What to do on a Snow Day

January 8th, 2015

For the fourth day this week, the outside temps are in the single digits. Fahrenheit. That’s cold no matter how you cut it.
For the second day in a row, and likely the middle of a 3-day siege of being snowed-in, we are housebound.
Yesterday, after clearing the driveway for the second time, we were suddenly overwhelmed with the spirit of adventure and daring. Bundled up, into the car we went, fired it up and headed down our driveway onto the unplowed street of our neighborhood. Fred Rogers was not there singing a comforting song and he was both needed and missed.
“It’s a crappy-assed day in the neighborhood,
A crappy-assed day in the neighborhood,
You will go nuts…you will go nuts….” And so on.
We intended to go all the way to the UPS store next to Walgreens – about 4 miles, straight shot. At the 1.5 mile mark, visibility was nil. The snow covered road that ran along the open drainage ditch was hard to find except for the depression in the landscape from the car-swallowing ditch. It was hungry and snapped at our tires as we slipped along.
By the time we got to the blinker light at the Quincy intersection, discretion became the watchword and we turned around and headed home. Fortunately, it was late enough in the afternoon for an adult beverage for both its medicinal purposes and for the sheer enjoyment of it.
Today, more of the same but the temps are dropping more – 5 degrees right now. So what’s a snowed-in couple to do? Be mindful that we are now septuagenarians so wipe that smirk off your face.
Lovie had an idea. First, to butter me up, she took some lamb chops out of the freezer for dinner. I made some eggs, hash browns and speck, juice and dark roast coffee for breakfast and things were looking up. But then came Lovie’s idea.
“Let’s clean the filter on the vacuum cleaner!” she declared.
“Hot Damn!” I could not hide my elation.
We got out the Dyson and I started in on my high class British accent which sounds more like cockney in need of speech therapy.
After three trips up and down the stairs and two into the freezing garage, all the necessary tools were collected and at the ready in our workshop.
Step one – disassembly. The design of this marvel of housekeeping is so advanced and highly awarded in the halls of commerce, industrial design and applied arts, it was easy to see how it came apart. Push tab “A” and pull. I pushed tab “A” and pulled. Nothing. Repeat. Nothing.
Isn’t that one of the classic definitions of insanity? Do the same thing over and over, expecting the different results?
So I went into my mancave and consulted the internet. I located a demonstration video, watched it twice and made some notes. It showed all kinds of interesting things to do regarding vacuum maintenance except how to get the desired results from the now infamous tab “A”!! But undaunted, I went back to tab “A” with the all too familiar results.
Lovie sensed my growing frustration and walked over. She pushed tab “A” and instantly the parts separated as desired. I felt an instant loss of manhood. I heard two things rolling across the floor and they dropped into the pit just as the sump pump turned on. I began to speak in what was now a soprano voice.
Back to the task at hand, my shop vac was engaged to remove loose debris and dust from the Dyson and re-assembly was accomplished in a little more time. Lovie had more trouble putting it back together (I think it was intentional) so I stepped in and regained some of my gender identification by deftly snapping it back in place.
OMG was that ever fun!!
Lovie ended this chapter of fun by saying, “Thanks for doing this!”
I was going to reply the usual, “No problem” but in all honesty, it had been one – a problem that is.
It’s 4 degrees now and the start of an expected 7 more inches of snow has begun.

Personal Finances – 1967

January 7th, 2015

Lovie saves things, even when they become outdated – that’s been especially good for me! She just handed me the checkbook ledger that spanned the five months around our wedding day in July, 1967.

It revealed my twice-monthly deposits of $200 each from my first lucrative teaching job at my alma mater, West Morris High School on February 1, 1967. Twenty bucks per day. What a profession! A babysitter could earn more and only have to watch one kid!
I regularly cashed checks for amounts ranging from $10 to $20. There is one entry for cashing a check for $1! Cash flow was a constant challenge for the first 25 years.
Here are a few specifics:
March 8, 1967 – $15 to Robert Praisner, D.D.S. He continues to be remembered as one of the best dentists I ever had.
March 20 – $20 to Mason’s Bridal Shop (Trenton).
March 31, $57 to Fox Chase Garage (repair on my ’61 VW) it had been leaking leaded (of course) gas from a rusted-out tank. But at 29-cents a gallon at the Sonoco in town, it was not a huge loss onto the pavement.
March – April 2 checks to Lovie each in the amount of $5 or $6. She was living in a style to which she’d become accustomed as a kept woman (in her dorm) on campus and would graduate in June.
May 6, 1967 – $33 to Mason’s Bridal. (For her wedding dress?)
May 16, 1967 – $90 to Mrs. Apovian (landlady-to-be). It was the deposit on our first little love nest. The apartment was in her old house along highway 46 in Netcong, NJ.
May – July – Various checks were written ranging from $18 to $40 to Rickles Home Center for paint for our apt. and misc. things needed – some of which we still have and use like the lawn chair hanging in the garage.
June 1, 1967 – $87.50 down payment to European Autos on Route 10 to purchase a spankin’ new 1967 Volvo 122s station wagon. When I drove in the VW to trade, they yelled to me in the parking lot, “Get that junk outta here before it blows us all up!” Gas was dripping again from the rotted-out tank. (The Volvo was purchased for a long-term ownership but my patience with it expired after four years when it repeatedly refused to start in cold weather.)
June 11 – $15 to family friend, Charles P. Conover. It was for a used electric stove he’d pulled from a rental unit he was rehabbing.
June 15, 1967 – $7.47 Shop Rite Liquors. Probably needed a drink!
June 21, 1967 – $5 to my brother, Tom. For what?
June 28, 1967 – $20 to Helen’s Florist in Phillipsburg – for the bridal bouquet she’ll have to toss in three days?
July 6 – 7 (been married less than a week) $12 – $20.04 to places like Bamberger’s in Morristown and Two Guys in Dover. Couldn’t afford a honeymoon. Or, as I have since tactfully said, “It’s been a lifelong honeymoon.”
July 15 – $100 rent to Mrs. Apovian who we caught sneaking around in our apartment when we came home one night.
July 19 – Phone bill NJ Bell $12.40 reality of living independently is sinking in.
August 12 – $1.00 for gas. Things are getting tight with no income* since summer break began. It bought over 3 gallons that would take us about 90 miles.
September 18, 1967, NJ Power and Light $5.10. As newlyweds we must have spent a lot of time with the lights out.
September 30, 1967 – $57.25 to Lumberman’s Casualty (car insurance) ugh!
October 15, 1967 – $30.00 to the West Morris Teacher’s Association (union dues); $15.00 to the Chester Education Association for Lovie’s union dues for her fourth grade gig in Dickerson School.
November 11, 1967 – $10.00 wedding gift check to boyhood buddy, Kenny Johnson. We drove 347 miles each way to Center Harbor, NH to go to his wedding, stayed in a real motel and it just about broke the bank. The morning after we got home, we had the great bat-in-the-bedroom debacle! (see earlier blog posting).
*My one-day disastrous job as a laborer on a house framing crew in Flanders was so bad I never went back to collect the $16 I’d earned for the first (and only) eight hour construction career. Yes, do the math – it was $2 /hr. That was followed by another disastrous career as a door-to-door, commission-only Electrolux vacuum salesman which initially paired me with LaMar Nelson in his Pontiac station wagon stuffed to the roofline with boxes of vacuum cleaners and related stock. Along with imparted wisdom from this lifer-door-to-door salesman I gained dog bite tears in my pants cuffs but no income. I sold one rug shampooer to some couple who bought it only on the condition I’d also clean all their carpeting with it. My other sale was to my sympathetic mom at summer’s end.
Great salesman that I was, I instead bought stuff from my prospective customers. I bought an antique round oak table out of one Hackettstown woman’s basement for $20 and gave her a check that bounced. Embarrassed, I made good on it shortly afterward. That table was used for about 7 years until I sold it for $20 to Barb Garber in the counseling department. Business was, and continues to be, not my area of expertise.

Yes, the memories of that checkbook ledger keep flooding back.

A Sequel on Request

January 1st, 2015

A friend from LaGrange Park, IL (Linda P.) has challenged me to expand the previous installment with more comment. Others have suggested I just jump in the Lake. Being winter time, I’d rather take Linda’s advice so, in the spirit of journalistic investigation, I booked a tour of the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant.

I was placed with a group of people from the local Christian School primary grades who are studying community helpers – public sector. It is required so they can boast a “fair and balanced” curriculum. They have a 3-day unit and then resume their usual 175-day long curriculum of Christian Community helpers, such as clergy, Sunday School Teachers, gun shop owners and the various christian soldier’s organizations – did you know they have their own song?

“Here is where the waste water first arrives in our facility!” shouted the docent over the noise of gushing lumpy, slushy-brown putrid water into a single, common tank.
“Teacher, can we go? I don’t feel so good!” one child chimed in.
The teacher, Mrs. Martha Periwinkle, ignored the impudent child and through her amusing nose-clipped voice asked the docent, “Please tell me sir, where the wastewater from our Christian homes comes in…I am sure it is in better condition than what we are now experiencing with our eyes and our noses.”
She added, “You certainly won’t find the trappings of sinful behaviors, such as liquor labels and (she whispered, nudge-nudge, wink, wink) discarded birth control devices clogging your filters!”

One of the chaperoning moms asked, “Where are the Christian treatment tanks?”
“Praise the Lord, four children just vomited, I think we must move along. They are purging the devil from their systems!” They scurried back to their bus.

My next stop was the monthly meeting of City Council. They were obviously caught in the bind of their own making – trying to sort out priorities of their conservative tenants – fiscal responsibility juxtaposed on ideological leanings – two values held close to their hearts. Having soundly defeated previous attempts for a Peace Pole in a public park and assuring the continuation of discriminatory housing practices against LGTB people, they were assured of asserting their will if they could figure it out.
The subcommittee chairperson reported, “The costs of a parallel wastewater treatment process for Christian homes would be prohibitively costly and the suggested renaming of the Treatment Plant implying the, ahem, ‘Unity’ (air quotes gesture) concept (guffaws among the other members) would only involve the cost of a new sign in front.” What’s a Council to do?
After a 4-hour closed session, Councilman Vince Dumbkopf spoke up, “I move that the City encourage all non-Christian homes to go off-line and install outhouses with grants for excavation and construction from the City. Any who cannot profess adherence to the Heidelberg Confession or recite the Nicene Creed from memory would be eligible.” He added, “When they come in for their mandatory drug screening and loyalty oaths, the checks can be presented and their sewer lines can be disconnected.” We can rename our facility the Holland City Christian Wastewater Treatment Facility or the “HCC-WTF” for short.
There were no questions from those in attendance and the measure passed unanimously.
So, dear friend, Linda of LaGrange Park, there is your sequel for better or for worse.

Politics and Public Art

December 31st, 2014

One of the features of our fine city of Holland, Michigan is a geographical one. It is a bridge that spans the Macatawa River that separates the “south side” from the “north side” of town. Ever since the town was founded there has been a rivalry between the two sides. And to add one comment here: After living on the north side for fifteen years, it is NOT true we drag our knuckles on the ground when we walk – those published photos were Photoshopped! But back to the point here…The bridge has recently been rebuilt and vastly improved with better lighting, access and the installation of public art.

I applaud Holland’s Unity Bridge and the interesting sculptures both along the sides of the bridge and its primary focus in the steel sculpture at its north end.
But, alas and alack, we all are aware that for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction; fearing for his job, John Boehner said that. Truth be told, it was Isaac Newton who was first to turn that concept into a career.
And therein lies the problem in this day of confrontational discourse.
First, it has been witnessed some of our local extremists, on both sides of the Unity Bridge go out of their ways to avoid traversing this span in fear that it might moderate their God-given rights of separateness that have been granted them by their divinely-guided Bible highlighters. (They bear a striking resemblance to Ouija Boards).
One anonymous resident said, “This is yet another government conspiracy to homogenize our culture via multiculturalism initiatives. It’s brainwashing with dirty rags!”
But it does not stop there. It’s spreading. Here’s more.
All northbound traffic on River/Butternut (just before reaching this Unity initiative) passes by the BPW Wastewater Treatment Plant and tourist attraction (yes, tours ARE available, bring the kiddies, nose clips are available for a nominal fee). It goes without mentioning the necessity for such a place to exist. But in this, our golden age of political divergence, two sides are emerging and one side, in particular, is feeling quite jubilant due to victories in recent regressive legislative actions.
There are rumors of two petition drives; One group, wants to “request” (no one requests anymore, they DEMAND) the BPW to install separate treatment systems so the wastewater from certain undesirable folks is not mixed-in with the wastewater of their own, and, as local resident, Mrs. Melba Toast put it, “God only knows where that mixed treated water ends up.” She took a swig from her Evian.
The other petition rumor is that the Wastewater Treatment facility remain as is and be renamed, “The Unity Wastewater Treatment Plant,” because nothing else in our fine city demonstrates the unity of all than what happens when we pull that lever…um…whoops, here come those men in their white coats again…gotta go.


December 20th, 2014

November 13, 1967 (sometime after midnight).

Lovie nudged me.
“What’s that noise?”
“What noise?”
“Turn on the light…there is a noise in here!”

I tossed back the covers of our bed, steam rose from the birthday suit in which I am accustomed to sleep.
Our second-floor rented bedroom was an estimated 40-degrees inside. Landlady, “Apple Annie” (as we had grown to call her) dialed down her thermostat each night. When the rising heat hit that gauge, it shut off the radiators. It never reached us upstairs. Ergo, body steam in the literal sense. No problem usually, we were newlyweds.

Just home after a 376-mile drive from an overnight stay in Center Harbor, NH, we had quickly emptied a few suitcases and Lovie’s “train case” sat open and empty on the slat bench beneath the bedroom window.
Amid the steam and cold air engulfing me, I came to my senses and also heard the fluttering sound. I reached for the pull-chain and 75-watts of illumination from the bare ceiling bulb filled the room. My pupils constricted so fast, I could almost hear them slam shut.

“It’s a BAT!!” I yelled.
Lovie screamed and pulled the covers over her head.

What to do? Naked, steaming and now scared, (the bat and I were on equal terms) what’s this neophyte to do? This was not covered in our premarital counseling with Pastor Schrum.
I ran into the corner of the kitchen and grabbed the straw broom. Back in the bedroom I began swinging wildly at this critter that was now just as upset as me.
“Crazed naked man, swinging a broom” could have been an award-winning painting by Ivan Albright or a scene from a Sam Peckinpah film.
First casualty was the four-foot high split-leaf philodendron plant that adorned the corner of the room.
Lovie screamed!
I emulated a master class’ final performance in the profane.
My unsuccessful swings, were like a hung-over Mickey Mantle on a bad day at Yankee Stadium, and just like the Mick, I filled the air with highly audible unmentionable words of despair that were never taught in Sunday School.

The bat began attack runs at me like Zeros over Pearl Harbor in ‘41. Bats in the hair? Rabies? Myths or realities? – No time for that kind of pondering. I wanted desperately to join Lovie under the protection of the covers. But I am the (new) MAN of the house and from what I learned in the remedial class of Man School, that was not an option.

I swung the broom once again over the bed. My wild follow-through broom-whacked my dear cowering Lovie under her blankets. “Oops!” or something less printable was yelled.
Then another swing.
The room went instantly dark and shards of paper-thin glass from the bulb spewed over the bed and across the floor, around my bare feet.
The bat made another dive-bomb run. I tried to not move a bit for fear of ending up in the ER with the overnight intern picking shards from my bleeding feet.

Alas and alack, I got lucky.
Contact!! I finally made contact!! It was literally a shot in the dark. I’d swung not so wildly and whacked the bat – to where, I didn’t know but it got quiet and that was good enough for me. Cold sweat dripping, feet afraid to move, I gingerly tiptoed to another light and saw where I could step. I gathered up the blanket and swept up the glass. I searched around the room. Where was Mr. Bat? I found him dead or stunned in the train case. I flipped the lid and felt triumphant.
A hole-in-one!
Man – 1, Nature – 0.
Case closed.

Just Like a Woman… just like a man

December 20th, 2014

Scenario: In the din of mind, body and early morning light. Coffee is gurgling toward serving time, Lovie and Jackie shufwaddle (a masterful interpretation combining a shuffle and waddle) into the living room, sit facing the window and stare out at the yard, lightly covered in snow.

Act I, Scene 1

(Long pause)
Lovie: My alarm went off this morning.
Jackie: When?
Lovie: Seven

(She gets up from her chair, walks across the room and back to her chair, sits again)

Lovie: I read the article.
Jackie: What article?
L: The one about (muffled, sounds like) Juice Medallions.
J: Juice Medallions??
L: (Laughs) No! Jazz Ensembles – the one you said I should read.
J: (Laughs along with the usual adventure of his high frequency hearing loss): Oh.

(silent time, stares out the window, then she gets up, pours coffee and brings it to J in his recliner, sits again)
J: Thanks

(Long pause)

(L gets up and repeats her voyage across the room, she turns on the Christmas lights amid the garland on the fireplace mantle and lights the IKEA paper star in front of the picture window, returns to her seat)

L: I don’t want to get rid of these shoes. I really like them.
J: Then keep them.
L: But they hurt my feet! Look how nice they look!
J: Are they new?
L: Kind of…
J: What do you mean, “kind of”?
L: I’ve only worn them about 3 times since I bought them.
J: When was that?
L: Back when we lived in Illinois. (fifteen years ago, at least). Only one of them hurts – the one where my bunion is not too bad.
J: Then wear only the good one.

(Long silence)

L: That’s so typical of what you would say. If YOU had this problem, you’d think differently about it.
J: I never get to that point, you don’t let me. My favorite T-shirts? You toss them out before I even know about it.
L: But they are looking raggy around the neck.
J: My navy blue ones? I wear those the most! I gotta get some more.
L: Not those huge Duluth ones!
J: No, they’re Schmidt from the Tractor Supply store, they have good ones and they’re cheap.

(Long pause staring again, the outside light is getting brighter)

L: What was it I said I wanted to get at Kohls?
J: Something for the kitchen.
L: Oh, yes. Those gloves – oven mitts. Silicone.

L: (Gets up from her chair and goes into the bathroom)

J: (Gets up and walks into the kitchen) I’m going downstairs!
L: (from the distance and through the closed bathroom door) OK!

J: Our 49th year of consecrated cohabitation. I gotta write some of this down.

End of scene

I Need a New Planner

December 16th, 2014

As we approach another new calendar year, there are certain things with which we need to deal; organizing our days to come and Auld Lang Syne (whatever that means) are two that spring to mind. The time thing is what this is about. Calendars.

I like to have a weekly planning calendar book. The best one fits into my shirt pocket.
It’s not that I am so important I need to organize my days and hours. The demand for my time and the appeal of my company is of little consequence. Yet with dwindling capacity to organize my life, it is nice to have a little crutch or two. One of mine is a little planner book.
I refuse to join the smart-phone crowd and stare incessantly into that little device. I like to keep my head up to watch out for Boy Scouts offering to help me cross a street or sudden unadvertised senior specials at the drugstore. (We always seem to run out of Miralax on Thursdays).
For decades during my working years, I kept a planner; a new one each year.
It was a bit repetitive. Monday – go to work. Tuesday – go to work. Wednesday – go to work. You get the point. But during those years at least half of each day was different to the point it needed to be organized a little. There was a lot of stuff I had to do – or else.
These years of my retirement are mostly “make it up as you go along each and every hour of each and every day.” I love it. I was born for retirement!
But alas and alack, some days things get pretty well laid out for me, such as Monday, pick up my underwear from the floor; Tuesday, put it into the laundry hamper. It’s very demanding! I need a planner. There are days actually planned in advance.
Even though life is the most free it has ever been since before I started kindergarten, I need to have a planner.
In those pre-kindergarten days, my planner in 1948 might have read:
8:00 a.m. get up and pee (if I hadn’t already done so in bed).
9:00 a.m. eat and play
10:00 a.m. play some more.
11:00 a.m. drop a load in my pants if it is too inconvenient to find a bathroom. (It was a good attention-getter). Get changed.
12:00 noon lunchtime. Eat.
1:00 p.m. Naptime.
The afternoon was like morning except at 6:00 p.m. it was watch Howdy Doody then play some more before going to bed at 7:30.
Now that I’m retired, it is all pretty much the same except Howdy Doody is no longer on the air.
But I need a planner, nonetheless.
So Lovie and I went out on a mission to get our 2015 planners. Staples Office Supply store has a plethora of them. They range from leather-bound, gold-leafed volumes that started at $75 (for really important people) all the way to little pocked-sized ones that go for as little as $14. In the past I have always bit the bullet and shelled-out whatever bucks it took to get the one I like – usually about $20. “It lasts for a whole year…” I justify to myself “…just pennies a day”.
But this year, I got smarter. After one false attempt at a $13.99 job I got at Office Max where I quickly discovered after I got it home and wrote in it, I could no longer read the tiny print that make up its organizational borders. I decided to forget the whole deal.
But then the grey clouds of December parted just a little. A ray of sunlight shone down and an ethereal voice from somewhere in space said, “The Dollar Store!”
I thanked Lovie for her suggestion and we drove down the strip mall to the Dollar Store. I waited in the car as all good senior citizen husbands do, and she came out with a small bag. In it was a weekly planner. Cost? One stinkin’ dollar. That’s all!
Done deal. I got my planner for 2015. Happy New Year for ME!

Pining for Thelma

November 22nd, 2014

Late on a Sunday night, the old Philco was on and between the crackling of the busted speaker, I was listening to Thelma Thorax and the Famous Drifting Tumbleweeds singing their hit, “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it all over you.”
Sunday nights afforded the widest range of reception for the AM stations. Up in the hills of northern NJ I could tune-in station WWVA from Wheeling, West Virginia.
And there she’d be, twang and all. One night Thelma was in especially good voice – best since she’d just got out of prison having served time for taking her pickup and running over her philandering ne’er-do-well husband, Festus.
The sponsors on that station were of great interest. I could order a prayer cloth pre-dipped in holy water and personally blessed by the Reverend Billy-Bob Hargrove to “lay gently upon any area of affliction” for “complete and fast pain relief and healing.” I could also, at the drop of a postcard into the ol’ mailbox down on the corner, order C.O.D. 1000 baby chicks, “Guaranteed live delivery!”
Raising chickens sounded like fun but I’m not sure mom would’ve been thrilled with them in our already crowded basement. Since the spring thaw, it’d been overrun with frogs from a science project gone awry. I had no idea the frog eggs I’d collected at the nearby pond would hatch so quickly and trade in their tails for legs. My teacher said that fact, in itself, made my discovery one of educational significance.
I stared up at the framed picture of Thelma on my wall. There she was, before the microphone, adorned in her signature glittering sequined vest, One “T” in ten-inch 14 carat gold over each breast, gold-fringed skirt and white and gold patent-leather cowgirl boots. Her beehive hairdo, twisted and piled reaching just below the dust-crusted ceiling fan hovering over the dimly-lit, cigarette smog shrouded stage. She crooned away – sooo beautiful! A twelve-year-old boy’s vision of a fantasy in sparkling white leather, gold and flesh! She was exactly what the moralistic Boy Scout Handbook and gym teacher, Mr. Gatorskin, had warned about.
Good girl gone bad.
Thelma’d traversed the fashion world from sequins to prison garb and now, thank goodness, back again.
Her lament,
“If ah had to do-it all over again,
What ah know now,
If ah’d knew-it then,
Ah’d fire up mah truck and head yer way,
Ah’d do it-all over again.”
Oh, what sweet strains of revenge and backwoods justice!
Just at the right moment, the banjo player’d break into his solo, followed by the fiddle, then the Dobro. Lastly it’s just Junior on his acoustic bass – then each taking eight bars. They’d trade off “fours” while Thelma slugged down a gulp or two of Jack and toasted each Drifting Tumbleeed as he played. Classic.
Poor ‘ol Festus, his momentary lapse of judgement out behind the town’s grain elevator with the nubile Daisy Mellen changed lives forever, ultimately ending his.
His sacrifice was my gain for without it, there’d be no lament across the airwaves by the dear Thelma. She was the real deal.

Autumn Leaves

November 17th, 2014

Not to get too picky, just trying to be helpful, I must report a jobs program that is having great success in merry old England. My friend, John Chaircaner, alerted me to this one. In the autumn of each year, around the grounds of the famed Westminster House of Commons, stepladders are posted near all the trees. Upon those stepladders stand women with arms extended and fingers at the nimble. What are they doing? Picking apples or other fall fruits? No, you silly person, they are engaged in the all-important task of preventative gardening. Their job is to pick each leaf off each tree BEFORE it disengages from the branch and crashes to the ground.
Professional leaf picker, Thelma Thorax, put it this way…
“Have you ever heard a leaf crash to the ground? It is most distressing and distracting to our lawmakers inside the Commons as they ponder how to maintain strict cuts to our renowned British dental care programs. Oak leaves are the worst!!”
Thelma continued picking for she knows the constables are on high alert…that if one – just one – leaf hits the ground, she is fined threepence. It goes up from there – doubling each time another falls. Pence to Quid, all the way to Pounds. It is a maddening existence. “But someone’s gotta do it, dearie…” she said.
“I’ve been well-trained. Timing and precision is essential.” As she extended her arm and stretched her fingertips for the last leaf on the end of the branch. She pinched it off in one deft motion; surgical precision at its finest.
That side of the tree completed, she scurried down the four rungs and deftly moved the ladder 90-degrees counterclockwise around the trunk.
Thelma continued, “When I got out of my Prep, I had no direction in life. I tried peddling various things over at Piccadilly, you know the usual apples, pencils and the like. I tried selling bootleg copies of BBC shows and fake Rolex’s. The faux Gucci purses left me starving and hopeless. Want a free purse? I got a lot of ‘em (she laughed).”
Her training? “One day I noted the tag on my teabag, there was an ad on it for the Royal Academy of Gardening, you know, just like you have on matchbooks over in the colonies. ‘Earn quick quid as a master leaf picker!’ it said. Having few alternatives, I called the toll-free number and here I am. Oh, it wasn’t instant or easy. My apprenticeship was three years – that’s a long time to live in their dorms and eat the daily rations of gruel. One cup of tea per day! It was tough but I survived. Each morning the barracks grew emptier as the weak ones packed it in but I persisted and this is my reward!”
She handed me down a stuffed canvas bag, “Pass me an empty, would you dearie?” I handed it up to her.
I took a few steps back, wanting (and needing) to visit the pub on the corner. I thought of the unemployment problems we had across the pond and began to wonder….
As I walked away, I heard that cockney voice muffled voice through the veil of her poorly concealed pride, “We’ve killed the leaf rake business.”


October 25th, 2014

The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex.
So, please make sure you are a consenting adult before you enter the voting booth.