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.  Freezing cold.  So I drove to a gas station where they have one of those air pumps where you have to pop in 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 for a few minutes 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 added. 

I went out and slid the hose a couple feet up the exhaust.  And let it sit for a few minutes.  And warm.  Then 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.     

These cookies aren’t very good. . . .

[A repeat from October 13, 2019]

In the past, Donna and I host a Christmas Eve celebration for family. It was always a smorgasbord dinner, exchange of gifts and a special appearance by Santa Claus. It was always a relaxing and happy time.

A few days after one of those special days, I was grazing in the pantry — looking for goodies. I happened upon a neat plastic bag, festooned with ribbons and bows.  Inside were cookies made by one of my cousins. Hmmmm . . . .  Well, it didn’t take long for me to rip open the bag and shovel a cookie into my mouth. Chomp chomp chomp . . . .  Hmmmm . . . . The cookie was not very good.  I had another. Hoping to glean some nuance of sweetness. Or chocolate. But it was no go.

At that moment, Donna walked into the kitchen and saw me with the bag. I said “these cookies are not very good.” She looked at me like I was an idiot.  Arms akimbo, she shook her head. And offered “Scott. . . . those cookies are for Daisy.” Hmmmm. . . no wonder.  I took another bite and then handed the rest to Daisy who sat at my feet.  Wagging her tail.   Maybe if I had put peanut butter on them . . . . 

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

On December 29, 2016, I mentioned my interest in watching TED Talks while having lunch at my desk. On February 5, 2017, I shared with you a few of my favorite TED Talks.

Today, while peddling the recumbent bike at the local fitness center, I had occasion to watch the “most popular TED Talk of all time.” We’re talking 72 million views. Sir Ken Robinson – author and educator – made a presentation in 2006 titled “Do Schools Kill Creativity.” Well. . . . let me tell you – this presentation captured my attention such that I will be watching it again. And probably again. And just maybe – again. It will not be just for the educational nuggets. It will be for the stand-up humor that bubbles over in this presentation. I was literally laughing out loud at some of the running commentary on education. Wow! Sir Ken Robinson has had several presentations – all of which are well worth the investment of time. Sadly – Sir Ken Robinson passed away in August 2020 at the age of 70.

Do yourself a favor and click on https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_do_schools_kill_creativity

Thanksgiving

In my post of November 11, 2011, I mentioned an occasion when I was asked by a friend “what is your favorite day?”  I replied “Thanksgiving.”   It’s a long weekend.  Family time.  Great food (stuffing – my favorite).  The Detroit Lions on t.v. (this year versus the Bears).  And Christmas is on the way.   Christmas??  YIKES!!  So I asked my friend his favorite day.  “December 21st” he responded.  The day of the winter solstice — when the days begin to get longer.  I can relate. . . . .     

Well, it’s another November.   Ten years later.  Wow!  The days are often slow.  And arduous.  But the years go quickly.  Faster it seems every year.    

I hope that Thanksgiving is a favorite day for you.  But Thanksgiving is more than just a day.  It can be an attitude as well.  An every day attitude.  Of gratitude.   My best wishes to you for a wonderful, happy and blessed Thanksgiving weekend.   

Burning Leaves

(An Autumn repeat – from September 11, 2016)

For millennia, folks have been burning garbage and “stuff” with relative impunity.  The smoke was often choking.  And sometimes toxic.  Now – thankfully – there are limitations on such activity.  

But. . . . as a kid, I remember my father – and other men in the neighborhood – raking leaves in the fall.  And ushering them out to the street – at the curb – and lighting them up.  Saturdays and Sundays in October were the optimal days for raking, gathering and burning leaves.  And the distinct smell of burning leaves was overpowering.  And – from my recollection – not so unpleasant.  Everyone burned their leaves.  I mean what were families supposed to do with them?  My dad would stand – smoking his pipe – and talking with the other men.  As the leaves burned. . . . .   

I tend to think it would be nice if for a few hours in the fall, everyone could spoon some dead leaves out to the street.  And burn them.  Like the “good old days” (did I really say that?).    I don’t need a “bad for the environment” speech.  Or “think of what it does to your lungs.”  Or “aren’t there regulations?”  Just think about sharing an indelible olfactory moment of an autumn afternoon long ago . . . . .

Fed Ex (circa 1860)

(A repeat of August 6, 2017) It was the FedEx of 1860.  It was called “The Pony Express.”   

Two centuries ago, it would take weeks for the United States Post Office (started in 1775 with Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General) to deliver the mail.  Going cross country?  It might take months. . . . .

The need for a fast mail route was prompted by California’s soaring population, commercial prominence and statehood in 1850.  Delivering the mail – with more speed – became essential.  In 1859, three men in the freight business opened a mail route that became known as the Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company.  On April 3, 1860, the operation began — literally running mail on horseback from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento.  The company set up 157 stations – roughly 5 to 25 miles apart – on the 1,900 mile journey.  The operation became known as “The Pony Express.”  Each of the 120 riders (all – under 19 years of age and weighing less than 125 pounds) was presented with an inscribed Bible and required to sign an oath.  No profanity, no intoxicating liquors, no fighting, and commitment to honesty, duty and God.    

The riders would gallop day and night — changing horses every 10 to 15 miles and passing the 20 pound mail pouch (called a “mochila”) to a new rider every 75 to 100 miles.  The Pony Express worked well.  For about a year. 

But as with all things, time caught up.  The transcontinental railroad opened, telegraph lines soon connnected east and west – and the Civil War began in April 1861.  In October 1861, the Pony Express made its last delivery.  There’s not much left of the Pony Express save for a few stations (the Hollenberg Station in Hanover, KS is the only one remaining in its original location).  And there are Pony Express stamps and envelope cancellations.  Got one?  They’re worth mucho.     

Irving Park and Kedzie

On January 4, 2012, I discussed Howard Gardner’s wonderful book – Frames of Mind. This classic book speaks of seven basic intelligences that all people share:  linguistic; musical; logical/mathematical; spatial; bodily/kinesthetic; interpersonal; and intrapersonal.  I’m not sure where “a sense of direction” comes in, but I will confess to having a total lack of this “intelligence.”

I have no trouble in my own home finding my way to the bathroom or getting to the basement. But once I walk out of the house, it is like my brain becomes a tabula rasa — a blank slate. . . . . Where is the driveway? Oh yeah. . . . How do I get to the back yard? Lemme think oh. . . it’s this w – no that way. Well. . . . it’s not quite that bad but perhaps you get my drift. If you ever want to inspire laughter with members of my family – just say the words “Irving Park and Kedzie.

Forty plus years ago, I was driving alone to a Thanksgiving gathering at my aunt and uncle’s home. They lived on Wolfram Street in Chicago. I was miles away when I realized – I had no idea where I was. . . . So I did what any red-blooded American male would do. I called my father (who was already there) from a local bar (no cell phones). “Dad – I’m at Irving Park and Kedzie and I . . . .” “You’re WHAT?” “Irving Park and Kedzie and . . . . ” “What in the WORLD are you doing at Irving Park and Kedzie?” I said I wasn’t sure where I was and how to get to Uncle Ernie’s. My father instructed me to get a pencil and paper (I walked to the bar and got the necessaries). And my dad explained – in detail – how to get from where I was to where I wanted to go. Nearly an hour later, I showed up. Nervous smiles and apologies. And we sat down to Thanksgiving Dinner. . . . “

I have to say that I am not as dumb as I may look. But if you want me to go from Point A to Point B? Do me a favor. Draw me a map, get me a GPS and allow me an extra half hour to get where I’m supposed to be.

The Four Chaplains – A Commentary

I’m touched by the story of The Four Chaplains. By the heroism, the sacrifice and the amazing constellation of circumstance that brought these four men together. At that hour. At that place. What are the odds that four friends – clergy of four different faiths — would be together when on that dark night, a torpedo changed the world for them.

Let me ask. Do you think the fellow who got priest’s life jacket was first asked “are you Catholic?”  Do you think the rabbi inquired – “are you Jewish?” Or the Methodist or Reformed Church pastors asked- “are you Methodist? Reformed?” I suspect not. Four men died so that four men could live. John 15:13 states “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Could it be that there is a higher message? When these four heroes died, what was important was saving the life of a fellow human being. Knowing that they were sacrificing their own. Might God’s benevolence be similar? Is the criteria for salvation that one be Methodist? Lutheran? Catholic? Jewish? Episcopalian? I’m just askin’. . . .

The Four Chaplains

On January 23, 1943, the SS Dorchester set sail from New York en route to Greenland. The Dorchester carried 900 civilian and military personnel as part of a convoy of three ships. During the early morning hours of February 3, 1943, the ship was torpedoed by the German submarine U-223 off the coast of Newfoundland. Four chaplains were on board: George L. Fox (Methodist minister); Alexander D. Goode (Jewish Rabbi); John P. Washington (Catholic Priest); and Clark V. Poling (Reformed Church Minister). The four had met at the Army Chaplains School at Harvard University. All had served as leaders of the Boy Scouts of America.

As the ship began to sink, the Chaplains helped organize the evacuation of the ship, they hurried men into the lifeboats and when the supply of life jackets ran out, the Four Chaplains each gave theirs – to another. As the bow began to raise, the Four Chaplains linked arms and began praying and singing hymms. A survivor – Grady Clark – said “As I swam away from the ship, I looked back. . . The last thing I saw – the Four Chaplains were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them again. They themselves did not have a chance without their life jackets.”

The story was received back in America with considerable emotion. Each of the Four Chaplains was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart. They were nominated for the Medal of Honor but were found technically ineligible as their deaths did not occur in combat.

On May 28, 1948, a stamp was issued to honor the legacy of the Four Chaplains. I still have my stamp collection and my examples of this iconic stamp.

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The First Uber Driver

When I was 3 years old, my family moved from the attic at 6036 West Byron Street to 5744 West Division Street in Chicago. When I started kindergarten, I would walk to Ella Flagg Young School – sometimes with a little girl in my class. I remember Dick and Jane and “See Spot run. . . .” I just finished the book for the third time. Anywayyyy. . . .

After school, I would walk home, grab my tricycle and pedal furiously down Massasoit Street to Saint Angela School. The school usually let out a half hour or so after I got home. I would cross Potomac, turn my trike around – facing Division Street. And wait. Looking over my shoulder. Soon students in uniform began spilling out of the school. And I would offer – for a penny – a ride on the back of my trike the one block to Division Street. Sometimes the boys would struggle to get the ride. One would hop on the flat stand in back, grab my shoulders and I would begin pedaling like a maniac down Massasoit. At Division, the boy would pay up (I was never stiffed) and I would pedal back to the school. Usually, I could make two pennies. But sometimes it was the lucky three. And I would pedal slowly back home with the pennies burning a hole in my pocket.

I like to think if I’da been smart, I could’ve started a franchise of “Truber” drivers (“Tricycle Uber”). Then again, at age 6, I was just happy to have a job. Now that I’m retired, I’m thinking that if I ever need a few extra bucks, I can bring my tricycle up from the basement . . . . .