Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Traveling Abroad?  You Better Know Your $#!^! 
     Contained in the following paragraphs is my sagely advice gathered from 35 years of traveling all over the world in my current job, with the military, and on several vacations.  If you’re interested in help with a check list, we’ll, this isn’t the article for you.  
     What I can offer is the only thing you’ll really need besides a valid passport and perhaps a visa.   Anything you forget on the kitchen table you can buy at your destination, or something relatively similar.  This critical advice you can’t pack in a bag.
     The bottom line?  Knowing your $#!^ before you have to take one.  No joke!  There is no moment in a foreign country filled with more anxiety than the first time you saddle up to the commode.  And depending on the country, the second, third, and fourth times can be as equally harrowing!  As you can guess, yours truly, being of the male species, won’t take my own advice.  Which is…  GO TO YOU TUBE, ya big dummy!
      If You Tube existed back in 1983 when I ventured to China, I may have known my posterior would be precariously perched over a smelly hole in the floor with two painted foot prints straddling the target ensuring pin point accuracy.  These outlines were certainly not measured for western folk as they were much, much too narrow.  Perhaps the clue appeared moments before while I was taking pictures of locals comfortably crouched like Johnny Bench behind the plate, happily smoking and chatting about the weather, politics or the screaming hot spices in the local Szechwan noodle shop.  No way could I assume the position without a lifeline to hang onto, no way.  The savvy traveler would have started prepping his knees months before for this agonizing squat.  This, my friends, was my first painfully anxious experience into the world of international toilet protocol! 
      Let’s jump to 1986, right after college, as I landed at the Amsterdam airport to continue my hockey career.  Have imbibed in various spirits in flight, I had a few things to take care of prior to customs.    My first challenge was deciphering which commode to visit.  I guessed right and went for the stick figure without the skirt on.  Not that that would have mattered in some parts of Amsterdam.  Finding the configuration of the apparatus relatively similar to those stateside, I commenced to commencing and finished up in short order.  Then came the final step, the wake-up call, the paperwork if you will.  I glanced to my right, you know next to the ashtray, and noticed the grade of paper available.   Seriously?  I could get softer sand paper at Lowes.  This gray no-ply stuff was brutal!  My Mother would have taken extreme offense to the Dutch wanting her baby boys touché assaulted with such material.  Once again, not having done my homework, I signed up for the new adventure and vowed never again to depart the shores of North America without a soft cloudy “Square to Spare”.
     Did I learn?  Nope!  It was off to Egypt several years later for some military training.  As my feet hit the Saini my parachute enveloped me and the 18 hour flight ended.  Having some necessities to take care of the conversation went something like this…
“Hey Sergeant Walmsley, I gotta go.” 
“No worries Dean, just use your entrenching tool and cover the hole when you’re done.  Hey, and don’t forget to check for Scorpions.” 
“Yea Man, they’re everywhere and are drawn to the heat.” 
      You gotta be kidding me!  No way was I going to be the first injured on this deployment.  Talk about something that doesn’t brief well?  Being Medevac’d for a scorpion bite on the posterior would never be lived down.  Ever!
       Are you starting to get the drift?  If not, you need to.  Because the little drinking fountain next der toiletten in Germany isn’t for dehydration issues.  It’s for hydrating your birthday suit.  And please, please don’t forget toilet paper doesn’t go down the chute.  It gets wadded up in more T.P. and tossed into the little garbage can by the baby wipes.  The baby wipes?  Yup, one of five critical steps in the procedure.  And a procedure it is, especially if you’re trying to figure it out on the fly.
      My last piece of advice originates from my most recent business swarray  to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.  On a trip to the world’s largest  and most amazing indoor mall in Dubai, I found it was that time.  I was honestly taken aback when I walked into my first public bathroom stall to find the floor looking as though my Yellow Lab had shaken himself dry after jumping in the river.  There was water all over the place!  As I broached the immaculate porcelain potty, I saw the hose.  Now this apparatus, in this setting, was new to me.  Minimal paper in the stall, but a bright shiny silver hose, like the one by the sink where you might wash your hair.  Except you don’t wash your hair…  Good thing I had Wranglers on or the full on sprinkler effect on my trousers would have been noticed immediately.  Still trying to figure out the methodology here… 
      Please tell me you’ve figured this out.  I pray my close calls from Caracas, to Xian, back over to Cairo and then onto Pristina have made your lightbulb go on.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK!  Put You Tube and Google to work.  If your load isn’t too heavy already, pack a little pack of Western pleasure.  Just for some piece of mind.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

8  Pounds of Memories in a Can

My beloved wife left me this weekend.
     Left me to watch a multitude of young Collegiate wrestlers in the prime of their lives (and singlets) compete for the opportunity to represent their Conference, their Team and themselves at the NCAA Wrestling Championships.
     Her absence left the two dogs, three cats, four horses and myself all standing around in our skivvies staring at each other wondering how much beer we could consume, war movies we could watch, and openly debating if pizza was a three meal a day option.
     Before the nine of us could cut loose the “Honey Do” list had to be dealt with.  We all saw it lurking there on the frig beckoning like the chores on an early Saturday morning.    
      Systematically scratching off item by item on said list, the plan was coming together nicely. 
     Ol Righty, one more task and I can order the heart stopping, colin stretching, meat lovers Chicago style large pizza and this weekend’s MMA fights. 
     Number 8 looked innocent enough…
“Put decorative handle on refinished night stand”
     No worries!  This will take ten minutes tops!  All I needed was a bolt and a nut...
     Quickly skating out to the garage in my stocking feet I arrived at my beloved tool bench.  
     Sizing up the requirement, I reached to the bottom shelf for... You guessed it!  That “Chock Full of Nuts” coffee can containing every sized screw, bolt, nut, washer, and those multi-colored hubalators that go at the end of the electric wiring.  In fact, some of this treasured collection was left to me by my Dad and maybe even his Fathers Father.
     Holy Cow!  This can has anything this modern world may need or want and then some.
“Ahh, throw it in the can, never know when you’re gonna need it”.  My Dad’s words echoed.
     Hoisting the treasure chest onto the bench, I winced under its sheer weight.  One of the dogs tilted his head wondering what the grinding popping sound was.  Yea, it was my back.  That sucker must go eight to ten pounds at least!  
     Knowing exactly what my project called for, I began digging through the first layer. 
Then it happened...
The Cans magic had me.
It drew me in, right then and there.
I was under it’s spell.  Time became a mere concept.
     In the next 90 minutes the entire garage floor was strategically covered with ever article of hardware that Can had to offer.  
     I sorted them alphabetically by size, diameter, application, and relevance creating a sheer Masterpiece of organizational efficiency.  Next time a project required anything known to man, I knew exactly where I could find it!

So did I find the right sized screw and bolt?  Of course not!  

     I’m sure I had only used it the week before.  But the inadvertent stroll down memory lane was well worth it.  Finding bits and pieces of my daughters 4H bird feeder, the angle iron from my son’s homemade pool table, and a bit of wood from the first book case my wife and I ever refinished.
     Who would have thought so many memories would be held in a 12 pound collection of stuff?  
     But there they were, laid out in front of me beckoning to continue my leisurely stroll.  And I did…
     When the incantation wore off I realized I had totally missed my pizza/ fight window and may have a herniated disk.  I slid into the truck venturing off to Loews for the mythical bolt and nut thus completing my project.  
     I grabbed a “Hot n Ready” pizza at the Little Caesar’s and headed back to the ranch. 
     Upon arrival to my famished animals I saw my wife’s car in garage.  
     “How could that be?”  I had my hardware jig saw puzzle laid out on that very floor!
     Skidding to a halt, I labored out of the truck to see my wife coming out to meet me.  
     “Hey Honey,” she beamed, “The tournament got done early.”
“I put all that stuff back in your Dads Coffee Can for you....”

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Hail to the Golden Girls!  By that I mean, Hail to the 2018 Winter Olympic Gold Medalist!  USA, USA,USA!  As a former Division I hockey player, and one who played overseas, I hesitate to call it professional as it was really bad, I marvel at how far the Women  have ventured in not only four years, but in my personal experience of 52 years. 
     Not totally giving away my age, I was present at the inception of the Pembroke Pandas hockey program, which in turn would become the Brown University Women's team.  The home of several ECAC Championships and several Olympians.
     Knowing that not all of you are hockey buffs or even fans for that matter, I wanted to tie a few things in here by letting you know how much of a role hockey played in my life and the lives of the Co-eds I fell in love with back in 1966. 
     Slight right turn here, so stay with me...  My Dad ran three retail stores (Ashby Dean’s LTD.) on Thayer St. in East Providence, RI.  He was gladly an initial sponsor, being one who greatly appreciated the fairer sex.  Now, in 1966 they had a way to go but many played with brothers and friends, on ponds, and the vast majority had figure skating backgrounds.  I vividly remember the hand-me-down equipment and beat up sticks the Panda’s started with.  But the fire was there, they were Pioneers by God!  Dad's store was three blocks from the rink so I lived at Meehan Auditorium, watched the men and women practice daily and had the fortune of several of the women babysit on occasion.  "You kidding?  She knows who Bobby Orr is, shoots pucks, and smells great?  What's not to Love?"
     The game was very different at that point not at all what we witnessed several weeks ago in a phenomenal showcase of talent, heart, and dedication.  The skating, stick work and strategic aspect of the game was absolutely first rate.  A true pleasure to watch!
      Much like these young Athletes, and the thousands more.  Hockey was my life.  "Why?" you ask?  At the tender age of six it was my source of validation, confidence, and hope.  Man, my team was awesome…  Winners of several State/ New England Championships, numerous tournament wins, and yours truly was one of the lead dogs.  Many team mates also went on to Collegiate and Professional careers.  Like most great power houses we all came together at the tender age of around six.
     That athletic validation was critical.  My budding dyslexia was showing up even at that point.  I couldn't tell my Left from my Right so as a Right Winger, I had to wait for everyone to line up so I could figure out where to go.  In the classroom I was being pulled aside with a few others  who were struggling with basic skills.  God forbid anyone should ask me the months of the year.  Hockey was my savior.
     These two worlds collided when I had to read a small speech at our New England Championship Banquet.  45 years later, I can still remember standing in front of everyone staring at the words.  Extremely painful.  But now?  I’ll speak in front of any crowd, You name it! 
     So what in tarnation does this have to do with the 2018 Women's Ice Hockey Gold Medalist?? Well, in both our cases I’ll apply the 1968 tobacco slogan targeting Women…
“You’ve Come a Long Way Baby”!
A Heart Felt Congratulations to all the Players, Staff, and Families of the Reigning Women’s Ice Hockey Olympic Gold Medalists!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Pot Holes?  What do They Really Cost?

      Pot Holes!  Got your attention right away didn’t I?  No joke, if the Pot Holes in my town were Kansas wheat, it’d be a record bumper crop.  They’re everywhere!  Going down the Main Street in my beloved Burg has turned into the Monaco Grand Prix, complete with vicious twist and turns with and straight aways with massive acceleration.  Except the speeds aren't fringing on 100 MPH or the posted 35, but actually a cautiously crawling 10 MPH...  Ohhh, it's painful.
     My fellow citizens and I have become so fond of some of them they have their own scenic road signs...”The Grand Canyon”, “Cliffs of Dover”, "The New River Gorge” and my personal favorite, the “Snake River Canyon”.  There was a small contingent of Police out there on Saturday so an Evil Kniveal impersonator could set up his ramp and jump that Beast!  Shame too, he almost made it.
    So, now really, what’s the cost of a Pot Hole?  I know from a personal perspective it’s exactly $323.23.
       Let me walk you through my figures.  And please, particularly if you're a City Engineer, don’t jump ahead, as this has little to do with asphalt and labor.  I’m talking real cost.
   So expense number one...  Button down dress shirt x 2 = $62.50.  How is that you ask?  Welp, the first one fell pray to a steamin cup of Joe.  Yes Sir, straight down the middle of the fairway.  Newly pressed white business shirt gained this growing inky spot when the front half of my truck disappeared in one of our more infamous creators.  After a few choice expletives, I realized that puppy wasn't coming out.  Nice new gardening shirt.
     Shirt number two you ask?  This one was worthy of a commercial, or at least a You Tube clip.  On the way in for a basketball game my cheek inadvertently collided with my Chili Cheese Burrito which landed squarely in my pocket.  What are the odds of that?  Apparently pretty good.  All as the result of my left front tire plunging precariously into a newly created creator causing it to skip a full revolution, sending me and my Burrito careening toward the curb.  After shirt number one had bite the dust  you'd think I would have worn black to the game.    
     Expense three...$132.23.  Front end alignment and tire balancing.  This one goes without saying.  But my guess is, seriously, if I came back into town at 3:33A.M., I’d bet the dedicated employees of all four auto part stores and two garages would be working in complete unison to make these freaks of nature BIGGER!  Jack Hanners, pic axes, sledgehammers, the whole deal.  Swinging, picking hammering toward their winter bonus!  
     So the last, and most certainly not the least, of my Pot Hole expenses is the fiscal and emotional toll these gargantuan holes have placed upon my relationship.
     Here’s what I mean... so most of us dudes look at this newly minted obstacle course as a challenge right?  Who among us hasn’t bragged about our speed and "Tire to Hole Ratio"?  How many times you’ve braved the gauntlet and not hit ONE!  
    So as the course flag dropped last Saturday on the way through town, I was on fire, hadn’t been engulfed in one!!  However, and this is big, my loving spouse was furious, giving me “The Look”. Unbeknownst to me she had banged her head twice off the passenger window, poked herself in the eye during the traditional make up/ touch up session, and drawn a "Chantilly Red" smile across her cheeks that The Joker would be envious of.  
     My best gauntlet time was quickly overshadowed during a quite $137.41 dinner at her favorite restaurant with two fairly expensive bottles of wine.  I don't drink wine.  Just sayin....

So, how much am I willing to chip in to fix our Moon-Like Pot Hole conundrum? 

Well, about $323.23.  You??



Sunday, February 25, 2018

That Night and Ms. Parker...  As promised, I am going t omake no changes to this blog post from a grammatical, and spelling perspective.  And it shouldbe vey fitting as this is how my life changed.  In a VW Van, in a night and in a bed.  racey sounding isn't it?
     Well unfortunately for you it's  not.  Back when I was about ten years old in late November we were on the way home from hockey practice in Westerville, Ohio at he old Ice Chalet, for those of you who may remember.  It was about 10:30 at night, my sister had had figure skating practice that evening woile I had been on the second sheet of ice with the hockey team.  The 45 minuite home was uneventful until we came to our last stop sign, literally across the road from our 26 acre farm.  Right now as I sit here a gazillion years later, I can still see the side lights of a semi truck passing in front of us, that burnt orange color traveling from my right to my left, can also feel the impact as our VW Van hit the side of this semi, now we are spinningcounterclockwise.  The frumping sound of metal on metal in my mind, then everything stops.  Having been stretched out n the back seat of the van, still decked out in my hockey gear, now I see my sister and Mom hanging out of the car by their seat belts.  Ya see the front of the car had literally been ripped off, like the top of a tin can of beans.  I get out of the car to help them out and then, and really I mean right now, because I can see this in my minds eye as I sit here sharing this with you, I see the headlights of the car traveling beind the truck swerve.  The next few minutes or seconds, never sure which it could be is lost for ever, buried in my subconscious, cause that vehicle, going about 55 MPH hits me.  Thaaawack!  SO now, my ten year old eyes feel the bllod of my mothers facial cuts dripping down onto mine as a guttural scream-cry comes from her throt as she leans over the top of me.
     That moment changed my life.  No kidding right?  I can fill you in on the rest later but that moment changed my life for the good.  God came to me that evening in the form of an 18 wheeler.  Ya know, like the Native American's giving the spirits animal shapes.  Mine was a truck.
    So for the next six months, I was a very cptive audience, having been intraction in the hospital, then ina cast up to my hips at home nursing a broken femer and a bunch of other cuts and stuff.  My Mom and sister made it through with some relatively minor injusrues btw.  Anyway as I transitioned home to lay there starting at the ceiling, in saunters young Ms. Parker to tutor me.  All I can remener is her long blond hair, short skitsr and well endowed nature.  Good job Mom and Dad, you got my attention!  Tell you what, if I didn't want to read before, this specimen changed my minid.  And read we did.  For the next five months.  The first book I remember us reading together was actually a hockey book (just bought it on ebay) "Porko vonPopbutton" and amazing tale about a kid who goes off to school and becomes a hockey star.  That night, that truck, Miss Parker all helped me develop a tool box that would assist me with breaking the dyslexic code.  And I thank all of you for that!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

This is a TRUE Confession.  At 4:00 A.M. this morning as the pitch black stared back at me with a light winter rain drumming out my thoughts, I felt the inherent need to Confess to you.  After five and a half decades, I found my PASSION. 
    Approximately six years ago I discovered, dare I say this, I have a talent for writing.  Started with lyrics, then poems and now books.  Which in my mind (the whole point of this blog entry), MY MIND, is one of the most ironic things I have ever know. 
     The reason?
     Last week I drove four hours to Lexington, KY for business, and on the way listened to a voicemail from my publisher (Monday Creek Publishing- Whoop Whoop) leaving me the phone number of a professor at Ohio University who specialized in Dislexia (that's how my mind would spell it... and yes I will poke fun at myself ((endearing coping skill)), even on a life molding topic such as this) who had read my recently published children's book "The Adventures of Coal and Andy; Charlie the Catfish". For those of you who haven't read it quite yet, on the back cover I profess I struggled with childhood Dyslexia.  As this phenomenon is her passion and major course of study, she wanted to spend a few minutes discussing my experiences.  As it turns out, like me, she is also a non-spelling, slow reading, number reversing, word switching, highly functioning, phenomenally educated, extremely intuitive, amazingly passionate person who is making a hugh difference in the WORLD.  This conversation changed my life.
     I want to know how this can be?  It has taken me years, I literally mean years of my life, to this day as a matter of fact, to understand that I am not a RetardThat word hurts...  As a matter of fact, I've used it.  I've hidden behind it.  I've run from it.  I suppose in this day and age, "Developmentally Challenged" is more PC.  Not Stupid, Idiot, or Late Bloomer?  Worn all those tags, accepted all those adjectives, believed those labels... 
     Let me be clear, "Crystal Clear".  This is no "Woe is me" tale.  This is a TRUE Confession.  A pronunciation, that I have found yet another True PASSION in my life.  And with this new found mission, I intend on changing not one child's life, as was my goal with "Charlie the Catfish", but many others as well.  I'm going to tell you my story, with as many gory details as I can remember, in order to help the next kid get out of the box we are trying to put him or her in.
This won't be my only blogging topic, but certainly one worth tracking. 
     On my next post, I am going to turn off the spell, grammar and punctuation checks to give you an idea of who the man is hiding behind the curtain.
     This otta be fun!!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Yes, we all know the adage about the Squeaky Wheel "getting the grease".  For once, I'll play the role of the Squeaky Wheel.  And I literally mean the Squeaky Wheel. 
     So there I was Friday afternoon, ready to head home for the President's Day weekend, but had to make a quick pit stop at the market for the essentials which would allow me to stay tucked in at the house all weekend.
     First stop...  the grocery store.  See here's the rub...  I live in a small college town and if this perceived ten minute stop is done at the wrong time on say Mom or Dad's Weekend, you might as well have brought a tent to camp out, cause the lines for the new iPhone launch are a tad smaller.  So coasting through the parking lot doing my recon, the mission looked like a Go.  Parking available, a few carts in the cart corral, and most cars looked local.  Let's do this. 
     Once in the door I grabbed the first cart I could get my hands on, disinfecting the handle of any hibbie geebies the last shopper may have graciously left. 
     Now as I may have inferred, I needed the essentials.  Dawg and cat food, beer and a pallet of water for the barn fridge.  As I cruised past the organic veggies, I realized that the front left wheel on my shopping companion was teetering. No biggie, I'll only be here for two minutes, max. 
        I continued on my predestined route to isle 17, pet food.  Grabbed the 50 pound bag of dog food for my buds, the 20 pound bag of food for my mouse eradication team, plus six cans of the wet stuff that smells like, well, cat food.  
    Engaging the handle I push.  That 70 plus pounds starts to head immediately left.  Heading right for the bird food and cat litter.  Whoooa...  Hang on partner.  I self correct and begin to realize this cart had just copped a major attitude.  Knowing I could out muscle this contraption, I adjust my heading with a 20 degree crab (aviation term for angle) and head to the libation section.    
     Half way to my next check point that front left wheel literally starts to squeak like a 13 year old kids voice as he talks to his first crush.  Now, I've got every shoppers attention as I literally push-drag that cart to my beer.  Finally arriving at the brew with a major cramp in my left forearm, I hoist two cases of high octane and one pallet of water (strategically positioned a the end cap) into the belly of that beast.  Lets see, if I do my calculations right, that's another 32 pounds of liquid.  So now, this limping cart weights about 110 pounds and just pulling on my left arm like a six year old who sees the twizzlers are on sale.  I mean yanking and squealing! 
     20 yards past the massive pyramid of bargain soup cans is the goal line.  Push, drag, push drag, yank, squeal, squeak.  Almost there.  So what happens next?  That's right!  That cantankerous wheel liberates itself from bondage, straightens up and drives straight into that pyramid, sending tomato, barley, and vegetable soup flying across multiple isles!  What do I do?  Pull my hat down and head to the exit, and quickly!  That squeaky beast can be someone else's burden.  "Clean Up on Aisle 10!"