The Planting

The tall Norway maple provided welcome shade onto our ‘hill’ garden, where we were preparing a spot for yet another hydrangea, the thirtieth, or so, in this corner of our backyard.

fLOWERS 4

Myself, I’m a reluctant gardener, so much so that I dare even call myself a gardener. However, my wife is passionate about her plants, so I help and we work the garden together, she a bonafide ‘green thumb’ and me, just a ‘plain’ thumb. Quite honestly, I enjoy our hydrangea gardens. A walk among the changing flora of our well developed gardens is a relaxing respite at day’s end.

The planting process is simple in our gardens: select the plant, choose a location, decide on composition (positioning), and, finally, dig the hole . All important decisions are made by my wife, the real gardener, my role comes in at the end, I’m the digger. There is no mental stress in digging, just physical, hence, the welcome cover of shade from the hot sun.

Excavating in our soil is no easy task, though, it’s clay, dense and heavy, once used in the local manufacturing of bricks*. To complicate the dig, the spot we refer to as ‘the hill’ once was occupied by a tall locust tree. It’s only a ‘hill’ because the thick, woody roots of that tree are still there, like a subterranean maze, pushing up the ground. They criss-cross beneath the soil, challenging me to find a spot for the perfect hole. It’s a trial and error process, but I find one.

The hole must be deep and wide enough to accept an ample amount of cow manure, making a healthy bed, and the roots of the plant must be relieved, or untangled, before planting to allow them to grow freely, not be strangled. My wife cuts them with a garden knife, around the perimeter and bottom.

The plant is placed in the hole, manure is packed around it and some fine mulch (leaf is our favorite) atop. A good watering follows and continues for days to assure a good start.

If we’ve done it right, then we wait and our patience will be rewarded with beautiful flowers that have made the hydrangea a favorite of gardeners, reluctant gardeners, too. With such fancy names as Pinky Winky, Quick Fire, Twist n Shout, the colorful petals, from soft white to blushing pinks and blues, adorn our yard from summer to fall.

Gardeners love their hobby. My wife glows. Me? I find the benefit of gardening is teaching me patience, learning to wait for beautiful results…and then to enjoy some much needed therapy with a walk among the plants.

FLOWERS 5   IMG_0555  IMG_0160

Steve
Srbottch.Com
June ‘18

To my wife, a green thumb gardener

* http://www.historicbrighton.org/BrightonBrick/yards.html

The Bar Chronicles: #17, A ‘PSA’, The Asian ‘Jumping Worm’

Bar Night 2

A warm stretch of May days, summer like, goosed the ‘bar chroniclers’ to find our way to Caverly’s Irish Pub. We seem to be stuck on Caverly’s, but how can you beat $20 for 5 beers? Add the intimate bar with its colorful array of taps, friendly patrons, the worn hardwoods and oversized chalkboard beer menu, and Caverly’s is as comfortable as any watering hole we’ve patronized on ‘bar nights’.

Bar TAps

The sidewalk tables were taken by heavily pierced bikers, with their black leather chaps and vests and a potpourri of busy tattoos covering any exposed skin. In contrast, wedding bands and silver fillings was the extent of our body metal, no pierced ears or tattoos, at least none visible. Our belts, the only leather we showed, were functional, holding back the 34s, 36s, maybe a 38. A couple of beers tonight would bloat us enough to test those straps and push the limits of the numbers.

We posted inside, at our favorite table, a wobbly one with a napkin shim. Following the customary toast to good health and good fortune, the gabfest began. The clinking of glasses was like the gates swinging open at a horse race, we were off and running with an evening of books, biology and beer.

Normally, while our ‘beer clutch’ is not a book review club, we occasionally refer to them to support our discussions or show off our intellect. Tonight, we hit the trifecta with ‘The Great Halifax Explosion’, ‘Beneath the Metropolis’ and ‘The Winner’, another Baldacci thriller. But the best read & reference was a newsletter about the invasive, Asian ‘jumping worm’.

‘Disturb a jumping worm and it’s like a nightcrawler on steroids: It violently writhes on the forest floor, recalling a snake in a bad horror movie. Try to catch it, a piece of its tail will detach in your hand — still wriggling as you hold it.’ *

Creepiness aside, this invasive invader goes against all positive thoughts we have about earthworms as great aerators of our garden soil, and good bait for adventures at ‘the ol’ fishing hole’. These summertime squirmers are underground giants, up to eight inches long, that render the ground void of nutrients for any type of plant growth with their piranha like foraging.

I’ll be watching our gardens, as you should yours, for telltale signs of these monsters. If our ferns flop, the sedum sag or hydrangeas halt, I’ll call the ‘authorities’ to report the invasion, a government bureaucrat who knows about snakes and worms, and they do.

When our refills were finished, we cautiously walked to the car with an eye to the ground for anything that jumps. Some fascinating conversation tonight, but, worms aside, the real takeaway was, once again, the friendship and comradery among a few senior neighbors…with the help of a cold beer, or two.

Steve
May 2018
S’amusing @ Srbottch.Com

*https://blog.nature.org/science/2016/10/31/jumping-worm-the-creepy-damaging-invasive-you-dont-know/

The Bar Chronicles: #16, ‘Beer By The Numbers’

Bar Night 2

Bar Night #16, and our first of 2018. When ‘old’ friends get together after a long hiatus, a seat at the table with a frothy beer in hand is a good way to reacquaint and kick start our ‘bar nights’.

Once again, Caverly’s Irish Pub is our choice of watering holes, and why not? It has a good variety of beer at fair prices and a proper atmosphere, including a ‘house dog’. Navigating the parking lot potholes was the only impediment to the pub’s front door.  Not uncommon following an overbearing winter in western New York.

House Dog

Our usual table was full tonight and the bar was noisy, with patrons in a festive mood for a chilly mid week night. We convened in the back room, a wise move for four sets of Senior ears. Here, we could spin tales, and more importantly , hear them, away from the constant humdrum and boisterous dart games in the forward quarters.

We settled in, clinked our glasses…’here, here’… and commenced with our wit and wisdom. After the usual potpourri of small talk, we somehow melded into a ‘deep’ conversation of airplanes, rockets and mathematics, dropping names of icons; Robert Goddard, Wernher von Braun and Fibonacci**. No, not Liberace, Fibonacci.

The mathematician among us took the lead and enthusiastically, neigh, excitedly guided the conversation into sequences, ratios and solutions, a Fibonacci fanatic. The pilot at the table, a technocrat of sorts, listened attentively with approving smiles and nods. He got it. The one tool & die maker nodded, as well, but with eyes closed, as though resting. And the salesperson, while feigning understanding, did what all good sales pros do, found some way to ask a topical question to keep the conversation going. The answer was irrelevant, but the continuity was critical.

0-1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21-34-and so on…

Do you see the number pattern, the ‘sequence’?  The next day, I dug into the Internet to learn more about Fibonacci and his Sequence.  I absorbed enough to hone some math skills and learn a trick, or two, to share at our next ‘bar night’.  Curious?  Research it yourself, Google ‘Fibonacci’.  .

“The Fibonacci Sequence is a set of numbers that starts with a one or zero, followed by a one, and proceeds based on the rule that each number (called a Fibonacci number) is equal to the sum of the two preceding numbers.” (definition from ‘WhatIs.com)

The wonderful part of ‘bar night’ is that we never know the direction of our conversation, but it always seems to lead us home with a belly full of gratification and a little beer from an evening well spent with friends. And, importantly, we learn from each other.

As for the beers, when we were young men we certainly would have climbed a few rungs on Fibonacci’s Sequence, but tonight, as mature gentlemen, we stopped at step 2, or one apiece.

Group Photo

Fibonacci, himself, would have been underwhelmed.

Steve
5/4/2018
srbottch.com

**Fibonacci was considered to be the most talented Western mathematician of the Middle Ages’ (Wikipedia)

To Moish, a S’amusing follower and math professor.  Wish you had been here. I’m sure you would have enjoyed the conversation.

So, You Say You’re Irish …

May your troubles be less,
And your blessing be more.
And nothing but happiness,
Come through your door.
(Irish blessing)

So, you say you’re Irish, at least today you say it. And why not, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, everyone can be Irish.

St. Patrick’s Day is a fun day for all, Irish or not. The ‘wearing of the green’ announces to everyone that you’re either real Irish, or just Irish for the day. You’re showin’ the spirit.

Irish Me

I’ve a little bit of ‘the green’ both in and on me, and enjoying it. The day seems to lift spirits a bit, makes us happy. The bright sunshine adds to the gaiety of parades and parties. Irish music fills the airwaves and Irish dancers jig their way around town, exhibiting the fast moving feet of Irish dance steps.

mother

Foremost, it reminds me of my mother who boasted proudly of her Irish roots. Her mother, my grandmother, emigrated to the States from Ireland in the early 1900’s, no doubt looking for a better life, like many immigrants at that time. The world passed our Statue of Liberty, stopped on our doorstep, asked to come in and were welcomed to be part of the American community.

St. Patrick’s Day brings out a potpourri of politicians to be Irish for the day, maybe hoping it’ll win another voting block to their side. ‘Pols’ are the best chameleons when looking for support, aren’t they?

Bar Night 2

I will toast St. Patrick’s Day with an Irish stout, a Guinness, maybe two, but no more, no corn beef nor cabbage, but, yes, some potatoes, a food staple that’s has a major chapter in Irish history.

“The significance of St. Patrick’s Day is the introduction of Christianity to Ireland” * hundreds of years ago.  Irish history, like most cultures, is replete with times of joy, sadness, struggles and triumphs.  It’s more than just a party day as we celebrate our Irish here in the States and around the world. However, the celebration factor is significant which contributes to the heavy consumption of alcohol and that brings us back to the reveling, doesn’t it.

The White House fountain is spewing green, the Chicago River is dyed green and other celebrations will take place. But, a word of caution. If you must celebrate tonight, take care not to overdo it. When you start to see ‘Irish dogs’, then you’ll know you’ve had too much. And they’re out there, ‘cause everyone can be Irish today.

Irish Dog

(‘Bud’, photo by Diana on Instagram @didimac211)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Steve
Srbottch.Com

To the Irish and everyone who wishes they were…

*Wickipedia: Saint Patrick’s Day

I Should Have Stopped…***

“I’d whip that ‘cannonball’ down the lane and watch the pins explode like they were thunderstruck. It was noisy and it was fast”

Candlepin-bowling

Unless you lived in or visited the New England region, then you probably haven’t experienced ‘candlepin bowling’. It was game for all ages to enjoy, even a young, skinny kid like me could have fun with bowling down candlepins, and I did, lots of it.

The game was unique to the northeast region and into Canada.  A bowler had three chances to knock down ten tall, tapered wooden ‘pins’ with a four or five inch ball that you cradled in the palm of your hand, then rocketed it down the oiled hardwood. The knocked down pins, deadwood they were called, were left where they lay to be used to deflect and knock down other standing pins on the second and third roll, before a new group of pins was reset.

New England ingenuity has given much to the world that improved the quality of life. or just made it more fun. From earmuffs* to snow shovels*, ballpoint pens* to disposable razors*, basketball* to wooden golf tees*, and the indispensable microwave oven*, to name a few. Yankee know-how also brought us this game of ‘candlepin bowling’.  While other inventions spread worldwide, candlepin bowling’s popularity was never too far beyond the border of these six northeast states.

The balls were solid, no holes. Youngsters didn’t need big muscles to lift them but strength certainly helped propel them down the lane. The pins were fifteen inches tall, or so, and symmetrical. The good bowlers could whip that sphere down the lane with a ferocity that would make your head spin, and the pins would scatter every which way. Strikes were rare and the recreational bowler generally scored under a hundred for a game, ten frames, but the better bowlers were above a hundred.

There may be a few candlepin ‘houses’ left, but as Ten Pin’ bowling took hold in New England, the ‘small’ game began to fade. It was a bigger thrill to get more strikes, more spares and more scoring with the bigger ball and fatter pins and more bowlers flocked to the new game.

While driving through a Massachusetts town a few years ago, I passed a candlepin bowling house. Instantly, it was the late fifties, early sixties and I could hear the balls whizzing and the candlepins ‘flying’ . I should have stopped to roll a game, but I had a schedule to meet. Nevertheless, the moment recalled for me wonderful memories of bowling the small ball and tall pins in my home town of Worcester, the birthplace of candlepin bowling**.

Like the giant brick mills that lined the New England waterways, candlepin bowling faded into obscurity except for a few die-hard centers. Nowadays, it’s part of a New Englander’s nostalgia.

The circus is gone. Baseball, arguably, is no longer the National Pastime and fewer folks attend church on Sunday. Change happens…

I should have stopped…

Steve
srbottch.com
Feb 2018

* New England Today, Living – Yankee Magazine Jan 22, 2018
** Wikepedia

*** revised 2/8/18

The Bar Chronicles: #15, “Was It Something We Said”?

Bar Night 2

As we slip-slide our way into winter, the fluctuations are remarkable.  The thermometer toggles between mild and frigid, then back to mild, then frigid, while the only constant is the early darkness.  

By evening, the streetlights guide us to ‘The Back Nine’, a sports bar in Pittsford, NY.  The fare is a bit high but the atmosphere is classy, and we fit the bill with our khakis, pullover sweaters and ‘Curious George’ sweatshirt (2 of 3 isn’t bad).  We opted for the quiet air of the backroom where our own conversation was audible… and our fashions were not a distraction.

Unbeknownst to us, as we clinked our glasses and huddled in conversation, The Back Nine would be closing within days of this evening’s beer fest, if one beer qualifies as a ‘fest’. It’s a disappointment, we enjoyed our two visits here, on ‘Bar Night’, and looked forward to returning, upscaling our outings a bit.

There are many reasons why an establishment shutters its doors, but a watering hole in a classy town, closing?  A bit of a surprise and made me think, ‘was it something we said’?

The closing certainly wasn’t due to rowdiness, we’re a docile group and any swaying or tippiness was a result of our age and equilibrium, not too many drinks.  Was it our overheard conversations that intimidated patrons and discouraged them from returning?  The mention of the world’s ant population outweighing humans, or insects dying at alarming rates or mollusks having eyes, may have been inappropriate for a crowd looking for something less cerebral on their ‘bar night’?

Soaring property assessments and declining school performances maybe was too staid for the ears of the common bar fly. Did we discuss the genius of Churchill and Aristotle too loudly for a drinking crowd?

The problem for bars that accept small bands of Seniors is that we don’t drink much, we talk too loud and our topics are extrapolated from editorial pages of the NYT or WSJ, instead of the Sporting News or NASCAR weekly. We may be haughty and tend to bloviate.  We are polite to a fault but can be pompous…and we wear curious clothing. We are Seniors, you know.

It’s about time for another gathering. We’ll go back to our favorite ‘dive’, where every spot is loud and the patrons don’t care what we say, the crappy music is too loud to hear anything, and a dog walks among us. The cheap beer will guarantee the doors will always swing wide…

…a Curious George sweatshirt will be a welcome attraction!

“Education is the best provision for old age” Aristotle

Steve
Srbottch.com
Jan 2018

Let’s Face It…You Can’t Fight Gravity

My audiologist laughed, maybe scoffed is a better term, when I boasted that I was writing a story titled, ‘My Ears Are Getting Bigger, But My Hearing Is Getting Worse’.

“You may get a few chuckles, but you’d be technically incorrect. Our ears actually stop growing at age six.” Six? Well, that explains the teasing by an older sister, whom, I suspect, had already ‘grown into her ears’.

“It’s probably gravity that’s making your ears look bigger, unless you wear heavy ear fashions”, he snickered. “I suggest you change the one word to ‘longer’.”

Gravity, huh? It started me thinking, is it the same gravity that caused my six pack abs to drop and cover my belt? Truth be told, I never had six pack abs. Have the bags under my eyes settled there because of gravity? What about the sides of my mouth turning down in a constant frown? Gravity? I used to blame my mother who, strangely enough, had the same look. It’s become a workout of constant smiling to keep them turned upward.

So many other areas of the human body change over time and gravity must be the catalyst there, as well. How else can we explain drooping shoulders, double chins and sagging fannies? The inch of height I lost must have gone into my feet because they’re wider and flatter. Gravity, again!

Given enough time, I’ll be measured as one foot high x three feet wide. And it’s happening fast. One day you can stretch like a rubber band, and the next you’re locked up tighter than a rusty nut.

You add Move Free to your daily supplements to help your joints, and suppositories to actually help you ‘move free’.

When did it all change? When did we cross that imaginary line of tight skin, standing tall, get up and go, to drooping, stooping and pooping? It’s time to fight back.

Tug on those loose fitting sweats (yes, mine were form fitting once, too, but that train left the station years ago), tie up your laces (if you can still reach them), and kick the mp3 into high volume (don’t worry about damaging your hearing, it’s probably shot, anyway) and move to the rhythm of an upbeat tempo (personally, I’m stuck on Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’).

You may not draw that loose skin back to place, a doctor can do that if it’s important. But I bet you’ll feel better and look better, at least in your own eyes, if they’re any good.

Let’s face it, this body, longer ears and all, has served us well. Take care of it and have fun moving.

Steve
srbottch.com
January 2018

To Sir Issac Newton who gave us an ‘understanding’ of gravity