The Invisible Private Eye Monster

‘Tis the season for monsters ya know. We’re pretty sure we are plagued by one. Things keep coming up missing around here and we’re not sure who’s to blame. I mean hey, we are gentle people; and as far as we know we haven’t done anything mean to anyone… at least not on purpose. Nevertheless, stuff keeps vanishing when we least expect it. While deep in search the other day, in exasperation my Beautiful Girlfriend proclaimed, “I think we have a monster!!”

I have never seen this monster. Neither has she. Haven’t heard any nasty groans or growls… although yesterday there was a shocking “CRASH!! BONK BOnk bonk!!” that we had trouble identifying. Scared the living hoodlemonkers out of me!! And I don’t even know what hoodlemonkers are!! I leaped up and went searching for what might be lying in pieces somewhere. I was ready to blame this destruction on Freddy The Freeloader (our cat, Fred); but I didn’t find any evidence of broken stuff lying around. After a couple trips to various rooms, I discovered that the horrible crash emanated from the hand shower that sticks to the wall of the shower enclosure. It had come loose (again), and although there was no damage it sure made one heck of a noise. We rarely use it, it works off a little valve off the main shower head and sticks to the wall of the shower enclosure with a very expensive (cheap junk) suction cup thingy. I’ve tried to make it stick better by putting a little water on the surface of the suction cup doomaflochy (pardon my technical talk). That worked for a little while. Then I used a tiny bit of olive oil. That worked for a few months. This time I tried some shampoo. Who knows?? Maybe it will stay put for a bit.

So the monster probably did not make the shower head fall down.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here though and blame the clutter bomb fragments that adorn our garage on this invisible monster. Anyone else out there have a favorite tool, then go to actually use it, and it’s nowhere to be found? So what’s my solution? Go to the store for a replacement. This also happens with nails, screws, caulk, caulking guns, packages of sandpaper, paint… you name it. The monster hides all these things from me. Then when I come home with replacement stuff, I find the original “missing” things about a week or so after the project is complete. And of course they’re all right where I left them. We’ve embarked on a few cleansing missions though, and let’s just say that the local Rescue Mission Thrift Store has benefited from our accumulations of goofs.

My Lovely Bride came home from a short shopping jaunt yesterday, and said, “I bought 3 more pair of reading glasses!” “OK…,” I replied. “They keep vanishing!!” she explained. “Must be the monster!!” I said. “Yes!!” she retorted. Now I have to admit that I’ve made some big mistakes during our 48 years of marriage, but I wasn’t about to point out that she has approximately 174 pairs of glasses in the house already. I’m not as dumb as I look, you see. And OK maybe I’m exaggerating just a bit, but we do have several. Some of them are mine!!

We were watching the news today, and I looked across the room on the windowsill. I blurted out,“Hey Honey, there’s some glasses over there!” “Where the heck did those come from??” she wondered. “Maybe the monster put them there.” I responded. After the news was over, I was soliciting ideas for this week’s “Happy Friday!!!” We were both on the same wavelength regarding this mysterious monster as a main topic; but I was looking for a name. “The Private Eye Monster,” my Dear Honey offered. “How did you get that?” I wondered; thinking aloud that it sounded like the monster was a detective or something.

“No,” she explained, “it keeps stealing my private eyes!!”

And now for some seasonal monster cartoon fun.

I Killed The Mice And We Ate The Maus (and it was delicious!!)

Many moons ago, when our kids still lived at home, I grew some pretty doggone wonderful carrots. I’ve been making garden beds instead of rows to grow as much food as possible in my small plot. In those days, the soil was relatively weed free and I was able to get some pretty nice carrot beds which I’d cover with a nice layer of leaves just before the snow came. A bit labor intensive at first but once the carrots were established it was pretty much smooth sailing. The result was several harvests of candy sweet carrots just sitting in the beds waiting for me pretty much all winter.

Fast forward several years, and after allowing weeds to thrive the garden, well, let’s just say the term “labor intensive” grew several magnitudes larger. Those of you who know about gardening may have guessed why. Yep, I let too many weeds scatter their seeds in the dirt. There’s an old saying that refers to this blunder: “one year of seeds, seven years of weeds.” So there I was, on my hands and knees, carefully removing weeds from the carrot bed, sometimes using the scissors on my Swiss army knife to snip away any weeds that were too close to baby carrot seedlings to be yanked, because yanking that closely would rip the poor baby carrots out too and they are so very tiny and jeez I didn’t want to go through all the effort of planting and then watch them get crowded out by weeds like last year when I just completely gave up and there was no way that was gonna happen this time thank you very much and yes now it’s time to stop with the run-on sentence awreddy.

All those many afternoons (there were several) of tending the carrots paid off!! Lush foliage, and very nice sized roots. I picked a monster a few days ago that was literally over 3 inches in diameter near the top, and it tasted pretty darn good!! Then a horrible thing started happening. Something started nibbling the greens; and I didn’t find that amusing. Whatever it was had chomped off the greens about a foot off the ground; so I thought maybe a bunny or a chipmunk was trapped inside the fence. I put out a small live trap for a few days, but nothing. Examined the soil carefully for tracks but I couldn’t see any signs, so I began to suspect mice.

I hauled out my old Victor mouse traps and used my old “you ain’t licking my bait and gettin’ away” trick: I tied a small piece of walnut on the bait pan with some sewing thread. They can’t resist gnawing at the walnut, which of course causes them to tug a bit and the trap sends them to Mouse Heaven. I’ve gotten 5 so far and I’ll keep setting traps till I quit getting them. I do feel bad about killing them… I apologize as I remove their dead bodies from the trap and send them flying in to the woods while I utter a prayer in their behalf. Hey, mice gotta eat too ya know!!

They are too small to eat in my opinion; but if the end of the world comes, hey, who knows?? In the meantime, our family really does enjoy eating Maus (pronounced mouse). I made some Wednesday as a matter of fact. No mouse meat or any other kind of meat in Maus though. It’s really delicious with a couple of eggs fried over easy on top. Also very good with Norwegian meatballs and gravy. The recipe below is my rendition in honor of Mrs. Spoelma, the nice old Dutch lady that lived next door when my Beautiful Girlfriend was pregnant with our first child. She brought us a container of it and I asked “what’s in it?” She didn’t have a recipe but here’s what I do, and it is very, very good. Please note that the quantities are approximate, you can always adjust to your liking.

Maus: Delicious Mashed Potatoes, Kale, Barley and Onion


Potatoes : enough to fill a 6 quart pot a bit more than halfway when diced (we do not peel ours)

Barley: ½ cup hulled barley (pearled barley is OK but not as nutritious as hulled)

Kale: 3 – 4 tightly packed cups, chopped

Onion: one large yellow onion (about the size of a small apple) or 4 or 5 small onions, diced

½ stick of salted butter

½ cup of milk

salt to taste

Potatoes, barley, and kale will be cooked in separate pots.

Add more than enough water to the barley to cover, at least 2 inches higher than the barley. Boil the barley until tender, then drain, cover and set aside.

Add 1 cup water to the kale, and cover. Bring to boil, turn off heat after 2 or 3 minutes of boiling. Toss the onions in with the kale; stir to mix well, and cover again, let that sit for about 5 minutes. The heat will cook the onions just enough. Drain, then set aside.

Wash and dice enough potatoes to fill a 6 quart pot a bit more than half way (we leave the skins on). Fill with water till the potatoes are barely covered, and boil until tender, drain. Add butter and mash, adding milk and a dash or so of salt along the way. When the potatoes are creamy, add barley, kale and onions to the potatoes and mash together until mixed thoroughly.

OK, you’re done! Now, don’t just stand there, it’s time to eat!!

Speaking of Maus, here’s one I’ve never trapped nor eaten.

Greens: Good For Your Heart

Although summer is my favorite time of year, autumn rates a very close second when I consider what’s happening in the garden. Most of the warm weather crops will get frosted to death soon; so the remaining harvest is, in large part, greens.

My beautiful girlfriend and I got hooked on greens as a result of living in Florida while I was in the Air Force. Southerners do love their greens: collards, turnip greens, beet greens, mustard greens…   We tried all of them and were smitten pretty much instantly; and when we moved up north we added Swiss chard to the fold. I recently surprised a lady at the grocery store when I noticed the beets she was buying had some very nice greens attached to them.  “Those are nice beet greens!  Do you eat them?”  I asked.  She was completely unaware that they were edible; and seemed interested in actually trying them.

Greens of one variety or another have been a staple in our garden for over 40 years. They are easy to grow and packed with nutrition. And of course, while we are eating our greens, we recite the Greens Eating Poem:

Greens!! Greens!! They’re good for your heart!!

The more you eat ‘em the more you’re smart!!

The more you’re smart, the better you feel,

So eat your greens with every meal!!

 (And eat clam chowder to make them louder!!)

Well maybe that’s not how the poem goes…

Anyway, greens are one of the most versatile vegetables for the simple fact that you can eat them just as soon as they start growing; and continue to harvest right up through winter. I garden intensively; meaning I grow a lot of food in a small space. I often purposely sow seeds for collards or kale a bit too thickly and thin them out as they germinate. The remaining seedlings are then allowed to grow a bit more, and I continue to harvest by thinning as the plants grow. The sprouts and / or young plants are a wonderful addition to any almost any dish, salad and stir-fry to name just two.   Just snip off the roots, rinse a bit, and toss them into whatever you like. I’ve even been known to use them as a substitute for lettuce on a sandwich.

Eventually my beds of greens will be thinned so there’s about a foot between plants. Many of them, like collards and kale for example, will thrive throughout the entire gardening season.   I often plant root crops in the beds with the greens.   The combination of leafy vegetables and root crops keeps weeds at bay while the vegetables thrive. Beds are also a good habitat for toads, spiders, and other beneficial creatures who keep pest insect damage to a minimum.

Swiss chard is a big favorite of ours.  It tastes very similar to spinach but will produce right up to winter. It’s frost hardy, but after the temp falls below 20 degrees F for awhile it will die. Therefore, the Swiss chard has to be completely harvested before the weather stays bitter cold. Kale and wild cabbage (ancestor to collards), though,will survive the entire winter. These two are among our favorites.  They’re good, hearty fare at the table either by themselves or mixed up in other dishes.  The flavor is pretty strong in summer but mellows nicely when the cool weather comes.  And besides, aren’t they just plain pretty?

On more than one occasion I’ve picked wild cabbage, kale, and also kohlrabi out of the snow. Although they appear to be dead in the garden they’re still green. When brought inside the effectiveness of their natural antifreeze shows up as they magically “come to life.” A good snow cover is welcome in the kale and wild cabbage beds, because snow protects their leaves from getting wind burn during the cold winter weather.  However, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s a good idea to mark where the beds are with some long sticks. It’s no fun shoveling snow around looking for your greens!

For those of you who are old enough to remember, Granny used to cook up a mess of collard greens pretty regularly on “The Beverly Hillbillies.”  I went hunting for some video of that;  didn’t find any.  However, I found this and rather enjoyed it.  Hope you do too.

Stan and Ollie Warm My Heart

Once upon a time, in a land far, far, away, there lived a boy named Me who amused himself for hours on end with old movies and short comedy films. The land was an obscure place called Long Island, New York. Due to the proximity of a very large city, our family enjoyed many TV stations that broadcast many entertainers, both very new (for the time) and very, very old.

Back then you could buy 3 candy bars for a quarter, dinosaurs sold gasoline; and if there was any mention of cellular phones, it would have been some strange communications device used by atomic monster amoebas. Radio programs would entertain whole families; but while listening one could do lots of other things while listening to shows like Fibber McGee and Molly or the Green Hornet. I arrived on this planet about 6 years after commercial TV came into bloom. By the time I learned English, though, I was completely hooked by all the cool stuff on the magic glowing box.

Looking back, I consider it quite a privilege to have grown up where I did. Local stations from New York City of course had nationally televised network shows, but they also had their own very entertaining local programs. All of these were broadcast live; which often made for interesting viewing. On top of all that, the New York stations had access to extensive collections of both silent movies and movies with sound.

Our parents did the best they could to encourage us kids to play outside. However, when it got dark early or if the weather was icky we’d be in the house. Often in desperation our Mom would say, “go watch television!!” Didn’t take much persuasion… and we enjoyed many hours of shows like the Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello, Looney Tunes, Marx Brothers, and Laurel and Hardy. The laughter from all these was a great escape for me. Things at home weren’t always pleasant (every home has its moments I suppose). I won’t go into any gory detail… but suffice it to say that comedy films gave me the healing touch of laughter I often desperately needed.

Fast forward to my own journey into parenthood; and of course I shared the joy of the “old guys” with our kids. Both our daughter and son know, for example, that Stan and Ollie were the first names of the famous comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy. Not sure if that had any bearing on what was to come, but our first grandson was named Oliver. Ollie is now 12, and we’ve already begun a second passing of the torch, so to speak. Both Oliver and his brother Gabe have had many laughs while watching some Laurel and Hardy shorts. Even a couple silent films! To my great delight, they both enjoy them greatly (thank you, YouTube).

Our daughter and son in law also have two dogs; Arrow and Stanley. Both are beautiful, loving creatures who greet us warmly every time we go to visit. And now of course, their family have their very own Stan and Ollie!!  So… long story longer; not only did Stan and Ollie warm my heart when I was a kid; but they continue to do so now that I’m older than compost.

In more ways than one!!

For those of you who have read this far, please enjoy this Laurel and Hardy short film. I have a feeling Stan and Ollie will lift your spirits, too.

If You Can’t Have The Heat, Go Out For Some Chicken!!

A very horrible, high-class, terrible yet luxurious thing happened to us about a month ago. Our oven died!! I was gonna cook something very important (in other words, I can’t remember want it was), and when I checked on the oven after the preheat, the oven just sat there with that silly room temperature look on its insides. I’ve dubbed all this sadness a “horrible, high-class, terrible yet luxurious thing” because all I have to do is turn on the news and I can plainly see that I am a very spoiled American. Much of the world would LOVE to have their only problem in life to be a broken cooking appliance!

Anyway, I cried and rolled on the floor for a few hours, thrashed about, filled my mouth with soapy water and sprayed it everywhere while yelling great howls of boo-hoo and ickety-boo; and of course none of that is actually true but it was nice fodder for a run-on sentence so I just threw all that in there for the halibut and any other fish that may wish to be included.

Then called our friendly neighborhood repair folks to come to the rescue.

When the guy arrived, I showed him what was going on: everything seemed like it wanted to work, but no heat from the electric ouch elements. “I dunno… maybe a fuse or something??” I offered. Then I stepped back and let the guy do his thing. After about 20 minutes, he said, “looks like your computer is dead. I’ll have to go back to the shop to see if I can find one.” The retired electronic service guy who still lives inside my brain was somewhat in disagreement, but hey, I called the experts for a reason (the reason: I didn’t wanna mess with it!!) so I let it go. I mean hey, the oven is 15 years old and anything is possible.

Got a call a couple days later. “Ken, we can’t find that oven control computer board anywhere. I mean, it’s supposedly still available but nobody has stock.,” my trusted repair guy told me. “Oh flarn..,” I sighed. And yes maybe I used a stronger word, but hey, flarn is pretty powerful, right?? “So the stove is 15 years old, time for a new one?” I asked. “Yeah probably,” he replied, “but because of the chip shortage, everybody has been waiting for months to get parts. I can order you one but I have no idea when it will come in.” “OK, please get one on order for me,” I responded.

Joni Mitchell sang “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” Ain’t that the truth? Grandsons came to visit; and a regular favorite is frozen pizza. My Beautiful Girlfriend lamented, “oh crap!! We don’t have an oven!!” “It’s OK,” I reassured, “Pizza Hut has an oven.” And they do!! So we did what any other spoiled American would do, we ordered take out pizza. Then came the time when we were hankering for some chicken. Lee’s has chicken!! Pretty darn good too!! And if you go on Tuesdays, you can get two, 2-piece senior meals with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and biscuits for ten bucks!! Oh and have you had their pot pies? MMmmmm….

Well nearly a month went by, and no word about a new stove. So again, this spoiled American guy took the high-class route and went hunting for a new stove online. Of course I was being picky… I wanted to stick with American made; and our service folks recommended GE as the top choice. Then we wanted the same basic style: a white drop-in range with glass cooktop. Several places said they had stoves, but when I called to verify stock, there was a resounding NOPE each time. Again, I exclaimed, “FLARN!!”

Finally I decided to break down and put my electronic service guy pants back on and went hunting for an oven control board. Several sites in the U.S. said there was stock, but again after following up it was a big goose egg. My last-ditch effort involved hunting for alternate part numbers and BINGO!! There was an outfit with one in stock, in Ontario, Canada!! I called and the very friendly guy on the other end reassured me that yes they did indeed have one; and offered to take my credit card info over the phone (never do that, folks!!). I thanked him profusely and told him I’d order online. “Oh, OK, perfect,” he said. I ordered the $330 part (way cheaper than a $1500 stove), and it was at my house in less than a week.

With much grunting and wondering I was able to pull the oven out and replace the board. Feeling pretty good about myself, I turned the breaker back on and did a quick test. No heat. I cried again, weeping buckets of tears which I collected and tossed into the air while howling my sadness to the tune of The Funeral March. After a few milliseconds of this whining and saying FLARN a few more times, I turned the breaker off and commenced to remove the back covers to hunt for that blasted fuse I thought might be the original problem.

Yep!! I bypassed the fuse by using a plastic chip-clip to squish the leads together and did another test. This time when I touched the electric ouch element it lived up to its name I just made up! Houston, we have HEAT!! Called Alex Appliance in the Heights. Those folks have always been there for us in a pinch. “Yes, we have the fuse. But we only have the Whirlpool one. It’s fifty bucks.” Got the part, slapped it in, and did the electric ouch test once more for good measure. Success!! I told my eagerly waiting Lovely Wife Lady the news as she sat on the couch, “OK, we’re good!! A little expensive… I don’t remember ever spending $380 on a fuse.” “Huh??” she queried. “Well, $330 for the control board, and $50 for the fuse…”

Called my friends at the repair shop and told them the good news. The nice lady who takes the phone calls asked me how upset I was… and I blatantly and (not even) forcefully said, “not at all!! This was a completely human mistake. Just wanted you to know so that isn’t overlooked if you ever run across it again.” I went on to explain that hey, even though I considered myself pretty good while I was working, I made my share of mistakes. I really was not at all upset.

She was very relieved and then asked me, “Ken, would you like a job??”

I told her no thanks, but if I did want a job, it could be fun to work here maybe. As an observer anyway.

No News Can Be Good News

I’ve always been a bit of a news junkie. Been that way ever since I can remember really… I even remember when Berlin Wall was being built. I was the ripe old age of 6 at the time. Unfortunately, most of the news we see in the media is not very pleasant these days. Maybe it never was. Regardless, I think I’ve been paying a little too much attention and it’s starting to hurt me. There really is lots of very good news in this world, but sadly not nearly enough of it is reported in the mainstream media.

Therefore I’ve decided not to focus so much on what needs to be changed in the world, but rather try to focus on what needs to be changed in me. Specifically, I may (or may not) try to distract myself by squirting copious amounts spicy brown mustard into my nostrils every time I get the urge to watch the news. There’s actually a clinical name for this method; which I just made up. Yes my friends, I’ve named it “No News Mustard Nose.” This is not to be confused with The Beatles’ song “Mean Mr. Mustard,” although I really do enjoy that tune. However, when my nostrils are full of mustard I simply do not feel very musical.

In order to further my journey into serenity and good mental health; I’m also doing my best not to indulge in negativity. Perhaps I could achieve this by loudly blowing bubbles in a glass of chocolate milk every time someone wants to utter sounds of prejudice, racism, or misogyny (to name a few). I could even try using a straw!! This could be enhanced by humming loudly into the straw; and thereby making some very musical bubbling action. If the negative yammering continues, I could take a quick break from the bubbling and loudly proclaim, “My Musical Milk Makes Me Most Merry!!” And of course I would resume with the brightly bubbly ballad; only much louder.

I’ve heard that some folks find happiness by purchasing things. Well I already have too much stuff; but perhaps I could go shopping for such luxury items as chocolate covered herring fillets; or maybe some nonexplosive macaroni and cheese for a change. I’ve always disliked macaroni explosions. Takes weeks to get the stuff out of the crooks and nannies of my kitchen. Of course I could instead try to find something useful like a solar powered paper clip dispenser; or there’s always that right handed / left handed (for those who are ambivalent) matching set of metric screwdrivers I’ve never wanted. Maybe I won’t go shopping at all, but rather treat myself and My Beautiful Girlfriend to an elegant dinner of Fish Head Surprise with Mama Baloopa’s Banana Gravy. Oh and let’s not forget the famous Cinnamon Raisin Eggplant Pie Ala Mode for dessert!! I hear it’s the latest thing in the suburbs of Sasquatch, New Yingleton.

My friends, I decided to make silly tonight due to the advent of a noteworthy anniversary of a truly horrible event. There will be lots of opinions given about why the attacks occurred on September 11, 2001. Lots of memorial ceremonies, but also, sadly, some hate speech will likely be strewn about during all the inevitable commentary. I will watch none of it. I will simply wing up prayers for those who lost loved ones, and I’ll continue to pray for all of us on this planet. We’re all in this together after all. Perhaps there will come a time when humanity can really make love and not war. Being the idealist that I am, I’ll continue to cling to the hope that we can learn from history rather than continuously repeat it.

Until then, if you’re at my house when the news comes on, just look the other way when the mustard starts to flow; and maybe plug your ears when I reach for the chocolate milk and my straw. Then stick around for the Fish Head Eggplant Pie Ala Mode!! It’s um… well it’s really pretty disgusting.

On the other hand, you have very silly diversions…

Delightfully Dreadful Dental Demolition

I have a severe complaint that is never to be rectified because what I’d like to complain about is this getting old stuff; which as many of you know is not for cowards but Holy Farlupa it sure would be nice if once in a while I could just coast for about 30 years and not have to worry about my body falling apart but it just doesn’t work that way and OK now it’s time for this run-on sentence to cease and desist this very instant.


So there I was, minding my own business, eating something delicious (I have no idea what it was but I’m sure it was good because I like to eat good things) and then OW!! My tooth hurts!! My molar on my lower left side. A root canal crown kind of tooth. Then I say to myself, “Oh poopy caca doodoo, what the HECKAMALOOKEY is this all about??” So I push it around and it feels better when I push downward. Then I notice a bulge in the gum near the tooth and I scratch it open with my fingernail (gross… I know) and that allows icky stuff to ooze out and then I rinse with Listerine and VOILA!! Feels much better.

For a while…

Then I say to myself, “Hey you with the face!! Try rinsing every day with the Listerine juice and kill what appears to be a tooth infection!!” So I did that for a few weeks, and it got better.

For a while…

Then I went to the dentist for a checkup and told them about this tooth and they told me the horrible news: “It needs to come out.” Upon hearing this I said, “Is there nothing that can be done??” “No, it’s abscessed, it needs to come out. But we can replace it with an implant.” “How much for that?” I asked. “$7500.” was the reply. My reply: “CRAP (well, I actually used a stronger word)!! No, don’t think I’m gonna do that…” This news made me rather sad, as the tooth’s neighbor (another molar) had been yanked many years ago, so that would leave a rather large open spot on the lower left side of my jaw. I mentioned to the dentist that I thought I’d made some progress with the infection and he said, “well sounds like you want to limp with it for a bit. If anything changes we’ll schedule an appointment for you with the oral sturgeon.” “OK,” I repled, followed with a large, silent “OH NO!! I have NO INTEREST in oral sturgeony!! FOOEY POOP SNAGFOP MASHTABORK ROOZLESNORKEN!!” OK I may have used other, more “colorful” words to express my sadness. Oh and for those who don’t know, an oral sturgeon is my way of describing a slimy fish doctor who sturgically sucks teeth out of people.

After a couple weeks of on and off success, I finally relented and got the oral sturgeony appointment. Now that I’m retired, I rather enjoy not listening to an alarm clock yelling at my brain to get my hiney out of bed. Yesterday, however, I had to wake up at 6:30 AM in order to make the 8:20 AM appointment. I enjoyed that very much. Got cleaned up, had some breakfast, got a little nauseous afterward. Anxiety I guess. Hopped in the car and arrived in the office about 15 minutes early. Then I enjoyed waiting for almost an hour to get my tooth removed. As the anxiety built up, Someone Upstairs must have been looking out for me because there was only me and one other guy across the room from me; and he decided I needed to hear his life story. Believe it or not, it actually calmed me down!

The moment of truth arrived and I sat in the chair waiting for the fun to begin. The oral sturgeon and his assistant were not slimy fish at all, and did their best to calm me down. First some novocaine shots (I love those!! NOT!!). Then they put this wheel chock thing in the right side of my jaw to keep it open. Time for more nausea!! “We can do this another time if you don’t feel well,” the oral sturgeon said. “Oh no,” I said, “just gimme a minute.” The rest of the procedure was actually very delightful. First the oral sturgeon jumped on my chest and started slamming my jaw with a pick axe. Then there was drilling… lots of drilling… I think he was looking for valuable minerals that “might” be embedded in my jawbone. Next was the jackhammer… Then came the rusty pliers and the melodious crunching and crackling of tooth fragments being yanked out of my face. Finally they stitched me up and told me not to eat crunchy or chewy stuff for 7 years, then crammed some gauze in my jaw to stop the blood from gushing all over the floor.

I suppose it’s possible I slightly exaggerated the actual extraction process… but hey, I just wanted to prepare any of you youngsters who still have all your chompers for what may be awaiting you as you age. I was worried that I’d be holding my jaw and writhing in pain for days; but it’s healing up quite nicely.

So, how was YOUR week??

The Great Zucchini Invasion

This week I’ve been expressing deep gratitude for acquiring a small amount of garden discipline. Specifically, I’m referring to zucchini. I only grew one plant this year!!  I wasn’t always so smart… as I was ruminating aloud about what I should write today, a thought came blasting out from The Universe and into my headbone… “clarity.”  “Clarity??” I replied with a puzzled tone.  I really needed some clarity, because my brain is kaputt after driving from Green Bay, Wisconsin through Chicago and then home from our vacation trip.  Dunno about you, but when I drive through Chicago and its many suburbs my brain becomes rather mooshy after it’s all done.  So here I am, home safe and sound, but still looking to send my friends a smile on a Friday night, and as I continue this run-on sentence I was wondering what the HECK I’m gonna right with my mushbrain; but then I figured no worries, I can dig into the archives maybe and pull out a gem. Finally I had a memory of a story I wrote many moons ago. So here it is in black and white, my reminder to always maintain the clarity NOT to go nuts with zucchini ever again.   Without further ado, here’s

The Great Zucchini Invasion of 1997

The story you are about to read is true.  Nothing in what follows has been exaggerated in any way, and if you believe that I have some prime real estate underneath the Mackinac Bridge that I’d like to sell you for a true bargain.  Run for your lives!!! Giant squashes have invaded, and it’s all my fault. I never meant any harm, I just wanted a few zucchini for salads. Maybe a few others, sauteed with onions for a nice batch of Chicken Cockamamie. Thinking the success of one plant might be marginal, I planted… well… more. OK, I planted six.


Any idea what it means to have six healthy zucchini plants in your garden?? We have many tons of biomass out there!! Not only are they making lots, they are making very, Very BIG.

It was sort of intriguing, even gratifying at first.  I spent lots of time making the soil right, laying out the garden in rows and beds. Then I stuck the seeds in the dirt and covered them up nice. Prayed for rain, or used some artificial rain if Mother Nature wouldn’t bring any. Pretty soon, the weeds and crops competed for space, but all the squash plants were very visible above any wimpy weed seedlings.

For those of you who don’t know, successfully raising a vegetable garden like ours (about 30′ by 50′) takes constant effort if you want good harvests.  It’s very rewarding, but if you’re not on your toes the weeds will flourish like there’s no tomorrow.   A few moments of inspection and pointing at seedlings with pride are often followed by comments like, “boy, we’re gonna get a nice garden this year.” Then I’d go back in the house for an evening, and the next day I couldn’t tell the radishes from the ragweed. So I picked, and pulled, and yanked, and hoed, and then the crops were visible again. This particular year, squash were flourishing with leaves that were popping out like crazy. So amazed was I by their progress, I started a Garden Diary, which will fill the rest of this column. I felt compelled to share some excerpts from it as my way of warning what could be in store for YOU if you decide to grow zucchini. Be aware that this was written in the gardener’s own words (mine), and some of the language may become, well, “colorful.”

Ok, here we go…
Garden Diary

July 4

Ain’t no way the corn is gonna be knee high today. The radishes are great, but I shouldn’t have planted so darn many. BURP!! Excuse me!! Zucchini is well on its way, got some tiny ones already… won’t be long (yumm)!

July 9

Our first baby zucchinis were delicious!! Left a few behind for next weekend. Ate some more radishes, and pitched a mess in the compost. Only 3,089 more of those little red boogers left… Corn not doing so good, tomato plants are finally getting big though. Okra coming up!

July 11

Very strange… the zucchini made more squash when I wasn’t looking. Could have sworn there were only five yesterday.  Oh well, we’ll have some for salads! Swiss chard doing good, the corn… well, they have corn at the farmer’s market, right?

July 14

What the Flip is in this soil?? Them zucchini are blastin’!!  I counted 34 little ones, and those I left on the plant just a couple days are over a foot long! I picked most of them, only see seven squash left. Kathy says we should have planted corn. I told her that was very funny. Might get an ear or two… Maybe I can trade radishes for corn…

July 17

I KNOW I counted seven squash the other day… Now we have eleven: four baby zucchinis, and the seven from before are running 8 pounds each. We’ll grate the big ones for bread I suppose. Getting some tomatoes finally… marble sized so far, but I have hope. The okra is getting bigger, nice hot weather is really making… wait! MORE ZUCCHINI!! OK, OK, no problem; we’ll chop them up and have salad tonight.

July 20

I’m getting sick up and fed with these doggone zucchini, the flaming plants are makin’ zucchini like there’s some stupid shortage or something. Sure, stupid me, I left some little ones yesterday. Not little anymore, right?? Two feet long, five inches across. What the heck do you do with all this stupid squash?? I wish Kathy and the kids would quit asking how the garden is doing!

July 24

Went to the army surplus store and bought me a camouflage outfit today. Took the seats out of the van and loaded it up with zucchini. Tonight, at 0130 hours, I’ll make a few covert deliveries. HA HA, neighbors!! You are NOT safe from my squash drops!

July 28

Ok, I surrender. A semi-truck is here to pick up that one zucchini I forgot about in the back of the corn row. So what if the corn only got a few feet high… it was enough to hide the biggest zucchini monster of all time. The lift truck has already dug a few nice ruts in my lawn to get this stupid squash loaded up on the truck. I hate this world.

August 4

The end of the squash is at hand. I heard on the radio that some kakahead made up a holiday. He calls it, “Sneak A Zucchini On Your Neighbor’s Porch Day.” Where was this dirtball when I needed him, I ask you?? I would gladly have become the Zucchini Bunny or something.   Well, it’s come to this: it’s either them or me. I’m thinking of getting a shotgun to  blow those stupid plants to kingdom come. Then I’m gonna change the oil and belts on the lawn tractor and mow the stinkin’ garden. If Kathy wants corn she can go buy some! This is making me crazy! Listen… what’s that SMELL?? Do you see that clicking noise?? I gotta get something from somewhere and find out what the heck it is!! I’m itching all over, I have a rash on my belly. I’m so mad, my speech not say right what I mean can’t talk! Not write good, even!

The rest of the diary is illegible, so I won’t bother you any further by trying to decipher it. I’m doing better now, here in this nice “health resort.” The staff is very courteous, and they’ve worked very hard to keep me from destroying the garden in the courtyard.   You can bet your life I won’t have another zucchini crisis again.

I wonder if you can grow just half a plant… ?

Could that qualify as a Fresh Vegetable Mystery?

My Best Friend Is Married

Friendship, in my professional opinion, is one of the most valuable forms of nourishment available. I feel I can be an authority on this topic because of one very important qualification: I’m human! Mind you, I’m not a professional human… but I am a human who had a profession (I’m retired).  Anyway, I greatly value all my friends; and have even been blessed with a best friend.

We’ve known each other since we were 17… met by happenstance in high school. In those days I already had a best friend; and he still is to this day and I love him to pieces. But this new best friend person stole my heart you see. We got planted next to each other in study hall way back in January of 1972, and became friends pretty much instantly. This was during the time that the internet was still made of strange things called the U.S. Mail and an obscure device called the telephone that transmitted voice signals through wires strung on poles.

Our school was in the booming metropolis of Rhinelander, Wisconsin; and when I left to serve Uncle Sam we used this U.S. Mail internet snail mail not-so-instant messaging thingy and the landline telephone speaking devices to their fullest. We stayed in touch and each time I came home on leave it was obvious our friendship grew stronger and stronger.

As anyone who has a best friend knows, the foundation of such a relationship is comprised primarily of kindness and caring. We grew ever closer over the years, and although times and situations presented great challenges to our friendship, it has nonetheless endured and even flourished to this day.

Now here’s where it gets really interesting: this “new best friend” I acquired in high school just happened to be a young woman!! Through friendship she had already captured my heart; but then she captured the rest of me by switching her wardrobe from jeans and smock tops to dresses and makeup!! At the time, I had little clue that a woman as beautiful as this could have any interest in me; but this sudden wardrobe change became the equivalent of Cupid bonking me on the noggin with a giant 2 x 4.

Naturally, our friendship evolved into romance; and we developed some habits early on that have kept us focused on the continual nurturing of each other. Habits included holding hands, hugging, snuggling, smooching, and saying “I love you” multiple times a day. We still practice these habits; and they came in pretty handy during The Great Adjustment Period of living together. I think that lasted about… um… 17 years.

What can I say? Sometimes I’m a slow learner!!

We’ve discovered some amazing tools along the way, some of which were imparted to us via professional counselors and others via close friends. Thankfully, both of us wanted our friendship to work much more than we wanted it to fail. Some of these tools came in the form of little mantras we say to ourselves, like:

“How important is it? Or put another way, “is this really worth picking a fight over?”

“Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?”

“Say what you mean, and mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.” and…

“You can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Other important habits were learned very early in life; specifically the practice of respect and just plain good manners. We say “please” and “thank you” often. And although neither of us got much of them when we were kids, we give each other compliments regularly. We both cook so we let each other know when a meal was yummy… and don’t say anything negative when it’s just food. If one of us drops something on the floor and the other finds it, we just take care of it without shaming the pants off the accidental litterbug. In short, we take care of each other; and continue to build more friendship while cementing it together with a few million bushels of love.

I’m a very fortunate man, because my best friend is the Most Beautiful Woman In The Universe (for reference: all other women are the Second Most Beautiful).

And yes, my best friend is married. To me!!

And now for some very mooshy videos.  How could they not be??  It’s Friday, I’m in love!!

Oh and by the way, I’ve been singing love songs to my Lovely Honey Pie pretty much since the beginning.  And after 48 years of marriage, ain’t nobody gonna stop me!!

Conversational Frivolities

This week, I’ve decided to just make funny with a couple conversational snippets from hither and yonder. If you don’t agree with that conflagration, please e-mail your nearest utility pole with “Tree Bark” in the subject, then print it and show it to the nearest tree to see how long it takes for the tree to make a barking noise. You may be amazed at how long it takes!!

So there I was, in Montague, Michigan, visiting some dear friends with my Beautiful Girlfriend Wife Person, when I emerged from our friends’ bathroom after noticing what appeared to be some kind of lighting device thing-a-ma-doodle. Being the polite guest that I am, I didn’t play with it or turn it on or anything. Rather, I asked my friend Dan,

“So what’s that device in your bathroom?”

“A toilet??” he replied, and we all laughed with big ha ha. Then being the smartypants I am, I apologized profusely for not knowing I was supposed to use this thing called “toilet.” Which of course I did. Use the toilet thing I mean. Turned out the device in question was a full spectrum lamp that helps our friend Mary get some artificial sunshine during the cold wintry days. After that ha ha session I boasted that I finally installed the replacement oak toilet seat at our house. Only took me 4 years to get around to it!!

Retirement has slapped us in the faces with big realities we never smelled before; and although we had nearly 6 inches of rain over the past few days, my squash vines still wilt in the hot sun and with all the wind we got the other night I’m not sure my popcorn will ever be straight again; but that has nothing to do with retirement realities but it seemed like a nice place to insert a run-on sentence for the enjoyment of all those tiny microscopic organisms that live in our intestines.

For example, retirement has given us pause to reflect, and sometimes the reflections are mere blurbs of briggly words that make us snicker and chuckle with great disregard for building materials or even gigantic stone monoliths.

My Beautiful Girlfriend started off the exchange thusly:

“How did we get into our 60s?? How did this happen??” she wondered.

“One day at a time I guess,” I answered, then added, “well… we were born…”

Before I could finish my thought she interjected, “and we popped out of the womb!!”

“Yep,” I continued, “and then we didn’t die!!”

Again we proceeded to laugh with our faces. But hey, that’s the reality of it all: if you want to live to a ripe old age, it’s very simple. Just don’t die!! Oh and try to stay healthy. Easy, right?? Yeah, sure… like a friend of ours likes to say, “getting old is not for cowards.” And no, it isn’t.

But it can still be fun… even if just with some occasional conversational frivolities.

These folks, in my professional opinion, were masters of such things.