Poison Ivy

I just had to look at poison ivy as a kid, and I would get a rash, or so it seemed.  one summer, I think I had it 5 times.  What made it worse was my family had a place at the Jersey shore, and I just couldn't stay out of the water, which made the itch worse ( like throwing salt on an open wound).  One of the times that summer, I got it from our cat, a beautiful white angora.  He was generally a house cat, but once in a while got the call of the wild, and would disappear for a few hours, until the dinner bell rang in his stomach, his hunting skill having gone "soft."  I was pointedly staying away from any vegetation, should those "three leaves on a vine" be among them.  Around dinner time, the cat makes his way back to the house, and as was my custom, I picked him up, tossed him over my right shoulder, and petted him into an instant purr.  He rubbed his whiskers across the side of my neck, and swooshed his tail under my armpit and around my back.

The next day, everywhere the cat's fur touched me, I had an itching rash.  The right side of my face, my underarm, back, and particularly my inside elbow, were on fire.  Mom took me to the Doc for a steroid shot, and some kind of ointment that did the trick.

Not that I loved the cat any less, but I stopped picking him up in the summertime after that episode.


Mr. Tea Cup, Redux

Last year , we had this very cute, baby rabbit munching away in my flower beds in front of the house.  He was about 6 inches long, and at that age rabbits are fearless.  We named him "Mr Tea Cup".  I even wrote about him in "Ark", and was complimented by a Higher Authority for my kindness and understanding. in the book.

Well, this year, there's a policy change.

Sorry God, if I catch this year's little bugger, I'm going to wring his little neck, which just today, swallowed almost all the budding day lilies before we could enjoy looking at them.  Okay, God, I'll walk that back, if you could just convince him to wait a few more days before dining?  Tell him its not good to eat raw flower buds; he should wait until they're "well done".

God, I've gone online to find natural remedies.  Your marigolds are fraudulent in this area; they only bring mites which attack my tomatoes.  The only other remedies I'm hearing about online are:  guns, dogs, hawks, cats, and fences.  I can't put up a fence, it's against the regulations of the community.

Maybe you could just convince him to move on to another neighbor.  Give him a sense of, like a, quota system.  Tell him a steady diet of just one thing is not healthy, or eating at the same restaurant is booring.

Whatever it takes God, I know you can make him listen.  I have every confidence in You.



Taking a little break, not so funny this time, but inspirational, YES!

While Mom and Dad were in still living in North Carolina, my wife, son and I were traveling by car to see them on a hot July day 20 years ago.  We were making good time, already in NC, and only a few miles to go before the turnoff  exit on Rt 95, then 3 hours to our destination.

Suddenly, a white puff of steam sprayed the windshield, quickly followed by an "Oh SHIT" from me, realizing I just blew a water hose.  Any hope of parlaying an early arrival from this trip evaporated like the steam on that hot day.

I asked Genna and George to leave the car and sit on the guard rail about 40 feet in front of the car.  I put the flashers on, left the car myself to join them, as we all started to feel like ice cubes in boiling water.

Thinking back to this time, I'm more than a little annoyed at myself for letting old prejudices creep into my head.  I was tired and hot, but there was no excuse for thinking to my self, "What southerner is going to stop to help a Yankee with New Jersey license plates?"

Very soon, I'll swear less than a minute, this pick up truck with NC plates pulls behind my car, and out pops Henry, who then grabs his tool box, and approaches us.

"A hell of a hot day for a nice young family to be stuck on the side of the road.  What happened?"

I showed him the top hose, luckily it wasn't the bottom hose, so not that much coolant was lost.  Henry said to us he'd be right back with a new hose and some coolant from the auto parts store less than a mile away.

The image of Jimmy Stewart about to jump off the bridge in "It's a Wonderful Life", only to saved by Clarence, the guardian angel in training, made me realize Henry was my guardian angel that day who not only delivered a repair to our car, but a message not to pass judgment on anyone before they have a chance to show they are one of the good guys also.

Henry adamantly refused any payment for his labor, but I found his soft spot.

"Henry, do you have grandchildren?  If you do, I insist you let their new Uncle John buy them a few ice cream cones."

He smiled, took the money,  couldn't thank ME enough, and was on his way

That one act of kindness from one man reminds me to this day to look for goodness first no matter where I am.


Town Hall Meeting

Our Community of "55 and better" is nearing completion, or in the process of transition, which means the builder is almost done.  We've lived in it a little over 4 years, and I have to say the homeowners who are running things seem to have improved the quality of life.  They're constantly trying to add to the list of activities, get better pricing for services, etc.

However what's most striking to me about the mixture of residents, it's like a smaller version of the country.  There are different nationalities, political persuasions, and just about every other characteristic you would find on  larger scale.  We have Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, and I'm sure a few other fringes.

The most glaring similarity is the community is at Civil War.  Why shouldn't it be?  The country's Civil War never ended; we're still fighting, especially during this election.

So at the meeting tonight, I scanned the room, and noticed there were quite a few "secessionists" not present at the meeting.

Oh well, I just try to get along with everyone, I don't engage in politics, so as not to cut my books sales in half.


"This site has been known to be fraudulent," was the blocking message I got from Norton Security.

Scared the Bejesus out of me, since I'm starting a blog tour this week.  It's okay now, but the wording still sits in my craw.  I haven't been doing anything dishonest, I haven't been taking any money, and not delivering a product in return.

For you lawyers out there, have I been defamed?

My son Geoff, whiz that he is, re enabled the site this morning, and it seems fine.  It turns out is was Norton's error, which they fixed through live update.

I'm peeved, but on the lighter side, I'm honest, almost to a fault.  When I saw the white "X" in the red circle, it caused a chuckle.

When I saw that red circle, a reacted like a bull, but luckily didn't butt the monitor. 


Mark and the Ladder

About a week ago, we had a ferocious rain storm, rivaling, I'm sure a monsoon in Asia.  I happen to look out onto my neighbor Mark's roof, and noticed a Niagara like plume cascading over the gutter by his garage. I related a cautionary tale of another neighbor in another hood with the same scenario.  Over time, water, which if it can, it will, do damage.  It gradually seeped under the foundation of his garage, so when he came home one night, pulled his car in, turned the key off, the floor cracked, and settled down a foot in an instant, giving him a fright nearly overriding his bladder control.

The next day, a special towing operation finally got his car out of the new pit his garage had turned into, and $20,000 later, he had a new garage floor.

After hearing this, Mark soberly agreed to remedy his gutter problem.  I offered to assist, and he said he would call  if he needed me.  I was hoping he would call, because I remembered another neighbor who started to clean his gutters (before gutter guards);  I again offered to help, and this neighbor said he could handle it.

My wife and I then went out shopping for a few hours.  When we returned home, I saw this neighbor, Jack, walking into his house with a cast and sling on his right arm, and the ladder leaning at an angle against a tall tree in front of the house, were it landed when he fell.  He handled it alright, but he didn't come well armed for the task (ouch!).

Fast forward to today, I hear Mark rustling with a ladder against the gutter.  I went outside and said to him,

"Would you like me to hold the ladder, or drive you to the hospital?"

He chuckled, and wisely said, "Yes", to the former.


Jersey Shore League

I was pleasantly reminded last night what a full time, year round basketball junkie I am.

Late yesterday afternoon, I looked at the schedule, and saw a few of my beloved Rutgers Scarlet Knights were on the roster for the night's first contest.  I briefly debated going or staying home; I was tired, and was leaning toward passing up the game.

Here's where the true fan comes out in me.  I dozed in the chair, and awoke suddenly, at 6:15, with a start time of 7:15, and 45 minutes travel to the venue.  My wife left to tutor a student, so there was no one home to wake me up sooner.  

However, I had my basketball alarm clock, that inner chime that wakes me like morning sun through a window.  I bolted up, shuffled the dinner dishes into the sink barely not cracking a one, gulped my hand full of  "Supps" (vitamins), and was off to test local speed limits to the gym in Belmar, NJ.

I parked the Eos (my VW) at 7:05, plenty of time to walk, not sprint, to see the tip off.

You have to understand, most true fans regard it as a minor felony to be late, which is missing the tip off.  I sauntered up the steps of the gym, opened the door, and was greeted by the sounds of multiple bouncing balls on the hardwood court, which meant only one thing to me:  The new basketball season had begun.

I must have been really tired to even have thought of NOT going to this game, but that short snooze rattled and rallied my core being to make haste getting there, on time, and very luckily, without a speeding ticket.  I sat down next to my best basketball bud, Brian, and his lovely wife, Janet, with about a minute to spare.

The actual game didn't mean that much to me, but coming to my senses in time did.


Boomer Baby

Each Wednesday at 1:00, a group of guys from our development meet at Wegman's for lunch.  Wegman's is a supermarket / specialty food service store headquartered in Rochester, NY with stores in the Northeast down into Virginia.  If you don't live in that area, you don't know what you're missing.  They're light years ahead of their competition, and Consumer Reports gives them all red circles across the board.

Anyway, each week these usual suspects, retirees from our "55 and better" community, gather no doubt to give their wives a break.  I haven't gotten to know all of the dozen or so in the group, but so far, there's a state policeman, a couple of combat vets, a dentist, a sales rep, an editor, an IT guy, and a writer (me), on the lookout for new material.

I scanned the table as we were finishing, realizing we were a league of nations, from different parts of the Northeast, whose lives somehow whirl pooled to settle in our development, and not somewhere else.

"Hey, John," the cop asked, "how old are you?"

"I just last month made it to Medicare."

"Really?" he said, "But that still makes you the baby of this group."

After they all got a chuckle, I replied, "No it doesn't.  I'm on the first wave of Baby Boomers, which makes me a senior member of my group.  You guys are just a bunch of old farts, whom I'm just visiting, and besides (ala Groucho Marx)  I wouldn't want to belong to any group that would have me as a member.

Laughs all around.  These old classic jokes still work.


Blog Marathon

This is the second day of my attempt to blog every day for the next 90 days.  Its making me wonder about the world of political commentators.  I'm talking about all of them, because I don't want to choose sides, and lose half my readership.

Really, to paraphrase Kipling, how do they fill the unforgiving minute, with 60 seconds worth of news, regurgitated over and over throughout the course of the day, day in day out?  I mean, all of these politicians provide enough material which translates into comedy, but no amount of Maalox or mute buttons sooth the stomach or the ears.  

Over time, I, as well as a lot us, have been drugged into watching the news for at least part of the evening (no, I'm not going to name the channel).  My wife and I get to the point of looking at each other during a news drone attack, and in sync say, "enough!"

Off goes the TV, open goes a good book, with extra time to savor it.

This generally lasts until the next evening, when withdrawal sets in, and we're off to the races with the news jockeys again.

What a World, What a World!  (RIP, Margaret Hamilton, the wicked witch).


Tron John

My Internet marketing campaign just launched today, and I feel like Jeff Bridges in the movie Tron.  The first one, not Tron : Legacy.  I feel like I'm about to be launched into hyper drive, like the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars, any second now.  Maybe I need an out of body experience.  Or... maybe not, on second thought.

When I was writing "Ark", it was akin to being in a forest.  I knew how I got into it, and I knew the ending I wanted to arrive at, but how to get there was at times a mystery.  But that was the fun of it!  Day in and day out, creativity saved the day, along with constant help from the backspace key, my best friend on the keyboard.  I was writing pure fiction, or relating to events that were happening in real time.

This campaign is different.  Am I going to be like Charlie, that poor guy on the subway in Boston from my hootenanny days, who never got off?  Some nights, surfing can be like that.  What starts out as a perfect wave, never seems to reach the shore.

Well, this is day one.  If you don't hear from me, look in my monitor first.


Decorah Eaglets

If you want to watch a fascinating and funny story about raising "kids" check out this site (link below).

Our national symbol, the bald eagle, gives us a few pointers about parenting which we would do well to heed.

What the site does is monitor a mating pair of bald eagles (they stay together for life) each year as they rebuild the same 1200 lb. nest (reused each year), lay eggs (two or three), take turns nesting them til hatching, then raise them together, taking turns at the various chores which must be performed.

The birthing or laying process was no different for this mother; she lay on her side exhausted after each process.

The mother and father took turns, eating and nesting until the end of March when the eggs were hatched (a pretty equitable division of labor).

As the eaglets were growing, sibling rivalry developed, and the younger, smaller chick would invariably be the one picked on (sound familiar?).  The mother would just vigorously flap her wings, like giant fingers waving "Time out!"  All the chicks would just lower their heads, cower, and stop what they were doing.  Mama didn't even have to lay a feather on them.

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching the three eaglets, wondering how they " took care of business", so to speak.  Just then, I saw one of them back up to the edge of the nest.  I started yelling at the monitor:


He did, sputtered a bowel movement off the edge, and not in, the nest (good potty training).

A week ago, the eaglets started "wingercising", flapping their wings to gain strength.  Within a day or so, the oldest started lifting into the air with an expression like, "this is neat!"

I just checked today again, and it seems the oldest is away from the nest, the second oldest is on a nearby branch, and the youngest is flapping near the edge, trying to get up the courage.  Soon, I guess, they'll all be out on their own completely.

Now tell me the truth, weren't there times when you wish you could have gotten YOUR kids out of the house in just three months time?


My Paranormal Shoes

Have any of you ever had a pair of shoes you just couldn't throw out?  For whatever reason?  

I still have such a pair.  They're at least 25 year old, Johnston and Murphy brown tasseled, all leather upper moccasins.  I got that description out just like the old shoe dog I used to be.  These "dogs" sure have seen better days to look at, but they are now their most comfortable to me.  They've gone from being my most comfortable shoe to my most comfortable house slipper.  

My wife and I have a truce to that effect, ie; I will just wear them around the house, as she is more into appearances than I am, seeing my appearance as a refection on her.  The shoes really are beyond even the shortest outside trek; the soles are paper thin, and even the slightest pebble feels like a nail going through it.  The sole stitching is worn though.   I worry the soles are about to come off, and that would be the end of my wearing the shoes.  If it does come to that, I still CAN'T throw them out.

Knowing the soles are on a respirator, I've tried to find a shoe maker who can stitch new soles, and can't find a one in the area.  Johnston and Murphy want $125. plus postage to refurbish the shoes; I'm considering it, despite my wife's worry I'm becoming certifiable.

Let me tell you why.

The reason takes the reader back to my first blog post, about our Maltese, Snowball, who passed away over a year ago.  Snowy used to make this little moan/whine when he wanted something, usually to eat.  These shoes, if they flop off my heal just the right way, make an identical sound on the wood floor, as if Snowy is still with us.

That's the best way I can describe it.  I guess you would have to have known Snowball, and now come to the house to hear my shoe sole flop just the right way to believe me.  I can assure you the sound is ghostly.

If you really want to see what I mean, please come when my wife isn't home; she doesn't like me to wear these "slippers" while we have company.



Gypsies, those worldly nomads scorned by most other populaces, have legends as colorful as some of the clothes they wear.  The one I heard has to do with a gypsy blacksmith who was commissioned by a Roman soldier to fashion twelve nails.  When the blacksmith found out these nails were to be used for Christ's crucifixion, he let one of his sons  take three of the nails.  He then told the Roman soldier he only had time to forge nine nails, and convinced him to make do with just those.

Legend has it the boy ran under Christ's cross, and Christ smiled down at him for lessening his suffering, and told the boy whatever the gypsies stole in the future would not be considered a sin.

I guess this story was the original "license to steal," and the real home of the whopper. 

A few years ago, we were on a tour to Italy, visiting Venice, Florence, and Rome.  We were warned profusely to beware of all of the gypsy tricks.  For example, a mother would throw her baby at you,  her sons would rifle your pockets while your hands were occupied, then she would snatch the baby back and accuse you of kidnapping, before disappearing into the crowd.

We witnessed a similar stunt while in Venice.  As the boat was leaving the dock, one of our tour mates  was bumped from behind by a man who then leaped back onto the dock, said "scuzzy," and waved the man's wallet next to his smirky smile.  The fellow tourist was extra hard on himself; being from New York, he said, he should have known better.

However, the gypsies don't always win.  In Florence, the beautiful city of my maternal origins, we witnessed from the balcony of the Uffizzi Museum a little old lady with a cane being pursued by two ten or eleven year old urchins from behind.  It was painful to watch this poor old woman walk, seemingly all of her joints infested with arthritis.  

I was about to shout down to the square where this was about to happen, when the old lady, who must have had eyes in the back of her head, swung her cane around at just the right moment, sending one of the boys sprawling onto the pavement.  The second boy fled, and the first boy followed once he hobbled to his feet.  The old lady continued on like nothing happened.

The guy who lost his wallet also saw this.  I thought he was going to cry, watching a poor, crippled old lady show him how its done.