Friday, May 22, 2015

Elderly Olympics

Olympic participants are  amazing.  Among the best athletes in the world, they are able to perform at a level that few young people could approach.  It would be dangerous for us oldsters to even attempt some of the Olympic events.  I couldn’t even get on top of a parallel bar, let alone perform on one.  Two fast breaks on the basketball court and I’d need an oxygen tank.  I think it’s evident that we senior citizens need our own Olympics, one that features activities that we can still perform well.

SNORING COMPETITION: Each contestant is placed on a comfortable couch and is given 30 minutes to fall asleep.  Doctors verify whether a contestant is sleeping or faking it.  Once the contest begins, judges evaluate both the number of snores and their loudness. 

SWOLLEN FEET COMPETITION: Each contestant has the width of his/her feet measured before taking a one hour walk.  Then the feet are once again measured.  The gold medal winner is the lucky contestant whose feet have swollen the most.

WEIGHT LIFTING: Any senior citizen who can lift my wife’s purse deserves a gold medal, and also will probably need  a truss.

“BACK IN MY DAY” COMPETITION: The judges are all teenagers.  They must listen while each contestant tells them how things were done better “way back when.”  The oldster who annoys the judges the most wins the gold.

DRIVING EVENT: Each participant drives an old station wagon a distance of five miles.  The one who drives the slowest is the winner.  Additional points are added for riding the brakes and coasting into the opposite lane.

SEEING IS BELIEVING: Without his/her glasses, each contestant attempts to read a letter chart.  The winner is the lucky oldster who can read the most letters.  Any senior citizen who can see the chart should get at least a bronze medal.

STAYING AWAKE:  The competitors are shown a long movie.  The winner is the guy or lady who stays awake the longest.

EAR-HAIR COMPETITION: This event is dominated by men.  Points are earned for the number of hairs growing out of the ears as well as for  the length and thickness of each hair. 

LONGEST BEARD:  For some reason, women have not fared well in this event. 

ARTIFICIAL PARTS COMPETITION: The gold medal winner is the lucky oldster with the most “artificial” parts, including false teeth, a hip replacement, pig valves, and heart pace maker.

FURNITURE MOVING: Each participant must help move heavy furniture.  The gold medal winner is the first old person who is able to get out of bed the next day without assistance.

BICYCLE RACE: Contestants race over a five mile course.  For safety reasons, each bike has training wheels.

TRICYCLE RACE: For those senior citizens who want to race but are not so daring.

HORSE COMPETITION: The gold medal winner is the first contestant to successfully mount the horse.  Step ladders are permitted.

100-YARD DASH: Runners will be timed by a sundial.  Cots for napping will be placed at every twenty-yard interval.

*May each senior citizen who can still laugh at himself, enjoy life, and keep on trucking be honored as a special human being.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Mom, after battling cancer for several months you left us on New Year’s Day, 1997, just three and a half months after Dad had died.  Sometimes it feels like you’ve been gone just a few months; at other times it seems like an eternity.  Anyway, as I think about this special day  several memories flood my soul:

*I can still smell your wonderful homemade bread.  From my point of view, while still warm it was the best bread in the universe.  It had to be eaten in the first couple days, however, because after that it would dry out and fall into tiny little crumbs.  Of course, I did my best to see that it was devoured long before it began to crumble.

*Like your father, usually you were quiet and even shy, but deep inside lurked a volcano.  The relatively few times that you were angry were scary moments indeed.

*I’ll never forget when those pesky ants crawled into your cake mix while you talked to a friend on the telephone.  This was one of those rare times when you turned into the Incredible Hulk.  It was kind of funny when you tried to sift those varmints out of the mix;  little bodies were flying everywhere.  As I remember, out of pure stubbornness you baked that cake, but being equally stubborn, I refused to eat it.

*Whenever you were ticked off at one of my siblings or at me you pelted our backsides with a wooden paddle.  Remember the time , despite tugging and chewing on the string, you couldn’t extract the ball from the new paddle?  I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing while you pounded my posterior with that ball still intact.

*Remember how both you and your sister loved to buy and read those silly magazines that one sees at the grocery store checkout counter?  On more than one occasion you argued that those stories were true.  I remember one in particular, in which a tall green alien supposedly regularly  advised several presidents.  Maybe that explains why we’ve had some sub par leaders of late.

*You were a walking, talking encyclopedia.  Mom, you were the only person I knew who could remember so many details about so many things. 

*I still miss those jelly-filled cookies that you made. 

*Like you, I have a love of history, but I can’t remember nearly as many details as you did.

*Being the oldest child, you served a large family as an “assistant mom.”  Your siblings owe you big time for your sacrifices.

*I forgive you for letting my  sisters talk you into taking me along to those boring weekly sewing machine classes so that they could have the house to themselves.  Of course, it will take a few more decades to forgive them for such a fiendish act!

*Unfortunately, I never expressed  how much I love you.  Hopefully, late is better than never.

*Mom, you never expressed in words your love for us, but you always did your very best for us, and for that we are thankful..

*Mom, please forgive me for constantly teasing you about Harvey and other guys that you knew during your youthful years.  My excuse was that I was a stupid kid who didn’t know any better, and I’m sticking to it.

*So happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  Your kids love you, appreciate you, and most of all, miss you.  Rest in peace.

*May all our mothers have a wonderful day; we wouldn’t be here without you!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Useless but Interesting Facts

Useless but Interesting Facts
1. Sir John Harrington of England invented the flush toilet in 1596. 

2. An average dog has the intelligence of a two-year-old child.

3. The United States Constitution contains 4,400 words.

4. Abraham Lincoln had the largest feet of any president; his shoe size was 14.

5. Your stomach gets a new lining about every three days.

6. Originally high-heels were worn by men.

7. Barbara Millicent Roberts is the full name of the Barbie Doll.

8. Your nose and your ears continue to grow throughout your life.

9. After sex the Black Widow spider eats her mate.  Is this where the term, “one-night stand” began?

10. New-born babies do not have kneecaps.

11. Females blink more than males do.

12. The memory span of a goldfish is three seconds.  This is the same memory span that a husband has whenever his wife wants him to do some work around the house.

13. Elephants are the only mammals that cannot jump.

14. Even with its head cut off a cockroach can live for several days.

15. Starfish have no brains.  The same can be said for many politicians.

16. Finland banned Donald Duck comics because the duck doesn’t wear any pants.

17. Next to human beings, porpoises are the most intelligent animals on the planet.  However, after watching the evening news I’d drop human beings several slots.

18. Abraham Lincoln pardoned his children’s pet turkey so that it could never be killed and eaten.

19. Only the female mosquito bites.

20. Honey is the only food that will never spoil.

21. Two former presidents-John Adams and Thomas Jefferson-died July 4, 1826.

22. The most visited presidential grave site is John F. Kennedy’s in Arlington National Cemetery.

23. It takes 43 muscles to frown but only 17 to smile.  That’s why I smile so much-I’m lazy!

24. In 1890 Christmas became a national holiday in the United States.

25. Although George Washington tried several types of false teeth, he never wore wooden ones.

26. Both Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain were cat lovers.

27. Each person has a unique tongue print.

28. About six months of a person’s life is spent sitting at red lights.

29. “Aulophobia’ is the fear of flutes.

30. Robert Wadlow, who died in 1940 at the age of 22, stood 8 feet 11.1 inches.

31. In 2006 Manuel Uribe of Mexico weighed 1, 235 pounds.

32.Jeanne Calmet of France died in 1997.  She was 122 years and 164 days old.

33. Albert Woolson, who died in 1956 at the age of 109, was the last member of the Union Army during the Civil War.

34. Cats are the most popular pets in the United States.

35. The average dairy cow will weigh about 1,200 pounds.

36. The offspring of a donkey and a zebra is called a “zedonk.”

37. Mark Twain said: “Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”

38.  George Washington is the only president who never lived in the White House.

39. Peter Best was the original regular drummer for the Beatles.  He was replaced by Ringo Starr.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Advice for Husbands

There is nothing quite so blissful for a guy as sharing his life with a contented wife.  From my vast years of experience I can give you younger guys some sound advice:

1. Always put the seat down after using the toilet.  When she argues that you are inconsiderate for not doing so, you could counter that she is just as inconsiderate for not putting it up after she’s finished.  Your argument would be every bit as logical , but don’t go there!  No male has ever won that debate!

2. Never, and I mean never tell her that she is turning into her mother!  Your mother-in-law might be a saint (If so, you have the only one on the planet),  but your wife will never take such a statement as a compliment. 

3. If your wife asks if a new outfit makes her backside look big, always answer “no.”  Answer in the negative even if those new jeans make her  look like Shamu.  God will forgive you for this white lie; no doubt He would do the same thing if there was a Mrs. God.

4.  Never give your honey the nickname “Moose.” 

5. When you come to bed on a cold winter’s night, never stick your icy feet on her legs. 

6. Never try to compliment her by stating that among her many  attributes, she even has better in-laws than you do.

7. Sincerity is the key to a happy marriage.  Once you learn how to fake that you’ve got it made!

8. Try to stay awake at least ten minutes after a romantic interlude.  Don’t use those ten minutes to talk sports.

9. When you do something wrong, use those two magic words: “I’m sorry.”

10.  When you’re right but she thinks you’re wrong, use those two magic words: “I’m sorry.”

11. When she forces you to go shopping with her, pretend to be enjoying the activity.

12. Don’t ask her to fetch your beer.

13. Always make her wishes as important as your own.

14. No matter what she prepares for a meal, eat it and thank her for fixing it.

15. Even if your mother-in-law is a witch, treat her with the utmost respect (It’s okay, however, to imagine sending her on a one-way trip to Jupiter).

16. Always treat her as an equal in the marriage.

17. Even if it’s true, never tease her that she and her friends sound like a bunch of hens while playing cards.  In a related matter, never kid about looking for eggs after the card party is over.

18.  Be careful that you don’t tell her the same jokes more than three times.

19. Don’t kiss her until you’ve had that morning shave.  For some strange reason women do not like the feeling of sandpaper across their faces.

20. If she loves a pet you love it too.

21. Constantly remind yourself how lucky you are to be living with such a wonderful person.

22. Every now and then surprise her by serving breakfast in bed.  Do more than hand her a bowl and a box of cereal.

23. Make her feel that in choosing you she has hit the jackpot.

24.  And most importantly, at least once a day tell her how much she means to you. Tell her that you love her, and mean it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mr. Davis

April 1st, 2015 would have been the 100th birthday of Bill Davis, a wonderfully gifted teacher who made a lasting impact upon thousands of students.  Here is one of my favorite Bill Davis stories:

Bill Davis, a U. S. history teacher, was unique, to say the least.  He certainly knew American history.  In fact, he shared with his students little-known facts about historical figures that almost magically transformed them from musty statues to real human beings, warts and all.  Mr. Davis was the total package: he was a proficient teacher, an extraordinary entertainer, and an excellent comedian.  I doubt that anyone ever fell asleep in his class, or even yawned, for that matter.

According to Mr. Davis, many administrators didn’t know what to make of him.  He just didn’t fit the standard description for a teacher of those times.  Perhaps even some of them wondered if it was a good thing that the students enjoyed his class so much.

Today there are several folks approaching the age of seventy who probably tell their grandchildren about the U. S. history teacher who, in advance of Election Day, could accurately predict the winner of a presidential contest.  In late 1959, a few months before the fight for the Presidency between Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy had ended, Mr. Davis announced to his classes that long ago, through painstaking research, he had developed a foolproof formula for figuring out who would win the Presidential sweepstakes.

To back his claim, he nailed a picture covered with newspaper onto the wall of his classroom.  He then announced that the day after the election, the newspaper would be removed, revealing the winner and proving that his formula was accurate.  As a result, the students became extremely interested in the election process, which was unusual for a bunch of thirteen year olds.

The day after the election, the excited students waited with baited breath to see if he was indeed some kind of prophetic genius.  As Mr. Davis slowly removed the paper from the picture, the students gasped.  To their amazement, hanging on the wall was a portrait of the next President of the United States, John F. Kennedy.

Like so many of Mr. Davis’s former pupils, I stayed in touch over the years.  One day he shared a secret with me.  Listening to the election results back in November of 1959, he had to wait until the wee hours of the morning to learn that Kennedy had won the election by a razor-thin margin.  Then, leaving home a little earlier than usual, he went to school, took down the picture of Richard Nixon that had been hanging there for months, and replaced it with one of JFK.

Mr. Davis’s stunt, more than anything else, got a bunch of teenagers interested in the political process.  That was no small feat.  So what if his formula needed a little work?

He’s gone now; hundreds if not thousands of his former students miss him and feel indebted to him. To me he was the embodiment of what a teacher should be.  His students learned the material and had a lot of fun while doing so.  In my book, that’s the mark of a great educator. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Pack Rats

Both my wife Bev and I hate to throw anything away.  As a result, in thirty years the basement, garage, and attic have accumulated a ton of relics in which only the Smithsonian Institute or the local junkyard might have an interest.  Recently, we made the tough decision to get rid of at least some of the junk.  Of course, this was like two drug addicts telling each other to go cold turkey.

We started by going through the various items scattered around the basement.  “It would be a shame to throw out these pants; they don’t have any rips and they’re not in the least bit faded,” I pleaded to my better half.

“Maybe you’re right,” Bev replied.  “Perhaps bellbottoms will come into style again and maybe you’ll lose thirty pounds so you can wear them.”

A few minutes later Bev spotted an aged exercise machine that was now covered with dust and cobwebs.  “Maybe we should keep this; both of us could use a little exercise,” she reasoned.

“As I remember, dear,” I explained, “we used that machine for two weeks before chucking it into the basement.  It was about as exciting as watching the grass grow.”

After several hours of gently encouraging each other we had accumulated a sizable pile of items to price for the upcoming community garage sale.  Bev commented: “Here’s the lamp that Aunt Bertha gave us about twenty -five years ago.  It doesn’t work anymore but it’s still pretty.  How about twenty-five bucks for it?”

“It‘s the most hideous lamp I‘ve ever seen!” I responded.  “It’s almost as ugly as Aunt Bertha herself.  Maybe some shopper will take it if we pay her or him $25.”

“Well, it’s better than that moldy sofa that your Uncle Bert gave us about twenty years ago.  The last time I sat on that thing my pants got stuck on a spring,” Bev retaliated.  “And your Uncle Bert isn’t exactly handsome.  Dr. Frankenstein has made better-looking guys out of spare parts.”

Refusing to escalate the war of words, I responded: “Maybe we could bundle the lamp and the sofa for twenty-five dollars.”

Several folks showed up for the sale, but no one wanted to pay the listed prices.  “I’ll give you a dollar for the lamp,” stated one elderly lady. 

“You won’t find a more beautiful lamp than this one,” Bev countered.  “How about five dollars?” 

“Does it work?” the lady inquired.

“No,” Bev honestly answered, “but I’m sure it could easily be repaired.”

“Then I’ll give you a quarter for it.”

My old bellbottoms were listed for three dollars; a retired auto mechanic offered me fifty cents: “I can cut them into cleaning rags,” he said.  I couldn’t let that happen to such a classic line of clothing, so I hid the pants behind the exercise machine.

While I stayed to supervise Bev decided to visit the other homes in the neighborhood where sales were taking place.  About a half hour later she returned, entering the backdoor of the house before coming down to the garage.  Then I took a little time to see what the neighbors had for sale.

We were happy that a few items had been sold.  In fact, we made over $25 that day.  Unfortunately, we spent more than $30.  At other houses Bev bought a lamp, a toaster, a picture  of George Washington crossing the Delaware, some plastic plates, and a garden hose.  I purchased a train set, an old board game, a radio, a 1956 calendar, a rusty flashlight, and a typewriter.

Altogether, we ended up with five more pieces of junk than we had before the sale began.  Our goal at next year’s sale is to break even.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The C. and S. Railroad

Against my better judgment I decided to take the cheapest train available to San Francisco.  I was soon to learn that one gets what one pays for.

The taxi driver let me off about one hundred feet from the train station.  Two drunks were staggering along the tracks.  One said,” This is the longest stairway I’ve ever seen.”  The other man replied,” Yeah, and look how low the banisters are.”

No doubt the station had been around for quite some time; it was a log cabin with an outhouse behind it.  Out front there was a hitching post in case a cowboy needed a ride on an “iron horse.”

Inside the main building, above the entrance, was a large sign which stated: “If God had wanted us to fly he wouldn’t have invented trains.”

Advancing to the desk, I asked the agent what the letters “C. and S.” stood for.  I assumed they meant “Central and Southern.” 

“Them there letters stand for ‘Cheap and Slow.’  We’re the lowest priced railroad in North America, so in return for saving you some bucks you have to put up with the slowest railroad in North America.  What ticket do you need, bub?”

After purchasing my ticket I strolled through each car.  Although the train was old and in ill-repair, the caboose was magnificently large.  A few minutes after finding my rickety, uncomfortable seat the train lurched ahead, stopped, and lurched again, leaving thick black rings of smoke in the air and tiny pieces of soot which blew upon us from the open windows.  Miraculously, however, soon we were cruising along at nearly ten miles per hour.

The conductor, an elderly and slightly overweight lady, began punching tickets.  Evidently the company didn’t want to spend good money on a hole punch, for she made the holes with a pencil.  When she arrived at my seat, I handed her the ticket and commented: “You know, you have one of the biggest cabooses I’ve ever seen.”  Taking offense, she stuck her pencil up my right nostril!

Evidently, many years ago when the track was laid, the idea was to take the path of least resistance.  All those turns and twists soon upset my stomach.  One stretch of track was so crooked that I swear we met ourselves coming back.

An elderly gentleman slowly made his way through the car, selling popcorn and candy.  A lady said to him:  “Hey, old-timer, I thought boys were hired to do your job.”

Smiling, the old man replied: “Dear, I was a boy when we began this trip.”

At five p.m. each passenger was given a bowl of gruel, a stale piece of bread, and a cup of water.  “This is supper?” I asked the conductor while holding my hand over my nose in case she once again took offense.

“You get what you pay for,” she answered.  “This is what the customers in steerage got on the Titanic, and they paid more than you did, so shut your pie hole.”  This time I wisely took her advice.

At 11 p.m. I went to my assigned sleeping quarters.  Evidently there had been a mix-up because an attractive lady was already sleeping there.  After a brief discussion we decided to make the best of the situation.  She took the lower bunk and I took the top one. 

About four in the morning I awakened her.  “Sorry to bother you,” I said, “but I’m cold.  Would you please go see the conductor and get me another blanket?”

“How about for just tonight we pretend that we’re married?” she cooed.

It sounded like a good idea to me so I agreed.

“Fine,” she responded.  “So for tonight we’re married, right?” she once again inquired.

“That’s right,” I affirmed.

“Good.  Then get your own blasted blanket!” she responded.

I shivered until breakfast was served.

While enjoying a hearty breakfast of beef jerky and cabbage, I noticed that the train was no longer moving.  The conductor informed us that we had to stop because there was a cow on the tracks.  Soon the problem was solved and we continued to snake along, only to stop about fifteen minutes later.  An elderly gentleman asked the conductor, “Did we catch up with that cow again?”  I hope he didn’t feel too much pain when she shoved her pencil up his right nostril.  I had already learned to keep my mouth tightly shut (and my nose covered).

I was sitting next to a well-dressed gentleman.  I asked about his occupation.  “I’m a loafer at a bakery,” he answered.

“They pay you for loafing all day?” I enquired.

“Yes they do.  The more I loaf the more they pay me.”

“This sounds like a government job,” I replied.

The married folks in front of us were having a heated discussion: “I was a fool when I married you, Jane,” the husband stated.

“I know,” said the wife, “but I was in love and didn’t notice.” 

Directly behind us a lady  was angry because the guy sitting next to her said that her baby was ugly.  Finally, having taken all she could, the mom complained to the conductor that the man next to her was being rude.

“Don’t worry about it,” the conductor told her.  “I’ll move you to another car and I’ll get your monkey a banana.”  Luckily for the conductor, the mother did not have a pencil.

From the engine I heard the following chant: “I think I can.  I think I can.”

“What’s that all about?” I asked the conductor.

“That’s our new engineer.  He has never operated a train and so he’s trying to convince himself that he can get the job done.”

Holding my right hand firmly across my nose, I asked: “Why would the railroad hire an inexperienced person to operate the train?”

“Because he agreed to work for food, “ she answered.  “Increasing our profit is always the bottom line.”

Somehow, someway, after three weeks we reached San Francisco.  The conductor had a few parting words: “We at C. and S. want to thank you for giving us the business while we took you for a ride.”

As one last favor she asked the departing passengers to get behind the caboose and give a push to get them started. 

I then spent a glorious week in San Francisco and had a wonderful trip home. I took a plane.