Saturday, December 11, 2021

Holiday songs rewritten for today

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Have yourself a merry Festive Season,

Let your heart be light.

From now on

Our troubles will be out of sight 

because CNN, the New York Times, WaPo, MSNBC and the rest of the MSM refuse to report anything negative about this inept administration.

The first Noel

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,

Born is the king of racist, genocidal Israel.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

In the meadow we can build a snowman,

And pretend that he’s that Fauci clown. 

He’ll ask, “Are you vaxxed?”

And we’ll say "Sure Thing!

We got our jabs at CVS downtown.”

Grandma got run over by a reindeer

Grandma got run over by a registered sex offender 

who had just gotten out of jail on a thousand-dollar bond for trying to 

kill his girlfriend 

and now she’s dead.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots

Is the wish of Janice and Jen.

Barbies that talk and will go for a walk

Is the hope of Barney and Ben.

And mom and dad can hardly wait

For school to start again

But it looks like there’s a new variant

So they’ll probably resume remote learning.

The Christmas song

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,

Jack Frost nipping at your bits.

Yuletide carols being sung by the fire,

And folks dressed up like Inuits.

I saw three ships

I saw three ships come sailing in

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day,

I saw three ships come sailing in

On Christmas Day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?

I have no clue, there weren’t enough union dockworkers to unload them or truckers to drive their contents to their final destination because they can’t afford the gas now that Sleepy Joe killed the pipeline and we’re once again dependent on OPEC.

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer

Then one foggy Christmas Eve, 

Santa came to say,

Rudolph with your nose so bright,

Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?

But Rudolph said no because Santa wouldn’t provide him with a helmet or allow him to work from home. 

You’d  better watch out (for Alexa)

She hears you when you’re sleeping

She knows when you go poo.

She knows if you’ve been bad or good

Tracking everything you do 

which is why you’re being bombarded with ads for Sleep Number beds and $10,000 Toto toilets. 

Happy Festive Season, everyone (unless, of course, you don't celebrate in which case I hope you'll take no offense).

Thursday, November 4, 2021

My conversation with Brandon


We’re getting ready for a top-to-bottom kitchen renovation. 

In March, the contractor promised work would start between Christmas and New Year’s. In mid-August he moved the date to February 1. Last week he said he and his team will be arriving the second week of March. Whatever.

Early on we were cautioned we need to order appliances at least three months in advance due to a global shortage of microchips.  

The contractor recommended we work with a salesman at a local appliance retailer who would, he said, give us a discount. In early October we went to the showroom and met with our salesman, Brandon. 

Almost every day since then, we’ve been going back and forth with Brandon. Should we order all the appliances from one brand, or appliances from different manufacturers Consumer Reports rates highest?  (After much debate we decided to get all but one from the same manufacturer.) Should our cooktop be induction or downdraft and why can't we get both in one model? (Nobody makes a combo induction/downdraft cooktop so we ordered an induction model which then meant we needed a hood.) Can a hood 35 3/4 inches wide be installed between two upper cabinets spaced exactly 36 inches apart or do we have to order a smaller model to be sure it will fit? (We learned it's possible it might fit but it probably won't so we are going with the smaller hood because it would be a shame if, after waiting all that time, the contractor was unable to install the larger model and we had to wait even longer to get this damn project finished.)

Communicating via text and email, we finally got all our questions answered, decided on the exact models we wanted, and, last night, reviewed Brandon’s latest quote. 

This morning I called and told him, “Let’s go Brandon.”

Brandon said OK, everything should be in his warehouse by January 15. 

You have nobody but yourself to blame for reading this far. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The hearing test

Receptionist: Thank you for calling Hearing Aids Are Us, how can I help you?

T.D.: I’d like to schedule an appointment.

Receptionist: Are you a new patient?

T.D.: Yes. 

Receptionist: What’s your first name?

T.D.: Thomas.

Receptionist: And your last name?

T.D.: Dryden. That’s D-R-Y-D-E-N.

Receptionist: You said Bryban, right?

T.D.: No, not bry, dry. As in, “The desert is dry.” D as in Delta, R as in Roy and Y as in Yellow. 

Receptionist: OK, got it. Dryban.

T.D.: No! Not ban, den. A place where lions live. That’s D as in Delta, E as in Edward and N as in Nancy.

Receptionist: OK Mr. Den.  Got it. 

T.D.: No, no, no, my last name is Dry-den, D-R-Y-D-E-N. Ever heard of the Canadian hockey goalie Ken Dryden? 

Receptionist: No.

T.D.: How about the English poet, John Dryden?

Receptionist:  I’m not familiar with him either but I got it — Thomas D-R-Y-D-E-N. Let me check to see when I can get you in. 

T.D.: No rush, I haven’t been able to hear anything for years. I can wait.

Receptionist: There’s an appointment available July eighth at 1 at our Bonita office. Would that be convenient?

T.D.: Wow, yes. That’s fast service! Thank you.

Receptionist: OK, let me get some more information while I have you on the phone. What’s your date of birth?

T.D.: November 17, 1951.

Receptionist: September did you say?

T.D.: I said November. 

Receptionist:  You don’t have to raise your voice. 

T.D.: I’m sorry but this is frustrating. I'll admit I can’t hear squat  — that’s why I’m calling — but there’s nothing wrong with my speech. Do you wear the hearing aids your company sells? If so, maybe I should go elsewhere. 

Receptionist: No, my hearing is fine. What day and year did you say?

T.D.: November 17, 1951. 

Receptionist (talking to herself as she is typing into her computer): November seventh, nineteen fifty-one. 

T.D.:  Not the seventh, November seven-teenth! Is Alan Funt filming this conversation? Is this some sort of joke? If so, it’s a cruel one, making fun of deaf people.

Receptionist: Who’s Alan Funt?

T.D.: Never mind. 

Receptionist:  OK Thomas, we’ll see you tomorrow, July eighth at 1 pm. 

T.D.: Uh, wait a minute, I’m looking at my calendar and today’s the sixth. Tomorrow is the seventh, not the eighth. Is my appointment on Wednesday the seventh or Thursday the eighth?

Receptionist: The eighth. 

T.D.: Thanks for clarifying that. 

Receptionist: That’s what I just said. 

T.D.: Yes, but you said Wednesday and the eighth is Thursday. 

Receptionist: OK, we’ll see you in our Bonita office tomorrow July (unintelligible) at 1 pm. Thanks for calling.

Monday, July 5, 2021

My brother's birthday

Christmas 1958. 
From left: My sister Judy, mom and me, Jerry 
with his six-month old daughter, Ellen, and dad 

Today, for the first time in my adult life, I won’t be calling my brother Jerry on his birthday. 

One year ago today I hung up the phone after my annual birthday call to him and wept. He sounded awful. I told my wife, when she tried to console me, that I had lost my brother. Jerry somehow managed to hang on until January 20th. 

Ours was not a conventional brotherly relationship. Jerry was 16 years older. Conventional brothers serve as best man or groomsman at each other’s weddings. I was the ring bearer at his. 

We were opposite in just about every way two people who share the same DNA can possibly be. Jerry intuitively knew how to repair or build almost anything. For example, he installed a skylight in his house. I can’t drive a nail. Jerry was athletic. I’m a klutz. Jerry was a Master Gardener. I breathe on a plant and it dies. Jerry spent 20 years as an Army officer, then 20 more working in a tech job for a defense contractor. I went into advertising and promotion. Jerry was Viking blond. My hair is was dark brown. He had boundless energy and was always laser-focused on a project or two or three. I’d rather read a book. 

And our personalities couldn’t have been more different. Jerry was a glass-half-full kinda guy; I'm a glass-half-empty. Jerry was invariably positive, upbeat, and never complained, even when he lost the ability to do the things he loved, like attending his beloved Cincinnati Reds home games and working in his yard. 

His wife, Nancy, wrote in Jerry’s obituary that he had a “sunny disposition.” Can you imagine living with  someone for 63 years, and being able to say that and mean it? 

I asked my wife if she could ever write that I had a sunny disposition. “God, no,” she replied firmly.
Jerry had a lightening-fast wit. Years ago he and Nancy were dining at a restaurant that featured colonial food and waitstaff dressed in revolutionary-era clothes. When the waitress asked “Are you ready for your aspic?", he replied, “No, a regular toothpick will do.” 

When Jerry, Nancy, my sister and I were going through our mother’s things after her death, I found a sheet of paper folded between the pages of her Bible. It was a poem about a mother with three children who repeatedly asked them to help her with tasks around the house — sweeping, cleaning, shoveling snow, etc. Two of the children always came up with excuses but one always said yes. “Reminds me of Jerry,” mom had written. My sister and I didn’t take offense because we knew she was right. 

Jerry always came through for mom, especially after our father died young. He was the steadiest, most sensible of her children, the one she turned to when she needed advice. When, in her eighties, she was told she needed open heart surgery, she refused to listen to my sister and me when we begged her to have it. She said she had lived a long life and would rather die than subject herself to the pain and commit to the rehabilitation that would be required. But when Jerry insisted, she changed her mind. Once she was released from the hospital, he moved into her house for six weeks and, like the soldier he was, made her do her physical therapy. She complained bitterly but lived another 15 years. 

As adults, my brother and I lived hundreds of miles — sometimes oceans — apart. We only talked on our birthdays and occasionally at Christmas or Thanksgiving. We also saw each other at family get-togethers in Missouri, and my youngest son attended college in Ohio near his home, and my wife and I would stay with Jerry and Nancy when we went to visit him. I wish I had told him how much I admired and respected him and how proud I was of his service to our country and to our family. Men have trouble talking openly about their feelings lest we appear weak, which Jerry most definitely wasn't and I never wanted him to think I was, either. I should have told him that he, more than anyone in our family, influenced me by his example, and that I always wished I was more like him. But I never did.  

My first memory is of Jerry. One hot summer night when he was home from college — I must have been two or three — there was a thunderstorm and I woke up terrified. Our parents’ bedroom was downstairs. His and mine were on the second floor. I ran down the hall, climbed into his bed, and felt comforted, knowing he was there and would keep me safe. 

I have never lost that feeling and never will. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Aunt Evie's Outhouse And The Flood of '41

A few days ago, while going through a box of family keepsakes that had been buried for years in the back of a closet, I ran across the above photo of my father’s store in Davis, Missouri, taken sometime in the mid-1930s. 

I grew up listening to stories about that store, the first of two my father would own in tiny Missouri towns, but had never seen a picture of it. I don’t believe anyone in the family knew the photo existed; otherwise it would have been framed and proudly displayed. I have it because it was in a box of mementos dug out from the crawl space under the staircase in my mother's house where it had resided for decades.  My brother, sister and I found the box ten years ago as we were preparing mom's house for an estate sale. I took it home to Connecticut, moved it to Florida and stashed it away but always knew it was there. I had been intending to go through that box for years. 

The photo pictures (from left) my grandfather Gilbert Dryden, my father Bud (also a Gilbert), and my grandmother, Virgie. Knowing my family, it was almost definitely taken on a Sunday. Grandpa ran his own general store in High Hill, about 30 miles to the Southwest, and Sunday was the only day both stores were closed. I'm also certain the picture was taken by dad's sister, Emily, the only member of our family to own a camera back then. My mother, Ruby, must have been in the house next door, cooking Sunday dinner. Otherwise she would have been in it, too. 

In this era of big box stores, Dryden's General Store looks right out of a Steinbeck novel but it was, as the photo proves, real. 

This morning I decided I'd share the photo on my blog and write a bit about the store and Davis. Then I remembered I had already written the story I wanted to tell, back in the summer of 2000 for my weekly newspaper column in Connecticut. I entitled it:

Aunt Evie's Outhouse And The Flood of '41

On a recent visit to Missouri, I drove my 87-year-old mother, Ruby, halfway across the state to Davis, the tiny town to which she and my father had moved in 1933. She hadn’t been back in 20 years. Ruby said she had been thinking about Davis a lot for the last few months, as she has been writing her memoirs, which she intends to present to her children and grandchildren for Christmas, on her Mac computer.

Because I write for a living, Ruby showed me the first draft of what she had written and asked my opinion. I told her the truth. It was good work.

And it was clear to me as I read that, despite all the hardships she described during her 11 years in Davis, those years were the happiest of her life.

When we arrived in Davis, we found that not only had the town changed, it was gone. 

Though seven or eight buildings were still standing, not a soul was living there. Apparently the flood of 1993 that devastated much of the Midwest killed Davis once and for all.

Truth be told there wasn’t much to Davis to begin with. At its peak, it had a population of only 100 or so. Ruby said that on the day she arrived, the train tracks were being taken up by a railroad crew — hardly a good sign.

My parents were newlyweds when they moved to Davis. Like most young people caught up in the vortex of the Great Depression, they had high hopes, but no money and no prospects. My grandfather bought the store for them and paid $500 for it.

Theirs was the only store in town, and for miles around. The newlyweds moved into a house next door, so the young wife could bring meals she prepared on a wood-burning stove to her husband, who kept his store open 14 hours a day

Davis didn’t have electricity. Nor was there indoor plumbing, residents had to use outhouses, built behind their homes.

As we drove toward Davis, Ruby told me the story of Aunt Evie, a devout elderly woman who, one night while entertaining the minister, looked out her window to see her outhouse in flames. The minister had excused himself to use the facilities, but had decided to sneak a smoke, which he failed to properly extinguish. Evie’s outhouse burned to the ground. 

Shortly thereafter, during the flood of 1941 that inundated the entire town, her replacement outhouse was carried away. 

“I don’t think the good Lord intends for me to have one,” Evie told people in all seriousness.

Ruby was in high spirits, and told many other stories about Davis during our two-hour drive. I had heard many of them before, but they are always entertaining.

“I want to take pictures so I can scan them into my memoirs,” she announced suddenly, as we were halfway there. We pulled into a truck stop and bought a disposable camera.

I had only been to Davis once before. My parents (thank you, God) had left in 1944, years before I was born. Remembering my one visit when I was 10 or so, I knew it was unlikely there would be much to see or that Ruby would find anyone she knew. But neither of us had any idea the town would be gone.

Davis is nestled in a valley. We arrived from the west, descending the steep hill to which Ruby said she had fled in the middle of the night with my brother Jerry during the ’41 flood. My father, she said, stayed behind to try and save the store, and was found on its roof the next day by rescuers in a rowboat. She directed me to the store.

We pulled up in front of a pile of corrugated tin and lumber that had once been the store, but which had been bulldozed sometime in the last few years, probably after the ’93 flood. Next to the store where the house was supposed to be — the house in which she had lived and loved and given birth to two of her three children — there was nothing. Only the well from which she used to draw water.

“Oh my,” she exclaimed, gasping for air as old people with iffy hearts do when they are startled. “It’s gone. Even the sidewalk your father poured between the house and the store. It’s all … gone.”

My eyes saw a pile of rubble in the center of a weed-covered lot. But hers, I could tell, saw a store with farmers on the porch playing checkers, a strong young husband working inside, a house with a fence, and tow-headed toddlers riding tricycles on a sidewalk.

I opened the car door and asked if she wanted to get out and follow me. “No,” she said, softly but firmly.

I walked to the pile of rubble, hoping to find something — anything — I  might take back to the car and present to her, something she would recognize. But there was nothing.

When I turned around, Ruby had gotten out of the car, and was standing in the road. Her eyes were misty, her chin was quivering.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“I don’t want any pictures after all,” she said.

We drove slowly out of town, past the empty lots where she said the Baptist and Christian churches had stood and past the abandoned houses of long-deceased people she thought of as family because they were to her, a young bride stuck in the middle of nowhere, far from home. 

We crossed over the Cuivre River. “That’s where I brought our bedsprings to clean the mud out of them after the flood,” she said.

Ruby was quiet, and didn’t look back as the car climbed the steep hill and left Davis with its vacant houses behind forever.

As soon as the town was out of sight, she was herself again, talking about the new sofa she plans to buy, how she’s teaching herself Microsoft Word for Mac, and how she is looking forward to attending her granddaughter’s college graduation in New York next spring, if her heart holds out.

She said she will be sure to bring the camera and maybe we can use it then.