Saturday, March 28, 2015

A trip to the vet

Bonnie, our soon-to-be 14-year-old dachshund, has been scratching her left ear for a couple of days. When I flopped the ear over to look inside, it was obvious it is infected. So I called our long-time vet, Dr. Morton (not his real name). He said to bring her in immediately.

Dr. Morton is our kinda guy. He wears aloha shirts and sandals, doesn’t believe in needless vaccinations, went to the same university my wife and I attended at the same time we did (though none of us knew each other) and, most important, is the only person we’ve ever met who is even more over the top about his dog, a Chihuahua named Olive, than we are about our dachshunds.

Dr. Morton  acquired Olive several years ago when her elderly owner passed away. Olive was a welcome addition to his life because his wife who, for years, had served as his receptionist, had just left him and moved to Ohio.

This morning when Bonnie and I arrived, I was surprised to see his wife – maybe she’s still his ex-wife, I didn’t ask the status of the relationship – back behind the reception desk.

“How’s Olive?” I asked Dr. Morton while we were in an examination room waiting for his assistant to fill Bonnie’s prescription. “Oh, she’s fine. We woke up at two this morning and kissed and cuddled for an hour then went back to bed.”

I laughed, knowing he wasn’t exaggerating.  

 “My wife said, ‘You love that dog more than you ever loved me.’ Know what I told her?”


“Olive never divorced my ass and took me to the cleaners like you did.”

I laughed all the way home and, I swear, Bonnie was laughing, too.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Heron Colony Newsletter, April 2015

Here, to help you plan your social calendar, is a partial list of upcoming activities available to you as a resident of Heron Colony Golf & Beach Club, Florida’s friendliest retirement community. Sign up at the community center at least two days in advance of the events you wish to attend and be sure to visit our website for the full list. 

Go with the flow: Gentlemen, do you have to get up three or four times at night to go to the bathroom? And when you get there, do you just stand there with your you-know-what in your hand, waiting for something to happen while you try to conjure up images of Niagara Falls? If so, plan on attending an informative seminar, “Prostate with(out) Grief,” by Jerry Tull MD on Tuesday, April 6 at 10 a.m., followed by cocktails and lunch. 

There’s a Ford in your future: Noted regional theater actress and Heron Colony G&BC resident Patti Horton will be appearing in her acclaimed one-woman show, “The Wit & Wisdom of Betty Ford,” at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday April 7. Tickets are $15 and include cocktails before, during and after the performance.

Woodstock Revisited: If you weren’t able to attend the real Woodstock, here’s your chance to make up for it Thursday, April 8 at 5 p.m. on the country club front lawn where the multi-talented Heron Colony Chorale will be re-creating some of that legendary event's most memorable moments including performances of Joe Hill by Joan (Marilyn Rosenthal) Baez, Purple Haze by Jimi (Dr. Stephen Bing) Hendrix, Piece of My Heart by Janis (Charlotte Hoffman) Joplin and With A Little Help From My Friends by Joe (Gregory Williams) Cocker. Be there or be square! Cocktails will be available from the outdoor bar until the event's conclusion at 7:30 p.m. 

9-hole ladies:  Will be holding their annual scramble beginning at 9 a.m. sharp Saturday April 10 at the country club. The ladies will be playing the Pelican course this year. Beverage service will be available at holes 2, 4, 6 and 8. 

Book signing: Resident Roger M. Oswald has self-published his long-awaited memoir, “Growing Up Oswald,” his sometimes poignant and at times hilarious account of coming of age in the 1960s as Lee Harvey Oswald’s fourth cousin twice removed. A reading, book signing and cocktail reception will be held on Monday April 12 at 7 p.m, at the country club. Proceeds from the sale of all books will be donated to the NRA.

Cocktail fundraiser: Will be held Sunday, April 18th from 2 p.m. until ??? at the Tennis Center to raise funds for the next cocktail fundraiser currently scheduled for Sunday, May 4. $20.

Tequila Sunrise sunrise sail: The HMS Pelican departs every Wednesday at 6 a.m. from the marina for a three-hour cruise through our beautiful bay during which you can observe the sunrise and partake of Captain Meacham’s famous “liquid breakfast” for just $2.50/glass. 

Shirley Johnson Memorial Service: Services will be held in the Grill Room on Saturday, April 24th at 2 pm for longtime resident Shirley Johnson who succumbed to injuries suffered during a Kayak Club outing last month. While our community is blessed with a profusion of beautiful lakes and abundant wildlife, Shirley's family has asked us to take this opportunity to once again remind all residents and guests not to feed the alligators. A cocktail reception will take place immediately following the service.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Living large at Costco

I bought one of those Living Social “deals” last fall, a $50 one-year membership to Costco that included coupons for a free rotisserie chicken (a $6.99 value), 30 rolls of toilet paper tissue ($15.99) and a fresh apple pie from the bakery ($9.99). Never could resist a bargain.

We moved shortly thereafter and the coupons got lost in the shuffle. My wife blamed me, as she always does whenever anything goes missing, with as much bitterness as if I had misplaced the Hope diamond. She has reminded me every day since and it would no doubt have been the last thing she uttered on her deathbed: “Take care of the dogs and find those *^%$@#! Costco coupons.” (A digression that is apropos since we’re discussing death and Costco: A former client, when her father passed away, ordered his casket from Costco that very afternoon. She said it pissed off the funeral director big time but there was nothing he could do about it under New York law. Now back to our regularly-scheduled blog post.)

So it was with triumph I emerged from the laundry room the other afternoon waving the coupons I found stashed in a drawer.

We left for Costco immediately lest they disappear again.

I love Costco. It’s a hoot wheeling up and down the aisles among merchandise intended for families the size of the Duggars' -- 50 lb. bags of rice, drums of salad dressing, boxes of frozen won-tons that would easily serve half the population of Shanghai, etc.

We headed to the back of the store to pick up our apple pie (it weighs 4.5 lbs., so we’ll still be eating on it at Thanksgiving or, rather, my wife will -- I hate apple pie), TP and the chicken. We then proceeded to load our cart with $340 worth of other items we decided we couldn’t live without:

·      A 2-lb. slab of blue cheese
·      A dozen Jimmy Dean Delights frozen breakfast sandwiches
·      A case of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (single serve)
·      A case of Kirkland (Costco’s house brand) Pinot Grigio – astonishingly good quality and just $5.99 a bottle. You wouldn’t serve it to guests you wanted to impress but you could pour it into an empty bottle of a more expensive wine and nobody would be the wiser
·      3 gigunda bottles of Heinz ketchup, enough to supply all the McDonald’s east of the Mississippi for a year
·      24 chicken breasts conveniently cello-wrapped in twos, making them perfect for empty-nesters like us. They will probably sit at the back of the freezer for a year until we remember they’re there at which point we’ll discover they are freezer-burned and will throw them away  
·      Two 3 lb. bags of Dunkin Donuts coffee
·      48 bottles (2 cases) of Zephyrhills water
·      20 bars of Irish Spring
·      4 wheels of Laughing Cow cheese
·      2 lbs. of tuna salad
·      2 restaurant-sized bottles of Olive Garden salad dressing
·      A 24 oz. container (136 servings, enough for 68 meals for two) of Kraft Parmesan cheese
·      A case of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc that sells for $15 a bottle at our local supermarket. Costco sale price: $8.99

I had to put the SUV’s back seat down to cram all the stuff we bought into it.

You’re probably thinking it’s a good thing we have all that free TP because we’re going to need it, but I realized when we arrived home that it had been placed on the bottom shelf of the shopping cart and I’d forgotten to load it in the car.

I’ll be hearing about that forever or until we use up all that Parmesan cheese, whichever comes first.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Flu reviews

So there I was Wednesday night, sitting contentedly in seat 8-A on my flight home to Florida when – OH. MY. GOD. – I realized I was about to be sick. (Warning to the squeamish: You might want to skip to paragraph 5.)

Not just sick, I was gonna vomit and it wasn’t going to be something subtle I could hide from my fellow passengers. I was about to release a stream of projectile vomit so forceful the doors of the cockpit would blow open and the pilots would be sucked out the windshield like the bad guy in Goldfinger.

Somehow, mercifully, I managed to hold it off until the plane landed.

The minute I walked out of the terminal I started hurling, pausing only to come up for gulps of air before the heaving began again. This went on for what seemed like five minutes as travelers who had just landed in Florida, thrilled to be among the palms and eager to start their vacations, ran away screaming. I owe the maintenance staff at Southwest Florida International Airport my sincere apologies along with a large tip. (See? I told you to skip to the fifth paragraph. You have nobody to blame but yourself.)

The stomach flu. I’ve been sick ever since but am happy to report I’m feeling somewhat human today.

I broke my reading glasses on my trip so couldn’t read during my convalescence, but I did the next best thing: I binge-watched TV shows and movies on Netflix and HBO.

Here, in case you ever find yourself lying in front of a TV for 72 hours straight, are my reviews to help you decide what to watch.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: I watched eight episodes of this CNN series, a combo travelogue/food show featuring chef, author, bon vivant and traveler Anthony Bourdain. A better name for the series would have been “Hearts Unknown.” Bourdain travels the world, bonding with locals over plates of revolting food including goat hearts in Colombia, chicken hearts in Myanmar, sheep hearts in Libya, pig hearts in Peru, eland and beef hearts in South Africa and goose hearts in Quebec. Luckily I had nothing left in my stomach by the time I discovered this series or I would have been sick all over again.

Hope he packs a bottle of Scope in his luggage along with an ample supply of Imodium A-D.  

Rich Hill: This powerful documentary follows a year in the lives of three poverty-stricken adolescent boys in tiny Rich Hill, Mo. Harley, who refuses to go to school, is being raised by his grandmother. His mother is in prison – we find out why toward the end of the movie. Appachey, who is taking meds for ADD and bi-polar disorder, lives in filth with his Mama June-lookalike mother whose vocabulary consists of various ways to order him to shut up. Andrew is an intelligent, sensitive soul. Unlike his father, a drifter who dreams of becoming a country singer, he is realistic about the lousy cards life has dealt him. He says he believes in God, knows He must be busy with lots of things and is confident that someday He will have time to give him some attention.

I grew up in a Missouri town the size of Rich Hill during the 1960s and knew kids from impoverished backgrounds who triumphed over their disadvantages but I fear these kids won’t be able to. Back then, before big box retailers drove the local businesses and manufacturing facilities out of small towns and out of the country, there were jobs to be had. Nobody had heard of crack, meth or whatever it is the people who surround these kids take to escape their miserable lives. (Harley’s mother, 33, has no teeth.) Townsfolk saw each other every day at the businesses where they shopped and worked, so they knew what was going on in their neighbors’ lives and could intervene if help was needed but today the downtowns that housed those businesses are by-and-large abandoned. Residents have to commute to larger towns for jobs and to shop so they don't have as much time to interact. While tiny towns in the heartland still come together for celebrations like the Fourth of July, as Rich Hill residents do in this documentary, there are no longer the safety nets woven by a sense of community there once were to keep kids from falling so deeply through the cracks that they can’t claw their way back out. Nobody in Rich Hill, other than a guidance counselor who does his best to convince Harley to stay in school, apparently gives a shit about these kids.

Rich Hill offers no answers, only a sobering insight into the hopeless poverty that has transformed life for kids in many small towns into a living hell Norman Rockwell couldn’t envision in his worst nightmare.

Addicted to Rehab:  I’m a long-time fan of this reality series featuring Minneapolis realtor Nicole Curtis, a ringer for Cheryl Ladd back in her Charlie's Angels days, who buys and rehabs turn-of-the-century houses. Over the seven or eight episodes I watched she purchased an about-to-be-demolished house for $1 and did to it what she does to all the houses she has ever rehabbed on her show – pulled up linoleum to reveal hardwood floors, applied Minwax stain to the built-in oak buffet in the dining room, built a new mantel, converted an old chest of drawers into a bathroom vanity and retiled the shower with white subway tiles. Her upper Midwest e-uck-cent grates but that’s a small price to pay to watch someone who is otherwise adorable in every way.

Munich: This Spielberg thriller is based on the true story of a team of Israeli agents who tracked down and, one by one, picked off the terrorists who slaughtered 11 of the country’s athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Bully for Israel. And kudos to Spielberg for being brave enough to make this movie. It made me proud to be Israeli.

Wait a minute, I’m not but would be honored if I were.

Barbecue: This French (subtitled) comedy is about a 50-year-old man who has a heart attack, a wake-up call that makes him realize the friends he has hung with since college, with whom he shares endless meals and bottles of wine in each others’ backyards, are annoying, so he purposely alienates them. Predictably, he realizes toward the end that man does not live by baguette alone – you’ve gotta have friends – so he wins them back. He shouldn’t have. These people are exceptionally annoying. So is he. Come to think of it, they deserve each other. (Question: Why do French men – most European men for that matter except the Brits – wear sweaters draped casually around their necks like women’s scarves? Are they terrified a sudden chill might descend and they’ll catch cold? They look ridiculous.)

Property Brothers: I watched six episodes of this HGTV reality show in which twin brothers – one a realtor, the other a contractor – help couples obtain their dream homes.

Every show follows the same formula. The couple rattles off all the features they want in a new house and tells the brothers how much they can spend. The realtor bro shows them a house with all the bells and whistles they want, then informs them it’s way over budget. The couple pretends to be bummed. He then shows them two houses that need rehab. The contractor brother lays out renovation plans, promising he can rehab a house to deliver everything they want within their modest budget. The couple chooses one, the realtor bro negotiates the deal, the contractor bro hands them oversized hammers to demo the kitchen or bath, then oversees the renovations. Five weeks later he admits the couple to their new home which always – always -- includes an open concept kitchen/family/dining/living room with a quartz-topped center island that seats four, new hardwood floors and a gray L-shaped sectional sofa (but nothing else that was on their must-have list, a fact the show conveniently ignores). The wife weeps, “I can’t believe this is my house,” as the husband flashes a jack-o-lantern grin.

My take is that the Property Brothers have only renovated one house and keep passing it off to new clients but what do I know?

The Unbelievers: This documentary follows two scientists as they travel the world holding public forums in venues like the Sydney Opera House, claiming science trumps religion, a premise I happen to agree with which is why I watched, but the movie, consisting primarily of clips from those forums, doesn’t pay it off. Telling a convocation of atheists they shouldn’t be afraid to hold believers in open contempt does nothing to advance rational dialogue one way or the other. As the closing credits roll viewers are treated to perspectives from such noted scientific authorities as Cameron Diaz, Bill Pullman, Ricky Gervais, Woody Allen and Sarah Silverman who reveals she visited Israel and went to the Wailing Wall but didn’t feel anything except anger because there wasn’t much space for women, a contention that has little relevance to the subject matter but made for a good sound bite.

Cast Away: Tom Hanks is a FedEx employee who washes up on a deserted tropical island after his plane goes down, leaving him to spend the next five years with nothing but a volleyball named Wilson for companionship. When he is finally picked up by a freighter, he returns home to find out that Helen Hunt, his fiancé, has married a dentist and has two kids.

After three days flat on my back with the flu watching TV (except for bathroom runs), I now look like Hanks when he was rescued and have lost almost as much weight.