The Crossing Guard Chronicles: These Kids Are Sharp…

“Good morning…know what day it is?”

Now, this was not a trick question. Rather, it was a ‘PSA”, Public Service Announcement, for the kids I cross as a school crossing guard. I thought that I was just reminding them of the date.

“Yes, it’s Pi Day!”

“Pie Day? No, it’s March 14th!”

“That’s right, ‘Pi Day’, 3.14…..”

They had me. They were teaching me, turning the tables from our usual morning exercise. And, it was fun, lots of laughs.

These kids are sharp!

The mathematical ‘Pi’, of course, is the ‘ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter’. No, I didn’t know that. At one time, maybe, but years ago. One of the kids, a high school student, told me. I had more questions, but we were across and my ‘source’ was heading for her building, probably to a quantum physics class.

These kids are sharp!

Nearly every morning, for fun and mental stimulation, I’ll throw out a fact, a riddle, a question, word of the day, and the young people receive it well. My reward is their feedback. And they’re not shy about offering it, participating in the ‘give & take’.

Since it was Michelangelo’s birthday last week, it seemed appropriate to remind them about the artist and one of his claims to fame, the ceiling painting of the Sistine Chapel.

I was quickly informed that he painted it at the behest, maybe order, of Pope Julius II and it took several years to complete. Should I have known that? A student did. (As a sculptor, painting was not his forte, but we can agree the ceiling is a remarkable piece of art).

It is not unusual for these young students to amaze me with their knowledge, level of instruction, and ambitions. They want to be engineers, physicists, sports marketers, mechanics And they’re a happy group of young folks, as well, with keen senses of humor, especially the older ones who are tuned in to subtleties.

I hope these kids are learning something from me. My challenges are often turned into a learning lesson for me. It makes a school crossing job a pleasure.

As for ‘Pi Day’, one student wore a shirt with the message, ‘Come to The Math Side, We Have Pi’.

These kids are sharp!

‘Pie Face’ Game

Steve (March 2019)

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

Take The Quiz…

“Double your pleasure, Double your fun, ………..

Do you remember this rhyme from an old television commercial?  Usually, there were a couple of twin girls who sang the jingle.  If you can finish it, then you’re of a certain generation.

Many people watched the Super Bowl for the entertainment pleasure of the ads as much as the actual game. Over the years, the Super Bowl has rewarded us with some of the best advertising money can buy, as millions of dollars were spent on brief but entertaining commercials.

This year’s Super Bowl ads, for the most part, were disappointing for message and humor. The Doritos ad with Chance the Rapper and The Backstreet Boys was pretty good, but other than that, ‘Meh’!

However, outside the Super Bowl, there have been some catchy ads over the years that are seared in our memories for both content and entertainment. Let’s have some fun, see if you can fill in the blanks of some of the old time ads. I’m sure you can do it…before looking at the answers.

1. Winston taste good ………

2. Please don’t ………. the Charmin

3. Fill it to the rim ………

4. Go Greyhound, and ……….

5. You’re in good hands ……….

6. Lucky Strike means ……….

7. Brylcreem, a little dab will do ya, ……….

8. See the USA ……….

9. Maxwell House coffee, Good ……….

10. Takes a lickin’ and ……….

Coffee commercials were very popular years ago and cigarette ads dominated the airwaves until they were banned.

Remember Wendy Hamburger’s line and the Little old lady who shouted, “Where’s the beef?” Everyone was saying it. Miller beer advertised their lite beer with a theme, ‘less filling, tastes great’. Celebrities would humorously debate which it was.

Can you think of some old time goodies? Sure you can, give us one or two and your score.

ANSWERS:

1. like a cigarette should! (cigarettes)

2. squeeze (toilet paper)

3. With Brim (decaffeinated coffee)

4 and leave the driving to us (bus company)

5. with Allstate (insurance)

6. Fine Tobacco (cigarettes)

7. Use more only if you dare (watch out, the gals will all persue ya, they love to get their fingers in your hair) (men’s hair cream)

8. In your Chevrolet (General Motors)

9. to the last drop!

10. keeps on tickin’ (Time watch)

How did you do?

srbottch.com (Feb 2019)

PS. ‘…Chew Doublemint, Doublemint, Doublemint gum!’

“You Don’t Have A F***** Thing To Say About It!!!”

Ahhh, army training, army messaging, army discipline. Some memories just stay with you, forever.

For instance, the corporal (could have been a general for all we raw recruits knew) who swore he couldn’t hear us as we screamed answers inches from his face. Does alcohol make you deaf and dumb?

Being called a dummy by the sergeant because my ‘steel pot’ (helmet) was backwards (excuse me, inexperienced and nervous), it stuck with me all these years as a reminder to check myself with one last glance in the mirror before leaving the house. Getting noticed by sergeants now.

But being told by the Senior Drill Sergeant that I ‘didn’t have a f****** thing to say about it’, after I was asked my opinion, well, that still brings a chuckle as I recall the exact moment.

That Senior Drill Sergeant’s assertion, that I ‘didn’t have an effin thing to say about anything’, just shut up and do as I’m told, is seared in my memory. He didn’t say that last part, but I was good at reading between the lines. i knew what he meant and took his ‘advice’ seriously.

And it worked well, army training, with that understanding. The military wasn’t built for opinions. It was built for action. There’s no time to debate. All discussions about any and every issue had gone on years before I came along. The rules work best when people react instantly to appropriate orders.

Strangely, when the training portion of my military service was completed, I realized, begrudgingly maybe, that it’s probably not a bad idea for a young man to have a brief period in his life when he has nothin’ to say about nothin’. Just do as you’re told. I think it fits into the broad category the army would call ‘discipline’.

Growing up and getting older teaches some of the same lessons but the army was kind enough to teach the condensed version.

I still check my appearance before leaving the house each day, making sure my ‘gig line’ conforms. The edge of my shirt, belt buckle and pant zipper must all be in alignment with each other: APPEARANCE! The corners of my bed sheets need to be tight and tucked, daily: ORDER! The area around my house is clean of any piece of scrap: CLEANLINESS! My shoe laces are still laid ‘left over right: UNIFORMITY! Above all, follow the rules:.CONFORMITY!

Yes, a substantial dose of discipline at an early age can have a positive effect for a lifetime. I just never understood, ‘hurry up and wait’*…

* anyone with military experience gets this

Steve B

To anyone with military training.

What Was Your ‘Playing Weight’?

Briefcase n Scale

If you watched the Super Bowl, then you couldn’t help hearing some players described by their size, not just big and bigger, but by their weight. This is often referred to as a ‘playing weight’ because these behemoths are on rigid eating plans to maintain weight within certain ranges to make them more effective at their particular job, playing football (American).

Did you have a ‘playing weight’ when you were ‘in the game’? A self imposed ‘playing weight’?

Moreover, did you ever think of your job that way, as a game, a performance, a contest? Every day, when you went to work, you stepped into your particular ‘arena’ to earn a living and the resulting rewards.

Maybe it was was an office, a factory floor, classroom or stage. A desk, car and other people’s offices was my ‘arena’. I was in sales, and ‘on the road’, to where ‘wins’ could be had, at the customer’s places of business.

In sales, there actually is competition, making the ‘game’ more real, the ‘victories’ more invigorating, and, conversely, the ‘losses’ more upsetting.

And like a performer or athlete, maintaining a ‘playing weight’ and good health was important to a successful job. For a salesperson, living out of a suitcase, eating restaurant or fast food meals while ‘on the run’, or having drinks with a client, weight issues were problematic. Proper diet, exercise and rest was always a challenge, and important to successes or failures. At least, it was to me.

In his book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, Dr. Franklin Covey referred to keeping oneself physically, mentally and socially fit, as ‘sharpening the saw’. And it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Hence, the ‘playing weight’. At some point, we realize that healthy habits contribute to more wins than losses. No matter our game, there has to be time set aside to practice sensible health habits. Maintaining a smart ‘playing weight’ is an important component of those plans.

When the game is over and we hang up our ‘uniforms’, whatever it was we wore, when we get out of the game, so to speak, it’s important to be cognizant, then, of our retirement weight, as well. We want to still be healthy enough to enjoy the rewards that were won earlier.

So, what was your ‘playing weight’ when you were ‘in the game’?

Steve (srbottch.com)

The Bar Chronicles: #22, UFOs (and you thought we only came for the beer)

Bar Night 2

The forecast called for rain, freezing rain and a quick blast of snow. Our plans called for beer, a cold beer and a heavy dose of camaraderie.

We would not be denied!

However, as veterans of western New York weather (a.k.a. ‘old guys’) with familiarity of the dreaded ‘black ice’, we walked cautiously from car to bar, looking out for each other as friends are wont to do, ready to reach out at the first slip.

A good thing, too, because tonight, at Caverly’s Irish Pub in the Southwedge neighborhood, our first Bar Night of 2019, we had a potpourri of topics on our agenda. In truth, we don’t have an agenda, we just get our beers, sit down and talk, ‘unplugged’!

First things first, goodbyes were in order for one of our dear friends in the group. Oh, Heavens no, not that kind of goodbye. he’s only going to Florida for a couple of months. Will be back here in March when he hopes winter will be just a fading memory. We all know, of course, that winter along the southern shores of the Great Lake, Ontario, lingers well beyond March, often with big surges deep into April.

We lifted our mugs high, or as best we could with sore elbows, bum shoulders and oil can joints, and wished our friend safe travels, warm weather and a speedy return because next time, he buys.

Do you believe in UFOs, other planets that sustain life? Do we occupy this vast system of universes just ourselves, we earthlings? It’s easy to be a skeptic, isn’t it. If you haven’t seen something, then it probably doesn’t exist. Or, have we seen it?

Got your attention? And you thought we only came for the beer. Not at all, but it helps. As we age and become more erudite (remember, the beer helps) we begin to address Life’s lingering questions, such as, ‘is anyone out there’?

What did the Navy pilots aboard the USS Nimitz actually see when they encountered … what shall we call it, a spaceship… off the California coast in 2004? The US government has records of the incident, an incredible story that involved well trained, experienced and credible personnel.

I know, you have your doubts. Read about it, yourself. Look up ‘USS Nimitz & UFO incident’ for a full version. Don’t take a writer’s word, I’m just trying to get and keep your attention. Maybe this Wikipedia article will turn you a little…

The USS Nimitz UFO incident refers to a 2004 radar-visual encounter of an unidentified flying object by US fighter pilots of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. In December 2017, infrared footage of the encounter was released to the public.

This Bar Nighters were getting into some serious topics, tonight, eh. And it wasn’t the beer talking, heck, we only drank one. No, this was deep thinking material, esoterica, one might say.

I looked at our clear skies differently on the drive home tonight and paused in my driveway after dropping off the last rider; stars as far as I could see, a limitless vista. I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘is anything looking back at me’, as I lowered the garage door and scooted inside.

Here’s a link for more basic data about our skies and those beyond…

https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/news-display.cfm?News_ID=573

And you thought we went out just for the beer.

Steve

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Snowball Fights Make Good Friends

snowballs

“Wop! Wop! Wop!”

One, then another, and yet another, ‘wop , wop, wop’, from different fronts, rock-hard snowballs, spheres of packed snow that when thrown expertly, leave red blotches on the skin or wet splatter marks on clothing. Mostly, they leave bruised egos! In the shoulder, the backside, the legs and the head, if you’re not watching.

“Run! Run for your life!”

War whoops from the neighborhood bullies who gathered to harass my friends and me on a cold, snowy nor’easter day, the kind of days school kids loved. School was closed, traffic slowed and monster trucks rumbled thru neighborhoods, pushing snow into huge piles for more outdoor games, a perfect atmosphere for snowball fights. These ruffians had lots of opportunities for ‘assaults’ on us during the long, cold New England winters.

Slam!

The kitchen door closed behind me.

“Just in time for dinner”!

“Why are you so wet?”  

“Why are you panting?”

My mother didn’t get it, had no idea of the peril I faced in the dilapidated barn behind my house where the ‘bad guys’ had us trapped, on the second floor, the ‘good guys’, trapped and running out of ‘ammo’. Snow fell through the leaky roof of the old building, but nary enough to ward off the lot of ogres, older by two or three years, ungloved and open jackets, impervious to the elements. Tough guys, the toughest, and outside the barn, with an endless supply of ammo, falling snow.

I had been called once for dinner…

“Steeeeeeeeephen!”

“Suuuuuupper!”

She didn’t, and wouldn’t, call more than once.

… but the bullies wouldn’t allow our plea for a truce, a ‘temporary suspension of hostilities’. Only a ‘brave’ jump from the hayloft door into a pile of snow and mad dash to my house saved me from…well, you can just imagine!

Yes, ‘imagine’, and I do. Such a beautiful word. I find that, as I get older, a little bit at a time, ‘imagining’ becomes a key part of what I remember and makes my childhood experiences even more vivid than they probably were.

Oh, the barn was there, leaning, and snowball fights were common. And there were older kids, lots of them in a working class neighborhood of large families, but they weren’t really bullies, ruffians, or ogres. Often, we were on the same side in other activities played outside on the streets, surrounded by fresh air.

However, winter was the season of the toughest games. ‘King of the hill’ saw friends tossed about while vieing for the top spot of a snow mound. Sledding was fast and furious, weaving around cars, trees or each other. Just knocking someone into a snow bank was a game. All of it, the rough and tumble, pushing and shoving, bonded our friendships more.

We wore ourselves out…outside, where we created games all day and came home to the loud yell of, ‘suuuuupper!’

I can still pack a good snowball and hit a target…and imagine…and remember.

Yes, snowball fights made good friends!

Steve

January 2019

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To all kids who played in the streets, created fun games with friends and still remember it all.