A Ten. . . .

[A summer repeat from July 3, 2016] I scored a point or two by asking Donna if she wanted to go out for dinner on Friday (ka-ching).  “No she said . . . how about if we stay home and have something simple.” Now I have come to realize that “simple” in Donna’s parlance means plain chicken, rice and asparagus.  Three of my favorite things.  Not.   So I offered to make dinner.

I went to Fresh Market (my usual haunt for dinner inspiration) and bought 3/4 of a pound of wild Atlantic sockeye salmon for Donna.  Simple.  And I got three crab cakes for myself (a regular crab cake; the “ultimate” crab cake; and a salmon cake). I wanted to try them all.  The salmon was drenched in olive oil.  Seasoned with turmeric and pepper and baked for 20 minutes at 400.  The “cakes” I sautéed in olive oil until brown. 

Then (be still my heart) I got organic white potatoes; organic carrots; and some Shiitaki mushrooms.  The potatoes I diced thinly and sautéed in butter.  Topped with ground pepper, turmeric, Kosher salt and garlic powder.    The carrots and Shiitakis were washed (the carrots were filthy), the carrots skinned and everything diced and sautéed  in olive oil.   Both took about 40 minutes on low(er) heat.  Candles.  A little Gato Barbieri crooning in the background.   “Well?” I asked.   Donna looked up.  “This is probably a nine and a half.”  She paused.  Savored a bite.  “Actually a ten” (ka-ching).  And then – the píece de résistance – I whipped out a Talenti Sicilian Pistachio gelato to close the meal.  And did the dishes.  Ka-ching ka-ching . . . . .        


I like to golf. I’m okay at it. Not great.  I play a few times a week in the summer and shoulder seasons. I have a 18 index that (I think) is moving down.   My attitude on any given day can affect my game.  The reason is — golf is 65% mental. And 35% mental. . . . .

In days past, I used to have a dozen swing thoughts that would spiral and pulse through my small brain as I addressed the ball, raised the club and brought it down for an imperfect “whack” on my Pro V-1. Yet on any given stroke, I might forget half of the most important swing thoughts (slow back, hands tight, right elbow in . . . .). These days, however, I have pared down my swing thoughts to a single mandate. I have Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to thank for it.

Have you ever seen the movie “Sully”? If not, watch the trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjKEXxO2KNE It will explain – in an “ahaaa” moment – the origin of my swing thought.

When Captain Sullenberger realizes that he cannot make it to LaGuardia or Teterboro Airports – he knows he will have to “land” in the Hudson River. He takes his microphone and announces over the loudspeaker the iconic words – “Brace for Impact.” At that point, the flight attendants begin yelling – what is etched into my mind as I address the ball. . . .

HEAD DOWN – STAY DOWN!” In short, I try to keep my head stationary – and down – as I swing and follow through. That directive usually works. Though sometimes the swing thought disappears and my mind becomes a tabula rasa (blank slate) as I’m swinging down. And I will immediately look up (often before I hit the ball) and want to see where the ball is going. And you can guess what happens then . . . . .

Do You Play Golf?

[A repeat from March 19, 2017]  Years ago, when I was a States Attorney, I played golf with 7 other guys. Every Saturday morning for several years.  From April to October – we played at Cog Hill. Number 4. Dubsdread. Reserved tee times.  6:30 a.m. or so depending on sunrise.   Second and third foursomes off the tee — usually after Larry Lujack and a group from his radio staff.   

Since I lived in Wilmette, this meant traversing 45 miles to Lemont. Every Saturday morn.  To arrive by 5:45 a.m.  Thus, each Saturday, I was up at 4:00.  Showered, dressed and on the road by 4:30 a.m.

When I left my house, I would not waste time.  If you get my drift.  I gunned the car when I left the driveway and by the time I hit Lake Street, I was doing maybe 50.  In a 30 zone.   Never a soul on the highway.  Except one morning when in the black of night, way back, I saw the flicker of Mars lights moving swiftly in my direction.  #%&X!.  I slowed.  Stopped.  Got out of the car and stood there.  Holding up my license.  A police squadrol ground to a stop and an officer got out.  I was wearing khaki shorts, flip flops and a golf shirt so I didn’t look like much of a threat.  “Do you know how fast you were going?” he asked as he approached.   I handed him my license.  “Yes sir – I do.  I was going too fast.”  And then I offered “Are you a golfer?”  He looked at me.  “Yeah.  Why?”  I responded “I live back there.”  I turned and pointed.  “Every Saturday morning, I play golf at Cog Hill in Lemont.  We tee off in about an hour.  And I confess that I sometimes go faster than I should when I leave my house.”  

The officer looked at me.  Chewing on my comment.   “Well most Saturdays, I’m sitting right back [he turned and pointed] there. Keeping an eye on things.  Do me a favor.  Go the speed limit from now on.”  And he handed me back my license.  “Hit ’em straight” he said.  And walked back to his cruiser.  

No Mow May

“No Mow May.” I heard this term for the first time last week. Judging by my Socratic inquiries, most of the people I know have never heard the term either. But “No Mow May” is an increasingly national movement to . . . . are you ready? Do NOt MOW your lawn during the month of MAY. . . .

No Mow May is an environmental movement intended to allow grasses/lawns to grow undisturbed for an entire month. The purpose is to help provide a safe haven for pollinators (mainly bees) and other wildlife. The effort will thereby have a positive impact on local ecosystems and reduce emissions from lawn mowers and leaf blowers.

After learning about the term while playing golf at a perfectly manicured golf course, I drove home — keeping watch for No Mow May lawns. And interestingly there were a few. Most were covered with high grass and dandelions. Notwithstanding good intentions, there has been criticism of No Mow May given that pollinators will settle in (“Martha, isn’t this a beautiful lawn? Let’s pollinate!“) and on June 1st – be shredded to pieces with the first mowing. It has also been criticized given a propensity for fungal disease. One of the suggested options would be that each homeowner simply allot a small square/area of property where the grass can grow, the pollinators thrive and the condition of the rest of the lawn remain attractive.

One suggestion I have is — is to simply go back to the old push lawn mowers and lawn rakes. We’ll call it “Push Mower May.”

The Orphan Master’s Son

[A repeat from September 21, 2014] On July 10, 2014, I offered a post on Kim Jong Un – the animal who rules North Korea (pardon me – the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea“).  Little did I know that I’d be following up my post so soon with another post about North Korea — “The Hermit Kingdom.”  

On February 17, 2014, the United Nations released a report on North Korea which details some of the unspeakable cruelties and horrors that occur daily in North Korea:  starvation; corruption; prison camps; wholesale extermination, slaughter and murder; torture; rape; kidnapping of young women; forced abortions; brainwashing; and acts worse than your worst nightmare. 

I just finished reading The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson.  This 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner (for fiction) and New York Times bestseller depicts life (if you can call it that) in North Korea.  It paints a 443 page picture of one young man – an orphan named Jun Do  – who rises through the ranks to rival Kim Jong Il  (1941-2011) the psychotic “Dear Leader” who preceded Kim Jong Un.  I could go into great and glorious detail on the images of the book.  Suffice to say, the book is powerful and compelling.  And painful.  It makes you want to task Jack Reacher and Mitch Rapp (see 8/25/11 and 12/30/12) to do a Control Alt Delete of North Korean leadership.


(A reprint from February 7, 2012)

A haiku is a short form of Japanese poetry characterized by three qualities:

1. There are three stanzas of 5, 7 and 5 syllables;

2. There are two well-defined images (with a kireji or “cutting word” between them); and

3. The subject is usually drawn from the natural world (often seasonal).

The most famous composer of haiku poetry was Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). He was the grand poet of the Edo period and his poetry has achieved international renown. His works frequently appear on Japanese monuments and at traditional Japanese sites. Basho’s most famous (and probably the best known example of) haiku was “The Old Pond.”

Fu-ru-i-ke ya

Ka-wa zu to-bi-ko-mu

Mi-zu no 0-to

The translation?

Old pond

A frog leaps in


haiku can be a poignant teaching tool for students since it requires structure, thought, concentration and result. 

The Winter Squirrel” by Renaissance Hombre

A squirrel sits still

His tail begins to move

And away he goes

Move over Mister Basho. . . . .

So this painter. . .

So this guy walks up to a house and rings the doorbell.  A woman answers the door.

Ma’am, I’m a painter.  I will paint anything.”

The woman thinks. . . “Why don’t you paint my porch.   Paint it dark brown.” 

So the guy goes to work an a few hours later, he rings the doorbell. 

Ma’am, I’m all done.  By the way, it wasn’t a Porsche – it was a Mercedes Benz. . . .”

The Old Neighborhood

[A repeat from November 7, 2012] My parents lived in a 2 room attic in the 6000 block of West Byron Street in Chicago from 1942 until 1950.  Typical Chicago bungalow.  I was born in 1947 and lived in the attic for my first three years.  I remember the place with some clarity.  My mother (who is 90) gave me some old photographs taken in this location. 

Last weekend, I paid a visit — to the old neighborhood.  I slowed outside the small brick home.  Gazed.  Memories.   Took a picture.  Then drove around back to see the little porch and the stairway (the only entrance) going up.  There were two guys working in the garage behind the house.  I slowed again.  Looked.  The two guys looked at me.  “I used to live there.  In the attic.  Up there.”  I pointed.  “The bathroom’s on the right.  Bedroom on the street and the kitchen right there.”  They looked at each other.  “You want to go in?”  One asked.  “Sure!” I responded. 

I had tears in my eyes as I climbed the back stairs.  And went in.  The place was neat — and pretty much as I remembered it.  Slanted ceiling.  There was the lone street window where my mother would hold me and I would wave at a little boy across the street.  Bathroom and little kitchen.    The two gents who were from Mexico (two brothers one of whom lived in the attic) could not have been nicer.   No hurry.   What a trip!  I sent them copies of pictures of their home — from 65 years ago.  Though between us, I still think of it as “my home.” 

The Vikings

[A repeat from August 11, 2019] From about 790 A.D. until the Norman Conquest in 1066 A.D., the Vikings sailed the world.   They were warriors, raiders, traders, merchants and explorers.  They discovered America long before that Columbus fellow.  And they sailed their longships (oars and sails, shallow draft and symmetrical bow and stern to permit instant reversal of course) wherever the wind would carry them.    

The Vikings came from Scandinavian countries –Denmark, Sweden and Norway.   French Normans were descended from Danish and Norwegian Vikings who were made feudal overlords in Northern France.  The Vikings who raided and remained behind in Ireland (often because they had met a young lady) – were given the name “Doyle” which is from the Celtic Ó Dubhghaill, which means “son of the dark (or evil) foreigner.”    

As Christianity spread through Scandinavia, the Viking raids diminished and by the end of the 11th Century, the great Viking Age came to an end – not with a bang but a whimper.  

My father’s great grandparents were from Lyngby (just north of Copenhagen), Denmark.  They were caretakers of the local cemetery.  As they would dig graves, they uncovered various artifacts from the Viking Age.  And long before.  I have at home two beautiful stone axe heads they dug up and passed through the family. These relics are displayed on a shelf in my home office.  Great paperweights but still sharp . . . . and ready to use. If only they could talk. . . .        

Duhhhh. . . . Zinc!

On August 16, 1999, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” debuted on American television. ABC picked Regis Philbin to host the show. The program featured a quiz competition where each contestant had to correctly answer a series of 15 questions of increasing difficulty. One form of assistance was the “lifeline.” The contestant had a limited number of lifelines available in each round – and they could opt to have help – by calling their lifeline.

In early 2000, yours truly served as a lifeline for the son of friends from our church. The topic for which I was to be a lifeline – if that topic was chosen – was “world currency.” On the given evening, I stayed in my office rather than go home. In anticipation of the possible “call” (there was no guarantee I would be needed) I taped maps, charts, lists, and pictures all over my office. Ever the Boy Scout – I was prepared.

As the show started, I had a call from an ABC representative. I was told that if I got “the call” I would be talking with Regis Philbin first. AND I was instructed (probably four or five times) that “you are NOT to make any small talk with Regis.” I said I understood and the call ended. Minutes passed. What seemed like hours. And then . . . .

RING. . . . RING. . . I answered “Hello Scott – this is Regis Philbin. I’m here with your friend who needs some help with a question.” And my friend came on – “Scott – the question is – what metallic component is dominant in the United States nickel. Is it A) Iron B) Zinc C) Aluminum or D) Copper.None of the maps, charts, lists or pictures addressed this question. And I began to perspire. It couldn’t be iron. It would rust. Aluminum – no. Copper was the penny. And I said “Zinc.”

The answer was D) Copper. If you ever want to get a smile from my family members, just say “duhhhhhh zinc.”