Fasty and Slowy

[A repeat from November 27, 2011]  When our daughter Lauren was very small, Donna and I would often need to find things to keep her occupied while sitting in the car, a restaurant or store.   One evening sitting in a Greek restaurant in Evanston, Lauren was getting a little bored so I took my right hand and – using my fingers as “feet” – began walking my hand toward her.  Well she squealed with delight.  And of course the hand walked up her arm over her head and down the other side.  Big smiles.  🙂  Big laughs.  😮

After awhile, I got the other hand into play.  Where the right hand was light and quick, the left hand was slow, lumbering and ponderous.  And heavy.  My index fingers would be raised to serve as “heads” of the two critters.   And so, “Fasty and Slowy” were born.  Fasty was nimble and danced lightly over the table and  all over Lauren (and even bouncing on top of Slowy) while Slowy plodded along.  Slowly.  Heavily.  And when Slowy stepped onto our daughter’s hand, he was . . .well, heavy.  Lauren thought it was hysterical!   And so Fasty and Slowy were regular visitors from then on. 

Fasty and slowy have been in hibernation for quite a few years.  But I have a feeling that pretty soon they’ll be making a reappearance. . . . 

Cremona

[A repeat from April 9, 2012] Cremona is a city of 72,000 in the Northern (Lombardy) area of Italy.  The city has a long and storied history.   It is known for many things but it is famous for one — violins.   Beginning in the 16th Century, Cremona was home to three legendary luthier families:  Amati, Stradivari and Guarneri.  While some folks will associate the names Guarneri and Amati with fine violins, everyone knows the name Stradivarius.

When I was young, I read a lot about treasure — the Lost Dutchman Mine, the Oak Island Mystery, the San Saba River treasure, Padre Island doubloons and so on.  I read books like Frank Dobie’s classic Coronado’s Children.   And I always longed to one day go hunting for these treasures or rarities like a Gutenberg Bible (post of 8/18/11) or a Stradivarius violin.  I’ve come close to a Gutenberg on two occasions (another story) but the Stradivarius has escaped me. 

During his lifetime, Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) made about 1,100 instruments.  A few hundred survive and those few are rare and valuable.  Why?  Because the sound is near perfection.  Antonio created his works of musical art with spruce tops, willow blocks and maple backs, ribs and neck.  The technique has been duplicated but the sound never replicated.  There is thought that the coatings on the wood made the difference.  So far, the exact recipe remains a mystery.

I still think of taking a sabbatical someday — and heading off in search of a Gutenberg Bible or a Stradivarius violin.   Or maybe the Lost Dutchman Mine . . . . .

Walking home from work . . . in winter

Walking home from work . . . in winter
       A poem by Scott Petersen (circa – a winter night in 1985)
Wind blows cold in my face.
Always.
Never sun.  Freezing, biting, eye-closing wind.
Every icy step is uphill. Every step a journey of a thousand miles.
Hooks pull.
Hunger, thirst, exhaustion and darkness.
With no end.  No remorse.
Wind pushes me back. Always.
Never rest. Mind racing. Muscles aching.
I press forward.                                                                                                        Each thought a labor.
Each thought – a painful ache.
Each thought concludes that there is no end.
Yet every passing minute – closer to the goal.

Bleak darkness speaks.
Always.
Desperate for sleep, I cry for the night.
Eyes heavy. Heart heavy. Nearly the end.
But there is a dim light.  I am home. Late again.                                            But home. Finally.
And dinner. . . . .
Boiled chicken. Frozen broccoli. Asparagus.
And cranberry juice. . . . .

A Belt and a Knife

On May 9, 2013, I posted on how I concluded some years ago that the tools and accoutrement in my basement workbench did little good if I were driving around in the car – and something came up where I needed a screw driver, saw, entrenching tool, air pump or axe.   So I outfitted our two cars with stuff that from the basement workbench.  If I need something for the house – I can go out to the car and . . . . .  Semper paratus as they say. . . . .

Sixty years ago, Boy’s Life Magazine suggested that Boy Scouts wear a belt. And carry a knife. Since then – I have done so.  

A belt can be used for many things:  tourniquet, a “reach” for someone in the water, restrain an angry dog, carry items, pull open car doors, etc.  A knife can open packages, remove staples, open a can or bottle, cut a seat belt, break a window, do an emergency tracheotomy and on and on.  There are numerous websites that discuss the potential value of belts and knives – beyond their intended purpose.  

So at any given time, when I am out walking, driving in the car, or heading off to my tap dancing lesson or the golf course – I will be wearing a belt.   And carrying a knife.  For the last 15+ years, the blade has been a Kershaw Black Blur.   On occasions when we go out for dinner or to an event – it’s a modest Swiss Army knife.  I especially like my Swiss Army knife because it has a toothpick.  For that reason, Donna prefers that I carry the Kershaw. . . . . 

I like your house

Forty years ago, Donna and I moved onto a new street, into a new house.  The homes in the area were well-maintained.  The neighbors were nice.  Our place was commodious. And we settled in.

At the end of the street, there was a house. That I really liked.  Half moon, third acre lot with privacy and space. One day while out walking, I saw the owner — Mr. Weiss. I happened to mention that I really liked his house.  And that if he ever wanted to sell — to give me a call.  I pointed at my place across the street and down the block.  We chatted and parted.

I never really thought much about this for a year or so.  We’d see Mr. Weiss or his family.  Wave.  Smile.  And drive on.   Then. . . . . (cue the trumpets) it happened.  I got a call from Mr. Weiss who said that he and his wife were thinking of moving.  And he asked if I was “serious” about my interest in his house.  I probably said something like “duhhhh – let me talk to Donna.”  And I did.   And I called him back and said “yes.”

The following weekend, we met with Mr. & Mrs. Weiss in their back yard and talked. We moved inside and talked some more.  And after discussing the matter with Donna – we made an offer, they said “yes” and – here we are. . . . . 

Par Tube

My father was a pretty good golfer.  He played on weekends and in weekday 9 hole leagues.

Back in the day, golf grips were leather-wound. The constant abrasion of tossing in and pulling out the different clubs would cause grips to unravel. And thus – one would have to pay to have clubs re-gripped every couple years (or try to play while squeezing the unraveled pieces).  

Around 1950, my father had an idea. He bought some paper tubes to put in his golf bag. Each club had its own tube — to slide in and out. And – voila! – no more abrasion!  And thereby – no need to have grips reattached!  Within weeks, friends and strangers would ask where he got the tubes in his bag.  So my dad went out and bought 2000 paper tubes – and a rubber stamp that said “Par Tube.”  He hand-stamped each tube with the red ink logo and offered a local sporting goods store the new “golf tubes.” The owner said he would take the tubes on consignment but if they didn’t sell – he said my father would have to eat them.   

Within weeks, the sporting goods store called and needed more tubes. And the PAR TUBE was born.  A distributor began selling them to other sporting goods stores.  And my father began to moonlight.  Tannery by day – Par Tube by night. . . . .  

In the mid-1950’s, the owner of Chicago Paper Tube & Can Company at 137 South Albany (the tube maker) called my father.  The owner – Mr. Lyons – wanted to retire and he offered to sell the company to my father.  And my Dad – who had twenty years service at Chicago Rawhide – made a switch – and invested every penny he had – to buy and run a business he knew nothing about.  And he made it grow.  And he made it glow. . . .    

Swing Thoughts

I like to golf. I’m okay at it. Not great.  I play two or three times a week – and I have a 17 index that’s moving down.   My attitude on any given day can affect my game.  The reason is that golf is 65% mental. And 35% mental. . . . .

Upon addressing the ball (“hello ball“), I employ an instructive word I learned from a John Jacobs Golf School in Litchfield Park, Arizona.  The word is “GASP.”  GASP stands for “grip” “aim” “stance” and “posture.”  These are not swing thoughts.   These are the preliminary steps that you take to get ready – to strike the ball. 

It is once I have my grip, aim, stance and posture lined up and ready – that a mantra from Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s miraculous landing on the Hudson River comes to mind.   As the plane begins its descent to the river, the flight attendants are calling over the intercom “HEAD DOWN – STAY DOWN.” 

And that – is my single swing thought.   If I can remember it. . . . .

The Great Hash Brown Cook Off

[A tasty repeat from September 10, 2013]  Donna and I spent a long weekend in Park City, Utah, with some good friends. One evening, we planned to make dinner and dine in. Soooooo I volunteered to make my world-famous hash brown potatoes. No big thing. Well, my friend Jack said “I make hash browns too. Why don’t we have a cook off?”  I thought hmmmm . . .  a cookoff.  With that, the gloves were down, the aprons on and the skillets ready. We went to Fresh Market where I bought some large (ideally organic) yellow potatoes (I used 8) and two large yellow onions. I was stoked.  Jack bought similar ingredients. We went back and fired up the stove.

I halved, then thinly-sliced the onions.  I washed the potatoes and pitted any “eyes” or rough spots (gotta be perfect).  Then cut into small chunks.  I put the onions and potatoes into a large fry pan with olive oil then covered on low heat.  The object – to cook the potatoes slowly by steaming them with the onions.  I stirred frequently.  This is a slow process – taking 45 minutes or more.  Gradually the potatoes softened and the onions began to darken.  I added garlic powder, pepper, salt and a little Italian seasoning.  Then I tossed in a large spoon of butter.  Mmmmmmm . . . . When the potatoes were ready, I turned up the heat and took off the top to do a little pan roasting for perhaps six or seven minutes.  At this point, well done chopped bacon is an option. 

The result was wonderful.  Jack’s offering was a counterpoint to mine.  He first boiled the potatoes and chopped them small and tossed in with finely-chopped onions.  He used butter only.  His were more traditional flat hash browns with the delicious buttery taste.  Mine were chunky and more of a roasted potato dish.  The gathering happily devoured both.  No winner was declared.  It was a toss up!  🙂   

1089

You will have people saying “how in the world did you do that?”

Let’s say you are sitting with some friends.  Or better yet, children or grandchildren.  You volunteer to predict a four digit number. And you write it down on a card and turn it over.

You ask someone to write down three single-digit numbers without repeating a number. Then have them reverse the numbers and subtract the smaller from the larger.

You take that number, reverse it and add the two numbers together. The total will be “1089” — the number you wrote down on the card. 

The good news is that – whatever the first three numbers are, the end result is always “1089.”   And no – I don’t know how it works.   Unless I take off my socks and shoes.   And even then. . . . . .