Friday, May 31, 2013

Vinyl to CDs to Clouds

Not very many people buy CDs anymore.

Mostly because they’re nearly impossible to unwrap.
If you're lucky and can get through the initial plastic in just a few hours, you then have to contend with that surprisingly difficult little sticky label thing on the top edge. That alone can take you another day or so to master.

I used to hire a 6 year old to unwrap mine…but then he wanted me to make him lunch, so that was the end of that.

Now I just download the music onto my computer and then onto my iPod.

I’m not sure where it actually comes from, this ethereal music—possibly another 6 year old— but I know once I get it, Amazon says they’ll also send it up to the clouds for me.

Which is nice of them…I guess.

I’m not sure how that effects the environment, though.  I mean, does all my music really belong up in the clouds?

Even my Leo Sayer collection?


It was the late 70’s…not a lot of choices.

They say if my music is in the clouds then I don’t even have to actually install it onto my computer, or other “devices”.

Which is good, because I wouldn’t have the first idea about how to download music onto my weed whacker.

But I admit it would be a nice addition.

Actually, I know the cloud of which they speak is really just a metaphor. Probably for some place out in the desert manned by thousands of 6 year olds who sit around playing video games all day, waiting for your signal, and then send the music to whatever “device” you desire.

I don’t know…I kind of miss having an actual, physical representation of my music collection handy.

You know, something tangible you can show off to your friends.

It was bad enough when CDs replaced vinyl as the medium of choice. What once filled an impressive wall of bookshelves was reduced to barely filling a single, measly cabinet.

Nowadays, how exciting is it to unveil a silly little list on your phone as you gaze up into the clouds and hope that the 6 year olds are paying attention?

I still have all my albums from the 60s and 70s, safely tucked away in a remote corner of my basement, still in the original milk crate storage system I devised during my college shuttle days.

Think of all the snap, crackle and pops, just waiting there to be re-animated.

Of course, I long ago surrendered my turntable to the Smithsonian, so I really have no idea what they actually sound like now, but back then, I could tell you exactly where every hiss and click was on what part of each song.

And when the music sounded like it was originating from under a pillow, all you had to do was remove a hunk of fuzz the size of a golf ball from the needle.

But don’t run your finger over the needle.  None of us ever did that, right?  You know, just to see if your fingerprints had any kind of special message embedded in them…because believe me, you don’t want to know what that message is.

I have a vivid memory of buying my first album.  It was “Meet the Beatles”, which I bought for $2.49 at Woolworth's in 1964.  And of course I still have it, somewhere, in the basement, in a milk crate.

I also have it on CD and…yep…up there in that cloud somewhere.

Go figure.

I mean, iPods do make it easier to take your whole collection to the beach…without a small van.

Plus, I suppose some would say it doesn’t matter how it gets into your ears; that it’s just about the music.

And I guess that’s true, for the most part. 

But...if that is true...then why have we held onto all those old record albums?

For the liner notes?

No…they just remind us of a simpler time, with simpler choices to make in just about everything we did. 

Nowadays, my music originates from some cloudy mist, and I still haven’t found the grooves on my CDs, let alone the needle that plays them.

Can you imagine the size of the dustball that’s been growing in my CD player…since the  80’s?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tuesday Wednesday

A lot of you probably feel a bit out of sorts today, which is perfectly understandable.

Because today’s a Tuesday Wednesday.

Which makes sense because yesterday was a Monday Tuesday.

You know…because of the Sunday Monday.

This is what happens after a long three day weekend.

Unless it’s a Friday Saturday.

If it’s a Friday Saturday, you’ve got a whole other ballgame to contend with.

Unless, of course, it’s a night game.

But for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll limit ourselves to the present situation.

Whatever that may be.

Plus, I’m always in favor of limiting myself in most any situation.

Whatever that may be.

The most important thing to keep in mind throughout the course of  these bewildering 3 day holiday weekend weeks is, of course, what day to put your garbage out.

If your garbage day was Monday, then they probably moved it to Tuesday.

And if it was Tuesday, then they probably moved it to Wednesday.

But you need to know when Wednesday actually is.

That is, if they haven’t canceled your garbage day, altogether…you know, because of the holiday.

If they’ve canceled your garbage pick-up, altogether, then it won’t matter when you put it out.

Except, of course, to the Raccoons.

The other thing to be cognizant of—other than how many words I use that contain the letter Z—are your regularly scheduled appointments. 

And just to be safe, you should probably worry about your irregularly scheduled appointments, as well.

Unless of course, the person you scheduled the appointment with is as confused as you are.

Then you might be okay.

And if you were planning to watch the big Tuesday night season finale of “The Plumbers of New Jersey” tonight…you’re out of luck.

Because it’s not Tuesday…it’s Wednesday.

Unless you DVR’d it…on Monday Tuesday.

You know….

But you’re probably better off if you didn’t.

That show can mess up your head, not to mention your pipes.

Mostly because I made it up.

Like Tuesday Wednesday.

Gotta go feed my neighbor’s cat.

I do it every Thursday….

Unless it’s a holiday week.

If it’s a holiday week, I just feed the dog…..

Unless it’s a leap year.

If it’s a leap year, I just stay in bed.

Which a lot of you are probably wishing for right now….


Monday, May 27, 2013

The Little Village on the Hill - Redux

I thought I'd repeat my Memorial Day story from last year, in case you missed it, or we weren't speaking at the time, which is probably more likely.  Plus it's a holiday and who wants to work on a holiday...unless it's on your tan.

Just sayin....

Z and I had a family reunion of sorts the other day; both hers and mine.

Generally, I’m a little wary of such kinfolk adventures, but we’ve participated in this particular exercise for quite a while now.

The best thing is, unlike other such family events, there’s no squabbling, no judgment, no sage advice or stealthy, butinski information gathering…for the most part.

No…Z and I just drop by and say our hellos, maybe provide an update of interest like the current baseball standings, or the state of this year’s rhododendrons, and basically do what we have to do.

By now you may have guessed that this particular family reunion starts out up on the hill, in the little village within our village, otherwise known as St. Mary’s cemetery.

And, also by now, you might understand why there is very little in the way of familial friction…like I said…for the most part.

It’s a Memorial Day tradition that Z and I sort of inherited in that we were the “chosen ones” of our respective families, who accompanied our predecessors to the cemetery every year for the mulching and weeding of gardens, planting of flowers, trimming of bushes and even the spreading of grass seed to fill in the occasional bare patch.

For a kid, the idea of death is somewhat foreign; something relegated to an “alien distant shore”to quote Mr. Springsteen.

“Hey, I’m just getting started…you want me to think about the end already?” to quote 10 year old me.

My first tangible memory of this sort of thing was back in 1964, when I had been selected to serve as an altar boy for the annual Memorial Day mass conducted right in the cemetery itself, down where the Mausoleum is now, in front of the big monument.

It was a grey blustery day, and my primary function was to hold the pages of the liturgy in place so the priest could read it without jumping from Peter to pay Paul and confusing everybody…or everybody who was actually paying attention. We weren’t far from where a large plot of nuns took their eternal rest, and even in death I could hear their admonishments for me to stand up straight without schlumping my shoulders.

Anyway, as I stood there, back straight, shoulders high, I looked out at all the solemn faces standing in the cold and wondered what the big deal was. What was this all about?

Then the priest kicked my foot and I remembered to turn the page and that was the end of that.

Right after the mass, my dad and I walked up the hill to visit the grave of my Irish, grandfather— my dad’s dad—who had died just a month or so before. It was the first time I was seeing the newly installed headstone and I have to admit it kind of shook me a little to see my last name carved into the granite, and then my gramps’s first name, below, with those tell-tale bracketed years that define a lifetime.

And then I stated to understand what this was all about.

My dad being my dad didn’t come with flowers. Instead he pulled from his jacket pocket a can of Rheingold beer, cracked it open and took a sip.

He nudged my shoulder and to my surprise, offered the can to me.

“Really?” I said.

“Just a sip…and don’t tell your mother.”

Which I didn’t…I guess until now.

Then he took the can and placed it by the freshly carved monument to my gramp’s life…and we walked back to the car.

Now, Z and I return every year, without the beer, but instead with flowers, to honor those who lived before us, including my dad who was gone a few short years later…but not because my mom found out about the can of beer.

Z’s the gardener, so she jumps right in and claws through the sun hardened earth while I fetch water and obediently pick up the discarded debris. We work our way down the hill, to my Irish grandparents, to my great aunt and uncle, who never had kids of their own, and never figured to be remembered nearly 50 years later with red geraniums, let alone a nephew who knew them for less than a decade.

Then on to Z’s never met grandparents, then my grandmother’s best friend, then Z’s great aunt and finally a stop to visit with my Italian grandparents and yet another aunt and uncle in the building situated right on the spot where this story began.

I don’t know…but as I pass through that solemn space it always reminds me of some sort of ‘Hall of Fame” with all those familiar townfolk names carved into its echoing halls. Perhaps that seems somewhat irreverent, but in a way isn’t that what it really is? Not a shrine for ballplayers for a game well played, but a shrine for those that went before us for a life well lived.

And as I look back up the hill at the village within our village, I don’t see row after row of granite stones. Instead I see row after row of graduates. They put their time in, lived, loved, thrived and suffered. Whether at 5 or 25…45 or 105…soldiers and civilians, young and old, family all, they accepted whatever this life had to teach them and moved what, I have no idea, but I think to something. Their stories, written…their lessons learned...their legacies remembered.

There’s peace in that…and that’s why we honor them...and learn from that as well; those of us who have so much more to learn and hopefully so much more to live…whatever that may bring

Then it’s on to the White Plains Rural Cemetery where Z’s mom and dad await a red white and blue patriotic display.

But not red geraniums…anything but, because Z says her mom would rise and die all over again if she ever put a geranium on her grave.

I don’t argue, even though we have half a dozen red geraniums left in the car and I think Z s being a little melodramatic.

But it’s Memorial Day… we just do the things we do and don’t ask questions.

Though if anyone could pull off that trick it would be Z’s Mom.

Just to prove me wrong….

Also from the Archive of Retort
Summer is Here...Unofficially

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Plus the occasional extra silliness and chance to compete for valuable prizes…not really.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend is Upon Us

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us.

That sounds a little weird doesn’t it?

Especially since it’s also the title and it seems as if I’m saying it twice.

I suppose I could just let the title speak for itself and assume that you’ve read it, so I don’t need to repeat it.

But how can I be sure that you’re not a bunch of title scoffers out there who routinely ignore the headline and jump right into the body of the story?

I mean, I know my readers and I wouldn’t put that kind of aberrant title reading behavior past any of you.

You’re just that wild.

But I digress…again.

Anyway, Memorial Day Weekend is upon us…and that does sound a little weird doesn’t it?

For a couple of reasons…other than I’ve now said it three times….

One…how does a day become a weekend?

A day is a day…a weekend is a couple of days…sometimes three.

So it’s confusing…at least to me.

But what isn’t?

Second, it just seems early for Memorial Day.

Memorial Day used to be observed on May 30th, originally as a tribute to all of our fallen soldiers.

That later evolved to include the remembrance of everyone who has gone before us, which many people commemorated by planting flowers and placing American flags and such at grave sites all over the country.

Now, however, since the late 60’s, in order to create a long three day weekend, Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of the month, which can be as early as the 25th; and, to a lot of people, the only meaning  they assign to it these days is as the “Unofficial Start of Summer” and another 70% off sale at Kohl's.

So aside from calendar confusion, the whole point of the observance has kind of lost its original intent.

But hey, how can the fallen dead expect to compete with hamburgers and hot dogs, not to mention the Star Wars Marathon on Spike TV.

 I don’t know…I guess you can’t blame people for losing sight of the larger significance. 

Or you can, but, really…we’re all guilty to an extent.

We see Memorial Day creeping up on the calendar, no matter when it falls, and we immediately start thinking about losing those few extra pounds that’ll make the difference between a couple of people not noticing us on the beach to a lot of people not noticing us on the beach.

We rush to get all of our holdover winter clothes put away—despite the recent 40 degree temps— get our screen doors in and dust off the air conditioners.

All the while wondering why someone is playing taps down at the park.

Anyway, I just dug out my shorts and I have to get some sun on my fish belly legs before I frighten the small dog down the street, again.

The beaches officially open today…its Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer!

It sounds like there’s a parade marching down Main Street to celebrate.

That’s just how much people love Memorial Day...the unofficial start of summer.

Why, you ask?

Haven’t you been paying attention?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

No Damage…to speak of

The first good news is, Z is back, safe and sound.

Her flight was delayed about an hour and a half, but nothing like a couple of years ago, which I chronicled here, at the time.

Even now, the chills run down my spine and various other body parts, just thinking about it.

The other good news is, I made it through my bachelor weekend without causing too much damage.

At least on my end.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about the squirrels and the raccoons…especially the raccoons.
The raccoons didn't leave me a drop of gin.

The birds are okay…now.

Once they decided where to set up the nest, things got a little less hectic.

I never knew Robins were so particular.

The Cardinals less so, but believe me, they’re no saints themselves, despite all that red.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I haven’t even mentioned the broken window, which apparently is an open invitation for wildlife to waltz right in and commandeer the remote.

Which, to be honest, I kind of enjoyed the company, but after 72 straight hours of Animal Planet and Nat Geo…enough was enough.

And the broken window wasn't my fault... entirely.

There was no way anyone was going to catch that pass...and I was wide open.

Nuff said. 

At least the Golden Retrievers switched to Disney once in a while.

And the Pugs took a liking to Duck Dynasty for some reason.

At least I think they liked it.

But who knows, with pugs.

Luckily I was able to get all the critters out by the time Z walked in the door…except for the pugs, who are small and were able to hide under the couch.

I wouldn’t have even known they were still here if it weren’t for the sound of Duck calls in the middle of the night.

They couldn’t resist.

Apparently they were re-running the episode were Willie has a mid-life crisis and dyes his beard.

So I cut them some slack and let them finish watching before I sent them home.

Luckily Z slept through the whole thing,

She hates Duck Dynasty….

Monday, May 20, 2013

Toot be Told

On top of being on my own for the weekend, the weather has been miserable here since about mid-day Saturday; right after I finished mowing the lawn.

If the weather was going to turn miserable, couldn't it have turned miserable before I dragged out the lawn mower?

But at least it was a beautiful Saturday morning as I drove to the dentist's office at 7:30 AM to have my broken molar fixed.

Yeah…I broke my toot.

I know, I've dropped the H, but it just sounds more like it should sound to me, being broken and all.

My back left bottom toot to be exact.

And of course I was home alone so had no one to play out the drama to.

Oh the pain…the pain…I broke my poor little toot!!!!

Even though there was no pain at all…just the pain of embarrassment as I stood there holding a body part in my hand, totally disheartened because, the truth of the matter is…I’m falling apart…piece by piece…toot by frickin toot.

And I can’t even tell you I did it in some kind of off the wall, wacky bachelor weekend kind of way; like I was trying to open a beer bottle with my teeth.  Or that I got into a bar fight with a 3 year old who took exception to what he perceived as my unfair characterization as to why Sponge Bob Square Pants might be suffering from gender confusion issues.

Hey, kid…if you don’t want to listen to adult conversation you have no business being at a bar at 10 AM, even if it is just a breakfast-bar.

Nope…I broke it on an almond.

A nut.

A legume.

While waiting for my soup to heat up.

Because almonds are supposed to be good for your health…but apparently not so much for your teeth.

I wasn't even sure I actually broke it at first. 

I felt something hard rattling around in there, but I just thought it was a piece of the nut.  And at first I thought it was, once I got it out and looked at it.

I mean most people can’t tell the difference between an almond and a tooth…right?

But you would have to be some sort of clueless, self-awareness misfit not to recognize your own oral appendage when you see it.


Plus the gaping crater that I felt with my tongue in the back
of my mouth was another sure giveaway that something was wrong.

So I did the first thing that came to mind, from years of watching ER…I took my little pebble of a toot bit and packed it in a cooler full of ice.

Which I thought was smart since with today’s modern medical miracles, I figured my dentist would just be able to reattach it to the rest of my molar.


Unfortunately, reattachment, as my wise guy dentist pointed out, once he stopped laughing, wasn't really the treatment of choice with severed teeth, unless a thumb is attached to the toot, as well.

But he did appreciate the six pack of beer that I also packed in the cooler.

Anyway, once he dried the tears from his eyes and finished his second beer, he told me not to worry; he could easily fix the problem, and asked for another beer.

He also asked if I wanted any Novocain, but I told him that wasn't necessary since I had brought my own and pumped it into my jaw the second I pulled into the parking lot.

Bottom line is…or should I say, toot be told…it was all a big tootdoo over nothing. 

My mouth is once again whole and the only restriction I had was not to eat on my left side for the next 7 years or something.

Which I found to be a rather odd precautionary measure, but if I have to lie on my right side while I’m eating for a while, so be it.

I wasn't going to tell Z anything about all this because I figured, why should I ruin her weekend with my silly troubles.  But then I figured, she’d find out eventually, especially since I forgot to bring back the why not?

And I was right…she did get pretty upset, at least at first, but only because the Novocain hadn't quite worn off and she thought I was saying, “I smoked the Vermouth” instead of “I broke my tooth”.

But once I was able to communicate the message clearly she was fine and went right back to her cha-cha lesson.

So all’s well that ends well.

And now I’m gonna go look up how one goes about smoking that Vermouth…..

Friday, May 17, 2013

Beyond the Horizon

Z and I just celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary, last weekend.


Go figure…right?

Time flies.

It seems like only yesterday that the judge lifted that restraining order.

And like any couple that’s been legally entangled for more than 3 decades—illegally for nearly another before that—it’s only natural to want to stretch your legs and look for new adventures beyond the horizon, just to see whatever else is lurking out there.

At least that’s what Z told me.

And who am I to argue.

No one that’s who!

Again…at least that’s what Z told me.

She was kidding of course.

Of course….

But she did ask me to drive her to the airport yesterday.

She’s making her yearly pilgrimage to Chicago to visit relatives.

Hers, I believe.

Which, once again, leaves me on my own for a few days to ponder the big picture.

To be honest, I’m not even sure where this huge picture that suddenly appeared in the living room came from.

Z says she didn’t buy it.

I know I didn’t buy it.

But there it is…this big picture, left behind for me to ponder.

As if I didn’t have enough pondering to keep me busy.

Like what’s the best way to make sure I don’t throw the wet laundry in the oven again this year.

Or forget to close the refrigerator door.

Actually that’s an unfair characterization…I didn't really forget to close the refrigerator door.

I did it on purpose.

I just thought it would save on snack preparation time, between innings of the ball game.

And it did.

Despite the fact that everything had a funny taste to it.

And the neighbor’s dog got in through the side door—which I actually did forget to close—and ate all the cold cuts, plus, what I believe was leftover rigatoni.

But hey, live and learn…right?

And what better time to navigate the learning curve other than when you've got a few days to yourself to experiment.

Anyway, like I said, I’m fending for myself the next few days.

And when you've been living with the same person—minus the 90s—for over 30 years, there’s a bit of an adjustment.

But not all of it is bad.

For one, I don’t need to shower everyday…why would I?

Or shave...ZZ top, bottom and sideways will have nothing on me.

I don’t even need to change my clothes…who’s gonna know?

Okay, the pizza delivery guy, but is he really gonna risk losing that extra buck I throw him at Christmas.

I don’t think so….

I’m also thinking of taking my Jell-O sculpting to the next level.

I don’t want to give too much away...but think big, like in Big Top big.

And of course this gives me the opportunity to get back into my alternate treadmill redesigns.

So I have enough to keep me busy….at least through Saturday.

Sunday, I might look into lawn coloring…not sure.

And Z’s closet looks like it could use some straightening…maybe even some thinning.

That would be a nice surprise wouldn't it? 

I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she sees all that extra space….

Okay…gotta go.

The goldfish delivery guy is here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Promise of a Spring Morning

I woke up early today, well before 6 AM.

Daylight, well past the horizon, slipping between the bedroom curtain crack; quite a difference from just a few months before.

At this time of day, in February, when I walk out to grab my papers off the lawn, cold stars dot the morning sky, resolute and weary from their long vigil, preparing to close up shop for another daytime of rest.

A quiet, crisp, restful February morning.

The day, slow to start in darkness…quick to end in same.

Now, an arc of gold bends around a backyard swing set and spreads across the sparkling lawn; green sprouts, fresh and newly alive, enriched by morning’s dew.

The days are eager to begin, right now, and through the coming months ahead; the hours and evenings, easily filled.

The morning air is cool; the sun rises; warmth, not far behind.

All... unwinds before us, inviting us to grab hold.

All…declared before us, in the promise of a spring morning.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Gracious Gardner

I spent the weekend lying in the weeds.

I mean, I was literally lying in the weeds…

It’s that time of year again when lawns and gardens and all sorts of growing things, need to be tended and in some cases removed.

So I was literally lying in the weeds…and the bushes and the dirt and the hydrangeas

Especially the hydrangeas.

It had to be done.

The old one had gotten a little too comfortable in its roots.

Was getting a little too lippy for its own good—and mine—so out it went.

Replaced by a brand new, already blooming, little hydrangea; one that I can shape and mold after my own image.

 Nahhhhhh…not really…that would be weird.

Wouldn’t it?

In fact if a hydrangea was a lot like me it would be an awful lot like the one I just got rid of.

Of course none of this is true…I mean, except for the part about switching plants.

The rest of it I made up, as I tend to do.

Have you noticed?

Plants don’t have personalities…at least not in the sane rationale world.

So it would be in-sane to think that they did.


So in truth, as opposed to in lies, all I did was swap out my old hydrangea with a new one.  I didn't even get rid of the old one.  I just moved it across the way, next to the out of control, bushy bamboo.

You know…the one with authority issues.


I should probably explain, not that a discussion of hydrangeas is all that interesting, nor one that I ever thought in my wildest imagination I would ever spend any significant amount of time on.

Lilacs and Butterfly Bushes…maybe…but not hydrangeas.

But yet, here we are.

So briefly, which, I know, I’ve already exceeded, the reason I had to do all this hydrangea swapping was because the first spring, after moving into our house, some 11 and a half years ago, we received this tiny hydrangea bush as a housewarming gift.

I later planted, said bush, next to the also newly planted lilac bush, which then led to both Z and I deciding another bush was needed to balance out the other side.

Well, Z decided, and since she is the Master Gardener, I usually just go along with whatever she says.

So I, being the Gracious Gardener, to Z’s Master status, went off, on my own—always a mistake—to the big hardware store to purchase another hydrangea.

Not a big deal…I could handle that, which I did—graciously—only to discover, sometime later, after it bloomed, that this hydrangea was nothing at all like the old hydrangea.

Who knew there were different types of hydrangeas?

Probably a lot of people, but certainly not me.

Hey…I’m the Gracious Gardener, not the Smart Gardener.

I mean, without flowers, who can tell…especially if you don’t look at the little picture tag on the side.

So for 11 years we’ve lived with this “other” hydrangea and told ourselves, diversity was good…at least until I could motivate myself to go back to the big hardware store and find the correct hydrangea.

Motivate being the operative word.

But, as with so many things in life, fate intervened and this past Easter we received yet another hydrangea gift, already flowering, so there could be no mistake.

Everything in is time...right?

Surely a sign from the universe, because the universe has nothing better to do than send me signs concerning my hydrangea situation.

But that was that…in with the new and out with the old.

I even got to swing my badly underutilized pick ax and dug a big hole in the ground.

Always a plus for the Gracious Gardener.

And they tell me I’ll regain full use of both arms, in time.

Plus my back should straighten out in a few days…with or without the searing pain.

But who’s gonna do these things if not me?

I guess a professional gardener, but that would conflict with my penchant for cheapness.

And Z….

The bottom line is it worked out for everybody.

The new hydrangea—who I have not named Peaches—is happy in the first real place of her own.

The Lilac—who is not named Lilly—is happy to now have symmetrical roommates on either side.

And Lacey…I mean, the older, odd hydrangea…seems happy, despite the occasional droopy spell, in her new, sunnier spot next to Barry…I mean, the bus
hy bamboo.

All just a part of another day for the Gracious Gardner….