BUFFALO BEFORE BREAKFAST, TWIZZLERS BEFORE LUNCH

twiz1

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

SATURDAY, Saint Patrick’s Day, found me making the trip to pick up H and M. We have a new meeting place now. This place is a small mall with several large stores and a few smaller ones. When I set out from home on that morning, I did not think that a few interesting adventures awaited the girls and I at that mall.

When I go there, H was still in her pajamas and robe since they left their home so early. So our first little adventure was to get her into some publicly acceptable clothes so that we could go into one of the stores. I have been in desperate need of new pants for work. Some of the ones that I have been wearing are getting so worn out that in the right light I probably look like a skeleton from the waist down. Well, I wished as hard as I could for men’s clothes to be on sale, took M by the hand, inhaled deeply and entered the store.

I was pleased to find Levi’s Dockers on sale at 33% off the insanely high normal price. I began digging through the piles to find my size, accompanied by the tunes of “Daddy, I’m hungry” and “I want to look at the toys” and “Oh, we will never get out of here!” As the chorus swelled, we danced our way throughout the men’s department; Levi’s draped over my left arm, M twirling from my right. We waltzed through the dress shirts and polkaed past the underwear, performing daring tango dips to prevent M from crashing headlong into stage props and auxiliary performers, and H fox-trotted along as we exited stage left to the dressing room. I tried twisting my way into a few pairs of Dockers whose waist sizes I so optimistically selected. But they were not up to the dance and I had to return to the rack for the next size waiting for its chance to perform. At the end of the show I left with three pairs of pants, two shirts discounted at 75%, a pack of T-shirts, and two daughters whining for relief.

ON TO the next adventure…

At this particular mall there is a large bookstore, the kind that also has a music section and a coffee shop where one can pay an arm and a leg for Starbucks coffee and some very “yuppie” snacks with new age names. We headed straight for the children’s books to find another book in the series that H is reading. She is in first grade, reading like a fiend and currently in the middle of “Buffalo Before Breakfast” by Mary Pope Osborne. So, as her birthday gift, we added “Tigers at Twilight” and “Sunset of the Sabertooth” to her collection. M got a Hansel and Gretel book that came with a puzzle, a game and a witch mask all inside a case that looked like a candy house.

While we were there they had a story time. A very pleasant employee of the store read a story about an Irish guy named O’Toole and a bunch of leprechauns. I stood at the back edge of the crowd with the big people while all the children sat attentively at the front. Then the kids all colored pictures of leprechauns and pots of gold. I was happy to give into my childhood urges and grab a crayon and color too. Then we went over to the coffee shop where I paid several arms and legs for a Starbucks coffee that did not live up to its reputation and two yuppie slurpees for the girls. I picked up the latest issue of POETRY magazine and the “New England Review” before we left.
twiz2

YOU KNOW I could spend forever in a bookstore! I would not even need food or anything else! It was Erasmus, a 16th century contemporary of Martin Luther, who said, “When I have a little bit of money, I buy books. Then, if there is anything left over, I buy food and clothes.” Now there is a man after my own heart! For you see, I am a BIBLIOPHILE. Yes, I admit it! I am a BIBLIOPHILE! And these large bookstores are my favorite places to prowl around. You might spot me there lurking about the classic literature and poetry sections. You might find me peeking into the latest journals on the periodicals rack. You might even catch me in the embrace of a fresh hardcover, my face buried in her leaves, intoxicated by the scent of her ink, caressing her spine. As I flashed you my best smile and confessed my addiction, you would scurry off to the reference aisle. There, with trembling fingers paging through the “Bs,” you would discover what a BIBLIOPHILE truly is and realize that I am not such a bad fellow after all! You would come running back only to see that you could never tempt me away from my true love. If the choice was between you and a good book… well… see you later, baby!

All right, I speak nonsense! We all know that if you were the right girl with pretty eyes, a good heart, and a mind to match, I would be asking you to accompany me over to the coffee shop. There I would pay my remaining arm and leg for the pleasure of having another cup of overrated coffee and some conversation with you. But, of course, we would talk about books! “Did you know that I also love old books? Did you know that I have a hardcover edition of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ with a publishing date of 1863? Did you know that that was right in the middle of the Civil War? Did you know that I especially like hanging out in dusty old used book shops? Hey! Wait! Where are you going? Okay. Fine. I’ll just stay here with my bad coffee and read!”

OKAY, back to reality…

In the car on the way home the girls and I munched on Twizzlers. I really do not care very much for licorice. It has the consistency of half-finished plastic or something. But it was there, so I ate it for the hundred miles home. Of course, we sang to the radio, played air guitar and drums, danced in our seats at 70 miles per hour. The girls had fun with the witch mask that M got.

Later in the day we went to Mom’s house. Since it was an Irish holiday, we had corned beef and cabbage. We made everyone wear funny green hats and took pictures. I baked a cake and we had a belated birthday celebration for H. We laughed. We joked. We stuffed ourselves with corned beef and cake. We went home.

Past midnight I fell asleep mid-poem. Some things never change.

ST. PATRICK’S DAY – March 17, 2001 (Photos)

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

WHERE’S THE SNOW?

03042001snowdoves

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

HEY! Where’s the snow??

(Remember the old Wendy’s commercial with the old lady that demanded, “Where’s the beef?” Heh heh!)

WELL, according to the weather reports on Friday and Saturday, we were supposed to get clobbered with the biggest snowstorm in over 50 years. So everyone in our area crowded into the grocery stores. We stocked up on hot chocolate mix, potato chips and Coke. We bought enough bread to feed four armies for a month. But the prize was the milk! Everyone had to have more milk! We bought enough milk to drown those four armies! The lady in front of me in line for the check out bought four gallons! What are these people thinking? How taxing all this must be on the poor cows! Just because the weatherman starts squawking “Snow! Snow!” does not mean that the cows start producing more milk. When the udder is empty, that’s all the milk folks!

YOU KNOW, for 13 years I worked in a milk processing plant. Let us refer to this establishment with the affectionate term of “dairy.” I remember those days when snow was on the way. Production demands would go through the ceiling! And we did not deal with gallons of milk. We dealt with “cans” of milk. A can is ten gallons. We were not sissies! We were men! And we did not deal with small amounts of cans either. We dealt with cans by the hundreds and by the thousands. One of our machines alone could pasteurize 600 cans an hour. 6000 gallons an hour! (Yes, 100 gallons per minute. Very good, Einstein!) Now we are talking army-drowning capabilities! But when the snow panic struck even this rate of production was not enough to satisfy the milk-craving consumers.

So, as an ex-dairyman, I would still like to ask you, a civilian, why do you need so much milk just because it is going to snow? Is it just to wash down all that bread that you bought? Did you buy that much hot chocolate mix that you need a tanker truckload of milk for it? Is it the whiteness of the snow that makes you think “Man! I gotta drink milk!”? Do you go on milk binges out of sheer boredom when you are snowed in?

Well, whatever the reasons are for the milk rush before a snowstorm, I am happy to report that I bought only two gallons. That was a calculated purchase too. I figured that three teenagers and one growing father cooped up in a two bedroom apartment for possibly three days, divided by two containers of hot chocolate mix, multiplied by the possibility that the landlord could allow the heating oil to run out during the storm, and divided by the square root of pie (either cherry or apple) comes out to two gallons of 2% milk. Always the smart shopper I am!

03042001snowfeeder

SO back to my original beef: where’s the snow??

It began snowing yesterday afternoon as they reports called for. The initial wave of snow seemed to have the promise of being a large storm. It appeared that we might truly get the 25 inches they were calling for. It got icy and slippery on the roads. But by morning there were only a few inches of snow and nothing but more threats from the weathermen that we were going to get it today. And now it is 5:00 PM and no precipitation has fallen in hours! All the schools were closed in anticipation of what the day was to hold. Many businesses were closed. I even decided to stay home from work. Now it feels like all I really did today was waste a vacation day! Who can I hold liable for this??

In reality it was not a waste of a day though. I was able to reorganize much of the clutter in my bedroom closet. I opened several boxes and found a bunch of old memories. I even found my favorite denim jacket that I wore constantly as if it were a natural part of my skin. Now it is too small. I cannot button it. Funny how clothing shrinks when it’s packed away for a few years! At this point the closet is clean and there are only two piles of extraneous clutter in the room: one completely covering the bed and the other covering half of the floor in front of the bed! I knew I should have gone to the office today!

I was able to take a walk in the snow late in the afternoon yesterday and click off a few pictures. It is such a peaceful thing to do! No worries about ice on the road. No rushing. No cares about milk or bread or crazy people in the stores. All around is just the sounds of snow falling softly, shovels beginning to scrape the sidewalks, children playing in the yards. I am very happy with the picture of the mourning doves that I was able to capture. Which reminds me. I also saw a flock of snow geese migrating overhead as I was walking. At this time of the year there are many Canadian geese flying through our neck of the woods. But this is the first that I have seen snow geese. They are beautiful white with black tips on their wings. I was not able to take a picture of these geese. But I did gaze up into the falling snow for several minutes and admired them as they went on their way.

AT this point I am sitting tight and holding down the fort here in New Jersey. The reports are still calling for a lot of snow, cold temperatures and windy conditions tonight and into tomorrow. I say, “Bring it on!” I got milk! I got bread! I even have a nice little tray of shrimp and cocktail sauce in the fridge! (A definite necessity in inclement weather!) Let it snow! I’m so excited that I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to arrive! I hope it snows. I will just bundle up, grab my camera and go hunting! Sounds like a plan! Now, if only the sky would cooperate!

CAUGHT BY SURPRISE

balloonhead1a

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

AS we pulled up to the house around 8 PM on Tuesday, S declared, “Hey! Someone took our parking space!” Then, with a smile that I did not notice at first, she added, “Oh, it’s Aunt C!” The gears of my brain jumped into overdrive. “What is my sister doing here at 8:00 on a school night?” J was not with us that night and my first thought was that something happened to him. But in a moment I noticed my nephews pouring out of Sister C’s van. I noticed her boyfriend and Baby B. As my mind was trying to piece this puzzle together, S and T shouted, “Surprise! It’s a birthday party for YOU!”

Well, I certainly was surprised! This is only the second time in my adult life that someone has thrown a surprise party for me. The last one was over ten years ago. And I will tell you that I remember feeling the same emotions then as I did this time. I felt both excited and somewhat imposed upon at the same time. You see, I am still just a “little boy.” So the whole “let’s have a party” idea just elates me! But, I am also a father, and a single one at that! So the daily schedule is tight, the workload is often overwhelming, and the time allotted for relaxation or even plain old sleep is minimal.

It was exactly at this point that I felt the imposition. I was so dead tired that day! H and M had been here for the weekend, which was an extended one because of the Presidents Day Holiday. I made the trip to Harrisburg to take Hand M back on Monday night, returning home at a heavy-eyed 10:30 PM. I walked through the day on Tuesday as a zombie. My eyes were blazing red. My head hurt. All I kept thinking was “Today is my birthday. All I want is to go home and sleep! That will be my present to myself!” But, alas, these hopes were dashed and swept away by the breaking shouts of “Surprise! Happy Birthday!”

But, since I am more of a kid than an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed this party once the initial shock passed! There were big, yellow, smiley face balloons on the wall. We had plenty of chips and soda to enjoy. And “brownie cake.” Poor S! The sweet girl went through all the trouble to arrange for this spur of the moment surprise party for me and we had nothing in the house to make a cake with! But we did have a Pillsbury brownie in a foil tray that only required some quick baking in the oven. So, S, being rather ingenious, popped that in the oven, baked it, covered it with candles and “Happy Birthday” and we all stuffed our faces! The digital camera was out and filling the room with flashes. Soon the balloons were covering our faces and we posed for pictures. Then I took the party up a notch by passing out whoopie cushions to the boys. The synthetic flatulations were flying! The great thing about a whoopie cushion is that you get the same auditory satisfaction as you do from an actual windbreaking without the offensive aroma! What a deal! It was so funny to see the boys grunting and groaning and scrunching there faces as if they were really in some kind of pain while they made the whoopie cushions squeeze out the most disgusting sounds. We all laughed until we almost cried! It’s good to be a kid!

SO, on February 20th, I turned thirty-something again. For the past few years I’ve been trying to get away with telling people that I am twenty-seven or twenty-eight. Each year I am finding that fewer people are willing to believe that. I am not sure if it is because of the thinning area on the top of my head (No it is not a “bald” spot! I am not “going bald.” I am just becoming increasingly “follicly challenged!”), or the lines near my eyes, or just the sheer mathematics involved in a twenty-seven-year-old man having a sixteen-year-old son. Whatever the reasons for their doubts, when people try to guess my age now, I am feeling more and more comfortable accepting thirty, thirty-one or even thirty-two as these ages now seem “young” from my current vantage point.

But I will tell you that “young” and “old” are more a state of mind than anything. Yes, truly the lines on your face will lengthen and deepen. Your bones will ache. Your memory may start to fade a little. Those physical changes will come. But that does not mean that you have to BE “old!” No way! I myself refuse to BE “old!” There is too much to see and do in this life. There is so much beauty to behold all around! There is so much to marvel at if we would just open our eyes! How much there is to accomplish and create in this life! There are flower gardens to be planted, poems to be written, letters to friends to be mailed, words of appreciation to be spoken, and jokes to be told! Oh God, let me die laughing! Let me die with pains in my belly from a good hearty chuckle! Let me die trying! Let me die loving! Let me die giving my all to something noble! Let me die with all of my heart! Let me die… But don’t let me BE “old.”

THIS birthday turned out to be a surprisingly good one. When I arrived at work there was a card from a friend on my keyboard. Another friend took me out to lunch. When we got back from lunch there was a big “Happy Birthday” banner over my desk. But my little S surpassed all of these things. I must say a big THANKS to her for all of her efforts to make me happy on my birthday! She had all the dishes washed, the kitchen floor scrubbed, the living room vacuumed. She even cleaned the windows! Talk about being caught by surprise! Quite a job for a 14-year-old! Now I will have to plan a good surprise for her upcoming party. Keep the whoopie cushions handy boys! More fun awaits us!

Click HERE to see the Surprise Party pictures.

SURPRISE PARTY – February 20, 2001 (Photos)

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)