Saturday, July 30, 2005

When Courtesy Doesn't Work

Many years ago we were attending a fancy dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. To solve the problems of how to get there without having to wear the tux and evening gown on public transport all the way in from the suburbs, we reserved a modest room at the Waldorf. We arrived promptly at check-in time, but were told our room wasn't ready. We checked our luggage and went for a walk. We stopped by the front desk a number of times and got the same story. Finally, we worried that there wouldn't be time to dress for dinner. We were in the bar at the then Barclay Hotel across the street from the Waldorf. I asked for a phone and called the Waldorf.

ME: This is (name) and we have a reservation there for tonight.

W-A: Oh yes sir. I'm afraid your room is still not available.

ME: Well, that is why I called. The Barclay says they have a nice room available. Now I don't know the proper protocol in this situation. Should I send a Barclay bellhop across the street to get our bags, or do you wish to have a Waldorf bellhop bring them over here? We will be by the front desk.

It was amazing how that very instant the Waldorf discovered they had a room ready after all. A very nice one at that.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Watches 5 Me 0

I was away at college when I got my draft notice for WWII. I quickly went home to take home all my clothing and other belongings. As a farewell gift my folks presented me with a very nice, but tough watch. On my first night at Cumberland Gap Reception Center I asked the stranger in the next bunk to keep an eye on my new watch. When I got back from the latrine and a hot shower, my bunkmate and my watch were gone. He had been shipped out in that 30 minutes – and took the watch with him. I got neither sympathy nor assistance from the camp personnel so I did what a young, innocent kid would do. I wrote my mother and complained to her.

So my parents mailed me another watch. Nice people.

Later our outfit in Europe was changing positions and we were asleep in a train car (a simple boxcar with straw on the floor). We were close to Aachen. Suddenly we were awakened by whistles and shouts of, “Grab your packs and rifles and get off the train. Take Cover! Air Raid!” With adrenalin fighting sleepiness, I hurriedly threw on my back pack and in the process, tore the watch off my wrist. It landed in the straw. I desperately pawed for it, but got almost thrown to the ground by the guys behind me. No watch again.

Just as the war ended, we came back from Austria to Heidelberg. One day the Company Commander told me that Special Services had two watches that could be bought if someone could go to Frankfurt to get them He would let me have one if I would go to Frankfurt and bring him the other. I conned another guy to go with me. We borrowed a jeep off a street in Heidelberg and set out up the autobahn. It turned out to be frigid driving. We found a field jacket in the back of the jeep. Problem was there was only one and it had captain’s bars sewn on the shoulders. We agreed to trade off when the one without the jacket got cold. I was driving when, Damn! a check point. It was manned by a single sergeant and I told him the almost truth. We were going to Frankfurt to get two watches, one for the captain and one for me. We smugly drove away saying disparaging things about the incompetent sergeant.

We spent the night at Special Services and started back toward Heidelberg in the morning. It was still cold and we resumed the scheme of the passenger wearing the captain’s jacket. Unfortunately that was me when we came to the checkpoint again. AND the same jerk we had fooled the previous day had crossed the road and was waiting for us. He noticed that yesterday’s driver was today’s Captain. I’m not sure what cock and bull story or stories we threw at him, but he finally let us go. We put the jeep back where we found it. Never heard anything more about it.

Higher beings decided that the special training our outfit had was necessary in the Pacific so within a week we were on a ship headed for New York. There we were individually given train tickets home, and tickets to go from home to Oklahoma. Some how a newspaper photographer in New York took pictures and caught me wearing my beautiful Omega watch.

At home there was much gleeful celebrating. A day or two later, in a quiet moment, my father told me they were surprised to see me wearing a watch in the newspaper picture. They had bought me another replacement watch they planned to give me. I responded that the watch I was wearing was too delicate for combat and I had really bought it for him. He accepted that and I had another new watch while he seemed delighted with the Omega.

Years later when my father passed on, I asked my mother if I could have Pop’s Omega. She denied any knowledge of it. I guess I’ll pass on myself someday without knowing whether dementia had taken hold, or whether she was just getting even with me. If so, I wonder which cousin is wearing the pretty Omega today.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Dust Devils of the Philippines

The dictionary says that a Dust Devil is a mini tornado. I guess we have all seen them scoot across a baseball diamond on a hot summer day. They stop play for a minute while the dust settles but that is the only consequence. In the Philippines we had what would have to be termed a maxi-mini tornados. The one pictured here came rolling down from the foothills of the mountains north east of Manila. It was about the width of a row of tents. It tracked right along the row that was "B" Company, spinning tents twenty feet in the air. Most of the troops were out trying to round up Japanese that didn't believe the war was over. As the supply sergeant, I got to stay home. I stood in the back door of the A Company just feet away and got to take pictures. The second picture (Ooops! the pics are reversed) was after the Dust Devil passed. That wise-ass pretending he was a victim knocked into the ditch -- well I apologize, it was serious. The Army lost a lot of equipment. I shouldn't have made light of it. On the other hand it was a fun break in the routine. (And it was the B company supply sergeant that was going to have to do the paperwork to account for all those torn tents, not me.)(He is standing on the step of the first tent on the left, not amused.)

Tough Love

Imagine your mother standing behind a wall twice as tall as you, and insisting you have to climb it if you want to go swimming. Just because our spoiled brat brother made it doesn't mean the rest of us can!


Directions for Use

Didja ever notice? The best minds are the worst direction-writers. On a large scale that includes Adobe’s brain trust. Even larger is Microsoft. On the lowest level, the folks that write the directions for assembling the Christmas bicycle can’t get “screw A into B” into understandable prose. Maybe Hungry Minds Inc. will someday publish “Manual Writing For Dummies”. Or the University of Phoenix could establish a major in “Bringing Sense to ‘Do –it-Yourself’”. Ah, well! I can dream.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

HUP! TWO! Mall Walking

Is mall walking as popular across the country as it is in Florida? With the heat what it is down here, the air conditioned malls are the ideal places to get in those early morning 5,000 steps. The walkers are encouraged by the malls to come early to avoid the shoppers. The irony is that the encouragement takes the form of having many of the cinnamon bun snack shops open early. Yes sir, there is nothing like burning off those extra calories and then sitting down for a 500 calorie iced roll and coffee with lots of cream and sugar. Many arrive as couples. The wives are dolled up in there stylish walking gear and take off as soon as they can set their pedometers. The husbands wear khakis and go sit down in the food court with the “boys” for their morning bull session.

The recent trend is for the malls to recognize, during shopping hours, the husbands that only sit and wait. Bowers, generously equipped with comfy (albeit ersatz) leather chairs, have been established at several locations up and down the malls. That’s where my wife and I fit in. About once a week we go out to the mall. I bring a good book and my camera and my wife brings her shopping list. We have lunch, then she leaves on her inspection tour. I may indulge in a short stroll, but I soon find a good spot to read and people watch. I feel very self-satisfied because at least I don’t pretend to work off any calories.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Daylight Savings

Having been free of the strictures of employment for some time, I can't generate a lot of passion, yea or nay, about Congress planning to extend daylight savings by a month. I get up in the morning soon after I wake up. I go to bed when I get sleepy. Meals and medical appointments are about the only things that give me cause to look at my watch. (I shouldn't at doctor appointments because the doctors obviously don't.) I took this picture of Lake Osbourne just after dawn, but I have no idea what time it was. The clock didn't make the sky pretty.
But some good people in Indiana seen on TV this evening are all het up because "we don't want our children waiting for the school bus in the dark in the morning." Well now, why can't they just change the time school starts during the period of DLSavings? Duh! Is there a rule against that? Does the phrase "linear thinking" come into play somewhere here?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Life's Surprises

As I was growing up in the depression years and later, in college when I was married and living with money enough to last until about the twentieth of the month, I never really gave a thought to old age. I remember when I was first hired and going through the personnel department orientation interview they told me my retirement date would be June 30, 1990. I couldn't help it -- I burst out laughing. In my mind such a date was Buck Rogers stuff.

To be living the soft life we are revelling in here at a "Classic Residence by Hyatt" was unimaginable back then. Every night we have to choose from a menu like this one. I hope you can read it. There is also a second page that repeats every day. It has standard items like broiled salmon, tenderloin, Chef Salad, etc. I will say that I worked my ass off to get here, but don't we all?

Maybe the best part is that I had a blood test last week and my chloresterol is 150! (On the way home, my wife and I stopped at Krispy Kreme and bought a dozen hot donuts.) (There is three months until the next test.) Why dwell on the aches and pain when you can enjoy a Krispy Kreme Traditional with the next morning's coffee?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Deserved Terror

(Believe me, you do not want a picture with this post. It gets gross.) The story starts out as just two supply sergeants without much to do in the aftermath of the war (II) in the Philippine Islands. Both had problems with over-grown rats nibbling on our supplies. A contest evolved to see who could catch the biggest rat. I begun with a diabolically creative electrocution device crafted from chicken wire and a battery charged metal plate. It attracted a lot of attention from every one, except rodents. Next I requisitioned from quartermaster the biggest rat trap they had and BOY!, did they deliver?! This thing was about 4” by 12”. In the first night it caught the biggest rat I had ever seen, bigger than the biggest Maine Coon Cat you’ve ever seen. It was also the bloodiest, most disgusting sight to behold you can imagine. I took trap, rat and all and hung the mess on the bulletin board outside the supply room with a sign beside it that said, ”He ‘fooled’ around with the Supply Sergeant. Don’t let it happen to you!” (Obviously, infantry soldiers didn’t use the word, fooled, very often.)

Now I digress to add that in the PI, the officer with the reputation as the toughest, most GI member of the brass was Monk Meyer, former star Army football player and hero of the fighting in the PI’s. He was said to have no humor and to never be at ease.

OK, myself and the others in the supply room (tent) were chuckling over the sign when someone yelled, “MY GOD, HERE COMES MONK MEYER!” We all started trembling and stared as he came closer. We had visions of spending the next thirty years in the stockade. When he got to the sign, he did a sharp left turn, looked at it forever and then about faced and marched into the supply room. Someone loudly cried, ATTENTION, and we all stood as stiffly as our trembling allowed. He sternly said, “Who is responsible for that?” I couldn’t duck, I replied, “I am, sir.” As he wheeled to leave, he snapped, “Good. Good for morale.”

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Matterhorn and Me

Actually, I was trying to put this picture in my Profile, but I haven't learned all the jargon yet. (There's a lot I haven't learned.)

Since it is here, this picture was taken about seven years ago at the top of the Gornergrat Cog Railroad in Switzerland. It's called "returning to the scene of the crime". About thirty years before that I had taken an "agony of defeat' fall down one of the trails leaving this spot. Never went skiing again.

Now in Florida it is nice to remember the nice white snow.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Self Rising Bios

Florida is a delightful place to live. My wife and I enjoy life in a Life Care Center that provides us with all the "amenities" (the official state word of Florida). New construction of residences and commercial buildings is in a boom climate. Despite this boom it feels like the population gets older every week. I am 8o and well below the aveage age in our circle.

The topic of most conversations in Florda are of the type classified as "When we were young..." They illustrate two facets of Florida. One, there is something like a gravitation pull that attracts has-beens, those that can't forget and can't stop talking. The second is that when people are sure that no one is around that knew them when, they promote themselves at least one step. Thus, the former water boy becomes the star quarterback in his memory. Widows are apt to advance the late husband by a grade or two. And those never married can go from file clerk to communication exectutive in one jump. Fellows that have been here 25 years or more often start chats with, " When I was running the Chevrolet Division of GM..." Even those with legitimate claims to fame are required to up their accomplishments to stay in the game.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Almost Forgotten Abs

There I sat, all 230 lbs. of me looking at old pictures when I came across this pictue of me (in front of the door). Lo and behold --ABS! I was then 6' tall and about 135 lbs. The picture was taken right after WWII in the Philippine Islands. I remember being skinny, but I had forgotten that three years in the infantry had added a pretty good set of muscles. War is not all bad, just mostly bad.
The other thing I have forgotten is the name of the fellow with a cap. He was the jeep driver and a quiet, really nice guy!

Hurricane Dennis

How do you define that part of the human personality that on the one hand expresses fearful dread of another hurricane stiking where we live and then, after it has safely passed, are a little disappointed that nothing happened. Dennis is now almost due west of us. It is well out in the Gulf of Mexico and without doing a severe right angle turn, it will keep going north. Some one is going to be miserable so it seems unsportsman-like to be happy about that, but I am. I'd feel guilty except that I'm sure the people up north would feel the same way if the storm took that right angle turn.
Hurricanes have fascinated me since 1938 when my mother (a wild one) took me out driving around town during that year's big storm. That was in New Jersey. The same storm decimated New England. My aunt and grandmother were also out driving around (my mother's side of the family were all daredevils). They were up in Massachusett. Mom and I got home safe, but Aunt Becky and Grandma's car was blown off the road. Grandma's leg was broken. Mom never realized how strange it made me feel to hear her criticize Aunt Becky for going out in the storm, yet never admit to them she had done the same thing.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Smooth Operators

When the balance starts to go and the knees don't always stand firm, one can begin to lose confidence in exploring the great away-from-home-world by your self. Yesterday I witnessed a bad news -- good news scenario that boosted my confidence that help is never far away. You know, part of the fear is that you will make a public display of yourself and literally be embarrassed to death. Briefly, a lady fell in the Mall at Wellington Green. An elderly companion tried to help but wasn't having much luck. Before I could get to the information kiosk to report the incident,I saw another fellow was moving faster than I could on the same mission. I could see that he told the attendant what was happening and I watched the attendant make a quick phone call. In no time at all two security officers were walking deliberately but at a pace that that wouldn't arose wonder in passing mall strollers, to the striken lady. While one knelt beside her reassuringly, the other was busy on his radio. Soon, other official looking fellows arrived. It must have been reheared. They took up positions that looked to passer-bys like a casual conversation, but actually blocked the lady from view. In minutes the rescue squad rolled a gurney in and whisked her away. It all happen with no fuss, no ado, no excitement. From my place behind the potted palm, I saw many walk right by and not sense anything was awry. My conclusion was that there are real pros behind the scenes that can act efficiently and compassionately without false heroics. Three cheers for young folks.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Wouldn't it be great if "they" would invent a vaccine conferring immunity against hurricanes? We "seniors" are quite satisfied with the flu vaccine and some of us go great lengths to get ours. The possible price "they" could charge for shots to ward off days without electricity and working toilets should pay off the research and development costs in no time. A senior discount would be a no-brainer. Inventors -- start your engines!