The Bar Chronicles: #13, The Gift

Bar Night 2

This evening’s soirée found us at a classy sports bar, The Back Nine in Pittsford, NY. The word ‘soirée’ seemed appropriate for this place, a cut above the ‘corner bars’ where we’ve been accustomed to resting our elbows.

Why this upscale establishment? I was the recipient of a surprise gift card to The Back Nine by a couple of very savvy young friends who suggested that it might be a good place to go with my ‘senior’ friends (they’re so polite) on bar night. I appreciated their generosity, was impressed with their recommendation and ‘awed’ that my readership is so young.

We ordered Guinness and Rohrbach Scotch Ale, hoisted ourselves onto the ‘bar height’ chairs, raised our glasses with a wish to good health, then started the dialogue.

“I’m throwing them out. Haven’t played in years and I need the space”, one of us began. And I thought, oh my, I’m having a tough time making that same decision. Old golf clubs and other stuff that I just can’t seem to push to the curb.

Old fishing tackle and salt corroded reels that caught whoppers and could tell the same. Old yearbooks with classmates I can’t remember and a picture that I swear isn’t me. And old books, the ‘trophies’ of my intellect, all a reflection of who I am. But all just stuff, old stuff.

Then, it hit me, on our 13th ‘bar night’ we’ve run out of stimulating topics and resorted to ‘end of life’ issues: paring down, getting rid of, throwing away.

“You know that farmers can fix anything”, interrupted the former farm boy at our table. I was thankful for the change of topic, the thought of unloading my personal inventory was getting depressing. But farming?

He continued, “Everyone should be a farmer for a while”! I considered his philosophy and doubted I would survive among all that equipment and stuff you walk in, but I now know who to call to fix my disassembled front door bell, another of my failed ‘DIY’ projects.

With our conversation beginning to drone and eyelids getting heavy, we managed to ‘unhoist’ ourselves from the tall chairs, snapped a photo and headed home. A red fox darted across the road, then stopped to look back. I thought to myself, that critter would look manly stuffed and displayed on my shelf…could a farmer do that for me?

3 Geezers

Steve
Srbottch.Com

To all who are starting to get rid of stuff, saving someone else the trouble.

Special thanks to Alice & David.

.

“I’m That Guy!”

Lawn 2

As kids, summer evenings would often find my sister and me in the back seat of our box -like 50 something Chevy station wagon, windows cranked down for fresh air, enjoying a ride away from the city to surrounding towns. Our dad would steer us through upscale suburbs to see bigger homes, bigger cars and bigger garages. And, of course, bigger and more beautiful lawns than I'd ever seen.

While my sister and I sat as far apart as possible to avoid catching whatever big sisters and little brothers give each other when they accidentally touch, our mother swiveled her head left and right, giving us her simple  commentary.  With ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, she described the elegance of these sprawling homes and equally stunning landscaping. This must be paradise, I thought.

Our dad, however, took a different approach.  An avid sportsman who generally spent his leisure time in pursuit of, or preparation for, time on the water, fishing, lawn maintenance was a low priority.  He had little regard for the home owner who spent hours mowing, and he expressed himself succinctly…

"Look at him, you wanna be that guy?"

*

It was a sultry summer evening, the kind that makes ‘life’ come to a crawl at the end of an eight-hour shift, nothing or nobody wants to move. From my bench by the back door, I scanned the east and north section of our lawn as it ran away from me toward the street, like a wave rushing back to its ocean after washing the shore.

I had just finished another session of mowing and was tired, but satisfied. These two sections presented a near picture perfect postcard of how a lawn should look after a meticulous manicure.

Passersby surely were impressed as they intersected the cross streets.  The four-way stop gave drivers a moment to pause and enjoy the beauty of it all. I'm certain they gave me a nod of appreciation. It was hard to tell, as the perspiration dropped off my brow and blurred my vision.

I was exhausted and hot. The cold soda can tickled my nerves as I swiped it across my forehead. Mosquitoes were enjoying my flesh but my arms were too tired to swat them. It's the price I pay for a beautifully landscaped piece of earth, my lawn.

While admiring my work, I recalled an earlier time when my dad would take us for rides in the suburbs and the rhetorical question he would ask.. It seemed like just yesterday. And with a smile, I answered his question…

"I’m that guy!"

Lawn 1

Steve Bottcher
srbottch.com

To gardeners everywhere who take pride in their lawn and have wonderful family memories, as well.

To Brighton Mowers who keep ny blade sharp and encourage me to keep mowing…and writing!

#2 Isn’t So Bad…

“Your #2 is our #1 business”
(on the truck of a septic tank cleaning company) 

I won a spelling bee contest in 4th grade. It was the last time I finished first, with one exception. There were memorable 2nd places, though, and I decided that for an overall body of life’s work, #2 isn’t so bad.

As a kid, I was an alternate on my Little League All-Star baseball team which is like 2nd place to the 15 kids who made the first team, the 1st placers. Nevertheless, I got an All-Star hat, inclusion in the team photo where I’m smiling like a 1st placer, and 58 years later no one knows that I was an alternate, a 2nd placer.


(upper right…smiling like a fox)

In high school I made the golf team. The coach needed bodies to fill out the roster and I knew which end of the club to hold, so there I was, playing golf daily on local courses for free. Not a bad deal for being just a player. And my college application (yes, I included it under ‘extra curricular’ activities), never mentioned I was #6 on a six-man team.

Uncle Sam called and I attended the Army’s Drill Sergeant Academy at Fort Ord, CA as a reservist and was #1 for five weeks, until I caved under the pressure of being at the top and finished #2 when I marched my classmates outside the boundaries on a final practical exam. Perfection is an important criteria for an Army Drill Sergeant. Still, I earned a ‘Smokey Bear’ hat and added a stripe. Ironically, when I graduated, I was asked to come back as a full time drill sergeant. They must have had a shortage of #2s. I declined.

During my sales career, I finished 2nd on several occasions to the top sales person. For awhile, I started to feel like #2, but I got a ring, handshakes and the usual accolades from management, the same as #1, so I got over it. Besides, I got more laughs at my acceptance speech and that made me feel like #1 for the night.

No, settling for #2 in life’s contests isn’t so bad. It’s in love that you want to finish #1. And I did. Recently, I surprised my wife with a reminder and brief celebration of the 51st anniversary of our very first date. She wore a gorgeous black & white dress to our college Christmas dance in 1965. I walked her back to her dorm, asked her for a kiss goodnight and have been #1 since. Quite an exception, wouldn’t you say?

“Being No.2 gives you the glory of being at the top without the pressure of being No.1.”
(Rose Budnkoski)

The Old Man and The Garden

garden-gate

I watched him through our kitchen window, an older gentleman standing by the curb. He was looking past our garden gate, admiring the plants, various hydrangea that were reaching the peak of their soft whiteness. Come fall, they will be a delicate pink, then brown, as Mother Nature guides them to dormancy, but for now they are like a fragile lace, petals laying softly, one upon the other.

I’ve noticed him other times, generally during evening walks, exercising at a pace suitable for his years, while enjoying the canvas of colors that our neighborhood becomes after a long, harsh winter. Our garden is a regular stop for him, albeit brief, inspecting the plants for changes, I suppose, as our daylight lengthens and we transition from spring to summer. The garden seems to look its best before sunset.

The idea of introducing myself seemed like the sociable thing to do, but on second thought why interrupt a peaceful interlude with idle chatter?  One can’t look at gardens to appreciate the graceful way its flowers, leaves and branches blend with and balance each other, while in idle conversation. I held back and allowed him to enjoy his solitude and solidarity with our garden, before he resumed his slow walk with a look of satisfaction on his face.

How can one not appreciate the simple beauty of a garden?  On occasion, I’ll sit and watch our hydrangea in an almost meditative state. I become aware of the ground, constantly moving, ever so slowly as I stare, often mesmerized. Hardy sedums creep along the soil, reaching out and claiming new territory with their thick roots and attractive colors. An earthworm appears, if only for a moment. Bugs and spiders (are they the same?) move cautiously across rocks while bees and ants are in a state of constant motion. I’m alerted by a mosquito.

The garden is a rapid version of our own existence. It lives, grows vibrant, weakens and fades, to be replaced by a new variety in time. The cycle of life, I suppose.

As for the old man, I haven’t seen him for weeks.  Things change, others will surely take his place at our gate…or someone’s gate.

srbottch.com

To passersby who enjoy our garden views. I see you through our kitchen window…

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 Bar Chronicles: #3, The ‘Pinboy’

Bar Night 2

‘…bowling really blossomed, particularly among blue-collar types, in the 1950′s and 1960′s after the introduction of the automatic pinsetter’ John McDuling

It was ‘bar night’ for three ‘old’ friends at a local pub in Rochester, NY, ‘The Lost Borough’. Our plan, enjoy a couple of signature brews and add another saga to ‘The Bar Chronicles’. The pub was busy, ‘trivia night’, complete with a booming voice emcee, eager crowd and ample beer to encourage gamesmanship. It added up to a rowdy atmosphere with plenty of hootin’ and hollerin’.

We selected an ‘ale’ from a ‘flight’ and forged ahead with our own game of ‘remember when’, parrying back and forth with personal recollections of our earliest work experiences, our first actual paying jobs.

We were delivery boys in pickup trucks and shoeshine boys on Main Street. We were floor sweepers in a haberdashery and washed cars at a used car dealership. And we were pinboys’ in a bowling alley, at least one was.

‘Pinboys’, a romantic word in a nostalgic sort of way. I was too young to remember ‘pinboys’, but one of us was the right age to be one. He was a teenager and his work station was at the end of a bowling lane where he perched himself on a bench above the pit. When the pins exploded off the deck from the impact of 16 pound balls rolled down the lane like fodder shot from a cannon, he quickly jumped into the pit and went into action; rolled the ball back, cleared ‘deadwood’, or reset new pins for another roll.

Generally, a ‘pinboy’, or pinsetter, managed two lanes, hence speed was an asset, and a priority. Younger boys with small hands could handle ‘two pins a hand’ while the older boys managed three. With pins in place, he’d jump back to his seat, step on a pedal to lower the rods, or pin holders, and wait for the next roll. A good day returned 8 or 9 cents a game, and an afternoon of work brought in some extra cash for this young man’s coal mining family in the post-Depression coal mining region of eastern Pennsylvania.

Tell me about your first job. Did you like it? What did you learn? I cleaned metal paint pots for a painting company and abhorred it. But I learned lessons of responsibility and discipline that comes from hard work, and stays with you for life. I got paid, but it wasn’t ‘romantic’ like my friend’s job, a ‘pinboy’.  I wish I could have been a ‘pinboy’…alas, I was too young.

Srbottch
Srbottch.Com