Sunday, April 14, 2019

Anything is possible

Don’t tell me there is is nothing that can be done to bring about peace in the Middle East.

Don’t tell me it’s impossible for Hillary Clinton to yet be president. Or for Trump to win a second term in a landslide. 

Don’t tell me you will never be called up to the stage to accept an Oscar. Or be named Super Bowl MVP. Or win the Powerball jackpot. 

Anything — anything — is possible, as I, the world’s unhandiest person, proved today when I changed a light bulb in my pool.

Granted, it took five hours, I had to watch seven youtube "how to" videos, made three trips to the pool supply store, and my index finger is bandaged after being pierced by a screwdriver but, by God, I did it. 

And I’m going to switch it on as soon as I can find a youtube video that will reassure me it’s OK if water got into the fixture as I was screwing it back into the side of the pool.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Help! I need somebody.

I’ve been in denial for months, hoping my many issues would somehow resolve themselves but they haven't, so today I admitted defeat and called a handyman.

I hate dealing with handymen. With the exception of one I hired years ago who has mysteriously disappeared like that Malaysian Airlines jet, the ones I have hired are undependable and inept. My theory is that every idiot handyman who can’t earn a living up north figures he might as well move to Florida where at least he can bask in his ineptitude in perpetual summer.

Another reason I hate calling handymen is that they make me feel inadequate. The reason they make me feel inadequate is because I am. I am completely clueless when it comes to fixing anything. That side of my brain not only doesn’t work, it doesn’t exist, so I don’t know enough to stop a handyman when I see him doing something my gut tells me is wrong. Two years ago when I called one to repair an electrical outlet in the dining room, he removed the toilet in the guest room. I assumed there was wiring under it and they were somehow interconnected. Turns out his boss had given him the wrong “to-do” list — he was supposed to repair the toilet for another client. After he reinstalled it, the toilet leaked so I had to call a plumber in, but he couldn’t fix it. So I called another. The minute he left the kitchen faucet started leaking. For all I know, it's leaking toilet water.

So, I wait until I have a fix-it list as long as my arm — and until my wife insists she can’t live this way another minute — before I make that call.

Right now we have, as mentioned, a leaking kitchen faucet. The pocket door to my wife’s closet has been stuck open for at least a year, leaving a 12-inch gap for her to squeeze through sideways. The termite guy, when he came for his annual inspection today, discovered that the pulldown door to our attic is broken so he couldn't inspect. The house, for all I know, is being held up by termites holding hands.The French doors between the kitchen and living room have swollen from all this humidity and won't shut so they need to be removed and the bottoms shaved off. 

There are burnt out can lights in our family room and living room ceilings. I feel like an idiot having to hire someone to replace light bulbs but the ceiling is 12 feet high and I’m 67. I'd no doubt fall off the ladder and break my hip, catch pneumonia from lying in bed unable to move, and die. I’ve been meaning to have the 21 can lights in those rooms replaced with LED fixtures that supposedly won’t burn out for 45 years so I’m going to have the handyman do it. That way I won't have to get up on a ladder and change the bulbs until I'm 112 but then, I'm sure he'll install them wrong and they'll all come crashing down. That's what happened when I had the last handyman change the fixtures in our bathroom. The new one can fix those, too.

A double-paned window is fogged over, the gutters are full of pine needles, the aluminum cage that towers 20 feet above our pool is covered with green slime and needs to be pressure washed, none of our exterior lights work, and the light in the swimming pool spa burned out after our two-year-old grandson turned it off and on 100 times. I watched a youtube how-to video and decided I could replace it myself but got the shock of my life. Someone told me I should’ve turned off the fuse box. How the hell would I have known that?

The locks on all three sets of sliding glass doors are stuck and we can’t open them. To get to our lanai, we have to go out the front door and circle around the house, then come in through the screen door to the pool cage. Which, come to think of it, doesn't close properly because that tube-like thingie that is supposed to make a hissing sound as it shuts is hanging off the door. Last but not least, we go on daylight savings time this weekend so the clocks in both cars will need to be moved forward. Or is it backwards? I'm never sure.

I’ve asked friends but they all laugh and say they fix those things around their houses themselves. so no, none can recommend a handyman because they, of course, have never needed one, but I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that none of them can conjugate Latin verbs as well as I can.  

And so, once again, I’ve chosen a handyman out of the yellow pages, the one whose ad has the best design and fewest typos. 

He said he will be here two weeks from Friday but he won’t show. 

They never do. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Colonoscopy

This souvenir polyp photo was a
lovely parting gift

10:45 a.m.

TD to hospital front desk receptionist:  I have an appointment for a colonoscopy. The doctor said I should be here an hour early. Where do I go?

Receptionist: Can you tell me your name?

TD: Of course I can.

Receptionist: Well, what is it?

TD: Thomas Dryden

Receptionist: Middle initial?

TD: J.

Receptionist: Date of birth?

TD: November 17, 1951.

Receptionist: Take the elevator to the third floor and turn left. The GI lab is the second door on the right. 

TD: Thank you.

10:48 a.m.

TD to GI lab receptionist:  My name is Tom Dryden. I have an appointment for a colonoscopy.

Lab receptionist: Your full name?

TD: Thomas J. Dryden

Lab receptionist: Your date of birth?

TD: November 17, 1951.

Lab receptionist: OK, somebody will be with you in a minute.

11 a.m.

Admitting Clerk:  Thomas?

TD: Right here!

Admitting Clerk: Come with me. Have a seat.

TD: Okay.

 Admitting Clerk: What is your full name?

TD: You already called me. You know it.

Admitting Clerk: I have to ask. It’s the law.

TD: Thomas J. Dryden.

Admitting Clerk: What’s your date of birth?

TD: November 17, 1951.

Admitting Clerk: Do you know why you’re here?

TD: Of course. Do you think I’m here for the sport of it?

Admitting Clerk: Okay then, why?

TD: I’m having a colonoscopy. 

Admitting Clerk: I see we have your insurance information. Go back to the lobby and a nurse will be calling you shortly.

11:16 a.m.

Nurse: Thomas?

TD: Right here.

Nurse: Follow me please. Here’s the room where you’ll be changing into a gown and waiting to go into the examination room. Can you tell me your name?

TD: Why do you people keep asking me this? It’s not instilling much confidence you know what you’re doing.

Nurse: It’s a requirement.

TD: Thomas J. Dryden

Nurse: Now, give me your birthdate.

TD: November 17, 1951.

Nurse: And what procedure are you having done today?

TD: A lobotomy.

Nurse: That’s not what it says here.

TD: Colonoscopy. 

Nurse: Here’s a gown and a plastic bag. Please put the gown on, leave it loosely tied in back, and place any valuables — your wallet, Kindle, glasses, cell phone, etc — in the bag. 

TD: All right.

11:30 a.m.

Anesthesiologist:  Hello, I’m Dr. Payne. (Note to readers: I am not making this up. That was his name.) I’ll be administering your anesthesia today. Can you tell me your name?

TD: On one condition.

Anesthesiologist: What’s that?

TD: That you won’t ask my date of birth. 

Anesthesiologist:  I have to.

TD: OK, Thomas J. Dryden, November 17, 1951. Please knock me out now so I won’t have to answer that again.

Anesthesiologist:  I can’t until we’re in the procedure room.  An aide will be coming to wheel you in there in a few minutes.

11:42 a. m.

Aide: Hi, I’m Michael. I’ll be taking you into the procedure room. Are you ready?

TD: Ted Bundy. January 24, 1989.

Aide: I beg your pardon? What did you say?

TD: Never mind.

11:44 a.m.

Gastroenterologist: Hi Tom, how are you today? Are you ready to get this over with?

TD: I didn’t think there could be anything worse than drinking two jugs of that God-awful laxative stuff and spending the night on the toilet, but I was wrong. Did you know that …

Gastroenterologist: Can you tell me your full name and date of birth?

TD: I had an appointment with you three days ago! Don’t you remember?

Gastroenterologist: It’s policy.

TD: My God, please, please put me out now. I can’t do this any more.

Gastroenterologist: Do what? 

TD: Tell you my name and date of birth one more time.

Gastroenterologist: I have to ask.

TD: Thomas Joseph Dryden, that’s D-R-Y-D-E-N. November 17, 1951. That’s N-O-V-E-M-B-E-R.

Gastroenterologist: Can you tell me why you’re here?

TD: I’m having a C-section — twins, but it might be triplets, I think I felt an extra heartbeat today. 

Gastroenterologist: There’s no reason to yell. 

TD: I’m sorry, but this is fucking insane.

Gastroenterologist: Well, I’d like to remind you I’m holding a five-foot hose I’m about to shove up your ass. I can either be gentle or, if you won’t cooperate, I might not be.

TD: Because I’m having a colonoscopy. I’m sick and tired of having to answer the same questions over and over and over. Look at what the blood pressure monitor says. I’m about to … aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh  (anesthesia kicks in)

12:15 p.m

Nurse: Hi, Mr. Dryden. It’s over, you’re in the recovery room. The doctor will be here to go over the results in a few minutes.

TD:  Ugg … ga … ga…

Nurse: Can you tell me your name?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Goodbye my old friend

"Dad! Someone broke in and stole all the furniture!"
 Rupert in his almost-empty family room. On the left is
 his "Santa Weenie" stuffed toy he got for Christmas

It is always sad to tell your old car good-bye as you drive away in your new one. Will it miss you? Will it be frightened, sitting outside overnight in a strange dealer’s lot when it has spent every night of its life secure in your garage? Does it feel abandoned after years of faithfully transporting you and your loved ones safely? Is is hurt, knowing you are leaving it for a newer, sleeker model? 

I’ve always felt that way about cars but never about furniture until this morning when two men from Habitat for Humanity came to pick up the 12-year-old sectional sofa, matching chair and two tables in our family room we donated to their resale shop. A new sectional will be arriving later today.

I don’t miss the chair -- nobody ever sat in it -- or the tables, though the coffee table did make a convenient prop for my feet.  But, now that it's gone, I do find myself missing that sofa. 

I spent thousands and thousands of hours on it reading, working on my laptop, cruising the internet, eating, napping and, most nights, watching TV with my wife and a couple of wiener dogs snoring between us.

Our beloved dachshund Bonnie spent ten of her 16 years perched atop one of the back pillows where the two sections came together, a comfy vantage point from which to keep her eye on everything going on inside and outside the house. Bonnie died nearly two years ago, but that pillow never did regain its shape where she squished it down, even after it was re-stuffed.

With its thick, plush upholstery, the sofa was the most comfortable piece of furniture we’ve ever owned. The fabric never frayed or faded, but the cushions and back pillows had become misshapen and the sofa was looking a bit outdated compared to the ones I see in our friends' houses. Sofas today are white or at least light colors and for good reason: Manufacturers know you'll spill something and the stains won't come out so you will have replace them more often. The old sofa was a dark brown tweed. And there was damage not readily apparent to anyone but us. Bonnie's brother Billy Ray, who lost control of his bladder in his final days (not that he or, for that matter, any dachshund ever had 100 percent bladder control in the first place)  peed on it shortly before he went to spend eternity with Bonnie on that tweedy soft sofa in the sky. We were able to get the odor out but the stain remained, so the cushion couldn't be flipped, the unpeed-on side had to remain face up. Bonnie’s successor, Rupert, in his early days, chewed a corner of a cushion we were able to disguise when company came by covering it with a throw pillow. Another cushion could no longer be reversed because it would have revealed a stain from the plate of spaghetti and meatballs I once spilled.

The new sofa was my idea. My wife said she was fine with the old one but I convinced her to go shopping on a recent afternoon and the first sofa we saw, we bought. That’s how we always make almost any major purchase— a house, car, furniture, you name it. 

So, I’m waiting for a call informing me the furniture delivery truck is on the way and, in an hour or so, the room won’t be so empty. We’re not replacing the tables or chair yet; we’re going to live with just the sofa, which is bigger than the last one, for now. We may not need a chair at all.

I just the hope the old sofa, bouncing around in the back of a darkened truck somewhere, isn’t hurt or frightened or feeling unloved, and that the next person or family who buys it will appreciate it, enjoy it, live, learn, and relax on it, and treat it better than we did.
Bonnie in the place where she spent most of her 16 years.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Tom Dryden's World-Famous Lemon Chess Pie (with step-by-step instructions)

It was a custom, in the rural Missouri town where I grew up, to bake a pie on New Year’s Eve, place it on a neighbor’s front porch, ring the doorbell, then run off into the night, leaving the recipient to enjoy the pie and wonder who left it.

At least it was until New Year’s Eve 1962 when Arlene Spoonmacher made a chocolate meringue pie using Ex-Lax in lieu of Hershey’s Cocoa and left it on Wanda Faye Green's front porch. Wanda Faye, Arlene later told the sheriff, had been making goo-goo eyes at her husband at church the previous Sunday. Wanda Faye survived but lost 12 pounds she didn’t need to lose. After that, nobody in town would touch a pie they or an immediate family member hadn’t made themselves, so the custom died out. 

Still, to this very day, I get a hankering for pie on New Year’s Eve. This year I decided to make chess pie. The decision was easy: It’s the only pie I know how to make.

Chess pie, if you are unfamiliar with it, is a southern speciality. It is rich, smooth, custardy and darn near foolproof. If I can make one, you can, too. Legend has it the pie got its name when someone who was wowed by what he was eating asked the cook what kind of pie it was. “It ain’t nothing special,” she drawled. “It’s jest pie.” 

Plain chess pie is good but lemon chess pie rises several notches above it when it comes to delicious delectability.

I usually make mine with bottled lemon juice but today’s pie is gonna be extra special because I’m making it with lemons from our next door neighbors’ tree, which is so heavily laden with ripe, tart fruit it is literally bending over.

Our neighbors' lemon tree. It's very pretty and
the lemon flower is sweet but the fruit of the poor lemon
is impossible to eat unless it's baked into Tom Dryden's
world-famous Lemon Chess Pie.

We have an open invitation to help ourselves, so I went over and picked three of them — lemons the size of softballs containing so much juice I only needed one to make this recipe. What I’ll do with the other two I haven’t a clue. 

Disregard the greenish color.
This is what lemons, fresh-from-the-tree, look like. 

And so, without further adieu — I know you’re anxious to start cooking — here’s everything you need to know to make Tom Dryden’s World-Famous Lemon Chess Pie.

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2: Squeeze 1/2 cup of lemon juice from softball-sized lemon taken from neighbor’s tree. If your neighbors don’t have a lemon tree, buy some small ones at the store and squeeze them until you have half a cup of juice. (Helpful tip: Be sure to remove the seeds from the juice, otherwise someone could choke on them which wouldn’t get 2019 off to a good start for you or them.) If it’s too much work to squeeze the lemons, you can use ReaLemon bottled juice or juice from one of those plastic lemons you’ll find in the produce section in which case you don’t have to worry about seeds.

Dice that lemon rind into small pieces, as shown here

Step 3: Remove skin from half of the gigantic lemon (or from two small lemons), peel away and discard the pulp inside, and, using a zester, grate the skin. If you do not have a zester (the first time I made this pie I had to look online to find out what a zester is) you can do what I do and dice it into really, really tiny eensy-bitsy pieces with a sharp knife. 

Step 4:  Remove two frozen pie shells from freezer and allow them to come to room temperature — about 15 minutes. I should have done this before I started Step 1 but I didn’t. 

You know what butter looks like but everyone's so damn visually-oriented
 these days they expect a photo of just about everything
 so I'm showing you one here. 

Step 5: Nuke 2 cups of butter for about 40 seconds until it is soft but not melted. Place in large bowl of stand mixer. 

Surely you know what a bag of sugar looks like.
If you don't, stop right now because you
aren't going to be able to make this pie,
 you're too stupid.

Step 6: Add 2 cups of sugar. 

And the beat goes on.
For about two minutes or
until creamy.

Step 7: Beat butter and sugar until creamy.

Step 8: Go to fridge for eggs. Realize you don’t have any.

Step 9: Drive two miles to supermarket and buy eggs.

Aunt Margaret's mixer is used to beat the eggs.
Step 10: Using a different mixer (or the same one, once you have washed the beaters), beat 10 eggs thoroughly. (Helpful tip: Be sure to crack the eggs open, discard the shells, and place the yolks/whites in a bowl before beating.) In this picture I’m using our 1970s olive green General Electric portable mixer that was given to us as a wedding present by my Aunt Margaret, who was a terrific cook. Margaret had a major sweet tooth — she always had freshly-baked cakes and/or pies on hand, and kept a huge glass candy bowl filled with Brach’s Pick-A-Mix on her coffee table. Despite her sweet tooth, Aunt Margaret never weighed more than 100 pounds, if that. Aunt Margaret’s green mixer has moved with us to St. Louis, Chicago, Manhattan, Connecticut and Florida and we always think fondly of her whenever we use it. She would have most definitely approved of this pie. 

Do not add the lemon juice at this step
like I'm doing here. 

Step 11: Pour beaten eggs into butter/sugar mixture and beat until smooth. (I forgot to take a picture of this important step so I'm showing a picture of the lemon juice being added, which comes later. Try to imagine this cup contains the beaten eggs. You can imagine that without seeing a picture, can't you?)

Step 12:  Go to pantry for flour and corn meal. Realize you are out of flour.

Step 13: Return to supermarket to buy flour. 

Who would have thunk Clinton is a Lemon Chess Pie fan too?

Step 14: After noting that the recipe on the web site you are following calls for two cups of milk, realize that this isn’t the recipe for which you are famous — your Lemon Chess Pie recipe isn't made with milk. This recipe is for something called “Bill Clinton’s Lemon Chess Pie.” Given the vast quantities of butter, sugar, eggs and milk it contains, it’s probably one of the main reasons he had to undergo open heart surgery. 

Now you can add the lemon juice, as well
as the rest of the ingredients
Step 15: Feeling foolish, thinking you were making the recipe you’ve made for years (but, in your defense, you haven’t made for at least a year), add to butter/sugar/egg mixture two cups of milk, two tablespoons of flour, two tablespoons of corn meal, lemon juice and lemon zest.

Step 16:  Beat for a couple of minutes on ‘high.” (Helpful tip: Mixer should be on “high,” not you.)

Step 17: Call small dog over (if available) to lick up any mixture that splatters on the floor.

Step 18: Pour mixture into two pie shells.  

Step 19: Realizing you have enough mixture left over for two more pies, place filled pies in oven for 35 to 38 minutes.

Step 20: While pies are baking, return to supermarket to buy two more frozen pie shells.

Step 21: Remove pies from oven once the filling begins to brown around the edges. Don't let the pie crusts get too brown!

Step 22: Pour remaining mixture into the two new pie shells, and bake per step 19.

Four picture perfect pies

Step 23: Allow all four pies to cool.

Step 24: Take one pie to neighbor whose lemons you stole.

Step 25:  Take another pie to another neighbor.

Step 26: Slice into third pie and realize you should have tasted it before you gave it to your neighbors but then relax because …. this pie is incredible. Bill Clinton’s pie is much, much, much tastier than the one you’ve been making all these years but then, your wife is better than his — she doesn’t run maniacally for president then write tell-all books blaming everyone else but herself for her losses — and, all things considered, you’d rather be remembered for having a wonderful sweet wife than for having a stupid pie recipe.

Step 27: Over next two hours polish off third pie.

Step 28: Place fourth pie in fridge to share with your significant other. You’re not going out tonight because you don’t like to go out on New Year’s Eve — not that you have had any invitations anyway — and will be staying in to watch episodes 3 and 4 of “Escape at Dannemora” on Showtime for which Patricia Arquette is all but guaranteed a Best Actress Emmy.

Step 29:  Have a Happy New Year and remember to stay away from any chocolate pies found on your doorstep because they might not be chocolate after all. 

Bill Clinton’s Tom Dryden’s Famous Lemon Chess Pie
Makes two deep-dish or four regular-sized pies

(Note: I changed Bill Clinton's recipe ever-so-slightly to, as the judges on American Idol used to tell contestants, “make it my own.”)

Unbaked pie shell
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
10 beaten eggs (shells removed)
2 cups milk — 1% is fine
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons corn meal
1/2 cup lemon juice
Zest from 1/2 of a huge lemon or 2 small lemons

Mix ingredients thoroughly (beat eggs separately and add to butter/sugar mixture) in order listed, pour into four pie shells, and bake 35-38 minutes @ 350 degrees.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

16 gifts grandpas most assuredly don't want this year, which will come as news to the editors of Esquire magazine

The other day I saw an article entitled “16 Best Gift Ideas for Grandpas” from the editors of Esquire. I clicked it on, knowing Esquire's gift recommendations would provide fodder for a blog post and, sure enough, they did. 

Here are the 16 items the editors of Esquire recommended its readers give their grandpas this holiday season, and this grandpa’s response to those recommendations.

1. Bay-Berk Wooden Multi-Game set from Neiman-Marcus, $180, “for the grandpa with a competitive side.” The set contains a board and playing pieces for two games, chess and backgammon. I most definitely have a competitive side but I don’t play chess or backgammon and don’t know (or want to know) any grandpa who does. 

2.  Thin-Optics Keychain Reading Glasses, $24.95. Buying grandpa a pair of reading glasses without knowing the magnification he requires would be as idiotic as buying him a pair of slacks without knowing his waist or inseam. 

3.  Eagle Creek 2-in-1 Travel Pillow, $27.95 from r.e.i. “for the grandpa who could use some neck and lumbar support when he travels.” Of the 16 gifts suggested by Esquire, this is the only one I might actually use but if my grandson truly cared about my comfort when I’m flying long distances, he would buy me a first-class ticket that would get me a lie-flat seat with its own full-size pillow and duvet.

4. All Saints Leather Driving Gloves, $98 at Nordstrom, “for the grandpa with a seriously sweet car (or car collection) to drive around town.” If my grandson spent $98 buying me driving gloves, I’d put them on once: To slap some sense into him. Who the hell would be caught dead wearing driving gloves?

5. John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” for the grandpa who knows soul-changing music when he hears it whether it’s in vinyl or CD form. Do the editors of Esquire really think today's grandpas are so out of it that we listen to music on a record player or CD player? Do their grandpas watch TV in black and white? Do they run outside to their outhouses when they need to take a whiz? Do they light candles for illumination when the sun goes down? How patronizing. If you insist on giving grandpa music, give him an iTunes gift card so he can choose what he wants to listen to and download it himself. 

6. Ekster Leather Minimal Wallet, $98, from “for the grandpa who needs a minimalist wallet … to replace that money clip.”  I never used a money clip so I don’t need something to replace it.

7. Frankenstein Pique Polo Shirt by Travis Matthew, $89.95 at Nordstrom “for the grandpa with good style, whether on the golf course, at the club or around the house.” I don’t golf. I only go to our club when my wife drags me to some social event in which case I have to dress up, and around the house I wear gym shorts and a 1998 U.S. Open Tennis tournament t-shirt, so this grey polo shirt with white stripes isn’t for me.

8. The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, $50.75 “for the grandpa who is a history junkie and has time on his hands.” Millions of grandpas don’t need to watch a movie to learn about LBJ’s war. They were there and many are still having flashbacks. If the editors of Esquire think any grandpa who was young in the 1960s or early '70s will find this multi-volume movie set entertaining, they are seriously stupid.

9. Google Home Voice Activated Speaker, $99 at Nordstrom “ for the grandpa who likes to stay connected.” Of the nine items recommended for grandpa so far, this is the third from Nordstrom. How much is Nordstrom’s paying Esquire to pimp this stuff?

10. Promise Me Dad” by Joe Biden, $28 at amazon “for the grandpa who values family and service above all.” I’ve already read this book that details Bo Biden’s losing struggle with brain cancer and, as a father myself, felt Joe Biden’s pain and shared his sorrow. Unfortunately, Biden devoted about half of the book to promoting his own brilliance, clearly setting the stage for a run in 2020. I finished the book admiring Biden for the grace and strength with which he faced every parent’s ultimate nightmare, but convinced more than ever that as a politician, he’s a clueless, self-promoting dick.

11. UGC scuff Slipper, $79 from (surprise, surprise!) Nordstrom “for the grandpa who knows how to appreciate downtime around the house.” These slippers appear to be the standard slip-on variety one can buy at Walmart or Costco for $15 or less. Lined with wool, they’re going to start stinking after a month or so absorbing grandpa's foot sweat so grandpa will have to throw them away, just like he has thrown away every pair of slippers he has ever received for Christmas. If you are convinced grandpa will be impressed by expensive slippers, buy him a pair at Costco, put ‘em in a Nordstrom box and spend the extra $60 buying him something that won’t make him feel like you think he has one slippered foot in the grave.

12. Olympia Provisions Favorite Sausage Collection, $30, from food52 “for the grandpa who knows his way around quality butchered meats.”  I never sausage a stupid gift idea -- three imported gourmet processed sausage sticks. However, if any of my midwestern readers know where I can buy Rice's, a pork sausage brand my father used to sell in his grocery store in the 1960s, you can give me a gift by letting me know where I can buy it. To this day I judge all sausages against Rice's and have yet to find any one-tenth as tasty. (A funny side story: My uncle, an army man, was stationed in Hawaii and he, too, loved Rice's sausage. Before he flew there, he had my dad freeze a long loaf of Rice's which he packed in his suitcase, assuming that, by the time he arrived, the sausage would be thawed out so he could fry it up. Unfortunately the airline lost his luggage. By the time it showed up days later, the sausage was rotten and he had to throw away everything in his suitcase. And now back to our regularly-scheduled blog post.)

13. Warby Parker-Keene prescription lenses, $95, from “for the grandpa who wants to update his everyday look.” Why are Esquire’s editors obsessed with eyeglasses? Because they think glasses make them look smart? Any grandpa who reads their recommendations knows they aren’t. See #2.

14. A box set of two books, ’Sapiens’ and ‘Homo Deus” by Yuval Noah Harari, $95 at amazon “for the grandpa who has some thoughts about the existential crisis facing the human race.” There isn’t a grandpa in the U.S. — hell, the world — who wants this except, perhaps, Yual Noah Harare’s grandpa and I doubt that even he would read it though he would in all likelihood point it out to his friends and say “my grandson wrote it.”

15. Cutter & Buck NFL Team Sweater (with the logo of grandpa’s favorite team),  $120 from … that big Seattle-based department store known for excellent customer service with branches in upscale malls in most big cities whose name, unlike the editors of Esquire, I am not being paid to promote, “for the grandpa who never misses his favorite team’s kickoff.”  Like a growing number of grandpas, I don’t give a shit about NFL football since the owners of its teams allowed their overpaid players to “take a knee” following the example of Colin “Won’t Someone Please Hire Me?” Kaepernick. I hope the NFL goes belly-up and its players have to take jobs at Wendy's.

16. The Glenlivit 15-year-old Single Malt Scotch, $55, from The Reserve Bar, “for the grandpa who never said no to a good Scotch.” I’ve got news for you, Esquire.  All those Scotch-swilling grandpas died off 30 years ago. Today’s grandpas prefer white goods — vodka, tequila or rum — or handcrafted small-batch American bourbons. Yes, Scotch is being rediscovered by Millennials but take it from this grandpa who, for 20 years, worked on wine and sprits advertising accounts: Boomers don’t drink Scotch.

However, if one of my grandsons were ever go to work for Esquire, I’d drink the whole bottle in one sitting.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Grill of Your Dreams

We just had a new gas grill installed.  Here is the first page of the owner's manual that came with it.

Congratulations on your new Tropic Chef grill!

We know you can’t wait to start grilling delicious meals for your family and friends, but before you do, please take a moment to read these critical safety warnings. Failure to follow these warnings may invalidate the warranty.

  • Fill tank with propane only. DO NOT fill with gasoline, lighter fluid, nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, paint thinner, turpentine, linseed oil, hydrogen, butane, methane, ethylese or vodka.

  • Grill is for OUTDOOR USE only.  Do not operate inside house, condo, apartment, trailer, barn, airplane, helicopter, office building, store, restaurant, hospital, church, synagogue, mosque, outhouse, car, bus, van or truck.

  • DO NOT ignite grill while connected to an oxygen tank.

  • NEVER allow children to play around, or atop, hot grill except for kids likely to grow up and vote Republican if you don't stop them now.

  • God knows I’d love to be writing the great American novel — that’s what I always intended to be doing at this point in my life — but no, I have to spend my day writing instructions for morons like you who have done all of these things and worse. For example …

  • When igniting burners, MAKE SURE grill lid is open and that no cats have crept through opening at the back and are sleeping inside.

  • DO NOT light farts if you smell propane leak. 

  • DO NOT operate grill during tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, blizzards, floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes or other adverse conditions. If any of these conditions occur, please turn off fuel supply and seek shelter.

  • Any reference within this manual to wieners refers to sausages made by Oscar Mayer, Hormel, Ballpark, Nathans and other manufacturers, NOT dachshunds or genitalia you have cut off your cheating husband in a fit of drunken rage.

Thank you for reading. Enjoy your new grill!

Monday, November 12, 2018

These diamonds aren't forever

Darling, will you marry me?

The highest temperature in the nation yesterday, 89 degrees, was reported in Ft. Myers, two towns north of here. Sunday was a darn near perfect day. Low humidity. Blue skies. Fluffy clouds. A slight breeze. 

I would have enjoyed it more if it weren’t for this damn sinus infection that made its first appearance in 1987 when we lived in Connecticut, and flared up every year thereafter until we finally had the sense to get out of there once and for all in 2013. Until two weeks ago, it had only reappeared once, in 2016, and that was after a flight.  

But two weeks ago we flew home from Iceland — Keflavik to JFK, JFK to Atlanta, Atlanta to Ft. Myers. Two days later I woke up feeling like someone had broken into the house overnight and filled my head with wet concrete. I’ve been taking antibiotics ever since but this iteration of my 31-year-old infection is particularly tenacious. I’m almost sure it flared up because of the flying, not because of the cold we encountered in Iceland, where I wore a stocking cap everywhere. (My mother, who always warned her children to keep their heads covered whenever it was 60 or below, would have been proud.) 

Why did we go to to icy-cold Iceland in late October rather than in summer, when the daylight lasts nearly around the clock and the high averages a balmy 55? Because we wanted to see the Northern Lights. The odds of seeing the aurora borealis are better during Iceland’s winter, which basically lasts from September through May.  Alas, we didn’t see them. The first four days were rainy, with low clouds that would have prevented us from seeing them if they had they been dancing directly overhead. For the last three days the conditions were ideal — no clouds — but the lights, which are tempermental, were no-shows. We had a wonderful time anyway.

The highlight of our trip was Diamond Beach, the most bizarre and beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

Located on the southeast coast about 250 miles from Reykjavik, it’s a jet-black beach studded with thousands of chunks of ice, from as small as a couple of carats all the way up to the size of a Mac truck. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear they were diamonds.

The diamonds come from the Breiðamerkurjöjull glacier, about a half mile from the beach. As it retreats (e.g. melts) chunks of ice fall into a lagoon directly behind the beach. The chunks float around the lagoon awhile — a day, a week, a year — and eventually move through a river out into the Atlantic.

The sea, which is warmer than the lagoon — about 45 degrees— melts some of the ice, then washes the chunks up onto the beach. Some of the chunks are crystal clear, like diamonds. Others retain the weird blue color of the glacier that birthed them, a color I’ve only seen in nature one other place — in my four-year-old grandson Teddy’s ice blue eyes. For the first time, once I saw those glacier-blue chunks, I truly understood what “ice blue” means.

We went to the beach twice — once late in the afternoon as the sun was setting, and again the next morning. None of the diamonds we had seen 18 hours before were there on our second visit. They’d either melted or been carried back to sea at high tide. 

On our second visit we saw a young man kneeling in front of a young woman, presenting her with a real diamond. Diamond Beach is the perfect place to get engaged through I imagine any girl, after seeing the diamonds on the beach, would complain that hers isn’t big enough. 

Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure. If you enjoy them, by all means go see Diamond Beach for yourself. Iceland is easy to get to (five hours from New York), and there are several low cost airlines offering nonstops they have trouble filling up in winter. I’ve seen flights advertised for as little as $99 each way.

But don’t put it off. There’s a volcano under the glacier that’s overdue to erupt and once that happens, Diamond Beach may well be gone.

Real diamonds are forever but these gems aren't. 

Jökulsárlón Sveitarfélagið Hornafjörður. The first word is the name
of the lagoon into which the icebergs fall from the glacier
(shown above). The last is the name of the nearest town.  I have
no clue what the middle one means. But these three words, together, according
to my iPhone, denote the location where this shot was taken.

The beach is covered with black volcanic sand. 
And, of course, diamonds.

Lots and lots of diamonds. Thousands of them.

This photo will give you an idea of how huge
some of these icebergs are.

Looking west. That's a small part of the glacier in the upper right.
(Damn, writing this post was fun. I should have been a travel writer.
Is it too late to launch a new career at my age?

 I wonder if I could get free trips from, say, the Iceland Tourist Bureau? 

My bride with her diamond
 Chunks of glacier ice the size of Ford F-150s
The only other place I've seen that shade of blue in
nature -- in Teddy's ice blue eyes.