Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Battle of the Bulge(s)

As winter gave way to the colorful flowers, budding trees, and growing grass of spring, I noticed that my everyday clothes seemed to be smaller than usual.  “Dear,” I said to my wife, “Could you take out a few stitches in these pants?  They’ve shrunk over the winter.”

“They didn’t shrink, dear,” was her reply.  “You’ve expanded.”

Reluctantly I accepted the fact that too much time in the recliner mixed with too many tacos with extra cheese sauce had indeed made me a bigger man.  At  that point I headed to the grocery store, where I dutifully stocked up on cottage cheese, Cheerios (very low sugar content), vegetables, and fruit.

For the next two weeks I was very proud of myself.  Jumping onto the scales after ten days of self-imposed deprivation, I discovered that I’d lost almost two pounds!  By then I was a mere twenty-three pounds over my goal.  This would be a piece of cake!  On second thought, that is probably not the best way to describe one’s dieting procedures.

Then came vacation time.  Our son asked us to go to Europe with him.  Who could turn down such an opportunity?  I swear that within ten minutes of the invitation Bev had her bags packed and was on-line ordering the tickets.

Our first destination was Dusseldorf, Germany.  Our son went off to do his own thing, so Bev and I followed a path along the beautiful Rhine River.  All that walking made me ravenous.  Honestly, for a few minutes I did look around for a watercress restaurant, but had to settle for more traditional German cuisine.

One hasn’t lived until he’s devoured fried wiener schnitzel.  Along with the meat was served a large plate of French fries.  Admittedly, I devoured this high calorie meal, but I neutralized the damage by ordering a diet Coke!

The next stop was  the Netherlands.  Aboard a boat that served as a restaurant we ordered what the natives call pancakes.  They were thin pieces of a floury substance that covered the entire plates.  One was stuffed with bits of apple, while the other was covered with cherries.  On top of each pancake were two scoops of ice cream, while on the side were  containers of syrup and  dishes of whipped cream.  Still conscious of my weight-reducing program, I only drank two beers with my meal.

Never go to Brussels if you’re trying to lose weight.  Shops there offer waffles that are sensational.  I should know-Bev “forced” me to eat about ten of them.    The city also offers some of the world’s best chocolate, which, of course, Bev and I had to sample.  Feeling guilty, I walked two extra laps around the city square.  Realistically, I should have jogged to Moscow.

In Norway we followed narrow winding roads up the mountainsides on our way to some of God’s most beautiful scenery-the fjords.  Towns were few and far between, so at a store we stocked up on potato chips, Oreo cookies, French bread, cheese, and, of course, chocolate candy.

At our first stop in the land of fjords we enjoyed a roasted chicken, a salad, and assorted fruits.  This was probably the first and last healthy meal that we consumed on this trip.

On our  return to the states we were fortunate enough to get first class.  In that section of the plane one gets more leg room and seats that actually can be transformed into rather comfortable beds.  On the other hand, the airline over does the feeding part.  First, one is offered a glass of Champaign.  I don’t particularly like its taste, but why not take something that‘s offered to you?  Next, one is served two appetizers before the main course is served.

Some of the choices were rather exotic.  One of the main courses looked like a giant moose’s eye covered with some kind of rich sauce.  After devouring the main course I couldn’t be rude by refusing dessert, so I ate a large piece of what I think was carrot cake.  It might have been my imagination, but it seemed like the plane began tilting toward  my side of the aisle.

Once back in the states I made a firm promise to myself to get back on my diet.  I forgave myself for eating like a pig while on vacation, and   I even came up with a motto for the trip: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may (must) diet.”

Monday, September 15, 2014

Driving the Mrs. Crazy

If there was ever a picture-perfect driver, it had to be my father.  He didn’t speed, he didn’t tailgate,  he kept his hands on the steering wheel at the “ten-two” positions, and he used the mirrors just as I was later  taught to do in driver’s education.  I doubt that professional instructors were as proficient.  Yet, Dad had to have been one of the world’s worst driving instructors.  Why?  He simply had no patience.  No matter what he was teaching, the “student” would be told once and then he or she was supposed to “get it.”

For some reason my mother had never learned to drive an automobile.  Then, sometime during the early 1950s (or so I am told; I was an infant) Dad decided that Mom needed to get her license.  After driving to the local fairgrounds he stashed the four children into the backseat and proceeded to give Mom a fifteen minute course on the basics of driving.

He showed her the gears of the standard transmission and then demonstrated the use of the clutch.  “You have to let the clutch out slowly or you’ll kill the engine,“ he bellowed.

With Dad riding shotgun Mom took the controls.  Immediately my father resorted to his number one teaching technique-screaming:  “&^%%^&!  I told you to let the clutch out slowly!”

Poor Mom, already frustrated, was giving us a ride to remember.  The old Chevy, much like a bucking bronco, would lunge forward, come to a sudden stop, and then once again lurch ahead.  Dad’s instructions became louder and more urgent: “You’re letting the &^%$$%^& clutch out too fast!  Quit grinding the  &^&^$^$&&^ gears!  $%^^&&&&&!”  Thankfully, Dad didn’t order her to “throw out the clutch;” she was so discombobulated  that she might have taken his orders literally.  I can just imagine her yanking the clutch from the floorboard and then heaving it out the window!

Displaying much horse sense, a nearby nag watched our car hop and spin around the track for a few seconds before wisely galloping into a nearby barn.  There, no doubt, he was much safer than we poor souls who were trapped in the backseat.

After what seemed an eternity Mom completed a lap around the track.  Jerking the automobile to a halt, she pulled  the emergency brake, turned off the key, and announced that she was through with driving. True to her word, she never again ventured behind the wheel.  I have no doubt that Mom could have learned to drive, but unfortunately fate had given her one of the world’s most ill-suited instructors.

To get from place to place Mom became a world class walker.  Even in her seventies it was not unusual for her to walk ten miles in a single day, and she walked at a brisk pace, too.

A few years later Dad took it upon himself to teach my two sisters the art of driving.  I must admit that they were two of the worst drivers I’d ever seen.  However, once they left home and escaped  Dad’s harassment, they miraculously transformed into excellent motorists. Go figure!

Whenever possible I  avoided driving with him. When forced to do so, I simply tried to ignore the ranting and raving.  Thankfully, my brother-in-law took pity on me; he taught me the basics of driving and didn’t yell or scream.  It’s too bad Mom didn’t have such an instructor.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Special Homecoming Queen

The Ohio State University, originally known as the Agricultural and Mechanical College, began “Ohio State Day” in 1912.  Later changed to “Homecoming,” the event was created to bring alumni back to campus each year.  A key part of the festivities included electing a Homecoming Queen.

To be selected Homecoming Queen, much like being selected to be a cheerleader, is a prestigious award for which most young women can only dream.  In 1926, the OSU College of Agriculture nominated one Maudine Ormsby to rule over that year’s Homecoming festivities, but the young lady had two humongous problems to overcome.  First of all, although she was seen around campus and ate her meals there, Maudine was not registered as a student at the Ohio State University.  Secondly, unlike many of her fellow coeds, she was not exactly beautiful, at least not in the conventional sense of the word.  Indeed, she was a large gal; she might have been the heaviest female on campus.  On the other hand, Ms. Ormsby was ahead of her times, for she was one of the few practicing vegetarians in the region.

To the surprise of college officials, this rather homely female was elected Homecoming Queen for 1926.  Those officials, perhaps with smiles on their faces, had refused to disqualify Ms. Ormsby over the technicality of not being enrolled, and as for her looks, no doubt the Ohio State brain trust realized that real, lasting beauty lies within the soul.

Surprisingly, the alumni and the students were more excited about Maudine’s victory than she was.  She went along with the festivities, but never displayed either nervousness or excitement.  She neither smiled nor frowned as the crown and cape were placed upon her. For Ms. Ormsby, it was just another day.  

Later that evening, after the parade and other festivities had been completed, Maudine skipped the big dance.  Perhaps that was a good decision, for she didn’t look like the most agile gal in the world.  In fact, she could be described as having four left feet.  So instead of attending the dance she contentedly spent her evening at a barn not far from the main campus.

You see, Maudine Ormsby was a cow.  No, I’m not an insensitive male chauvinist pig describing an overweight lady.  I’m talking about the kind of cow that moos, gives lots of milk, and eats hay.  As a joke the College of Agriculture had nominated this creature for Homecoming Queen, and when the student body elected the hay burner, Ohio State officials went along with the funny business.

To this day some folks argue that the joke was an affront to the tradition and seriousness of Homecoming, but I think they protest too much.  Although Maudine Ormsby was rather homely (if you are a bull, you may disagree), no real harm was done.

Although Maudine did not meet the physical standards of Ohio State’s Homecoming Queens either before or after 1926, Buckeye fans, with tongues planted firmly in their cheeks, would argue that she’s prettier than any Homecoming Queen ever elected at that “school up north.”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dad's Scary Tales

*Dad loved to tell spooky stories, especially after the sun had gone down.  I loved his tales, but they scared me half to death.  At this minute the doors are locked, the windows are secured, and all the lights are on, so I will share a few of them with you.

*Dad lived in a “holler” in West Virginia; the nearest neighbor, an ornery old man, lived a couple miles away.  Now and then this fellow invited folks from the area to visit.  After everyone had eaten, the spooky stories began.  The old guy’s favorite was the “headless” horseman.

Anyone traveling on horseback  at night, on the very same road that Dad had used to get to the party,  discovered that his horse would stop at a certain wooded area.  Out from the trees would emerge a man who seemed perfectly normal if one did not notice that he had no head.  The headless one would mount the horse (behind the rider); then the horse would continue along until it reached a clearing along the highway.  The headless horseman would then dismount and be on his way.

After the party ended, poor old Dad, scared half to death, sprinted the entire way home.  He found an extra burst of energy as he reached the area where the headless horseman was said to emerge.  At least Dad was getting plenty of exercise.

*At one of these parties there was an elderly gentleman who was not quite right , mentally speaking.  Knowing that the old guy would be walking through the graveyard on his way home, a few brash young men decided to play a prank.  Leaving the party early, they settled behind a huge gravestone in the cemetery.  A few minutes later they heard the mentally-challenged gentleman approaching, happily singing.

Jumping in front of the would-be victim, one of the young men, with a white sheet draped over his body, began to scream and make other ghoulish sounds.  Unperturbed, the elderly gentleman replied, “You better watch out, Mr. White Ghost; there’s a black ghost behind you!”

Turning, the prankster did indeed see a huge, menacing black figure hovering over him.  Screaming, the “white ghost” and his buddies, silhouetted by a full moon, dashed madly through the cemetery.

At the party another guy had overheard the pranksters’ plans.  Liking the old fellow who was the intended victim, this guy decided to have a little fun at the pranksters’ expense.

*Each fall a fraternity at an unnamed university accepted new members.  Of course, the fraternity members loved to have a little fun at the expense of the pledges.  At dusk a want-to-be member  would be escorted to a certain gravesite at the local cemetery.  He was told to stand there until the fraternity members returned in a couple hours.  Then, pretending to leave, the members hid nearby where they could observe the action.

All would be quiet for the next ten or fifteen minutes.  Then the pledge would hear a low moan, sounding as if it came from the nearby grave!  Calming his nerves, he usually stood his ground at this point.

A few minutes later he would hear another groan, perhaps a bit louder than the first.  By this time the pledge was shaking with fear, but he screwed up his courage and stood firmly. Then something happened that would make  even the bravest young man run for his life.  Another moan , this time much louder, was followed by arms seemingly rising from that grave!  Actually, it was a fraternity member who had been carefully covered by leaves before the pledge had arrived.

I don’t know if the story is true, but it seems to me a rather cruel initiation practice.  It’s a wonder no one had a heart attack!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pizza

Until the age of eight I had never seen, smelled, or tasted a pizza. In fact, the word “pizza” was not even a part of my vocabulary.  All that changed when we visited relatives in northern Ohio.

At suppertime the father sent his oldest son somewhere to pick up a pizza.  Since I had never heard of such a thing, I was quite curious.  He returned about twenty minutes later with a large box.  When he opened that box I almost vomited.  Never before or since have I smelled anything so gross.  Perhaps they just make pizzas differently in northern Ohio.  As a result, I avoided being around pizzas for about five years.

During the junior high era I attended several basketball and football games.  After one such event my friends asked me to go with them to the local pizzeria.  Against my better judgment I tagged along.

To my utter surprise I discovered that the hometown pizza looked and smelled nothing like the one I had encountered  several years earlier.  Before the meal was through I had tasted my first pizza and was instantly hooked.

Dad had heard about pizza, but for some reason he banned it from his house.  Perhaps he read somewhere that Elvis Presley liked pizza, for I know for a fact that Dad despised everything about the “King,” which, of course, made me a big fan.

Several years later my sister and her husband lived at our house while he finished school.  Unlike Dad, we three absolutely loved pizza.  One night after the folks went to bed my sister sneaked downstairs to order one that was smothered in pepperoni.   My brother-in-law’s 1955 Chevy was parked on the street in front of the house, so he and I pushed it up the road about half a block before starting the engine.  On the return trip he cut the engine and let the car roll into its parking place.

Since Mom had the nose of a bloodhound we ate the pizza in the backyard.  When finished we deposited the box in the trashcan of some neighbors down the street so that Mom would not find it.

About a month later Dad and Mom announced that they were going to visit some friends across town.  That was music to our ears; as soon as they left my sister put in the pizza order.  A half hour later my brother-in-law and I brought a large deluxe pizza into the kitchen.  Before we could begin eating it, however, the folks pulled into the driveway.  It seems that the friends were not home.

Thinking quickly, my sister closed the pizza box and shoved it into the closet.  Upon entering the house the first thing Mom did was begin sniffing loudly:  “I smell something!” she exclaimed.

“I don’t smell anything,” my sister calmly replied.  “Do you smell anything, Larry?”  she asked her husband.

“Nope!  I don’t smell a thing,” he answered.

Like a trained bloodhound, Mom continued to sniff around until the boss, Dad, said it was time for bed, so the five of us retired for the night.  Well, actually three of us retired for about ten minutes before sneaking back into the living room and retrieving the pizza from the closet.

Once again we ate in the backyard before hiding the evidence in a neighbor’s trashcan.  Then we had to avoid the noisy floorboards as we navigated our way down the hall.

Thankfully, I didn’t prohibit my kids from ordering pizza.  The biggest problem they had to worry about was the strong possibility that the old man would eat a goodly portion of their pizza pie, unless, of course, it smelled like the one ordered in northern Ohio so many years ago.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Long Lost (with good reason) Lone Ranger Show

*In the opening scene we see the Lone Ranger with his trusty sidekick, Tonto, riding across the desert.  A few yards behind them are three wagons containing band members playing the “William Tell Overture.”

Tonto:  Kemo Sabe, me hear awful  sounds.

Lone Ranger:  You hear the band.  I’d prefer “Some Enchanted Evening,” but the director insists on that song, so  I use earplugs.

*Stopping to rest the horses, the two men walk into the nearby woods to look for nuts and berries to eat.

Tonto:  Kemo Sabe, me hear strange noise.

Lone Ranger:  It’s a mother bear and her two cubs.  Do not make eye contact; turn around and slowly walk out of here.  Don’t try to run, faithful buddy; no man can outrun a bear.

*A few moments later Tonto blazes past the masked man.

Lone Ranger:  Tonto,  I told you that you can’t outrun a bear!

Tonto:  Me not try to outrun bear, Kemo Sabe!  Me just try to outrun you!

*After getting back to their horses the two men ride away.  Soon they discover the charred remains of a building.

Lone Ranger:  Old-timer, what happened?

Storeowner:  It was the work of the Dalton gang.  I wouldn’t pay protection money so they burned down my bakery.  Now my business is toast!

Lone Ranger:  Don’t worry.  Tonto and I will bring those crooks to justice.

*After riding a few miles, Tonto dismounts and puts an ear to the ground.

Tonto:  Buffalo been through here, Kemo Sabe.

Lone Ranger:  How do you know that?

Tonto:  Now me have buffalo manure on ear.

* As night falls our two heroes make a camp.  As the Lone Ranger undresses, Tonto displays a disgusting face.

Lone Ranger:  What’s wrong?

Tonto:  You all messed up, Kemo Sabe.  Your feet smell and your nose runs!

Lone Ranger:  Great!  I get a comedian for a sidekick.  I wonder if Batman would sell Robin to me?

*The masked man and his trusty friend are soon in dreamland.  About three hours later Tonto awakens, and arouses the Lone Ranger.

Tonto:  Kemo Sabe, look upward.  What do you see?

Lone Ranger:  I see a wonderful array of stars.

Tonto:  What does that mean to you, Kemo Sabe?

Lone Ranger:  It is a reminder that God is the most awesome artist of all.

Tonto:  Kemo Sabe, as you look at stars you should become aware that someone has stolen our tent!

*In the morning the Lone Ranger, while sitting down to put on his boots, is bitten on the backside by a deadly rattlesnake.

Lone Ranger:  Old friend, you must ride to the nearest town.  Bring back the doctor before it’s too late!

*Tonto rides Scout at top speed, arriving in the town of Dead Man’s Gulch in twenty minutes.  Unfortunately, the town’s only doctor is in the middle of delivering triplets, so he cannot leave, but he gives directions to Tonto.

Doctor:  Hurry back to your friend.  Start a fire and sterilize this knife over it.  Then cut an X” over the wound.  Then suck out the poison.  Tonto then rushes back to the masked man.

Lone Ranger:  What did the doctor tell you?

Tonto:  Him said you die, Kemo Sabe!

 *Fortunately, heroes, at least  the ones in the movies,  are not killed so easily.  In fact, the rattlesnake died!

Lone Ranger:  Since we are near that town, let’s go see about a bank lone.  We have to feed our horses, pay our laundry bills, and the price of masks has gone up again!

*The two heroes enter the Last Chance Bank.  A clerk listens to their plea for money but must turn them down.

Clerk:  You will have to come back tomorrow.  The loan arranger is not here today.

Tonto:  You make heapin’ big joke.  Not bad for  paleface!

*A few hours later, while on the trail, over 1,000 Indians attack our heroes.  The Lone Ranger and Tonto take refuge behind a fallen tree.

Lone Ranger:  We’re in big trouble this time, old pal.  We’re surrounded by Indians.

Tonto:  What you mean ‘we,’ Kemo Sabe?

*Luckily for the Lone Ranger and Tonto, the raiding Indians were designated by the director to be the “bad guys,” so they were required to be awful shooters of both guns and arrows.  On the other hand, the Lone Ranger’s sharp shooting skills soon drove the Indians away except for the chief, who stayed to chat.

Indian Chief:  Man, you sure can fire that gun.  That’s the best shooting I’ve seen since we attacked John Wayne, which was a big mistake.  How can a thousand Indians defeat the Duke when in another movie the entire Japanese fleet couldn’t do it?

Director:  Cut!  You have to speak in “Indian.”

Chief:  Nobody I know speaks like that!  It sounds silly!

Tonto:  Right on, brother!  I’m  sick of talking like I’m one- year -old.

*After being promised  pay raises the Indians consent to talk “funny” again.  Two hours later our heroes capture the Dalton gang and return them to the city jail.  Upon leaving, Silver, the Lone Ranger’s trusty steed, rises upon its back legs as the masked man shouts, “High-ho, Silver, and away!”  Or was it “High oh, Silver?”  Maybe it was “Ohio, Silver.”  Whatever.

As the twosome rode  away, a townsperson asked: Who was that masked man?

Another citizen:  I think it was Zorro!

Another person:  No, I think it was Batman!

Even another person:  Well, he left something behind.

Old lady:  A silver bullet?

Citizen:  No, an empty six-pack of Old West Beer.

*A few miles from town, the Lone Ranger asks Tonto an important question.

Lone Ranger:  Tonto, just what does “Kemo Sabe” mean?

Tonto:  Loosely translated, it means “idiot” or “nincompoop.”

Lone Ranger:  That’s what I was afraid of.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Football Gene-A Scientific Analysis

Although scientists have not yet discovered them, I know for a fact that each human being is equipped with either a  recessive or a dominant football gene.  A relatively small number of women have the dominant version, but  it’s found in a high percentage of  males.  A neighbor, Jack, has the recessive gene; he’d rather shop than watch the greatest game ever invented.  According to my research, he is one of eight men in this country who was born with the recessive football gene.

Because of their genetic makeup, most women cannot  appreciate the importance of New Year’s Day.  To them it is merely a time to shop, eat a lot of good food, and socialize.  The majority of men will skip the shopping, thank you, but will look forward to the good food, the time spent with buddies, and, most of all, of course, watching lots of football games.

My wife Bev is certainly a holder of the recessive gene.  On a good day she can more or less pay attention to half a game on TV before she gets on the phone, goes to a neighbor’s house, or goes shopping.  Although extremely intelligent,  she has never learned the finer points of the game.  “Now, how many downs do you get?” she often asks, or “Why is that guy called a fullback when there is another guy behind him?”  Actually, the second question is not a bad one. Of course, unlike her, I have a recessive knitting gene; I can never remember if it’s pearl one, knit two, or the other way around (and I don’t care!)

Sadly, those females equipped with the recessive gene are incapable of understanding that football is as important as  the flag and apple pie.  Sadly,  Bev even makes fun of this  sacred All-American sporting event.  Once I promised to go shopping with her if she attended a local college game with me.

Halfway through the first quarter, she stated, “These fans sure are penny-pinchers.”

“What do you mean?” I inquired.

“They keep yelling to get the quarter back! Why make such a fuss over twenty-five cents?”

She probably read that in one of those women’s magazines that she and her buddies share.

Anyway, let’s get back to that most significant day, New Year’s.  With her recessive  gene activated, Bev shook her head and laughed while I hooked up three TV sets along side each other.

“Aren’t you overdoing it a bit, honey?” she asked.

“No,” I replied.  “At times there will be four games running simultaneously, so this way I won’t miss any of the action.”

“But dear, “ she said, “you’re still going to miss a game; you only have three sets.”

“That’s not a problem, dumpling,” I answered.  “Ron is bringing his portable set.”

Bev smiled sheepishly,  quickly rolled her eyes, and then announced that she was going to read in the bedroom until the guests arrived.

Meanwhile, I put out the chips, made sure the pop was cold, and rescued the hotdogs and hamburgers from the freezer.  Studies indicate that about 97% of men who have the dominant football gene also have a partially dominant cooking gene.  This gene allows us to excel in front of a grill as long as we’re doing hotdogs, hamburgers, brats, or other types of sausages.  Unfortunately, our limited  genetic makeup in this area does not give  us the ability to prepare more complicated dishes, and we inherited no concept of cleaning up after ourselves.  That’s why we men have been given the scientific name, “lazio erectus sloppymenius.”

Soon the gang arrived.  Those with recessive football genes (i.e., all but one of the women), went into the basement to watch some kind of romantic film that carries no interest for meat-eating, all-American football worshippers.

Within minutes we had all four TV sets on; wisely, we had the volume on for only the most important game.  Near the end of the first quarter the ladies came upstairs to the kitchen to grab some snacks.  While  the TV announcers kept us abreast of the game,  I noticed  that   the women were quietly talking among themselves  as they looked at us and laughed.

Several hours later, after we men and one woman had watched about twelve football games and everyone had headed home, I asked my wife why earlier in the evening  she had told her buddies  that we men were just overgrown boys.

“How did you know I said that?” she asked.  “I was whispering, and your TV set was blaring.”

“That’s true,” I admitted, “but when you watch four football games at once, and only one has the volume on, you develop the ability to read lips.”

This is merely another skill that is associated with the dominant football gene.  Wives and girlfriends beware-over  94% of football dominant men have developed this lip-reading ability!  Unfortunately for the females, however, over 99% of football dominant men also have inherited the selective hearing gene!  At times we can only hear such statements as: “Supper’s ready,” “Would you like a back rub?” and “I think you’re wonderful.”  Please don’t blame us; it’s all the result of genetics.