Friday, September 28, 2018

Becoming Grandpa

My parents story is a sweet one.  They grew up in the very small town of New Holland, Illinois in the hard scrabble 1920's and 30's.  By small town I mean a community of around 200 in the heart of the black earth farm country of central Illinois.  They lived a block apart but because of a three year age difference did not really discover each other until both were out of high school and World War II was a fact of life.  Dad was a young Navy pilot and mom a rural school teacher when they fell in love and got married.

Every summer my mom, dad, brother and I would spend at least one week of dad's vacation in New Holland visiting both sets of grandparents and assorted aunts, funny uncles and cousins.  My maternal grandfather died when I was only eight but Grandpa Copper, a very relaxed fellow indeed, stuck around until I was well past my 28th birthday.  He was a major character in what, to my young eye, appeared to be one of the requirements of living there.  

As a grade school aged kid I would often accompany Grandpa on his daily rounds.  He was what most folks would call retired but that didn't stop him from having a routine that managed to fill most of his days.  He dressed for it too.  Every morning he would put on a suit, tie and fedora before walking to the small New Holland post office to get his mail.  His first stop was always the front porch of his pal Floyd Wendell.  Floyd, like Grandpa, was a gentleman farmer who had long ago left the grind of crops and cattle for life in town.  After remarking on how much I had grown and how much I resembled either my father or my mother, the two would talk of grain prices and the weather.  A stop at Virgil Crumpler's gas station was next; the same topics of conversation were on the menu along with complaints about the price of gas.  I was always amazed at Virgil's ability to keep a plug of tobacco in his head in spite of having a single digit compliment of teeth.  No Grandpa round was complete without a stop at the one and only grocery store in town owned by Wilbur Buce.  There was usually a list of items written in Grandma's hand that needed to be secured and "put on account" before we headed home in time for Grandma's scolding about forgotten items .  The bank, my Uncle Louie's S&L Lunch/Bar, and finally the post office rounded out the obligatory daily stops.  We were most always back at the house in time for lunch and a gander at the farm markets report on Peoria television before it was time for Grandpa to tune in a ballgame so he could "rest his eyes".  Day over.  Mission accomplished. ZZZZZZ

What started me thinking of Grandpa and his ever so busy days was the recent realization that I too have begun to fall into a similar anticipated  pattern of behavior.  It's not quite as predictable  but give me time, I'm only 70.  Grandpa was still a man about town into his late 80's and early 90's.

Here in North Idaho, in an effort to slug away at my "10,000 steps a day" regimen, I often start with a stroll through the park where a chat with Paul the squirrel guy is always entertaining and enlightening.  "Pauly Walnuts" is a former New Jerseyite who knows more about squirrels than anyone should.  He treats the little fuzz balls of the park to hazel nuts, red oak acorns, chestnuts and other exotic seeds.  It's fun to see how smart the little clowns are.  Paul and his wife, Donna, have names for most all of them and I've witnessed how the squirrel kingdom recognizes their car when they arrive each morning.  I don't want to be around if they ever miss a day.

The post office is usually my next stop as there is, in spite of email, often something that must be dropped in a mail shoot.  After that I often chat with Walt, a fisherman who never misses a day of angling.  Every morning I watch as he pulls in bass, pike and assorted pan fish while his mouth grips an ever present corncob pipe.  In the four years I've been here I've learned of his life in the Coast Guard, his failed marriages, battle with the bottle and his career as a country singer in dive bars from California to Idaho. He's a very nice man who gives away most all of his daily catch to neighbors and people in need.    

After my Walt stop it's time to head home through the park where Griff, Mark and some of the other maintenance men and women make our city park one of the prettiest in the nation.  Sometimes they have time to share some gossip of happenings not usually seen in a public park.  For example a recent incident regarding a couple and their bucket list of love was topic A.  Perhaps we'll save that for another post.  Yep, no time for that now.  It's nearly 4:30 and I don't want to miss the early bird specials at either I Hop or Denny's.  I think I'm fitting into this curmudgeon thing rather nicely.
Walt reeling in another one.

Friday, September 21, 2018

What's The Matter With Kids Today?

Recently, while traveling along the coast of Maine,  a blonde lady of my acquaintance and I spied a collection of old cars for sale just off US 1.  Naturally we had to stop and admire the plethora of rolling rust buckets because cars, especially the old ones, are FUN.  

"If you want this one, I'll throw in the hubcap Christmas tree too."
Having clocked my "three score and ten" this year I am assuredly a card carrying Boomer with an unbridled interest in pretty much any set of wheels propelled by an internal combustion engine.  My fair haired companion, though several years younger, also sports genuine Boomer credentials.   To we kids of the 50's and 60's a car was an iron clad projection of independence and freedom not to mention a ready getaway from parental supervision.  We blasted our tunes, raced with pals and steamed up the windows of our rides at drive-in movie theaters and countless closely guarded and parent free lover's lanes.  

Should have bought this one!  Great for the drive in.
How about a show of hands from those of you who counted the days until your 15th birthday and a trip to the DMV for your learner's permit?  That accomplished, the next 365 days of anticipating Sweet Sixteen and an actual driver's license comprised, if memory serves, the longest year in history.  (Maybe those years in the Army? )  The written part of the driver's test was a snap.  Most of us studied for it longer and with more vigor and devotion than we ever gave algebra or geometry.  Who needed those??!!  Nope, an eye on the prize at all times.  We would not be denied!

Flash forward to the present and......WHAT??  Millennials and their younger brothers and sisters of Generation Z are showing a marked indifference to cars both new and old.  Most seem not to care about automobiles whether gas powered or of the plug in variety.  Huh?  How do they get away from their parental wardens?  Where do they go to make out?  Do they call Uber or Lyft?  These are legitimate questions that beg for answers.  America is a country built for fast cars and adventure and I fear we may be losing our edge.

Come on kids, wake up and smell the gasoline!  Your country needs you.
By the way, if you need me, I'll be in the garage buckled into the bucket seat of my now "nearly" classic convertible smelling its still warm engine as I recall 1964, car keys, new freedom and nothing but an open highway to adult good times in the windshield.

Let's ride!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Brass Monkey Alert!

Forty-four degrees in September??!!
I woke to a chilly reminder of the real possibility of Fall a couple of mornings ago and didn't care for it at all.  The ninth month is usually our nicest here in the Inland Northwest.  Eastern Washington, the Idaho panhandle and western Montana generally have lots of sunshine with highs in the 70's accompanied by night temps in the 50's.  Perfect.

So far this year brought us a cool and wet June followed by a pretty decent July and August, though we did have some forest fire smoke during the latter.  Now, with September half shot, there is the very real temptation to abandon all hope of a mild winter.  The signs are everywhere: brisk temperatures, trees turning crimson and gold around the edges of the lake, fat squirrels and the hours of daylight diminishing faster than a bag of Cheetos at fat camp. 

Being a mere "senior" white male, nature's most endangered species, I thought it a good idea to arm myself with expert weather knowledge to prepare for the coming cold season.  I donned a sweater and made for the Coeur D Alene city park to be amongst my little squirrel pals.  ( I often bring them peanuts, so they owe me.)

In no time I was surrounded by some of the park's real heavyweights, and I do mean HEAVYWEIGHTS.  Fat Sal, Stinky and Roberta comprised the committee chosen to speak with me and here is the gist of that conversation as best I can recall.  (They may have slipped me something in the that funny looking acorn.)

Me: "So what's the deal, guys? How come the cold weather?"

Fat Sal: "So who wants to know?"

Me:  "Ah, nobody.  I'm just asking for a friend."

Sal:  "Well tell your friend to get ready for a rough winter.  This baby is gonna be so cold you'll be farting snowflakes in July."

Me: "Sounds like air conditioning. Is that why all of you are so freaking fat?"

Roberta:  "I'd take a good look at that spare tire you're sporting Sparky before insinuating that maybe we could stand to lose a couple."

Fat Sal, squirrel cappo
Me: "Point taken."

Stinky:  "Yeah, we think it's gonna be a cold one, colder than January in Moose Munch, Maine. That's why we've pumped up the fun fat and grabbed our furs out of storage.  Of course we're still too damn dumb to remember where we stashed all the nuts.  Where is that Kreskin guy when you need him?"

Roberta:  "This winter is gonna be harder than grandma's biscuits."

Me:  "Okay, I get it.  Time to nut up and get ready for an icy blast up our skirts in a few short weeks."


Fat Sal:  "Yeah, that's what we've been sayin'. By the wouldn't be lookin' for some candy ass warm spot where you can hang for next couple of months would ya?"

Me:  "Fake news!" 

Friday, September 7, 2018

So Long NFL

The ratings are in on the first NFL game of the season and the owners should be worried.  Philadelphia's 18-12 victory over visiting Atlanta earned all time low television ratings and, I believe portends rough seas ahead for the tone deaf management of the league.  While they dither fans are making up their minds and many, like me, are choosing to look elsewhere for entertainment.
No more wasted Sunday afternoons.  I never watched the weekday games, so no great loss there.  College football should be a sufficient pigskin fix for me from this point on. Baseball, with the anthem AND "God Bless America" will soon be in playoff and World Series mode making any pro football withdrawal easily palatable .  Who needs the disrespect of a bunch of millionaire meat heads? 

Oh, I get the "free speech" argument the D minus  Parks & Recreation majors of the gridiron offer as their reason for kneeling during our national anthem, however flawed their execution of the message.  Better men and women than they sacrificed their lives for them to say and do whatever they please.
Most of us, if we have a beef, can take our message to the street or commit it to paper (or a blog) anytime, anywhere, however few are afforded the opportunity to do it on company time.  If these athletes are so certain of the statement they wish to make, why not hold rallies after the game or write Op/Ed pieces for newspapers?  Why must they dishonor our nation and the sacrifice of so many men and women and their families who have served unselfishly to keep us safe and free?  Sadly, I feel that the few in the NFL who choose to take a knee rather than stand respectfully during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner have given little or no consideration to the consequences of their actions.

Even more despicable than this tantrum of the gifted yet foolish few is the decision of the Nike company to capitalize on the faux bravery of the simpleton, Colin Kaepernick, who began this ill considered gambit.  Shame on them.  They are no longer in the shoe business, having forsaken it, with their Kaepernick advertising campaign, for the business of seeking attention.

No more Nikes for me! They hurt my feet when I stand for the anthem.