The Bar Chronicles: #22, UFOs (and you thought we only came for the beer)

Bar Night 2

The forecast called for rain, freezing rain and a quick blast of snow. Our plans called for beer, a cold beer and a heavy dose of camaraderie.

We would not be denied!

However, as veterans of western New York weather (a.k.a. ‘old guys’) with familiarity of the dreaded ‘black ice’, we walked cautiously from car to bar, looking out for each other as friends are wont to do, ready to reach out at the first slip.

A good thing, too, because tonight, at Caverly’s Irish Pub in the Southwedge neighborhood, our first Bar Night of 2019, we had a potpourri of topics on our agenda. In truth, we don’t have an agenda, we just get our beers, sit down and talk, ‘unplugged’!

First things first, goodbyes were in order for one of our dear friends in the group. Oh, Heavens no, not that kind of goodbye. he’s only going to Florida for a couple of months. Will be back here in March when he hopes winter will be just a fading memory. We all know, of course, that winter along the southern shores of the Great Lake, Ontario, lingers well beyond March, often with big surges deep into April.

We lifted our mugs high, or as best we could with sore elbows, bum shoulders and oil can joints, and wished our friend safe travels, warm weather and a speedy return because next time, he buys.

Do you believe in UFOs, other planets that sustain life? Do we occupy this vast system of universes just ourselves, we earthlings? It’s easy to be a skeptic, isn’t it. If you haven’t seen something, then it probably doesn’t exist. Or, have we seen it?

Got your attention? And you thought we only came for the beer. Not at all, but it helps. As we age and become more erudite (remember, the beer helps) we begin to address Life’s lingering questions, such as, ‘is anyone out there’?

What did the Navy pilots aboard the USS Nimitz actually see when they encountered … what shall we call it, a spaceship… off the California coast in 2004? The US government has records of the incident, an incredible story that involved well trained, experienced and credible personnel.

I know, you have your doubts. Read about it, yourself. Look up ‘USS Nimitz & UFO incident’ for a full version. Don’t take a writer’s word, I’m just trying to get and keep your attention. Maybe this Wikipedia article will turn you a little…

The USS Nimitz UFO incident refers to a 2004 radar-visual encounter of an unidentified flying object by US fighter pilots of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. In December 2017, infrared footage of the encounter was released to the public.

This Bar Nighters were getting into some serious topics, tonight, eh. And it wasn’t the beer talking, heck, we only drank one. No, this was deep thinking material, esoterica, one might say.

I looked at our clear skies differently on the drive home tonight and paused in my driveway after dropping off the last rider; stars as far as I could see, a limitless vista. I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘is anything looking back at me’, as I lowered the garage door and scooted inside.

Here’s a link for more basic data about our skies and those beyond…

https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/news-display.cfm?News_ID=573

And you thought we went out just for the beer.

Steve

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Snowball Fights Make Good Friends

snowballs

“Wop! Wop! Wop!”

One, then another, and yet another, ‘wop , wop, wop’, from different fronts, rock-hard snowballs, spheres of packed snow that when thrown expertly, leave red blotches on the skin or wet splatter marks on clothing. Mostly, they leave bruised egos! In the shoulder, the backside, the legs and the head, if you’re not watching.

“Run! Run for your life!”

War whoops from the neighborhood bullies who gathered to harass my friends and me on a cold, snowy nor’easter day, the kind of days school kids loved. School was closed, traffic slowed and monster trucks rumbled thru neighborhoods, pushing snow into huge piles for more outdoor games, a perfect atmosphere for snowball fights. These ruffians had lots of opportunities for ‘assaults’ on us during the long, cold New England winters.

Slam!

The kitchen door closed behind me.

“Just in time for dinner”!

“Why are you so wet?”  

“Why are you panting?”

My mother didn’t get it, had no idea of the peril I faced in the dilapidated barn behind my house where the ‘bad guys’ had us trapped, on the second floor, the ‘good guys’, trapped and running out of ‘ammo’. Snow fell through the leaky roof of the old building, but nary enough to ward off the lot of ogres, older by two or three years, ungloved and open jackets, impervious to the elements. Tough guys, the toughest, and outside the barn, with an endless supply of ammo, falling snow.

I had been called once for dinner…

“Steeeeeeeeephen!”

“Suuuuuupper!”

She didn’t, and wouldn’t, call more than once.

… but the bullies wouldn’t allow our plea for a truce, a ‘temporary suspension of hostilities’. Only a ‘brave’ jump from the hayloft door into a pile of snow and mad dash to my house saved me from…well, you can just imagine!

Yes, ‘imagine’, and I do. Such a beautiful word. I find that, as I get older, a little bit at a time, ‘imagining’ becomes a key part of what I remember and makes my childhood experiences even more vivid than they probably were.

Oh, the barn was there, leaning, and snowball fights were common. And there were older kids, lots of them in a working class neighborhood of large families, but they weren’t really bullies, ruffians, or ogres. Often, we were on the same side in other activities played outside on the streets, surrounded by fresh air.

However, winter was the season of the toughest games. ‘King of the hill’ saw friends tossed about while vieing for the top spot of a snow mound. Sledding was fast and furious, weaving around cars, trees or each other. Just knocking someone into a snow bank was a game. All of it, the rough and tumble, pushing and shoving, bonded our friendships more.

We wore ourselves out…outside, where we created games all day and came home to the loud yell of, ‘suuuuupper!’

I can still pack a good snowball and hit a target…and imagine…and remember.

Yes, snowball fights made good friends!

Steve

January 2019

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To all kids who played in the streets, created fun games with friends and still remember it all.

The ‘Morning Star’

Photo of planet Venus (tiny spec) above town high school 12/20/18

The students and I have been fortunate to have the planet Venus looking down at us as we make our way to school, or, as in my case, do my school crossing duties.

It’s dark enough in the morning to easily see this planet, the second in our Solar System and about 50,000,000 miles from earth at this time.

It’s presence offered us an opportunity to talk about the planets, the 8 major ones, and we listed them. Of course, these kids generally knew about poor Pluto being downgraded from a major to a sub planet because of its size.

The exciting part of working with kids is their genuine interest in the world around them because they’re discovering new things that we adults often take for granted. Also, it reminds us of what it was like to be a kid at one time.

Wherever you are, look up, down and around your own environment. Then, share your discoveries with others and get them excited, too.

Steve

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The Bar Chronicles: #21, ‘Lighting’ the Christmas Tree…

Bar Night 2

Evenings with friends for small talk is one of Life’s enduring pleasures. Add some beer and holiday revelers at a local pub, and the gathering gets even more festive.

Tonight, our favorite watering hole, Caverly’s Irish Pub, was no exception. The pub was packed. Not a seat at the bar, full tables and the darts were flying. We smartly took the solitude of the back room and huddled there, six of us around a wobbly table. It was quieter, but not by much, after all, it’s the holiday season.

Tonight’s toast seemed a bit more special with Christmas and year’s end upon us. I watched reflectively while glasses clinked, friends smiled and well wishes were spoken. It was a nice moment.

As is always the case on Bar Night, there was something new to learn. Tonight, appropriately, it pertained to Christmas and the traditional Christmas tree lighting. Not just any lighting, mind you, but one that involved real candles.

Tree With Candles

Some of us spoke woefully of lights not working, trees too tall and tree allergies but lighting a tree with real candles, now that was something worthy of our attention. At least it was for me, as one who is clueless on traditions around the world.

Apparently, in German homes, lighting real candles on a tree is a time honored Christmas tradition. One of us spoke excitedly about doing it on his tree for his wife who is a bona fide German, and we always try to make wives happy, don’t we? So, candle up the tree.

It seems risky, but then with risk comes reward and the result is a stunningly beautiful tree. Here is the pictures to prove it, not of our friend’s tree but that of a German family, in Germany.

Lighted Tree

One beer seems to be our limit lately but we do make that one last a couple of hours, long enough to talk ourselves tired. It was time to go but not until I recited a favorite holiday poem, ‘The Night Before Christmas’.  The group ‘demanded’ it and after some arm twisting (I made up that part), I delivered it ‘flawingly’. A dart thrower snapped the group picture and we headed home, remarking on an enjoyable evening, steady on our feet and yawning a bit. The 21st is in the books…

BN 21

‘Happy Christmas to all…’

Steve

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“I’m Glad I’m There, Too!”

Morning light dusts away the darkness. Young students make their way to the school crossing post.  It’s tranquil but for the quiet conversations among friends and the humming of local traffic that announces the start of a new work day.  Some still have sleepy eyes, others are hurriedly finishing an abbreviated breakfast.  The calm is about to change.

“Good morning!”

My long distance call even catches the attention of drivers.

Eyes pop with a mild show of enthusiasm and attention.  Some eagerly anticipate what’s next, a few roll their eyes, no doubt.  They know it’s another morning of quizzes, fun facts, brain teasers or historical notes.  Maybe a quick grammar question, or an observation about the beautiful sunrise greeting us in the east.  Yes, knowing directions is a topic for discussion.  All this before they even step into their buildings.

I’m a school crossing guard, one of a dozen in my town.  And my post is an impromptu ‘curbside classroom’, across the street from the middle and high schools.

A million seconds is 12 days, how much is a billion seconds? *  (you’ll be surprised at the difference)

The eye movement shows they’re thinking and a few figure it out quickly.

I have only a minute, or so, to engage these preteens and teens as we await our traffic signal.  By the time they’ve crossed, most are fully awake, a bit more energized and generally, smiling, a result of our encounter, I’d like to think.

Who is Jeff Bezos?**  Who was Ferdinand Magellan?***

These kids are whizzes, they know the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ names. Few questions go unanswered and there’s a sense of eager enthusiasm, from the youngest to oldest.

Generally, our topics are light, sometimes humorous or serious, but often poignant. There’s an objective to my ‘drills’.

We’ve discussed STEM****, and NASA science, as in what is LEO***** and how is a young woman, Amber Yang******, tying them together?

These young people are much busier than I was at their ages: school, homework, clubs, sports and, for some, jobs.  Starting the day with a greeting, a smile, a ‘challenge’, puts them in a good frame of mind.  It gets them thinking, maybe relaxes them.  And, it’s a two way street, we energize each other.

A survey question draws curious looks: do you eat your apple around the circumference, or stem to bottom*******, something simple to awaken their senses and promote a dialogue between us.  Some are excellent communicators, others are learning, while a small number prefer to remain quiet.   It’s rewarding to see their growth in this area over a school year’s time.

November was the anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address********.  What did Lincoln mean by his words, ‘all men’?  The thinking caps were humming for this one.

How do you pronounce humus and hummus, and what are they?********* 

Yes, there were some humorous replies, there always are, these are kids.  Nevertheless, with only a minute of ‘class time’, we answered both parts.

I’ve learned this about kids, they like being challenged and enjoy showing what they know.  A high schooler paid a compliment, “we’re glad you’re here with your facts, stories and questions”.  Nice feedback…

I’m glad I’m there, too…

Steve B

Steveb.com

To ‘teachers’ everywhere who stimulate the minds of young people, we’re glad you’re there, too.

* 32+ years; ** founder of Amazon Worldwide Services, world’s wealthiest person; *** Portuguese explorer who led  first (Spanish) circumnavigation of the world, killed in the process; **** Science, Technology, Engineering, Math; ***** Low Earth Orbit; ****** 19 year old Stanford student who developed a program to track space debris that NASA uses to protect spacecraft and astronauts; ******* around the circumference, overwhelmingly; ******** November 19, 1863; ********* organic matter versus food matter

The Bar Chronicles: #20, It’s Nice To Be Driven…(and some Jeff Bezos)

“Dad, may I borrow the car tonight?  I’m picking up some friends and we’re going for a beer, or two, at Caverly’s Irish Pub. No, we won’t be late, nine-thirty, maybe ten.”

Okay, so I’ve conflated two phases of my life into one fantasy.

It was another night of ‘howling at the moon’ for our cadre at Caverly’s. Do ‘old dogs’ howl?  Regardless, this iconic corner bar with all its pub accoutrements wins our support, again, for its neighborhood ambiance…and cheap beer prices.

As we unfolded ourselves from the car, one rider commented, ‘it’s nice to be driven’. That line made me recall my teen years when I was fortunate to have a dad who let me take the family car, almost whenever I asked: high school dances, Sunday night youth group at church, movie dates or a late night snack with friends.  He trusted me with the keys, and I loved to drive.

Nowadays, multiples of teen years later, I still enjoy being the driver. And picking up my friends is the same now, as then, but today’s destination is quite different. Yet, the activity is somewhat similar, sitting around a table with friends and gabbing, with a drink in hand, beer today but a soda, or ‘tonic’*, then.

Caverly’s was irritatingly noisy this night. It was Thursday Night Football on the cursed TV, every bar has them, and one overbearing fan was in his full fan mode. Seemingly, every play required a bellow of approval or disapproval, making our conversation challenging.

But we did manage to discuss Jeff Bezos and his choice of Amazon as a name for his empire. Here’s an interesting speech by Bezos when Amazon was only six and he had hair:  https://youtu.be/YlgkfOr_GLY.

This is the twentieth night of ‘Bar Night’ and ‘The Bar Chronicles’ stories. Looking ahead, I suggested we do something special for the twenty-fifth gathering, sometime next Spring. My idea of a celebratory calendar, ‘The Men of The Bar Chronicles’, was poo-poohed. I was ready to rock ‘n roll with some camera shoots but the reluctance was obvious.

Any suggestions from readers?  Maybe we should just go for some burgers and beer. It would be like the teen years when a coke-a-cola and sandwich satisfied appetites at the local HoJo’s, or Friendly’s.

Times change, years go by, but some things are steadfast.  It’s nice to recall that my dad trusted my driving, and it’s a good feeling to know my adult friends do, now.  I still love to drive…

…and the Amazon River is still the biggest!

*New England speak for soda, pop, etc.

To all who remember the fun of driving the old man’s car

‘Sweet Sapphires’ and Senior Moments

There they were, in tightly arranged rows of open plastic bags, next to the buck ninety-nine a pound red grapes.  With a deep blue color and elongated shape that reminded me of ‘Good & Plenty’ candy I enjoyed as a kid, and a name that rolled off my tongue, ‘Sweet Sapphires’, there they were.  I was mesmerized.

However, at ‘two bucks ninety-nine’, these little jewels were going cost me a bit more than I normally would pay for grapes this time of year.  Nevertheless, if they tasted as good as they looked, and they looked good (the picture doesn’t do justice) the decision would be easy.

I like ‘observing’ people, not staring but just noticing their behavior, idiosyncrasies and habits.  Aren’t you repulsed by folks who stand over the grapes, pinch a few from open bags to sample, then walk away or buy a different bag?  How uncouth! And the ‘perps’ generally are Seniors, older people who should know better.

Yet, I must admit these ‘Sweet Sapphires’ were tantalizingly attractive.  I sensed they were teasing me. Then, I reminded myself, ‘Hey, I’m a Senior’ and there was my ‘in’, my excuse, the justification for what I sensed was about to happen.

In a moment of personal weakness, I was overcome with the same sense of entitlement these Seniors seem to have when fiddling with the fruit. My values became compromised, my judgement clouded and like Sandburg’s fog, I was surrounded by silence, guilt free, or so it seemed, as I stood fixated on those ‘Sweet Sapphires’.

My mouth was awash with the swill of free flowing saliva.  Discipline, be damned, I cast caution aside and succumbed. Delicious! No one grabbed, scolded or even glared contemptuously at me. Ahhh, entitlement, Senior style, it could be addictive.

I didn’t stop with grapes, I moved on to bananas and separated my number from the bunches. I peeled back the corn husks to check for worms and even squeezed the plums for firmness, putting each one back and moving on.

This freedom to pick and choose exhilarated me as I made my way to the check out with a bounce in my step, albeit slowly and with a gimp. For here was the final payoff of my newly awakened older self, the Senior Citizen discount.

What? Not available on groceries?  I knew that but I’m asking anyway. The new me, the entitled Senior, will ask every time. I will tell corny jokes, drive at slower speed and use subpar hearing to my advantage. The wrinkles, baldness, sore joints and rounded shoulders tell the world that I’ve earned this status. It’s an entitlement world for me now, and I’ve got the ‘scars’ to prove it.

Now, if I can only remember where I parked my car…

“Excuse me, young fella!”