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Showing posts from September, 2011

Unforgotten Moments

The most joyous moments of parenthood are not the big events, the birthday parties, the Christmas mornings, the few minutes of elation that follow days and weeks and months of planning. The unplanned, unscripted, unexpected moments are the ones that endure long after the nest has emptied.Before Russell started school and I was working in the afternoons, he and I often went to Lake Shore Park in the morning. He was enthralled by The Wizard of Oz, and when we got to the park, he'd tell me to follow him. He'd run by the duck pond and up the hills and back down again. "OK, stop," he'd tell me and take a moment to look around. "This doesn't look like Kansas," he'd say, and off we'd go again.Back home, he had the sound-track album, and he played it constantly. Russ never tired of Dorothy and the Munchkins and, strangely, neither did I. I had never paid much attention to the lyrics, and it was only after listening to the album day after day that I …

Going to the Doggerels Again

In a Word, PleaseBefore you commenceYour yakking, condenseThe words you dispense.Don't make your two centsA verbal offense,A spiel that's immenseAnd terribly denseWith wordy nonsense.
What if the Tulip? What if the tulip had just one?And what if that one lip was fat?Why did that tulip come undone?What if the tulip had just oneBecause the other weighed a tonAnd fell off one day, then went splat?What if the tulip had just one?And what if that one lip was fat?
Cogito too muchI wonder if Descartes's a sham,Less thoughtful than he's thought to be.He says he thinks, therefore he am.I wonder if Descartes's a sham,Why not, "I am, ergo I'm Sam."?It's all a Frenchman's fantasy.I wonder if Descartes's a sham,Less thoughtful than he's thought to be.
At the BarEdna, the floozy,Was feeling bluesyAnd getting boozyAnd somewhat woozy.This guy, a doozy,Did not look choosey.She wondered, "Who's he?"

Right After These Words

I know four phone numbers. That's all. One is my current number, one is the number that served the Harris household so long and so well in Bethel Park, and one is the number that served another generation of Harrises for twenty years or more in Ashtabula. All the phone numbers I need these days are stored in my phone. When it goes, the numbers will go with it."Wait a minute," those paying attention are saying. "You said you know four numbers and you listed three. What's the other one?"The problem is, I'm ashamed to say I know the remaining number. It is further proof, as if any were needed, that of the bumper crop of information I took in as a lad, all the wheat is gone and only the chaff remains. The fourth phone number on the tip of my tongue:
"Ding-a-ling-a-ling, give Roth a ring:/ Emerson-two-two-eight-oh-oh./ Mr. Roth is Mr. Rugs,/ …

The Bear Facts

For reasons I can't fathom, my daughter Bethany has become an outdoorsman. It must be one of those recessive genes that surface every few generations. She certainly didn't get it from me.I've caught one fish in my life. And all I know about firearms I learned from the U.S. Army. What I remember about firearms is when I was in Vietnam and had to carry a weapon, I worried more about shooting myself than being shot at by some VC.When she was younger, Bethany never seemed much interested in the outdoors. She didn't avoid the outdoors, but she never strayed far from the indoors and its sundry conveniences.All that started to change in 2001, when Debbie and I divorced, and Bethany and her mother headed for Orofino, Idaho. Now, if there is one thing Idaho has in abundance, it's outdoors. And for the folks along the banks of the Clearwater River, the wild life is mostly about the pursuit of wildlife, and game is about the only game in town.In time, Bethany adapted. It took…

Out of Season

Life is a series of milestones, and I have reached another one. This one has to do with winter. Thirty years ago, I loved winter, I looked forward to winter. Some time in the 1980s, Masterpiece Theater presented a dramatization of The Last Place on Earth, the story of Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen racing to the South Pole. That winter, as I walked to Dairy Mart each morning for the paper, the snow crunching beneath my feet, and the bitterly cold wind blowing off the ice-covered lake, I pictured myself slogging across Antarctica. Just to be on the safe side, I traveled with the Norwegians rather than with the always confidant but hopelessly incompetent Scott.Shoveling snow was a challenge then, especially as the snow piled up and there was no more room to put it between our house and the neighbor's fence. I had to carry the excess to the backyard by the shovel full. But it was a welcome challenge. A job that once done, I wanted to say, "Come on, Mother Nature, is that…

Let's Reclaim Yankee Doodle

"Men as well as women festooned their hair with plumes and feathers, and tied ribbons to each bouncing curl.Some men took to wearing high-heeled shoes - not clunky platform shoes, but slender, spiky heels up to six-inches high - and carrying furry muffs to keep their hands warm. Some carried parasols in the summer. They became known as macaronis, from a dish they first encountered in Italy."Bill Bryson in his book The Home "Yankee Doodle went to town, a riding on a pony. / He stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni."Take a moment to consider those words. Now, ask yourself: What do they mean?Think specifically about the word "macaroni" and what it meant at the time Yankee Doodle was a riding on his pony. Perhaps you think it has no meaning; that the lyricist found himself four syllables and a rhyme for "pony" short, and pulled "macaroni" out of the air. Well, you would be wrong. Or, maybe you think a witty lyricist was trying …

For Lack of a Better Word

The other day in the Plain Dealer, Regina Brett put the number of words in the English language at 1,010,649. Why is it then, when just one word, or perhaps a few well-chosen words, will do, the language is a desert, a barren plain? The apt phrase proves to be a mirage. The hoped for witticism is drab, withered, colorless. The desired sparkling comment - desiccated, lifeless, dull. Finding a word is easy; finding the right word isn't.And when I do find that perfect word, all too often it's too late. A few years ago when I was out and about on weekend mornings covering 5Ks and the like, fartlek would have enhanced my vocabulary. Unfortunately, the word escaped my attention until last night when I was making my way through Peter Bowler's The Superior Person's Second Book of Weird and Wondrous Words. Fartlek, according to Bowler, "is a method of training long distance runners, whereby the trainee runs across country, alternating speed work with slow jogging." Le…

The Prescient, Conflicted Skeptic

Prescience has been on my mind. Prescience, "knowledge of actions or events before they occur; foreknowledge; foresight," is something I have long longed for. I have no desire to be a great seer, but I think it would be nice to look at the options before me and come up with at least a good guess on how events might unfold if I did this, or maybe that. Well, I got my wish and stumbled into prescience a few weeks ago. A person more wisely prescient than I would have remembered the old saw that warns us to be careful what we wish for; we just might get it. The problem began on August 11. One of the suggested topics Suzanne gave us that day was to write a short piece about ourselves ten years ago and a short piece about ourselves ten years from now. The problem was the latter. Should I assume medical science will find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis, and that I will be back to my abnormal self in ten years? Or should I take the more realistic view and assume that even if a cure is…

Just One Disconcerting Thing After Another

As Garrison Keillor might say, it's been a disconcerting week in Ashtabula, my hometown. This morning, Cuddles the Cat outsmarted me. That is not unusual. She is a cat of superior intellect and often uses her keen mind to shame me. But this morning, she was unable to hide her disdain, and shot me one of those evil feline glances that seem to say, "Nice try, dummy, but you'll have to do better than that."You see, I was up early, and the first order of business was to retrieve the morning papers from the front porch. But to get to the front porch, I first had to open the front door. The problem is: quite often when the front door is open Cuddles will dash out in order to cat around. (Please note: Cuddles has been fixed, and any catting around she does she does responsibly.) Cuddles, of course, is quick as a cat, and I'm not. By the time I get the wheelchair out the door and turned around to close it, Cuddles can be out the door and three streets away. I might be sl…

Out on a Limerick

Pass the Antacid

The snowman, abominable,
Had a pain in his abdominal.
Perhaps spaghetti
Upset the Yeti,
Although that seems improbable.


This Won't Hurt

The dentist said, "Easy does it.
That wasn't so bad, now was it?"
Said I, "That's not so.
And how would you know
If it was painless or wasn't?"