Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why at least some Brick and Mortar Stores will Survive

Recently several department stores have closed their doors forever.  In part, this is due to more people shopping on-line.  Despite this trend, however, I believe that there will always be an adequate number of “old fashioned” stores, the kind that have been around, more or less, for the last two hundred years.

Advocates of on-line shopping have argued that it is an easier and more convenient way to buy, but there are some drawbacks.  When I get into the mood to shop for clothing (which, being a guy, isn’t often) I want to make a selection and then take the pair of pants or a shirt or a pair of shoes home with me immediately after the purchase.  One has to wait several days and sometimes a week before the on-line products are delivered.

Especially when buying clothing a photograph is inadequate.  The picture might show a beautiful pair of pants, but I need to try them on to see if they look good on me.  Furthermore, my shoe size varies.  Sometimes an 8 ½ fits; for other brands I need a 9 (remember: small feet = big brain).  So, by ordering on-line I can wait for a week to have the wrong size shoes delivered.  Then I have to send them back and reorder.  It’s easier to get into the car, go to the mall, and purchase shoes that fit.

Another reason that I seldom shop on-line is because I’m afraid of compromising my credit card.  Yes, of course a dishonest clerk in a store can compromise you, but imagine how many people could potentially steal your credit card information once you use it on-line. 

My wife Bev shops on-line occasionally, but there is no way she will ever give up traditional shopping.  Unlike her husband, she finds great joy in the shopping experience.  While I get into the store and make a quick selection, she spends hours trying to decide between the red cardigan and the blue one.

Unfortunately, Bev often takes me along on her shopping trips.  Let me tell you, it’s rather creepy to be led through those masses of dresses, skirts, and various unmentionables.  If I’m lucky, the store has TV sets for sale; while Bev is in the changing room I can catch a few minutes of a football game or a fishing program.

Bev and her friends often use shopping as a social experience, which is fine by me, since it lets me off the hook.  She and a friend or two will meet at the mall and proceed to spend several hours agonizing over various clothing options.  While doing so they catch up on the latest news.  Since they are not the type to repeat gossip one must listen carefully the first time. 

My friends and I have been known to spend an entire Saturday afternoon watching football, barbequing, and putting away a few brews.  And, of course, I must admit, we catch up on the latest gossip.  Before we know it several hours have elapsed.  That’s what happens when you’re having fun.

Evidently that is the same rush that Bev and her pals get when they shop for what seems like an eternity.  They socialize, hear about the latest goings-on, obtain new clothing, and just generally spend time hanging out with one another.  Hours later, when they are exhausted, the ladies head for a favorite restaurant for some nourishing food, more socializing, and a chance to get off their feet.

So as you can see, there are many reasons to believe that traditional shopping will never disappear.  Although many stores will go out of business or switch to on-line service, some of the leading brick and mortar department stores will survive.  If they don’t, Bev and her friends will be picketing, and they would make the anti-Trump protesters look like amateurs.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I Shouldn't Have Gotten Out of Bed (Maybe I should have hidden under it!)

I should have heeded an early-morning warning.  Getting out of bed in order to go to the bathroom, my right foot felt something warm and mushy.  Turning on the light, I discovered that I had stepped into a fresh batch of cat throw up.  After cleaning up the mess I should have crawled back into bed for the rest of the day.  No, come to think of it, I should have stayed under it.

After breakfast I grabbed my overdue library book and headed for the garage.  For some unknown reason I placed the book on the trunk of the car before walking to the mailbox to retrieve the morning paper.  Unfortunately, the book was still resting on the trunk as I backed out of the driveway.

About halfway to town I glanced at the passenger seat and suddenly realized that the book was not in the car.  Quickly turning around in a nearby driveway, I slowly retraced my route, hoping against hope that I would spot the missing book.

After returning home I parked the car in the driveway and set off on foot.  To my great astonishment and relief, at the spot where I had made a big right turn was the library book, nestled safely in a flower bed.  Thinking my troubles were over, I retrieved the book and merrily strolled back to the car to once again began my journey to town.

About a mile from home I made a right turn, crossed a set of railroad tracks, and found myself on a narrow, elevated strip of road.  Since a large truck was approaching from the opposite side, I moved to the right.  Unfortunately, a piece of the road there had washed out, leaving a deep depression.  Like some poor insect in a spider’s web, I found myself stuck, unable to pull forward or back out of the hole.

My wife was out of town, and no towing service was listed on my cell phone, so I had to walk back to my housing development.  There a neighbor gave me the number of a wrecker service to call.  The dispatcher said that the tow truck would arrive in about forty-five minutes, so that gave me plenty of time to walk back to the site.

About halfway there I could see my car and beside it was the tow truck.  Picking up my pace, I waved my arms and yelled at the top of my lungs, “I’m coming!”  All I needed was for the guy to become impatient and leave.  Then I would have to return home and begin the process all over again.

Fortunately, he remained there as I huffed and puffed my way to the site.  Within a few minutes I was relieved in two ways-relieved that my car was unstuck and relieved of seventy-five dollars by the towing service.

With all these unfortunate happenings I seriously considered going home, locking the door, jumping into bed and hiding under the covers.  Finally, however, I decided to be brave and continue doing the activities I had planned for the day.  Just to be safe, however, about every fifteen minutes I glanced at the sky, checking to see if a meteor was heading my way.  After my morning adventures nothing would have surprised me.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Circus: Now and Then

When just a mere  kid I dreamed of  possible careers in which I was an astronaut, the center fielder for the New York Yankees, or a circus star.  As it turned out, I became a teacher, which did indeed have some aspects of a three-ring circus, but I digress.

In just a couple months the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will strike the big top for the last time.  Sadly, many folks have moved onto other forms of entertainment.  Since the circus was giving a performance in our state, my wife Bev and I decided to attend.  I’m glad we did. 

Many years ago this famous circus traveled even to small towns.  In 1954 it came to my hometown, which at the time had a population of about 40,000.  Three separate trains arrived in our downtown area, bringing tents, workers, food, performers, and many animals, including lots of elephants.

The local paper featured an article about one of the elephants: “Take it from Big Babe, heaviest of the nine herds on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey lot. It’s all a matter of exercise.  Babe’s normal weight is around one-half ton.  That’s when she is on the road during the 40-week circus year.  But when the circus goes into its winter quarters at Sarasota, Florida for the remaining four months of the year, Babe leads a life of comparative ease.  There are relatively few chores for her to perform there…  Babe’s weight immediately begins to increase.  By the end of the first month of rest she has picked up a quarter-ton, and before the end of the month she is more than a half-ton overweight.” 

Today’s circus has no elephants, but it did feature camels, horses, tigers, and dogs.  Amazingly, when a “big cat” stood on its hind legs it was taller than the trainer!  Being a dog lover, I thoroughly enjoyed that part of the show.  The camels were kind of like horses with humps.

My favorite act was seeing a lady shot out of a cannon.  She literally flew across the arena, landing on what looked like a giant air mattress. 

The current circus featured an exciting tight wire act, as did the 1954 circus that visited my hometown: “There’s a big difference between a bull ring and a circus ring, but they have one thing in common-folks risk their lives in both.  And that’s one of the reasons why Con Colleano, veteran of the tight wire and only living man who can perform a forward somersault on one, is oft times referred to as ‘toreador.’”

I have no idea what arrangements are made for feeding the current circus performers and workers, but in 1954 the food traveled with the circus: “The world’s largest mobile refrigeration plant keeps meats, fish, fowl, butter and eggs fresh for the more than 1,000 workers and performers who travel with the Greatest Show on Earth.  The monster unit was designed and built right on the grounds at the Ringling winter quarters in Sarasota, Florida, and was constructed of extra-heavy steel plates so that it could withstand the punishment of bruising travel.”

In 1954 the three trains bringing everything and everybody needed for the circus performance rolled into the downtown train station.  From there the entire cargo was taken to the fairgrounds on the south side of town.  Several tents, including the big top, were set up.  In many ways it resembled a fair. The current circus was held in an indoor arena; the show lasted about two hours. 

In thinking this over, I’m happy for the new format.  I love a good circus, but two hours of it is just about right for me.  My wife, on the other hand, likes to “get her money’s worth” whenever she attends a fair or a circus.  If the current event had been held at a fairgrounds, with multiple tents, animal displays, and so forth, I could see us staying for five or six hours.  For me, I got my money’s worth in those two hours. 

For many of us, who are kids at heart, whether we are nine or ninety, or somewhere in between, being at a circus is still a wonderful experience.  We are going to miss the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, but we do have wonderful memories, for which we are thankful. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Who Said It?

* The following statements were made by various Presidents of the United States.  Take the quiz and see how much you know.

1. “No man who ever held office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.”  A. Harry S. Truman   B. Richard Nixon   C. Barack Obama   D. John Adams.

2. “I never did give them h***; I just told the truth and they thought it was h***.”  A. Harry S. Truman   B. Ronald Reagan   C. Lyndon B. Johnson   D. Theodore Roosevelt.

3. “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”  A. Barack Obama   B. Abraham Lincoln   C. George Washington   D. George W. Bush.

4. “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”  A. Richard Nixon   B. Ronald Reagan  C. Barack Obama    D. James Madison.

5. “It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.”  A. Martin Van Buren   B. Bill Clinton   C. Jimmy Carter   D. Calvin Coolidge.

6. “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”  A. Jimmy Carter   B. Franklin Roosevelt   C. Theodore Roosevelt   D. Dwight Eisenhower.

7. “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”  A. Richard Nixon   B. John Kennedy   C. George Washington   D. Bill Clinton.

8. “Always remember that others may hate you but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them.  And then you destroy yourself.”  A. Thomas Jefferson   B. Richard Nixon   C. Millard Fillmore   D. George W. Bush.

9. “Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm.  There’s nothing to do but stand there and take it.”  A. Lyndon Johnson   B. James Madison   C. George Washington   D. Grover Cleveland.

10. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”  A. Abraham Lincoln   B. Ulysses S. Grant   C. Ronald Reagan   D. Jimmy Carter.

11. “Recession is when a neighbor loses his job; depression is when you lose yours.”  A. Barack Obama   B. Jimmy Carter   C. Bill Clinton   D. Ronald Reagan.

12. “We should live our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon.”  A. Richard Nixon   B. Jimmy Carter   C. Gerald Ford   D. Calvin Coolidge.

13. “If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists-to protect them and to promote their common welfare-all else is lost.”  A. Bill Clinton   B. Dwight Eisenhower   C. Barack Obama   D. George Washington.

14. “An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows.”  A. Thomas Jefferson   B. Franklin Roosevelt   C. Dwight Eisenhower   D. George W. Bush.

15. “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”  A. Abraham Lincoln   B. John Adams   C. Woodrow Wilson   D. Calvin Coolidge.

16. “Frankly, I’m fed up with politicians in Washington lecturing the rest of us about family values.  Our families have values, but our government doesn’t.”  A. Richard Nixon   B. Theodore Roosevelt   C. George W. Bush   D. Bill Clinton.

17. “Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.”  A. Woodrow Wilson   B. Abraham Lincoln   C. Gerald Ford   D. George W. Bush.

18. “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”  A. Barack Obama   B. Bill Clinton   C. Jimmy Carter   D. Thomas Jefferson.

19. “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to slaughter.”  A. George Washington   B. Barack Obama   C. Abraham Lincoln   D. James Madison.

20. “Thomas Jefferson once said, ’We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.’  And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.”  A. James Madison   B. Ronald Reagan   C. Andrew Jackson   D. George Washington.

21. “Truth is the glue that holds government together.”  A. Richard Nixon   B. George W. Bush   C. Abraham Lincoln   D. Gerald Ford.

22. “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”  A. Dwight Eisenhower   B. John Kennedy   C. Ronald Reagan   D. Theodore Roosevelt.
23. “A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.”  A. Franklin Roosevelt   B. Ronald Reagan   C. George Washington   D. Calvin Coolidge.

24. “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.”  A. Barack Obama   B. Bill Clinton   C. Jimmy Carter   D. Calvin Coolidge.

25. “Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.”  A. George W. Bush   B. Ulysses S. Grant   C. Grover Cleveland   D. John Adams.

ANSWERS:     1. D.   2. A.   3. C.   4. D.   5. A.   6. C.   7. B.   8. B.   9. A.   10. A.   11. D.   12. B.   13. C.   14. B.   15. A.   16. D.   17. D.   18. D.   19. A.   20. B.   21. D.   22. D.   23. A.   24. D.   25. B.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

We just Lost a Good Man

Jack Hampson, my father-in-law, recently died at the age of ninety.  He was never a football star or a famous singer; his story will never appear in any history books.  Yet, he lived an extraordinary life that affected so many people in so many positive ways.

Jack was a gentle, caring man, a man who was sensitive to the feelings of others.  He lived with the credo that God doesn’t make junk and therefore, all lives matter.  During our thirty-five year association I never heard him say anything negative about another human being.

My brother-in-law once told me about his first meeting with Jack.  Arriving to pick up his date (now my sister-in-law), Keith thought to himself, “This is the nicest person I’ve ever met.”  I’ll second that.

For some strange reason Jack’s mother-in-law, who in most ways was a wonderful person, believed that Jack was not “good enough” for her daughter.  Many times Jack opened his heart to me, explaining how badly it felt to be regarded as somehow inferior. 

Many years later, however, when his mother-in-law was elderly and no longer able to live alone, he invited her into his house, even adding a new bathroom so that she wouldn’t have to climb the steps.  I’m not so certain that I could be that big a man.

While only in her sixties, Anne, Jack’s wife, became ill and eventually was totally dependent upon him.  Although Jack was active in many organizations, he gave them up so that he could care for his wife and keep her at home.  Thanks to him she never spent a day in a care center.

Jack was a deeply religious man but he never tried to pressure others to see it his way.  Instead, he set a good example which others came to emulate.  He saw good in every man and woman, for he viewed them as sacred children of God. 

My wife, her brother, and her sister hit the “Dad Lottery” with Jack.  He tried to teach them the best values he knew and he loved them with all his heart.  Most of all, when the time came he let them be adults.  Jack realized that when our children grow up they might make decisions counter to their parents’ beliefs and customs, but he realized that if his children were to truly be adults they must think for themselves.  But always Jack loved them unconditionally, and he let it be known that he was there for them if his help was needed.

For the last five and a half years he has been living in assisted living in the town where Bev and I live.  Jack’s children-Bev, Dave and Val- sadly watched as dementia slowly stole their father’s personality-the personality that they had long ago come to love, admire, and respect. 

But even in the darkest days he never lost his basic kindness and modesty.  Eventually he could not remember his loved ones’ names, but his eyes would light up whenever a family member walked into the room.

It was a pleasure and an honor for all his children and in-laws to serve him, just as he had so long served his children, his spouses, his church,, his community, and his country (he was a WWII vet).  We will miss bringing him his favorite foods-chocolate milkshakes, theater popcorn (with bunches and bunches of butter), pickles, and anything else as long as it was covered with mustard or jelly.

Certainly he was not perfect; no person is, but when your biggest fault is that for years you rooted for Penn State instead of Ohio State you have indeed lived a special life.

If every man, woman, and child had Jack’s gentle and forgiving nature, if every person  was filled with the love and patience that he displayed, I believe that there would no longer be war, murder, and other such atrocities. 

No doubt upon reaching the Pearly Gates, St. Peter greeted him with the following: “A job well done, Jack.  You have earned a spot here for eternity.”  Our hope and our faith is that one day we will once again meet this extraordinary man.

Monday, February 6, 2017

You Know You're Getting Old When...

1. …your back goes out more than you do.

2. … a hot meal trumps a hot date.

3. …an “all-nighter” means you didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

4. …you hear “snack, crackle, and pop” at the breakfast table but the sounds are not coming from your cereal.

5. …your birthday candles cost more than the cake.

6. …you can do anything that you could do forty years ago, but it hurts more and takes longer.

7. …it takes longer to rest from an activity than it does to get tired from doing it.

8. …happy hour is a good nap.

9. …someone compliments you on your turtleneck sweater, but you are not wearing one.

10. …your knees buckle but your belt won’t.

11. …your doctor tells you to slow down instead of a police officer giving that warning.

12. …you describe your knees as “the good one” and “the bad one” instead of “right” and “left.”

13. …you and your teeth no longer sleep together.

14. …for safety reasons the fire chief will not allow you to use your full allotment of birthday candles.

15. …your favorite TV station is the Weather Channel.

16. …you turn off the lights to save a little money instead of for romantic reasons.

17. …you need either stronger glasses or longer arms to read the newspaper.

18. …it takes twice as long to look half as nice as you once did.

19. …your old clothes stored in the attic are once more in style.

20. …your little black book contains mostly the names and addresses of medical doctors.

21. …most parts of your body hurt and the other parts don’t work right.

22. …all your public school teachers are either dead or living in rest homes.

23. …your pharmacist becomes your closest friend.

24. …upon awakening you actually look like your driver’s license picture.

25. …you know the lyrics for elevator music.

***** Remember, getting old is merely mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!  Have a great day!

Monday, January 23, 2017

The "Good Old Days?"

  As far as my son Todd is concerned, his “old man” grew up during an era not much different from that of the Neanderthals and the woolly mammoths. In fact, when it comes to technology, he believes that the years between 1950 and 1968 were truly the “dark ages.“
    Todd does give me credit for being tough; he admits that he couldn’t survive the summer months without the aid of air conditioning.  Granted, some folks “back in the day” had air conditioning in both their cars and their homes, but in our house we survived the hot summers with open windows, fans, and cold drinks.  The only “air conditioning” Dad’s car had was when we rolled down the windows.
    “Primitive” is the term Todd most often used when I explained that we somehow survived without computers, cell phones, or video games.   He just couldn’t understand that the children of the ‘50s and ‘60s actually had fun  doing things together.  I described how, hour after hour, we neighborhood kids  played basketball, football, softball, board games, and even games that we invented.  He was not impressed.
    However, the most “primitive” part of my childhood, according to my son, centered around the TV set.  “Back in my day,” I explained, “we had a grand total of four stations, and until the mid-sixties we watched each show in glorious black and white.”
    “Black and white sucks,” Todd remarked.
    “So does our vacuum cleaner, so what’s your point?” I  sarcastically countered.
    “Dad,” he replied,” if that’s a sample of humor from your childhood days then that sucked, too.”
    Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of a clever rejoinder.  “Of course, we only had one television set,” I continued.
    “You’re kidding me!” he exclaimed.  “So what did Grandpa do while you watched your favorite shows?”
    “Actually, we kids could only watch what we wanted until Dad got home from work.  After supper we had the choice of watching what he chose or finding something else to do.”
    “Wow! I’m glad I didn’t have to watch your junk!  I could only take so many ‘Bonanza’ reruns!”
    “Hey! Watch it!” I half screamed.  “That was a good show! While we’re on the topic of TV, let me tell you this: back then, if you wanted to change channels you had to actually get off your backside and turn the knob.”
    “Is that what you call those things on the front of the set? “ he asked.  “I’ve noticed them, but I had no idea what they were for.”
    “Listen, son,” I continued, “We didn’t have all the technology that you grew up with, but we had fun.”
    “It sounds like life was pretty rough, Dad,“ the young one observed.     
    “You don’t know the half of it, son; I had to walk barefoot ten miles to school, no matter what the weather was like, and it was uphill  both going to the schoolhouse and returning home.”
    “I don’t believe you, Pop!” Todd laughingly replied.
    “Well,” I responded weakly, “as you can see, without all those doodads we had time to develop our imaginations.”