Thursday, November 9, 2017

Life is Good at Covenant Woods???

WARNING: It has been nearly two months since I've written a word for this blog, or for anything else. If, for some strange reason, you have been anxiously awaiting my return, please be aware that what follows is a large, fetid pile of whining. You may stop now if you wish.

The subject of today's whine is my next-door neighbor's son. That inconsiderate bastard - oops, pardon me, that wasn't nice - let's start over. That slimy, overweight weasel - there, that's better - quite often keeps me awake at night. To give you an idea of the sort of person in question: He is not permitted in the building after 6 p.m. A real stickler for the rules, isn't he?

The problem started immediately upon the neighbor's arrival at Covenant Woods. Nearly every night the voice of a man droning on and on and on from the, TV, radio, telephone, computer, or some other modern inconvenience kept me up until the wee hours. After a week or two, I asked the neighbor to please turn it off, or at least way down at a reasonable hour. "That's my son," she said, "he listens to that stuff. You'll have to talk to him."

I have no doubt that it is her son. Before Covenant Woods obtained a restraining order for the neighbor and her son to ignore, the son parked his Kia, which looked like it had been through a bad night at the Demolition Derby, where I could see it from my window. When the car was there, I was treated to the crap. When it wasn't there, the night was pleasant.

But being of the opinion that we are each responsible for the behavior of guests in our apartment, I opted not to speak with Sonny Boy. Instead, when that voice from next door kept me awake, I called security. Some nights the response was immediate, and I was soon fast asleep. On other nights, nothing happened. "Must be an emergency somewhere," I thought, and tried to get to sleep before Mr. Thoughtful turned the thing off at one, two, or even three in the morning.

After the neighbor had been here a couple months, I learned that when I called to complain, the security guy would mosey down the hall past the neighbor's apartment. If he heard something, he would ask the neighbor to turn it down. If he didn't hear anything, he'd go on about his business without speaking to the neighbor. That is the Covenant Woods' policy: If the employee can't hear the noise when he goes by in the hall, he can't speak to the tenant about the complaint. Alas, my bed isn't in the hallway.

Eventually, I think it was in January, I took my concerns to the powers that be. I spoke to Kerri, the business manager, and she said she'd talk with my neighbor. She did, and for two weeks drifting off to dreamland was a delight. Then the nightly talks from who knows whom about who knows what started again. I spoke to Kerri several more times over the ensuing months. The result was always the same: A week or two of silence, followed by a return to abnormal.

Does the neighbor care? You decide. One Saturday in March, the son had the thing playing, and I couldn't sleep. A call to security proved useless. I started yelling, "Turn it off!" and a few other obscenity-laced requests. They were ignored until nearly two in the morning. At dinner on Sunday, the neighbor walked from the other side of the dining room to tell me they - they being her son and her - had heard a woman calling my name for almost two hours. "We were going to come knock on your door to tell you some lady was after you." She was so pleased with her attempt at humor, she nearly choked trying to hold back her laughter.

And so it goes. Last Friday, after putting up with Sonny Boy's stuff until one in the morning both Wednesday and Thursday, I spoke to Roger, the general manager. He said he'd talk to the neighbor. All was quiet Friday night. Not so Saturday. But Roger did say, if I heard voices next door to call security. At one o'clock Sunday morning I heard a male voice say, "Hey, Mom." I called security. Cedric, the security guy, was at the neighbor's door moments later. The neighbor wouldn't let him in. Cedric told her he'd be back with the police. I heard the neighbor whisper something to her son. Then the cops showed up. I don't know what happened, but it was quiet the rest of the night.

The son didn't stay away long. I've heard his voice once or twice during the day, when he is permitted to be here. And yesterday, I heard the neighbor knocking on her door and yelling "Get up and open this door." I've also heard the crap her son listens to several nights when I got into bed. But he has been turning it off when I yell, "Turn it off!"

But here's the rub. There is no reason to believe, based on his past behavior, that he will be cooperative much longer. And it's not likely he and his mother will converse much at night. They never have; hell, they don't even talk much during the day. Sometimes I think they communicate with sign language. So, I'll be left with the option of yelling until he turns the stuff off, or lying sleepless, hoping he'll hit the off switch before dawn.

The latter will soon be my sole option. Richie, who was my other next-door neighbor, officially moved out three weeks ago. Rich hasn't been at Covenant Woods since May, when he went to visit family in New England. I don't why he was gone so long, or why he moved, but with no one in that apartment, yelling at the jerk on the other side was an option. Heck, Rich's hearing was so bad, yelling was an option when he was here. Once someone moves in, I'll have to shut up and lie quietly.

To make matters worse, I was talking to Mildred last night in the dining room. She said she was talking to Warren, the other security guy, recently, and he told her he thought I was hearing things. That is reassuring. He told her that he has looked in the neighbor's room several times and never seen the son. I'm guessing he goes outside and looks to see if there is a TV on in the neighbor's apartment. I'm not absolutely sure, but I'll bet next month's retirement check, the TV isn't where the recorded voice is coming from. It is coming from a smaller devise, something he can slip into a drawer. Very often when he does finally turn it off, I hear a drawer open and shut.

I'd hate to leave Covenant Woods. I like it here. But I need my sleep. If the security people think I'm crazy, and if I respect my new neighbor and refrain from yelling at the inconsiderate SOB, I'll soon have to listen that stuff all night long. Not pleasant thought.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Donut Memories

Such a pleasant, sunny morning, and as I circled Covenant Woods, my mind filled with pleasant memories. In the early 80s, we lived on Harmon Road in Ashtabula. Russ hadn’t started school, and I was home most mornings. 

“Daddy, let’s go get donuts,” Russ said.

“Want to walk to the Squire Shoppe?”

“I’ll walk.”

“The whole way; there and back?”

“Yep, the whole way.”

We walked down East 6th Street, passed the railroad yard and the hopper cars full of coal. Then across the lift bridge, where we stopped for a minute to look at the lake boat taking on a load of coal. Then up Bridge Street to the Squire Shoppe.

Russ always ordered two powdered donuts and a glass of milk. I got whatever struck my fancy that day and some coffee. Russ led me to an empty table. We ate our goodies, talked a little, and looked out the window, while those around us discussed the Indians, the Browns, and local politics.

When we started back home, we didn’t get far before Russ said he was tired and wanted me to carry him.

“But you said . . .”

“I know, but I’m tired.”

I tried to look disgruntled, but I couldn’t hold back the smile. This was the game we played once or twice a week.

Back at Covenant Woods, my mind turned to memories I’d like to make. Memories of being in Idaho with my daughter, Beth, her husband, Ken, and the grandkids, Hayden (7), and MaKenna (4). 

Beth, Ken, and I would be sitting on the porch, as Hayden and MaKenna played in the yard. Then the kids would come running, yelling, “Grandpa, Grandpa, can we go get some donuts?” 

I’d look over to Beth and Ken, who would be discretely mouthing, “No.” Then I’d look into the imploring eyes of the two kids now sitting on my lap, and I’d say, “Sure, let’s get some donuts.”

That’s what a grandpa is supposed to do. Isn’t it?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hang in There, Mildred

Friday, I had dinner with Mildred, who lives across the hall from me, Georgia, and Ethel. The conversation turned to age: Mildred said she was 91. Ethel said she'd soon be 90. and Georgia said, "I'm the baby. I'm only 81." "At 69, I must be the bigger baby," I said. The thing is, they don't act their ages. Georgia and Ethel do have hearing problems. But they are both quick witted and have no problems following a conversation they can hear.

Saturday, Suzi took the fourth spot at the table, and Tony was just hanging out there, talking with the ladies. I went to the other side of the dining room to eat. Ten minutes later, Tony yelled, "Call 9-1-1." Mildred looked dazed, but from where I sat, she appeared to be telling Tony, the other ladies at the table, and Bev, who had rushed in from the desk in the lobby, that she didn't need 9-1-1. Mildred asked that someone call her son, Dan.

Once things settled down, I wandered over to check on the situation. Mildred was smiling, laughing at herself from time to time. "I had a seizure," she said. "Her head went back, and her eyes rolled back," Ethel said, providing a little more detail. Bev had been able to get in touch with Dan, and he was on his way. Sunday morning, I stopped by the desk to ask if there was any news on Mildred. Sara said, Mildred was with her son, that she had either a seizure or a mild stroke.

Yesterday (Monday), I looked out the window while waiting for Jeopardy to come on. Dan's SUV was in the parking lot, Mildred was out there with her walker, and Dan and his wife were nearby. I figured they were coming in until Dan took Mildred's walker and put it in the SUV. Then they all got in the vehicle and left. 

Had they been here a while? I don’t think so. My TV wasn’t on. The music I was listening to was just loud enough to provide a pleasant background, not loud enough to block out sounds from the hallway. Surely, I would have heard three people leaving the apartment across the hall. Wouldn’t I? Was Mildred planning on coming back last night, but changed her mind as soon as she got out of the SUV? Or did Dan see something and say, “Mom, you better spend another night with us.”?

Mildred is a wonderful neighbor. When I see her in the hall, I always hope she has a few minutes or more to talk. I wish I could keep my mind from going there, but it keeps taking me back to Shorty, who lived here three years ago. With his unruly white hair and his glasses with black plastic frames, Shorty looked like Spencer Tracy in his later movies. “People ask me where I’m living now,” Shorty would say, “I tell them I’m in that place where people go to die.” Too often it seems that way.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Day Spent Looking Back

 Poor Daniel. Daniel is the PT assistant who has been visiting me twice a week for a month. This morning, he said August is nearly gone, and September and fall will soon be here. The mention of the seasons sparked memories, a flood of them. Daniel must have felt as if he were being swept away by the flood, as I talked about some of those memories. I'm sure I yakked more during today's session than I did during Daniel's other six visits combined.

The changing of the seasons is much more stunning up north. The leaves down here, I told Daniel, don't put on much of a show. The last few weeks of September and the first weeks of October are beautiful on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line. Any time was always a good time to visit Uncle Jim. But the best time for the drive to Pittsburgh to see him was in the fall.

From Ashtabula we'd head south on Ohio Route 11, always a relaxing experience. Route 11, a four-lane, divided highway, looks like an Interstate, except for the traffic, of which there isn't much. Dad once told me, Route 11 was built because some Ohio politicians were certain a superhighway linking the Astabula docks with the steel mills in Youngstown, so the ore could be brought south by truck rather than rail, would have steel companies rushing to shut their mills in the Pittsburgh area and relocating them in Youngstown.

Things didn't work out that way. Conrail and the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie remained the preferred routes for hauling ore from Ashtabula to the mills. And when steel jobs began disappearing, they disappeared more rapidly and more completely from Youngstown.

That left an underused highway, a thoroughfare you could safely navigate while appreciating the beauty of a fall morning. And the best was yet to come. I-80 east took us into Pennsylvania and the foothills of the Alleghenies. Mini-mountains, and forests alive with fall colors, created a fall-fabulous corridor for the trip down I-80 east and I-79 south. When the hillsides began showing signs of suburban life, bits of the Pittsburgh skyline started appearing when we got to a crest of a hill. A few miles more, and the cityscape was the view. And what a view it is as you cross the Ft. Duquesne Bridge on your way across the Point to the Fort Pitt Bridge. Then we went through the Ft. Pitt Tunnel and up the hill to the Green Tree exit. The drive ended a few minutes later, when we got to Jim's house on Kirsop Avenue.

Jim was a wonderful host and always had great suggestions for things to do while we were there. A day or two later, we pointed the car north and drank in the wonders of fall from the other direction. Outstanding weekends, they were.

After Daniel left, I made a cup of coffee, intending to quickly drink it and get on with the day. But as I sat looking out at the dogwood tree, the cars in the parking lot, and the wooded area that borders the parking area, the memories kept coming. They weren't memories suddenly dredged up from deep inside my mind. They were memories of moments I often recall. But this time they came more quickly, latched on to my attention more firmly, and kept me thinking of things past more deeply and with more reflection than ever before.

*                    *                    *

I remembered the August morning thirty-some years ago when Debbie and I accompanied Russ on his first day in kindergarten. Russ was in good spirits, and we did our best to help him get comfortable in this new place. Then he started to cry. Debbie asked what was wrong. "My name isn't up there. I'm not supposed to be here," Russ said, pointing to a large poster by the blackboard.

Mrs. Poros, the kindergarten teacher at Washington, had drawn balloons or flowers, I forget which, and put a student's name in each one. And, no, there was not a Russ in the bunch. Russ is Thomas Russell III. My dad was Bud to family and friends. When I was a preschooler, Mom, Dad, Nana and Uncle Jim called me Tim much of the time. No one else did, and I have always been Tom. When Russ was born, Debbie and decided, rather than run the risk of people calling the youngest T.R. Harris "Little Tom", we'd call him by his middle name.

Debbie pointed to the balloon with "Tom" in center and said, "See, here's your name." "That's not my name," Russ told her. We explained the situation to Mrs. Poros, and our son was "Russ" forever after in the Ashtabula Area City Schools.

*                    *                    *

I remembered a Friday night in late August 1995. I drove to Andover that evening to cover a high school football game. That 1995 season opener was a first for me: It was the first high school game in any sport that I went to as a sports writer.  The truth is, I hadn't written anything about sports - not ever - when, a few weeks earlier, I went to see Star Beacon sports editor Craig Muder about becoming a stringer for the sports department. He said they'd give me a call. They did, and I got my sports writing feet wet covering a couple Little League tournament games. 

Confidence wasn't oozing from my pores, but I did worry that a substance an angry coach, parent, or player might compare my game story to was oozing into my pants as I made my way to the press box to watch, keep stats and eventually write about Pymatuning Valley's gridiron battle with visiting Conneaut. The night belonged to PV. If I remember correctly, the Lakers scored a touchdown in each quarter on their way to a 28-7 victory.

Around Wednesday of the following week, when no one had reprimanded me for gross incompetence, I began breathing easier.

*                    *                    *

I remembered raking leaves on many fall Saturdays and Sundays. When Beth was young, she always came out to make sure I had fun. She would jump into the pile of leaves and bury herself in it. She had so much energy and was so full of laughter and mischief. Her antics might have resulted in me having to spend more time raking in order to bring order to the disorder she created. But the time went by so fast with her laughing, running, scattering leaves, and being so wonderfully high-spirited. From what she tells me about Hayden and MaKenna, I'm pretty certain they bring the same joy to the lives of Beth and Ken.

But I will have no sympathy for Beth should she ever complain about Hayden or MaKenna eating the food she's making as she prepares it. For a few years, I baked bread nearly every Saturday. As I mixed the dough, Beth would stick her hand in the bowl and pull out a little piece here and a little piece there and pop them into her mouth. It got worse while the dough was raising. Beth would sneak into the kitchen, lift the dish towel covering a loaf pan full of rising dough, pinch off a piece, and eat it. There were times when she must have eaten half a loaf of bread before it even went in the oven.

And Beth was downright demanding when she supervised me as I made tuna-noodle casserole. She told me exactly how I was to prepare it. She didn't offer guidance in order to ensure a better tuna-noodle casserole. No. She did it to make sure there was plenty for her to sample at each step of the way.

*                    *                    *

And I remembered two times I wasn't sure I would make it to the event I was scheduled to cover for the Star Beacon. But I did.

One Saturday morning in January, or maybe February 2002, I was awakened by the sounds of my next-door neighbor shoveling his driveway. I didn't think much of it; the neighbor was a fanatic about mowing grass in the summer and keeping the driveway and walks clear of snow in the winter. "He's probably shoveling flurries," I told myself. I had covered a basketball game Friday night and got home around midnight. I didn't see so much as a single flake along the way. "Nothing to worry about," I assured myself.

Staying in bed had its attractions, but I had to cover a girls basketball game in Jefferson that afternoon. I got myself out from beneath the covers, looked out the window, and said, "Holy shit." The world was white, buried in white, lots of white, at least a foot of white, maybe more.

After some orange juice, a bowl of shredded wheat, and a cup of coffee, I put on my jacket, gloves, and ski hat and went outside. A quick, close up look at the snow brought on another, "Holy shit." There was well over a foot of snow; a foot-and-a-half at least, maybe two feet. "Guess there won't be a game today," I thought. The game I was to cover was at Jefferson, which always got hit with more snow than the communities along the lake.

I resisted the urge to go back inside and have another cup of joe. I told myself, even if the game is postponed, and I was certain it would be, it was best to get right to the shoveling. If it warmed up the snow would get heavy and require twice the effort to move it. Shoveling two feet of snow isn't easy, especially when you are hemmed in by hedges on one side and the house on the other. You have to carry each shovelful around to a spot where the snow can be tossed. I took two or three breaks before I'd cleared a path from the car to Myrtle Avenue, which still hadn't been plowed.

Each time I went inside I checked the answering machine. Nothing. Don McCormack, the Star Beacon sports editor at the time was also an assistant girls basketball coach at Jefferson. I was sure he'd call if the game was postponed.

That call never came. So I ate a quick lunch, grabbed a score sheet, a notebook, a few pens, and headed to Jefferson. The first half block was the roughest. The city's street crews still had not plowed Myrtle Avenue, and there hadn't been enough traffic to wear a path in the snow. I was never so happy to be driving a car with a standard transmission. By going forward as far as the car would go, then backing up for a short distance, then repeating the process five or six times, I made it the half block to Walnut Boulavard, which, thank God, had been plowed. And so were all the other roads I traveled to get to Jefferson High School. The Falcons played Conneaut that Saturday. The Spartan faithful I talked to were surprised that the game wasn't postponed, and even more surprised that the snow was deeper in Conneaut than it was in Jefferson.

I headed back to Ashtabula thinking I would go home and have something for dinner. I forget what it was, but I remember there were some leftovers in the refrigerator that sounded pretty good. When I got to the corner of Walnut and Myrtle, the plans changed. Myrtle was still untouched by the street crews. I dined at McDonalds, quite a comedown from Chez Tomas.

Then it was on to the Star Beacon, where I typed in the Jefferson-Conneaut box score, wrote the game story, answered phones, and goofed off a little - or maybe more than a little - until it was time to go home. As I drove up Lake Avenue to the Harbor, a list of local motels ran through my mind, in case Myrtle was still not plowed. Not to worry. The plows had cleared Myrtle Avenue. In doing so, however, they pushed a generous amount of snow back into Tom's driveway. It took nearly a half-hour to get the pile at the end of the driveway out of the way. Needless to say, I slept well that night.

In October 2002, I was one of the sports guys assigned to cover the state cross country meet, which is held in Columbus. I was to do the stories on the girls races, and James Johnson would handle the boys races. That year, the three boys races (Divisions I, II, and III) were scheduled for the morning, and the girls races were run in the afternoon. A most fortuitous arrangement for a certain sports writer from Ashtabula, as it turned out.

I wanted to be there for the boys races and got myself up and on the road before seven o'clock. I was on the road for no more than ten minutes when I decided I needed a cup of coffee and something to eat. With that in mind, I got off I-90 at the Madison exit, a mere twenty miles into my trip. That might sound like laziness and the height of self-indulgence, but it was a very fortuitous decision on the part of your intrepid reporter.

The drive-thru window wasn't opened, so I parked the car and went inside to order a couple Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuits and a cup of coffee. The woman in her McDonald's outfit slipped the biscuits into a bag and handed it to me along with the coffee. I went outside, got in the car, slipped the key into the ignition, turned the key, and nothing happened. A few more attempts produced the same result.

I went back in McDonald's and told my problems to the woman at the cash register. She told me to take a walk. A walk to the garage a quarter of a mile "that way on the left. He opens pretty early." I did as she said. The garage was open, and I told the guy what happened. He brought a truck around and told me to get in. He drove down to McDonalds, asked which car was mine, and parked next to it.

"Get in the car," he said. I did, and he raised the hood. "OK, now start it." Nothing happened. He had me try again. Same result. He had me try a third time. When it didn't start, he said, "It's the starter." He said he could put a new starter in. I thought that was a great idea. So, he got the car started and told me to drive up to the garage.

The repair process was delayed when the guy realized he didn't have the starter he needed in stock. He told me he could get one, but he'd have to wait until the place opened. I couldn't see what was going on from the room where customers were sent to wait. I fretted and sweated for what seemed like forever, but it was only until 9:30. That's when he told me, "You're all set."

After making sure the credit card people still thought highly of me, he gave me the keys, and I was on my way to Columbus. It wasn't a relaxing journey, by any means. But I did get to where I needed to be twenty minutes before the first girls race. The car started right up when it was time to head home. And it kept on starting without hesitation for as long as I owned it.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Noisy Neighbor Blues

For three days, as the slogan goes, life was good at Covenant Woods. Last night, it returned to normal. Sunday evening, after making a couple laps around the building, I stopped in the lobby to talk to Tony, who is a resident here, and Bev, who was working at the desk. The conversation soon turned to the subject of my next-door neighbor and her son.

I had been living at Covenant Woods for four years when the woman moved in next door. Both Corrine and Leila, the previous occupants of that apartment, were quiet neighbors. Richie, who lives next door on the other side, had quieted down, too. The nearly constant, always loud, drunken revelries he and William so enjoyed, and which always took place in Richie's apartment, seemed to have become a thing of the past. Oh, they still had an occasional pre-party before heading to Covenant Woods' Friday afternoon Happy Hour, but they were seldom rowdy after the sun went down. And Richie must have moved his TV away from the wall we share. It wasn't a bad neighborhood.

With the new neighbor came what must be a recording, or a slew of CDs on which some guy drones on and on about something, I'm not sure what. And I got to listen to them through the wall nearly every night.

I did my best to be patient. My view is, in a place such as Covenant Woods, we residents have to put up with each other, within reason, of course, from 8 a.m.until 10 or 10:30 p.m., certainly no later than 11 p.m. From 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. we need to think of each other. Not everyone is in bed by 11, but many folks are. We need to keep that in mind and be willing to adjust if our late-night activities make it difficult for a neighbor to sleep.

My new neighbor never turned the recordings off or even reduced the volume by 11, and seldom by midnight. A week or two after she moved in, I saw her in the hall and asked her to please turn it down. "You'll have to talk to my son. He's the one who listens to that stuff." I told her that wasn't my responsibility. She shot me a not-my-problem look and walked away.

 With that in mind, I turned to the night security man. On nights when the noise from next door kept me from sleeping, I'd call the desk and ask the security guy to ask the neighbor to quiet down. Some nights the response came within a few minutes, other nights there was no response at all. At the time, I thought a no-response meant that a more urgent matter had arisen - a medical emergency, perhaps.

At the time, the neighbor's son drove a Kia that had obviously been in an accident. The left side was bashed in, and the windows on the left side had been replaced with sheets of plastic. It was an ugly piece of junk, and its absence greatly improved the appearance of the parking lot. Its absence also improved my mood: if the car wasn't here, neither was the son. There were occasions when he was gone for two or three days. And every time it was gone for more than a day, I hoped he had found more a suitable residence for himself. But he always came back.

In December or January, I talked to Kerri, who is the business manager, about my neighbor and her son. Kerri talked to my neighbor, and the problem seemed to be solved. The following week, the neighbor apologized for bothering me. A week later, the son was back and unrepentant.

Since then, the neighbor has been told several times that her son is not allowed in the building at night. The son has been escorted to the door and told to leave a number of times. Two days later, heeeeee's back.

The son was here over the weekend, and he was his usual ignorant, inconsiderate self Friday and Saturday nights. Calling the security guy is often an exercise in futility. I found out along the way that when the security guy doesn't knock on the neighbor's door and tell the son to get out of the building, it's not because a more important situation requires his attention. It means he walked by the neighbor's apartment and maybe even stopped in the hallway for a minute to listen but didn't hear anything. If he doesn't hear anything, he can't do anything.

This was the gist of my conversation with Tony and Bev on Sunday. I told them I thought the son was in his mother's apartment, or had been when I went to take a ride. Bev looked ino the situation and told the neighbor her the son had to get out of the building. Five minutes after I got back to my apartment, a car stoppped in the parking lot and the neighbor's kid got in and left.

Three nights of blissful slumber followed. That does not mean the inconsiderate jerk stayed out of the building all three nights. I woke up at four Tuesday, not unusual for me, and could hear the familiar garbage on the tape playing softly in the neighbor's apartment. The same was true Wednesday morning when I got up at 5:30. On the other hand, nary a sound came from the neighbor's apartment those nights. I got into bed, relaxed, fell asleep quickly, and awoke feeling so very good, physically and emotionally.

It was back to abnormal last night. I could hear the tapes most of the evening, but they weren't loud enough to be heard in the hall. No use calling. They seemed louder to my ears when I got into bed at eleven. The reasons for that are the location of my bed - it's next to the wall between my apartment and the neighbor's - and my TV or the music I was listening to now being off.

I didn't bother calling security. It is unlikely the guy would hear the tapes as he stood in the hall. So I started yelling, "Turn it off!" He didn't. I yelled some more. And on and on we went. He turned it down a few times, and I yelled, "Turn it all the way off!" My experience with the son is, no matter how low he turns the volume, it will soon go back up. This went on until 12:15, when I yelled, "Turn the god-damned thing off, you asshole!" For whatever reason, he immediately turned it off. Maybe he just wanted me to talk dirty to him.

Three consecutive nights without hearing the tapes reminded me how nice it is to fall asleep without having to put up with that garbage playing on the other side of the wall. When I get upset and start yelling, my already stiff legs get noticeably stiffer and are usually still stiffer than usual in the morning. I go to sleep not feeling good about myself. I don't like having to yell; I worry that I'll wake up others. And I wake up feeling lousy: the legs are still a little stiff, and getting myself dressed is a bigger than normal challenge. And I don't feel good about myself and the way I behaved trying to get that guy to turn off his tapes.

All this because of a man who is not supposed to be in the building between 7 p.m. and 10 a.m.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Heat is On

This is a few years old, but it still true of me and the Georgia summer.

The Heat is On

Day after day the high’s above ninety,
The humidity at one-forty-four.
I’d like to say it with class and nicety,
How I can’t take this stuff anymore.

But daily that old heat-index rises
And weakens my teeny vocabulary.
Heat kills the nice words, and my surmise is
What’s left will draw the constabulary.

I do try hard to be understanding
Of Mother Nature’s mysterious ways.
Yet, on these days when I’m out standing
In Old Sol’s searing, scorching, sultry rays,

I find it hard to keep a civil tongue,
And polite expression is impossible.
Within seconds, I have burst a lung
Shouting words and phrases reprehensible.

It has been a summer like no other
That this one old fellow can remember.
In case you’re wondering what I’d ’druther,
I am lusting now for November.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Notes from the Home - July, 16, 2017

The two laps around and through the Covenant Woods' parking lots and driveways on a hot July afternoon delivered more than expected. I eased the buggy out the door and on to the asphalt, where the temperature on a hot, sunny day is always twenty degrees higher than the surrounding area. A moment later, I saw a woman, a resident, coming in the opposite direction. We said "hello" and complained about the heat and humidity as we passed.

Not much of a conversation, but the woman spoke with a German accent, and that took me back to Myrna Drive in Bethel Park. It was a sunny, summer morning in 1975, I think. The occasion was a weekend celebration of Grandma's eightieth birthday, I think. In any event, Dad and I, and maybe brother Jim or brother Ed were at kitchen table. As we talked, Grandma wandered into the kitchen and began saying the nastiest things about Kaiser Willie.

Grandma was born in America, but her parents immigrated from Germany, and she grew up speaking both English and German. She spoke German at home, with relatives, and with her German-speaking friends. The church she grew up in conducted its services in German. Then came World War I, and speaking German in public was no longer a wise idea. Their church switched to having its services in English. If I remember correctly - I don't always - Grandma was born in 1895 and would have been nineteen when the war began in Europe and twenty-one when the United States formally entered the fray.

Neither Mom nor Aunt Jean learned to speak German. Well, Mom did pick up a little. She used an expression that began, Ach du liebe Zeit and went on for ten or twelve more words. Ach du liebe Zeit translates as "My goodness." An Internet search for "German expressions that begin with Ach du liebe Zeit" failed to turn up anything that looked at all like what Mom said. Or, maybe it did, and Mr. Monolingual here just passed it by. Mom also liked to say dummer Eisle, as in, "Tom, you dummer Eisle. Straighten up." By the time I realized Mom had been calling me a dumb ass, I'd already concluded that I often had been a dummer Eisle. No harm, no foul.

German didn't - POOF!! - disappear from Grandma's life. Most, if not all, of my Mom's relatives from Grandma's generation and older could speak German and very often did. As time went on, though, they moved away or passed away. Without opportunities to speak German, Grandma slowly lost the language. And with the language went her memories made while speaking German, and there were lots of them.

"I learned all my catechism in German. Now I can't even remember the Commandments," she said that morning in the kitchen. We laughed and told her that explained a lot. Now, forty years later, I can't imagine having so many memories, especially childhood memories of family times, in a language I no longer understand. Several women living here have German accents, wives of military men, I suppose. Gitta, my friend back in Ohio, speaks fluent German. And Russ can stumble around in it with what he remembers from German classes in high school and college. I bet if Grandma came for a visit she'd enjoy meeting them and conversing in the language she loved. But she'd have to ditch her halo and wings. Those things can intimidate mere mortals.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Attitude Problem

I am so lackadaisical.
And those few thoughts I have? Hairbrained.
An idiotic spectacle?
That's me, so lackadaisical
I'll scream and get hysterical,
Then claim my poor brain is strained.
I'm just so lackadaisical,
And my brain's filled with thoughts hairbrained.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Miss Parker's Wit and Wisdom

To bring life to an otherwise lifeless day, I hopped on the Internet and spent an hour with Dorothy Parker (1893-1967). The old girl had a lot to say, and she said it well. She brightened my day with observations such as these:

"Her big heart, as is so sadly often the case, did not inhabit a big bosom."

"What's the difference between an enzyme and a hormone? You can't hear an enzyme."

"The two most beautiful words in the English language are 'cheque enclosed.'"

"This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks."

"If all the girls attending the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be at all surprised."

"Tell him I'm too fucking busy - or vice versa."

"Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone."

"The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue."

"Now, I know the things I know, and do the things I do, and if you do not like me so, to hell, my love, with you."

"It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard."

"A hangover is the wrath of grapes."

"Money cannot buy health, but I'd settle for a diamond-studded wheelchair."

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."

"You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think."

"Brevity is the soul of lingerie."

"All I need is room enough to lay a hat and a few friends."

I knew Dorothy Parker coined the phrase, "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses." I didn't realize, though, that she also came up with, "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."

"Time doth flit; oh shit."

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Notes from the Home - May 30, 2017

It has been anything but a quiet week in the old-folks home. Perhaps it was quiet in other areas of the establishment, but here in the apartment nestled between Richie's on one side and Alice's on the other, the peace was disturbed on several occasions.

In recent weeks, William has been spending more time in Richie's apartment than he has for well over a year. He pays his visits during the daylight hours, for which I am most grateful. There was a time, not all that long ago, when he was there nearly every night until midnight or later. I'm not one to begrudge a pair of buddies a few beers and a pleasant conversation. But on most days, Richie and William each had a few beers by 10 am and several more than just a few by the time they got together in Richie's place for a lengthy series of night caps.

It is challenge to make sense out of anything Richie or William say, but is never difficult to hear either of them. Richie is from somewhere in New England and has the accent to prove it. Once he gets rolling, which seldom takes long, he sounds like an enraged Red Sox fan hurling insults at the umpire from the Fenway Park grandstands. Still, Richie struggles to make himself heard over William, who tries to sound like a Marine drill sergeant, only louder.

One recent afternoon, as I sat at the computer squandering another day, the voices in Richie's apartment got louder and angrier. "You took my wallet," Richie yelled.. "I didn't take your wallet," Alice shouted. A door slammed, then there was quiet. An hour later, I was on my way to dinner, Alice was coming down the hall the other way. "He accused me of taking his wallet. I didn't take his wallet. Why would I take his wallet? He said I sneaked in to his apartment and took it. I didn't sneak in to his place. The only time I go in there is when he asks me in to have a beer. A couple weeks ago, he said somebody stole his wallet. Nobody stole his wallet. We looked around and found it. He forgot where he put it. I should sue him." I did my imitation of a concerned neighbor and went to eat.

As soon as Alice moved in, she began adorning her porch and the area around it with plants. One morning many months ago, Alice knocked on my porch door. She said she had a hose, but nearest hook up for it was over by Richie's apartment. Would I mind if she ran the hose across my porch? I had no objection. Alice hooked up the hose and routed it from the hookup, across my porch to her porch. The hose remained there until the day after Richie made the wallet accusation.

This past Wednesday, as I was squandering another afternoon, there was a knock on Richie's door. "Who's there?" he asked in his surliest voice. It was Kerri, the business manager here, she wanted someone to look at his arm. He made it clear he didn't need or want anyone to look at his arm. That evening, someone else knocked on the door and told him they wanted someone to look at the arm. Richie told the person to go away.

Thursday, I heard that Richie and William got into a fight. Richie got the worst of it. I went to bed at ten o'clock that night and quickly fell asleep. At 1:15 am, I was awakened by Richie's yelling. Lest I be accused of spreading "false news", I should tell you that this might have occurred at 11:15 pm. Between my nearsightedness, macular degeneration and without my glasses on, I often lose the first "1" in 11 and 12 when I look at the lighted, digital readout on the clock radio in the dark of night.

"Come in here," is what I heard Richie yell, or maybe it was, "Don't come in here." In any case, at least two men - based on my hearing two voices - did go in. I also heard frequent beeper beeps, but I have no idea where the men were from. And when they left, they must have taken Richie with them. I haven't seen him since.

Last night at dinner, Tony, who keeps his ear close to the ground, said Richie went home. It seems likely then that the men who came to his apartment were from a limousine service and took him to the airport. Over the past few weeks, Richie told several people he would be going home for a few weeks. And on Friday morning, the hose reappeared on my porch.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Septet of Triolets

It has been almost three months since I have written a word. Hoping to create a spark large enough to get me scribbling again, I consulted The Complete Works of T. Harris (a disorganized heap of papers and a few Word documents) and found, among other things, the triolets that follow.

 I wrote these seven ,and twenty or thirty others like them ,when I was a member of Suzanne Byerley's writing class at the Conneaut Community Center for the Arts and later the Kingsville Library. Suzanne introduced me to the triolet form. One week I wrote two or three that had an off-kilter animal theme, and Suzanne and the others in the class kept encouraging me to write more. Which I did.

The class was a wonderful experience. Suzanne was a terrific teacher, so very knowledgeable and so very encouraging. Every class began with Suzanne going through our offerings from the previous week. Her critiques were always a blend of gentle criticism for everything from silly mistakes to flagrant grammatical and spelling errors, effusive praise for all that was done well, and wise, thoughtful suggestions to make the story, poem or essay a more effective piece.

Best of all, at least in my opinion, as she went through our writings, Suzanne would often read aloud a paragraph or two of the piece she was discussing. I loved when she read something of mine; not because it made me feel oh-so-special, but because she read so well. Each time she read something of mine, I'd sit there, listen, and think, "Damn, Tom, that's good stuff, much better than you thought it was." Then I'd read it when I got home and wonder why it sounded so good in Conneaut and like crap back in Ashtabula.

Mary got me involved in the class, and I am so grateful she did. She was also my chauffeur to class once my right leg and foot no longer moved with alacrity from the gas pedal to the brake pedal. Everyone in the class - Jeanne, Katie, Gitta, Nancy, Chuck, Wayne, Celia, and several more whose names I'm having trouble remembering - had class, and everyone had a ready smile. If memories of that class and all the people involved with it can't get me back to stringing words together, I don't know what will.

And now on to the poems I promised you a few hundred words ago.

Camel Lot

When you go to buy a camel,

Go to King Arthur’s Camel Lot.
To select a stylish mammal.
When you go to buy a camel,
Check his hump and tooth enamel -
You can’t return him once he’s bought.
When you go to buy a camel,
Go to King Arthur’s Camel Lot.

Jackal and Hyde

Did you know the well-dressed jackal

Gets his wardrobe from Mr. Hyde?
It’s enough to make you cackle,
When you see the well-dressed jackal,
Once a muscular left tackle
Now quite flabby and six feet wide.
Did you know the well-dressed jackal

Gets his wardrobe from Mr. Hyde?

Mammoth Melody

The huge, lumbering mastodon

Thought he was a pearl of culture.
But when he sang an opera song,
The huge, lumbering mastodon
Was much more frightening than King Kong -
Why, he even scared the vulture.
The huge, lumbering mastodon
Thought he was a pearl of culture.

Notes from a Porcupine

Too bad the prickly porcupine

Never learned to write with his quills.
When writing to his Valentine,
Too bad the prickly porcupine

Cannot write, “Will you be mine?”

Instead he makes scratchy squiggles.
Too bad the prickly porcupine
Never learned to write with his quills.

Rat on the Run

Life for the low down, dirty rat

Is not as easy as it seems.
Once the kitty knows where he’s at
Life for the low down, dirty rat
Becomes a battle with the cat,
Whose head is full of tricky schemes.
Life for the low down, dirty rat
Is not as easy as it seems.

The Cleaning Croc

Janitor Jim, the crocodile,
Worked every day cleaning the swamp.
The turtles had wild parties while
Janitor Jim, the crocodile,
Stood nearby – and never did smile –
With his dust rags, broom and his mop.
Janitor Jim, the crocodile,
Worked every day cleaning the swamp.

The Fussy Bandicoot

The fussy little bandicoot

Wouldn’t eat his seeds and berries.
And he just did not give a hoot,
The fussy little bandicoot,
For meals of spiders and dried fruit,
Unless the fruit was cherries.
The fussy little bandicoot
Would not eat his seeds and berries.

Life is Good at Covenant Woods???

WARNING: It has been nearly two months since I've written a word for this blog, or for anything else. If, for some strange reason, you ...