Sunday, March 23, 2008

If the Choice is Death or Taxes, I'll Take a Good CPA

Two or three years ago, I tore from the newspaper a column by Dale Dauten. It was a short column, but chuck full of witty advice and observations. I filed the column away and found it again only this week. Such is my filing system. He started out quoting Bertie Wooster in P.G. Woodhouse’s The Mating Season.

A great weight had been lifted from my mind. Well, I don’t know what your experience has been, but mine is that there’s very little percentage in having a weight lifted off your mind because the first thing you know, another, and probably a damn sight heavier, is immediately shoved on.”

While doubtlessly a clever and true thought, it more or less, ruined my day. You see, on Tuesday, S and I will take such data as we (98% of the we is S) have collected concerning our coming income tax return to the CPA. He has the problem on doing all the right arithmetic and putting the numbers on the correct pages to satisfy the computers of the IRS. At that point, a great weight will be lifted from my mind. But then I will have “What’s next” to worry about.

Incidentally, does any one else have the same warm memories of Jeeves and Bertie that I have. I think it was back in high school when I got “hooked” on P. G. Woodhouse and read everything I could find. Age has erased the specifics but the feeling lives on.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Missing in Action

I got to be a Train Commander” by virtue of being the only one dumb enough to wear a shirt (or, at least the only one to wear a shirt with stripes on it) on a scalding hot California day. The bulletin board had listed those scheduled to leave the following day on a troop train from Camp Edwards bound for Camp Kilmer NJ where we would be discharged from the US Army. A casual formation was held in a company yard for the purpose of providing instruction for our train ride.. After we were told what to wear, what to carry and how to carry it, and how to dispose of the leftovers, my visible stripes got me appointed “Train Commander”. This mostly meant I couldn’t drink and play poker. The only real duty was to inform the Conductor of any serious sickness that required a special stop by the train for medical help. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the fancy title and stood tall.

When we reached Phoenix, Arizona, nothing important had happened to disturb my calm. Every few hours the train would stop in some desolate place so the troops could get off and exercise. After announcing that it was time to reboard the train, it was my responsibility to confirm to the Conductor that I could not see any soldiers that were not back on board and that it was all right to start the train. But at the Phoenix RR Station the train stopped for purposes of the railroad and I ran up and down the length of the train telling everyone to stay aboard. There were a few brave ones I saw dashing into the station to buy beer; but, knowing they were on the way home, most people were not going to take chances.

However, one fellow came to me and asked permission to go to the station post office and mail something home. He volunteered that he was afraid it would be confiscated if he took it into our destination, Camp Kilmer. Dumb once again, I asked what it was he wanted to mail. His answer repulsed and disgusted me. I had experienced a lot of quite horrible moments in the past years in combat, but the thought of shipping a Japanese skull home did me in. Stunned, I told him I didn’t want to hear about it. He was on his own. He opted to run for the station. I opted not to tell the Conductor that anyone was off the train.

Moments after the skull bearer went in the station, the train started. Last I ever saw of him he was standing in the doorway of the station, still holding the boxed skull, and looking a little stunned himself. What happened next? Did he sell the skull and buy civilian clothes and live happily ever after? Did the MP’s get him and put him in the pokey for thirty years? Or did he mail the box, sneak onto the next troop train, and blame it all on Army inefficiency?

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Loss

I have recently suffered a demi-disaster. I leaned back in my favorite chair and something in the framework of the chair gave way. My favorite chair no longer supports me in the manner to which I have become accustomed. This chair has seen me through pain and joy, good moods and bad. For years it has been my retreat, my nest, my comfy spot. Memory tells me I have had three favorite chairs, maybe four, in my life. Two were “easy” chairs and two were office chairs. Each parting was cause for grief. Only once has it been anger provoking. At work, I started out with an all-wood, factory veteran, painted a quite awful green. There was no cushion to protect my then-skinny butt, but it and the chair grew to know each other. As I changed offices, I always took my green chair with me. Always, until we built a snazzy new R&D Building. I thought I outranked the office manager, but she won that day. She wheeled away my friend and short of physical force or an unbecoming temper tantrum, I could not stop her. The replacement was pretty, but it never replaced solid oak.

While I’ll bet that most everyone has a favorite, I recall no blogger confessing his/her affection for a simple piece of furniture. I don’t what I will do next. You can’t really go to the store and ask to look at future favorite chairs, can you? That would strike me as the same as going to e-harmony to find a favorite spouse. Although it is possible to go to a pet store or a kennel and immediately know the puppy that licks your face will be a life long friend. Maybe I'll go for a puppy.

Oh woe is me!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Surviving Our Youth

When you get to the age of 82, pushing 83, you occasionally wonder how you made it this far. I mean, how did I survive those stupid things I did? For instance, riding our bicycles down South Mountain (OK, folks from Colorado and the like would laugh at calling this overgrown hill a mountain, but in NJ it stands out) as fast as we and gravity could move a “racing” bicycle. It was a concrete road with tar strips every thirty feet or so to allow for expansion during the summer. These required that you hang on to the handle bar with all your strength to avoid a flying exit into the trees on the side of the road. Also, no helmets, no gloves, no knee guards, etc.

Why, for heavens sake, did we invent surfing while crossing the North Atlantic in January? We were in a troopship which, despite the time of year, got very hot below decks. The waves were sweeping over the bow of the ship and down the length of the deck. Ropes were strung along the decks for those whose duties took them on deck. We used them to take a fast action bath and cool off. Damn, that water was cold! Hanging on with hands, our feet were straight out behind us. It was difficult to hang on, but the consequences of letting go were all too obvious. Somehow we survived.

We got no more cautious as time went by. In Germany, our company occupied the Ford factory close to Cologne on the east bank of the Rhine River. A buddy and I had to go out and up the river to repair phone wires that had been broken by shell fire. Like most American workers, when the job was done, we took a little time for ourselves before going back to headquarters. In the dark of night, we sat up on the river levee and watched the tracer fire from the German side of the river. It was pretty, but it never seemed to occur to us that if those machine gunners lowered their sights a few feet we would have been mincemeat.

And, most foolish of all, we smoked for thirty years,

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Traveling Down Memory Lane

It’s true, when real travel becomes difficult, almost anywhere you start on the internet can lead to old memories and new interests. Last night I was pursuing a course I sometimes take when I’m too tired to do anything useful and it is too early to go to bed. I was sampling all those URL’s you find in the ads at the back of travel magazines. I had “Yankee” magazine on my desk . As you might imagine, this led to
New . There was a feature on a toboggan chute which claimed to be the only remaining such chute in New England. My mind was already tingling with memories of youthful thrills on a toboggan chute at Lake Hopatcong in New Jersey. I wondered if that chute was still in existence. So I “advance Googled” toboggan chute and Lake Hopatcong. That led nowhere. I simple “googled” toboggan chutes and that established that New England may have only one, but the rest of the country has many.

I day dreamed awhile about plunging down (it felt like straight down) a hill and being shot out onto frozen Lake Hopatcong. The ride down was thrilling, but the slide across the ice was the tense part. There were four on the toboggan and if anyone even twitched we would turn over or go into a scary spin. I still remember one spill when a guy was thrown on top of a girl and they slid across the rough ice with him pressing her face into the ice. Ouch! She recovered well and I still remember her name. If you are here, Jane, drop me a note.

I once more Googled Hopatcong and went on reading, learning much I never knew or had forgotten about its history. I’ll bet you didn’t know that iron ore was brought by horse wagon to the shores of the lake where it was loaded on barges. These were towed across the lake by steam boats to the Morris canal, a canal that crossed northern New Jersey. Mules dragged the barges down the canal to the Hudson River.

There were lots more fascinating facts about the history of the area, but I left the iron ore unclaimed at the Hudson and went to bed. And you wondered what old folks do in the evening while you are out at discos having fun.