Monday, November 24, 2014

Memory Lane

Today I went with my wife to visit her mother in the nursing home. Her mother is 102 and her mind isn't quite the steel trap it was just a mere couple of years ago. She smiled at me and asked me if I was there to take her to supper.  She didn't know me.  She smiled at my wife, her youngest daughter, and asked her if she was there to help her go to the bathroom.  It was at that moment I told my wife I'd be in the TV/Card lounge until she was ready to leave.  It bothered me that my mother-in-law had no memory of me but it really hit hard for my wife for her mother not to recognize her own child.  But, it has been getting worse each time we go in. The Alzheimer is slowly eating away at her memories. If you tell her who you are, she claims to remember and I truly do believe she does. When my wife tells her who she is, my mother-in-law seems truly upset to not remember.

Anyway, I went into the TV lounge where five patients were playing cards.  Over time I've got to know them and they know me.  We all said 'hi' and I sat in a chair and started to watch the TV which was broadcasting an old "The Brady Bunch" show.  I watched as Alice traded zingers with Sam, her butcher boyfriend.

I broke out laughing. Without realizing it, I'd interrupted the card game and they wanted to know what was so funny.

I pointed to the television and said, "Look at the ad's on the back wall of the butcher shop." Just over Sam's shoulder was a sign that read: Chopped Sirloin 92¢ lb. "I sure would like to be able to get that today!"

Anna was quick with a reply. "Bob, honey. I remember buying hamburger for something like 29¢ a pound when I was feeding my kids."

Unfortunately, that was a truth.  I remembered, at the ripe age of almost 16, biking uptown (a very small community) to the local grocery store and getting hamburger for that low price.  Anna is like about 20 years my senior, probably somewhere close to 90 years in age.

I continued to watch the show and Mike Brady (father) had a pay phone installed for the Brady children to use, needing to pay a dime for each call.  When I was single and shared a large 3-story house with 3 other guys, the phone bill got to be an issue.  It was in my name and everyone used it.  When I attempted to collect the money to pay the bill, I was met with 'catch me next payday' which just never seemed to come.  I took the phone out. Well, actually I took out the three extensions (living room, downstairs kitchen and upstairs kitchen) and left only one phone in my bedroom.  That, in itself lowered my phone bill drastically since each extension was extra. Bedrooms were kept locked so nobody but me, or who I allowed, could use my phone.  One of the other guys quickly had a pay phone installed at the bottom of the stairs.  Each call was 25¢ and of course, the longer one talked, the more money they had to pay.  The only catch to having a pay phone in the house was somebody had to be there when the phone company came to collect the money. There was a minimum amount due each month or we had to make up the difference.  We never had to make up the difference.  Back then it seemed that if you called more than 2 blocks away from the phone's location, it was long distance.

My granddaughter found a picture of gasoline on Facebook where the prices were under $1.00, including premium.  On the picture was something to the effect of "Let's bring these prices back."  Wouldn't that be nice?  Oh, wait. While we're bringing gasoline down to 79¢ a gallon, why not bring it down to the price I remember buying it for my first car — a mere 25¢ per gallon. That's right!  $5 filled the tank and you got not only change back, but also Golden, TV, or Green Stamps and/or a voucher for a collectible piece of china or crystal.  Yes, even at those prices, I was able to get a 12 place setting of smoked crystal consisting of water glasses, champagne glasses, wine glasses, tumblers and shot glasses.  Should I mention the station attendants also cleaned the windows, pumped the gas, checked the oil and sometimes even the washer fluid!!  All that for free!  In the winter, if you were a regular, you could get a free analysis of your antifreeze!

I remember postage stamps were 3¢ and post cards with the postage already on them were only 1¢! Imagine, a postcard for only one penny!  One could buy a roll - that's right - A ROLL of 100 stamps for a mere $3.00.

My mind started to think how much more money I'd have today if we could go back to those days where prices were 'reasonable.'  BUT, the gas station owners wouldn't make much money.  Butchers and grocery store employees would be on Welfare to make ends meet.  The rules are simple, I couldn't make the money I make today.  I'd have to face the reality of a paycheck of less than $100 a week, probably under $80.

The good ol' days are only good if you can have the best of both worlds.  The prices of back then with the income of today. The simplicity of back then with the conveniences of today. Now wouldn't that be nice?

Yeah, memory lane is a great place to stroll, but, unfortunately, you can only stroll there.  You can't live there, but only visit for short lengths of time.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Bucket List

The Bucket List - what a great concept. We've all got a bucket list... that itemized list of things we want to do before we move to the next great experience.  I really never gave it much thought to making a bucket list because ... well ...

I was a newly released boot-camp, naive sailor going home for two weeks of leave before my first duty station.  I was on a flight and had a retiring Navy Chief sitting beside me.  Some people will give you advice whether you request it or not. This chief was no different but his words would actually shape my future.

The Navy will teach you anything you want to learn, you only need to be a vessel to the experience.

At first I thought it was a pretty cryptic (and creepy) message but as I considered it over the next few days, weeks, months and years, I came to realize that he had condensed the meaning because, for him, his whole world had been the Navy.  I was not thinking of being a "Lifer" - the guy who makes the service a living.

No, for me, I had to change the phrase just a tad:  The WORLD will teach...

Sure, the Navy taught me many things.  I was an interpreter in the Navy.  I was taught Russian.  While at the language institute, I also learned a smidgen of several other languages like Swahili, Chinese Mandarin, Chinese Cantonese, Japanese, Arabic, Italian, French, Polish and the list goes on for almost another 20 languages.  I learned basic words in those "other" languages, like numbers and simple things like "help," "thank you," "please," "tourist," and a few other useful terms.  Now Russian, on the other hand, I was involved almost 24/7.  At one point I'd almost forgotten English.

Anyway, I also learned several other things while in the Navy which stretched my personnel record to a major thickness.

After the military, I used that philosophy and continued to reap the profit of the world, learning anything that anybody was willing to teach me.  I met a well-known TV show celebrity chef and he taught me the basics of cooking.  I "trapped" my wife cooking up a meal of spicy pork chops, twice-baked potatoes, seasoned carrots and a peach dessert to die for.  I have cooked for groups of upwards of 100 people.

Of course, one must give back and since I love to camp, I was involved with Boy Scouts for several years while my four sons grew up.  Even my wife was involved since we had no daughters.  I have probably taught close to 70 boys how to cook meals beyond the simple hot dogs or hamburgers.  We would have Christmas dinners for the scout troop and I had the boys make such things of Amaretto Chicken, Pork Chop l'Orange, Rumple-de-thump Potatoes, MawMaw Carrots, tossed salads w/ homemade dressings and even homemade ice creams like pistachio or peppermint.  Imagine my surprise when one mother thanked me profusely for teaching her son how to cook at camp. He came back from summer camp and prepared their family a full meal and she was very impressed.  Another boy taught his mother how to make pizza in a cardboard box when their electricity went out.

But my bucket list.  Well, I never considered it a bucket list - just a lot stuff I learned.  So, what do I want to add to my bucket list now that I'm reaching 68 yrs in age?

My life has been very fulfilling.  I've done so many things, many things most people would never consider and as my room mate of the late 60s would say: Do everything at least once and if you like it, do it again.  I've done a lot of things and done them twice or more times. LOL.

What do I want to add to my bucket list.  I want to attend the weddings of all my grandchildren and see the birth of all my great grandchildren.  I'd like to win the lottery.  Not the BIG lottery.  I don't need all that cash. I'll be happy with the 5 white balls.

I'm published but it would be nice to see one of my books make the top 10 nationwide, but, then again, I would be happy just to be a known author.

Oh, yeah, and like all the contestants of the Miss America pageants say: World peace.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, November 10, 2014

The $62 Turkey

It was Saturday night, and again, my wife dragged me to... okay, I'll be honest. She didn't drag me, in fact, I drove her and her sister to what they call "A Feather Party" in this neck of the woods aka NW Ohio.

What is a feather party?  It's a night of bingo with the chance of winning either a frozen turkey or a frozen chicken.  It works like this: You win a bingo and are the only person to have a bingo - you get a turkey. But, if more than one person yells bingo, then all the winners get chickens.

Now, we're not talking about a 30 pound turkey or 12 pound chickens. We're talking the little ones. You know, where the turkey is a whopping 12 to 14 pounds and the chickens are killers at 5 pounds.

It's for charity.  The Lion's Club in West Unity, Ohio (and several other nearby communities) have this event to raise funds. One year I think three or four of the clubs all had it on the same night - and nobody but the players won.  Each club had just a few players.  Nowadays the clubs coordinate with each other and decide which day they will have their feather party.  There were probably close to 300 people there on Saturday night.

So, why do I go?  I normally play one board of bingo... BUT they have great food.  Sandwiches, soups, chips, crackers, pop or water and oooooh, such a selection of desserts.

Bingo starts at 6pm.  If you're not there by 4:30pm, seating can get a little gamey.  We arrived 4:35pm and was able to find an open cluster of empty chairs for the group to sit.  GROUP?  Yes, this is a family affair.  My mother-in-law has attended this function since its inception except for the last two years.  When you consider she is 102 yrs old, that woman has been going to this for a long time.  They miss her.  But, a couple of her daughters (my wife is one of them), a couple of my sons, some of my grandchildren, some nieces and nephews -- we can go from 10 to as high as 25 or 30, depending on who shows.  Last night was a slow night, only 11 people.

Now, why the title of "The $62 Turkey" and what does it mean?

Last year, the caller's wife participated as a bingo player.  She had a couple of her grandchildren and was paying for their games.  You can play more than one board but each board costs $.25 each per game.  She finally won a turkey but as he admitted, it cost $62 for that 12 pound, 11 ounce turkey.  He could have bought that same turkey for under $15 or gotten a really big one for about $27.

Last night, my wife and I spent a whopping $35 and won -- Nada!  Nothing! No turkey or chicken. As a consolation, we did, indeed, win door prizes.  My wife got a red platter, 4 stone coasters and a bag of Dum Dum lollipops. My son won something and a bag of candy circus peanuts which he gave to me.  I won a glamour Barbee doll and a bag of Dum Dum lollipops.  The guy sitting next to me left early and gave me his door prize number and if he'd had stayed, would have won a child's plastic golf bag w/ a putter, 2 clubs, and 3 golf balls. Also, a glow-in-the-dark child's fishing rod and fishes.  I got to claim them.  Did we win the big door prize.  Yeah, right.  Like I'd have a chance of winning the robotic vacuum, the solid cherry wood book shelf unit, the proof set of silver coins or the weekend stay at the local Holiday Inn.  Remember me? The guy would couldn't win a bingo game?

Overall, it was a fun night, met some new people and had a great time.  Can't say I didn't win anything but then again, EVERYONE won a door prize of some sort.

Sometimes Lady Luck is standing behind you and whispering in your ear. Other times, she has just finished beating the crap out of you and is sitting on you.  I guess I could have tried for that $62 turkey but would it have tasted that much better?  I doubt it and I'm not spouting sour grapes.

I guess I should take the opportunity of spending an evening with the family and friends together as a good thing and forgetting the idea of losing money.  Plus, I was able to outline more of a novel, and get most of this written, too.  I spent $35 and had a blast - I'd call that an even return... maybe even a better deal.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, November 3, 2014

Confessions of a NaNoWriMo Junkie

Hi.  My name is Bob Nailor and I'm a NaNoWriMo junkie.

Today is November 3rd and it has been 339 day since my last hit.  I don't know how much longer I can continue to ignore the call. I gave up NaNoWriMo - swore off it when I finished my story last year on November 29, 2013.  I promised never, ever to attempt to write 50k words in 30 days again during November in celebration of National Novel Writing Month.  I had gleaned the coveted "Winner" title twelve (12) times in the last 12 consecutive years.

[takes a deep breath]

My first incursion into NaNoWriMo was an utter failure. It was the year 2000 and my friend, Terri, suggested we try this writing challenge.  It was new and sounded interesting and she, I and about 3 others formed an online group (she was from Oregon, me in Ohio, another 2 from California and 1 from Texas) to participate in NaNoWriMo.  I attempted, of all things, a story cookbook.  One does not attempt to write a cookbook with recipes when participating in NaNoWriMo.  I only got about 35k words completed.  I was determined and set my goal for the following year... but, it was not to be.  Terri passed shortly after NaNoWriMo.  Then my father passed away in October right before the event would begin and I had too many other details to handle and I didn't even hear about NaNoWriMo.

If only it had remained that way... but, noooo.

The year was 2002 and my buddy, Zaapiel, lured me into brooding dark alleys of NaNoWriMo with a challenge.  I have problems with being challenged - I accept.  We met with others in Toledo and I became addicted.  So it has been these last dozen years.

I'm a NoNoWriMo addict.

[deep sigh]

I have made it a total of 2 full days into November this year and not written any words in an attempt to make my goal of 1667 words per day.  [shakes head]  That's a lie!  I have to be honest. I'm a big user.  My goal has been 1700 words each day since 2003 so I always know I'll hit the 50k with some words to spare at the tally verification moment. 1700 x 30 = 51,000.  I call it my 1700 fix.

Even now, this little mini-fix (blog) is causing my fingers to twitch.  I can't fight the sensation.  I have to try, I have to put to words and create another story that will languish in the cyber-space of my "writing" directory of my computer.

[stands proudly]

I can't say that NaNoWriMo has been all bad.  Three of my books, scribbled in the haste and darkness of night during the month of November have seen publication. My first was 2012: Timeline Apocalypse, my second was Ancient Blood: The Amazon and the third, Pangaea, Eden Lost.  A fourth, An Amish Voice, is currently with an agent seeking publication.

Now, if anyone would look at my schedule, they'd gasp in awe that a sane(?) man would even consider the rigors of attempting this feat today.  I have a novel of my own I have been editing in an attempt to release it before the end of the year.  In addition, I am awaiting two clients' manuscripts for editing - both of them novels which should arrive in today's mail or over the next couple of days.  PLUS, I offered to scan and edit a book for a friend.  My wife is a saint, but sometimes I press my luck.  I guess now would be the perfect time to mention that I also have a family who will be coming to celebrate Thanksgiving - I mean, 4 sons, their wives and all my grandchildren - all eight grandchildren!  Oh wait, some of the older grandchildren will also be bringing their boyfriends and girlfriends.

I can't squirrel myself into a back room and ignore them all for the holidays ... or can I?

OMG!  That's like four (4) days!!!  Without writing?  That's 6800 words!  And at the end of the month when time-crunching is imperative.  I just glanced at the calendar -- this is bad.  Thanksgiving comes at the very end of the month and there are no extra days after the 4 day holiday.  November 30th is Sunday.

[eyes widen in realization]

I'd only have mere hours on Sunday night after everyone leaves to catch up and try to finish before the Cinderella hour tolled.

[sweat breaks out on forehead and trembles course the body]

The challenge!  The challenge!

Maybe, just maybe, if I attempt it one more time and failed.  Maybe, possibly I would be cured and I would be free of this November curse once and for all.

Hmm?  I have this story rattling around in my head. It is a sequel to An Amish Voice.  Of course, there are a couple of other stories haunting the corners of my mind, too.

Oh, who am I kidding?  If I start now and do a little over 2k words each day and finish BEFORE Thanksgiving, I could easily get 50k words accomplished.  I could socialize with the family and not be the guy huddled in the corner trying to write. I could--

[a simpering glow of ecstasy overcomes me]

Well, I almost made it.  I mean, two whole days.  To quote an old-time (from my youth) Sunday morning comic strip "Snuffy Smith" -- Times a'wastin!

Yes, I'm going to get my NaNoWriMo fix YET AGAIN.  Now to make a snap decision - which of the myriad of stories banging around inside my brain am I going to pursue?

Until next I ramble on...