Bye-Bye…..Camp Co-Co.

If you have been following my musings on retirement and such (and why wouldn’t you?) you’ve noticed that I have yet to say much about my employer of 20 years, 5 months and 22 days. I could be petty and post a list of the things I disliked about the small college that employed me for many more years than I originally thought I could endure. Instead, I searched the memory banks and came up with a fond one….it was on a Friday night in February, I was working the PM shift in the Snack Shop and pub. It was a cold night even for February in Connecticut, the pub hadn’t opened yet and the workers were prepping for the inevitable evenings onslaught of hungry students in various stages of consciousness.

The radio was tuned to an oldies station, because I was the boss and I liked the oldies station. The crew once took a vote to decide what station everyone should listen to and presented it to me, I laughed “are you under the impression that this is a democracy? Wrong, this is a dictatorship and I am the dictator.” Thus, we listened to the oldies station, which on this particular evening was playing Don Mclean’s “Bye-Bye Miss American Pie” as I entered the kitchen. Liking the song, I began singing the chorus, I was joined by Toni at the prep table making pizzas, then Selin, a student worker from Turkey, who garnered a puzzled look from our other American student worker, to which Selin replied “what, I can’t know this song?” With that rebuff, the American student joined, then Mary at the grill piped up, then Roxie the cashier, then Karie on the oven, then the students ordering food and/or waiting for their order kicked in, then the students sitting at the tables and booths, literally everyone in the room was singing and when the final “drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry, and good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing this will be the day that I diiiiie.” was finished, the students gave us and themselves a round of applause that Mr. Mclean himself would’ve appreciated.

The remainder of the evening/early morning went as usual, with drunken people staggering around, arguments in the bar about which CD should be playing (the bar is more of a democracy than the Snack Shop, music wise) a couple of ambulances taking the passed out cold, drifting into a coma students to the local hospital, finally closing, tired, sweaty and not looking forward to doing it all over again the next night. But for about five or so minutes of singing, laughing and clapping, it was the best job I ever had.

The Daily Five Second Affair

Each morning, as so many of us do, I drive to my place of business. Luckily, my daily commute is almost exclusively on the hilly, winding back roads of southeastern Connecticut. I get to see New England’s landscape at it’s most expressive. The white, black, blue and silver of winter, the sun glistening through nature’s tinsel. The green warmth of Spring’s rebirth, Summer’s heat cracking the black ribbon of road I navigate, and finally, the calm of fall before the return of Winter’s storm.

Again, like most of us, some days I’m early, taking the time to enjoy the sights and sounds. And some days I’m late, driving faster than I should, hoping none of God’s creatures decide to take that final deadly dash.

Yet, it is not of these daily joys and sorrows that I take fingers to keyboard to tell you about.

Recently, I’m not sure when exactly, I first noticed her. It could have been a Monday, or Wednesday, or any day that the green Toyota first passed in the opposite direction. It was between a small fair ground and the turn off to the State park, two sections of winding road joined by a short straightaway.

What first caught my eye was the unusual colour of the car. Not so unusual that I hadn’t seen it’s like before, but none-the-less, I noticed it. The car with the dark haired, sunglassed female frame at the wheel. She, like me drove alone, sometimes she, like me would be singing along with the radio, other days, her face seemed sad, but usually her look was that of contentedness. A days work done before returning home…to what? Where? More importantly (for me anyway) to who, or is it whom?

Did she live in or near the town where I worked? Did she work in or near the town where I lived? Was she married, were there children? These and other thoughts ran through my imagination for a few minutes each day, then it would be time to focus on something else.

It may have been more of my imagination (or my inflated ego) but as the days and weeks passed, this dark haired object of my daydreams seemed to smile at me as our paths intertwined. Eventually I came to think she might be…but no it couldn’t be…could it?

Years ago I had worked in a small country Inn as a bartender, another in a long line of jobs, professions, on what I’d hoped would lead to…I still don’t know what? Late one afternoon, as I was walking through the lobby of the Inn, my boss was interviewing a young lady, no more than college age. Hire her, I nearly said out loud. Later, in private with my boss, I would say it out loud, and she was hired.

She started the next week as a waitress and we became fast friends, good friends, almost instant old friends. Unfortunately, she had a boyfriend, who would become a fiance. I also, took comfort in the arms of another.

Eventually, she was offered a management position, as was I. She, because that is what her college degree dictated, me because I had grown weary of tending bar, plus, I wanted to be closer to her. We went to meetings, sitting across from each other at the twelve person table. I’d roll my eyes and make funny faces that only she (hopefully only) could see to break the monotony and make her laugh (or try not to). In response, she would kick me under the table.

At the time I agonized (once again) about always seeming to find the right woman at a time when she was already involved, or I was, or both. Yet I didn’t let it get in the way of our friendship. She seemed seemed happy and I did the Sir Galahad thing and let it go, again.

So here I I am, 10 or 12 years later, driving to work waiting to see another long lost love for all of four or five seconds and wonder what might have been.

The first day the dark haired girl in the green Toyota didn’t drive by was a Friday in April, the month of both our births. I though she probably had taken a long weekend. On Monday I chalked it up to the same thing. By the next Monday it had to be a full blown vacation.

Thinking she may have found a new, shorter route, I tried several, a different one each day, then back to the old one the third day. Finally it was apparent that she was gone, again.

So now I drive each day admiring this picturesque part of the world. the black, white, green, brown and yellow, but I don’t expect to see her anymore. Perhaps it’s just as well, it probably wasn’t her anyway. Besides, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, just on the other side of the little fairground, I pass a red Buick with a pretty blonde, who looks vaguely familiar, maybe, just maybe…..

To be retired or not to be retired ?

The title refers to my decision to retire from my current position after 20 + years of service. It’s not as if I don’t like my job (although, I don’t) it’s not that I have more than enough saved to live comfortably without depending on Social Security (which I don’t) it’s just that I am able to retire and get the heck out of the place, something I’ve wanted to do since before I even began. I’ll talk more about that once I’ve officially left the establishment for which I have toiled these many years. That way I can’t be punished for any “secrets” I may reveal.

Of course, since I’ve made my decision to retire, the stock market has gone down, prices have gone up and up and up and I’m afraid, no way else to put it. Actually, there are many other ways to put it but I will not go into politics…at this time. What I will go into is whether I will need to work a part time job two or three days a week to keep up with inflation. Since I just went grocery shopping yesterday, I’ll begin with food.

Groceries: My current position is with the Food & Beverage department at a local college, consequently I haven’t been overly concerned about food because I eat for free while at work, usually at least two meals a day. After my divorce 14 years ago, I’ve lived alone and only go grocery shopping once every four to six weeks, spending about $175.00 per visit, obviously this is about to go up. With this in mind, I stuck to my list more than usual, coming in at $167.00, (with a $20 book, love to read) leaving out various unnecessary items such as Spam (for the first time in decades) because everyone knows that the stuff is loaded with substances that are not good for you or anything else for that matter and of course…the price has gone up. Even though I’ve bought nothing but turkey Spam or “Spam lite” (I laughed out loud the first time I saw it on the shelf) in recent years, a person in their sixties should not be eating any kind of Spam (sniff). I also cut back on candy, only purchasing one bag of M&M peanut butter and one bag Reese’s dark chocolate “Thins”. I did buy the usual eggs (up $2.00 a dozen from a year ago. About the only thing that hasn’t gone up in recent memory is Carmex lip balm, still $2.84 for three). As all of us meat eaters know, anything that at one time walked, crawled or swam has gone through the roof of the chicken coop. A package of thinly sliced pork chops, a package of ground up dead animal and two packages of ground up dead animal stuffed into an intestine (UMMM) were my only selections from that aisle. After visiting the produce section, I headed to the checkout area to find only two registers open (it’s like the old joke “how many tellers does your bank have? Seven, except when it’s busy, then they have one”) Checking out didn’t take as long as anticipated, probably because I didn’t switch lines when the other one seemed to be moving faster, something I usually do and almost always regret, as inevitably the person in front of me finds some way of bringing the proceedings to a halt.

On the way home I stopped for gas and we all know how that’s been going lately.

Stayed tune for further updates on retirement:

Up until the past 20 years, my employment history was pretty spotty, mostly because after working at something for a couple of years, I’d get bored and move on to something else, oft times, nothing for a while as I enjoyed doing nothing for awhile. Which was fine when I was in my 20’s and living with my parents, not so much when they got a divorce and sold the house I’d been living in rent free. First, I moved in with my mother, which didn’t last long, then I moved in with my father and brother, sleeping on the couch of their shabby 2 bedroom apartment, while looking for the next big thing, which turned out to be working the overnight shift in a group home for developmentally challenged adults. This lasted about three weeks and ended after a night of being chased around the house by one of the clients and then chasing another (naked) client around the yard at daybreak, hoping that none of the neighbors had small children who rose early to play in the adjacent yards. When I finally managed to get the middle-aged man back in the house, two things happened. One, the phone rang, two, the smoke detector went off, scaring the clients and allowing the naked man to again escape and frolic once more around the yard. The voice on the other end of the line identified himself as the “executive director” and proceeded to ask me where I’ve been as he has been calling for the past half hour. I briefly explained what I was doing before saying “I gotta go” to which he replied “do not hang up on me” which of course, I did.

The executive director fired me later that morning, which was fine by me. More on my pre-final gig employment history at another time.

I’ve been using up quite a bit of vacation time since I decided to retire and would’ve used more until it was confirmed by H.R. that unused vaca-time, unlike unused sick time (of which I have 900 hours) will be paid to me in my last check.

Other than playing a few rounds of golf with my son and posting these words on my blog, I haven’t been doing much. A little extra cleaning of the apartment, and a lot of day time TV, which as we all know, has changed (for the good) over the years. No longer is one stuck with talk shows, game shows and soaps, although they are still available, as are reruns of pretty much everything from “Law & Order” to “That girl” to “Perry Mason” the latter of which is on at least 5 times per day, sometimes I tune in just to see what car Mr. Mason is driving, my favorite is the Caddy convertible he had in the first season, my dream car, which I probably couldn’t afford to drive in this era of $5.00 a gallon gas !!

One disturbing aspect of the different shows that I watch is the number of commercials seemingly aimed at a certain age group. These include laxatives, hearing aids, walk-in bathtubs (the Jacuzzi tub is the one I’d go with), hair replacement supplies, knee, ankle, elbow etc braces, as well as dozens of prescription drugs I’ve never heard of for ailments I’ve never heard of, all with side-effects that sound far worse than whatever ailment it is supposed to treat. “can cause swelling of the tongue and severe diarrhea” (among many, many other side effects). On the bright side, the tongue swelling will prevent eating, thus reducing the chance of diarrhea, a clear win-win scenario if there ever was one.

After spending a good part of the prior three days playing phone tag with the people who manage my retirement account, I finally set up a payment plan. $1000.00 a month after taxes until the well runs dry, which should bring me into the 70’s and leave me with Social Security, definitely will need a part time job and hopefully one of my offspring will have a house with a spare bed and bathroom by then. Or maybe I’ll be dead by then, it’s interesting getting old (er), I’ve been recalling incidents long forgotten, such as when I was about 9, my grandparents took my older brother and I shopping for new shoes and a winter coat. The coats were gray with a black fur collar, beyond embarrassing at school, we felt like mini-grandpas, all that was missing was his black fedora (which I claimed after his death and still have). The shoes were also mini-grandpa black lace-ups that just wouldn’t break in, hurt like hell, luckily there were new houses going up in our neighborhood, accompanied by lots of dirt, which turned to mud after a good rain, perfect for sucking the hated shoes right off my feet, lost in the quagmire, gone forever. “honest mom, they just came right off”.

Last Rites:

While at work Wednesday morning, I received a call from my son saying that his uncle, my brother was at the hospital and was not expected to live through the day, consequently, if I wanted to see him (while still alive) I’d better get there soon. After informing my boss of the situation, I took the rest of Wednesday and Thursday off.

Arriving at the hospital, I was directed to the ER and found my sister, sister-in-law and my brothers best friend hovering over the waif-like figure of brother Nick. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years, mostly because of Covid or so I told people, but it was really because I had no interest in watching another member of the family die of alcoholism. Thirty years ago our dad finally finished drinking himself to death, ending up brain stem dead at the age of 62, the family decided to unplug him, thus making him all dead, not just brain (stem) dead. Not a particularly pleasant afternoon, the worst part (sort of) of which was the feeling of relief that washed over me when dad breathed his last. No more phone calls asking for money, no more showing up at my place of business, looking like Aqualung Sr. and looking for another handout, which he had to know wasn’t coming, since I hadn’t given him money in years. Relief, although a guilty relief at best.

As Nick was moved to a more (or less) permanent room, I wondered if the same sense of relief would come. Now at a private room on the third floor, the nurse commenced plugging a Morphine drip to one of Nick’s “Ports”, at which time I felt almost guilty noticing the attractiveness of said nurse, something I think Nick would’ve appreciated, if he could still think?

Next was the hospital’s Chaplin, an older woman hooked up to a portable oxygen source, which at first made me wonder if she wasn’t a delusional patient imagining she was the Chaplin, when no one with a net came to claim her, I gave her the benefit of the of the doubt and decided she was legit. She said some words over Nick, then rubbed the skin and bones of his shoulder (she was not the only one, nearly everyone who entered the room seemed to think they had to touch the dying guy on the bed. I did not join in this activity) Then the Chaplin said something to each of the people in the room, then had to touch all of US !! In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not a touchy feely kind of guy.

I stayed until it felt like a good cry was coming on, then went home and called my oldest friend to tell of Nick’s imminent passing, he said all the right things, made all the right noises, then said good bye because his (recently) X wife was calling. That was fine with me, as I wanted to quietly remember my older brother as a kid, as a young adult, as anything other than the scare crow like figure in the hospital.

The following morning I was about to get in the shower when the phone rang, it was my sister, I braced myself for the news, pushed the proper button on the phone and said “Good morning”. To which she replied “he’s better”. “Who’s better?” “Nick, who did you think?” “What do you mean by he’s better?” One does not get better from the last rites. Do they? (Is this a Twilight Zone episode? Am I still asleep and this has all been a dream?) “He had his eyes open and was being fed pudding by Tim (best friend) when I got here this morning.” Says sis, adding “Tim said that Pete and Bobby came by last night and Nick opened his eyes, said hi to both, then went back to sleep.” (What the hell? He didn’t say hi to me yesterday, he didn’t do much of anything, except lie in bed, what am I, chopped liver?) “Is he still on morphine?” I ask. “Yes, he’s not going to get better, better, just better than yesterday.” “So, he’s still going to die, right?” “Yes.” I almost say “well, that’s good, I don’t want to waste a good cry for nothing” but think better of it, say good bye and I’ll see you (and better Nick) later and went to take a shower.

When I got to Nick’s room, the only difference was that he was lying on his left side instead of his right. I stayed for a good part of the afternoon, exchanged pleasantries with the friends who dropped by to pay their (hopefully?) last respects and of course, touch me on the way out.

I return to work the next day and say “he refuses to die” several times to concerned co-workers, who know me well enough to NOT try and touch me. I consider going back to the hospital, then decide to wait until Saturday morning, maybe he’ll be un-better by then and we can wrap this up.

The death call comes at 6:38 am, my sister even says “this, is the call” and tells me Nick died a few minutes ago with Tim (best friend) at his side. Tim had stayed all night, so Nick wouldn’t die alone. Which I thought was nice of him, then again, what are best friends for?

Alone again, naturally.

The title refers to a song I remember from my youth by Gilbert O Sullivan, something to do with a mother dying with the refrain “alone again, naturally” sprinkled throughout the song. This would’ve been the mid to late 60’s, well on my way to being “alone again, naturally”.

Let me elaborate: When I was about 4, my mother locked me out of the house because I was jealous of my newly arrived baby brother. While this may have been true, all I recall is mom telling me to “go find new friends” and locking the door behind me. She didn’t even let our dog “Holly” out to keep me company/protect me. Then again, Holly thought the new born was her responsibility and never left the kids side. Even when my mother pushed the tot in a stroller, Holly would walk along side with her nose in the carriage. Luckily I was allowed to bring my “army men” with me on my quest to find “new friends” in a neighborhood we’d only moved into a couple of months before.

My banishment was to last until my dad returned home from school (dad was a school teacher) with my older sister and brother, who attended the same school my dad taught at (as would my little brother and I), a school district that we did not live in, but dad was friends with the Superintendent of schools and did pretty much what he wanted.

It was a warm day, which I spent in the newly planted bushes in front of the house, playing with the army men and drinking out of the outside faucet when I got thirsty and eating a sandwich that mom left outside the front door after yelling “lunch” and before she relocked the door.

I don’t recall if I felt relief when dad and the other sibs came home, I do recall being happy to be leaving the bushes and going into the house. Perhaps this was the beginning of my life as a loner, perhaps I would’ve been a loner regardless. I did eventually make friends with some kids my age in the new neighborhood, as well as “school friends” when I began my formal education in kindergarten the next year.

Whatever the reason for being a loner, that is what I am, almost always happier with my own company than I am in a crowd (and now with Corona, I have an excellent reason to avoid large (or small) groups of humans, happiness is…) There are exceptions, having “Dunch” with one or both of my kids, and golfing with my son are two of the very few. I rarely attend family gatherings and while I spent ten years attending a “steak dinner” fund raiser at the local firehouse the first Thursday of the month with old friends, Covid cancelled that nearly two years ago and even though the dinners have begun again, the idea of spending an hour and a half in a room chock full of people, none wearing masks because we’re all eating, is not an attractive evening out. Besides, I was looking for a reason to blow the dinners off even before Covid. No offense guys (almost all the steak diners are men) but being jammed into a large room full of people after working in the food and beverage business for the previous 9 – 10 hours was not nearly as attractive as sitting on my recliner watching TV….alone.

Back to the title: Since my separation in 2006 (and subsequent divorce), I’ve spent all but one Christmas alone, the one I did spend with others was about 5 years ago when I flew to South Carolina to visit my son.

Thinking that there wouldn’t be many people flying on Christmas, especially at 6am, I was shocked to find the airport packed, the flights delayed because of a little snow and being 5 hours late to Myrtle Beach. My son missed me at the airport, I was not carrying a cellphone, couldn’t find a payphone and spent $50.00 for the taxi ride to my hotel, upon arrival at which I was told that A) the pool was closed because of the acidity of the water, B) room service was closed because of the holiday and C) no area restaurants were open for the same reason. I spent Christmas eating crackers and cheese from the vending machine, while watching “The witch, the lion and the wardrobe” (or something like that) on TV, “alone again, naturally”.

Dunch:

While having “Dunch” (the time between lunch and dinner, seems to me I heard this term on “Seinfeld” years ago. which means I’m still not comfortable with dining with an overly abundance of strangers. Truth be told, after 40 + years in the food and beverage biz, I prefer to dine alone as much as possible) with my daughter, she mentioned how she checks my “blog” from time to time and hasn’t seen anything posted lately, hence the following post:

While I have not posted anything in months, I’ve made quite a few notes for possible stories. The one I’m currently looking at says: “Triple-fade-high-top-gumby” a term relayed to me years ago when I asked a coworker about his new hair cut. “It’s a triple-fade-high-top-gumby” and it looked good on him. The next time I had my hair cut by a barber who tended to that task from when Kennedy was President until Bush 2, asked what I wanted today, I answered ….”a triple-high-top-gumby” !! Of course Rudy (the aforementioned barber) didn’t know what I was talking about and I didn’t really want a “triple-fade-high-top-gumby” I just liked the way it sounded out loud, probably why I’ve remembered it this long.

This leads to my main concern in life at the moment…I … don’t …have… a… (gulp)…Barber !!!

As I’ve stated above, after having the same barber for over forty years, what does one do? After Rudy closed up shop I visited him at his home for a year or so, but eventually it became clear that he was no longer up to the task and I’ve been seeking his replacement ever since.

The first possible replacement did a passible job until he attempted to apply shaving cream to my …eyebrows !! The next one was recommended by my (now former) father-in-law, since we were on good terms, I gave the guy a shot. It did not go well.

The barber in question was Italian (as was Rudy) dressed in the traditional garb of a barber from a different era and insisted on giving me the “Gentleman’s Special” instead of the “just a trim” I requested. When he was finished, I knew why I always wondered why my wife’s dads hair always looked the way it did. Something I should have thought of before using his barber.

At this point I wasn’t sure where to turn until I was coerced into going to the tanning salon my wife frequented. When entering the rural shop, I noticed the barber chair off to one side in front of a large mirror and asked the proprietor (a very attractive brunette about my age) if she cut hair, to which she replied “yes”. I tanned and had a haircut, pretty good job and she understood what “just a trim” meant and no attempt to go at my eyebrows with a straight razor.

This arrangement went on for a few months and was unfortunately ended when the tanning salon/barber shop kept getting broken into and no matter what the owner did to discourage the break-ins (alarms that didn’t bring the attention of the police until the thieves were long gone and even tried a guard dog but you guessed it…they stole the dog) Eventually the owner/barber closed the business and moved on to something else in a different part of the state.

Just a foot note to this portion of the story: my x wife was jealous of any female that I worked with, especially if I mentioned the woman’s name more than once a week during our nightly after dinner, in front of the TV chats. We once ran into my boss (a woman) while grocery shopping and because I was nice to my boss (duh) and we exchanged pleasantries, I was having an affair, which I wasn’t and didn’t break my wedding vows for the entirety of our marriage, that is until she asked for a divorce and I moved in with my sister. However, I will be honest and admit that I did think about what it might be like with another woman, but didn’t go farther than that.

The reason I mention this is, it was in the back of my mind that the X had something to do with the break-ins, not that she did them herself but maybe hire someone to do so? Crazy? Perhaps? But when you’ve read and watched true crime books and TV shows, you get an idea what people are capable of and it is scary.

Once again without a barber and wondering where to go next, I heard a radio ad for a new shop in a neighboring town and gave the place a whirl. The shop was in a strip mall where my bank had a branch, so I knew where it was and tried it out, not bad, another barber who understood “just a trim” and both my son and I used “Britney’s Barber Shop” for the next few years.

Britney eventually moved to the next town over, a nice seaside enclave a stones throw from the beach, of course the price went up, but only a buck, so I (my son had graduated High School by then and found his own cutter of hair) continued to frequent the new shop, even after Britney got married and sold the shop to her new assistant Eugenia, thus becoming “Eugenia’s Barber Shop”, the price of the haircut didn’t go up.

The situation changed when I was promoted at work and given a different schedule, 9am – 5:30pm Monday – Friday, which is considered pretty good in the food and beverage world, but I’d always had a day off during the week to get things done such as…hair cuts, Dr’s visits, dentist and so on, now I didn’t. Of course “Eugenia’s” hours were Tuesday – Friday 9 – 5, Saturday 9 – 1. This meant I would have to change my Saturday morning laundry duty to another time if I wished to keep going to the seaside shop. Since I only had my hair cut once a month, this shouldn’t be much of an inconvenience and I continued with Eugenia.

Eventually even once a month of not getting to sleep in on Saturday became a drag. While I still got up at my usual 6am on the weekend, I would putter around for an hour or so and then…get back in bed until at least 9, heaven. Besides, the drive to “Eugenia’s” was 45 minutes one way and of course, Saturday morning was/probably still is prime time haircut time, which meant there was nearly always a wait. This being the case, Eugenia rented out the second chair of her shop to another barber and I seemed to get shulffed off on her more times than not, even when there wasn’t a wait. All in all, it was time to find yet another barber.

The internet provided a gold mine of potential barber shops and hair salons, one of which was ten minutes away, as well as being open until 3 on Saturdays, which meant that I wouldn’t have to alter my Saturday routine, I gave the place a call. First appointment was to be the next Saturday at 2, the voice on the other end tried to talk me into an earlier hour but clean clothes come first.

“Scissors and Scooters” (the barbershop shared a building with a scooter sales and service establishment) was off a main road and easy to find. The “Scissors” part was owned and operated by an older woman (older than my 60) and thought I was in my forties, so we began on a good note. That didn’t last long as “Kathy” proceeded to relate most (if not all) the highlights of her life (which is why I knew she was 70, she mentioned it at least 3 times) while she slooooowly cut my hair, it was the longest hair cut of my life, took nearly 45 minutes and it was “just a trim” which what I received and should’ve taken 15 minutes, tops. Before I could decide whether to find yet another barber, the Pandemic hit and I and everyone else I knew, went haircut-less for the next several months.

I think it June before the Government ban of haircuts was lifted and I made an appointment with Kathy. At the time I was enjoying being on “Reserve” at work (40% pay, benefits plus the $900.00 from unemployment meant I was netting more than I usually grossed, happy times indeed) and didn’t mind (too much) that the price of a haircut went up $10.00 to $25.00. I expected the price to rise but $10.00 was a bit high, consequently, no tip. She explained about all the extra equipment she was obliged to purchase in order to comply with the Covid-haircut-regulations, plexiglass barriers, multiple disposable masks (one mask per customer) etc. This explanation came before the procedure began, making the haircut last nearly an hour, definitely no tip.

I stuck with Kathy for the next year, partly because I didn’t really want to hunt up another barber, basically the sometimes it’s better to stick with the devil you know, sort of situation. And as I said, she was only ten minutes away. During these ten or so visits I learned about Kathy’s Jr. High School trip the Washington D.C. , her time spent in Alaska working as a bartender, then California where she trained to get her barbers certificate and so on and son on. This information did not come gradually over the various hair grooming sessions, she went through the her life story more or less each and every 45 minute visit. Definitely no tip.

The final haircut came in late July of this year, where Kathy told me that she was going on vacation to one of the Dakota’s, I can’t remember which and would be back in the middle of August, since I wouldn’t need another cut until the end of August at the earliest, this was fine with me.

The end of August came and went, I was busy at work and didn’t get around to calling for an appointment until early September. The call went straight to voicemail and a voice other then Kathy’s said “leave a message and I’ll call you back”. Figuring I dialed the wrong number I tried again, same result. I waited a couple of days and made another attempt, receiving the “this number is no longer in service” recording. I was going to drive by “Scissors and Scooters” but decided this was sign that it was time for a new barber, back to the internet with very little success, several of the shops I called had the same “no longer in service” recording and I wondered if this was from being Covid-closed for several months?

By this time it had been two months since my previous haircut and I was getting pretty shaggy, what to do, what to do? That problem was temporarily solved when I went grocery shopping at Walmart and I recalled that they had a barbershop/salon right there and this particular morning, they had no customers, so I gave it a shot. One of the masked attendants directed me to a terminal, where I scrolled through the various options for hair care and selected a basic cut for $18.73 with a five dollar tip. A receipt popped out and I was lead to a chair, seated, aproned and ready for my Walmart haircut. I requested my usual “Just a trim, please” to which my new barber replied “Shorter”? “Is there an alternative”? The young lady barber was not amused by my wittiness and proceeded to give me the shortest haircut since I was 8 and my mom (Rest in piece) bought a haircutting kit that was supposed to save the family “$100.00 a year in barber costs” big money in the mid sixties. Unfortunately mom wasn’t very good at cutting hair and my older brother and I ended up with crewcuts. Dad took us back to Rudy’s and hid the hair cutting kit.

As I said, my hair was the shortest it had been in decades but I did get quite a few compliments at work and it is time for another visit to the barber, I just can’t look at myself in the mirror and see a Walmart haircut looking back, plus they don’t do mustaches, all in all, it’s probably back to the internet, what would we do with out it?

Ashes to Ashes.

Or should I call it “Pieces of my mother” or simply “Mothers Day”? I considered “Memories on Mothers Day” but I didn’t remember last Sunday was mothers day until yesterday. My mom died a few years back, it was in December but I don’t dwell on the date, it doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is that she is no longer with us and I miss her.

Of course the family got together and shared memories, mostly sickeningly sweet ones about how wonderful she was, glossing over the parts that didn’t make her look so good. Like the time she confessed to me that after our cat “Fluffly” (how original) had a litter of kittens, most of which we couldn’t get rid of, when as if by magic, they were all adopted, seemingly overnight. While the truth was that mom drove them to a wooded area and left them on the side of the road. I’m pretty sure I was the only one she told. Mom also admitted to me when I was in my late teens that when she found out she was pregnant with me, she drank a bottle of castor oil in an attempt to lose the baby (me). I eventually got over it, but geez mom!!

When I’m not dwelling on kittens on the side of the road or mom trying to off me, most memories are pretty good. She was a child of both the depression and WWII, who put it all down on film for my nieces school project, I’ve yet to see it, shame on me.

Mom liked to take in strays, people, not cats, and as far as I know, she didn’t leave any of them on the side of the road. After she divorced my alcoholic dad, there was a new face at every family gathering, usually someone who had no place else to go. And no one left empty handed, not if mom could help it, she always made twice as much food as necessary to feed whoever showed up. Mom was the hostess for all holidays, going so far as to have the family and anyone else who wished to attend at her house for lunch on Sundays, then it changed to Wednesdays because too many of us got jobs that included working Sundays. Then it was Thursdays, then she died. My son was fond of saying “Grandma makes Mother Teresa look like the devil.” and wanted to put it in her obit. I nixed the idea, it may have offended someone and mom would not have liked that…probably.

That said…when mom died, we had her cremated and then it was suggested that we all (kids, grand-kids, etc) keep some of the ashes. Most of us did, I even had a small tin tea box for that purpose, but the more I thought about it the creepier it became. Why would I want a piece of my dead mother in the box on the mantel? Or anyplace else for that matter? I declined the offer and have since wondered what would people do if they decided not to bury or cremate a dead loved one? Should they divvy up the body?

“I always liked her feet, can I get one for old times sake? How about a hand? Knee-cap? fingers, toes? Does anyone want the head”? Maybe 20 years ago, but not since cancer and chemo got to her. An arm? which part, upper or forearm? Heart? Kinda creepy. Liver, spleen, kidneys (when I see or think of the word Kidney, it conjures up “steak and kidney pie” I wonder why?) Definitely not the lungs, she had lung cancer, then again, if it was only one, you could do a comparison display, right lung with cancer, left lung without. There are quite a few choices and even though she was slim and trim, there was still plenty to go around, of course you’d need something bigger than a tin tea box.

The Carrion Inn.

When did the practice of naming winter storms begin? Naming hurricanes seems to have begun a little over 50 years ago, before that they were “the hurricane of ’56” or perhaps “the storm of the century” which I’ve heard the hurricane of ’38 referred to, but snow storms? When I was a kid (which is getting to be a long, long time ago) it was just “there’s a storm coming” and I (along with probably every other kid) started thinking, hoping, maybe even praying that school would be cancelled. We’d listen to the local radio station intently for the closing list, my dad was a school teacher and even though we didn’t live in his school’s district, my brothers, sister and I all attended that school. We’d listen to the radio, watch the snow falling, attempt to eat whatever mom made for breakfast, which was always an adventure, please read earlier blogs for more info on that subject.

Of course as kids we didn’t consider that one snow day = one extra day in June even when my dad would remind us of same, it didn’t matter, a day off from school was a day off from school and I didn’t even have to pretend to be sick, something I considered myself to be pretty good at. By the fifth grade I’d perfected the fake whooping cough. All one needs to do is exhale through ones mouth at an accelerated rate until the hoarse whooping sound comes out, then go find your mom. It’s pretty foolproof, the only drawback is that one can’t use this ruse often or it will end with a Dr.’s visit, there’s no point ditching school if it includes going to the Dr.’s office. It’s not that I didn’t like school, I just liked getting away with something more and the whooping cough scenario was a clear win, kids 1 parents 0 and the crowd roars !!

Fast forward a few decades and I am one the other end of the stick, as my job has designated myself and many others as “essential staff” says so right on my work I.D. , just in case I get pulled over when Big Brother deems driving to be unlawful. This has only happened once, during winter storm “Juno” January 27th, 2015. I know the exact date because I, among many others were encouraged to sleep at work, not because upper management was worried about our driving prowess, more so because they wanted enough people on premise in the morning to run the place. The hourly workers who stayed were enticed to do so by the offer of $10.00 an hour to sleep. Salaried peeps, such as myself received (a couple of weeks after the storm) a lap blanket with the aforementioned name of the storm and the date. Blue blankies for the boys and pink for the girls, I kid you not.

Which brings us to Monday February 1, 2021 and another snow storm, I won’t be getting another blankie for this one because I booked a room at the Carrion Inn (not it’s real name) a five minute ride from work that took me ten because of the storm.

My first impression of the Carrion Inn was “where is it” ? as I sloshed through the wet snow covered roads. It should’ve been across the street from the Red Roof Inn, where I’d stayed for a night a couple of years ago during a similar weather event and will never return for various reasons I’ll discuss at a later date. It should have been across the street but it wasn’t, sort of. That hotel was the American something or other (their sign was partially obscured by snow) so I sloshed a little further, turned around (easier said than done) went back, pulled into the American something hotel and caught a glimpse of another building in back and headed for it. The dark sign read Carrion Inn, I parked my pick-up, grabbed the bag I had packed before leaving for work and sloshed through ankle deep wet snow to the front entrance, which hadn’t been shoveled, slosh, slosh, slosh, finally made it.

Upon opening the glass door, I realized that this was the rear entrance, still should’ve been shoveled though and trudged up the short staircase to the reception desk. It was an odd set up, the customer side of the reception desk was waist high, while the other side seemed to be in a trench, all you could see of the clerk was her head, barely visible as she typed away on her computer, checking me in. After receiving my key card and inquiring whether the restaurant was open, it was, I headed to my room, which was back down the stairs, room 106, looking out to the slush covered parking lot. I closed the curtains, turned up the heat, unpacked my overnight bag, put my “shaving kit” consisting of my toiletries in jammed into a tupper-ware pasta tube in the bathroom and turned on the TV for company.

My stomach started to grumble, I put on my mask and headed up to the restaurant, following the proper covid protocols, which was pretty easy since there was no one else around, except the receptionist’s head behind the plexiglass barrier. I nodded, she ignored or didn’t see me from her borrow. The restaurant was empty, no one at all, I took a seat at the bar and a middle-aged man entered from what I guessed to be the kitchen. He nodded a greeting and I asked for a cocktail, he handed me a menu of basic drinks, gin & tonic, martini, screw driver (I didn’t think anyone drank them any more) I opted for a beer, he handed me another menu, I chose Blue Moon, with a glass. Next was the challenge of the dinner menu. It was apparent that my server didn’t speak English well and was content to let the menu do the talking for him. It was a very limited menu, similar to the one offered in a different hotel I stayed in the previous August during Hurricane … something or other, I can’t recall.

There were six offerings on the printer paper menu, three featuring “Shrimps”. After careful consideration, I chose the chicken sandwich, with fries, because pretty much everything came with fries, even the “Shrimps” dishes. The attendant pulled out a tray of lettuce and tomato, I nodded, he showed me a bottle of mayo, again I nodded and he headed to the kitchen. I sipped my beer while waiting for dinner. It took awhile because the phone rang a couple of times with people looking for room service, I think, it was hard to tell from the limited bits of conversation I received from this end of the line. The man behind the bar did get someone to order a screw driver, mostly by reading the drink menu several times before taking the order, two orders of wings and two screw drivers, no “Shrimps”.

The Blue Moon was nearly gone when my chicken sandwich and fries arrived. I ordered another beer, paid and headed back to my room. I’d left the TV on, not thinking it was going to take as long as it did to bring back dinner, which I placed next to the TV, got out of my work clothes, into sweats and a T-shirt, sat on one of the double beds and opened the box holding dinner. Uninspiring is the least offensive way I can think to describe what I was looking at, a white bread bun that was crumbing at the edges, inside was a chicken “Pattie” with some mayo, 1/2 a piece of lettuce and a small slice of tomato, the fries were warm. I dug in reluctantly while watching a Joan Crawford, Clark Gable movie on TCM that involved escaping from an island prison with the usual collection of sorry looking prisoners, with one exception, Ian Hunter playing a Christ like character. “Strange Cargo” is an interesting film all in all, even has Peter Lorre playing “Monsieur Pig” !! I highly recommend it.

By the time the movie ended I had given up on my “chicken” sandwich, didn’t finish my second beer, poured it down the drain, brushed my teeth, washed my face and went to bed after calling for a 5:30 wake up. As usual, I fell asleep fairly quickly, as usual it didn’t last long, although this time it was because of a tapping sound, as if someone were knocking at a door. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap, no one answered, tap-tap-tap-tap, no one answered, then it stopped. Maybe someone did answer after all ? Then it started again. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. Was someone having a blizzard party? Was this the secret knock to be let in? Tap-tap-tap-tap ? Whatever it was, it lasted pretty much the entire night, between the tapping sound and the wind, I didn’t get much sleep and was up way before the wake-up call. After doing a short stretching regime in the limited space of the hotel room, I shaved and showered, got dressed and brought my bag to my pick-up, started the engine to warm her up and headed back to the lobby. As I was walking through the parking lot I heard the tap-tap-tap-tap sound, it was coming from a loose piece of siding flapping against the building every time the wind blew and the wind blew a lot last night. Tap-tap-tap-tap….I’d have to find a different hotel next time, maybe the one in between the Carrion and Red Roof would do, hopefully I won’t have to find out any time soon.

2020, end of the year special report:

As this most “unprecedented” year comes to a close, I have to admit, that, unlike many other people, I’ve had one of the best years in recent memory !! Not to downplay what others have been going through, but who can complain about two months off paid (not only paid, but more than I usually get for working, heck, if I was paid as much for working as I was getting for not working, I wouldn’t mind working, not as much anyway) during the summer. My son returned to the area after two years away at school and another working his first job in another state. His new, close to home job was as an assistant pro at a local private golf course, with a new boss who encouraged him to play golf with me, on their course, for free, whenever I got the chance, which with June and July off, I had plenty of chances.

We played many other courses as well, almost all on days when it was hot and humid, just the way we like it and we walk, no carts. Brought a lot of water, with at least two bottles frozen, there is no drinking water on the course and we only saw one beverage cart all summer, neither are supposed to be allowed in these “unprecedented” times, no ball washers either. Somehow, we managed to adapt. I even managed to play decent golf, the practice facilities at the private course helped, as did a 10 second putting tip from my son. I was living a dream, hopefully this is what retirement was going to be like and hopefully I could get there sooner than my financial consultant suggested during our most recent meeting.

Reconnecting with my son and golf were not the only benefits of these “unprecedented” times. I don’t particularly like to be touched (barring obvious exceptions) especially by members of my sex, what is up with that? I’ll hug my best friend at his or my wedding, after that a hand shake will do and now even that is no longer allowed. Social distancing, where have you been all my life??

The “stay home, stay safe” mandate is no hardship what-so-ever, especially now that I’m in my 60’s, had it been 40 years ago when my friends and I were hanging out in one bar or another on a regular basis, stay home, stay safe wouldn’t have been an option. On the other hand, I do miss the monthly steak dinners at the local fire house, not because of the atmosphere (100 guys in a room that becomes so loud that you have to practically scream at the person next to you to be heard) I do miss seeing the group of guys that occupy the section of table with me. I’ve known all of them since High School, some longer and it has become the only time and place that we see each other on any kind of regular basis, which is mostly on me, as I no longer seek out the company of my fellow humans for various reasons, mostly having to do with working in the food and beverage business for most of the past forty years. Not that I don’t like people, it’s that after 8 or 9 or 10 hours of having dozens, scores, sometimes hundreds of people up your ass about one thing or another, I’m done with humans, until the next shift. My apartment has become what my daughter likes to call a “people free zone” 99.5 percent of the time. Consequently, “stay home, stay safe” is pretty much heaven.

Another advantage of these times is the wearing of masks. Back in March, mask wearing was mandated at work, having a large collection of bandanas, I opted for this method, not only because of the aforementioned collection but as a wearer of eye glasses, the bandana didn’t fog them over, besides, it provided many jokes regarding the robbing of stage coaches and such. Unfortunately, when I returned to work in August, these were no longer allowed, fortunately, the masks provided by the company didn’t fog my glasses either. And just between you and me…most people look better in a face mask. Another win-win situation, it was a very good year !!

One pester + one bother = an annoy ?

Interior. night.

Announcers booth: three suited men sit together.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, this is Bart Tadshaw

I’m Buck Jones

and I’m Ronny Tomo with Thursday night football.

Bart: Sorry Ronny, this is Sunday night football.

Buck: Wrong again, it’s Monday night Football fella’s. Didn’t you listen to the annoying song?

Ronny: Will somebody please tell me what day it is ??

Buck: It’s Monday night and we’re the new broadcast team, so sit back, relax and enjoy tonight’s game between the St. Louis Rams..

Bart: Aren’t they the L.A. Rams this year?

Ronny: I thought the Chargers were in L.A. now?

Buck: They’re both in L.A. And tonight they’ll be playing the Oakland Raiders.

Bart: Didn’t they move to Vegas?

Ronny: Didn’t who move to Vegas?

Bart: The Raiders?

Buck: That’s not until next year.

Bart: Isn’t it next year yet?

Buck: We’ll be right back after this.

Fast forward to the first set of downs:

Int. Night.

Announcers booth.

Buck: The Quarterback takes the snap, fakes the hand off, drops back to pass and is clearly pestered by the charging linebacker as the pass sails by the receiver.

Ronny: That wasn’t a pester, it was more of a bother. The lineman’s swipe at the ball was a pester.

Bart: But the linebacker had a pester and a bother, which by rule is definitely an annoy.

Buck: What rule book are you referring to?

Bart produces a red book, opens it.

Bart: On page 14 of “Useless stats designed to give sports announcers more to talk about” “One pester and one bother equals an annoy. It’s right after baseball’s “exit velocity to barrel impact angle equals jibberish”

Ronny: Let me see that.

Bart hands the book to Ronny.

Buck: Shouldn’t we pay attention to the game?

Bart: It’s just another replay and a close-up of the coach picking his nose.

Ronny: (reading the red book) Here’s one from golf. “Strokes gained from not screaming “hit the fucking ball” whenever playing with Jason “All” Day.

Buck: Guys, the Chargers just scored a touchdown.

Ronny & Bart: Don’t worry about it, they’ll be at least 5 replays, and a pester.

Buck: That was clearly an annoy.

Ronny: Pester.

Bart: Bother.

Buck: Annoy.

THE END.