Monday, December 31, 2012

Notes from the Home - December 31, 2012

   Friday night, the fire alarm went off, waking me from a sound sleep. Alisha, who was working at the front desk, made an announcement that it was nothing to worry about. I think that’s what she said. It was difficult to hear her over the alarm, and I’m not certain what followed “May I have your attention, please,” but I thought I heard an “OK” and an “all right.” And I opted to stay in bed and listen for sounds of panic. Of course, it would have been nearly impossible to hear the sounds of panic over the blaring alarm. But it fell silent in its own good time – about ten minutes – and Alisha got back on the PA to assure us all was well.

   That was the third time in the last six weeks that the fire alarm has gone off. From the time I arrived here on March 26, until the weekend before Thanksgiving, it never went off. The insouciance of the residents when the alarm sounds  leads me to believe that its six months of silence was more unusual than its fortnightly eruptions of late.

   (Author’s note: Would-be writers are told to avoid highfalutin words. However, there are many proper Southern ladies in residence at Covenant Woods who falute on the highest level and would prefer to be described as insouciant rather than as people who, as my friend John used to say, don’t give a rat’s ass.)

   When the alarm ceased its screeching, I heard the rain. Like the fire alarm, the rain has been more bothersome lately. Summer had its passing showers and occasional storms. They were the proverbial breaks in the weather. The clouds rolled in, the rain fell, the clouds rolled on and the sun came out again. More recently, the clouds have been rolling in and staying; the overcast making the already short days shorter. And when it rains, the rain never seems to end. Its intensity varies, going from storm to shower to drizzle and back again, but it doesn’t stop.

   There are glorious days. Today was one: sunshine, clear skies, pleasantly cool temperatures. But clouds and showers are in the offing for tomorrow and Tuesday.

   Russ and Karen carted me around today so I could buy a recorder. Al says he is willing to sit down and tell me some stories. He has been excited ever since I showed him an Associated Press story that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 8, 1975, and mentioned his name. He certainly has a lot of stories to tell, and he’s got me excited. Now I’ve got to figure out how the recorder works.

   The story, “Phouc Binh Battle 10 Years Ago Recalled by Yanks as Bloody,” written by Peter Arnett, is not presented as a separate item on the net. You can scroll through the entire paper. And I did. On that Wednesday nearly thirty-eight years ago, the Steelers were the top story. On Page 1: “Despite a virtual sellout of tickets and plane and hotel reservations, it was still possible as of yesterday to get a flight, a room and $20 tickets for Super IX to watch the Steelers make war against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday.”

   Whatever happened to $20 dollar Super Bowl tickets?

   On the sports page, Al Abrams writes: “[Viking head coach] Bud Grant singled out Steeler rookie linebacker, Jack Lambert, as one of the best players in the game now.” Abrams also noted that, “[New Orleans] Mayor Moon Landrieu picks the Vikings by a score of 17 to 10.” The coach was right, the mayor wasn’t.

   In a story headlined “Terry’s Brain Up for Scrutiny,” by David Fink, Steeler coach Chuck Noll came to the defense of his quarterback.

   “‘What people have called Terry Bradshaw dumb?’ questions Noll in response to an obvious question. ‘That’s unfounded . . . it’s unfair . . . that hasn’t come from anybody in our organization . . . who said Terry’s dumb?’”

   For those who wonder why the Steelers are called the Steelers, there is this item: “A request by Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. to substantially increase its slag pits at its Pittsburgh Works with a possible increase in air pollution has been scheduled for public review . . .”

   A&P had sirloin on sale for $1.49 a pound. White bread was three loaves for a dollar, white potatoes were ten pounds for $0.59, and, with a coupon, a three-pound can of Eight O’Clock Coffee was $2.59. At Giant Eagle, ground meat was $0.66 a pound for five pounds or more, and $0.73 a pound for smaller quantities. Rath Wieners were $0.59 a pound, and navel oranges were twenty for $0.99.

   For those who preferred going downtown for a movie, the available features included The Godfather Part II at the Gateway, The Towering Inferno at the Fulton, The Man with the Golden Arm at the Stanley, and Earthquake at the Warner.

   And with my mind now awash in 1975, I will go off and contemplate 2013, after wishing everyone a very happy new year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Limericks of Questionalbe Taste

My entries in this week's Limerick-off.

   A fellow was sipping some port
   And thought, “Gee, I’d like to cavort.”
   So he approached this dame,
   Asked for sex and her name,
   “I’d love to,” she said, “the name’s Mort.”
   The woman said mine was too short,
   Of the dull, microscopic type sort.
   “You’re not a sex symbol
   With that little thimble.”
   Perhaps if she’d sipped some more port.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Notes from the Home - December 26, 2012

   Russ and Karen spent Christmas afternoon with the old man. Spending the afternoon with him was a wise choice; it gave the old man time to straighten up his apartment. The old man often blames Al, who has given him a couple chairs, several small tables and assorted other items, for creating the mess. But the old man spent two hours Christmas morning doing those things he should do for a couple minutes each day: finding a place for everything and putting everything in its place. The effort produced noticeable results.

   “This is the most together your apartment has been since you got here,” Karen said, a little taken aback that there was adequate room for her, Russ and Molly, their dog.

   While I was busy cleaning the apartment, Karen spent her morning baking a ham, mashing potatoes and cooking corn, with terrific results. And the time she spent at Fresh Market looking for a pecan pie was well spent. But better than the outstanding feast was the company. We sat at the table for several hours. That’s all. But in this age of whiz-bang, over-hyped hoopla, a few hours at the table with family or friends is heaven. Whether it was on Myrna Drive or Myrtle Avenue, most of the most pleasant moments came when everyone was gathered round the table and doing nothing more than talking about this or that.

   Russ was kind enough to recall one of those moments. We were having dinner one evening, back when I was the chief cook. I don’t remember what I made, but Debbie said, “This is very good.” And Russell looked to me and said, “Look who made it.”

   But I wasn’t quite so kind to Russell. He got some card tricks for Christmas and wanted to share them with his dad. There is a heckler in every audience, and I’m afraid the heckler was me. Well, Karen heckled, too. And Molly was more interested in sniffing around to find any crumbs that might have fallen on the floor. But Russ persevered, and I enjoyed the show.

   Russ and Karen gave me The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs by Michael Feinstein. In a clear, plastic envelope glued on the inside of the back cover of the book there is a CD of the twelve songs. It would have been impolite to read the book while they were there, but playing the CD would provide some pleasant background music. So, I started to rip the plastic envelope from the book.

   “Wait,” Russ said. “Let me do that.”

   And I, in the role of the over-anxious son, waited while Russ, in the role of the ever-patient father, opened the envelope without damaging the book or the envelope. It’s a good thing Russ grew up, because I never have.


   There was a little bit of the unexpected on Christmas day. It wasn’t totally unexpected by those in the meteorological community, but then many of us are prone not to expect what the meteorological community says we can expect. But though I knew there was a chance, I was surprised, nonetheless, to hear thunder and see lightning on Christmas. Perhaps a thunderstorm did occur once upon a Christmas in Bethel Park or Ashtabula, but I don’t remember it. However, Christmas thunderstorms must not be so rare in these parts. When I told Annie it was strange to eat Christmas dinner while it thundered, she shot me a where-have-you-been-all-your-life look. And last night, as I settled in to watch Jeopardy, a tornado watch for parts of Alabama crawled across the bottom of the screen.

   For a while this morning, it was threatening to clear up, and I thought it would be a good time to go over to Piggly-Wiggly. But I couldn’t get there. For the last week or so, three mattresses have been leaning against the dumpster next to the path to strip mall. Yesterday or last night the wind knocked them down, and now they’re blocking the path. I told Johnny. But he’s the sole maintenance guy in attendance today, so my travels might be limited for a day or two. And, from the look of the sky, it’s going to be a while before I venture out again.

   While on the subject of weather; how much I will need the furnace this winter, or if I will need it at all, remains to be seen. I did use it night we went to the CSU jazz concert, but only because I’d left the porch door open a crack when I left, and it was pretty cool by the time we got back. But when I remember to shut the door before the sun goes down, the room stays warm through the night. Even when it has gone down into the thirties at night, the room has stayed warm without any help from the furnace.


   I called Mediacom again this morning to tell them about my Internet router that hasn’t been routing since Saturday. After several days of talking to computers, it was refreshing to speak to a flesh-and-blood being. This morning when I asked to speak to a technical representative, the computer told me the wait would be five minutes or less. That seemed reasonable, especially after several days of being told that I’d have to wait until hell froze over, or words to that effect.

   As frustrating as human customer relations people can sometimes be, they are so much easier to deal with than their computerized colleagues. The man had me back on line in a matter of minutes. And unlike his computer colleague, he didn’t suggest that I go to to report that I couldn’t access the Internet.


Of Course I'm Listening

   To her husband, the reindeer said,
   “We might get a little rain, dear.”
   “Can we afford to keep him fed?”
   To her husband, the reindeer said,
   “Oh, please stop chomping on your bread.
   Take a look at that thunderhead.”
   “Yes, babes are wondrous, and bring cheer.”
   To her husband, the reindeer said,
   “We might get a little rain, dear!
   “You never listen to your doe,
   I’m not sure you’ve got a brain, dear.”
   “Oh, not another tale of woe?”
   “You never listen to your doe,
   And even though I’ve told you so,
   We’re about to get some rain, dear.”
   “If it’s a boy, we’ll name him Joe.”
   “I’m not sure you’ve got a brain, dear.”

To Bed, Perchance to Sleep

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