Loofah

Maybe it’s a Scandinavian thing but on those rare occasion when I get the chance (a cruise, health club or fancy hotel), I enjoy taking a sauna or sitting in the steam room. And who doesn’t like a hot shower? Or relish that cascade of toasty, tropical water that runs over your shoulders, back and head. I’m also a Loofah guy.

Loofahs (sometimes spelled “Luffa”) are exfoliating scrubs or sponges that can be used in the shower or at the sink. They are used to cleanse the skin but they also help stimulate blood circulation. Some of you may be going “what the heck’s a ‘loofah‘”? Believe it or not, the loofah is a vegetable. It is a variety of gourd — kind’ve a cross between a cucumber and zucchini. Vegans who don’t like to use sponges (eeek – an animal!) can use loofahs. They can serve in the shower to clean your feet and later they can be used to scrub the sink or countertop.

While loofahs in their vegetable form are technically edible (I do NOT recommend this), when you’re done with them, you can toss them in the back yard as they compost nicely. Since loofahs can pick up bacteria and such, it is recommended that they be retired sooner rather than later. Between the sauna, steam room and a loofah – I prefer the sauna. . . . .

I Have Arrived

In the past (January 31 and February 4, 2016), I have offered some acerbic commentary on the game of “Bridge” and the new rules that govern bidding. My personal preference has always been to abide strictly and religiously to the protocol of bidding set down by The Master of bridge — Charles Goren (1901-1996). His prowess prompted the world to refer to him as “Mr. Bridge.”

However, since 2016, I have ever-so-slowly edged toward the newfangled “Standard American” system of bidding. Donna plays this system and each time we’ve gone to play bridge with friends, she has to remind me what the “Stayman Convention” is. Over the years, I tend to forget from week to week.

During the Covid shutdown, we’ve begun playing a bit more bridge — online. http://www.bridgebase.com has allowed us to play with friends or strangers. Last weekend, we began playing “Speedball” — a one hour 12 hand game where it is possible to acquire “Masterpoints.” Up until yesterday – January 26, 2021 – I had never earned a Masterpoint. Well Pilgrims – fasten your seatbelts. Yesterday, Donna and I played Speedball. Our first three hands, my astute Goren-inspired defense allowed me to set our opponents three times. At the end of the hour and Donna and I were each awarded 0.18 Masterpoints for our stellar play. I figure at this rate, I will be a Life Master (300 Masterpoints) by the year 2116. Hmmmm . . . maybe if I play twice a day. . . . .

Knucklehead

[A timely repeat from February 13, 2014] My brother-in-law’s favorite word to describe those of questionable intelligence is “knucklehead.”  I like it as well.  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term “knucklehead” was first used in 1942 by ventriloquist Paul Winchell for his dummy “Knucklehead Smiff.”  The word was adopted to describe a “stupid person.”  There are dozens of synonyms for the word.   And there are millions of people who fit the description.

The word “knucklehead” is the name of a Canadian punk rock band.   It is the title of a 2010 movie and a 1975 song by Grover Washington.  It is the name of an indoor amusement park in the Wisconsin Dells and a bar in Kansas City.    The word is not derogatory as to race, religion, gender, ethnicity, culture or sexual orientation.  It is an equal opportunity descriptor for a
really stupid person. 

I frankly can see limitless application for using this word.  In fact it can probably best be used for anyone who disagrees with me on any given topic.

Billionaires

Do you know how many billionaires there are in the United States? Answer – 630. Do you know what the combined assets are of these 630 billionaires? Answer – $3.4 trillion. That’s about what the United States deficit was for the year 2020, The national debt is now escalating well over $21 trillion. Thus perhaps what we should do is simply confiscate all the money of billionaires to make up the deficit. But wait . . . .

I figure when I win the Power Ball Lottery tonight ($550 million) and then win Mega Millions tomorrow ($970 million), I will then be a “billionaire.” And then – the number of billionaires will be 631 and. . . .

Ugh . . . what a problem to have. . . . .

I Can See!

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.  For indeed that’s all who ever have.”  — Margaret Mead

[A repeat from May 28, 2016] A few years ago, Donna and I were on a tour of Vietnam. Always on the scout for autograph and manuscript material, we stopped in a few antique shops.  We found a place called “54 Traditions” in Hanoi. The shop is run by Dr. Mark Rapoport — an American pediatrician who served in Vietnam during the War.   He opened 54 Traditions in 2001 stocking it with his collection of textiles, jewelry, art and tools from Vietnam.   I bought a few nice goodies. But what made an impression was Mark.

During the War as a medical intern, he worked in a hospital. While visiting an outlying village, an old woman was unable to see something on a piece of paper. He handed her his reading glasses.  Tears filled her eyes.  She could see.  Clearly.  Mark was so touched by the experience that he gave the woman his glasses.  She said she could now embroider again. 

Mark went out and bought some extra reading glasses.  And gave them away to others who could not read or see “close up.”  Since then he has given away thousands of reading glasses (1.5x – 2.0x).   And he helped inspire the Reading Glass Project an organization dedicated to providing glasses to those in developing countries who deal with age-related presbyopia (deteriorating closeup vision).

The Reading Glass Project urged travelers when visiting developing countries – to bring along some reading glasses to give to those without.  The motto of this group was
Be more than a tourist.  Be a hero.”

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.  🙂   

Retirement

It began when I was four years old – selling water in front of my house on Division Street. The water came from an old garden hose and was delivered in one of four small plastic cups (red, blue, green, yellow). The price for a glass of water was one penny though on one sunny day, a man gave me a nickel. I usually made 10 to 15 cents a day. Big bucks, then. After a long day, I would carry the orange crate back to the house, toss the cups in the sink and count my money. The good news is that I paid no withholding tax on these profits (the statute of limitations for going after me expired in 1955).

Selling water led to peddling Kool Aid on the golf course. Then having my own business cutting lawns for two bucks a pop — “Scott’s Lawn Service” (I still have a few pencils left to prove it). There was work on Saturdays at the family business. As a Boy Scout, I worked at Camp Napowan for four amazing summers. Then college. Law School. Five pretty intense years as an Assistant States Attorney. Eight years off to work the family business – then back into the legal fray.

Thursday, December 31st, will be my last day of “work.” Retirement will come easy – given that since March, our offices have been closed and my work has diminished. And I’m ready. My career will end like the words of T.S. Eliot – “not with a bang but a whimper.”