The Bar Chronicles: #14, A ‘One Beer’ Night

Rock ‘n roll, ants and war…we covered all the bases…except baseball.

Bar Night 2

Another evening of beer and brotherhood convened at Caverly’s Irish Pub on South Avenue in Rochester. Here, the beer is reasonable, the people friendly and the ‘bar dog’ can sniff only as high as your knees.

Caverly’s is cozy and casual with a few round tables scattered about a high bar rising over a well-worn hardwood floor, a common man’s pub. The bar area, itself, is a colorful array of tap handles and an oversized chalkboard menu featuring an ample variety of brews.

Bar TAps

With beer in hands, we raised our glasses and cheered each other in genuine fashion. These nights of friendship give us Seniors a chance to get caught up with each other. Sometimes, we learn something new, sometimes we’re surprised and sometimes it’s both.

Tonight was just such a night when one of us offered that ‘ants weigh more than humans’. The rest certainly were surprised and showed it, as the ‘huh?’ look spread across our collective brows. But when the source* was cited…well, we learned something new, and ‘ant weight’ aside, we were bemused that someone in our group actually read, ‘Journey To The Ants’.

Does the adjective, ‘eclectic’ apply to a group that can drink beer and discuss ants in the same evening?

And would you be surprised to learn that another traveled 75 miles to see a former Beatle, Paul McCartney, in concert? Remember, we’re products of the 60s, give or take a decade.

As teens, we borrowed the family car and drove around with other music lovers, slapping out rhythms on the dashboard ‘drums’, our mops flopping side to side while head bobbin’ to rock ‘n roll. We still move to the beat when we hear the oldies, but ‘head banging’ today with scarce a wisp, leaves much to be desired.

Detailing an event or destination as vividly as the concert was allows me to feel there’s no need to go there, myself. I often say, facetiously of course, that ‘the listening is the same as the going’. I’ve ‘been to many places that I’ve never been’ with this philosophy.

Unlike war…

One among us went there**, and we deferred to him briefly when the topic surfaced. A cacophony of silence spoke volumes to our lack of personal knowledge of the real horror of war, except for the one. There is no substitute for being there, a loud exception to my ‘philosophy’

We paused with our own thoughts, finished our one beer and called it a night, a rather solemn ending. The summer-like evening air on this fall night was comforting as we took our time to the car. Another enjoyable evening was behind us…

Friendship is a wonderful thing!

Steve

stephen.bottcher@gmail.com

*‘Journey To The Ants’ written by Harvard professor E.O. Wilson
** Viêt Nam

It’s Only a Rumor…

“Excuse me, where can I find sardines?”
“With the tuna fish? Okay, where’s that, now?”

Rumors 2

Some days, up is down and down is up. That would describe my ‘grocery shopping’ life, since my grocer reorganized product on its shelves ….. again.

One day, you know where everything is, the next day, it’s a new landscape. I had conquered the layout from the last reshuffling and felt an inner calmness navigating  the store’s aisle maze.  I could find the lo-fat Graham crackers, sauerkraut was just around the end cap from our favorite high fibre and heart healthy cereals. The no-salt pretzels were in an odd place, but I knew where to find them.

Rumors 3

I had the store geography ‘down pat’, didn’t even need the smart phone app to direct me. And that was important because while we shop twice weekly, on Wednesday I fly solo. My shopping orders are to ‘get in, get it and get out’. I got good at it.

My efficiency even allowed some chat time with stockers Jim in bananas, or Annie in toothpaste. Barnabus, the beer guy, was favored with a quick quip, too. Incidentally, beer has never been relocated and many folks are happy about that, mostly guys, although their internal instinct takes them directly to beer, no matter where it’s shelved..

Yes, all was well until this change, the second in a year. Shopping now is a slow trek through a labyrinth of new colors, shapes and sizes. Where once I was accustomed to the ‘going in, grabbing and getting out’, now I’m adrift, lost somewhere between 11A and 16B.

‘Aisle directors’ stand by to help. How embarrassing when they answer in booming voices, “Suppositories? Just around the corner from adult diapers!”. Yikes!

But, I’m determined to learn the new layout, and I’m succeeding with my Senior mind. It’s just another one of life’s healthy tasks, teaching me to be resilient rather than cranky. However, I’m just a bit uncertain about the rumor mill (aisles 8-10) .

The next time the store is reorganized, so goes the scuttlebutt, the aisles will be set up by shape: flat product with flat, round with round, and figurines together (ex. Mrs. Butterworth syrup, Honey Bear honey). All boxed product in the same location, and screw top items will have their own aisle.

Rumors 1

It’s just a rumor, now, but I’ll accept the challenge, if it happens.  Besides, what are my choices if I want to fill my own randomly arranged pantry shelves with survival food for Life’s next challenge?

Steve
October 2017
Stephen.Bottcher@gmail.com

To shoppers everywhere who accept change as inevitable

I Met A President, A Hall-of-Famer and Annette Funnicello

I struggled in vain to get my team hat signed by a star player; oh, the indignity of being squeezed out by little shavers and hovering grannies who obviously were ‘veteran warriors’ at this ‘contact sport’ of autograph seeking.

Autograph seekers can be aggressive, pugnacious and rude. They don’t give ground easily, as I learned during my brief moment as an interloper into the arena of idol worshippers.

Why do we seek autographs, anyway?  Well, to start, it’s gratifying to have a celebrity pay momentary attention to us and it’s fun to brag about who we saw, and who saw us. And some autographs actually become valuable over time. A rare baseball card recently sold for more than $3,000,000.

The pushing and shoving to reach the celebrity is one way to get an autograph, or shake a hand. However, sometimes the moment comes when you least expect it.  So, be prepared and don’t be shy about engaging the target.

A former middleweight boxing champ gave me an autograph when I approached him in a restaurant. Carmen Basilio, a one time great, was alone at the bar, and a long time removed from the boxing spotlight.  Hence, he was ‘low hanging fruit’.

President GW Bush (#46) gave me a handshake following a speech, his not mine. A large Secret Service agent focused on me, laser like, as I stopped the President in-place and offered a suggestion, something that ordinary citizens can do in America.

I ran down former Chicago Bears coach and football Hall of Famer, Mike Ditka, at O’Hare Airport for his autograph, but just shook his hand and a offered a nice word on behalf of my father-in-law, a huge fan of anything ‘Chicago’. Ditka was intimidating.

One of the earliest and most enjoyable autographs I got was from the queen of Mouseketeers, herself, Annette Funnicello, during a Mickey Mouse Club ‘meet and greet’ at a local K-Mart parking lot. I was crazy about her, every 10 year old boy was, and now we were face to face, across an autograph table, my naturally big ears lined up opposite her costume ears. As she handed me the signed black & white glossy photograph, my knees went weak and my voice cracked.  I mumbled something forgettable before being shoved along to keep the line moving.  Nothing has changed, it’s every man for himself for the autograph seekers.  Nevertheless, I think she looked at me.  Yes, she did, I’m certain of it.

I don’t have the autographs but the memories remain. It’s not important. Today, I’m collecting footprints and ‘signatures’ from two new special people in my life, my grandchildren. Stars come and go, but the ones who count the most crawl into your life and stay forever.

Twins crawling

Steve

srbottch.com

Sept 2017

Today, I Brought Balloons

balloon 1
I brought balloons, three of them tied into a bouquet and weighted. It was the first day of the new school year.

I’m a school crossing guard, one of a dozen in my town. We’re the first and last ‘person of authority’ most kids see when they begin or end their school day. Awesome responsibility.

This morning, I brought balloons to my post, then waited. And it worked, there were smiles and audible whispers of ‘oohs & awwws’. The first day of school was off to a pretty good start, a happy start.

All the students managed to cross safely across a busy road going to their middle and high school buildings. That’s the number one priority. But our job begins and ends before and after the crossing, itself, and that helps make their school day a positive experience. Often, it’s just a smile, a greeting, maybe a ‘great day’ wish, or a compliment, something positive they can take with them every school day.

Do you remember your first days? First day of school, first day of a new job, first day in the military? A bit unnerving, wasn’t it? Meeting new people, having new bosses, understanding new rules; phew, I feel pressure just recalling it all. Imagine how a kid feels.

My first teacher was Miss Fanny, we giggled at her name, until she slapped ‘ours’. Mrs.Downes was my first of many bosses. The principal at an elementary school where I taught before making a career change, Mrs. Downes (Isabel) was a civilian drill instructor, tough but fair, with high expectations from her staff. Drill Sergeant Davis was my first real drill sergeant (Army). He was tough, too, and fair, he showed no favoritism when delivering his wrath.

Initially, all three of these supervisors gave me pause on my ‘first day’ but I adjusted. The kids we cross daily will adjust in time, too, some sooner than others. I like to think that our approach and interaction with them will expedite that adjustment period.

So, today I brought balloons, and waited…       balloon 2

Steve
Srbottch.com
September 6, 2017

To school crossing guards, everywhere
To students of all ages
To everyone experiencing a ‘first time’

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.

.

The Bar Chronicles: #12, The Listener

Bar Night 2

This warm July evening was a good night for ‘howling at the moon’, so we headed for Caverly’s Irish Pub. An old dog greeted us at the screen door with an obligatory sniff from foot to knee (all he could reach) before stepping aside. I was tempted to say, ‘Fido sent us’, but doubted his sense of humor, never mind the language barrier.

The patrons are friendly at Caverly’s, as is the occasional dog who roams from table to table, lingering long enough for a scratch behind the ear. It’s said that a pet is therapeutic. So is a frothy beer and friendly conversation. We came here to do both, and without further ado, ordered our favorite brews from the chalkboard menu, scratched the dog and began another evening of beer and banter.

Only three of us tonight and once again the talk was lively, intriguing and instructional.. We learn a little bit more about each other in these ‘bar nights’. Tonight was no exception. However, we never get too far in conversation without raising our drinks and with a gentle clink of the glass, wish each other ‘cheers’.

“Are you serious, you really don’t know how to fold a fitted sheet?”

And with that unexpected ‘ice-breaker’ our exchange was underway with a detailed description of how to fold that fitted sheet. Needless to say, without a fitted sheet to fold, it was futile (long ‘u’ and ‘i’, for effect)… it was futile to expect me to fully grasp the process.

Admittedly, I’m a poor listener to instructions or directions. I did enough listening during my sales career, it’s a critical component of selling. But retirement loosened those shackles and now I primarily listen to myself.

However, critical listening is important in many areas, including military readiness. One of us, tonight, was a listener; a military listener at a far outpost during the early years of the Cold War, listening to the ‘other side’ for a ping here and a ping there to help us understand our adversary’s intentions or movements. The narrative was fascinating and we listened…stopping long enough to order another round.

The thought occurred to me. With today’s social media phenomenon when the chatter is overwhelming, do we listen more or are we too busy planning what to say next?

At ‘bar night’, we listen and that makes an enjoyable evening.

Steve
Srbottch.Com

She Made Me What I Am Today, An ‘Ironman’: The Promise

She made me what I am today, an ‘Ironman’!

Processed with MOLDIV
(photo by Glenn Higgins)*

 Iron2  Excuse me, did I say ‘Ironman’? My bad, I meant, ‘Ironing Man’. I’m an ‘ironing man’: shirts, pants, cloth napkins, aprons (not mine…yet), pillowcases, etc.

Dusting, yes, a critical skill.  It’s tedious but you won’t find creepy bugs housekeeping along our crown molding and baseboard. As for the hardwoods, the Swiffer tool is my choice. Gripping it a certain way let’s you ‘slap shot’ those pesky ‘dust bunnies’ into a corner for easy gathering.

Swiffer

Both chores combine housecleaning and athleticism: the multiple reps of a weightlifter sliding a water filled iron back and forth, back and forth, back and forth and the steady, rhythmic gliding of a ballroom dancer sweeping across polished hardwood. My wristband monitor goes off the charts on cleaning day.

The best benefit, of course, is the ‘come hither’ look of appreciation in my wife’s approving eyes. But, alas, by the time I’ve ‘pressed’ my last pleat, ‘pushed up’ from bunny hunting under the bed or ‘power dragged’ the Hoover over the dog haired rug, I’m too tired to go anywhere, hither or not.

Meantime, the golf clubs have lost their shine, the gym membership is going unused and the resistance bands have dry rot. Nevertheless, I’m staying in shape with squats (toilet bowl cleaning), bends & reaches (dishwasher loading/unloading), heavy lifting (turning a queen mattress) and sprints (“hurry, the dog needs to go out”).

The genesis of these new found domestic skills can be traced back to something I did forty-eight years ago, I made a promise.  Promises, vows, oaths, call them what you will, are important to our own notion of self-worth, when kept.  They measure us for trustworthiness. They address our character and integrity.

Promises call for sacrifice and commitment. In my case, I didn’t commit to housecleaning but I did promise my everlasting support. LIFE changes, doesn’t it?  Priorities get rearranged.

Yet, somehow, IT’s worked out satisfactorily. I have well pressed handkerchiefs and there’s no stress of calling ahead for a tee time.

I just need someone to show me how to fold a fitted sheet…

Sheets
Steve
srbottch.com (July 2017)

To legions of men everywhere who help with the housework, whether you admit it or not, because you want or need to do it.

*thank you Glenn Higgins for the sculptured body photo (GlennHigginsFitness.com)