Don’t Get “Tired”

[A timely winter repeat from December 15, 2013]

My friend Al reminded me that in cold weather, it’s a good idea to check car tires since the cold will contract air pressure and tires can flatten out.  So, wisely I did.  And sure enough – my front two tires were low. Really low.  It was night.  Cold.  So I drove to a gas station where they have one of those air pumps where you have to pop for 75 cents. I unscrewed the valve caps, had my air gauge at the ready and dropped 3 quarters. The machine kicked in and I applied the hose to the tire valve. Nothing happened.  The hose and valve were frozen.

Now this is not an issue that I’ve dealt with before so I went into the gas station where a lone clerk sat behind a thick glass partition. I explained the problem. “Valve’s frozen,” he said.  Hoookayyy. . .  “Stick the hose up your exhaust while the motor’s running and . . . . [he grabbed a lighter from the shelf and passed it under the window] warm your tire valves.”  “Bring back the lighter,”  he said. 

I went out and slid the hose a couple feet up the exhaust.  And let it sit for a few minutes.  And warm.  I fired the lighter and warmed the tire valves.  After a couple minutes, I took a breath, dropped in another 75 cents and applied the hose to the tire valve.  “PFFFFTT.”  It worked like a charm.  Whew!  The tire inflated and I brought the lighter back.  I thanked the clerk (offered him a tip – he declined).  “I used to drive a semi” he said.  “Used to happen all the time.  It’s one of those little tricks you learn.” 

Now you all know the trick.  🙂   


Flying Commercial

On May 6, 1982, Donna was on United Airlines flight 911 [ironic flight number] from New York to Chicago’s O’Hare Field after her grandfather’s funeral.  In those days, anyone could wander out to the arrival gate – to welcome friends and loved ones. So I parked in the lot and hoofed out to the gate.  The flight was due to arrive at 10:09 pm but was running late. It finally arrived at 10:40 pm.

Waiting in the gate area, I noticed a few “suits” standing around. Whispering into little walkie talkies. I figured they were there to make sure I didn’t get rambunctious when I saw Donna. The plane docked.  The walkway door opened and people began streaming out. And then there was Donna. . . .

She came up to me and said “you won’t believe who’s on the flight.” I said “Donald Trump?” [just kidding].  And she said “No – Gerald Ford.” And indeed as we started walking toward the baggage claim, I looked back and out from the gangway popped the 38th President of the United States. Surrounded by a fast-walking security “diamond” of Secret Service.   Well. . . .

Some of you know of my interest in autographs and manuscripts so I asked Donna for her ticket. And I slowed down – positioning myself to be in the center of the security diamond as it advanced.   Suddenly I was caught up on the edge of the diamond.  I was one Agent away from number 38.  “Mister President” I offered.  “May I have your autograph?”  He had papers under his arm and he responded “kinda tough with my arms full” – and I handed him my ticket and a pen.  He slowed, put the ticket on his papers, scribbled his name and I exited the “diamond.”  Zing!

I remember the story of Harry and Bess Truman.  When they left the White House, they took a train back to Independence, MO.  And the two lived on Harry’s $112.56 per month Army pension.  Without Secret Service protection.  I am keenly aware that we’re in a different world.  But it would sure be nice if our current leaders – and their spouses – could be safe.  And economical.  Taking the train like Harry.  Or flying commercial like Jerry.       

Christmas 2017

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:6

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David). To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.   Luke 2:4-7

Here we are again! Christmas 2017.  Mercy – the days are often long but the years go fast. . . .

Our best wishes to all of you for a Happy and Blessed Christmas, New Year and Holiday Season!!

Just Call Me Solomon. . . . .

In my post of April 2, 2017, I discussed the gift of colorful and quirky “Happy Socks” that my granddaughters gave me last Christmas.  I have more than a dozen pair and I now wear them every day.  But as in all cases, the past is prologue. . . .   

My granddaughters had a sleepover at our house earlier this week.  I got dressed and then called out the door offering Eve and Elin the option of selecting the Happy Socks that I would wear to work.  The two of them (ages 3 and 6) bolted in, pulled open the drawer and began perusing the choices.  Each held up a different pair.  And insisted that I wear “their” pair.  I asked that they confer (something like the U.S. Congress) to come up with one pair that I ought wear.  No deal.  Each wanted me to wear “their” pair. . . . .

Please understand that I am not as dumb as I look.  So we reached a compromise.  For the first time in my life — I agreed to wear two highly different colorful socks to work.   My granddaughters looked at each other like – he really is as dumb as he looks.  And squealed.  Each peeled off one sock and handed it to me.  I sat down and put them on.   The good news is that I told no one else about my wardrobe issue.  No one looked at my feet.  And no one (that I could tell) noticed during the day.  I arrived home unscathed from my Solomonic decision.   That said – I tossed the two socks down the laundry chute for washing.  And I will await their delivery — to put them back with their rightful partner. . . . .   


Second City

[A repeat from March 12, 2012]

In 1938, my father and his friend Bill S. took a driving trip to Mexico.  This was an unheard of expedition at the time for two twenty-something guys from Chicago.   Despite numerous car troubles (a Model A Ford), they nearly made it to Mexico City.  At that point, running low on money – and enthusiasm for confronting a chronically ailing car – they chugged back north. 

I have a wonderful vintage film (now on DVD) my father made this trip.  The amazing thing — it is in color.   One of the classic images of my father is him standing next to the famed Obispado in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.   Built in the late 1780’s, this Church building has served as a barracks, retirement home, fortress and now – a museum.

In the late 1980’s I began traveling to Monterrey on business.  I have been there often – visiting two or in a few cases three times a year.   Monterrey has become almost a “second city” for me.  I know my way around (though it is challenging) and I enjoy the wonderful restaurants, sites and people.  When there, I normally stay at the Quinta Real, a beautiful hotel in the San Pedro Garza Garcia neighborhood.  I have visited the Obispado — and have a wonderful picture of myself standing in the exact spot where my father stood seventy years before.

I have made good friends in Monterrey – Antonio G. and his family being chief among them.   He and his family have been to my home (for Thanksgiving one year) and Donna and I have been to his.   There are many more good friends there.   Monterrey is a great City with wonderful people.  I look forward to seeing my second city again soon . . . . .

Uncle Walter

I wonder if every family has an “Uncle Walter.”  My Uncle Walter was my father’s father’s brother. He was born in Denmark and moved to the United States just in time to be conscripted into the United States Army – and shipped off to France – in World War I. When Uncle Walter finally got home, he behaved strangely.  He only wore white clothes and he refused to sleep in a bed.  He always slept on the floor.  He was committed to a veterans’ hospital in Milwaukee. My father said Uncle Walter was “shell shocked” [PTSD] from the War. And that was that for Uncle Walter. My father’s family never talked about him and only once that I recall did anyone go to visit.

I’d heard about Uncle Walter but I’d never met him.  So when I was in my late 20’s – rebel that I was – I decided to go find him.  I called the Veteran’s Administration and learned that he was in a halfway house for veterans on South 27th Street in Milwaukee.  And I drove up to see him.   As I approached the address, there was an old man in white clothing walking slowly on the sidewalk.  I stopped the car.  Got out.  “Are you Walter Petersen?”  He looked at me.  I said “I am Willy’s [my father] son.”  And Uncle Walter began crying. . . . .

A few months later, I brought my father up to see Uncle Walter.  And just about every week from my first visit, I sent him a care package of Copenhagen snuff [he loved it], some candy and a couple of dollar bills.  When he died at the Veteran’s Home in King, Wisconsin, he left me “everything”:  his large print Bible, his veterans benefit (about $1,700), the cross on his coffin and a brand new stuffed bunny for my daughter.  The Bible remains on my shelf.  The cross is on the wall in my den.  The bunny is still in Lauren’s old room.  And the money purchased a tree that sits in our yard.   I’m glad I reached out to my Uncle Walter.   Though I’d bet there are more than a few Uncle Walters out there. . . . . . 


I have a theory.  Go with me on this. . . . .

Statistically, something like 90% of all people are using smart phones and not actual cameras to take photographs. The same is true as to videos.  Most people are taking videos – with their smart phones.  I have not found statistical corroboration but I do believe that the videos taken with smart phones are of shorter duration than those that were taken with the old video cameras.   And I believe that such videos are geared more toward visual activity rather than audio input. 

I remember in years past, we’d turn on the video camera on Christmas morning and record the “ooohs” “ahhhs” and running commentary.  The oldest and youngest would talk to the camera about their present.  We’d share with the camera our first memories of Christmas.   And thoughts of days past.  I’m not sure that’s done much anymore.      

Based on my own premises, my conclusion is that we are recording less and less audio than we used to.  I have many videos of my granddaughters dancing, swimming and singing.  But I don’t have much in the way of their dialogue.  Or conversation.  While smart phones provide a great convenience, I’d like to renew the recording of voices, discussion and conversation . . . . .