Wow!

In the late summer of 1994, Donna and I drove Lauren to Nashville — to begin her college career at Vanderbilt. As Donna and Lauren went off to do some mother-daughter bonding, I sat in the hotel room and thumbed through the Yellow Pages. I first looked under “Autographs” then under “Books – Antiquarian.” I had been publishing listings and catalogs of historic autographs and occasional rare books for perhaps a dozen years. And I was always on the hunt . . . . .

One old book store caught my eye. So I hopped in the car and drove to the location – a block down from campus. I walked in the door – sniffed – and thought hmmmm this could be interesting . . . . . I walked around for a few minutes then headed toward the back where an elderly chap sat hunched over a desk. “Do you have any old autograph material – old letters or documents?” The old fellow grunted “Nope.” I then persisted – “do you have anything handwritten? Any old signed stuff.” He looked up – grunted again – and shuffled off to a back room. After a few minutes he returned with a two inch thick file folder and – true – he blew dust off the top. And handed it to me. I could tell it was full of really old stuff.

I set the folder on a table and opened it. My jaw dropped. The top item was a Washington College diploma dated June 18, 1868, for “R. C. Morrison.” The second item was a Washington College report card dated May 31, 1867, for “William Cochrane.” Both were signed by the President of the College — Robert E. Lee. “Washington College” later became “Washington and Lee University.” I looked up. The elderly chap was back at his desk burrowed in some papers. I held up the diploma – “whaddaya want for this?” He thought – “a hundred bucks.” The second item he said was a “hundred and a quarter.”

Long story short, I bought the entire file folder for five hundred dollars. It was full of other gems. I sold the Robert E. Lee items to a dealer friend for many times what I paid for the batch. I still have copies of the Lee items. And I remember being glad I checked out the Yellow Pages instead of watching a football game.

The Dead Bug

On March 22, 2020, I discussed how I was dealing with excruciating lower back pain. Add to that was sciatic pain that radiated with a vengeance from my toes to my hip. We’re talking 9.5 on the pain scale. In the mornings, I could barely move. It was physical therapy that caused the sciatic pain to abate — all within the space of a day or two. True. . . .

Given that the back pain has morphed and seesawed, I had a couple of diagnostic injections that have helped considerably. The pain is now manageable at night and during the day – it is barely there. But I wisely continued with the PT.

Two clinicians at Athletico (Sarah and Brittany) helped greatly – with a protocol of exercise, movement and therapy. I sometimes walk out the door after PT winded – like I’d been pummeled by a personal trainer or a drill sergeant at Quantico. The exercises vary – in part to strengthen my back. In part to work on my “core.” And also to work on my weak knees (which is prescribed in Hebrews 12:12 – “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees“). There is one exercise though – that when assigned, I cringe. It’s called “The Dead Bug.” And I feel like one when I do it. . . . .

Visualize this. . . . the “Dead Bug” is an exercise where you lay flat on your back. Raise your legs – knees bent. And then (are you ready?) raise your arms – straight up in the air. What’s interesting (and I guess therapeutic) about the “Dead Bug” is that . . . . oh wait. Did I tell you? You have to hold the “Dead Bug” position for 15+ seconds. You’re laying there – arms up. Leg’s up and bent. For 15 seconds. This exercise strengthens your core, works your back, your legs, your arms and tests your self restraint when someone walks by and goes “oooh – look at the dead bug.

Three Ministers

A not-for-profit organization started a support group for clergy. At the first session, three ministers entered the room, introduced themselves and sat down. The facilitator gently invited each to share his troubles and concerns.
The first minister lowered his head and said “I am married – but I have been seeing another woman. She is a member of our congregation.”

The second minister shook his head. Tears began to flow down his cheeks. “I have a problem with the bottle. I begin drinking in the morning and I can’t stop until I collapse in bed. Often I give sermons while I am totally intoxicated.”

The third minister hesitated and slowly began to speak – “I . . . I . . . . I am a hopeless GOSSIP. And I can’t WAIT to get out of here!”

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.  🙂   

Conservation

My good friend Antonio, who lives in Monterrey, Mexico (see post of March 12, 2012), and I were communing about how conservation worked when we were young (he is a few years younger than me).  It was pretty simple.  

Bottles were returned for a deposit – then reused.  Clothes were dried on a line – by solar and wind power.  No 220 volt dryers chugging for an hour and a half.  Diapers were washed and reused.  We had one television in the house with a screen the size of a placemat.  There were no “stadium sized” televisions.  Our moms used an egg beater to whisk everything (there was no blender).  And when we shipped Christmas presents, our parents crumpled newspapers for packing.  There were no plastic “peanuts” or bubble wrap.  We cut the grass with a hand mower.    And raked leaves. Wardrobes were pretty modest.  No “new models” except hand-me-downs.   There were no plastic water bottles (which today are made, used in a minute and thrown out by the billions).  There was one water glass by the kitchen and bathroom sinks — that everyone used.   Rinse to clean – drink.   Stores and businesses had water fountains.  Thirsty?  Use the water fountain.   And my father changed razor blades in his Schick razor.  Very little was “disposable” . . . .  

Have we become lazy and complacent?  You tell me.   We hear political trumpets sounding about saving the environment and how we must look forward and not back.  But I do think that looking backward – at least in some areas – could sure provide a lesson for how we might best look ahead.

Crossing paths with Sean Connery

On May 21, 2017, I talked about my experience of being on the Board of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation – and spending my first board meeting (Taliesin West in Scottsdale) staying in the Sun Cottage – Mr. Wright’s home – and sleeping in his bed. Quite an experience. . . .

At one of the winter board meetings, I happened to be in the Taliesen (West) store perusing stuff. Some guy was next to me also perusing. He started to speak to the clerk and I thought I know that voice. I looked over and it was 007. Sean Connery. Oh my socks and shoes! I slipped out of the store and went into the architectural school – and casually mentioned that 007 was in the store. It seems that the speed of light was exceeded as the students whisked out of the school – to see the legendary actor. It’s what happened next that sticks in my mind.

Mister Connery came out and began walking to the parking lot with a chap (presumably a protector). Students approached him and asked for photographs and autographs. And Mister Connery could not have been nicer — staying the course until the gaggle of fans had been satisfied. And dispersed. It’s nice to see celebrities who maintain respect for those who admire them. The stories are legion about those who . . . . shall we say don’t . . . .

The Last Brownie?

(A repeat from November 29, 2012)

A man lay on his deathbed. Perhaps a few hours to live. His hands were folded on his chest.  And his eyes were closed. Suddenly his nose began to twitch. A familiar smell. He drifted upward out of the deep recess of sleep. That smell he thought. CHOCOLATE. Brownies baking! One eye flickered open. Then the other. And he slowly tilted his head. The smell of chocolate was overpowering. The kitchen was just down the hall.  I need. . . one last brownie. . . .

With great effort, he rolled onto his side and let gravity take its course. He flopped heavily onto the floor. Slowly, laboriously he elbowed his way toward the kitchen. After what seemed like hours, he crossed the threshold of the kitchen.  And there – on the kitchen table – was a plate of warm brownies. He elbowed his way forward and then slowly extended his grasp . . . . fingers . . . . reaching . . . . almost there.

Just then his wife walked in the kitchen – “GEORGE!   You leave those brownies alone! Those are for the funeral!”

My Favorite Trees

Has anyone ever asked you what your favorite tree is?  I didn’t think so. On July 23, 2020, I posted on the 178 year old tree in my front yard. It is one of my favorites. But there is competition. . . . .

Up until the Covid thing started, I would walk to and from the train station every day. And each day pass the same trees. Elms, oaks and maples. Plus a few coniferous offerings — pine and spruce varieties.  But there are two trees – that stand out.  And gather my attention every day.   The first is a copper beech.  A beautiful, old, twisted thick-trunked tree with noble mien and stature.  It has the elephant hide bark and beautiful leaves in summer.  If I was 10 years old again, I’d be climbing it.  

It is the second tree though that has my greatest admiration.  It is a ginkgo.  One single ginkgo in my half mile walk.  The ginkgo is a rarity among trees as it dates back 270 million years.  Its leaf design is the symbol of the prefecture of Tokyo.  Male ginkgos develop cones and the female ginkgos sprout small flowers.  And extract of ginkgo is marketed as a dietary supplement for enhancing cognitive function (I buy it by the gallon).  And ginkgo nuts are edible.

The most amazing feature of the ginkgo is that in the fall, the tree loses its leaves all within the space of hours.  Usually after a hard frost. One day, I will walk by this noble tree and it’s full of leaves.  The next day, the leaves are all lying in a thick, yellow, circular carpet around the base.   If one day I come back to this world as an animal – I’d want to be an eagle.  If I ever come back as a tree – I’d want to be a male ginkgo.  In a forest of female ginkgos.  Hellooo there good lookin‘ . . . . . .

Peace

[A repeat from January 12, 2017] Pax vobiscum. As-salamu Alaikum. Shalom. Shanti. Aloha. Peace be with you. . . .

It’s interesting how most faith traditions include a blessing to others — extending peace. And asking for peace in return. In my church, there is a time when we “share the peace.” Peace – be with you. And also with you.

The Prince of Peace has been around for 3,000 years (Isaiah 9:6). Plato encouraged moderation and a sense of limits that bring peace. There is a Nobel Peace Prize. There’s a peace symbol. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 was to end the war of all wars. There’s a Peace Corps and the United Nations has “peacekeeping” missions.

With all the peace being promoted around the world, you would think that peace would be bubbling over. But no. Families suffer discord. As do school boards. City councils. Communities. Counties. States. Our nation. Other countries. The world. Pain. Anger. Hatred. Violence. Discord. Just how serious are we about being peaceful? Seems like everyone wants peace. But nobody wants to give it. Peace is like a bridge. It’s always been under construction. But it hasn’t been completed in several millennium.

So – what’s the answer? That is the 64 dollar question. Perhaps peace begins at home. Or in the workplace. We need peace in the political arena. That’s for sure. I believe charity of heart can help. Along with an understanding that good people can have differing views on different subjects. Not everyone agrees though. But can you try?

Peace be with you.

Pat Paulsen

Following my post on the candidacy of Alfred E. Neuman for President in 1956, a friend reminded me of another celebrity who ran for President of the United States — Pat Paulsen. Some of you, may scratch your heads “Pat Paulsen, Pat Paulsen” but this chap was a contender. From 1968 until 1996.

Patrick Layton Paulsen (1927-1997) was an American comedian who spent a lot of time on television. He was a regular on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and he even had his own short-lived show (13 weeks) in 1970. But Pat Paulsen is probably best remembered for his appearances on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour which premiered in 1967. In 1968, Tom and Dick Smothers convinced Paulsen to run for President. And he did. While his candidacy was predicated on humor, he actually appeared on the ballot in New Hampshire on several occasions. When asked about his policies, he’d respond “picky, picky, picky.” And he got votes all over. Check out a few of his campaign slogans.

As I’ve always said – The future lies ahead

I am neither left wing nor right wing. I am middle of the bird.

In America, any boy can grow up to become President. Or if he never grows up, Vice President.

United we sit.

The number 1 cause of forest fires is trees.

Will I obliterate the national debt? Sure, why not?

It’s tough campaigning. Kissing hands and shaking babies.

And on and on. I know what you’re thinking. How about a Paulsen-Neuman ticket? Coulda worked. . . . .