Lucretius

[A repeat from 10/31/2015, and a follow up to my last post on “First Aid”]  I was walking to the train station with a retired friend. He mentioned that he is taking a course on Lucretius – the Roman poet and philosopher (99 B.C.-55 B.C.).   His previous course was on Cicero and the one before that on some unpronounceable Roman chap.  My friend went on talking about Lucretius and his publications on the nature of the universe and Epicureanism.  Sounded pretty neat.  I asked what he was taking next semester and he was not sure.  Maybe something on analytics or Euripides.  It was then I stuck my chin out. . . . .

I asked my friend if he had ever had a course on first aid.  He looked at me – “no.”  I asked if he’d ever taken a Heimlich Maneuver, CPR or AED course.  I got the same answer.  He asked me if I had done so and I recounted briefly the year-long course work I took to become a Civil Defense emergency medical responder at Augustana College and my AED review (see June 12, 2014).   I said that over the years, knowledge of first aid has come in handy.  And on a few occasions very handy.

It’s great taking courses on Lucretius and Cicero though my personal bent might involve guitar lessons, drum lessons, bird study or a tutorial on doing card magic.  But lemme say this — acquiring knowledge on the subject of first aid (including AED, Heimlich, CPR) may someday prove to be more valuable than reading De Rerum Natura or Iphigenia at Aulis.  You never know when some fast-moving southbound emergency will raise its ugly head.  And there is no one but you . . . . . . 

First Aid

The most useful course I took in high school was a year long tutorial on typing (see August 8, 2018). Being able to type (50 wpm) has come in verrrry handy throughout my career. The most valuable course I took in college was a year-long (two semester) course in first aid.  We started with the American Red Cross beginner course, moved on to the intermediate course, then moved up to advanced.  We concluded the second semester with the Civil Defense Emergency Responder course – an intense immersion – which included clear instruction on a wide variety of serious emergency medical situations.  When I signed up for the course I thought “I’m an Eagle Scout.  This will be a snap.”  Yeah right. It wasn’t. 

Knowledge of first aid can be of great value — and may come in handy. Sometimes very handy.  The first response to any emergency is to call “911” or call medical professional.   But when that’s not possible or help is delayed, knowledge of CPR or the Heimlich Maneuver – or the basics of what to do when confronted with serious bleeding or trauma – could make all the difference in the world. All it takes is that one day – that one moment in time – when everything is going south. Fast. And there is no one but you. . . .

Call a Toe Truck!

[A repeat from October 3, 2013] You want to know what hurts like you know what? Break a toe.

A few weeks ago, I broke the little toe on my right foot. I walked into an iron stool that Donna has in our bathroom that (AHEM) had not been put back where it belonged. The pain was excruciating. And of course leave it to our schedule to be leaving for Park City, Utah, the next day. Yes – I played golf and went hiking. All with a toe – and later all of my toes – turning the color of spoiled blueberries.   I Googled “broken toe” and learned that there’s not much you can do other than keep them taped together, keep them elevated and put ice on them.  If the bone is sticking through the skin, then a visit to your doctor may be in order.  A broken big toe can be serious as it’s needed for balance.  The others are just there — keeping the others company.    

After three weeks of hobbling around, I did opt to go to the doc who said the bones in my little toe were smooshed.  He confirmed that there’s not much to do other than keep my toes taped together.  That’s a bit of a challenge since my little toe and the one next to it don’t get along all that well . . . . .

My Favorite Day

I had breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s with a client some years ago.   It was winter.  Freezing.  Snowing.   Out of the blue, he looked across the table and asked “Scott – what’s your favorite day in the year?”  Hmmmmmm. . . . . I had to think about it – but not for long.  “Thanksgiving” I said “because I leave work early on Wednesday, Thursday is a family day and I eat until I keel over, I get Friday off – and I still have the weekend to recover.”  My friend nodded solemnly and was silent.  Chewing his English muffin. I looked at him. “Sooooooo Chris” I asked “what is your favorite day?”  He responded immediately “December 22d.” 

Now I am not the brightest light in the box but I do have a handle on the major holidays – and even a few minor ones.  December 22d did not ring a bell.  Why, pray tell, do you like December 22d?”  I asked.  “Because” Chris said “that is the winter solstice.  When the days start getting longer.”  (See  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice ). Ahhhhhh. . . .  

The winter solstice nearly always occurs on December 21 or 22 in the Northern Hemisphere and June 20 or 21 in the Southern Hemisphere.  The sun is at its lowest maximum daily elevation from the Earth. And from that moment, the days begin to lengthen.   There are many festivals and celebrations that surround the winter solstice.  For many of us, the dog days of winter are still ahead. And the days continue to get shorter. I really like Thanksgiving. But December 22d is moving up the charts. . . . .

3 Star Hennessy

[A repeat from July 18, 2020] My father’s parents were both gone before I was born.  And 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.” She was about 85. 

One day – while in law school – 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 Mantel

When we moved into our home on Cambridge Lane in Wilmette, the place was pretty much in order. Except for the fireplace – that had bare bricks and swabs of concrete. We were pretty busy at the time (new jobs and a baby) so this eyesore was ignored. Until. . . .

Donna and I flew out to New York to visit her family and then take a drive up north. We went to Ogunquit, Maine and stayed at a motel near the beach. We dined on lobster. More lobster. Oh – and we also had lobster. And that was just breakfast. . . . . And we motored around to see the sights.

There was an antique shop a 6 iron away so we went in and immediately spied a beautiful, wood fireplace mantel. Ornate. Carved. The owner of the shop said it had come from a Victorian mansion in Bar Harbor – that had been torn down. It looked like it might fit our space so I called my father who hustled over to our house to take measurements. And it was perfect. We bought it for sixty bucks and carried the monster back to the motel. And we started thinking about – how the heck do we get it home? We tied it to the roof of our rental car and drove back to Donna’s family home in Rye, NY. And I got on the phone with American Airlines. “I have a mantel piece that I bought. Can I check it through on our flight to Chicago?” The answer was “yes.” Three times. And I scribbled the names of those who had given the thumbs up.

A few days later, we arrived at LaGuardia – suitcases and the mantel wrapped in a blanket. It was about five feet square and a foot deep. I lugged it up to the check in counter and was told – “absolutely not. Your item exceeds the size limit.” I trotted out the names of those who had said “no problem.” And I wouldn’t budge. Finally the exasperated clerk directed me to talk to Mister Puccio who was “over there” (pointing to a chap busily attending to customers). I nudged in – excused myself and said that the lady “back there” wanted his approval for me to put a mantel piece on the plane. He looked up – waved a “go ahead” to the woman I’d been talking to. And she relented – on the grounds that I carry it down to the plane. True. I did. Baggage handlers helped position it in the hold of the plane. We took off and the mantel was first off the plane at O’Hare. And promptly affixed to our fireplace. Bada boom!

The Year with no Summer

[A repeat from June 27, 2019] There was really an entire year — without a season of summer.   No – I’m not talking about the year 2019 in Chicago (at least not yet anyway).  I’m talking the year 1816.

It is well-documented that the year 1816 had no summer.  Severe climate abnormalities caused temperatures to drop for the entire summer season in the Northern Hemisphere – around the globe. The ones who suffered most were those in New England, the Atlantic seaboard in Canada and parts of Western Europe. This climatic anomaly was characterized by a persistent “dry fog” that dimmed the sunlight such that sunspots were visible to the naked eye. Neither wind nor rainfall dispersed the “fog.” Lake and river ice continued unabated in the northern climes of America — in August.  

There is evidence to suggest that this anomaly of nature was prompted by the massive eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).  The weather had a dramatic negative effect on crops – and thus the supply of food.  The Columbian Register (New Haven) reported: 

It is now the middle of July and we have not yet had what could properly be called summer.  Easterly winds have prevailed. . . . the sun has been obscured. . .  the sky overcast with clouds, the air . . . damp and uncomfortable, and frequently so chilling as to render the fireside a desirable retreat.”    

I don’t know about you, but so far – as we approach July – weather in the Midwest has been cold and rainy.  I’d like 1816 to remain alone in the history books.  But hearken!  As of Monday, the temperature reached 80 degrees.  Today it is pushing 85.  Looks good to me.  Though the 7 day outlook has snow in the forecast. . . . 

Hakuna Matata

[A repeat from October 11, 2018] It’s in the Bible – “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you.  He will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22).  And Proverbs 12:25 “An anxious heart weighs a man down but a kind word cheers him up.”  And then there’s John 14:27 – “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  This is good counsel for all.  The message?  Have faith. Don’t worry.   

Numerous sages have offered comment on the subject of worry – “Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight” (Benjamin Franklin).  “Drag your thoughts away from your troubles.  By the ears.  By the heels.  Or any other way you can manage it” (Mark Twain).  “Sorrow looks back.  Worry looks around.  Faith looks up” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).   “You’re only here for a short visit.  Don’t hurry.  Don’t worry.  And be sure to smell the flowers along the way” (Walter Hagen).       

 While there is wisdom in these quotations, there may be a better way to convey the message.  I can think of no better way than “Hakuna Matata” (Swahili for “there’s no problem“).  “Hakuna Matata” is a song title in Disney’s “The Lion King.”  My granddaughters associate me with Pumbaa (which means “silly” in Swahili) – the odoriferous warthog who “sings” the song.  But listen to his message.  Watch for 3 minutes and 49 seconds.  You’ll smile.  I promise.   Oh watch it.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbY_aP-alkw     

Half on the Wagon

Have you ever had an epiphanal moment? Okay – here’s a true confession. . . .

Some months before I was married, I went out with some friends. I drank too much whiskey (was that what it was?) and got sick. Upon arising the “morning after,” I made a vow to myself — that I would never – ever – drink hard stuff again.

Donna and I were married on January 22, 1972, and since that fateful morning months before – Scout’s Honor – I have not had one drop of “hard stuff” (bourbon, Scotch, vodka, gin or anything like that). I’ve had the chance but nary a driblet has passed my lips. It is one of those lines (that we all have within us) – that has not been crossed. True.

I know – you’re thinking okay Petersen, what’s the punch line? Well there is one . . . of sorts. What I will drink is wine and an occasional beer. I’ve been perfectly content over the years with sipping cabernet or pinot noir (glug glug glug). Seriously – it’s not like that but there is something about a nice wine. Mine usually comes in gallon boxes — three for ten dollars. So I guess you can say I’m “half” on the wagon. . . .

I Know That Guy!

In the prior post – “Facial Recognition Software” – I talked about how our grey matter can often identify friends or acquaintances even in a crowd. And we can “update” our identification capabilities even when we haven’t seen someone in several years. Such has been the case with me.

In the early 1980’s, I walked into a men’s bathroom at Disney World and who should be there? My old fraternity brother George H. During a trip to Italy a decade later, Donna and I met neighbors Dick and Gail W. – who took our picture in St. Mark Square in Venice. The wildest example of coincidence was being in the middle of the Okavango Delta in Botswana – 6 of us – bouncing along the Veld in a Land Rover. Not a soul around save for zebra, gazelles and a few antelope. Then at a distance appeared another Land Rover from another camp. And I squinted – “I know that guy!” It was Rick L – a partner from our Los Angeles office (see below).

Fast forward to three weeks ago. Donna and I are in Amsterdam – awaiting the start of a Rhine River cruise. We are prowling around the Rijksmuseum – home of paintings from the great Dutch Masters — Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh. And I’m thirsty. Sooooo. . . . I hoof off to the second floor cafeteria to grab a bottle of water and who should be sitting there enjoying a bite? Our old friends – Jack and Cheryl N. It’s been a few years but I spotted him in an instant – thanks to my facial recognition software. Our next getaway may be in January. What are your plans??