The Perfect Houseguest

Some time ago, I wrote a column concerning houseguests, and in particular, a pair of visitors who spent 36 hours with us—an visit interminable. When they left, I was of a mind to change my phone number, name, and possibly relocate to Finland—lest they dare to contemplate another visit.

On the other hand, I too, make occasional overnight visits to friends and family. I have thought to impart a few words of advice to my faithful readers, on how to be the perfect houseguest. As you may imagine; I consider myself to be a perfect guest. In fact, after this column is published, the Reporter-Herald will no doubt be flooded with invites wanting me to spend a few days in various reader’s homes.

A pair of perfect houseguests...the Foleys

A pair of perfect houseguests…the Foleys

Paramount on the list is to tell your hosts what day and time you plan to arrive. I remember a few years ago, when we had visitors who were reluctant to divulge their arrival time: “We should be there on Wednesday, Thursday, or possibly Friday.” We knew that any plans we had for that time span would be put on hold. When my bride tried to pin them down, she was told: “We want to surprise you!” Friends, it wasn’t a pleasant surprise.

That entire time was spent much the same as what one goes through when you have your house on the market, keeping it “ready to show“. My wife attempted to keep me on my best behavior as we cleaned and re-cleaned, picked up, dusted, and vacuumed. She had prepared food that was disposed of because it passed it’s prime during our “pleasant” wait. When our guests finally did show, it was near lunchtime Friday, and as my wife hurriedly began to put food on the table, she was told: “Oh, no need to do that, Sharon, we just stopped at What-A-Burger, and had burgers and milkshakes.”

My life partner’s whole appearance changed; reminiscent of “The Hulk’s” transformation—only without the green make-up.

But, back to those valuable hints. Dietary restrictions are part of the fun of visitor accommodation. “No meat for me, I’ve gone vegan since our last visit.” But to be a perfect visitor, you must sometimes gag down a recipe and pretend it’s delicious, possibly a gustatory delight that in your own home would be consigned to the Disposall. “My, my, Gertrude, that “Garlic Strawberry Compote” was simply wonderful, be sure to give us the recipe before we leave!” Secretly, you pray your hostess has a touch of culinary amnesia before you head back home.

You should rein in your comments about your host’s audio and TV taste. “We always watch “Cops”, it’s such an uplifting show.” Says your host, and you’re thinking that a re-run of “Little House On The Prairie” might suit you better, but, you graciously settle in to witness a few cracked skulls, and pray for a power failure.

One more thing, as ideal houseguests, you will may need to pretend not to notice that the nicely framed photo of yourselves you presented to them on your last stay, is no where to be seen.

There were other timely tips I planned to include, but after thinking it over, I realize I enjoy my own company so much, that I’ll just relax here at home for a few days, put “Cops” on the telly, my nicely framed picture on the mantle, and relish being my own perfect houseguest.

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A Painful Christmas

We knew we weren’t going to have much of a Christmas. It had become all too apparent that I’d acted hastily, when I quit my job as a carpenter, in September of 1960.

I left the security of working for my wife’s uncle, earning a steady $113 a week paycheck, to become a commissioned vacuum cleaner salesman. In commission selling, if there’s no sales, there’s no pay. I know what you must be thinking—-I made a poor choice.

Sharon and I and our year old baby son, Patrick, lived in our mortgaged, ($100 per month) new home. I couldn’t imagine paying that much for a roof over our heads.

Not to worry friends, the roof wasn’t there for much longer.

Sharon was eight months pregnant with our second child, due the end of October. We had no medical insurance, but, in those days, who did?

My paychecks were sporadic, our mortgage payment schedule wasn’t. So, when we had a payday, we first bought our groceries, gas, and made our car payment. Then, if there was anything left, our house payment. I think our October installment was the first that we “postponed”. “No problem, honey, (sounding more confident than I really was) we’ll have a good week or two, and get caught up.” Yep, that’s what I told my worried wife.

All was fine until Saturday the 8th of October, when I developed a belly ache. The next morning, I was in the hospital with appendicitis, awaiting surgery. Five days later I was discharged, and spent most of the next three weeks in bed.

My friends at work took up a collection, and brought money and groceries. Then on Halloween, our daughter Michele was born. We were overcome with medical bills. By the time I went back to work, we’d slipped two months behind on our house payments, and our mortgage was foreclosed. “Get out by January 1, 1961” was what the notice said.

We had little money for Christmas; and to ease the financial drain, decided to spend the holidays with Sharon’s family. So, no tree was erected, in fact, we lent most of our decorations to a neighbor. Sharon did her shopping at the S&H Green stamps redemption center for a few gifts.

We pledged that there would be no gifts for each other

On the evening of December 23rd, a car pulled into our driveway, I opened the door, and a Christmas tree was pushed into our living room, followed by another of my friends from work. “Well, you can’t have Christmas without a tree.” he said, and set about putting it up in our mostly bare living room. There were a few tears shed after he left. We went back to packing up for our trip.

No gifts for each other—–we’d promised. But, I scraped up enough cash to buy Sharon a pair of shoes in a Salt Lake City “Bargain Basement”. I wrapped them, and stashed them it the trunk of the car.

Christmas morning found the four of us surrounded by extended family, a beautiful tree to enjoy, and presents for all. There was also my gift for Sharon; “You promised, Mike, no gifts.” she said, as she unwrapped her shoes. Then, she handed me a carefully wrapped gift; a beautiful Schafer fountain pen set. “Remember, Sharon, you promised.”

It was a wonderful, memorable, but painful Christmas. I hope your’s is just as memorable, and certainly not painful. Merry Christmas.

 

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More for less

“More for less”; sounds good doesn’t it?

Don’t get excited; I realize that that phrase can be interpreted in two ways, in the first option; it may seem to say that life is good; more stuff for less money.

And then the second take; you pay more, and get less—in some cases, much less. That’s the way it seems to be today.

From your morning coffee to toilet paper, you get much less, and, pay much more. I happened to glance at the last roll of toilet paper I installed, and discovered they had severed about an inch from the width of the roll. Clever move for the manufacturer, for they can still offer “450 sheets on each giant roll!” sure, there’s 450 sheets—just 20% less product. They certainly didn’t pare the price to reflect the amputation.

Picked up a “pound” of coffee lately? That so called pound, weighs between 12 and 14 ounces, and, you get to pay MORE. Ain’t life grand?

Want to relax with a nice dish of your favorite frozen treat? That “half-gallon” of ice cream contains a couple of bowls less than a half-gallon for you to enjoy. Something you won’t enjoy is the price; they haven’t eased the pain in that respect.

But once more to the mundane; flour and sugar. Most producers have seen that the bag you most recently picked up contains just 4 pounds instead of the 5 pounds you used to receive. Once more, you’ll pay more for less.

One of the more obvious examples of the truism is apparent when one plans a trip or vacation—by air. Raising fares is a bit too obvious, there are better ways to charge more, and deliver less. It began with the food; no more airline food to complain about; complimentary snacks aren’t offered by most airlines, not even so much as a bag of peanuts, you either bring your own, or fork out a bundle for a “Bistro” meal. Next in the list of non-extras that you pay extra for; your luggage. Not so long ago, anything that would fit in the overhead bins was gratis for the passenger; not on some carriers, seems that too has become a money generator.

What’s next?

I’m thinking pregnant women will have to pay two fares.

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He’s Back!

Well, faithful readers, it seems for the past few months, there have been issues with the blog, and it was hacked, creating a multitude of problems, one the fact that I have been unable to sign in, in order to read your comments, or make new postings.

In the next few days I’ll post a new story, so don’t give up—I haven’t.

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Service; sometimes good, sometimes BAD

One thing that Sharon and I like about our city of “love” is the friendliness and attitude of most “people servers” we come in contact with.

But, our recent visit to one of Loveland’s largest retailers, proved that there still are a few locals who haven’t gotten the message — and should have.

The reason for the venture was to have the oil changed in our car, and the tires rotated. I pulled up in front of the service department, and Sharon proceeded into the store. I cooled my heels in the auto service department, until an “associate” appeared, and after taking note of my needs, informed me that it could possibly be a lengthy wait; “maybe an hour and a half.” “Whoopee“, thought I, “bet I can “$pend” the time in the store.”

So, we shopped. And when my bride queried another “associate”, as to where she might find coffee filters, the reply (in passing) was: “Right next to the coffee.”

Really?

Biting my tongue, we shopped, studiously being ignored by the “associates“. When the 1-½ hours passed, and no page to the auto center, I went back to see how things were progressing. I added another 15 minutes to my wait, as the “associate” at the counter gabbed with a potential customer. Fifteen minutes of being ignored—like part of the furniture—pinching my arm occasionally in the event that I had become invisible, and to stay awake, should he make eye contact.

For an instant, I wanted to grab my “associate”, and give him a five minute course in customer relations, but lucky for him, I had become visible. I asked the status of the Foley family car.

“They’re almost ready to rotate the tires.” Said my favorite “associate”, not bothering to apologize for the delay.

Really? Said I.

Rather than “$pend” the time needed to complete the task, we cancelled the second course, and headed out the door.

I needed a hug.

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Service, sometimes good, sometimes bad

One thing that Sharon and I like about our city of “love” is the friendliness and attitude of most “people servers” we come in contact with.

But, our recent visit to one of Loveland’s largest retailers, proved that there still are a few locals who haven’t gotten the message — and should have.

The reason for the venture was to have the oil changed in our car, and rotate the tires. I pulled up in front of the service department, and Sharon proceeded into the store. I cooled my heels in the auto service department, until an “associate” appeared, and after taking note of my needs, informed me that it could possibly be a lengthy wait; “maybe an hour and a half.” “Whoopee“, thought I, “bet I can “$pend” the time in the store.”

So, we shopped. And when my bride queried another “associate”, as to where she might find coffee filters, the reply (in passing) was: “Right next to the coffee.”

Really?

Biting my tongue, we shopped, studiously being ignored by the “associates“. When the 1-½ hours passed, and no page to the auto center, I went back to see how things were progressing. I added another 15 minutes to my wait, as the “associate” at the counter gabbed with a potential customer. Fifteen minutes of being ignored—like part of the furniture, (pinching my arm occasionally in the event that I had become invisible, and to stay awake, should he happen to make eye contact).

For an instant, I wanted to grab my “associate”, and give him a five minute course in customer relations, but lucky for him, I had magically become visible. I asked the status of the Foley family car.

“They’re almost ready to rotate the tires.” Said my favorite “associate”, not bothering to apologize for the delay.

Really? Said I.

Rather than “$pend” the time needed to complete the task, we cancelled the second course, and headed out the door.

I needed a hug.

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Computer Joy

No one in their right mind, would write a book entitled: “The Joy of the Computer”. It’s an oxymoron, for one can’t use the word “joy“ to describe any interaction with a “computer”.

Other than a golf club, has there ever been another device that can send a person from ecstasy to despair in mere seconds? I think not.

One of the first acronyms I learned concerning computers, was GIGO….”Garbage In, Garbage Out”. A truism if I’ve ever heard one. I know that the speedy way my hair turned from steely gray to white, was no doubt caused by too many frustrating hours spent attempting to get my computer to do my bidding; it has been a one-sided battle.

Just today, I attempted to open an email that a friend had sent, and each time I tried, the process caused the infernal program to shut down. After about ten tries, I’d had enough. I phoned my friend : “Just read me the message.” I said.

We treasure those special times when we’re working on a document, and suddenly, a warning pops up: “Fatal Error”. I ask you, couldn’t the programmers have come up with a better idiom? FATAL Error? I suppose that the nerds in charge gleefully felt that it might be an appropriate term, considering the suicides such a message would no doubt cause.

I can think of only two joyous moments when I‘m working with my computer: First, if it boots up with no problem, I am almost giddy when it appears everything is as it should be. Second in the world of PC joy, occurs when a program actually works as it‘s supposed to. A word of caution here. Just because the machine has fooled you into thinking all is well, it is merely waiting for an opportune time to whack you with it’s ultimate weapon; “Fatal Error“.

Just a few weeks ago, I wasted possibly 10 or 15 hours trying to edit a family video using my electronic nemesis. The editing program was much too sophisticated to simply warn me with a firm: “Hey stupid! That won’t work. Go back to step B.” No, it allowed me to think I was winning, and from what I could see on the screen, my video was just the way I wanted it. That was until I attempted to play the finished product on our DVD player. I could have gotten better results with a 6 inch, pepperoni pizza.

Well, friends, after a couple of sleepless nights spent mulling over the problem, my favorite acronym drifted through my somnolent brain….“GIGO”. Not that my artistic endeavors were garbage, but it seems that a step I missed, relegated my end product to the trash. So, once more, my PC showed me who’s boss.

Remember this: It’s never a win-win situation when one is dealing with computers. Any joy you feel at that keyboard today…….will be surely be tempered with despair tomorrow.

And here’s a gizmo for you to identify.

A virtual basket of virtual cupcakes to the winner.

Well, I think you wind it up.....

Well, I think you wind it up…..

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Flowery Food

Looks like wine to me

Looks like wine to me

Sharon and I had dinner a while back in a nice restaurant. When I picked up the menu….after the shock of the price had somewhat worn off, I was taken by the descriptions of the food offered.

It seems they couldn’t simply depict their offerings in real terms; for example, rather than tout their mashed potatoes as “mashed potatoes”, their spud offering was shown instead, as something akin to: “our creamy, fluffy clouds of Idaho‘s finest potatoes.”. Gag me with a spoon. Let me be the judge, I’ll be the first to tell you if I’ve just enjoyed a fluffy potato cloud, or if your fluffy cloud has lumps in it large enough to stop a 747.

Flowery terms don’t guarantee one a great meal, I can promise you that. I would prefer just a straightforward menu entry, one that I can decipher, without having to summon a waitperson to translate. That said, I think that flowery portrayals seem to, well, really bloom, when it comes to wine.

I’m not a wine drinker, although I have in the past, consumed my share of the beverage. However, I was more concerned with the quantity rather than the quality…or at least what wine critics determine to be quality. For instance, at another restaurant, when dining with friends, our dinner partners ordered some kind of wine buffet. They were each served three small glasses of three different wines. To someone of my unsophisticated tastes, it appeared that two were red, one white. Resting around the stem of each glass, was a small paper disk.

Each disk identified the wine to the imbiber, so the sipper would know what qualities they should be able to detect; providing they were wine savy. One disk declared that it was a “Pinot Noir” I comprehend enough French to figure out that Noir means “dark”. Don’t expect me to tell you what “Pinot” means. Anyway, the label went on to tell the imbiber that the wine was: “Light bodied and exhibits black cherry, raspberry, cranberry,” and get this, “Vanilla.” This was delivered with a “light, earthy aroma and a smooth finish.”

I took a sniff from the glass, attempting to avoid depositing any stray fragments of moustache, or H1N1, lest our dining partners be afflicted, and after giving it much thought, it seemed to me, to have much the same qualities as the Gallo Burgundy I used to decant in much more generous servings. I definitely didn’t sense any raspberries or cranberries in the bouquet, and not even the most meager hint of vanilla.

As far as the “smooth finish”, well, I’m afraid that the term would be more appropriate describing a dining room table, than a glass of red wine.

Guess I’m just old fashioned, so if you decide to invite me out, for a fancy dinner, no need to attach a descriptive tag to the diet cola, I don’t need to know that it is “light bodied, and exhibits hints of coal tar, and household bleach”, I’ll just down it without a thought, and pray for a “smooth finish”.

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Fads

While in a fast food restaurant a few days ago, I spotted a young man obviously in a fix. He had only two hands, and needed more. He was nattily attired for our times…wearing a pair of baggy pants that could have clothed two boys of his size quite handily.

He was in a fix, because he had several hands full of food, and was in dire need of an extra to hold up his pants. Frankly, I was quite impressed with his dexterity, yet I wanted to yell: “Pull up your pants!”

His britches struck him somewhere below the waterline, in fact, I thought I saw daylight occasionally between the top of his pants, and the lowermost part of his torso. I was extremely thankful he was wearing underwear, which I suppose were also a fashion statement.

The scene brought to mind another young man about his age, a half century or so ago.

How?

How?

Me.

I wasn’t immune to faddish dress, and as I wanted to be accepted by my peers, I guess I made a few concessions to good sense, and wore what “everybody else” was wearing….. the 16 year old fashion plates.

First, I want you to know that having ones pants defy the laws of gravity is not just a phenomena of today, for I too, wore my jeans lower than what would qualify as a waistline. However, we wore ours on the crown of our hips…not resting on our thighs. We rolled up the legs of our jeans; to show off our argyle socks, we knew that would be difficult, if ones cuffs were mostly being dragged through the dirt. And, we wore narrow suede leather belts to hold our jeans up.

Our shoes weren’t left out of the trend either. Florsheim shoes were the requisite, if we could afford them….I couldn’t. Blue suede, was the finish of choice. The boys who could, took those high dollar shoes to a shoe shop, and had the soles “wedged”….eliminating the heels by adding layers of leather to the rear of the sole, until a comfortable height was achieved. Next, heavy horseshoe taps were added, making the walking wearer sound like the entire Buckingham Palace guardsmen on parade.

If we wore short sleeved shirts, the sleeves were rolled, forming a cuff…way cool. For effect, a shiny watch chain was added, (the longer the better) hooked onto your belt, and disappearing, into a pocket. It could even have been attached to a watch…but seldom was.

Our hair also deserved special attention, and a well greased, “D.A.” was the ultimate. The trick was to comb the sides of your hair back, coming together at the rear….similar to the way a duck’s wings meet, forming a “Duck’s Aft”. (I think we used another word.)

So, as the young fellow waddled towards his table, I thought that things really haven’t changed that much since I was a teen. I remember stumbling out the front door to head for school, and my mom yelling: “Pull up your pants!”.

Nope, things haven’t changed.

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He’s done it again

Why is it that software providers decide that we mere mortals are willing to dump the program we’ve become comfortable with, and without seeking our opinion, or permission, inflict what they determine to be an “improvement” in a computer’s operating system, whether we like it or not?
I recently purchased a new little laptop, so that I may from time to time, compose a story when it isn’t convenient to use my desk-top PC. I love the new computer; but I don’t love what Bill Gates has done to it’s innards; for you see, it is afflicted with that new technological wonder: “Windows 8”. It’s a wonder, alright, for I find myself wondering how to operate the operating system.
For instance; right now, I’m using the so-called word processor included with the software package, and frankly, I can’t say that I’m thrilled with it’s properties.

This Tandy TRS-80 was my first desktop computer...4K of RAM...whoopee

This Tandy TRS-80 was my first desktop computer…4K of RAM…whoopee


I’ve been one who has dutifully upgraded my computer each time Mr. Gates has assumed that I need to be upgraded. I only wish that it was possible to upgrade my person as easily as Bill updates my various nemeses. If that were the case, then by now, I’d no doubt be in my second childhood, enjoying it as I imagine I would—(knowing what I know now). And, based upon what I’ve observed in today’s youngest generation; computer updates are their mother’s milk. I think that our eight year old grandson would whistle while he worked through Windows 8, since he has been computer literate ever since he became literate.
I recall a few eons ago, when I had one of my first computers, and an acquaintance set it up with a menu. I was beside myself; to think, all I had to do, was to locate one of the four or five programs I had from a list, click on it, and in mere minutes, the computer was ready to do my bidding.
One of the first things I’ve discovered about this new rendition, is that Bill thoughtfully left out the “spell check” feature, or if he did include it, he hid it so carefully, that I can’t find it. I assume he figures that by now I should be able to spell everything from antidisestablishmentarianism to zucchini, without the need for assistance. The more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to feel that he knows there are a few of us who while computing, create an occasional orthographical error, and is hoping that we dummies here in the heartland will cry for help, and with the application of a few monetary digits from one’s credit card, Mr. Gates would happily supply a spell check function; and a few more credit card digits may get one a spreadsheet program, and possibly a few bucks more may provide the programs to allow the user to actually use their computer.
Thanks Bill, I can hardly wait for “Windows 9”.
Interesting jewelry...whazzit?

Interesting jewelry…whazzit?


OK,Sherlock, What is it?

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