My Psychiatrist

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a haunting fear that someone was under my bed at night.   Sooooo, I went to a shrink. 

I told him “I’ve got a problem. Every time I go to bed I think there’s somebody under it. I’m scared. I think I’m going crazy.”                   The psychiatrist steepled his fingers just put yourself in my hands for one year.  Come talk to me three times a week, and we should be able to get rid of those fears.
How much do you charge?” I asked.
Eighty dollars per visit,” replied the doctor.
I’ll sleep on it,” I said.

Six months later, the doctor saw me on the street.

Why didn’t you come to see me about those fears you were having?” he asked.
Well, eighty bucks a visit, three times a week, for a year, is
$12,480.00. A bartender cured me for ten bucks.  I was so happy to have saved all that money that I went and bought me a new pickup truck.”
Is that so?” He offered – with a bit of an attitude – “and how, may I ask, did a bartender cure you?”
He told me to cut the legs off the bed.  Ain’t nobody under there now.”

It pays to get a second opinion. . . . .

The Tree

There is a tree in the front yard of my house. An elm. An old elm. Frankly, it is the patriarch (or matriarch) of the neighborhood. Maybe the town. Or state.  Every other year we pay to have it injected with a Dutch Elm vaccination.  I’ve always wanted to know how old it is – without cutting it down and counting the rings. . . . 

I did some research on the subject.   There is a metric one can use to determine the age of these magnificent gifts of God.   

At a height of around four feet, measure the circumference in inches and divide by pi (3.14).  This gives the diameter.   For an elm – multiply the diameter by 4.0 and that will give you the approximate age.   For other tree species, the multiples are as follows:

x 2.0 – Aspen or Cottonwood;  x 3.0 – Silver Maple, Pin Oak or Linden;  x 3.5 – River Birch;   x 4.0 – Elm or Red Oak;   x 4.5 – Walnut or Red Maple; x 5.0 – Sugar Maple, White Birch, White Oak or Cherry;  x 7.0 Dogwood, Ironwood or Redbud

In the case of our grand elm, the circumference is 140 inches (I used a long string to wrap around the trunk – and then did the measurement).  Divided by pi equals a diameter of 44.5 inches.  Multiply by 4.0 = 178.  That’s 178 years.   Our tree was born in or around 1842.   I hope it will be around for years to come. . . . .   


3 Star Hennessy

My father’s parents were both gone before I was born.  My mother’s father died when I was 3 years old.  While I have some old photos, I have only one memory of him — sitting on the floor with me as I played with toy cars.  Fortunately, I got to know my mom’s mother – Ruth.   A sweet lady who would save stamps and coins for my collections.  

My dad had an aunt and uncle from Denmark – Anna and Axel Larsen – who had no children. From an early age, for me they were “Grandma” and “Grandpa” Larsen.   They were happy with these monikers.   Grandpa Larsen passed away when I was I was in college and Grandma Larsen went into the Danish “Old People’s Home.” 

One day – while in college – I went to visit her.  We talked and as I was leaving she asked if the next time I came to visit – if I would bring her a little 3 Star Hennessy cognac.    I said “sure” and left.   I got in the car and thought . . .  and then drove to a liquor store where I bought a half pint of 3 Star Hennessy.  And drove back to the Home.  Now – I couldn’t tell which made her happier – my return visit or the half pint of 3 Star.  Either way, I resolved to pay a visit whenever I could.   And I did.  And each time brought a pint bottle of 3 Star Hennessy.    

When Grandma Larsen passed, I’m sure she licked her lips.  And smiled. . . . .

The Ushers

[A repeat from July 9 2017] When I was growing up, I attended St. Mark Lutheran Church in Mt. Prospect, IL. It was a big church offering three services on Sunday morning: 8:00; 9:30; and 11:00. The 8:00 a.m. service was relatively new. And as you might imagine, it was sometimes a challenge to staff the early service with ushers.

The head of the ushering program – Mr. Wendt – would often attend all three services – filling in as needed.  Finally, perhaps in desperation, he approached the head of the church’s youth program — and asked if there were some high school boys who could “help out” with the early service.  The answer?  “Sure.”  So Chuck, Wayne, Randy, Dave and I — were tapped to usher the 8:00 a.m. service — every Sunday.    

On the first Sunday, the five of us showed up early.  Suits.  Ties.  We each donned a white carnation and got an ushering lesson from Mr. Wendt.  He guided us through the service offering a running commentary (“smile”greet people by name if you can” “when collecting the offering, walk backwards – never turn your back on the altar“).  After a few weeks of this, the five of us had the protocol down pat.  And  a few weeks later, Mr. Wendt said “keep up the good work, boys” and he never showed up again. . . . .  

Your Daughter is a Police Officer – and. . . .

Your daughter is a 5 year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. She’s a good person. A compassionate person. And one who wants to be a good police office.  She and her colleagues deal with confrontation from time to time.   So you tell me. – what should she do if Ole Svensson – a nasty character from Sweden. . . .

Grabs a skateboard and hits her over the head – and when she falls, hits her again.   

Has a firebomb that he is about to throw into a Target store? Has a firebomb that he is about to throw into a small home where 6 children live?

Is pulled over for doing 75 in a 30 zone. When your daughter asks for his driver’s license – he says @%&*$ you – and drives off.  Or fights her when she asks him to get out of the car.

She is standing on the corner when Ole walks up and splashes her with a plastic glass full of urine. 

She is standing with other police protecting a small 7/11 store owned by an immigrant family.  Ole is trying to get through to break the windows and grab some loot.  He pushes her.  And hits her.  

Just stands on the street corner – swearing at her.  Yelling at her.  Encouraging others to do the same.  Taking videos.  And laughing. 

She is in a small convenience store when Ole enters with a gun – and points it at the clerk.  She is armed.  

These are questions we’ve been hearing about.  Reading about.  What’s the answer?  What would you do?  What would you have your daughter do?  



Seat Belts

Do you wear a seat belt when you’re in a car?  Do you put your children or grandchildren in a car seat and strap them in when they ride with you?  Why?   Remember – you have freedom.   To do anything you darn please.  And nobody should be able tell you what to do.  Even if it’s going to save your life.  Or someone else’s. 

I like to smoke my Cohiba Spetre cigars in restaurants.  Can you believe I’ve been told I can’t?  So what if someone doesn’t like eating their filet and mashed potatoes while I’m puffing on my stogie at the next table.   If they don’t like it – they can leave.  Right?  And who do they think they are not letting me in when I’m barefoot – wearing only my Speedo?

In Illinois, seat belts became mandatory on July 1, 1985.  That date coincides with most of the seat belt laws around the country.   Smoking in restaurants ended on January 1, 2008.  Oh – and then there is the policy of “no shoes, no shirt, no service.”   

Of course I am being facetious (which happens to be one of only three words in the English language with the vowels in the correct order).   There are rules we all follow – of courtesy, civility and health.  

Seat belts, I understand.  Same with cigars and bare feet in restaurants.  But lately, masks too.  What I do not understand is why some folks believe it is their right to not wear a mask – when wandering into public places.  As our health care providers have told us – masks prevent you from spreading the Coronavirus to others.  So why do some people feel entitled to ignore the rules?    When I hear these people on the news pontificating about how they have “freedom” to not wear a mask, I wonder — didn’t they ever learn to have respect for other people?  Or are they just knuckleheads?   Probably both. . . . . 

Letters from Popi

The Coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge for everyone.  The handwriting is on the wall.  It will diminish the need for office space (who needs offices when many can work from home).  City centers will be affected.  It will impact business support companies, restaurants, schools and – in short – life as we know it.   I have concern for my family.  And for the ongoing meaningful education of my granddaughters – Eve and Elin.  So a few months ago, I had an idea.  

I have always been an advocate of the written word.  I have posted on the value of handwritten letters in the past (see September 26, 2011).  So it comes as no surprise that since mid-March, I have been sending my granddaughters a handwritten letter — every day.  

Now these are not ordinary letters.  Each one bears a cartoon image of – guess who (and sometimes guess who else).   It may be written on a sheet of paper from my largesse of stationery taken from the hotels Donna and I have stayed since we were first married (and I do have a largesse).  The letters always have a theme.  Discussion of the city or country from which the stationery originates; history; science; food; poetry; foreign languages; etc.   On the back of each envelope is the rubber-stamped image of a frog — who offers a clue as to the topic of the letter.  And each envelope bears a “Forever” frog stamp (yes there are frog stamps).    

I think the letters have gone over well.  On Father’s Day, I was presented with a thick 3 ring album bearing the title “Letters from Popi.”  It contained acetate envelopes — each containing a letter and the corresponding envelope.  The good news is — there are many spaces left to fill.   

Fourth of July!

[A timely Holiday repeat from July 2, 2017]

On this Independence Day eve, here’s a distillation of a few prior posts on a subject near to my heart.  

Fireworks? Firecrackers? Cherry bombs? Should they be legal? In Wisconsin, fireworks stores seem to outnumber cows.  Weekend festivities are often punctuated by the staccato of firecrackers or the magnificent boom of larger devices.

In 1956, the Hungarian Revolution began.  My 9 year old pals and I learned about “Molotov cocktails.”  So we thought – why not?   We filled pop bottles with gasoline, stuffed a rag in the top and lit it — tossing the bottle into Weller creek.  WOW!!   Spectacular eruptions of flames (not to mention the bumblebee whiz of shards of glass and rocks).   

I was a bomb maker.  We’d break open firecrackers, shake out the fulminate of mercury powder into cigar tubes with homemade fins, balance them on an incline and then light a fuse sending the “rocket” skyward or sometimes just bouncing along the ground.  Then we put “Lady Finger” [firecrackers] in the nose.  Wow!  These would end with an airborne explosion.  We would grab handfuls of match books at the local pharmacy and snip the heads off.  And stuff match heads into thin pipes, shaking in the fulminate powder for more incendiary displays.  And bombs.  We made cannons stuffed with BB’s held in place by dripping candle wax.  And once a hand grenade – using Slaymaker lock dial.  Every boy had a supply of firecrackers, cherry bombs, M-80’s and such.  And my neighborhood was frequently ripped with massive explosions.  

I am aware of the arguments of some armchair howlers (“what about accidents?” “they can blow your finger off!”).  Puh-lease.  Wisconsin and 39 other states have it right on fireworks. Illinois – not surprisingly – marches to the wrong drummer.