, seeing what my old classmates were doing."

"David,"  I said, "I can't think of anything else I'd want you to SAY to make me happier.  Touching readers, making them laugh, think, do something good, is why I write.  It's the real reason I tickle the keyboard, not just to sell a lot of books, although that would be nice since royalties are going to Rutgers, my Alma Mater.  Selling is secondary, I have to be useful, in a way which makes a reader feel better in some way."

"Now," I continued, "there's nothing you can DO to make me happier than to shake that Sapphire until enough tiny bubbles cloud the glass.  Then, as far as I'm concerned, you've said and done everything you can for me tonight."

David laughed, and made a beeline for the shaker. 


It's Still Just a Game

The magic of "The Bigger 14"  euphoria has worn off, but that's really not the worst thing to happen to any of you.  What REALLY hurts you is this:

I didn't win the Power Ball.

This affects all of you, believe it or not.  I had a plan worked out in my head.  Each of you who have touched me in some way over the years was going to get something back, anonymously.  My favorite friends and causes were going to benefit from my good fortune.  The Jersey Shore would get a lot more help from me.         The Rutgers Athletic Center renovation would not have to wait any longer.  I was going to settle my ledger with all of you.  This would assuage any guilt I had that some of you did more for me than I did for you.  I would be at peace for the rest of my life.  I'm sorry I'm still left with some angst, but I came close.

I was only off by 6 numbers.

Oh well, It's still just a game.

Speaking of games, the long suffering saga of Rutgers Football continues for the vast number of fans whose expectations haven't been met.  This year I really thought that someday when their best would beat the best had arrived.

It hasn't.

There must be a sharp edge of a razor between pressure and praise that is difficult to pass over, (to paraphrase Maugham's "Razor's Edge") making the path to Salvation hard.  The players have tremendous support from their community, if only it could be translated into performance, instead of pressure.  It's hard for these late teen, twenty something young men to gauge.  

As a never say die fan, I believe they will get there.  They will play a great game like it was a perfect practice.  

In last night's game I noticed a player on the other team make a mistake, and get yelled at by the coach.  He just smiled, patted the coach on the shoulder as much to say, "I got it coach, I'll fix it."

It struck me, that is what Rutgers has to do to blow off the pressure caused mistakes which snowballed, and haunted them as the game wore on.  This has to be an ingredient in that next great game they play, and then there will be no looking back.

Oscar Wilde said there's a creeping common sense that one shouldn't regret their mistakes.

Also, the players would do best to remember:  

It's Still Just a Game.


Power Ball

Last week was a momentous one for Rutgers Athletics.  We ( I say not royally) were invited to join the Big 10 Sports Conference (see "The Bigger 14").  In a sense, one could say, that's a form of "Power Ball".

A little over 6 years ago, the Rutgers Football Gods gave us a glimpse of how we'll strive to play in this new league, without all the sputtering, terrific to awful efforts since them.  We beat Louisville that night, and had a chance to win the Big East Championship that season, but we didn't.  We've had our chances since then, all missed opportunities.

Tomorrow, Thursday, 11/29/12, we get another chance to play "Power Ball", and finally win the Big East.  We'll be playing Louisville again. At home, again.  It would be fitting to win, if our stars remain in alignment with our Big 10 good fortune.

But first, tonight is the real Power Ball lottery drawing.  If things are REALLY going our way, and one of us wins, let's not forget the Jersey Shore, and all its people in need.

If I were to win, I'd sure help God clean up what the Devil washed in.



The Bigger 14

I'm a stickler for incongruity, so with Rutgers joining the "Big 10" to become the 14th team in the league, I couldn't resist the title.

This story isn't going to be a funny as much as a happy one.  For  Rutgers grads, this academic and athletic accomplishment Dwarfs most, if not all, we've done since 1766.  Don't get me wrong, the University has produced many who have changed the world, for the better.  This new arrangement will only enhance and multiply that growing number of minds we marvel at, and are so proud of.

I hope this move is seen by those who heavily favor academics over sports as a real world solution to what they want, with a hell of a lot more fun!

Of course, there's always a reporter or two not content unless they find dirt.  Guess what, there's dirt everywhere.  I've always looked to the clean and the good first.  I just can't seem to find a happy life otherwise.  The happy moment is NOW!! 

I've attached a photo of Austin Johnson, a student athlete who epitomizes what's best in attitude and opportunity at Rutgers, and Cal Schwartz, a good friend who has the weathered, long wandering fan look on his face, just before the announcement became official.  When I see him again, I'll take another picture, this time of his smiling face. 

We've just experienced a "perfect storm", Hurricane Sandy, in our area, although I like to attach "perfect" to something good, and not forget the long standing suffering Sandy has caused.  That good would be the "perfect place" the University finds itself in the Bigger 14, with a Happy Thanksgiving we shouldn't forget. 


"Are You Here With John Heldon?"

This time of year is filled with anticipation for all college basketball junkies, like myself.  I've said before those of this ilk would like nothing better than to play the game year round, but we face reality and defer to the other major sports in our pastime.

Anxiety accompanied this usual anticipation for some of us this year, because our season tickets didn't arrive in a timely manner, ie, before the first game last night.

The last couple of days required a few phone calls to the ticket office, and I was assured  a duplicate set of tickets would be waiting for me at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).  The culprit was the terrible Storm Sandy which clobbered our area, and disrupted our mail and UPS deliveries.  The Athletic Office always cuts the delivery close to the start of the season, and I've said before, one of these years, an unscheduled event is going clog up this ticket apparatus, and this was the year.

Anyway, Krystin, my ever helpful contact in the Athletic office, said she would leave word with the parking attendant that I would retrieve my parking pass when I picked up my tickets at the Media Center entrance to the RAC.

We still had a problem of our own doing, my wife and I.  Genna had a late afternoon appointment, and would have to arrive at the RAC in a separate car.  Since I would only have one parking pass to be used with my car, she would have to pay for her car ($12.) and park at the far end of the lot.  

I arrived first at the RAC in order to set up my book stand next to the main Court Club table (see photos).

"Hi, I'm John Heldon.  Did you get word to let me in without a parking pass while I go retrieve my tickets?"

A jovial, burly event staff member whips out a list, checks my name, and says, "Go ahead."

Great.  I'm in the Green Parking lot, which is right next to the RAC, perfect for those games on cold, windy, or inclement days, as I have to schlep my basket of books and signage into the lobby an hour before game time.  Poor Genna, I think, she has to pay $12. and park the equivalent of two blocks farther away.  Normally, with this kind of a scheduling hassle, she would beg off the game, but this was her Alma mater, St. Peters.

About a half hour after I got setup for my book selling in the lobby of the RAC, Genna saunters up to my table with a big grin,

"I'm parked right next to you in the green lot, and it didn't cost me a dime.  I pulled up to this big parking lot attendant and explained we hadn't gotten our season tickets or parking passes, and he said,"

"Are you here with John Heldon?"

We both burst out laughing.  We weren't the only ones with tardy ticket issues, and I can't say I'm that famous as an author, but that's what he said!

This turned out to be the last chuckle of the night for me, as the Rutgers seemed to be in the Twilight Zone, playing much like the team of ghosts in my novel, "Ark."

This humiliation was accompanied by countless elbows to my ribs from Genna after each key score from St. Pete's.  I'm hoping the game was a wakeup call for the Rutgers team.  There's just too much talent there to sell themselves that short.


Laurie Carlson

As a Hurricane Sandy survivor, it's easy to feel sorry for one's self.  I did, for a couple of hours.  It's easy to forget.  To lose one's perspective, by forgetting those who lost much more, or most, or all of everything they had.

We didn't have power for 92 hours, which broke our personal best of 44 hours from Hurricane Irene last year.  Well, there are still those whose record meters are still running, and those whose record will never have an end to.  No power, no house, no things.  It's hard to imagine a bounce back like that for me, the only comfort I have as an "other" not in that position, is to know it has been done many times before, some how, some way.  My hope is those who've met more devastation than I come to see it that way soon.

As horrible as this event seems to me, I realized this all pales in comparison to what severely disabled people go through each day, for the rest of their lives.  This brings me to a favorite fellow blogger, Laurie Carlson, whose site is linked below.

Have you ever heard of "Stiff Person Syndrome?"

Visit her site.  Look at the ledger of things she can't do, and what sheer Will enables her to do.

If you're so inclined, include Laurie in your prayers, as I have, and let her remind you that no storm, or whatever the cause of a temporary or permanent disability, can affect your Spirit, only your mind if you let it.

To those of you in the Rutgers community, we have Eric Legrand to inspire us, and now, please include Laurie in our orbit of stars who we won't let fall.


"Who The Hell Is Thomas Edison?" asked Mark File.

Mark, my neighbor, in his usual quipful style, put that one to me as we got clobbered by Hurricane Sandy, Mother Nature's Halloween "trick" for the Northeastern US, particularly our area in Central New Jersey, cutting power 92 hours for us, still ongoing for many others.

Sandy did manage to send several other messages besides the destructive wake up call:

Yes, there IS Global Warming, despite the indefensible position of the "Carbonites".

Yes, we can get along.  Witness NJ Governor Chris Christie, brought to his dimpled knees and his sense of cooperation by Sandy, as only a catastrophe can:  to do the Right Thing with the Federal Government and its chief representative, The President.

Yes, the barrier islands along the Eastern Coast are just that:  protectors of the main land, not a real estate gold mine.  As sympathetic as I am to anyone in a life altering plight, the thought of living in peril should always be present in the back of the minds of those people who live there.

Back to Mark.

The guy is a Saint, even though his beliefs are in the Old Testament (I'd push St. Peter aside on Mark's behalf).  Anyway, his ticket to Heaven has already been punched.  What he did for his neighbors, us and the Teppers on his other side:  purchase a generator and wire outdoor outlets for each of us to tap into, sharing light, refrigeration, and hot water is just his way, and it reminds us what a Prince of a guy he is.

Thanks again, my friend!


Drug Commercials

I hit the mute button every time I see one coming.  Did you notice the disclaimers at the end of most of them are longer than the benefit pitch at the beginning?

The newest one about the testosterone liquid which is applied like a deodorant to your underarm is what pressed the blog button in my head on this subject.  Like the other products, it gives a long list of side effects which can harm or kill you, but hey, c'mon, give us a try anyway!  It's only your life.

The other thing which occurred to me is most of the schpeals could be placed "as is" on Saturday Night Live and get a bunch of laughs.

Don't you think there's something seriously wrong with the FDA to even allow these drugs to market with all these downsides?  I get the feeling some of these companies KNOW the sizable risks beforehand, but they spent all this money on R&D which they have to recoup.  So they send a Tsunami of Ads and product into the marketplace before the shit hits the fan.

I'll give you another example of insanity in the drug market.  I take Armour thyroid, a natural hormone from pigs, which is a good match because some of my friends think I'm one also.  Armour thyroid is not covered under my Medicare drug plan, however the synthetic, Synthroid is.  Synthroid cost much more, and has many more severe side effects.  Another head scratcher.


The best advice to be given is one none of us can adhere to:  don't get old or sick.


Steve Cohen, Chamber Magic

The key word here is "Chamber."  There are so many large scale magic acts, with oft described smoke and mirrors, or fog, lights, fireworks, numerous large budget items to wow, and make it easier for the trickster to trick you.

Not so with Steve Cohen.  He describes his act as "a demonstration of modern conjuring," but it really is classic old school:  a minimal amount of props, ie, a couple of decks of cards, a hat, etc, all plied within 10 feet of my eyes, and he had me scratching my head after each trick.

How did he get that brick under the hat?  How did he take rings from three separate audience members, link them together, then un-link and return them?

He read people's minds.  How many times have you heard "there's an explanation for everything?"  In Steve's case I'm not sure there is!

Here's the thing.  There were about 60 people in the room.  I spoke to several of them afterwards, and none of them had a clue as to how he did ANY of his tricks.  
                                                              Steve and yours truly.

Also, if Steve decided to leave out the tricks, you would be admirably entertained, his timing and sense of humor were impeccable.  As he said, he's a third generation magician; his grandfather knew Houdini.  He's had a lifetime to perfect and establish himself as a one of a kind, and he has.

If you're one to savor the unique things that life offers, Steve Cohen will have you telling your grand kids about him.


My Hero

That's my 88 year old father.  Why?  Because he showed me how to live life to the fullest.  Actually, the root of the word, held, in German, means "hero."

I think a good part of the way he's lived  was being a member of "The Greatest Generation," as Tom Brokaw put it.  When you're 18 years old, on a Merchant Marine ship that gets torpedoed near the Straights of Gibraltar, while you were climbing a ship's ladder, almost missing the rung as the bow of ship was lifted out of the water from the blast, you don't take the rest of your life for granted.

When you're assigned shore duty while waiting for the ship to be repaired, anxiously return home  across the Atlantic without incident for a leave, then are reassigned to a post in the Army in the Philippines, learning afterwards the ship you were on was torpedoed again and sunk, YOU DON'T TAKE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE FOR GRANTED!!

I'm pretty sure he got the message the first time, but God was probably making sure he did.  Thank you, God.  If it wasn't for You, I wouldn't be writing this.

After the War, marrying my mother, and having me, he set about his plan to have a house at the Jersey shore, and a boat.  Having grown up in Edgewater, a sleepy town on the Hudson River, the Atlantic Ocean was his compass for which his life journeyed, and I was along for the ride.  To do what he wanted (have a house and a boat), he would work two or three jobs, with me tagging along as an apprentice of sorts.  He was literally a "jack of all trades."  The best part of all this for me was, not knowing any better, I thought I was the richest kid in the world, and the happiest with that ignorance.

There might have been other times, but as a son growing up and even now, I  recall my father being anxious about his life only two times.  Both had to do with the aging process.  His father died at age 60, and as my father approached that age, he seemed depressed.  I didn't  pick up on it at the time, but when he was in his mid 60's, he confessed to me that age 60 bothered him for that reason.

"Well," I said, " It looks like you have grandma's longevity gene."

That pitch has been over the plate, until now.

You see, his mother lived to be 90, and we're approaching that milestone.  Just the other day, as I was taking him for his pre-op visit to the hospital, preparing to remove the melanoma on his upper lip (you can see it in the pic), he said this,

" I don't know why I'm having this done.  How much time do I have left?"

Not usually quick witted, I mustered this answer in a flash,

"At least 12 years!!  Don't compare yourself to grandma.  She was very sedentary, played cards (usually solitaire) most of the day, didn't eat right, and generally didn't take care of herself.  You've led an active life, and you still do, thanks to your personal trainer, Candy Sue (my baby sister, a long haired chihuahua).  You've had plenty of fun in the sun; so what's the trouble of getting a couple of early stage melanomas whacked off?  It was worth it, don't you agree?  You have several good years left."

He bought this pitch also, and I wasn't lying.  


The Last Straws at the Java Moon Cafe

To and from our son and daughter in law's place in PA, there's the Java Moon Cafe on the south side of Route 537, just west of the Jackson Outlet Mall.  If you're driving west there's a bunch of trees which hide it's set back location from the road, so go slow.  If you're heading east, it's much more visible.

Either way, you should stop, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Now, you're not going to find the building structure in Architectural Digest.  It has a simple, log cabin feel to it, and it's not too large, but all the goodies are inside!

After passing it several times, and wondering how the food was, my wife and I took the plunge yesterday, on her Birthday.  The night before, I was surfing to find lunch spot, as we were traveling to Upper Freehold that afternoon.

A 22 food rating from Zagat popped out at me (afterwards, I'd score my own rating a couple points higher).  Being a writer, the old adage about book and cover proved to be right again.  We both had a sandwich and salad platter, mine being a shrimp po' boy, matching the really good ones I've had at Henry's in Wilmington, NC.  The salad had mixed greens, and the right mixture of olives, jack cheese, pepperoncini, carrots, onions, and cukes with a mild, blended dressing.  It was just enough (we don't overeat anymore, anyway) and fairly priced.

What put Java Moon over the top for me was the extra long straws in the tall water glasses.  I sighed at the waitress,

"I haven't been able to find these straws anywhere."  (I nearly had an argument with an assistant manager at Wegmen's).   I needed them for my extra tall glassed, Zing Zang Bloody Marys, which with a standard straw, your nose and lips have to squeeze into the top of the glass to slurp the last tangy drop.

The waitress, when she brought the check, put two straws on top of the check holder, saying,

"These are so you'll remember me while sipping your next Bloody Mary."

I was appreciative.  Really.  But I wanted more straws!!

On the way out, I queried the owner if I could buy a handful of straws.

"No, but you can take the last few I have," as he handed over about ten straws, with the box from the manufacturer.

"Thank you,"  I said, and stuffed a buck in the tip jar on the counter.

Go to the link below to see what I'm talking about.


RIP John Heldon (1947-2059)

As Paul Simon said, "Still crazy after all these years..." Here's the latest testament to that effect about myself:


John Heldon to Athletic Director


The Rutgers community mourns the passing of its oldest living alumni ever, age 112 years and one day. John Heldon surpassed the age of Walter Seward, the previous eldest alum, by about a month. In fact, those present at his passing claim his whispered last words were "Go RU...Hi Walter." 

Always a staunch supporter of the University, and avid Men's Basketball fan, Heldon is perhaps best known for his writing in his later years, mostly sports fiction with settings applicable to his beloved alma mater. It was his ability to convince the then and current Athletic Director, Tim Pernetti, that royalties from books can create substantial passive revenue streams for the University. 

"Funding back then was generous compared to today's standards. John was able to make me realize we could create a library which would just keep on giving. Funding is harder to find today than truffles," Pernetti said, he himself pushing 90 with no sign of slowing down. 

"It seemed like a crazy idea back then, but John was persistent, and it's turned into a meaningful, long-term endeavor. It's good to think outside the box. That's what keeps me going." 


"Tim! Tim! Wake up. You were dreaming."

" I know," he replied, "Some of the best ideas start with a dream."


Jeff Goins, Writer

I'm especially delighted to have Jeff Goins guest blogging for us. I recently discovered Jeff among the sea of wheat which is the Internet, and you'll see soon enough he's the whole wheat, and not the chaff. I quickly saw we shared similar views about life, and how to spend it: Making a difference by inspiring people to think and do things differently to make a better place for them and theirs. Here is my Q and A session with Jeff. Enjoy!

John:  "Jeff, you said you were spinning your wheels as a writer/blogger for around 5 years, and not at all happy with your efforts. Since then, you've had rapid acceleration reaching legions of followers. Was it an epiphanous moment, a light bulb going off, you remembering exactly where you were, or was it more of an evolution?"

Jeff:  "It was actually a surprise. I feel like I've been doing what I've always been doing, but now more people are noticing. Of course, that's not true, but it's how I felt. It was only when a friend told me that I'd found my voice did I realize how much I had grown as a writer in the past several years. So for me, there was no big moment of epiphany. I just tried to keep my head down and stay busy working, but after a year and a half, I lifted my head up and was shocked to see how far I came. Contrast that with the previous five years, and I was ALWAYS checking my status and progress. I really think success is tied closely to loving the work and not getting too obsessed with results."

John:  "Jeff, Your writing style. When you write, how do you strike a balance between structure and creativity? How much do you depend on outline, or allow free flow?"

Jeff:  "I start messy and bring structure to it as I go. I'll free write for awhile, find an idea that resonates and then fixate on that. After a short while, I create an outline to help guide the process and put a little bit of structure around the idea.  For the most part, I believe that ideas just come and it's our job to capture them. In my experience, creativity often happens best with a few restrictions. So I limit myself to make the work more creative.

John:   "You're a difference maker. I'm trying to be. What advice would you give me, or any of my readers, to inspire change; what I think of as a 'change reaction'?"

Jeff:   "You gotta live it. Whatever you're calling people to, whatever you're challenging them with — it has to be a part of your life. That's called integrity, and it's more rare than we realize."

John:   "You're from the South, Alabama, but you've spent time in the North. How do you think reconciliation, finally putting and end to the Civil War, can come about? I tongue and cheek blogged about it; (see 'Vacations for Blue and Red States,') but after I finished, I had this extreme feeling of wishing this would happen. Talk about being a difference maker! What are your feelings on this matter?"

Jeff:   "Actually, I was born and raised in Chicago, but my dad's family is originally from AL. Honestly, I didn't realize there was still real tension between the North and South. In my context, I see some misunderstandings and cultural conflicts, but nothing life-or-death. That's not to say it doesn't exist; I just don't see it.  That said, any kind of reconciliation usually involves humility and love. And those things are easy to talk about, but harder to practice."

John:   "Finally, Jeff, tell us about your new book Wrecked, from the egg, to the toddler it is now racing up the charts?"

Jeff:   "Wrecked is about the life that we're afraid to live. It's a call to find your purpose in life in the least likely of places: where there is discomfort and pain.  None of us want to go to those places, but most of us would acknowledge that's where we grow. The book is a concise listing of several people who are living that kind of life and the lessons they're learning along the way. I share my own reflections, as well. I hope it inspires people to think differently about the work that they're called to do."

John:   Thanks again, Jeff, for this opportunity, and for what you do everyday.

Jeff:   "My pleasure, John!"


I urge you to visit Jeff's blog at There are always refreshing and inspiring thoughts on the pages.


Emery's Berry Patch (

When my parents were still living around Atlantic City, NJ, I used to travel the back roads instead of the Parkway to see them.  The first few times I traveled on Route 539 South, I passed a white sign with an arrow pointing to Emery's 200 feet away.

The next trip, the sign must have been magnetized, because this time I didn't even have to think about it.  I turned right as I glanced the other prominent word on the sign, "Pies".

Well, I came upon the neatest little country store with all sorts of unique gift items.  You have to go there to see and buy them, but I'll give you an example:  a small ear of popcorn, with the kernels still on the cob, and a bag to "pop" in the microwave.

But the Pies! (they deserve a Cap), the hook for me, are out of the Universe!  They're so big and heavy, they might sprain your wrist if you're not ready for them on the first pick up (almost not kidding).

My parents would invariably ask, "what kind of pie are you bringing down?" before an impending visit.

I explained this scenario to Emery's, who then told me, "a lot of travelers take the back roads, and they call Route 539 the 'Pieway'".

Since my parents moved closer (ten minutes away), we haven't been going to Emery's with as much frequency, until yesterday.  It is about 40 minutes from our house, but yesterday (Sunday) was a perfect, top down in the VW Eos, so Genna and I and our sweet teeth zipped over to Emery's, this time for a blueberry crumb pie.  At this point I should tell you, you have a choice to make:  do you want cheap, or the best?

Most customers prefer the latter, I'll tell you why.  After October 1st, Emery's takes holiday pie orders, where customers pick a day, and an agreed upon time to come pick up their orders.  That's alotta pies!

If you have a few leisurely hours, join the worthy pilgrimage to Emery's.  Check out their site in the title, and they do really fun things for kids too.



When I first entered college, I tried smoking, but as Bill Clinton said, I didn't inhale.  I temporarily abandoned a leadership roll, and became a follower.  It seemed (though probably not) the majority of the Freshman class at Rutgers was smoking.  What was I missing?  Would this calm the Freshman jitters?  They, the University, after all, were trying to flunk a third of us.  Would smoking right my keel, and lead me to a safe (passing) harbor?

Not. This smoking faze of my life was short lived.  I didn't like the taste, I almost burned my finger, it was expensive, and what finally  ended my flirt with tobacco was kissing a girl who smoked...Yuck!

I have dear friends who smoke, and I don't love them any less, although I remind them of the perils often.  It's just not my cup of tea, which I did take a liking to (green).

I found out in later years there might have been a gene component to this experiment.  My father admitted when he was about the same age, he tried smoking and drinking while stationed abroad during World War II.  He too ditched the tobacco, however, he kept the Scotch, even to this day.

Genna, my eventual wife, didn't smoke while courting, but after we were married, we had some "out there" friends who started smoking these little (I forget their name) short cigars.  After all, she was an independent, married woman...she'd come a long way, baby!  I went along with this with the understanding she had to full throat gargle before she got a kiss from me.

I think she was just doing this disgusting (in hindsight) habit ( though it wasn't yet) for show.  As we all know, youth has a craziness to it, or it isn't youth.  A couple of months past, and I could see this fad was fading fast.  However, Genna had a different way of stopping than I did.

We were out to dinner with her parents, when Genna lights one of these shorties (remember in those day you could still smoke in most restaurants).  I glanced over to her mother, who could communicate to her daughter through her eyes, and her peepers were saying "No."

Her father, who had a very expressive face, clearly was not amused.  When his optical daggers missed his daughter's sensibilities, he reached across the table while she was in the midst of her third puff, grabbed the cigarillo (THAT'S what they were called, I just remembered), and stuffed it in her water glass.  He then started talking about the weather, or what ever, like nothing just happened.

We all joined in talking about a range of subjects, but not smoking.


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

That's the line from the classic Staples commercial from a few years ago, about parental glee when their kids have to go back to school.  After today, I didn't think it so wonderful.

This morning, the blinking low ink light on my printer sent me the signal.  I have been doing a lot of printing, but what's annoying about this Canon model is it has 5 different cartridges.  Not just a black and a color, but 2 blacks, a yellow,a pink, and a blue.  My tech advisor, my son George, recommended the printer, and it does render very crisp photo like images, but I'm changing the ink as often as I'm printing, or so it seems.

Anyway, I decide to swing by Staples today, before going to the food store, with 2 spent cartridges, and a 6 dollar coupon.

I should have senses something amiss as I had to fight for a space in the parking lot, which had never happened before.  I go into the store, and there's sooo many kids and parents the only explanation can be there giving everything away for free.  No, it the was the end of the first week of the school year, and all these late coming kids and harried parents are restocking school supplies.  

I had walked to the middle of the store before I fully grasped what was happening.  I noticed the store personnel had blocked off aisles to snake the purchasers around the inside of the store, akin the a Star Wars premier.

I said to my self, I'll come back tomorrow, just before realizing the only exit to the store without paying for a purchase was to go back out the entrance.

Sure enough, I saw it coming, a store manager saw the ink cartridge boxes in my hand and asked sternly,

"Where are you going with those?"

After explaining, I said to him, "I'll see you tomorrow."

We both smiled as I when out the entrance to my car.

Tomorrow, the store will be empty, and probably the shelf for my ink cartridge.


Pop's Ticker

My father turned 88 last June, and I'm blessed he's in remarkable shape.  I want to take partial credit, because I'm into anti aging supplements from my doctor,and I pass the info along to my parents (Mom's nearly 86; more in another blog).  I kid my doctor, who has never met them, that he should consider them his "out patients."  Of course, I run whatever I plan to pass on by him before I do it.  It's really just basic stuff, like vitamins C, D3, fish oil, coQ10, Calcium/Magnesium, and a Multi.  These simple few will do wonders for you, too.

It must be working, because all their other doctors say thing like "Oh, what good blood values," or " you don't look your age."  More than a few times I've lent credibility to their ages by producing MY medicare card.

Anyway, back to Dad.  He does have a health concern which requires monitoring.  As a kid he had rheumatic  fever which left him with a murmur, and that valve involved had to be replaced 11 years ago.  He doesn't say much; he's always used words at a premium.  In fact, his yearbook caption said, "silence never makes any blunders.  So as the doctor asks his questions, I supplement Dad's yes and no answers with any embellishment needed.

"Do you smoke or drink?" the Doc asked.

"I don't smoke," Dad turned to me, as we both laughed.

The Doc agreed scotch with a lot of ice was therapeutic for him.  Then he said at the open doorway as we were wrapping up the visit,

"I don't get many chances to say this to my 88 year old patients, but I'll see you in a year."

The three of us smiled, then I saw the rest of the staff staring in disbelief.  Looking further into the waiting area I noticed a packed room of non erect gaits, pasty pallors, and noticeable discomforts from ailing.

I was reminded of my good fortune of health for my Dad.

I put on my chauffeur's cap, and we were on the way home.


Take Me Out To The Ball Game

I haven't been to a baseball game since I took my younger cousin to one when he was 7 or 8.  

He's 48 now.

The game is just too slow for the world I live in now.  Forty years ago, the world seemed simpler and slower to me, and it was relaxing to sit there (I think it was a doubleheader that day) and show my younger cousin a good time; payback for some of the kindnesses his mother gave me growing up.

However, yesterday, after one inning, I was ready to hurt someone.  I began thinking of ways to speed up the action.  At my age (got my new Medicare card) I look forward to boosts of adrenaline.  Maybe change  the rules to give a batter THREE balls and TWO strikes.  Give the pitcher 20 seconds to throw the ball again, or the hitter gets a "ball" added to the count.

Also, since we're changing the rules, no more spitting or scratching crotches. 

The reason I was at the game was the team was having a "Rutgers Night", and my beloved Court Club had a table in the food court trying to sell a few memberships, tee shirts, and yes, a few of my books.  After most of the schmoozing was done before game time, a few of us (each no great fan of the game) decided to give it another try.

As I said, I started squirming in my seat after the first inning, and the home team losing already didn't help.

Then it happened.

What every young and old kid hopes happens to them at the ballpark.  A high pop foul behind me, careening off the upper deck facade, one high bounce ten rows behind me, then a smaller one two rows away, right into my bare hand.  Everyone clapped me 10 seconds of fame, while the game played on.

This treat got me through the second inning, but not the third.  It was time to go.  Besides, how much better was the game going to get for me?

Actually, almost a lot.  While walking to the parking lot, another foul ball bounced on the street a half a block in front of me.  I started to run.

"I can't believe it!"  I thought to myself, how many fans have retrieved TWO ball from one game?

I think not many, if any, but I wasn't going to be one of them.   I watched a younger pair of legs get to the ball before me. 

Then again, I did get the adrenaline rush I look for at a sporting event.


Q Tip

I'm assuming just about everyone has heard the adage, "the only thing you should stick inside your ear was your elbow."

If that adage was widely adhered to, I'm not sure the Q Tip wouldn't have gone the way of the Dodo.  Still, my wife, Genna, has been on my case about my use of QTips.

"You're going to puncture your eardrum!" was her constant refrain.

One day after coming out of the shower, I walked into the bedroom with just the other cotton tip sticking out of my ear.

"Gen, I think I punctured my eardrum."

"You see, you idiot, what have I been telling you all along?"

I broke into a smile, because I had just broken the end of the QTip, it was just resting outside my ear, then I showed it to her.

She has a way of punching my shoulder when I goof on her like this (which is quite often) with one sharp knuckle which always seems to hit a nerve.  

It remained sore for a few days, but it was worth it!


Mama Leone's

New York City is many things.  Whatever you're looking for, it's all there.  Sadly, one of those things is a restaurant graveyard.  Some establishments remain open a few months, or years; that's all for most.  To stay in business (any business, actually) for around 80 years in NYC is a neat trick.

Around 1906 Mama Louisa Leone opened her restaurant on 44th street in the theater district, legend has it, at the urging of the great tenor Enrico Caruso, who she cooked for many times.  The Italian community in the city was very close knit around the turn of the century, and I had some relatives on my mother's side who knew the operatic legend, attesting to his lavish generosity, even suspecting his gifting Mama some seed money to get started.  Her calling card was a 5 course dinner ("make good food, and plenty of it, they will come," she would say)

What started out as a very good deal grew and grew and grew, which was a good, and a bad thing.  Good for prosperity, bad for food service and quality.  Some of my earliest memories in the 50's were standing in line outside, as if waiting for a blockbuster movie.  Once in, I remember going from room to room to room until we reached our table, and never seeing that much food in my young life!

By the late 50's, we stopped going.  It had become a tourist trap, and there were plenty of good restaurants in New Jersey, where we lived.

After I began courting my wife, I reminisced with my father in law to be, George.

"We never waited on line at Leone's," he recalled.  "The FIRST time I pulled up to the front door to let the family get in line in my brand new Olds '98, I saw this parking attendant motion to me to drive into the lot a few doors away.  I told everyone to stay in the car, and took him up on his offer.  When I pulled into the lot, the man noticed I was not who he was expecting."

"I thought you were Gene Leone (Mama's son)," he said, " You have  the exact same car and color.  Now that your here, and if you don't mind walking through the kitchen, go ask for Gene, and tell him what happened."

So they all trudged through the kitchen, and met Gene Leone inside the front door greeting the line as it came in.  George and Gene became fast friends, and George and family continued to come through the kitchen until 1959 when Gene sold the business.

After that, it wasn't worth going anymore, anyway.


Churchill's Humor

Today, I want to honor the statesman whose crisis leadership was perhaps the greatest of the 20th Century, and at the same time he possessed a razor whit equally as great.  Here are some of his gems, the first, as told to me, and the rest sourced from The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill:

A young Winston, already known to be a strong supporter of alcohol, said to a lady,

"Madam, you are UGLY!"

"Oh, Winston," she replied, "You've been tippling again; you're quite drunk."

"Indeed, I am, Madam.  However, tomorrow, I will be SOBER!"
Churchill attended a reception and sat next to a stiff necked bishop.
A young waitress appeared with a tray of sherry glasses.  She offered one to Churchill, which he took, and then one to the bishop.  The bishop was horrified at the alcoholic offer.  He said,

"Young lady, I would rather commit adultery than take an intoxicating beverage."

Then Churchill called the girl, "Come back, lassie, I didn't know we had a choice."
"An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile hoping it will eat him last."
"Eating my words has never given me indigestion."
"Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others change their principles for the sake of their party."
"It would be a great reform in politics if wisdom could be made to spread as easily as folly."

The last couple are probably more serious than funny, sadly.


Poison Ivy Goats

I just read an article about a very environmentally sensitive area at the Jersey shore which was having an infestation of poison ivy.  Herbicides and chemical treatments could not be applied due to the water table and very sensitive ecosystem.

What to do?  Bring on the goats!  

It turns out most other mammals besides humans are immune to the effects of poison ivy.  Rabbits, goats, deer,among others regard the ivy as a treat.  So the proposed solution is to bring about 30 goats to the infested area, and let them chow down to their heart's content, until the ivy is gone.

The next thought I had upon reading about the goats was how I had to slave away at our shore house on Barnegat Bay during the 50's and 60's when each year the weeds would take over the property.

My father was opposed to herbicides ( and gasoline which one neighbor was in favor of);  instead each season we ordered about 20 cubic yards of sand to spread over the property and cover the weeds.  This was done mostly by me, with a shovel, rake, and wheel barrel.


My mother should have had this idea because growing up she had a couple of goats in her barnyard zoo.

Then again, I would have had a choice to make:  shoveling sand, or picking up goat poop.  

I was in pretty good shape back then... sand was good.


Zing Zang

I may be a little late to the party (but then again, I don't drink THAT much), but this is the name of the best Bloody Mary mix I've ever found.  Why do I think the best?  Because you don't have to add a thing to it, except vodka.

I have to give you some history.  I used to make a mean mixer myself.  I was the toast of the tailgate.  Here it is (or was):  V-8 juice, a few globs of fresh horseradish, more than a few chokes on the pepper mill, several wrist shakes on the Tabasco bottle, a palm full of celery salt, ice, and vodka, measured by me judging by how stiff the crowd was, and how loose they needed to be.

This concoction was the "control" formula for Bloody Marys at our events.  In reality, it was designed to please Genna, my wife, but I guess everyone else agreed with her.

Then, to make a long story short, Genna had a health crisis which changed her body chemistry, including her taste buds.  Suddenly the old mixture didn't do it for her.

I kept trying different variations, and each one just got me that classic wrinkled nose rejection of hers.

We'd given up Bloody Marys for some time, until we were in Florida last month at our favorite place, Caffe Luna Rosa in Delray Beach.  Bingo!  That mixture did the trick, for both of us.   John, the manager, was kind enough to tell me Zing Zang was the mix.  Praise the Lord, I thought, I'm back in the Bloody Mary business, but the story then got a little tricky.

We got home from Florida, and I could find Zing Zang anywhere; not even Wegman's had it.

Finally, the new liquor store on Route 9 in Marlboro, The Wine Academy, could order a case for me, which I just got yesterday.  I said to Genna after our cocktail hour tonight,

"Gen, were down to our last eleven bottles, I better order another case, lol!" 

That's how good it is.


Winnie and Tom

For the past couple of years at this time, we visit our dear friends at the place they rent, located at the corner of the Atlantic Ocean and the north end of Island Beach State Park at the Jersey Shore.  Winnie and Tom's funny bones are in sync with ours, and when ever we get together, its a laugh a minute, from subject to subject.  We're grateful for this, because they belong to a club which no parent should:  those who have lost a child.  

I always feel my wacky behavior is put to best use when their sides ache from my antics.  At my best, I can be a supplement for high blood pressure and stress reduction.

We arrived at the rented condo mid afternoon last Wednesday, without any commotion like occurred before our arrival last year.  At that time, a woman had gone onto to the dunes to change out of her wet suit, without seeing (or caring that) Tom was on the overlooking balcony.

"Could you tell if she dyed her hair?" I asked.

Laughter from Tom and Winnie, dagger eyes from Genna, my wife.

This year the only thing to discuss when we arrived was what we were going to start drinking.  After an hour or so, we put together an order for pickup at Berkeley Restaurant and Fish Market in South Seaside Park, NJ.  Great place, the seafood is fresher than I was to most of my old girlfriends, and Nick put together our order of  2 lb. lobsters, scallops, steamer clams, corn, potato salad, and cole slaw.

I almost suffered a minor injury trying to sample the size of one of the steamer clams.  I didn't see the blue claw crab in the box to guard the clams, and he took a swipe at me.

Tom and I returned to the condo with our cooked feast, and for the next three hours ate, drank, and laughed into a stupor.  Actually, just Genna ate for the next three hours, while the other three of us drank and laughed.  She had collected everyone else's tiny lobster legs, and tediously drew out all the meat, oblivious to the time versus reward aspect of her effort.

The heavy salt air helped us decide to retire early, which caused me to get up earlier, and see the sunrise from the balcony.

After the rest of the troop became functional, we headed to a buffet breakfast a few blocks away, then packed the car, and headed for home.

Showing Winnie and Tom a good time was one thought I had.  The other was, I could get used to this, I really miss the ocean.


Cracker Barrel

I wish there were more of these stores in the Northeast, but I guess we aren't "country" enough.  There are a few in western NJ, and I guess the adjective says it all.  Cracker Barrel stores, for you city slickers, are a combo of general store meets diner.  We were curious when we spotted on of their 100 foot tall highway billboard signs which have Lady Bird Johnson rolling in her grave in Santee, SC, where we camp for the night when traveling to and from Florida.  

This is what you need to know about Crackers:  Good, inexpensive wholesome food, and a general store with mostly nostalgic packaging, displayed totally without rhyme or reason, so you have to look at everything.  However, if you want a box of cracker jacks with 50's packaging, that's your place.

So on the way back to NJ, we get a call from our niece; miss Abbie, her daughter (who we really were stopping to see) had a 103 degree fever.  Since kids germs are like Bubonic Plague to us seniors, we begged off a visit.  After hanging up the phone, we decided to use the stop off time at another Cracker Barrel in North Carolina, which we just noticed on another 100 foot road sign, was just 10 miles ahead.

While in the general store section, I started taking a few pictures, sensing a blog post in there somewhere.  I got a tap on the shoulder from one of their corporate honchos visiting the store, maybe thinking I'm shopping the competition.  I explain I'm a writer, and I'm going to blog the store.  I told them about my book, "Ark", and we were off and running about college basketball, the #1 full time recreational job unrivaled by any other state in the country.  Then I made a huge foot in mouth mistake.

Referring to her "peepers", I said, "Where did you get those teal blue eyes, just like Carolina Blue?"

"Sir, ma eyes ah ska blue, which IS Carolina blue, and don't yu'all refer ta Carolina blue as teeeaal!  Yu'all get ya self in trouble down he ya."

I apologized, and stood corrected before she scratched MY eyes out, and promised not to make that mistake again.

Sure enough, I Googled teal, and it is a shitty green blue.  Sorry again, Miss Cracker Barrel Tarheel!


JP Morgan, the Duckdog

We're soon to end our stay in Florida, and it's a bit sad this time, because I just met a new "friend" over the past few days.  I feel like a kid at the end of  sleep away summer camp, wishing new friends would return with me to my hometown.  This new friend I won't be able to see again until I return to Florida (hopefully in October), because he doesn't have a cell phone, and he doesn't know how to write.

He's a duck, I think, but he sure acts like a dog.  Let me explain.

About a week ago while on my morning walk, I went past JP Morgan, so nicknamed because of the roseaeous growth on his nose and head, and his mate, not thinking anything of it.  Two days ago, they both approached me on the walking path like I had something they wanted.  When they realized I didn't have a slice of bread, they sauntered on their way.

Yesterday, I came bearing the heal of the loaf, which we never eat anyway.  Well, JP started panting, and wagging his tail feathers like a dog.  I closed my eyes, and he sounded like our Maltese, Snowball (see blog post one).  I wish I could describe the scene better, or wish you all could be there to see it.

After the slice was finished, JP and his mate (who expanded only the energy needed to pluck the bread) waddled off in search of another soft hearted walker.

The other observation I had about JP was, in this political climate, he must be a Socialist, looking for handouts the way he does.


Our son is a great kid, just recently married, and he and is wife, who we equally adore, are just putting their lives together.  I remember back to the days when my wife and I were starting out, things were a little tight, and we struggled.  It was nice to have the love and support from our sets of parents, and the only way we can pay that back is to offer support when needed to the next generation, which we had been doing.

Recently, we had a talk with our son, and tried to was...time to take off the life preserver, fly off the roof of the house, take off the training get the picture.

So, after a fashion, he and his bride came up with an austerity budget, and applied for credit in his own name.  He reported back to me that although he wasn't outright rejected initially when he applied, the bank would get back to him in a few days.

Low and behold, his credit was approved, and he was offered another line of credit from the company he works for.  He also told me he checked his credit score, and asked me to guess what it was.

"I guess in the mid 600's," I said.


I almost dropped the phone from laughing.  I haven't checked in a while, but I wonder if my score is that good.  I replied to him,

"Well son, I always payed your bills on time, you best do the same."


Happy Birthday, Boinie

I couldn't let this day pass without marking the 95th Birthday of my dear friend, and gold standard.

Of course, his name is Bernie, but years ago, our son, when little, came out with "Boinie".  Bernie, ever the amateur child psychologist, said to him,

"You know, you're the only person who says my name right!"

And it stuck.

Today, he's all hunched over, in obvious arthritic pain, but Bernie just seems to be bowing to everyone, and I'm sure God takes it as a sign of respect.

I asked him what he wanted to do today, and he said,

"Play tennis."

Another funny Groucho like quip.  Tomorrow and tomorrow, what will be, will be.

Today, Bernie's here, still quipping, and keeping us laughing.



Do you have trouble sleeping?
It's a problem for some of us boomers on the crest of the first wave.  There are many factors which affect a good night's sleep, bur here's what works for me.  I try not to eat a large supper, or at least not past 7:30 or 8:00.  If I do that, I'm up most of the night, or at least a couple of times. No, or very little liquid intake after 7:00.  My bladder is not the elastic balloon it used to be.  I exercise every day (actually 5-6 days/week).  Make your body tired; give it a reason to want to sleep.  Finally, a calcium/magnesium supplement at dinner, and GABA  750 mg at bedtime.  It's essentially a brain/mood relaxant. 

Generally, this gives me a good night's sleep more often than not; I mean 6-7 hours, which is good for me, who has a newly minted Medicare card.

Having said all this, I'm convinced there's a gene factor involved.  Let me explain.

My mother struggles for a good night's sleep, my father sleeps like a log.

My wife's mother also struggled, while her a baby.  Her mother used to tell the story how she would find him on the bed, asleep, with his arm stretched just short of the light switch, and the light still on.  I used to ask him how he slept,

"With my eyes closed."

I would ask him again for his secret,

"I just say, George (his name), go to sleep."

There are no proved formulas, and some people on sleep medications at times wake up, do crazy things (like  go to the refrigerator, or drive a car, really!).

Find an alternative doctor, ask him about what works for me, then try it.


Moon Over Miami

I recently spoke to my two cousins, whose father was my mother's brother.  He had passed away a couple of years ago.  Their mother, my aunt, is very ill, unable to communicate, in such bad shape which questions God's mercy.  My two cousins have health issues of their own, which makes for a really rough time all around for the three of them.

The only consolation I could think to offer them was to think back, once in a while for a break, to younger, happier times, where there were a few funny stories hidden in memory.  Stories like these often get recounted at wakes and funerals anyway;  they can do some good now to ease the pain of impending loss.

I got off the phone, and immediately thought of my uncle ,aunt, and cousins at our house on the Jersey shore in the 50's. The house was on Barnegat Bay, due west of Island Beach State Park.  My father had a small inboard motor boat which was large enough for most of us who wanted to go over  to the beach on the bay side of the Park (a best kept secret).  It wasn't the Atlantic Ocean, but neither did we have to fight the traffic and mobs to get to it.  Instead, we'd commune with a few other locals who knew the "secret", and had a great time in very clean, clear water near the inlet.

At the end of the day, we'd start back in the boat, anxious to wash the salt water off in the outdoor shower my father rigged on the side of the house.  Only one problem; the hot water heater in the house was very small, and thus emptied quickly.  My aunt was a large woman, with a very pretty face, and ready joking smile, but her showering used a lot of hot water, so to speak.  My other male cousin (from another aunt) would say to me, as we approached the dock,

"That backside of hers is like the moon over Miami (he was from Florida).   Let's hit the shower first, before her!"

We were two skinny kids back then, and didn't need much water to rinse the salt off, but we purposely stayed under the shower until the water turned cold, then said to our aunt,

"It's all yours."

She would shriek at the ice water tumbling onto her head.

If you have failing relatives, I urge you to go back in time, and add a dose of medicine like this.