Why Do I Raise The Flag?

As a youngster, I was taught about the flag and what it meant. I learned about the flag by listening to my parents and watching them live as Americans in a free society, being responsible citizens, demonstrating the finest values of growing up in, and being good stewards of this special place, America.

Through teens and into adulthood, I learned about the issues and challenges we face as Americans. I witnessed our strengths and weaknesses, our successes and failures. As an old man, I see those same attributes today, as we struggle to grow and become better citizens.

I learned to love our country through education and service, a brief stint in the military for the latter and a wonderful patriotic school activity for the former.

Every Memorial Day, my elementary school would gather in the schoolyard to sing patriotic songs, military songs, our National anthem and to recite our Pledge of Allegiance. The chorus of young voices filled the neighborhood, locals gathered to listen and sing along. It was a happy time, a proud time, a patriotic time. It was the 50s.

The celebration ended with a recital of our Pledge of Allegiance and the playing of ‘taps’ from an unseen trumpeter in the distance. Our American flag flew from every corner of the old brick school building. The moment was exhilarating, even for a kid.

I remember that annual event as though it was yesterday. I can still sing the military ballads and belt out the Star Spangled Banner, and I do when the spirit moves me.

These many years later, on Memorial Day and Independence Day, my wife lines an array of small American flags in front of our house. It’s attractive but more importantly, it quietly expresses our feelings about our ‘home’, America, while paying silent tribute to all those who sacrificed so much to protect and preserve the American spirit and way of life.

Why do I raise the flag? Simply because I’m proud to be an American and I love my country.


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May 2020

5, 4, 3 …’Weighing In’, In The Age of CoronaVirus

Life has its ups and downs, back and forths, give and takes, and, if we’re lucky, we just roll with the punches and things work out…..or get bigger.

Take waistlines, for instance. They start off small and stay that way for awhile, years, even. Then, one day you realize something has changed, you’ve ’rounded out’ in the middle, ‘widen’ in the posterior and ‘sagged’ a bit in the chest & abs. Six pack? Forgetaboutit!

The time has come for action to refine this one and only body and restore it to the sculptured look you once had, a temple. Hyperbole, maybe, but a wake-up call for sure.

So, you hit the gym and get to work, hard work, and it shows. Maybe you’re not quite the Adonis you once were but when you see yourself in the mirror, shirt off, and the scale has good numbers, then yes, total satisfaction. Your hard work is rewarded. It’s taken months, maybe years of sweat, soreness and sacrifice, but you did it. Give yourself an attaboy.

Then, almost overnight, the gym closes, the walking paths shut down, the heathy food flies off the shelf (along with toilet paper) and you’re sitting at home, in a daze, bloating on carbs and crackers and wondering what the hell just happened,

It’s the CoronaVirus curse and in no time at all, the ‘countdown’ starts, you’ve gone from the 5 hole on your belt to the 3 hole. You can feel the difference. And you know others can see it.

You want to get out and do something, something big, something that makes you shrink. A workout, that’s it. But you’re not a runner, not since a drill sergeant chased after you, barking all the way.

No, you’re a bit slower now, a little sedentary, accustomed to sitting around, thanks to CV. Besides, the ramped up cookie production in the convection oven needs tending, coffee needs brewing, the sofa needs fluffing.

The governor says, ‘Stay home!’ Such profundity! You like it. Besides, you’re in ‘that group’. Yes, the one everyone is worried about. So, you’re going nowhere, doing nothing and heading to the 1 hole, fast!

Hell, maybe you won’t even need a belt at this rate…

(Above courtesy of @markedman24 on Instagram)

Steve B

Srbottch.Com for more stories

To everyone who is anxious for the ‘lockdowns’ to end and we can get back to being ‘normal’.

Heroes Among Us..,

Someone asked me what I would most remember about this coronavirus time.

I’ll remember this, ‘the heroes among us’.

When this ‘virus thing’ is over and we return to normalcy, however we define it, each of us will have a story. It always happens during a cataclysmic event, and this Coronavirus is one. We remember what, where, when and other big picture events that will likely change in our memory with the slippage of time.

I’ll remember the ‘who’, angels from my neighborhood who were the ‘heroes among us’.

Crises, tragédies, disasters, whatever you call them, often bring out the best in people. Whether man-made or natural, seismic events will find people who rise to the occasion to do something positive. At all levels, heroes will be born.

First responders perform heroic acts in the public’s eye. Police officers, firefighter and soldiers come to mind. Sometimes, it’s ordinary people who happen to be in the ‘wrong place’ at the right time and their natural instinct to act results in an act of heroism. More often than not, a heroic act is spontaneous, a spur of the moment action.

In my neighborhood, and I’m sure in others, there is a cadre of volunteer shoppers, generally women, organized and managed by one individual who recognized that some of us older folks might need stand-ins on shopping day during the CoronaVirus ‘skirmish’.

Was she ever right!

There are other neighbors who have reached out to us on their own accord and whose services we’ve used to help keep our prescription and food shelves supplied.

These are ordinary people doing extraordinary deeds. stepping into an environment, stores, that may not be the healthiest place to be. But, they do it, to help.

As one neighbor succinctly expressed her feelings:

“I’m happy to help-truly helps me to get through this knowing I can do a little something for someone else”.

These are the ‘heroes among us’. They don’t wear uniforms. Don’t have capes or super powers, but they do wear masks, masks in the fight against Covid-19.

We, the people designated as vulnerable to the virus, are appreciative of this help. And we don’t need to ask, ‘who was that masked woman’, because we already know…

…they are ‘the heroes among us’!

That’s what I’ll remember!

Steve B

(Srbottch.Com for more stories)

To: Adrienne, Lisa, Shameer, Andrea, Dan. Eva, Elizabeth, Julie, Jennifer, Joshua et al who volunteer to ease your neighbors’ worries

May 2020

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: Oh, What We’ve Missed…

“Today, April 30, 1789, is a big day in American history. It happened in New York City and was the first of its kind. Do you know what it is?” *

This would have been today’s question at the Curbside Classroom. ‘Would have been’, because school has been shutdown, suspended, due to the Coronavirus.

April 19th, 1775 in colonial Lexington was another landmark day in American history, as was the prior day, April 18, that same year. The American poet with the long name, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, memorialized the 18th in his poem, ‘The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere’.

So many topics the kids and I are missing at the ‘Curbside Classroom’ because of our ‘furlough’ from school and my school crossing duties.

Sure, the daily history tidbits are interesting, but there’s so much more that we discuss, point out, quiz, laugh about in the minute we have while waiting to cross to the brick and mortar classrooms: beautiful sunrises, ducks in Buckland Creek behind us, planets lining up, and for the early crossers, the amazing ‘Morning Star’, Venus, as it visits us in late Spring, .

We try to cover it all, and then some: Word-of-the-Day, famous people, quotes, trivia, space, explorers, the mundane and the sublime. What is a Z-O-E-T-R-O-P-E and how do you pronounce it? Oh, the fun we’re missing, the dialogue, the learning and the laughter.

The end of the school year was in sight, then we were interrupted, sidelined, benched by the Coronavirus. There will still be an ending, but we won’t be at our customary stations to experience it.

I’ll miss reminding English students of Homer Simpson’s quote, “English, who needs it, I’m never going to England!” The math students will miss me mentioning Pythagoras and his equation, first thing in the morning.

And we all missed the 108th birthday celebration of the Oreo cookie. I had to eat them all, myself. Oh, my!

Greeting kids by name, asking about their day and future plans, especially Seniors. I miss that. Some are going on to college, others into the work force, while a few are heading to the military. I wish them all the best.

If I was to give a Curbside Classroom Commencement message to the graduating class, it would be this quote from Sarah Caldwell:

“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can…there will always come a time you’ll be grateful you did”.

Who was Sarah Caldwell? Well, I always try to leave something for personal research.

Yessiree, we missed a lot this Spring, but mostly I missed you, the kids.

Steve B (srbottch.com)

To all the kids in the TCMS and BHS, especially those who cross at the Curbside Classroom

* George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States

May 2020

2 x 6 x Fore: Golf In the Age Of COVID-19

To the uninitiated, golf looks like a crazy game. Walking around a field for a few hours hitting a small ball into a small hole does sound a bit nonsensical, maybe more so in the age of COVID-19, the CoronaVirus.

Just a few days ago, on an early morning walk, I noticed two gentlemen (twosome) playing this ‘crazy’ game. It was damp and chilly, normal for early April in western New York. A light fog hung in the air as they trudged along between shots, with their bag full of ‘sticks’ (clubs) slung comfortably over their shoulders. They appeared nonplussed by the conditions on the course and the concerns in their community, going about their play, bonded by a common interest and obvious love of the game of golf

Unlike politics, golf is not a ‘blood sport’. On the contrary, it’s a gentle game, played by gentlemen and gentle ladies and even youngsters learning the art of being gentle.

For those who love it, it’s almost a perfect game: you against a course that has withstood the challenge of thousands of other golfers over time, yet still stands, or lays, scuffed and scarred, maybe, but rarely beaten.

A course with its plush green grasses (fairways & greens) cut to different heights atop an earth that bends left or right (doglegs), or steers straight ahead, with dips and rolls, and hazards placed precisely, or randomly, to catch the tiniest of unforced, self inflicted errors, diminishing further, in all likelihood, an already bruised ego.

It’s a game with strange words: birdies, bogies and, my two favorites, mulligans and gimmies. The courses, literally manicured fields, where the game is played, have some of the most recognizable and romantic names in sports: Augusta, St. Andrews, Pebble Beach, Sawgrass and here in Rochester, New York, the classic Oak Hill.

Champion golfers compete for fabulous prize money almost on a weekly basis. They ply their trade in front of legions of spectators who march behind their heroes, cheering after well struck shots while practicing monk like muteness during swings. A personal oath of silence is golden on a golf course, yet a tiger-like roar can be heard across fairways when a star makes a great shot.

Amateur golfers of all skill levels display a level of enthusiasm unparalleled in other sports. A devotee finds something in the game as reason to return to play, again and again, even during a pandemic, apparently.

Case in point, the aforementioned twosome. Nothing was going to stop their game, today. Not the morning chill and dampness, not even the CoronaVirus.

However, to be fair, the two were keeping the proper social distancing of 6 feet minimum, and if they did have to approach other golfers, shouting a warning to beware would suffice…


Steve (srbottch.com)

To golfers everywhere, come Hell or high water.

The Mask

Warning: scary pictures included, view at your own risk!

The Lone Ranger had his mask, Zorro wore one. Batman and Robin did, as well. Even the monstrous Hannibal Lecter had a face covering, of sorts, not so much to hide his identity but more to protect his prey, other humans, from a nasty consumption habit.

Now, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, I have a mask, one that’s a nighttime fixture on my face.

However, whereas the aforementioned fictional characters were crime fighters hiding their real persona, except for Hannibal, I’m just an ordinary man trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Recently, I was diagnosed with ‘sleep apnea’, the ‘temporary cessation of breathing’ (apnea), especially while sleeping. Strong emphasis on ‘temporary’.

Apparently, sleep apnea is a common problem among men and women and the appointment backlog at the local sleep clinic reflects it.

A recent sleep test showed my REM sleep was grossly inadequate, and the Rx for it was a CPAP device, the mask. And herein lies the problem. I’m sleeping better but the physiology of my face appears to be changing.

The symptoms are easily recognizable, fatigue, drowsiness, low energy, especially during times of idle moments. I’m a Senior and whatever idle moments I have left are not to be wasted on fatigue.

Prior to my diagnosis, I wore the customary marks of a maturing gentleman; small creases on my cheeks, slight baggies under the eyes, some redness, nothing too dramatic.

But, alas, now I’m getting furrows on the cheeks, puffiness under the eyes like a prizefighter, and redness like frostbite. What a mess! And it’s daunting to think that the Rx was written for life!

The data shows that the mask is working. So, I’ve accepted it, albeit begrudgingly, facial marks and all.

Odd thing about medical devices, while helpful on the one hand, they can add a whole new persona to one’s character. The massive bandages following shoulder surgery give one the appearance of the fictional ‘hunchback of Notre Dame’. A line of staples on a shaved head remind onlookers of the Frankenstein monster.

I’ve had them all and now, at night, with my mask, I’ve become the irascible Hannibal Lecter. My wife must sleep with one eye open. I wonder if she would mind if I took just a nibble? I wonder…

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: The ‘Ubiquitous’ QWERTY…

This could be a story about innovation, imagination and invention. Or, it could be an historical footnote about manufacturing and engineering. Maybe it’s about words and vocabulary. Actually, it’s all that and a little bit more. Here’s what happened one week at the ‘Curbside Classroom’*

Monday, while waiting for the crossing signal, I asked the kids, “Do you type?”

Silly question, of course they type, in one manner or another; these kids grew up with keyboards. They’re everywhere, keyboards, that is.

Tuesday, I asked, what is QWERTY?’. That’s right, the top left row of letters on the keyboard. Generally, the kids knew that. But it’s also on the typewriter, that dinosaur of office equipment which most kids have only seen in pictures. Of course, QWERTY is on smartphones, too, everyone knows that, certainly kids do. It’s everywhere there’s a keyboard, QWERTY, that is.

QWERTY is the name of the standard layout of keyboard letters developed by the inventors of the typewriter and refined by the engineering staff of the typewriter manufacturer, the Remington Company. What was developed and improved in the late 1800s is the same keyboard layout we use today. It’s everywhere.

When Wednesday came about, we talked more about the Remington Company, still a major employer in the Mohawk Valley small town of Ilion, NY. While Remington didn’t invent the typewriter, it bought the rights to manufacture it and still operates in the same location today, manufacturing long guns for hunters and recreational shooting.

Finally, Thursday arrived and we put a bow on the week’s topic with the word UBIQUITOUS. How nicely it tied in with the discussion of the typewriter, because unlike that monstrous machine which was last manufactured in the US in 2004, the QWERTY layout still exists and its UBIQUITOUS, it’s everywhere.

We started with a simple question and one thing lead to another. That’s how it works with kids who are interested, at least for the one minute I have their attention. It was almost as though I had planned it.

Friday? Well, I gave them a minute off from thinking…

What’s next, maybe Velcro…

*The sidewalk spot where kids wait to cross a 4 lane highway on their way bto school. I am the crossing guard.

The Sled

‘It was a simpler life, then’. At least it seemed to be. My contemporaries generally agree. “Life was so much simpler, then’ is a common refrain.

Take our recent midwinter storm, more than a foot of snow blanketing the area, more along Ontario’s lakeshore communities. Area wide schools closed and thousands of kids are home.

Oh, my, what to do? No school and big snow.

In today’s frenetic world with many dual income households, ‘what to do’ (with a weekday full of kids) can be a challenge. But, back in the day, ‘life was simpler’. In my blue collar, working class neighborhood, one parent was always home, the mom, so supervision and care was not an issue. Thus, a ‘snow day’ likely meant hours of outdoor physical activity for us kids, work followed by play. Limited options. ‘Life was simpler, then’.

A shovel was the tool for work and a sled, the gear for play. The big name in sleds, then, was the ‘Flexible Flyer’, a top tier piece of equipment. I never rode one, too expensive for my dad’s seasonal wallet.

But my sled had a name that made it sound fast, ‘Arrow’. Narrow boards with a simple steering mechanism atop steel runners, and a rope to pull it up hills, time after time, hour after hour of fun. ‘Life was simpler, then!’

Lying on our bellies, head first and looking up, we felt like we’d been shot from a cannon after a running start, sliding over bumps, humps and jumps, aiming at them for more thrills and spills. Steering allowed for slight movement left or right, helpful when heading for trees, or parked cars as the fun often took place on neighborhood streets.

I’m seeing every action packed moment now as I look back through my rose colored glasses. On hard packed snow, the rides were long, fast and exhilarating.

We’d take turns posting at intersections to watch for cross traffic, then fly to the bottom after the all clear signal, whooping and hollering along the way. Our young legs were never too tired to trudge up the hill for run after run after run.

No school, no problem. There was plenty to do, especially with a big snow, a dose of enthusiasm and a sled.

The wooden sleds eventually gave way to lighter, faster and more durable plastic models. Things change. But one constant will always be the same, the memories made playing outside on cold, snowy days when school was canceled and ‘life was simpler’

Steve (Feb 2020)

Find more stories on my blog, ‘S’amusing‘ at ‘srbottch.com’


Listen, do you hear it? The proverbial pin drop that always describes ‘absolute quiet’?

Close your eyes and sniff! Do you smell it, the familiar scent of a room full of books?

It’s the library!

The branch library on Main Street had a special attraction for me, in my hometown of Worcester. If I close my eyes and conjure up that time in my life, I can easily picture it. And, yes, smell it, too!

From the large storefront windows that displayed books, to the sprawling checkout counter, I can see myself there now, kneeling on the carpeted floor, head angled forty-five degrees to the right, reading book spines in the hunt for exciting titles, in the ‘young readers’ section.

The bespectacled librarian, with her laser-like stare that could burn a hole right through you, and a well developed ‘Shhhhhhhh’ that blew through the room like a nor’easter, kept the library orderly and mum. She’s gone, of course, and I doubt the library is still there, more likely a nail salon now, with last year’s magazines. They’re everywhere, salons that is.

The Battle of Britain, Custer’s Last Stand, Ghengis Kahn and The Mongol Horde, as well as other Landmark titles were among my favorite books. I’d walk home with more than I could read in the allotted check-out time. Nevertheless, it was easy to pick one, settle down and get lost in adventure after adventure. Books can do that.

Sure, I have a Kindle and other electronic devices to download stories. And, yes, I can get books on tape, but there’s something special about patronizing a library. You’re among other readers for some quiet socializing, you’re moving for exercise and looking so sophisticated when walking about with your L.L.Bean ‘save the earth’ recyclable tote.

Of course, as a preteen, the library was a place to rendezvous with that ‘special love of your life’ where it was actually okay to say sweet nothings to each other, as long as they were whispered. You got to practice being a gentleman by carrying your love’s books home.

Reading was such a pleasure at that age but changes were about to happen. I hit middle school, then high school and reading books became a requirement for book reports, sometimes orally. The stress caused by a ‘requirement’ put the brakes on reading for pleasure. Landmark became ‘badmarks’ because once reading was required, I lost interest.

Fortunately, as an adult, I recaptured the pleasure of reading. My favorite genre is historical fiction and biographies. My town has a beautiful public library of its own where they have a great selection to satisfy anyone’s reading taste.

Do you enjoy reading? What is your favorite material to read and is there a book that stands out as your most enjoyable ever?

Mark Twain is credited with the following:

A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.’

My books are like trophies, they collect dust, but take me wherever I want to go and I proudly display them.

To Jennie and book lovers everywhere, and to Sheila and all librarians who have mastered the ‘Shhhhhh’…

Steve (srbottch.com)

January 2020