Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Taking a lickin' at the hardware store

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I’ve always been sweet on trips to the hardware store and, quite honestly, it started with the candy. Those old-fashioned striped stick candies, if you must have details.

It never struck me as odd that places where the air is thick with lawn fertilizer and 3-in-1 oil also specialized in sugary delicacies, cellophane wrapped and flavored with root beer, cinnamon or the exotic if not vague “tropical fruit.” But I was knee-high to a sack of Kingsford briquettes then, usually stopping in on a Saturday with my dad so he could pick up a bag of concrete mix or a propane canister for his soldering torch. And those ol’ mom-and-pops had everything. "Hey, Ethel, we already sell slip joint pliers, right? Let’s stock some cavity inducers while we’re at it?"

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Mighty Have Fallen

2 clever quips

I contributed to global warming more than usual recently, so: World, I’m sorry. But that tree had it coming.

A 2019 study published in the journal Science concluded the Earth has enough open space to plant more than a trillion trees. This, it noted, is enough to capture some 800 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or roughly the equivalent of a cable news pundit’s daily output of hot air. Actual experts said this could bring greenhouse gas levels down to a number not seen since the days before American women were allowed to vote. 

Yet I, avowed advocate of suffrage and not suffering death by polar ice cap sweat, gave the order to take out a four-story black oak that had shaded our back porch for decades. It was not an easy decision. Initially.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

“Smart” appliances, meet the smart aleck

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DUCK, N.C. – This oven has convinced me that the Luddites were on to something.

To review that historical reference you can’t look up because your cell phone is down to 3 percent,

Calling someone a Luddite today is a put down. It means the person is opposed to technology and, in general, change and progress. That’s not me. I’ve never longed for the days of manual typewriters or using paper road maps. But while I’m not old-fashioned, I do abhor technology that makes me want to drown in Old Fashioneds because it is unnecessarily complex. Or just simply unnecessary.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Commence Reacting, Coronavirus Class of 2020

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Thank you for that warm introduction, Dr. Principalperson. And thank you for your bravery. Some would consider it pretentious of non-medical professionals such as yourself to still want to be addressed as “doctor” during these pandemic times.

What did you say, Dr. P? Huh?

Oh, seems I’ve muted everyone’s microphones for my portion of the Zoom graduation ceremony.

See that, my dearest beleaguered faculty, our hardest-working custodial staff, and most of all, you -- The Coronavirus Class of 2020. The ability to click a button and shut up your alleged superiors is just one feature of COVID-19 life that’s not too shabby.

Now let us ponder that phrase: “alleged superiors.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Pandemic Thrills in the Produce Aisle

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person passed out in grocery cart

Mere weeks before I first met my wife, she had survived a tandem skydive. That’s jumping out of an airplane with another person strapped to your back and only some polyester sheets to prevent the two of you from becoming a human short stack.

I, meanwhile, was still living with my parents. Living on the edge to me meant swigging their 1 percent straight out of the carton without first giving it a good, long sniff.

Nearly 30 years later, I am now the risk taker. The thrill seeker. The adrenaline junkie. The one who goes out for supplies during The Pandemic.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Bitcoin Bomb Scam Explodes on Homefront

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bitcoin scam email

Staying home isn’t even safe for my family anymore during the COVID-19 pandemic because apparently we have an “explosive device” in our house even more lethal than the homemade eight-bean chili in the freezer.

We learned this through an email my wife received last week. It instructed her to transfer $10,000 into a Bitcoin account lest a hidden device be detonated by a hitman “keeping the area under control.” I immediately recognized this as a hoax because, seriously — a bomb, an extortionist AND a hitman? So excessive for the suburbs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Strangers Among Us

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The Woman in the Yellow Hat first appeared on a Saturday morning in the early days of The Great Sequester.

I spotted her from our dining room window, striding purposefully around the cul-de-sac. After lunch I ran some errands and drove by her, arms pumping briskly as she ascended a hill about a mile from our house. I passed her along a different street on my return an hour later. As the sun descended behind the tree tops, she appeared again cruising around the cul-de-sac without any apparent loss of stride.

I see The Woman in the Yellow Hat regularly now, though never as frequently on a single day. Usually she’s walking, once in a while jogging. At all times, she’s wearing that ballcap — a glowing lemon beacon -- and not a trace of the exhaustion I feel just thinking about her seemingly perpetual motion.

She’s part of the new cast of characters in my life. COVID-19 may be keeping people home and out of their cars but not in the house or off the roads off my neck of the burbs. Where in the past my dog and I, on our twice daily rambles, would only fleetingly see folks as they whizzed by at some rate well above the posted limit, now we are having to cross the street to safely and politely avoid the increase in casual strollers and side-street athletes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Office Space: Coronavirus Home Edition

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Office Space: Coronavirus Home Edition Milton Stephen Root

Back in those halcyon days of, oh, four weeks ago, a friend shared a jokey tweet from Sam Adams, a senior editor with Slate. Adams wrote that the most frightening aspect of a pandemic that forced people to stay in their homes for 90 days would be that “the only ones to survive will be freelance writers.”

It’s now Day Numbersomethingorother of The Big Sequester, folks. It’s the end of the world as you know it, but I feel fine.

This “new normal” the coronavirus created is generally not much different than any ol’ normal day I’ve had for the past 16 years as a work-at-home writer, a socially distant profession well before it became de rigueur. The commute to my office remains congestion-free, provided the dog doesn’t cut me off in his haste to attend to his own business outside. My three-martini lunches still consist of a seltzer and leftovers with Jim Rockford, P.I. I’m always home in time for dinner because I’m always home and someone needs to cook.

Except now those nighttime meals are no longer made for me and my family. They’re for me and my three new full-time office mates.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

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My extreme couponing doesn’t seem so insane anymore, does it, Helen?

“Insane.” That was the word you used, wasn’t it? Let’s see if I remember your exact words.

“Nobody needs a hundred cases of pinto beans, Henry. I don’t care if you got them by preying on an acne-scarred cashier who mistakenly honored four competitor’s Sunday inserts and a rebate slip with an illegible expiration date,” you said. “Pallets of tuna fish cans! Pallets! Up to the ceiling. It’s insane, Henry, insane!”

I remember it clearly even though it was years ago. It was an oddly humid winter afternoon when I found you there, rooting around my stacks of Barilla rotini and Jif in search of an exit to the cozy fortification I created to be our apocalyptic escape home. You let out a little victory cry as you squeezed one last time out the steel door, obscured as it was by my towers of Ivory and Charmin.

Well, who wants some soap and TP now, Helen, hmm?

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Man Trains Dog, or Vice Versa

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dinger does snoopy imitation
If it was good enough for Snoopy ...
Training dogs for years essentially boiled down to whapping a disobedient pooch with a rolled-up newspaper. For several reasons, this is no longer true:
  • Most people today get their news online rather than on newsprint.
  • No one wants to do hurt their pooch let alone their expensive digital devices.
  • Modern theories on “positive” dog training insist there are no bad pups only lazy and inconsistent owners.
I know this because I’ve been up to my eye teeth for weeks in books, videos and Pup-peroni trying to mold our latest family member into a model canine citizen.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Murphinator at Rest

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murphy's last beach day

My daughter, Li'l Diva, refuses to watch any non-animated movie with a dog as a main character. After seeing one too many of these in her lifetime, she has concluded man’s best friend “always dies in the end.”

This, of course, isn’t true. Critics and parents alike nauseated by Beethoven and the Air Buddies couldn’t kill off those canines in multiple sequels and, yes, while it’s been a few years since those series have been in production – trust me – they are just cat napping.

But in real life, all dogs do eventually die. The many joys that spunky puppy brings us on arrival eventually ends in a painful moment when a faithful, furry family member leaves forever. This is what happened to us several months ago.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

This man's treasure is most likely trash

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A rare collectible that pays for a mansion and a yacht may be waiting in a dusty corner of your parents’ basement. However, not in mine. What I found there barely covers the latest increase in my cable bill.

This tale of discovery, or rather lack thereof one, started in North Dakota. A man there recently learned that a Rolex watch he had tucked away for half a century was worth up to $700,000, according to a story I saw last week on the evening news. This made me wonder if I too might have hidden away somewhere a precious antique, a conclusion based mainly on the logic that I am so old I still watch the evening news.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Trashing those decluttering fads

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Is there anything quite so American as the drive to accumulate stuff? The “he who has the most toys when he dies, win” mentality isn’t a modern phenomenon. Our forefathers had Manifest Destiny; your grandmother had those creepy Hummel figurines.
It comes as no surprise our national obsession to have more, more, more sporadically battles the reality that our homes only have room for less, less, less. This revelation originated with 19th century philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who mused, “Simplify, simplify, simplify! Start with your cable TV package.” The brilliant backwoodsman was ahead of his time but, alas, lousy with marketing and body odor.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

What's so happy about a new year, anyway?

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champagne cork popping
Every early January, as I watch the Christmas tree drop needles like a DJ on meth, I find myself wondering the same thing: Is anyone ever sad to see the old year go? Because, to me, the start of a new year is fairly depressing.
Those final days of December are regularly filled with a single sentiment from friends and strangers online and IRL: “Thank God that awfulness will soon be over! Don’t let the door hit you in your fat, ugly stern, old year. The new one has got to be better!” After weeks of jaunty carols relentlessly assaulting our ears to the point where German death metal becomes a welcome change, I can somewhat understand that sentiment.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

As the fat burns ... through my bank account

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man sits on weight bench at gym

Terror grips my every fiber whenever my wife opens a conservation with me using the phrase, “What do you know about …”

Her inquiry is almost never about something I:

a) actually do know something about, or
b) would like to discuss such as
     1) third-string catchers in New York Mets history, or
     2) what’s better for list making: letters or numbers?

But my pre-Google reputation for being a fount of useless knowledge, second only to my ability to tap a keg, was one of the charms she found irresistible in our initial courtship, so she keeps trying.

“What do you know,” she inquired shortly after New Year’s Day, “about PineappleHypothesis?”

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