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?

October 2017

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


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

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


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

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!

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.


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.


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…

Steve (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 (