The ‘Nest Keepers’

Warning: a sentimental story 

mother-1951 Growing up, our household had a dishwasher in the kitchen.  It was the ‘mother’ brand and came with two strong hands for scrubbing and two strong legs for moving from table to counter to sink. The original model came with a towel for drying but later ones added a special feature, ‘children’, which, amazingly, dried dishes on command.

We were fortunate in our neighborhood of blue-collar workers to have a handyman available 24-7 to build, fix, remodel and paint. It was the ‘father’ brand and came with a lifetime satisfaction guarantee.   I learned a few things about fixing stuff from that man by watching him work and being a good person by listening to his unsolicited advice.

My older sister and I were the youngest of seven siblings and by the time we came along, the first five were leaving the nest, giving our folks a bit more leisure time for us. We were spoiled and loved every minute of it.

dad-1957  She and I were driven places by our own ‘chauffeur’, an older, kindly and dedicated gentleman from the ‘daddy’ livery service. He lived with us and knew our likes and dislikes like the back-of-his-hand, which he only used to steer the car.

And did we ever go places, generally not far from home, but so special that I still see them clearly in my mind these many years later.

We’ll never forget the delicious ‘dawgs’ at ‘Hot Dog Annies’ somewhere in the country. On hot summer nights, we were treated to the  area’s best ice cream variety from ‘Pinecroft Dairy’. Mother Nature showed off her splendor during our slow drives by the pristine ‘Wachusett reservoir’ or at local ponds where our ‘chauffeur’ taught us to fish and appreciate the evening sound of a whippoorwill.

I would be remiss not to mention the support we received from the financiers of the ‘Mom & Pop’ bank for our higher education needs.  In return, the only interest we paid was our interest in them as they expected nothing from us but our best efforts. We tried.

Yes, we were lucky, some would say blessed to have those special amenities while growing up and learning to take our place at Life’s table. The ‘dishwasher’, the ‘handyman’, the ‘chauffeur’ and the ‘bankers’ have long since gone, but their lessons endure and influence who we are today. I’m sure we have passed on some of their wisdom and values to our own children.  How simply happy they would be knowing that this is their legacy.  Maybe they do.

MomDad

Steve
srbottch.com

To my beautiful sister, June, and our precious parents, bless their souls.

Birthdays Are ‘Big Deals’

Flag 2

July 4th was a ‘big deal’ day in the USA earlier this week when our country celebrated another birthday as an independent nation. With parades, picnics, backyard cookouts and traditional evening fireworks, Americans paid tribute to our homeland, a really ‘big deal’.

Birthdays are like that, aren’t they. To each of us, a birthday is a very ‘big deal’.

In early May, the streets were empty as I drove to a local Burger King restaurant for their $0.89 pancake special.  It was a Sunday, my birthday, and the early rising sun was like a giant candle on an over sized cake, as I imagined it.  This was my ‘big deal’ day.

Do you think of birthdays as ‘big deals’?  Birthdays, like anniversaries, are rare, hence, ‘big deals’. And the longer you’re around, the bigger the deal.  For me, birthdays are really big deals, I’ve been around a while.  Of course, it’s a bigger deal for my older sister and I remind her of that every year, it’s what little brothers do.

Certain occasions are meant to be celebrated with gusto, such as birthdays and anniversaries.  They’re high points in our personal timelines, reminding us of those significant accomplishments of making something last, a rare feat today.

Some among us like to keep these days private, quiet affairs.  Balderdash, I say! Announce it to anyone and everyone. Accept the kudos and applause, you’ve earned it. Revel in the handshakes and pats on the back. Smile broadly when someone ‘lies’ and tells you that you can’t be ‘that’ old, or that you ‘robbed the cradle’.  Consider those compliments as gifts that help make your day the ‘big deal’ it should be.

On your birthday, announce proudly that you’ve moved the bar a bit higher, like an athlete achieving a personal best.  I’m almost two months along to a new ‘PB’, and I’ll let my world know when it happens.  Everything that is good that day will be in my honor because it’s my birthday, and that’s a ‘big deal’.  That’s how I see it. I hope you feel the same about your birthday!

Incidentally, Starbucks thinks my birthday was a big deal, they gave me a free coffee!

Flag cake

Steve
srbottch.com (July 2017)

The Bar Chronicles, #11: The ‘Poo-Poo’ Platter

Bar Night 2

“…and yet a true creator is necessity, which is the mother of our invention.“ (Plato)

The sidewalk tables were filled with patrons on the first nice evening of spring and Caverly’s Irish pub, a corner bar on South Ave in Rochester, NY,  was headed for a busy night. We filed inside, four of us tonight, the screen door slamming behind us, as screen doors are wont to do, a not so subtle announcement of our arrival. No one noticed.

Inside, we claimed our usual spot, an old, round pedestal table near the door.  Its nicked and bruised finish could not belie its history as witness to many rowdy nights of reveling. The Irish music was a bit loud, but tolerable.

We’re not philosophers, seers nor politicians. We’re just four friends, retiring gentlemen all, sitting around a table, commiserating about how things are and wistfully offering how they ought to be, if we ‘ruled the world’.   And, of course, the cold beer or two we’re enjoying helps validate our opinions and solutions on this, our eleventh ‘bar night’.

Tonight was a night to drone on about the unimportant ‘why’s and and why nots’ in life. Good fodder for idle conversation for ‘older guys’, but in the overall scheme of life, not so much.

We raised and clinked our glasses in traditional fashion, gently, to avoid spillage and waste, and toasted best wishes to one and all,  then began our mundane topics.

Why does rush hour traffic move like an inchworm, stretching and compressing, stretching and compressing? And, why is the cost of higher education so high? Why not just make it free by using other people’s money?  Contrary to the axiom, there are ‘free lunches’ if another party pays.   We picked good fodder tonight, didn’t we?

And for the gem of the night, why isn’t there a reliable option to scooping up dog excrement other than a hand in a plastic bag? There is now, the hands free and no mess ‘poo-poo platter’, a two piece assembly consisting of a plastic bag over a five gallon pail cover (photo).

PooPooPlatter 1

Simply slip the ‘platter’ under the dog’s bottom as it squats and collect the ‘deposit’ in real-time. Fold the bag over the cover with the poop inside, secure the top and properly dispose of it. What could be more simple, efficient and cleaner?  I would attach an action shot, but…

Our group was somewhat hesitant, shall I say reluctant, about investing in further development of the prototype I introduced. It needs marketing and all the stuff that could make this the next ‘hula hoop’: low investment, big return.  No one was willing to play the ‘Shark Tank’ game, maybe for good reason.

We didn’t solve any major problems and laughed about the ‘poo-poo platter’ on the ride home, a straight ride in our town. The frivolity was a perfect example of  the camaraderie among this peer group; lightweight topics and the willingness to express inane thoughts.  It fit perfectly into the blog theme of ‘good times, good places and good people’.

By the way, I’m a perfect 20/20 for ‘catches’ with the ‘Poo Platter’…

PooPoo Platter 2

Steve

srbottch.com

Dedicated to problem solvers everywhere, even those who just talk about it

I’m a Senior Citizen and Proud of It!

“Dammit, my car is stolen!”

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I recently celebrated another birthday, putting me a year deeper into my status as a Senior Citizen. It’s wonderful. Now, if I have time, I can set my own hours and take life at a leisurely pace.

That’s the challenge, isn’t it, finding time. Things get in the way: part-time jobs, volunteering, honey-do’s. Where’s the time to kick back and relax, just be a Senior?

This Senior status allows me certain behaviors that I completely avoided, heretofore, and with good reason. I can let my eyes squint and mouth droop open when I’m idling at a red light.  There’s no need to tuck in my shirt or shave everyday. There are just some days when I say, “to hell with how I look”.  If my plaid shirt and plaid pants clash, it doesn’t matter, I’m not dressing for success at this point, I’m dressing to cover up and be decent.

Senior Citizenship comes with perks like discounts at restaurants and movie theatres.  I unabashedly ask for them because preserving money is important, which explains why I cut my own hair. That alone is $30 a month right to my bottom line, and with the little hair I have left and its color, no one notices an uneven border.

I’m allowed to say ‘huh’ and ‘what’ as often as I please. And if I wear a tie, it might be thin while the styles are wide. Or, it might be a bolo, the western ‘string’ tie. I get up to speed on medical issues and the latest in joint replacements just by having coffee with a few contemporaries.

Corny jokes get laughs, primarily from other Seniors, and I can tell the same joke a few days later because… well, just because.

On the bright side, my Senior status allows me to give advice to young people, and I do, even if it’s unsolicited. Some listen. I remember my dad gave advice and most of it turned out to be good advice*, when I listened.

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Friendships become more important among Seniors. We support each other, laugh at each other’s foolishness and share our woes. Our spouse truly is our best friend; sharing life draws us closer. Oh, the dog is a good friend, too, but not really our best friend, in spite of the long standing marketing to the contrary.

Yup, Senior Citizenship is a rewarding phase of my life. By the way, I found my car, I always do. I was in the wrong aisle. Honestly, it gets ‘stolen’ and recovered half-dozen times a year.

“Now, where the hell are my keys?”

* see story, “My Father’s Pearls: A String of Old-fashioned Wisdom and Advice” 12/15/16

Steve
srbottch.com

To all my Senior friends around town, at the gym, in the neighborhood, there’s a little bit of this in all of us…

The Bar Chronicles: #10, One Last Look…

Bar Night 2

It’s early April and we’re having London like weather in western New York; damp, rainy and temperatures that chill me from the inside-out. In full disclosure, I’ve never been to London, but I’ve seen movies.  Mounds of dirty snow, like black coal, still linger in plaza parking lots, fighting a losing battle against the slow creep of Spring’s warming temperatures.

Tonight, after a three-month winter hiatus, our small cadre is gathered at a neighboring bar for an evening of brotherhood and beer, heavy on the former and light on the latter. We motored a few miles to ‘the north side’ to revisit a bar whose motto is, ‘the place to be’.

If a few ‘old’ friends want to sit, talk and hear each other, then, yes, this is ‘the place to be’; a long bar, a couple of overhead televisions tuned to sporting events, dart boards and a dimly lit back room with a pool table. Picture it.

We opted for the back room and a wobbly table where we could spin yarns and talk about our senior worlds, away from disinterested regulars who huddled, round-shouldered, at the bar, closer to the taps for quick refills or benign conversation with the barmaid,

Our muster starts with a toast to our health and well-being. A clink of the glass mugs sends a reassuring message to each of us that we’re in good company and we care about each other. Then, the chatter begins.

There was a palpable happiness in the air. And why not, friends are reunited and we have a chance to talk about stuff that has no interest to others. It has taken us years to get here, and we’re in our element, as one would say. .

One of us has a new car, a Tesla, the hybrid vehicle that performs every task a driver could want, except the final one, a last look, just to make sure. Sensors are processing information constantly to give the perfect driving experience. The driver of this car is a former fighter pilot whose skill set will easily transfer to the high-tech sophistication of  a Tesla.

Technology is wonderful whether it’s in a car or gadget,and it’s often on display in our bar rendezvous. We show pictures of grand kids, check news updates, get stock information and find the fastest way home from the bar, if necessary, all from compact computers, our phones. However, when we walk to the car after an evening of social niceties, our focus is still on our conversation and fellowship. Our phones are pocketed while we continue to pay attention to each other and to where we are in life and the wonderful evening of companionship just concluded.

More importantly, though, we pay careful attention to where the hell we’re walking. Seniors don’t fall well!

Hence, we take one last look…

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
Mark Twain on friendship

Steve
srbottch.com

Dedicated to our neighborhood ‘gang’…

The ‘Barre’ Chronicles…with a twist 

Barre-1st position

I stood at the barre, toed-out, alone in my masculinity and surrounded by a rainbow of colors, women in their exercise tights and tops. And me, with skinny legs in baggy gym shorts and a wrinkled cotton t-shirt with the logo of a local beer manufacturer, I’m the tallest, oldest, and only male ‘at the barre’, a consummate ‘fish out of water’.

Nevertheless, I would not be deterred. 

That was weeks ago and I’ve been ‘hitting the barre’ twice weekly since then. Still in loose shorts but more confident in knowing and doing the routine. First and second position are second nature to me, I wobble a bit on the relève but show good flexibility on the plié, as I squat low, then lower.

And in that two-a-week regiment, I’m seeing more muscular quads, thickening thighs, and firm buttocks with each passing class. But enough about my classmates, my own physiology is improving, as well.  The legs are stronger, my posture has improved and my hair is growing back…(two of three are true).

Barre exercise incorporates some ballet, yoga, balance and weight-bearing movements, using hand weights, balls, bands and the ever-present ballet barre, with multiple repetitions. The muscle ‘burn’ is often intense but momentary, while the feeling of accomplishment is exhilarating and enduring. Completing a routine often becomes an issue of mind over matter and I smile with an inner arrogance, knowing that I’m pushing myself to new limits. What I lack in grace or style, I make up with grimaces and grunts.

Exercise is like that, isn’t it?  Push yourself to reach a level, then reset to do better. The discipline to persevere and the resulting accomplishment are their own rewards.  The occasional injury is a nagging byproduct, a temporary interference.

Our instructor counts down, repetition after repetition, and when we think we’re done, she orders up, “One more rep, yes?”  In an earlier life I would have shouted, “Yes, Drill Sergeant!”. But, now, I just grin, grunt and go on the best I can.

Barre is part of the smorgasbord of exercise classes at my local JCC.  Along with Yoga. Tai-Chi Easy, some boxing and the pool, I feel myself getting a bit leaner and stronger.

And, if my alpha friends find it strange that I’m the only male in a class of women doing curtsy reps at a barre instead arm wrestling at a real bar, I just boldly offer them high fives, aggressive chest bumps and a declaration of the classic John Candy/Steve Martin line…

“How ‘bout them Bears!” *

Barre, Releve

Srbottch.Com

*Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It Was The 60s, A Decade of Change

Steve at Rockford College

“The 50s were relatively calm and peaceful.
The 60s were just around the corner.
What possibly could change?”
(‘It Was the 50s…I Was a Kid’ blog)

It was a proud moment, being selected to my elementary school’s boys choir to sing ‘I Am The Captain of The Pinafore’ at our 8th grade graduation. But, alas, we were a disaster, while the girls’ choir sailed away on a high note. A terrible way to start the new decade, the 60s, but a harmless lesson in life’s disappointments.

Up next, high school, and that meant the bottom rung for my friends and me, lowly freshmen, looking up at everyone. Upperclassmen garnered all the attention, naturally, even from the sisterhood of  freshman girls. The deck was stacked against us.

We were awkward, shorter than most girls and cursed with pimples from cheek to chin to cheek. Hiding them daily with creams and ointments was further evidence of our adolescent immaturity. But, it was the 60s, we’d grow up fast and our acne phobia would be small bumps compared to what lay ahead.

I ‘owned’ my parents, now that my sister was at college, out-of-state, never to return home, at least permanently. School and marriage were in her immediate future, a pattern I would later follow. But that was light years away in my universe as a young teen.  For now, I was too busy learning to dance to impress a girl I favored. Sounds crazy, but she liked the cha-cha, so why not learn it.  Unfortunately, she liked uniforms better, quit school and waltzed off with some young military officer in a new era of ‘Free Love’, the 60s. I quickly forgot her, but remembered the cha-cha.

The 60s saw a world seemingly unraveling. A Russian president pounded his desk with his shoe at the U.N. and threatened the free world, a Cuban dictator built missile sites aimed at our homeland and an unpopular war erupted in the rice paddies of Southeast Asia, a war that would scar our nation for years. It was a period of turmoil, uncertainty and drama, on a variety of fronts.

Assassinations took the lives of a young president, a civil rights leader and other prominent leaders.  Communities burned and mourned. Soldiers returned home in body bags and colleges were theatres of protest, often violent. Our country was being tested. Me, I was a college student in a midwestern city, away from home for the first time. And I was falling in love with a girl who still shares my life.

It was the 60s and the new norm was anything but normal. Within the decade, I’d gone from clueless to married, got a degree and a teaching job and let my hair grow longer, becoming a nonconformist…like everyone else.  Life was good, so it seemed. Then, one day, I got a letter from my ‘Uncle Sam’. My plans were going to change….

It was the 60s and the music told the story..,

‘Don’t stand in the doorway,
“Don’t block up the hall
“For the times, they are a-changin’”
(Dylan)