The Crossing Guard Chronicles: #4, ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning’

The ‘chorus’ joined in, the ‘maestros’ led, the ‘audience’ smiled and a good time was had by all. We’re the ‘pretenders’, middle and high school students and a crossing guard, letting our joyful, if off key voices be heard while waiting to make our way across four lanes of busy blacktop on the way to begin the last school day of the week.

“Oh, what a beautiful morning,

Oh, what a beautiful day.

I’ve got a beautiful feeling,

Everything’s going my way!”

Whatever the reason, a Friday, a beautiful daybreak for a change, or the last few weeks of school, it was a morning to sing, and we did. Well, I did. A few kids knew the words from the Broadway show, ‘Oklahoma’, and accompanied me. The more we sang, the louder we sang.

This magnificent morning, with its cloudless blue sky, was a time to break out in big smiles and we did that, too, even the ‘sophisticated’ Seniors joined. Some early rising real ‘seniors’ from the neighborhood, who were beginning their daily ‘10,000 steps’, showed some spirit by singing along as they crossed and mingled with students.

What a glorious way to end the school year. And quite a year it’s been at the ‘curbside classroom’. From quizzes to quotes, word games and jokes, anagrams and acronyms, new words and old history, inventions and inventors, we learned a lot of ‘stuff’ from each other. I hope some of it sticks.

But what I really hope is that our mornings, which began with ‘have a great day’, helped these youngsters to really have a great day.

I’ve enjoyed their company and camaraderie on sunny days, on cold snowy and rainy days. I wish the best of success and happiness to those who are graduating and look forward to seeing returning and new students next September.

I’ll be there, at the ‘curbside classroom’ with more facts, new challenges, brain teasers and general conversation. Look for the guy in bright yellow.

Steve (June ’19)

To all the students of the ‘curbside classroom’. Continued successes!

The Bar Chronicles: #24, ‘Tonight Was For The Birds’

“My turn to pay.”

“No, I’ve got it, my wallet is already out.”

How easy was that? Right up front, the bill is a nonissue. One of us steps up and picks up the tab. It’s a badge of honor to pay the bill, especially at Caverly’s Irish Pub, where the beer is cheap and the ambience suits us perfectly.

Caverly’s is our ‘home’ for ‘Bar Nights’, we set up shop in the back room, away from the din of bar talk and the hoopla of an occasional dart game. Tonight, even before we toasted, the evening conversation began with some slight complaining, bemoaning is a better word, maybe bitching is better yet, about the lack of vocational courses in the general public schools.

“What happened to auto mechanics and shop classes? It’s not part of the general curriculum today!”

“Who’s going repair the cars and do the plumbing?”

“What about home economics?”

“And they don’t teach cursive handwriting, anymore”, I added without thinking. Heads turned and silence prevailed, but only for a moment.

“Handwriting? Who the Hell writes anymore, anyway,” I was reminded.

“Well, they should!” There I was, the ‘old man’ in me rallying to the defense of ‘how things used to be’, the ‘glory days’, as Springsteen coined them.  My mother had beautiful handwriting, thanks to the strict nuns and her Catholic education, as limited as it was.  But, I digress.

Enough ‘bemoaning’, there’s beer to be drunk. We clinked our bottles and glasses, toasted to good health, wealth and happiness, and began anew.

Do you feed our feathered friends?? It’s a popular pastime with some ‘Bar Nighters’, and the Baltimore Oriole is one of the regular visitors to their feeders. A bright orange feeder and a healthy portion of jelly attracts these beautiful specimens, apparently.

(Photo by Tom Lathrop, a Bar Nighter)

I say, ‘apparently’, because I wouldn’t know. I lost interest in bird feeding years ago when my family was traumatized by a red tail hawk crashing onto our bird feeder and flying off with a mourning dove clutched in its talons. The kids were young as we watched in horror when the hawk lighted on an overhead branch and consumed the stunned bird, piece by feathered piece. Sometimes, Nature’s way is disgusting.

The squirrel challenge is another reason not to bother with a feeder. These furry creatures can make a grown man look silly, as they outsmart every system we devise to stop them from intruding.  They wore me down.

Some ‘Bar Nighters’ might think they’ve put up the proper defenses against these critters: a long, thin stainless steel wire to a raised feeder; a tipping feeder that closes under the squirrel’s weight; or my favorite, cover the pole with sticky substance, honey or mollasses, but then you attract ants. What’s your remedy?

By the way, if you’re counting, the next gathering will be our 25th Bar Night, a milestone. I thought about making a calendar, ‘The Men of Bar Night’.  Maybe I should take a vote.

The beers are done and we call it a night. I need to get home to fix a dripping faucet. It’s hard to find a good plumber nowadays, y’know!

Steve

May 2019

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: #3, ‘Jefferson, Edison and Crapper

“Who invented the swim fins?” (You’ll be surprised)

“Who invented the swivel chair?”

“Who invented the first automatic flush toilet?” (7 1/2 gpf…Yikes!)

“..,the baseball mitt, the sewing machine, electric kettle and phonograph?”

Do you see a trend? These were but a few questions tossed my way during our recent ‘stump the crossing guard’ activity at our ‘curbside classroom’. The topic was ‘inventions’. Challenge me with an invention, and I’ll tell you the inventor. Really? I could do that?

“…the zipper, pink flamingo and thimble?”

The truth is, I don’t know inventors, Jefferson and Edison were my default answers, and Crapper was a ‘throw in’ for some subtle humor. But I do know how to stimulate curiosity in the preteens and teens at my school crossing post.

Ask questions, awe them with facts, dare to challenge them, mix in some fun and you’ve got a winning formula for a positive start to the school day, even before they get to their building.

The early morning light showed smiles and enthusiasm on the faces of kids genuinely interested in the ‘game’, as they peppered me with inventions, some common and others, not so common. Those who didn’t have a challenge listened with interest. Now, that’s a positive.

“Who invented Velcro? (Great question, but do you know the story behind it)

“Who invented the thunder lamp?” (Would have loved one back in the 60s)

“Who invented the umbrella?” (Useful this Spring)

The questions went on, requiring me to do some follow-up research to verify answers (below). And, to that point, the only rule was that they had to know the inventor’s name.

“Who invented the Diesel engine (there actually was a guy named Diesel), the chocolate chip cookie (my wife baked some this weekend…they’re gone), and, the traffic light (no, he wasn’t a crossing guard)?

“Bifocals?” (the same fellow who did the swim fins)

Adults crossing with the kids joined the fun. “Who invented the ‘reaper-binder’, the ‘manhole cover’ and what did BF Goodrich invent?”

The end of the school year will be here anon. It’s been a good one at our crossing post with lots of smiles, good conversation and latent learning. While the formal education occurs inside the brick buildings, the day begins earlier, on the sidewalk, with an informal ‘game of Life’ at our ‘curbside classroom’.

Who invented the ‘flying shuttle, printing press, the light bulb’?

I’ve provided a list of the inventions we discussed. As a sidebar, it was not unusual for a discussion to break out over an invention, or the inventor.

I enjoyed the ‘challenge’, as the kids seemed to do, as well, so much so that I believe they expect more. Your ideas and participation are welcomed.

Steve

To all the creators who made our lives simpler with something new every day, and to the students, who help make our mornings a fun time by both listening and participating.

“WHO INVENTED THE …?”

Like many inventions, some were credited to the wrong person, especially in cases where someone didn’t actually invent, but improved a product This list is the best information I found using Wikipedia and other sources. If there’s a correction, please note it in the comments.

Swivel Chair: Thomas Jefferson, who purportedly signed the Declaration of Independence from said chair.

Light bulb: Joseph Swan, Sir Hiram Maxim AND Thomas Edison. (1835)

Printing press: Johannes Gutenberg (1438)

Flying shuttle (a weaving tool): John Kay (1733)

Manhole cover: Thomas Crapper (still collectibles in England).

Reaper-binder: (a farm implement, as an enhancement to the reaper) Charles Baxter Withington (1872)

Bi-focales: Ben Franklin (he used them frequently but whether or not he in invented them is subject to debate)

Traffic light: JP Knight, am English train engineer (1868)

Chocolate chip cookie: Ruth Graves Wakefield (1938)

Diesel engine: Rudolph Diesel (1893)

Umbrella: more than 4000 ago, but waterproofed by the Chinese in 11th Century BC.

Thunder lamp: Richard Clarkson (2013, do you have one)

Velcro: George deMestral (1941)

Thimble: John Lofting (subject to debate) (1693)

Pink flamingo: Don Featherstone, Designer) (1957)

Zipper: Whitcomb Jutson (1890s)

Phonograph: Thomas Edison (1877)

Electric kettle: Arthur Leslie Lang (1891)

Sewing machine: Thomas Saint (1790)

Baseball mitt: Bill Doak, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher (1920), but subject to a great deal of controversy.

Flush toilet: (1596). Several names attributed. Thomas Crapper did not invent it but he significantly improved it with subsequent inventions.

Bendy straw: Joseph Friedman (1937)

Swim fins: Ben Franklin (1717)

Wheel: early man

The Bar Chronicles: #23, ‘The Reunion’

Bar Night 2

Good to his promise when he left us shoveling and shivering in western New York State while he headed to the sunshine and surf of Florida, the ‘snow bunny’ friend among us bought the beers tonight, our 23rd ‘Bar Night’ at our favorite ‘dive’, Caverly’s Irish Pub (South Ave)

image-3

It’s Spring, the weather is miserable, but our collective spirits are lifted by the opportunity for five of us to gather again for a good time talking, thinking and doing anything that doesn’t require too much energy.

The bar TV is a distraction, it always is, so we migrated to the back room, leaving the game broadcast and the bar talk behind. However, we still lean in to hear our own conversation, with eyebrows raised, mouths slightly agape and the ears likely cupped, SOP for Seniors.

With bottles held high, we offered thanks that we all made it through winter safely, if not a bit more worn, four of us having borne the burden of winter along Ontario’s shoreline.

I was anxious to describe my very ‘first time’ to a somewhat ‘aghast’ group. With four sets of eyebrows rising even higher, I clarified, no, not that ‘first time’, I’m talking fender benders. I needed a sympathetic ear and tonight provided me with four pair, I assumed.

The delivery truck driver should not have parked his white ‘box’ truck opposite our driveway, I protested. In my younger, more flexible days, I could easily have turned and seen it. But today, older and with several layers of winter clothing, I only looked left and right, leaving my backside exposed.

BANG! CRUNCH!

In a flash, after decades of safe and accident free driving, my perfect record fell to pieces, literally, $3800 worth of pieces to my rear end. My first auto accident and insurance claim!

A tough group, those ‘ears’, I got no sympathy, only warnings, ‘watch my premiums’!

As for risky driving, have you driven the Autobahn? What do insurance premiums look like for the brave souls who drive the Autobahn? A couple of us have, not me. Now that I’m a ‘risk’, I probably would be banned on the ‘bahn’. Furthermore, are Seniors even allowed on that highway?

Have you ever hitched a ride? I picked up a hitchhiker,once, a sailor, on leave. Took him from Albany to Cleveland on my drive west. But, what about hitching aboard a US aircraft carrier?

The former Marine pilot in our group did that, aboard the USS Vinson, a super carrier, on the Pacific Ocean waters from Hawaii to California. That has to be some sort of hitchhiking record. There’s no backing out driveways or driving 120 mph, but better yet, you can jet away and return, if you’re qualified. And the government pays the premiums.

Each time our group meets, we have new adventures to tell, new territory to cover and more beer to drink, one bottle each night. We’re big story tellers, but we’re not big drinkers, not at this stage.

image-4

Here’s to everyone who enjoys the pleasure of good friends and conversation.

Steve (April ’19)

Srbottch.Com

So, You Say You’re Irish …

Reposting my story from a year ago. Happy St. Patrick’s Day (2019) to all you who are Irish, even if it’s just for a day…

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

PLeasant 48756…

Do you remember those phone calls home, the ones you made after ‘leaving the nest’ for the first time? I do, and from a pay phone.  My sister remembers, too, offering sentiments recently that it would be nice to make those calls, again. But, we can’t, of course.

I remember the calls and can ‘see’ it in my mind’s eye. Mother would answer, as the official ‘answerer’, and in a soft voice, I’d hear, “Hello?”, in a questioning way.

“Mother, it’s me, Stephen!”

“Oh, Stephen, hello!”

The uncertainty was gone and the enthusiasm returned, once she knew who it was.

We’d talk and she would hand the phone to my father, nearby, and we’d talk some more, often repeating myself, a bit louder each time. I could sense the ‘changes’.

Remember asking to reverse the charges? She always accepted them. Long distance calls weren’t cheap so we limited the frequency and duration.

Over time, the phones changed, cords went away and buttons replaced dials. The nature of the calls changed, too, from ‘just called to talk’ to ‘how are you feeling’. Eventually, with time passing, so do the people you love…the calls stopped.

Yesterday, the old family telephone number flashed into my memory, Pleasant-48756.  Don’t know why, but it did, and it opened a floodgate of memories, good memories.

Initially, our number was just five digit characters, 48756, but as telephone service demand grew, so did the creativity of assigning numbers, longer numbers, with letters.

The phone was ‘anchored’ on a small living room table, the ‘phone table’.  It was a cumbersome black unit with a circular number scheme in a dial fôrmat, corded to the wall. More importantly, the mouth/ear piece was corded to the base, and cradled on it when not in use. You never lost the phone because it was ‘anchored’ in the same spot for years.

The telephone kept families connected. Every bit of emotion could be sensed over the lines.  Good news and bad news was delivered over the telephone, by voice. We made plans and had private rendezvous with special friends. Of course, with the phone anchored to a spot, that privacy was problematic.

We all have mobile phones now, several to a family. No need to remember the numbers, just ask the phone to call by name. You can send text messages and avoid speaking to the other party.  Play games and music and get easily distracted by the new phone capabilities.  You can even wear the phone like a watch, well, it is a watch, too.  Yes, we’ve come that far.  Progress, I guess.

But it sure would be nice to make those old calls, again. We can’t, of course…

“Hey, Siri, dial Pleasant 48756….. for the Hell of it!”

Steve (srbottch.com)

For my sister, June

I Drink My Coffee Black…Hair or No Hair

After high school graduation and between college semester breaks, summertime found me working for my dad’s painting company. Truth be told, I did little actual painting. But there were plenty of other tasks to support the real journeymen painters, low skilled tasks that a ‘college kid’ could easily master; scraping, sanding, dusting and hauling, to name a few. I abhorred it.

However, I did get an ‘education’ on hard work and found one task that was simple and perfectly suited to my teenage laziness, the ‘runner’.

When it was mid morning break time, I collected the painters’ money and went for their food and drink, generally coffee and a sweet roll, or donut. The workers’ break was 10 minutes by union rules, but for me, it was a good 30 to 45 minutes, because I was the ‘runner’.

I became familiar with the likes and dislikes of the men on the jobs, and listened attentively to their ‘sage’ advice. Naturally, I ignored it, I was a ‘college kid’.

“Drink coffee, and drink it black, it’ll put hair on your chest!”

Coffee was not part of my regimen, then, and I already had some hair on my chest, at least it was starting, so the suggestion didn’t sway me.

I often heard the same admonition from my ‘old school’ father when I was a kid; “eat it (drink it, take it), it’s good for you, and it’ll put hair on your chest”, my father would urge. Why would a ten year old kid want hair on his chest?

Eventually, I joined the throng of coffee drinkers. It wasn’t the macho world of laboring men who got me started, however. My caffeine fix began with ‘Gussie’, my future mother-in-law, who always had a pot of coffee brewing in her kitchen.

The aroma of percolating coffee, aaahhhh, it was addicting and ‘Gussie’ drank it black.

There’s a certain intoxication in that very aroma, isn’t there? And, if it could only taste as good as it smelled, with no additives, then black would be my choice, as well.

Years later, my sales job reinforced the black option. On the road several days a week, coffee became a staple of my morning routine and a stimulant during day time drive times. Who has time to mix in a creamer or sugar packet when you’re hustling to an appointment? Pull in to the fast food drive-thru, order, pay, then grab ‘n go.

I still drink coffee, black. And, yes, I have hair on my chest. ‘Gussie ‘ is gone for many years, now. And, if your wondering, I never asked…and she never mentioned ‘it’.

Steve

To coffee drinkers everywhere…especially, ‘Gussie’

March 2019