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!  🙂   


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. . . . . .

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. . . . .