A Hat Story…🎩 

“I collect hats. That’s what you do when you’re bald.”
James Taylor, Singer/Songwriter

I’m not a hat collector, but I am bald, on the top. Heat escapes through that unguarded space like smoke up a chimney.  Hence, I need a hat.

I find hats difficult to buy; so many styles, so many shapes.  A hat literally changes the way you look, for better or worse, often hiding the irregular shapes that a hairless head reveals. It’s important to find the ‘perfect’ hat.

Trying on hats in front of a big department store mirror is awkward, too. I use the dressing room for privacy where I can channel my ‘inner hat looks’ and zone in on the perfect one that fits those ‘looks’ as well as my head. I’m thinking something iconic, like this guy…

brando

I’ve worn a variety of hats over the years: team hats with logos, winter hats with side flaps. fishing hats, those grubby hats that smelled and got tossed around and stored with gear until the next outing. One smell of that fishing hat helped you recall the story of the ‘one that got away’.

hats-3

The Army gave me a ‘Smokey Bear’ hat. Actually, the Army doesn’t ‘give’ anything, I earned it. An odd shape, the Drill Sergeant hat was good for standing close to a trainee and pecking him on the forehead with the hard brim to make a point. I know, harassment,right?

hats-4

When I was six or seven, my parents dressed me for a brother-sister picture. Of all things, they found a soft hat my size that made me look like a little old man escorting a young and much taller lady to the local Moose Club for a night of  jitterbugging. Surely, it embarrassed my sister to pose next to me. I wore it just the one time.

Now, I am an old man and need a hat with a bit more style than my lifeless, faded Red Sox hat. It’s a classic but it’s ready to become a fishing hat.

red-sox-hat

Style, comfort and warmth, the three criteria for a new hat. I found one on a recent solo shopping expedition. It’s the Gatsby or ‘newsboy’ style. My wife is not a fan, says it makes me look old. I think she means ‘old-er’. I like it. It keeps the heat in and that’s good enough for me.

What do you think?

hats-1

Yes, hats can add style to your image, a little pizzazz to your ‘get up and go’. But thinking about the different hats I’ve worn, this one is probably the one I treasure most…

hats-2

Steve

Srbottch.Com

‘But, You Knew I Was a Snake’*

snake

 She clung to my neck like a high school sweetheart as we posed for the camera, ‘She’ was a snake, a ‘ball constrictor’, and me, I was a narcissist with an appetite for curiosity.

‘(Curiosity) makes your mind active instead of passive’ **

“This photo will get some attention”, I was thinking, even before the shutter snapped. “Social media was meant for me…”

I had never held a snake and it wasn’t on my ‘bucket list’. But I couldn’t resist when the reptile and her handler were in line with me at the counter of a local garden/pet supply store. I was buying mulch and ‘the snake’ was there for a take-out meal, a box of rats. My curiosity and sense of adventure pushed me, “May I have a picture with your snake?”

‘(Curiosity) makes your mind observant of new ideas’ **

Satisfied the snake was not a threat, I let the handler drape it over my shoulders. Our fears often are created by the unknown, I thought. And my knowledge of snakes was full of unknowns. Saturday morning Tarzan movies was my limited reference of snake knowledge. But my curiosity was driving me. “It’s so dry and smooth”.  The more I spoke, the more ignorant I appeared.

‘(Curiosity) opens up new worlds and possibilities’ **

By now, a small cadre of customers had formed behind me in the register line. Curious, I suppose.  They were practicing patience and I was becoming the center of attention…and enjoying it. Sales people love attention, so it felt natural. But something felt unnatural as we smiled and hissed for the camera.

Oddly, my rib cage felt cold and the thought occurred to me that the snake sensed my slight nervousness and her body was adjusting accordingly, by changing temperature. Wrong!  But I held firm and smiled, nothing was going to spoil this Facebook post.

Not even a snake peeing on me. Snakes have heavy streams, I learned.

I got my picture and the crowd behind me got their laughs. I was left with a hoodie and rib cage soaked with snake urine. But my ego and curiosity were satisfied. The picture garnered numerous ‘likes’ on Facebook, Instagram and now a blog story.

Are you a curious person? Has your curiosity ever put you in predicaments? Has it often satisfied you?

‘(Curiosity) brings excitement into your life’ **

The life of curious people is far from boring. It’s neither dull nor routine. There are always new things that attract their attention, there are always new ‘toys’ to play with. Instead of being bored, curious people have an adventurous life.**

Find something to be curious about!

Steve

Srbottch.com

* ‘The Snake’ is a song released by American singer Al Wilson and written by Oscar Brown

** ‘4 Reasons Why Curiosity is Important’, Donald Latumahina (Lifehack.org)

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The Bar Chronicles, #7: ‘Presidential Campaigns’

Bar Night 2

“Want to join us for a beer tonight?”
“But the Presidential debate is tonight”.

“It’s beer!”
“What time shall I meet you?”

And so our newest ‘bar night’ guest joined the boys for an evening of ‘brotherhood and beer’. No arm twisting, just old fashioned subtle ‘salesmanship’, beer vs politics.

Caverly’s, in Rochester’s South Wedge, calls itself an Irish pub. It definitely tilts that way with an oversized Irish flag in the bar, dart boards on the wall and a variety of Irish beers. The owner/bartender and patrons were a friendly group and the beer was fairly priced.

At first, we were like the proverbial strangers in a western movie who get stared down by the locals when they ride into town. Four seniors, not riding, but strolling through the open door, surveying the decor and nodding approval, caused a momentary pause to a couple’s Scrabble game. We passed the final test, a sniff over by a couple of old dogs who were there with their regulars, then claimed the only 4 person table in this small neighborhood establishment. Our evening was about to commence.

As always, the clinking of our pints and well wishes to each other signaled the start of another evening of recollection and remembrances. With the usual small talk out of the way, we got down to a not-too-serious political discussion, ‘past presidential campaigns and elections’. We adroitly omitted the current campaign in an effort to maintain high standards, however, as we discussed, past elections weren’t innocent affairs, either.

Adams and Jefferson were most uncivil in 1800 and when Adams lost he declined to attend the inauguration of our third President, who needed help from the House of Representatives to break a tie with Arron Burr.

John Q Adams won the highest office in 1824, besting ‘Old Hickory’ Andrew Jackson, courtesy of the House, again. See a trend to close elections?  Nastiness and divisiveness was not invented in 2016. After Abe Lincoln won in 1860, the entire country fell into civil chaos, war.

Then there were mottos and headlines: ‘I Like Ike’ and ‘Dewey Wins’. Of course, it took until 1960 before a Catholic was elected, thanks to John Kennedy. He beat Nixon who won a ‘do-again’ eight years later.

Remember Lyndon Johnson lifting his beagle by the ears? He lost the SPCA vote on that one and famously declared, in 1968, “if nominated, I will not run, and if elected, I will not serve”. So Democrats nominated Hubert Horatio Humphrey* at their convention and the streets of Mayor Daley’s Chicago erupted in violent protests with the Vietnam War as a backdrop.

Political campaigns are major events, grueling work for the candidates and expensive. But, if they come through Rochester, it would be fun to sit down and have a beer with the candidates. They could join us at Caverly’s and for one night we could be ‘all the President’s men’. That would certainly be a ‘Bar Chronicle’ to remember.  I just hope they don’t read the writing on the bathroom wall…

caverlys-wall

srbottch.com

*In President Carter’s  nomination acceptance speech of 1980, he referred to Humphrey as Hubert Horatio ‘Hornblower’, a fictional naval character in novels.

The Bar Chronicles: #5, ‘Seniors Say The Darndest Things*’

*thank you, Art Linkletter!

Bar Night 2

The heat and humidity has been off the charts this summer in western New York. Lawns are brown, plants are wilting, farmers are worried and throats are parched. Sounds like the perfect time for another ‘bar night’.

So, tonight we found ourselves gathered around a back room table at Johnny’s Irish Pub in Rochester.  Four seniors, friends from our neighborhood, here to enjoy some beer, brotherhood and ‘man talk’, the simple art of filling time with random thoughts, guffaws and past recollections.

Four old guys, we seem to be a bit of an odd attraction to the regular patrons, a generally younger, blue collar type. Then again, everyone is generally younger nowadays.  And the collars?  Well, we’re retired, collars are a low priority.

This is our fifth ‘bar night’, we exhude confidence, experience and maturity as our beer is served.  “Run a tab, we’ll be back for more”, one of us bravely barks out, earning a few approving nods from customers standing at the bar.  There was a time, once, when we could stand at the bar,  but now, sitting is preferred.

The beer was cold and the brotherhood about to begin. With a clinking of our mugs, a “here, here” to each other and our hands cupped behind our ears to catch every word, we leaned in and began our evening in earnest.

The cacocphany of background chatter  interfered with our own table talk, as we huddled closer, like a football team calling a play.  The interval between our yawns grew shorter. Our energy level was was being tested when the call came for a second round. We endured, ordered refills, closed out our tab, and began the ‘second half’ with unexpected profundity.  ‘Who was your favorite teacher and why?’, I asked.

“Simple, it was Miss Sullivan**”, one of us enthusiastically blurted out, “she had the biggest bosom.” The answer grabbed our attention and would have been enough, but he continued.  “And, she dressed provocatively. My 10th grade friends and I never missed a class…”.  I bet they didn’t.

While not the insight I expected, nevertheless, it was honest. More importantly, to the four of us, it was funny, a classic way to end our ‘bar night’; good timing, excellent delivery and a willing audience eager to kick back a chair, slap the table and ‘guffaw’.

The bar quieted as we filed out to a humid night. Neon signs from other establishments gave a colorful tint to the neighborhood and tall street lights lit our path to the car with another good time behind us.

As we drove home along tree lined streets through old neighborhoods, the car was quiet. Two beers may have made us sleepy, but I imagine the real reason was that three of us were silently wishing that we had been in Miss Sullivan’s** 10th grade class, too…

srbottch.com

**name changed for obvious reasons.

Dedicated to Steve, Tom & Jim

A Sales Story: The Man In the Green Onion Suit…

“Sumthin’ scwewy goin’ on around here” E.Fudd

If you travel and meet enough people, as I did in my sales career,  then funny things happen along the way. This is one of the funniest. And it’s true… for the most part.

onionsMy day started early with a bakery stop before boarding a Chicago bound flight for our annual sales meeting of the screw company I represented.  It was expected of me to bring a couple dozen New York bagels for the office personnel. Today was no different, with one notable exception, I included onion bagels this time.

The passenger seated behind me was a businessman, too, judging by his tailored green suit and gold ‘power tie’. I observed him carefully folding the jacket and stowing it in the overhead bin. He was meticulous, and it was apparent that he cared about his appearance.

Me, I was in casual attire, sufficient for listening to speeches, looking at graphs and charts, playing golf and collecting a trophy for a successful year, actually a ‘second place’ successful year … again.

“Maybe I should wear power ties”, I thought, as I nonchalantly tossed my bag of bagels into the overhead bin where it slid to a stop against the businessman’s suit coat.   Settling into my aisle seat for the routine flight to the ‘Windy City’, I nodded off by the time we reached Lake Erie.

Then, somewhere over that Great Lake it hit me, the strong and overpowering aroma of bagels, especially onions. I quickly realized, this would not be a good day for that business coat, or anything else in the overhead.

If confronted, I would offer to pay for a quick cleaning.  However, I wasn’t. So, upon landing, I quickly grabbed the evidence, bee lined off the plane and never looked back, disappearing into the sea of faces that is O’Hare airport. Anyway, we wouldn’t see each other again…..or, so I thought.

What were the odds that he and I would sit beside each other on the return trip?  I recognized him by his ‘green onion suit’.

Imagine my amazement when he enthusiastically told me that he was just hired as a sales manager for a major baking company in Chicago.  And the interview clincher? Apparently, management was so impressed that he smelled like a product line he would represent, they hired him on-the-spot.

With a bit of bravado, he remarked, ‘You know, a salesman has to do what he has to do to make the sale’. But, hey, I knew that, I had another second place trophy in the overhead to prove it.

As they say in NY, what ‘chutzpah’!

People are fun, and a sales career provides the opportunity to meet lots of them and have lots of it. Surely, you agree.

Steve Bottcher
Srbottch.com.comTies

For hard-working Joe and his  Bagel Land employees of Brighton, NY, where you get the best bagels in town

And for my fellow salesperson, Mike M, who doesn’t have a ‘green onion suit’, but does has the first place trophy…and ‘power ties’

The Piano Tuner…a story of ‘angst’

Piano by Wilson Burgosphoto by Wilson Burgos (wilsonburgos.com)
Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

I never witnessed a piano tuner at his craft until recently…I hope to never witness it again!

Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

The evenly paced rhythm, the same key played, incessantly, over and over, until it emits the right tone, then duplicating the process on the next key, and the next. There are 88 keys in a piano.

Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

The house is quiet except for these monotonous sounds, each key tested for perfection, absolute perfection!

Louder! Softer! Faster! Slower!

 Our old dog stirs, stretches and retreats to a distant room, grumbling his displeasure as he searches for seclusion under a table, his heavy, long breathing juxtaposed against the fixer’s abbreviated movements.

Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

I find myself a hostage in my own home, a prisoner to the repetitive plunking of a musical mechanic armed with an ‘ear’ for perfection.

I’m a writer, albeit a neophyte, nevertheless a writer. I ply my craft in a vacuum of calm and solitude, focusing on the word, the thought, the picture I create. He, the tuner, focuses on the sound, correcting it from what it is to what it should be. Both take time. The process is the work.

Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

The constant tapping of the ivory, moving hammers and dampers against strings to make sounds, the same sounds, is tortuous.  Maybe, I’m too sensitive, too impatient, too digitized to today’s fast paced, instant gratification world.  Why is ‘art’ slow?

Louder! Softer! Faster! Slower!

High notes, then higher! Low notes, then lower!  The steady intermittence of it all is unsettling, fraying my nerves like the end of a severed rope.

Finally, the tuner demonstrates his keyboard prowess and plays a wonderful, but brief piece of music, a way of testing his tuning expertise and signaling the end, a climax to his dull and boring work.  The old piano sounds good, even soothing.  I can recompose myself and almost relax.

The ‘mechanic’ returns his tools to their clam-like black case, closes it with two loud deliberate snaps, collects his due and leaves, phantom-like.  The edge of his wide brimmed hat is rolled down and his collar is lifted against the intermittent rain. It occurs to me, as I watch him disappear around the corner, has he played at an opera house?

srbottch

…for a neighbor who urged me to find ‘angst’ in my life…

Sometimes It’s Diamonds, Sometimes It’s Paint…

Paint Bucket

Honestly, it’s never diamonds. Perfume, maybe, but not diamonds. Oh, there was a diamond engagement years ago and another one at our 25th, but that ‘streak’ ended there, years ago. Nowadays, prudence, practicality and pocketbook influence my choices..

So, this Valentine’s Day I gave a gift that satisfied all three criteria, the gift of color. I painted a bathroom for my wife, and, not surprisingly, it was one of the best gifts I’ve given over the years. She raved about it and appreciated my work and the new look. As pleasant as that sounds, it’s an unflattering commentary on my gift giving skills. I’m terrible at it.

However, I’m a good painter, it’s in the genes. My immigrant grandfather established himself as a ‘master’ painter. He begot three boys who continued the trade. The line of succession produced more sons, yet, who donned the white overalls, joined the union and called themselves ‘journeymen’.

You see, while ‘diamonds are forever’ (who wears out a diamond?), paint jobs are actually meant to be replaced. Colors fade or fall out of fashion. The painter gets the opportunity to ‘regive’ the paint job, a ‘do over’, if you will.

Paint Corner

“Hey, honey, I repainted the bathroom. How’s it look?  And, Happy Mother’s Day!”

“Looks great, dinner is ready”, she shouts from afar. “You slug…”, is the unspoken word you don’t hear because she has resigned herself to the age-old mantra, ‘it’s the thought that counts’. But we all know this about marriage, ‘what you do or don’t do now will be used against you later’. As I was reminded recently, disagreements, arguments and shortcomings are all part of the bonding process in marriage, no matter how long the union, decades in our case.

But, I digress. There are more gift giving opportunities on the horizon. The bedroom sounds appropriate for our wedding anniversary. And the hallways for her birthday. Oh, I just know she’ll love it. Everyday will seem like a birthday as she walks through the house, admiring the colors, reminding her of just how old she is. Hmm, I should rethink that one. Then there’s Christmas, maybe a brightening up of the guest room would be a hit.

Yes, diamonds are pretty; pretty impressive and pretty expensive. So, gentlemen, heed my advice. When the time comes, give the gift that is bold and beautiful, that tells her how much you love her. Give the ‘gift that keeps on giving’ and is cheap, the gift of color…PAINT SOMETHING!

Paint 3

srbottch (February 2016)

Where Is Spring?

Where Is Spring

An indomitable groundhog scurries across my lawn, signaling the start of Spring. A hairy woodpecker drills at sunrise from the dead branches of a tall locust tree and garners my attention, signaling the start of Spring. Pyramidal piles of pea like deer droppings accumulate by my patio, signaling the start of Spring.

But, ‘where is Spring’?

The calendar confirmed it days ago. The incessant honking of returning geese announced it from the heavens, and well tanned ‘snowbirds’, returning home from sea, sand and sun, expressed their disappointment and dismay at finding lingering snow showers. Even weather reporters  proclaimed it, albeit reluctantly.

But, ‘where is Spring’? 

Baseball players pass hours oiling their gloves and tarring their bats, hoping against hope that fields will be green and  plush for Opening Day.  Pot holes turn roads into obstacle courses, challenging drivers at every turn. Even the earliest flower, the crocus, is nowhere to be seen.  The supply of hand warmers is depleted. The flannel sheets are worn thin. The damp air, low clouds, and dire forecast surely is winter’s last ditch effort to overstay its worn out welcome.

But, ‘where is Spring’?

Mother Nature was kind to western New Yorkers this winter, giving us hope that Spring would be early. However, the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ seems to be out, dashing our spirit.  Easter Sunday is but days away. Newspapers are announcing the opening dates of local golf courses. School kids are starting their ‘Spring Break’.  And while my weather app just flashed this warning, ‘ snow flurries starting soon’, I am compelled to ask…

‘Where the Hell is Spring?’

srbottch.com

“Ice Fishing” in The Meadowbrook…A Tale of Sorts

It’s been a lean winter for ‘ice fishing in the Meadowbrook’…

…unlike last season, when the ‘giants’ were so plentiful, I could practically ‘fish’ from my window.  Hopes were raised with a recent storm that put an abundant snow cover on my roof. But Mother Nature’s tepid temps have dashed any chance of ‘landing’ a big one, now.

As I sit in the mid winter comfort of my sun porch, I’m disappointed by the rapid snow melt, rivulets of water cascading off my roof and streaming down my gutters like a Spring trout stream, ruining any opportunity for a good ‘catch’.  Yet, at the same time, I feel a sense of relief and contentment.

After all, ‘ice fishing in the Meadowbrook’ is fraught with challenges and danger.  ‘Casting about’ a lengthy aluminum roof rake with frozen feeling fingers, and numb toes precariously gripping the icy rungs of a metal ladder, is not a sport for the timid.

Clearing these ‘monsters’ from roof and gutters requires strength, dexterity and the fortitude to take an ‘avalanche’ of snow smack in the face.  If not careful or quick enough to dodge it, the glacial barrage will catch your collar and trespass down your neck, soaking the  long-johns you struggled to pull on earlier to avoid this very thing, a cold damp body.

This was my challenge last winter.  Miserably chilled, I continued my quest for a trophy ‘keeper’, because that’s what a fisherman does: goes after the prize.

After working the roof and watching ‘throwaways’ slide by on their way to the ground, the elusive ‘monster’ finally appeared from behind the last snow barrier. It was the ‘big one’, the one that nearly ripped off my gutter, where it spawned and grew like an ancient stalactite.

Clearing a path with a cautious drag of the rake across snow covered shingles,  the ‘catch of the season’ suddenly lurched forward and hurtled toward me like a bobsled. The extended ladder absorbed the hit and saved it from ‘getting away’. As wet, cold and slippery as it was, I wrapped my arm around it and made a triumphant but careful retreat to the ground.

A 10 pounder, maybe 20. I smiled through lips so cold and cracked, they bled. Fishing for trophies isn’t easy, ‘ice fishing in the Meadowbrook’ neighborhood is as challenging as it gets. But the bragging rights you earn are worth every frost bitten digit you can’t feel.

Now?  Now, it’s trophy time!

Ice Fishing

Every season can’t be as fruitful as the winter of ’14/’15, thankfully!

srbottch

dedicated to all who try to keep ice out of their gutters and survive to tell about it, we’re a hearty group