The Comedy of Aging

My dad used to lament “getting old really stinks”.
I always thought he was being melodramatic.

But…..then it happened‎. He was right.

Let’s do a Top 10 list.

Why getting old stinks

10. You stand on the goal line and throw the football as far as you can, and‎ it soars through the air and lands on the 14 yard line. And your son yells back to you , WAY back to you: “gosh Dad that wind is awful. Let’s just do some running plays!”

It happened, it sucked.

9. You hear the announcer at Stamford train station say: “Amtrak #2160 to Boston will be departing on the track you were NOT expecting it to!”

So, you run up the stairs, two at a time, then one at a time, then you take a breather and pretend that you think you might need to go back down, you rest, then one more step. And then you stop at the board to see when the next train is.

8.‎ You find yourself looking up at the viagra commercial, wondering how long ago it was that you made fun of it. ….and then wondering if anyone is noticing you are no longer making fun of it.

7. Your SALT and pepper hair starts falling out. THIS one really hit me hard because it hasn’t been one at a time. I am watching my scalp being exposed like some sort of time- lapse of a chia pet played backwards. I find myself not washing my hair every day, being extra careful about putting on pull-over shirts.

6. I look down at the bracelet on my wrist and whisper to nobody: What the hell is that? Since when do I wear jewelry?…. And then I notice that it has my home address on it, and my ATM code. I look over at my wife and she is nervously looking away, and she blurts out: “Did you hear that the Johnsons bought a new barbeque grill?”

5. The yard looks different. Your flower beds are overgrown with weeds, and tomato plants. You run over the hammock with your car because you tied it to the trailer hitch, thinking it’s the camper.

4. Stuff starts happening that makes no sense: “Honey what the hell is my chainsaw doing in the garbage?! And why is the garbage man taking all the ladders?”

4. You show up at your daughter’s freshman matriculation event and are told, in an obnoxiously sweet voice: “Grandparents’ Day is NEXT week”‎.

3. Your wife walks up to you and zips up your fly, wipes the corners of your mouth and whispers: “go over to Mary and apologize for asking her if she’s upset that her clothes don’t fit her anymore”

2. You cry because it’s time to change your Linkedin picture to something remotely close to what you currently look like.

And the number one reason getting old really sucks?

Umm. Hang on. Is that 10? Or 11?

What was I saying?

Money doesn’t buy happiness, blah blah blah

Di‎sclaimer.
This Blahg is long, I apologize, and ‎explain:
The 1970’s ‎were long. Long waits on 95, waiting for those awful tolls. Long lines getting gas, feeling like we had devolved as a nation, resembling the USSR.
It was a long decade, especially for my family, which was struggling to pay for Catholic school and groceries. So, humor me, and read this blahs, I think you’ll laugh.

Growing up as one of 8 children was a logistical nightmare. If I had a penny for the number of times our father referred to our mother as “chief of logistics” I think I would have about $3.50.

She ran a tough, and on time, ship. Her fleet was an array of ever-changing cars. ‎ Smoking, limping, reborn, never new, cars.

As you can only imagine, just getting everyone to where they were supposed to be, on time, was a feat in itself. (not to mention retrieving someone from where they weren’t supposed to be).

In 1977, my parents had 4 children in Catholic high school‎, a 35 to 40 minute drive from Old Saybrook to Middletown.

We probably had about 6 cars at the time. (4 working, 2 in “transition”)

And my parents had “the other half” of the family in assorted grades in two local grammar schools, with 7th grader Warren as their “leader”. I put “leader” in quotes because the only person he led was himself, and sometimes Nicky, into mischief. But, Warren was the oldest of the lower half and he exacted a modicum of discipline that was stern but gentle.

Example: “Lesley! Just because I had a piece of chocolate cake doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do! So, gimme the rest of your piece and let’s consider it punishment!”

Lesley was probably 8, she did a lot of reading, and Rachel was 4, busy perfecting survival skills that kept her, well, alive. That was Warren’s posse.
‎No drivers licenses. (although at age 13 Warren taught Nick, age 12, how to drive a stick shift, right past my Dad on his way home from work)

Ask my mother what her most gratifying moment was when she was raising her brood a‎nd she will, without pause, say: “the day Rich got his license”.

Getting a 3rd driver in the house was like getting that 3rd leg on the stool.

We had SO many cars over the years.‎ I bet we owned, traded for, or were given 75 cars in 20 years. Maybe 100?

Impossible to list them all without help from my siblings….or paging through the photos and slides.

I would often find myself getting out of one car thinking I had driven a different one.

My favorite was the Rambler….don’t know the year, go with OLD…….the Rambler was mostly Greg’s car. He modified it by taking out all the seats to put in cool bucket seats. The problem? He didn’t finish the project in time for the prom so his date had to sit on a beach chair….and the back seats were milk crates. NOT kidding.
I would tell you that they double dated and that his friend and his date sat on those milk crates, but you wouldn’t believe me. ‎ But, you should.

We loved that car.

My LEAST favorite of our cars was the white Pinto.
…. ‎ It was 1978, the car was probably 1972?

The Pinto had to be pushed down a hill to popstart the motor. (the verb to popstart: hold in clutch in 2nd gear and release when yelled at)
We would push it down the hill and scream at whichever one of us was driving: “POP THE CLUTCH POP THE CLUTCH ,PRESS ‎THE GAS , PUT IN THE CLUTCH , WATCH THE TREE!!”

The problem with the Pinto pop start was if you failed on your attempt? The car was now sitting down at the bottom of the hill, in our backyard, unstartable. Talk about pressure to do it right?‎ I did it once, got it right, swore I would never do it again….until that one time I had to get to my dishwashing job so I pushed the Pinto to the edge of the hill, AND pop started it after jumping in while it was rolling.

Good times.

I got to sit on the hump of that awful Pinto every day to school my freshman year. Squished between Greg and Lia, in the back seat, Rich in the front as Mom drove the 4 oldest to High School….I cried every time we hit a bump…. I’m amazed I was able to have children.

My Dad called Warren “Mr Fixit”.

At age 12, Warren could, and did, rebuild a car engine, using parts from a mini bike, and an outboard motor. He has owned more cars and motorcycles and boats than anyone I know, times two.

The kid was a mad scientist. The washing machine repairman would hold the flashlight for him. I would hand tools to him as he worked to get one of the cars started: “3/4s ratchet! Hose clamp! Scalp‎el, Clear!”

I especially loved the carburator starter assignment.
“Jeff! Hold open the fly of the carb with this stick, I’m going to pour a shot of gas directly in and then we’ll start it up. Watch for the flames!”

Didn’t everyone do this kind of stuff at age 14 so their Dad could drive to work?

Let’s not forget Lia’s pale green Chevy Impala. ‎Classic car….maybe 1955?.
It didn’t have reverse. Yes. True. The car did NOT go backwards. You needed to either park on an incline to use gravity to role backwards, or, park where you could just drive straight out. Lia was pretty good at everything, except perhaps estimating her turning radius.

‎One time, or was it 7 times, Mom yelled down the stairs:
“SOMEBODY GO DOWN RTE 9 TOWARDS THE HIGHWAY. BY THE BRIDGE. LIA GOT THE IMPALA STUCK AGAIN. ‎SHE SAID SHE THINKS IT’S PROBABLY JUST A TWO BROTHER PUSH….THREE OF YOU GO JUST IN CASE!”

…..reply from the boy cave: ” LIA NEEDS TO LEARN HER TURNING RADIUS!!!!!”….perhaps followed by some mumbled profanity‎.

When we got there the car’s right front corner was 2 feet deep into a dirt embankment. Lia was doing homework when we arrived, (listening to my Neil Diamond 8track probably!)

And then there was the green station wagon, the one that ended up with so many college stickers on it people thought we were kidding.
When we scrapped the car we gave the back window to Mom as a badge of achievement. (she cried)

‎What was so memorable about the green wagon? Aside from all the UN-airconditioned , cramped, road trips to places like Gettysburg and Valley Forge‎?
….. the‎ car had one flaw, and it was an important one.

The gas gauge didn’t work.

We used a little piece of paper stuck in the dash with the odometer recorded and how many gallons were purchased. Let me explain:
If Greg bought 3 gallons, and the odometer read 245,355 at the time, he would write down 245,400 after doing the math. (3x 15mpg =45, etc)

The problem with our improvised gas gauge? The math, and the money.

Sometimes we only had 7 quarters, 4 dimes and a nickel when we pulled into the gas station…and sometimes we made some mistakes with our multiplications and additions.

So,occasionally we would get that dreaded ‎clunking sound as the car would slow to a halt, bone dry.

I estimate I have run out of gas 30 times in my life.
‎(my wife had never run out of gas before she met me….I taught her there’s nothing to be afraid of).

One of my brothers even kept a 4 foot piece of garden hose, a gallon jug and a funnel in his car. He taught me how to siphon gas.
Siphoning gas was a valuable life skill, one that you never want to have to use.

The problem with learning how to siphon gas is that your first lesson is the inevitable.
Raise your hand if you have ever had a mouthful of gasoline. It is horrifying. An experience I’ll never forget, and it will never happen again. It was at the Esso gas station at the North Madison roundabout.

(We always left a few dollars under the windshield wiper of the car we borrowed the gas from. I swear)

Our cars got better after the yacht brokerage business rebounded in the 80’s. We had Cadillacs and big stretch Lincolns with sunroofs and electric windows.
Money does not buy happiness, blah blah blah.

I understand the intention of that catchy phrase.

But, I am here to tell you what Money buys:

Cars that can go backwards whenever you ask it to.

Cars with “Miles Til Empty”, and GPS, and back-up cameras.

‎Cars with electric windows, and air conditioning, and satellite radio.

‎Money buys
Cars with televisions, which keep children occupied, and happy.

It buys big safe cars for our kids.

Cars with speaker phones that get directions, make reservations, warn you about traffic jams.

Money buys cars in a color you like‎.
Money buys gas, and new tires.

Cars take us back, to a time and place we wish we could visit. Jackson Brown on the radio. A smile on your teenage tanned face…… free at last.

My 16year old son just ‎got his first car. A 2004 Honda Civic. A gift from his Papou.

He’ll never forget this car. May he never need to use jumper cables on a winding wintry road.
And may it take him places he’ll long to return to.

Wonky and Wellington want their mangos

Allow me to quote from the home page of Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia:

“At least 3 generations of one particular family of Elephants have returned annually and their unusual dining habits have been the focus of many a TV documentary…”

What does Wonky Tusk and her family do? They walk straight through the lobby of this chic hotel as soon as the mangos are ripe. Hey, it’s not their fault the hotel was built around their favorite mango tree. Click to what a video.

elephant

Elephants are amazing creatures, both gentle and fearsome. They have long been my favorite animal, without even realizing it. (the elephants realized it; I once heard one say to the other: “look who it is again”)

I remember the first time I saw one in real life; it was the Bronx Zoo, probably around 1970.
I was awe struck. Every other animal could have been out of town that day and the trip would have been worth it.

My siblings and I had 2 plastic elephants we played with growing up…..I hadn’t thought about them until just now, but the joy they brought me came rushing back like it was yesterday.

‎I can’t count how many times I dragged my children to the Los Angeles Zoo to see the elephants, (and whatever other animals were in town). We probably went there 25 times over a five year period.

“MOM! Can you tell Dad we don’t want to go see the elephants this weekend? We’ll go to church, do homework, anything but the Zoo! ”

And then there’s the circus! How about the hush over the crowd as the big elephants would waltz into the Big Top! Children pointing, parents ooh’ing and ahh’ing.

Raise your hand if you don’t think elephants are the coolest creatures on God’s green earth.

If only we treated them better.

I just saw two of them walking on a back-jungle road in Laos. They had these giant chains around their necks and looked tired. Our guide assured us they were well cared for and lived nice lives dragging giant teak trees out of the jungle. ‎ Oh, sure, and that slave is happy, he has a nice cabin, 3 meals a day, and gets to enjoy the great outdoors every day!

If you love elephants as much as I do, I suggest you do two things. Check out the story of Wonky Tusk, and explore the website 96Elephants.org.

96 Elephants will be killed today in Africa, for their ivory.

We humans are so embarrassing, and infuriating.

It’s one thing to kill a rogue elephant who has trampled your village, but to seek them out and shoot them so you can make little figurines to sell in China Town? Is there no greater crime?Imagine shooting a mother elephant to “harvest” her tusks, and then leaving the lifeless body for its baby to cry over. Elephants mourn their dead. They actually emit a low pitch, vibrating  rumble that travels along the ground,  gathering the herd to stand over their dead sister, brother, mother.They even return to the site and pick up and move around the bones, and grieve.If you don’t know how deeply elephants feel the pain of loss, you don’t know elephants….and you should get to know them. Life isn’t always summer sailing and picnics, although I wish it was.We are doing horrible things to Mother Nature, and the road to change is awareness.96 elephants will be killed today while I’m striper fishing. That thought stills my heart, and tears my eyes.

World Elephant Day is August 12th. What should we do?  The Back40 Mercantile will do something, let me talk to my partners….they love elephants also. And their children love elephants. And YOU love elephants. And we’re caging them, and killing them, and dressing them up in funny costumes, and charging tourists to ride them.Let’s treat them better. Go to 96elephants.org …start there.Those good people are fighting the poachers.Let’s support them.

Reference:
The Bronx Zoo was named one of the top 10 worst zoos for elephants – three years in a row. Happy, a 44 year old elephant, has been kept in solitary confinement for almost a decade, even though it is the nature of elephants to form tight relationships with the pack. Full article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/nyregion/the-bronx-zoos-loneliest-elephant.html?_r=0

Summer!!

Is it true that the first day of summer is June 21st? Who decided that?‎ The Incas? Mayans? Greeks?

I know, the sun is at its highest on the summer solstice. ..I know the solstice happens when the sun’s zenith is at its farthest point from the equator, everyone knows that….but how on earth can that be the first day of summer? Summer starts when school ends. Pure and simple. And that was Never late June.

WWW? What went wrong?

Some genius determined that our kids can’t compete in math globally, so we need to add 13 school days to the calendar. So ridiculous. Just drop Trigonometry. Give the trig title to another country! Who cares! Oh sure, it was important in the Hellenistic world during the 3rd century BC, but if my math is correct, that was like 4,000 years ago! Drop it! Class dismissed, see you in the Fall!

The seasons need adjusting, updating. If Pope Gregory the 8th can change the calendar, why can’t we? Who died and made him king? (little help here, anybody have the notes from religion class?)

‎All that Pope did was refine the Julian calendar; let’s refine the Gregorian calendar. Oh sure, we need more than the .0002%‎ correction Gregory enacted, but my proposal won’t result in the need for some sort of silly tweaking like leap year, or daylight savings time. Spring ahead, Fall back. Ridiculous.

My proposed calendar would still have 365.242199 days in it, but the seasons would be adjusted, BACK to our Nation’s glory days: the era of the THREE month summer….with a couple courtesy days thrown in to include Labor Day weekend.

For those of you who never knew a world where air conditioning in your car was referred to as “465” (4 windows down at 65mph), ‎summer used to be long and the seasons were defined by things other than school boards.

In my childhood, Fall started on the first day of school, through the Sunday after Thanksgiving. After pumpkins had stopped being carved, eaten and smashed. THAT was the last day of Fall.

Winter started the Monday after Thanksgiving, and went until the daffodils showed up.
As a youth I would run into the house like my hair was on fire (that happened once actually) and yell:
“MOM, I saw a Crocus!!!” I was special like that. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

Spring sprang when the flowers could break through the tundra. Not on some silly Equinox.
Why do I care when the sun crosses the celestial equator? Why do I care that night and day are going to be exactly‎ 12 hours long on March 19,20 or 21?

Is the maple sap flowing? Are the buds on the forsythia showing their happy yellow faces?
Good! Spring is here! Equinox or no equinox.

‎When did summer start?

In 1976 summer started on the first minute after the final bell. We would all be staring out the classroom window as our teachers droned on about what great students we were and how they wished us nothing but success in all our future endeavors.

Well, that’s what I was told they said…..those monologues actually sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher to me: blah, blah blah, blahbahbollah.

I was the first kid out the door; always heeding the principal’s instructions to not let it hit me in the a@@. Clean your own chalkboards! See Yourself after class!

The first day of summer in the 1970’s was always near Memorial Day; school never stretched late into June. June was Summer! All of it!

Remember a few years ago when school lasted to June 29 due to the big blizzard that knocked out power for a week? So ridiculous. Read one less book. Draw three fewer isosceles trapezoids and let’s GO! It’s 87 degrees. (that’s like 150 celsius I think)

‎I was so giddy when that summer bell rang! I would ride my bike around the playground in circles, unable to focus on what to do next. Baseball? Blacktop hoops with the bent rim and chain nets? Dragnet for minnows at Old Saybrook’s town beach? Jump off the bridge and float under the causeway? Try to make-out with Kelly Garvey? No, that was last summer! Anyone seen Carol Beatty? I fell in love every summer from 5th grade to 8th grade. That’s what summer was for!

framptonAll I need to hear is any song from Peter Frampton’s live album: “Frampton Comes Alive” and I get transported back to the summers of my youth. Riding bikes barefoot, skippin stones in front of the girls, who were pretending not to notice whose stone got the most skips. THAT is a long-lost life skill! ‎(stone skipping, not showing off)

Fleetwood Mac! Who didn’t write love letters to Stevie Nicks?! (not me, duh, I’m just talking about other 14 year old boys)

Wearin’ our cutoffs and Chuck Taylors. Life was sweet, and we knew it….whatever my siblings and I were doin’, we were doin’ it with gusto, and passion. It was SUMMER!!

That’s how SUMMER!! should be spelled.‎ And that’s how SUMMER should be lived!

Let’s change the calendar! And let’s cut off our jeans and grease up our bikes…..summer might be 21 days away, but it began a week ago in all my photo albums.

Time Flies

Time Flies.
Death approaches.

My Irish Grandmother, on my father’s side,  used to say that.

I heard that uplifting saying often as a young lad.

‎If you are raised by Irish Catholics, you are imbued with a  predilection for humor that makes you smile while crying. Literally.

Let me give you an example, a possible Irish graveside toast: “Johnny. Here’s to ya. I raise my glass, to a man funnier than a one legged man in an ars-kicking contest. But ya owe me money, so, go push daisies”.

Ireland was so desperately poor 150 years ago, they wrote jokes and limericks  to make it through the day.

I never understood the “Time Flies, Death Approaches”‎ saying.

I never understood it. I knew both were true, but why would you combine them into some sort of greeting?

“Ok Sonny. Nice to see you. Time flies, death approaches”.  Ummmm.  Is that goodbye? Am I going to be hit by a bus? Is Grandma in a hurry to die?

“Get in the car Jeffrey, everyone’s fine. It’s a joke”
‎-But mom, it’s not funny-

“Keep walkin, it helps Grandma remember to put on make-up and wear her nice dress‎”

The Irish died a lot, so their humor is not always humorous, in the traditional sense.

I once went to an Irish funeral, in a small seaside town in County Sligo.  I thought I had been tricked into being an extra in the sequel to “Waking Ned Devine”. I found myself looking for David Kelly to come careening through the village on his scooter wearing nothing but his helmet.

Waking Ned Devine

Waking Ned Devine

Continuing

The funeral was festive. Well, aside from the crying widow. (And what’s with those bagpipes? They sound like the final gasping chords of a dying organ raised by violins)
The men were telling funny stories, over a pint…..and a whiskey.

It was morning. ….oh, yes, there was mourning, as well.  (the women were in charge of that part of the festivities. “I’ll be over there Margaret, laughing and drinking,  you stay over here and look sad so the widow doesn’t cry alone, and keep her back to the card game!”)

The Irish have so many great phrases, like “Here’s to me, and here’s to you, and here’s to love and laughter. I’ll be true as long as you, and not a moment after”.
So sweet. Right?

I’ll never forget my friend Neil’s wedding. His Uncle Sean was attending from Ireland.

Just as Neil was approaching the ‎altar, from the side entrance, Sean calls him over, puts his arm around him, and in his thick Irish brogue, whispers: “Neil. Remember, it’s the first 20years that are the toughest”.

-Sean smiled, and then frowned, and then smiled again…..the priest called for Neil before he could ask Sean if that was a joke, or advice. (obviously it was both)

Unfortunately, my father inherited the family jokes and sayings…  almost like ‎some cruel heirloom.

I can picture the late 19th century pep talk from Irish mother to daughter: “Gretchen O’Malley! Yes, the Protestants inherit land and sheep and jewels, but we Catholics inherit something they will NEVER have: our JOKES!”

….”And to my son, not the handsome one, I bequeath my sad jokes and sayings. Jack, you get the house”

Another one of my father’s favorites was “such is life”. Never understood that one either.

“Dad, I ran over my son’s turtle with the lawnmower”.

“Such is life”. Well, I suppose so….IF YOU’RE A BLOOMIN IDIOT.

“Dad, looks like I’m going to have to get surgery to remove my 3rd arm‎”.

“Such is life”. Well, I suppose so…but my tailor’s sad, he has made a fortune from it.

….You know the saying “you had to be there” after the re-telling of a story falls flat?  Irish humor, like all humor, is “local”.‎ You have to be FROM there.

For example, New Yorkers found Seinfeld funnier than Oklahomans . (although I DO find Oklahomans funny)

Irish humor evokes a heartier laugh from a fellow Irishman in the same way a Borscht Belt comedian is going to bring down the house in Miami, and leave them scratching their heads in Branson, Missouri.

And then Dad died.

My siblings and I had wondered how we would feel when it happened. There were tears, and jokes, right on schedule. Time had flown by, death had approached, but it made a pretty rough landing.

My Dad’s last words to me? As I leaned into him on his death bad, August 10, 2012: “Dad, you taught me so much. Even the bad lessons were valuable. Like, I never took the belt to my son for crashing his bike into my car. I’m going to miss you”.

-only kidding, I only considered saying that-

Keep in mind, I had never said “I love you” to my Dad,  even though I often felt that sentiment. (mostly after the “disciplining” stopped)

“I’m going to miss you Dad”….it was the overwhelming #1 answer on my survey of things to say to him. I then moved closer and mustered the energy to say: “I love you Dad”.

He looked up at me…..his 80 year old Irish blue eyes tired and defeated,  and says: ‎ “such is life”.

CUT. !!!

Back it up people. Places!! Doing over that scene. Nurse, walking out of room.

Typical Tragic Movie, Pre-War Father saying goodbye to middle child.

Son, look like you are hoping father says ‎”I love you” back to you. Good, tears streaming down eyes.

TAKE TWO: ACTION!!

“I love you Dad”.

Nothing.

So, my final “conversation” with my Dad, ended with his favorite ‘Such is Life ‘ phrase.

No Dad! Wrong line!

Why not go off the stoic script? …, why not say “I love you”, as your last words?? Seriously Dad!

Why couldn’t he hand me an Irish heirloom I can cherish, and pass along to my children?

It was a perfect ending actually…..such IS life. The endings are as imperfect as the beginnings and the middlings‎.

So, let me pass along a blessing….a seat of the pants, impromptu blessing:

May they cry at your wedding and laugh at your funeral…..and if you are given the chance, remember to dance……and if your child is holding your hand, and saying goodnight, or goodbye, say “I love you”…..and if you raised them right, they’ll say “I love you too”.

Come On Out to the Country!

For all of you who are tired of the chaos here in Mayberry, what with all those cars backing into Sound Beach that you have to yield to, and the line at Sweet Peas! come on out to Kent Connecticut on May 17th for a slow-paced , fun-filled Sunday. (10am to 3pm)

Enjoy the picturesque hills of one of New England’s hidden treasures; an artist’s paradise, nestled in the bucolic Litchfield ‎Hills, See Bulls Bridge to the south of Kent, and Cornwall Bridge to the north, two of New England’s endangered species: the covered bridge.

-who can tell me why they covered the bridges? Oh Lesley put your hand down nobody likes a know-it-all.‎…let me tell you:…the cover preserved the bridge road surface from the elements and extended the life of the bridge.

The bridges are separated by 20miles of Ethan Allen Highway, a country road that meanders along a babbling brook that we call the Housatonic. (an old Native American term that translates to Whose Drink is This?)

Take 95 to one of those Norwalk exits and head north on route 7. Tell the kids you’ll give them a signed copy of Robert Thorson’s “Stone by Stone, the definitive history of New England Stonewalls” or something like that. Professor Thorson is our guest speaker….the guy is awesome. His books are awesome. ‎…and the Eric Sloane Museum is awesome.

Robert also wrote a kids’ book…..what kid doesn’t love a book signing and lecture from a UConn professor?!‎  ‎In case they aren’t psyched about it?

You could tell them: “they found Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel!!” -show them the below picture to prove it.‎…maybe don’t tell them the part where Mike died and they actually used Mary Ann to dig his grave.

steam

So, where was I? Oh, I remember. I was heading through Danbury, staying on route 7.   After you get to Kent (and stop into -forgot the name- chocolate shop) keep straight, past the dilapidated barn in the hay field ‎on the left….I’m serious, look for it, you’re very close when you see it.

The Eric Sloane Museum, and Connecticut Antique Machinery museum are about 1/4 mile north of Kent’s one traffic light. Pay attention because if you miss the light, there isn’t another one until Rutland Vermont. (Ethan Hated traffic lights and as part of his will he said “I’m going to give you my 308 mile highway but you can’t put more than 4 traffic lights on it . Not many people know that).

So, come on up to Kent next Sunday…..5/17.

This will be a great day….there’s a locomotive that was originally used in the sugar cain fields of Hawai’i, I swear that is true. See picture. (I know how to sneak into the train barn)

train

We are building a dry stonewall on the museum grounds. If you come I will let you lay a stone on the wall, anywhere you want, as long as it’s in the right place.

wall

There will be some high-carb, high fat deep fried refreshments and carbonated corn syrup with artificial coloring and some processed cheese products ‎……
Ok, only kidding…..the food will be awesome.

After the book signing and lecture Robert Thorson has some hands-on stuff for kids.
‎ I also have a fun game planned for the adults.

I call it “The Rolling Stones”.

You pick out a stone, sign it with chalk and see who can role it the farthest down the hill without hurting your friends. Here’s the catch……you have to go get your stone and bring it back up the hill….so choose wisely.

‎See you next Sunday. Unless you have something better to do. (hard to imagine what that could be, but, whatever. If you’re like me, you want your children outdoors, unplugged! ‎ Hash tagging, twit chatting, face timing. Those are winter sports. The sun is shining. Come on up to the Eric Sloane Museum; we can show your children some cool things to do with their other 8 fingers.

A blogette. Turning Rocks Into Stones.

Please click here to see the attached Event Invitation. If you haven’t visited Kent, in Litchfield County, come on up. We will be teaching and learning how to build a 40 foot, 2level dry stonewall, complete with firepit and teaching podium.

If you woke up this morning and said: “I hope I get invited to pay money to spend one of my saturdays busting rocks into stones”, you need to RSVP because the slots are filling up. You’ll learn things like rocks become stones as soon as they become useful. The following bands will be featured at the events: The Rolling Stones, and Earth, Wind and Fire…..Blood, Sweat and Tears will be sitting in.

Come on up, even if you want to be a spectator, I’ll give you a tour of the Eric Sloane Museum. The Connecticut Antique Machinery Association is there, with a huge collection of antique tractors, including MaryAnn, Mike Mulligan’s old sidekick.

There is a great place for lunch in Kent called the Fife and Drum, the Kent Falls are up the road, and the Cornwall covered bridge is a few barns after that. Let’s go people, shake off the winter and jump into Spring!

I promise! The next one will be funny!

celiac-incidence-as-a-factor-of-glyphosate-application-to-wheatYou thought gluten was the enemy inside your loaf of bread? Well, think again. Wheat farmers spray their fields with glyphosate (aka ROUNDUP, the weed killer) 7 to 10 days before harvest. Since wheat isn’t GMO, the Roundup kills the wheat (as we know, GMO corn and soy are “Roundup ready” and don’t die after taking their Roundup showers).

Why does the wheat farmer douse his crop right before harvesting it? I am pleading with you to seek the answer inside the attached article. If you aren’t allergic to wheat and feel that the whole gluten-free‎ thing is just another silly notion like global warming, you need to find 8 minutes to read this article (oh, and by the way, the polar bears called, they’re looking for their ice caps).

I promise the next blog will be funny.

Reference Article: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/real-reason-for-toxic-wheat-its-not-gluten/

My name is Jeff and I’m a sugar addict. HI JEFF!!!!

IMG_20150301_095732I have been a sugar addict since my first haircut.
It was 1964….the barber scared me but the purple‎ lollipop calmed my nerves.
I was 2, and I was Hooked!

Let’s talk about sugar‎.

I have given up sugar many times….only to relapse many times afterwards. Sometimes I have made it 3 months, sometimes 3 hours.

Giving it up is best done gradually.
Breaking through the first 5 days is very difficult; I recommend you avoid family and friends until the headaches have receded and you regain your civility.
‎I’m being funny, but for those of you who are also in the grips of a sugar dependence you know it’s not always a laughing matter.

Studies have shown the neurological reward of sugar to be the equivalent of cocaine .
The more you take in, the more you need.
I can attest to that. My oatmeal raisin cookie limit is defined as…..well, it has never been defined.
I used to eat a pint of ice cream from top to bottom, saying “one more spoonful” to myself all the way down. Even the words Coffee Heath Bar Crunch can inspire me to run for the freezer, climbing over women and children like George ‎Costanza after hearing “Fire!”.

Am I alone on this‎?
It’s not our fault.
Sugar is cunning, and powerful.

The cravings are driven by brain chemicals.
Serotonin and dopamine , the “happy hormones”, hijack your body, and the ransom is sugar, in ANY form, from pasta to pastry.

You can negotiate with these hijackers by eating a balanced diet devoid of refined sugar and simple carbs.‎….I know, where’s the fun in that?! So we succumb, time and time again.

Sugar has always been my favorite food group.
If I could only learn to consume it in moderation, or not at all.

I can hear people complaining:
“Don’t even go there with some anti-sugar lecture. SOMETHING is going to kill us eventually, might as well enjoy one of those 12-person Mrs Fields cookies while I wait”

I agree, we’re not going to live forever.
BUT, it’s not “The End” that I’m talking about…..it’s the how I’m feeling while I wait, TODAY….sugar makes me feel great for about an hour‎, and then, not so much.

Do you know how most of this diabolical compound is being delivered to us?……yup, you guessed it.
High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Sugar is very sneaky!
It even sneaks into our temples by way of beef….cows also FILL out after binging on EMPTY calories….and the faster to market, the faster to bank.

You all know how our lives have been made nutritionless by HFCS. There’s more sugar in a serving of tomato sauce than a serving of Oreo’s. We all know that.
But did you know that Sugar goes by 56 different aliases?
Ever heard of: Carob syrup? Dextran? Diastatic malt? Diatase? Ethyl maltol?
Sugar has stealthily invaded every part of our lives‎…of the 600,000 items found in grocery stores you’ll find sugar hiding in 3/4 of them.

Let’s go back in time, before sugar was able to be extracted from corn, or be injected into bologna.

(PLEASE EXC– USE THE LENGTH OF THIS BLOG, IT WAS TWICE AS LONG, AND HALVED 4 TIMES, BEFORE DOUBLING AGAIN‎, DEPENDING ON HOW MUCH SUGAR WAS DRIVING MY BRAIN SYNAPSES )

Sugar , over the millenia, has caused war and disease, and slavery, and destroyed entire civilizations.

Think I’m being melodramatic? Hysterical?
Actually, I’m pulling punches.
‎I urge you to read “Sugar Blues” by William Dufty, written in 1975.
Sugar has to rank as the most powerful and destructive commodity in the human experience. Oil, gold, diamonds, wood, gunpowder.
Pick any of them. Sugar trumps it.

Read the book and you’ll agree with me.

Sugar was THE cause of the trans-oceanic slave trade that commenced in the early 16th century.

Dufty discusses the infamous “triangle of trade” that tore apart African families for centuries!
Islands throughout the West Indies would be invaded, and converted into sugar cane plantations. The European ships would then arrive filled with slaves; drop them off and leave with casks filled with molasses. (for rum production in northeastern America, or Europe). It was a sign of wealth and opulence to have raw sugar casually presented on your lace-covered tables during high tea. It was fun to have a bottle of rum in front of you.

Over the ensuing centuries to follow, the Carribean islands’ tear-stained soil would be turned into useless dirt and the islands would be abandoned, one by one.
-go visit the long-since abandoned sugar plantation on St John, the Cinnamon Bay Estate‎. It’s both fascinating and depressing.

….I urge you to read the book. It isn’t as depressing as I just implied. While regaling you with history you thought you knew, it will make you take stock of your daily sugar intake…and it might change your life, for the better.

Sugar has accompanied me like an imaginary friend since that haircut in 1964.
How can I ever forget the pillow cases filled with candy at Halloween…..I would trade 5 Baby Ruths for one of those little maple sugar candies shaped like a leaf.
….my childhood was made special by candy, and sugar, in all its forms.

My brothers and sisters and I would make butter and sugar sandwiches. Anything to deliver sugar…

When I was a young boy I would push my way to the counter of Patrick’s Country Store in Old Saybrook; demonstratively placing my crumpled dollar bill onto the counter like Charlie Bucket buying his Wonka Bar. Hyperventilating:
“May I please have some sugar? Any form, shape, color, how much will this dollar buy? Hurry! My brothers are coming!”

And then I would take my Sugar Daddy, or maybe a bag full of those little caramels with the white frosting inside, and ride my bike around town, joyously….maybe over to Dairy Queen for an ice cream.

My favorite meal in 1975?
A Fluffernutter sandwich followed by a bowl of Captain Crunch.
By the way, you may have heard, Massachusetts is in the middle of a tug-of-war, over a jar of Fluffernutter.

The state is trying to ban Fluffernutter from public schools…—–….while one politician, in the Massachusetts district where Fluffernutter is made,is trying to make it the state sandwich-dead serious.

Sugar inspires fights, from the playground to the Statehouse.
It even played a central role in the Napoleonic Wars. (don’t believe me? Read “Sugar Blues”)

Ever since I gave up drinking for Lent (20 years ago) I have been a heavy user of ice cream and gum and chocolate and donuts and cake and cinnamon danish and Reeses’s and Milk Duds , and did I say donuts? And Cinnabons?‎
My body rebelled after I gave up all that liquid sugar. (alcohol as you know is a form of sugar), and my sugar addiction went up a notch.‎…the party just moved over 3 aisles in the grocery store.

The memory of the depressing sugar crashes is not powerful enough to stop me from eating 6 donuts the next time my car takes me into Donut Delight. ‎

Seriously, I joke because it’s funny, but it shouldn’t be. I’m not laughing 20 minutes after the last donut goes into my furnace.

Some more facts:
We are consuming 156 pounds of sugar per capita. Are you a family of 5? Go buy 780 pounds of playground sand and pour it on your kitchen floor.
Wow…..shocking, no?

We humans produced more than 175million metric tons of sugar in 2013.
Million, with an M, for M&M’s.

Let’s say a tractor trailer can carry 20 tons.
That would be about 8.5million tractor trailers, or, enough to be stretched bumper to bumper from here to Pluto, and over to the Big Dipper and back.

If you don’t have time to read “Sugar Blues”, go view Robert Lustig’s Youtube: ‎Sugar, the Bitter Truth. (it’s “only”1hr and 29 minutes‎-that’s how much there is to say about the subject)

Please don’t consider me to be holier than thou on this subject; I am 4 days into my 135th detox. I am sharing this story because sharing is a big part of any 12-step program.

If you have tried to give up cocaine, nicotine, gambling, alcohol, you can relate to my struggle.
Yes, I know what you said earlier: we’ll all die from something one day.
And let me reiterate what I said: why suffer while we wait?!
Why not understand what is contributing to our afternoon blues, our weight gain, our irritability.
Forget about whether or not sugar abuse limits your life span…..(it does) Let’s just focus on our daily quest for happiness.

‎Sugar dulls us. It slows us down. It makes us irritable. It makes us over drink, over eat, constantly seeking out another dose to re-elevate the mood it just depressed.

When I limit it assertively? I have a much better afternoon, better sleep, better relationships, and better self esteem because I drop weight.

I can MAKE sugar funny….I can make a funeral funny….but the sugar blues aren’t funny. Far from it. Why do we joke about it?
‎My brother Warren almost died from lymphoma. (see “Cancer Loves Sugar”, CBS 60 Minutes, April 2012)

Our family didn’t joke about Warren’s cancer. We don’t ever laugh at cancer, or heart disease, or diabetes, or stroke‎, or obesity.
…. And yet, we laugh about sugar. I’m laughing at it now. Perhaps it’s the Irish in me. We make suffering funny, so we don’t cry.

Yes, sweets are fun, and an integral part of life. (think birthday cake)…….but take it from this addict: life is sweeter without processed food and refined sugar.
My remedy? My strategy to take back my afternoons?
I go to Green and Tonic. I get the oatmeal, add raisins, cinnamon, and almond date milk..
It satisfies my sweet tooth, naturally. And then I’ll have a Green Monster juice‎ for an afternoon snack…or one of those orange carrot juicy juices.
And an apple at 5pm. And no pasta or bread for dinner.
I am here to tell you this, as a market-tested fact:
I am Profoundly and noticeably more ‎happy when I use Green and Tonic, instead of pancakes and and cupcakes and birthday cakes.

Simple carbs: bad afternoon.
Complex carbs: good afternoon.

The solution to the sugar epidemic is complex, and not simple. Knowledge will set you free.

The sugar detox process is complex, not simple. Make it to the other side? You won’t cry at another day of snow, yell at the dog, bark at your wife.

My name is Jeff, and I’m a recovering sugar addict.
‎Good afternoon Jeff!!

Reference Article: http://conversableeconomist.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-global-sugar-market-and-us-sugar.html

Let Me Set the Record Straight

Since publishing my recent post, titled “On Writing”, it has come to my attention that perhaps, while making fun of myself, I inadvertently made fun of the very difficult, and noble, art of children’s book writing.

That was obviously not my intention…..Far from it…..so, Let Me Set the Record Straight.

I love children’s books.‎…as much as you do.

In fact, I love them SO much, I wrote one.
And it took me years! And I got lots of help, and it cost me a lot of money.
It was very very hard….so, I now have a greater appreciation for children’s book authors.
‎I’m sorry my “On Writing” entry fell so far short of conveying that admiration.
If stupid wasn’t a bad word I’d use it on myself!

How much joy did I get from Pooh, the Berenstein Bears‎, Peter Rabbit? I bet I have read Mike Mulligan 500 times.
Imagine that ! If I could be any type of writer, if I could be a “best selling” author in any genre, it would be as a children’s book writer.
I hold A.A. Milne, Roald Dahl, and Beatrix Potter on a very high pedestal.

Raise your hand if you had a palpable fear for Peter Rabbit’s safety as he ran from Mr McGregor.
I spent thousands of dollars on my big roofed garden cage so that I wouldn’t ever have an impulse to “strangle” a rabbit with a rake.
I attribute my benevolent tolerance of rabbits to two books:
Watership Down, (by Richard Adams) and The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Miss Potter.

How about Winnie the Pooh’s love for honey? I have jars of honey in almost every room in my house. ‎I consider those characters to be genuine childhood friends of mine…..my daughter shares her bed with a giant stuffed Winnie the Pooh.

Eyeore and Piglet and Owl calmed me down at night; they tucked me in.

I could go on and on….I don’t want to overstay my welcome.
Go read the wiki page that talks about the husband and wife team who wrote Curious George.
Margret’s name was not put on the book because Houghton Mifflin felt that‎ children’s literature was too dominated by women….so they went with her husband’s name only. (H.A. Rey)
I’m going to go home and add Margret’s name to all my Curious George books.

I’ll call it penance.