Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Notes from the Home - November 27, 2012

   A word of caution in Saturday’s Ledger-Enquirer, “Friendly reminder: You should eat your Thanksgiving leftovers within four days.” Russ and Karen let me share in their Thanksgiving feast. They live in a second-floor apartment, the building does not have an elevator, and I don’t do stairs. So they brought the turkey, stuffing, asparagus, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pies to me; a delicious meal. A plate piled high with leftovers sat in my refrigerator until noon Friday. After a quick stop in the microwave, the Thanksgiving meal was every bit as delicious the second time. Who needs friendly reminders from the Ledger-Enquirer?
   The best part of Thanksgiving wasn’t the food, it was the visit. Even Molly, who is a dachshund of either the toy or miniature variety, makes herself at home here in B-116. Russ showed me how the modern aspiring magazine illustrator checks out prospective markets. Rather than walk over to the magazine rack at Barnes & Noble, where he works and receives a hefty discount on his purchases, or sending a few bucks to the publisher for a sample copy, Russ downloaded an app for Cricket magazine and received one free issue. For the benefit of his father, he flipped through the pages of that issue on his I-pad, occasionally saying things like, “I could do that.” I’m hardly an unbiased observer, but, yes he could, and he could do it better. After our meal, we took a walk around the Covenant Woods complex. The day was gorgeous, warm and sunny, and there were enough squirrels out and about to keep Molly entertained. A delightful day from start to finish.
   Black Friday was a busy day. After rousing myself, I did the Los Angeles Times and USA Today crosswords on line, made oatmeal for breakfast, and then adjourned to the laundry room. I like doing the laundry early in the morning because I’m the only one there. It’s not that I don’t appreciate company, but, in the words of the old commercial, “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself.” So often, the residents who see me stumbling around in the laundry room want to help. They are wonderfully kind people. Any one of them could unload four or five dryers in the time it takes me to unload one. But, if I don’t insist on doing the things I can do – no matter how ineptly I do them – the list of things I can no longer do will grow much faster than it should. Besides, I’m twenty years or more younger than most of the people who offer to help. I might be the one most likely to fall in the laundry room, but I’m also the one least likely to incur lasting injuries from a fall.
   Moments after I’d stowed my clean underwear in the dresser, the phone rang. It was Penelope, wondering if I had time to deliver a notice from door to door. Time I’ve got, and off I went with a stack of papers. Along the way, Judy, one of the housekeepers, dragged a vacuum cleaner out of a room and put it on her cart.
   “Are you doing double duty today to make up for being off yesterday?” I asked.
   “No,” she said. “I did my Thursday rooms earlier this week. So, I’m regular today.”
   The effect of housework on regularity troubled me all weekend.
   “Would doing more housecleaning make me regular?” I asked Irene, Judy’s boss, this morning.
   “You better stick to fiber pills,” she said.
   And now back to the Ledger-Enquirer. In a TV commercial Wednesday night, the paper ballyhooed its Thanksgiving Day edition. “The biggest paper of the year,” it said. Thursday’s paper wasn’t noticeably bigger than the average weekday paper. In fact, it was hardly noticeable at all; a tiny island of newsprint in an ocean of glossy advertising inserts. But those advertisements didn’t come cheap. The weekday newsstand price for the Ledger-Enquirer is $0.75, and the Sunday paper sells for $1.50. But on Thanksgiving Day the paper sold for $2.00.
   After a wait of several months, Beth and Ken finally got some eggs from their chickens. Sure, the chickens laid the eggs, but Beth and Ken did all the work. Please excuse this moment of parental pride. 
   The blog madkane.com holds a weekly limerick contest. It provides the first line; you have to do the rest. I’m giving it a shot.
   A fellow who wasn’t too bright
   Sat and stared at FOX News each night.
   He watched O’Reilly,
   Always entirely,
   And quoted the blithering blight.
   A fellow who wasn’t too bright,
   Thought his wife was pure and upright.
   But the cute, young hussy
   With morals unfussy
   Made love to five men every night.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Notes from the Home - November 20, 2012

   I looked at the calendar last week and discovered that Thanksgiving is Thursday. How did that happen? It can’t be; not already.
   “Tom, it’s an age thing,” you say. “You’re no spring chicken, you know.”
   I know. And I’ll be the first to admit those birthdays and holidays have been coming round ever more quickly for years. But this November surprise was different. It was as if the calendar had gone into warp drive. Or that I had aged thirty years in the last 366 days (this is a leap year, you know).
   I’m pretty sure, however, this year’s I-turned-around-and-it-was-Thanksgiving moment has more to do with climate than chronology. It’s fall in Georgia. The mornings are cool, sometimes cold. But by noon, a jacket is optional. On clear days, the sky is an amazing blue, and the air is lively and crisp. I can close my eyes and see fall days like these in Ashtabula. Of course, in Ashtabula these are the days of late September.
   It doesn’t even look like November here. The leaves are changing, but not so dramatically nor as beautifully as in the North. And the leaves are falling, but there are still more leaves on the trees than on the ground. I look around and I see September. Thanksgiving seems out of place here. I’m befuddled.
   Covenant Woods’ Autumn Dance was Wednesday. As I listened to the music, Lynn, a retired English teacher, came by and sat next to me. I figured Ed would join her momentarily. The two have been an item for several months. Ed is in his early nineties. Lynn must be too, or close to it. They are almost always holding hands when I see them in the hall, a refreshing and hopeful sight. Just as I was about to ask Lynn where Ed was, Annie came along to remind everyone that free chair massages were available in the lobby.
   “That sounds good,” Lynn said, and off she went.
   Annie’s timing, it turned out, was impeccable. The next morning, Judy, one of the housekeepers, was in a chatty mood as she gave my room its fortnightly cleaning.
   “Did you hear about Lynn and Ed?” she asked.
   “I thought everyone had.”
   “Not me.”
   “Well,” Judy said, “Elaine [a resident] says Lynn put him in the hospital.”
   “They were… you know?”
   The “you know” being, you know, sharing a moment of passion. Judy was amazed because Lynn was within earshot while Elaine was dishing the gossip.
   “Lynn was standing right there,” Judy said. “And Elaine was telling me all about it. She pointed right at Lynn and said, ‘She put him in the hospital.’”
   And to think, I had been seconds away from asking Lynn, “Where’s Ed?”
   Every month there is a reception for the new residents at Covenant Woods. It’s called a reception, but it’s more of an orientation. Roger, the general manager, and a few staff people welcome the new people, ask if there are any problems, talk about the place and what there is to do. A few residents who have been here a while are invited to the gathering; their price of admission being a few kind words about the establishment.
   Nona asked me to be one of the resident yakkers at yesterday’s reception. I was delighted. It seemed like an easy way to get a beer or two. I didn’t get a beer at the new residents’ reception when I was a new resident. Our choices were limited to coffee and soft drinks. But a couple months ago, I was on my way to the mailbox and saw Annie in the activities room.
   “What’s going on?” I asked, eyeing the beer and wine on the cart.
   “The new residents’ reception was today.”
   “They didn’t have beer and wine when I was a new resident.”
   “They do now.”
   They did then. But they didn’t yesterday. Maybe they’re trying to save money. But I think the reason is because Nona was running the show. Roger had an appointment and dropped by just long enough to say “hello and welcome to Covenant Woods.” Nona is nice enough, and she’s been very helpful, but she isn’t much fun.
   Yesterday, with the new residents and the invited old residents sitting around a large table, Nona asked the new residents to say something about themselves. One by one they described the trail that led them to Covenant Woods. When no more stories were forthcoming, Nona asked, “Are there any more new people?”
   “No,” I said. “The rest of us are old people.”
   “We never, ever say those words here,” Nona said, with only a hint of a smile.
   Al, who had been in self-imposed quarantine with a cold for several days, was out and about and sitting with Ralph and Isabelle at dinner last night. They remind me of my dad. Ralph and Isabelle don’t have a lot of bad habits, but they are not judgmental, and they enjoy the company of good people, regardless of their habits.
   “I’m feeling a little better,” Al said. “I went out on my porch earlier and had some wine and smoked a cigar. But I didn’t smoke any marijuana.”
   Ralph howled. He was the perfect antidote for Nona.
   Corrine provided the entertainment at our table last night. She asked Gloria if she knew Hank. Gloria said she didn’t.
   “Sure you do,” Corrine said. “He’s the guy sitting over there.”
   “What guy? Over where?”
   “Him. The one with gray hair and glasses.”
   “That narrows it down,” Gloria said.
   Corrine also told us about her campaign to improve Covenant Woods’ image. She had made a trip to the front desk earlier in the day, and there were four residents sitting in the lobby, all of them asleep.
   “That doesn’t send a very good message if someone comes in and sees a bunch of people sleeping,” Corrine said. “So, I woke them up.”
   And I have no doubt the somnolent four were fast asleep again within ten minutes. At least I hope so.

Monday, November 19, 2012

'Tis The Season Opener

Those with long memories will remember this from last year. Those with good taste will have long since forgotten it.

Christmas comes but once a year, which is just as well,
although all the retailers would like to have more
so every single week there would be a Black Friday,
with hordes of crazed, lusting shoppers outside the store
at three-ten in the morning, credit card in hand.
Christmas: a great excuse for a shopping orgy.

The proudly religious also up and orgy
over “Season’s Greetings,” a term they don’t take well.
And “Happy Holidays” gives the devil a hand,
they say. “And we’ll not shop here, not even once more
unless the cash registers in your godless store
tell the clerks to say ‘Merry Christmas’ by Friday.”

That way, when the saved go shopping on Black Friday
they can revel religiously in the orgy
and shop with wild, untamed abandon in the store,
certain that big spending makes God love them so well.
With every smile and proper greeting, they spend more,
and piles of cash go into the store owner’s hand.

“Merry Christmas:” a small price for cash in the hand.
No wonder retailers so enjoy Black Friday
and hope consumer greed will lead to more.
Shoppers spend money they don’t have to fund the orgy,
pulling buckets of cash from the credit card well,
forgetting that dunning notices are in store.

A timid person faces danger in the store.
A Type-A shopper might hit him with her purse or hand.
He’ll leave in an ambulance, and she’ll say, “Oh, well.
Wimps should know better than to shop on Black Friday;
you’ve got to be tough to survive this mad orgy.
He’s out of the way now, and I’m going to shop more.”

The retailer is so glad she keeps spending more;
If she’s got money, she’s welcome in his store.
Voyeuristic economists watch the orgy
to see if it’s giving business a fiscal hand,
or if it’s just another nondescript Friday,
when despite the madness, the stores do not fare well.

The annual orgy, set to begin once more.
To get things going well, you must spend big at the store.
Credit cards in hand, go deep into debt on Friday.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Notes from the Home - November 14, 2012

   “Is anyone sitting here?” Helga asked.
   “I don’t know if Katherine will be here or not,” Corrine said.
   “Well, if she shows up, I’ll move,” Helga said. “But there’s no one at the table where I usually sit, and I don’t want to eat by myself.”
   And with that, Helga joined us for dinner. She grew up in New York City, but her ego is the size of Texas. She also has a tendency to tell a whopper or two. She had come to dinner directly from happy hour and brought two glasses of wine along. So, the first topic of conversation was wine. Gloria said she prefers red wine, and her favorite is from a South African winery.
   “I used to live in South Africa,” Helga said. “And we grew grapes for wine.”
   The tales of Helga laboring in the vineyard went on for some time before the conversation turned to the cooler weather we’ve been having. Gloria talked about her childhood in the rural South and all the work involved in gathering wood for the fire, keeping the fire going and getting rid of the ashes.
   “Madam,” Helga said. “I used to do that, and I enjoyed it. I’d love to do it again.”
   “But I didn’t know what cold was until I spent a couple years in Alaska when my husband was stationed there,” Gloria said.
   “I used to live in Alaska,” Helga said. “That’s where I learned to chop wood.”
   The conversation then made its way to Boston, where, of course, Helga had lived for several years. From there, and I’m not sure how, the talk turned to Chinese restaurants. The best Chinese restaurants, according to Helga are in New York City.
   “We lived in New York for a few years,” she said. “I started a trucking company, and we delivered to all the Chinese restaurants. The restaurants bought all their food straight from China, and my trucks went down to the docks and got the stuff right off the boats.
   “And in New York, I also started a mortgage company. I still run the mortgage business.”
   The strain of keeping a straight face became too much, and I excused myself. A little later, I saw Corrine.
   “Gloria started talking about Clydesdales,” Corrine said. “Helga thought they were dogs. Of course she knew everything there is to know about Clydesdale dogs. Then Gloria told her Clydesdales are horses. Helga knew all about the horses, too.”
   On our way back from the River Center, where the Columbus State University Philharmonic performed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and selections from West Side Story, Catherine and I were strapped in the bus’ wheelchair slots. When we pulled in to Covenant Woods, Catherine started maneuvering her wheelchair. There isn’t much room to maneuver in the back of the bus, and it wasn’t long before she told me, “You’re not going to be able to move.”
   “Well, if I can’t move, neither of one of us is going to be able to get out,” I said. “They better bring us coffee and a slop bucket.”
   That’s not an exact quote. The sons of Martha and Bud are gentlemen. What I said was, “OK.”
   After the ambulatory residents were off the bus and in the building, Penelope came back to unstrap Catherine and me. Things in the back of the bus were a jumbled mess now, and Penelope asked, “Catherine, did you move your wheelchair?”
   “No,” the indignant Catherine answered.
   “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” I said.
   No I didn’t. Sometimes being a gentleman is no fun at all.
   Debbie called a couple days ago looking for Russell.
   “He won’t answer my calls,” she said.
   Russell had recently completed the illustrations for the children’s book Debbie wrote. She was greatly pleased with the artwork, but now she needed his help to e-mail the entire package to Author House.
   “If you talk to him, tell him to call me,” Debbie said.
   A few minutes later, I called Russ. He rolled his eyes – I swear, I could hear his eyes rolling – as I relayed the message from his mother.
   “I’ll call her,” he said without enthusiasm.
   Russ was over yesterday, and I asked him if he’d made the phone call.
   “Yeah,” he said.
   “Did you send the stuff for her?”
   “No,” he said. “I told her, she’s been the contact person all along. For me to suddenly step in wouldn’t be very professional.”
   He sounded so parental. How many times in his youth did he hear Debbie or me say, “You’ve got to do that yourself. For me to do that for you wouldn’t be [this, that or the other thing.]”
   Now I’m wondering: When children start turning into their parents, does that mean the parents are turning old?
   And age isn’t my only concern. In the last week, three people have asked me if I’m putting on weight.
   “Aren’t your pants getting a little snug?” Al asked a few days ago.
   “I can see it in your face,” Annie told me.
   I wonder: If my face is getting chubby, how long will it be before I have a fat head?
   As usual, James was out pitching garbage into the dumpster when I made my rounds Tuesday. And, as usual, I stopped to get the morning sports report. He’s excited about Carver High School’s chances in the Georgia football playoffs. And he said, “Your Steelers could be in trouble. Roethlisberger hurt his shoulder last night, you know.”
   Then James moved on to the adventures of a maintenance man at Covenant Woods.
   “We used to have trouble with a man who liked to watch dirty movies,” James said. “Nobody cared that he watched them, but he’s about half deaf, and he turned the TV way up. The neighbors would complain, and we’d have to go up and ask him to turn it down.
   “He still lives here, so I can’t tell you his name.”
   Ah, a mystery to work on.
   Later – after supper – Al stopped by.
   “You know what I saw on TV last night?” he asked, and without waiting for my reply, he went on. “Some show called Sex in America.”
   Then he talked about sex in Columbus, Georgia, when he was a lad.
   “Me and a friend of mine used visit this girl,” Al said. “We’d sit with her on the porch swing – him on one side of her, and me on the other side – and she’d service both of us. Her mother would call out, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Nothing. We’re just talking,’ the girl would say.”
    Then Al returned to the television show. “It was on the Science Channel. It was three hours long, and very interesting. I missed a lot because don’t hear very well. But when I turn up the sound, people complain.”
   Mystery solved.


Alisha, the activities director, asked me to play Reader's Digest editor and condense an article on spring health tips she'd found ...