Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Pioneer in Conservation

In 1992 the United States Congress  passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which reduced the number of gallons per flush in  new toilets from the old standard of 3.5 to a mere 1.6.   The idea, of course, was to conserve our precious supply of usable water.   Like so many of Congress’s schemes, however, this one had unintended consequences.  Studies indicate that users often flushed two or even three times to get the job done, negating the intention of the law.

Eventually technicians solved the problem; today’s toilets flush with the approximate force of a trillion tons of water roaring  over Niagara Falls.  For safety purposes the user should either install a heavy-duty seatbelt, or better yet, stand back and use a pool stick to push down the flush handle. For safety reasons I advise you to keep cats and small dogs out of the bathroom.

I think it is only right and honorable that Congress present some type of posthumous award to a pioneer of  conservation-my father. He was doing the “right thing”  long  before Congress was concerned about conserving water, saving the ozone, and developing alternative energy sources.

I was brought to my first home as a newborn in 1950; we continued to live there until 1955.  Except for the dining room, where my brother and I slept in bunk beads, I cannot describe the interior of the place, but I do remember that we consumed only a tiny fraction of water compared to today’s average user.

Our toilet did not use two gallons or even one gallon per flush.  In fact, no water was needed because it was not a flush toilet at all.  It was a little building on the back of the lot that had a tiny, half-moon shaped window, a door, and three holes.  Why there were three holes is still a mystery to me; I don’t remember any communal efforts taking place there.

If nature called in the middle of the night, there were special pots under the beds which   relieved one of the necessity of dressing and then marching out into the cold, cold  night.

Water conservation practices did not stop in our home at the outhouse door.  Today, my wife, the villain, loves nothing more than   to spend twenty minutes soaking  in a warm shower, wasting the equivalent amount of water found in Lake Erie and the Mississippi River combined.  That never happened at dad’s house.  For one thing, we didn’t have a shower; in fact, we didn’t even have a bathtub.

Don’t get me wrong; we were very clean human beings.  Once a week, even if one didn’t need it, he/she took a bath.  A large round tub was placed in the middle of the kitchen floor.  Mom heated water on the stove and proceeded to pour it into the tub.

Bathing was done in order of seniority.  Dad, the boss of the family, always took the opening honors, to be followed by Mom, brother, sister, sister, and finally, yours truly.  Since I was the sixth person to bathe in that water, no doubt I was dirtier after taking the bath than before taking it, but there must be sacrifices made in order to conserve.  If you don’t believe me ask Congress!

Luckily, Congress had not found a way to restrict mother nature from doing its thing, so we collected water in barrels, which was then used for gardening, washing the car, washing clothes, etc.

We also conserved electricity and thus minimized air pollution.  Our clothing was washed by hand in a tub and then was hung on a line in the back yard to dry.  In the winter it was fun to watch dad’s long underwear freeze stiff as a board.

When it came to mowing the lawn we used an alternative energy source-my brother.  Our lawnmower had no engine, and thus was incapable of polluting the atmosphere.  Of course, my brother was so young and small that he needed Mom’s help in pushing the mower up hills, but heck, he must have been in great shape!

My brother also plowed the garden without the aid of an engine.  No pesticides were used on the plants.  So what if a few bugs were consumed?  They are sources of protein, you know.

In that more simple time and place Dad and Mom looked forward to global warming; back then they called it summer, and it was a time when the house didn’t need to be heated.  And, of course, they had air conditioning whenever the wind blew through the open windows.

So as you see, Dad was a pioneer in the field of conservation.  I think a gold medal presented in his honor is long overdue.  Get cracking, Congress!

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Visit with Noah

Fred Silvertongue, a popular talk show host, interviews Noah, the man famed for following God’s orders by building an ark and filling it with two of each kind of animal:

Silvertonge:  Welcome to our show, Mr. Noah.  I’m curious; what did you think when you first heard God’s booming voice?

Noah:  At first I thought it was my mother-in-law; she’s always nagging me.  She never thought I was good enough for her “little girl.”  I’m just a little tired of hearing: “You should have married that nice Abraham fellow.”

Silvertongue:  So it’s safe to say that you and your mother-in-law didn’t get along?

Noah: That’s an understatement.  You don’t know what it’s like to put up with that woman for 600 years!

Silvertongue: 600 years?

Noah:  Yeah.  Back in my day it wasn’t unusual for  a person to live to the age of 1,000.  That’s a lot of years to pay into social security, you know.

Silvertongue: So why did God decide to save you?

Noah:  I was obedient to Him and thus pleased Him.  Of course, if He had left the decision to my mother-in-law I’d be a dead duck.

Silvertongue: Did you have any difficulties in following God’s orders?

Noah:  Well, my first thought was, “What in the heck is a cubit?”  I guessed that it was an island off the coast of Florida. Then we had some animal problems.

Silvertongue: Go on, please.

Noah: We lost the unicorns.

Silvertongue:  Unicorns actually existed?

Noah:  Of course.  Let me tell you, those critters are about as easy to catch as a greased pig, but somehow we got them onto  the boat.

Silvertongue:  What happened?

Noah:  We made the mistake of housing them next to the lions.  Lions love fresh meat, you know.  If my mother-in-law had been  aboard I would have placed her next to the lions.  No, on second thought that would have been too cruel a thing to do to the poor beasts!

Silvertongue:  Any other problems?

Noah:  I never question the wisdom of God, but I must admit that the termites were a problem.  Their idea of a good lunch was to devour a piece of the ark!  Finally I had to put them into a clay urn.  We also lost the two-headed sloth cats.

Silvertongue:  The two-headed sloth cats?

Noah:  Yeah.  It was about the same size as today’s domesticated cats, but it had two heads.

Silvertongue:  Why do you think God  created a creature with two heads?

Noah: Well, you know what they say; two heads are better than one.

Silvertongue:  So what happened to the sloth-cats?

Noah:  They were placed next to the elephants.  When Ethel, our female elephant, decided to take a nap, the poor sloth-cats ended up as flat as pancakes.

Silvertongue: Any other difficulties?

Noah: It was a tough job cleaning up after all those animals, and let me tell you, we could have used a super-sized drum of air freshener.  But at least we know that God will never try to drown mankind again.

Silvertongue:  Because God made that promise to us?

Noah:  No.  There’s just no way even God could get an ark built today and fill it with animals.  He would have to get a permit to build the ark, but that could be obtained only after an environmental impact study was completed.  Then the EPA would get involved, and don’t forget zoning rules.  Then He would probably be charged with cruelty to animals for sticking them into such confined spaces.  God would probably get so disgusted that He’d give up.  Even He lacks eternal patience.

Silvertongue:  How can you say that?

Noah:  He finally lost patience with mankind, didn’t He?

Silvertongue:  Good point!  So is there a lesson for all of us to learn from your experience?

Noah:  Of course.  Read the Bible, go to church, pray for guidance and find out what God wants you to do. Then do it!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Third Time's a Charm

Whenever her father visits us,  my wife Bev no longer allows me to pick films for the evening entertainment.  Sadly, she didn’t even give me a third chance!  Even a baseball player gets three strikes before he’s out!

My father-in-law is one of the nicest, most wonderful people I’ve ever known.  He tries to live  by his Christian beliefs; he doesn’t swear, drink alcohol,  or read or look at anything that he deems offensive.

Therefore, the first time Bev sent me out to get a movie, she warned me to get something that would not be offensive in any way.  So at the library I skipped past all the new releases and headed to the “oldie moldies.”  After reading the backs of about twenty movie covers I found one that seemed perfect.  It was made in the late 1950s.  Everyone knows that films from that era could not contain bad language, nudity, or even scenes depicting a double bed!  In fact, the film was so old that it was in glorious black and white.

 Bev quizzed me about the movie choice.  I assured her that we did not need to preview the movie; there was no doubt but that it was totally safe.

Thanks to Bev, the dinner was a huge success.  She served her father many of his favorites, which included pickles, mixed nuts, jelly, milk, and pie.  He was extremely happy; so was his daughter, but this was merely the calm before the storm.

After talking for awhile we settled down in the family room to watch the movie.  Always trying to be helpful, I read aloud  the information on the back of the movie container so that he would have an idea what to expect.  Needless to say, the synopsis left much to be desired.

Bev was still smiling through the opening credits, but that soon changed.  In one of the early scenes, one of the characters walks into the cabin of a large ship.  Standing there was a beautiful young lady who was wearing nothing from the waist up.  Reluctantly I shot a glance at my better half; if looks could kill I’d be a dead man for certain.  In return I gave her a look which was supposed to convey the fact that I had been blindsided.  Unfortunately for me, she wasn’t buying any of it.

After this one offensive scene she relaxed a little, and  her father actually fell asleep.  As a matter of fact, he slept soundly until the next offensive part of the picture, when somehow he mysteriously reawakened.  Once again I faced the look of death.  About forty minutes into the show there was a third offensive scene; once again my father-in-law awakened from his slumber to watch it.  Unable to take another second of the movie, Bev turned it off.  We spent the rest of the evening in conversation.

After her dad had gone to bed Bev got on my case big time for “humiliating” her.  I felt badly about what had transpired,  but I did not feel that I should be the whipping boy.

Here’s the kicker:  this film was made somewhere in Europe.  In the 1950s movies made in America were as clean as the newly fallen snow, but some other places around the world had few if any  restrictions.

About six months later we visited her parents for a few days.  One afternoon my father-in-law and I went for a walk.  On the way back I saw a chance for redemption.  We walked into a film rental store where I proceeded to address the clerk: “We need a family film.  It must be the kind that is totally inoffensive to any and all.“

“I have just the film for you,” she enthusiastically responded.  “It’s brand new, and I’m sure that the entire family will love it.”

After supper that evening we fired up the VCR.  The good news was that it had a fairly interesting storyline; the bad news was that about every tenth word was a swear word, including at times the BIG F!  Once again the evil eye was upon me.

Two days later, after we arrived home, Bev informed me that I had been relieved of duty when it came to procuring movies.  Although I argued that I was an innocent victim, she refused to change her mind.

A couple months later her folks came to town for another visit.  “I’ll get a film for tonight,” my wife informed me.  “I’ll make sure that it’s a safe one.”

That evening, after another wonderful meal prepared by Bev, we settled in the family room and began to watch the show.  Bev had picked an old black and white murder mystery because her father loves “who done its.”  After the opening credits the show began.  The butler and the maid were in the hay mow of the barn, making passionate love.  Turning to my beloved, I gave her my best Stan Laurel smirk and head nod.  For once she had nothing to say.

Now by royal decree  (i..e., by my wife)  all films must be watched in their entirety before being shown to her father.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Presidential Trivia Quiz

1. (True-False)  Although Barack Obama is listed as our 44th president, only 43 men have served in that office.

2. (True-False)  Abraham Lincoln was the last president never to have attended college.

3. (True-False)  Barack Obama is the first president born outside the continental United States.

4. (True-False)  Although Gerald Ford served as both vice-president and president, he was not elected to either office.

5. (True-False)  Ronald Reagan is the only divorced man to serve as president.

6. (True-False)  For much of his adult life George Washington wore wooden teeth.

7. (True-False)  William McKinley is the only native Alaskan to become president.

8. (True-False)  Ronald Reagan won the Distinguished Flying Cross as a World War II pilot.

9. (True-False)  George Washington is the only president who never lived in the White House.

10. (True-False)  John F. Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic to become president.

11. (True-False)  John F. Kennedy was the youngest man to become president.

12. (True-False)  Abraham Lincoln, the tallest president, stood 6’ 8 “.

13. (True-False)  Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president born in a hospital.

14. (True-False)  Only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have stood trial for impeachment.

15.  (True-False)  After serving as president, William Howard Taft became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

16. (True-False)  Gerald Ford was originally named Leslie King, Jr.

17. (True-False)  William Howard Taft, weighing over 300 pounds, was the heaviest president.

18. (True-False)  Barack Obama is a much better basketball player than he is a bowler.

19. (True-False)  Often Andrew Johnson wore suits that he himself had made.

20. (True-False)  The “Teddy Bear” is named after President Theodore Roosevelt.

21. (True-False)  James Monroe is the only president who never married.

22. (True-False)  On more than one occasion William Howard Taft got stuck in the White House bathtub.

23. (True-False)  President Eisenhower was a golf fanatic.

24. (True-False)  Before getting into politics Ronald Reagan was a professional baseball player.

25. (True-False)  One of Ronald Reagan’s nicknames was “The Great Communicator.”

ANSWERS: 1. True; Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms, and is listed as both the 22nd and 24th presidents.  2.  False; Truman.  3.  True; born in Hawaii.   4.  True  5.  True  6.  False  7.  False  8.  False; George H. Bush  9.  True; it was not finished during his administration.  10.  True.  11.  False; Theodore Roosevelt.  12.  False; 6’ 4’’.  13.  False; Jimmy Carter.  14.  True  15.  True  16.  True  17.  True  18.  True  19.  True  20.  True  21.  False; James Buchanan.  22.  True  23.  True  24.  False; actor  25.  True.

*** If you missed…
0-1...You are an expert.        8-9...Okay.

2-4...Good job!                      10 or more…Needs a little work!

5-7...Not bad!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Never Discuss Dieting with a Comedian

The other day I asked my wife Bev if she had been washing my clothes in extremely hot water.

“No. Why do you ask?”

“Because my pants don’t fit so well; something has shrunk them.”

“That’s not the problem, dear.  You’ve put on weight this winter because you eat too much and exercise too little.”

Surely that couldn’t be the problem.  I replied: “Honey, I’m really a light eater.”

“That’s true, dear,” she answered.  “As soon as the sun comes up and it gets light you start eating.”

“You really think I eat too much?” I asked my better half.

“Let me put it this way, dear; you need to quit having intimate dinners for six unless there are five other people around.”

“Now wait a minute, sweetheart; I eat balanced meals.”

“Yeah, your idea of a balanced meal is holding a piece of pizza in each hand.”

“Do you think I really need to lose weight?” I asked her.

“Well, if you went to the zoo in your present condition the elephants would throw peanuts at you.”

“Last year I tried that seafood diet,” I said to her.

“Do you know why it didn’t work?  You’d ‘see food’ and then  you would eat it!”

“Oh, aren’t you the comedian! Hey, I’m trying.  Last month I was on that new high carbohydrate diet for two weeks.”

“What did you lose?” Bev asked.

“Fourteen days of my life.”

Trying to be helpful, she suggested that I eat more vegetables.

“Does carrot cake count?” I asked.

Her reply: “Dieting is not a piece of cake!”

You’re telling me.  For some reason I bristle whenever someone calls me fat; I prefer to be called “calorie challenged.”  Heck, I keep trying to lose weight, but somehow it keeps finding me!

Evidently in advice-giving mode, Bev continued: “It would help if you followed your doctor’s orders.”

Defensively I answered: “ I do.  Last year when Dr, Smith told me to watch what I eat I took his advice.”

“Yeah, you placed a mirror on the dining room table.”

“Aren’t you the funny one today!  Look, I don’t think I’m overweight.”

Bev’s snappy reply:  “You’re right.  You’re just ten inches too short!  Hey, I read about a diet where you can eat anything and as much as you want!”

“That sounds great!  How does it work?” I asked.

“You just have to remember not to swallow!”

Later that day I went to the gym, where I lifted weights and ran five miles.

After returning home, my comedian wife stated: “You look awful!”

“It was hard work, but they say exercise adds years to your life,” I countered.

“In your case it certainly did; you look about ninety!”

It’s difficult to change one’s eating habits.  As the late, great Erma Bombeck once stated: “I am not a glutton; I am an explorer of food.” Every Saturday night I order a large pizza from my favorite restaurant.  Last weekend, in order to cut back, I had the large pizza cut into eight pieces instead of the standard sixteen.  So see, I’m trying!

Oh well!  Let’s eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may diet.  Then again, we may visit a fast-food restaurant.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


As a child I was the proud owner of two or three  pairs of shoes at a time.  The everyday shoes were worn until they literally fell apart.  Rainy days were dreaded because the water would soak through the cardboard that covered the holes.  The “good” pair was worn only when we visited relatives or friends.  

You might think, then, that in an effort to make up for the past, I  would now be the proud owner of dozens of shoes.  Actually, however, I currently own only six pairs, including my old workshoes.  For me, comfort always trumps fashion.  Once I find a pair of comfortable shoes they become my long-time buddies.

My current favorites, a pair of tennis shoes, are among the most comfortable ones that I have ever owned.  Therefore, I tend to wear them whenever I go.  This has gotten me into some occasional trouble with my better half.  Bev gets especially disturbed when I wear the old reliables to church.  I’ve learned to get into the car first, leave it last, and walk behind her.  That way she has less of a chance of discovering my transgression.

However, when she does notice, I get a remark such as: “You can’t wear those old shoes to church!”

“Why not?” I protest.  “God doesn’t care; He’s just glad that I’m in attendance!”

Her rejoinder is: “Maybe He doesn’t care, but I do!”

My two pairs of dress shoes look nice, no doubt in part because I seldom wear them (when forced to wear a suit I will wear the better looking ones).  However, after about three hours they simply kill my feet.  The way I look at it, if I need to wear fancy shoes for someone to like me, then that would be a shallow relationship indeed.

One negative side-effect with my tennis shoes is that they squeak loudly whenever the soles are wet.  It is rather embarrassing to walk down a crowded isle at the mall while making such an offending racket, but it’s a price I’ll willingly pay for comfort.

A few months ago I made the mistake of buying shoes simply because they were attractive.  They are white with red tips and I must admit, they are easy on the eyes.  Unfortunately, I soon discovered that they were not so easy on the feet.  As a result they’re collecting dust in the bedroom closet.

Whenever my favorite shoes become so ragged that Bev refuses to be seen in public with me, I send them into semi-retirement.  Instead of the closet they take up residence in the basement.  Whenever I wash the car, cut the grass, or paint the house these old friends are once more called upon to provide comfort to some old, aching feet.

Interestingly, my shoes are not all the same size.  My feet are rather small (you know what they say; small feet-large brain!), so often a size 8 ½ fits perfectly.  Other times, however, I need a 9 or even a 9 ½!  I guess they just don’t make sizes the way they used to!

My wife has a completely different philosophy when it comes to shoes.  She’s certainly no Imelda Marcos, who once was quoted as follows: “I did not have 3,000 pairs of shoes; I had one thousand and sixty.”  But Bev is the proud owner of what I would estimate to be around thirty pairs of shoes, which is more than the total that I owned during my first twenty years of life.

With all the different types and colors of shoes on display at the various stores, Bev decries the fact that she has only two feet on which to wear them!    She equates buying shoes (and purses, dresses, etc.) with happiness.  That’s fine and dandy, but I’ll take comfort over fashion and color coordination any old time.

For the life of me I don’t understand how the ladies can tolerate high heels.  The other day I watched an old movie in which a woman was tap dancing in those monstrosities!  I give her all the credit in the world; I probably couldn’t even walk in them!

Eventually, if we’re so lucky, we get to the point where no shoes, no special dress or pants  or even makeup will make us as physically attractive as we  were in our younger years.  When do you reach that point?  The late, great comedianne Phyllis Diller has the answer: “You know you’re old when someone compliments you on (your) alligator shoes, and you’re barefoot.”

The best advice:  If the shoe fits (comfortably), wear it!

Sunday, January 12, 2014


1. “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.  Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.” Proverbs 31:10-11.

2. “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”  Mignon McLaughlin.

3. “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”  Friedrich Nietzsche.

4. “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?”  Groucho Marx.

5. “I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back.”  Red Skelton.

6. “To keep your marriage brimming
     With love in the loving cup
     Whenever you’re wrong admit it
     Whenever you’re right shut up.”  Ogden Nash.

7. “Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.  Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.”  Oscar Wilde.

8. “Love is blind but marriage is a real eye-opener.”  Anonymous.

9. “In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce.  The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.”  Robert Anderson.

10. “When a man opens the car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife.”  Prince Phillip.

11. “My wife dresses to kill.  She cooks the same way.”  Henny Youngman.

12. “I was married by a judge; I should have asked for a jury.”  Groucho Marx.

13. “Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.”  James C. Dobson.

14. “I love being married.  It’s so great to find one special person to annoy for the rest of your life.”  Rita Rudner.

15. “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”  Robert Quillen.

16. “Therefore, shall man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.”  Genesis 2:24.

17. “My wife Mary and I have been married for forty-seven years and not once have we had an argument serious enough to consider divorce; murder, yes, but divorce, never.”  Jack Benny.

18. “Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with.” Mark Twain.

19. “Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that’s a real treat.” Joanne Woodward.

20.  “We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck.  But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness.” Ellen Goodman.

21. “Marriage is a commitment-a decision to do, all through life, that which will express your love for one’s spouse.” Herman H. Kieval.

22. “Marriage is like a fine wine; as it ages it gets better.” Anonymous.

23. “You know it’s never fifty-fifty in a marriage.  It’s always seventy-thirty, or sixty-forty.  Someone falls in love first.  Someone puts someone else up on a pedestal. Someone works very hard to keep things rolling smoothly; someone else sails along for the ride.” Jodi Picoutt.

24. “Whatever you may look like, marry a man your own age; as your beauty fades, so will his eyesight.” Phyllis Diller.

25. “Marriage is a mosaic you build with your spouse- millions of tiny moments create your love story.” Jennifer Smith.