The Bar Chronicles, #11: The ‘Poo-Poo’ Platter

Bar Night 2

“…and yet a true creator is necessity, which is the mother of our invention.“ (Plato)

The sidewalk tables were filled with patrons on the first nice evening of spring and Caverly’s Irish pub, a corner bar on South Ave in Rochester, NY,  was headed for a busy night. We filed inside, four of us tonight, the screen door slamming behind us, as screen doors are wont to do, a not so subtle announcement of our arrival. No one noticed.

Inside, we claimed our usual spot, an old, round pedestal table near the door.  Its nicked and bruised finish could not belie its history as witness to many rowdy nights of reveling. The Irish music was a bit loud, but tolerable.

We’re not philosophers, seers nor politicians. We’re just four friends, retiring gentlemen all, sitting around a table, commiserating about how things are and wistfully offering how they ought to be, if we ‘ruled the world’.   And, of course, the cold beer or two we’re enjoying helps validate our opinions and solutions on this, our eleventh ‘bar night’.

Tonight was a night to drone on about the unimportant ‘why’s and and why nots’ in life. Good fodder for idle conversation for ‘older guys’, but in the overall scheme of life, not so much.

We raised and clinked our glasses in traditional fashion, gently, to avoid spillage and waste, and toasted best wishes to one and all,  then began our mundane topics.

Why does rush hour traffic move like an inchworm, stretching and compressing, stretching and compressing? And, why is the cost of higher education so high? Why not just make it free by using other people’s money?  Contrary to the axiom, there are ‘free lunches’ if another party pays.   We picked good fodder tonight, didn’t we?

And for the gem of the night, why isn’t there a reliable option to scooping up dog excrement other than a hand in a plastic bag? There is now, the hands free and no mess ‘poo-poo platter’, a two piece assembly consisting of a plastic bag over a five gallon pail cover (photo).

PooPooPlatter 1

Simply slip the ‘platter’ under the dog’s bottom as it squats and collect the ‘deposit’ in real-time. Fold the bag over the cover with the poop inside, secure the top and properly dispose of it. What could be more simple, efficient and cleaner?  I would attach an action shot, but…

Our group was somewhat hesitant, shall I say reluctant, about investing in further development of the prototype I introduced. It needs marketing and all the stuff that could make this the next ‘hula hoop’: low investment, big return.  No one was willing to play the ‘Shark Tank’ game, maybe for good reason.

We didn’t solve any major problems and laughed about the ‘poo-poo platter’ on the ride home, a straight ride in our town. The frivolity was a perfect example of  the camaraderie among this peer group; lightweight topics and the willingness to express inane thoughts.  It fit perfectly into the blog theme of ‘good times, good places and good people’.

By the way, I’m a perfect 20/20 for ‘catches’ with the ‘Poo Platter’…

PooPoo Platter 2

Steve

srbottch.com

Dedicated to problem solvers everywhere, even those who just talk about it

The ‘Barre’ Chronicles…with a twist 

Barre-1st position

I stood at the barre, toed-out, alone in my masculinity and surrounded by a rainbow of colors, women in their exercise tights and tops. And me, with skinny legs in baggy gym shorts and a wrinkled cotton t-shirt with the logo of a local beer manufacturer, I’m the tallest, oldest, and only male ‘at the barre’, a consummate ‘fish out of water’.

Nevertheless, I would not be deterred. 

That was weeks ago and I’ve been ‘hitting the barre’ twice weekly since then. Still in loose shorts but more confident in knowing and doing the routine. First and second position are second nature to me, I wobble a bit on the relève but show good flexibility on the plié, as I squat low, then lower.

And in that two-a-week regiment, I’m seeing more muscular quads, thickening thighs, and firm buttocks with each passing class. But enough about my classmates, my own physiology is improving, as well.  The legs are stronger, my posture has improved and my hair is growing back…(two of three are true).

Barre exercise incorporates some ballet, yoga, balance and weight-bearing movements, using hand weights, balls, bands and the ever-present ballet barre, with multiple repetitions. The muscle ‘burn’ is often intense but momentary, while the feeling of accomplishment is exhilarating and enduring. Completing a routine often becomes an issue of mind over matter and I smile with an inner arrogance, knowing that I’m pushing myself to new limits. What I lack in grace or style, I make up with grimaces and grunts.

Exercise is like that, isn’t it?  Push yourself to reach a level, then reset to do better. The discipline to persevere and the resulting accomplishment are their own rewards.  The occasional injury is a nagging byproduct, a temporary interference.

Our instructor counts down, repetition after repetition, and when we think we’re done, she orders up, “One more rep, yes?”  In an earlier life I would have shouted, “Yes, Drill Sergeant!”. But, now, I just grin, grunt and go on the best I can.

Barre is part of the smorgasbord of exercise classes at my local JCC.  Along with Yoga. Tai-Chi Easy, some boxing and the pool, I feel myself getting a bit leaner and stronger.

And, if my alpha friends find it strange that I’m the only male in a class of women doing curtsy reps at a barre instead arm wrestling at a real bar, I just boldly offer them high fives, aggressive chest bumps and a declaration of the classic John Candy/Steve Martin line…

“How ‘bout them Bears!” *

Barre, Releve

Srbottch.Com

*Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It Was The 60s, A Decade of Change

Steve at Rockford College

“The 50s were relatively calm and peaceful.
The 60s were just around the corner.
What possibly could change?”
(‘It Was the 50s…I Was a Kid’ blog)

It was a proud moment, being selected to my elementary school’s boys choir to sing ‘I Am The Captain of The Pinafore’ at our 8th grade graduation. But, alas, we were a disaster, while the girls’ choir sailed away on a high note. A terrible way to start the new decade, the 60s, but a harmless lesson in life’s disappointments.

Up next, high school, and that meant the bottom rung for my friends and me, lowly freshmen, looking up at everyone. Upperclassmen garnered all the attention, naturally, even from the sisterhood of  freshman girls. The deck was stacked against us.

We were awkward, shorter than most girls and cursed with pimples from cheek to chin to cheek. Hiding them daily with creams and ointments was further evidence of our adolescent immaturity. But, it was the 60s, we’d grow up fast and our acne phobia would be small bumps compared to what lay ahead.

I ‘owned’ my parents, now that my sister was at college, out-of-state, never to return home, at least permanently. School and marriage were in her immediate future, a pattern I would later follow. But that was light years away in my universe as a young teen.  For now, I was too busy learning to dance to impress a girl I favored. Sounds crazy, but she liked the cha-cha, so why not learn it.  Unfortunately, she liked uniforms better, quit school and waltzed off with some young military officer in a new era of ‘Free Love’, the 60s. I quickly forgot her, but remembered the cha-cha.

The 60s saw a world seemingly unraveling. A Russian president pounded his desk with his shoe at the U.N. and threatened the free world, a Cuban dictator built missile sites aimed at our homeland and an unpopular war erupted in the rice paddies of Southeast Asia, a war that would scar our nation for years. It was a period of turmoil, uncertainty and drama, on a variety of fronts.

Assassinations took the lives of a young president, a civil rights leader and other prominent leaders.  Communities burned and mourned. Soldiers returned home in body bags and colleges were theatres of protest, often violent. Our country was being tested. Me, I was a college student in a midwestern city, away from home for the first time. And I was falling in love with a girl who still shares my life.

It was the 60s and the new norm was anything but normal. Within the decade, I’d gone from clueless to married, got a degree and a teaching job and let my hair grow longer, becoming a nonconformist…like everyone else.  Life was good, so it seemed. Then, one day, I got a letter from my ‘Uncle Sam’. My plans were going to change….

It was the 60s and the music told the story..,

‘Don’t stand in the doorway,
“Don’t block up the hall
“For the times, they are a-changin’”
(Dylan)

It Was The 50s and I Was A Kid, What Did I Know…

Front Porch (1)

It was the 50s, life was good. But I was a kid, what did I know…

I remember my mother waiting until supper was finished before contentedly sitting down herself, to enjoy a cup of tea and bite to eat. I grew up naively thinking that all mothers had the same routine; set, serve, clear, then eat. It was the 50s, and I was a kid, what did I know…

We never took a family vacation. However,  we were active as a family, bonding with simple, valuable, family activities: evening rides in our spacious Chevy station wagon for ice cream and hot dogs or to check out the wonderful countryside, fishing at local ponds, watching family television shows, playing games around the kitchen table, even venturing 40 miles to Boston for a baseball game.

We were part of a ‘blue collar’ community and’ living the dream’, it seemed. It was the 50s and I was a kid, what did I know…

june-n-stephen-1957

I watched ‘Three Stooges’ reruns and my father would scoff, “you’ll grow up stupid, watching that stuff”.  We watched Friday Night Fights together on a black ‘n white picture screen and listened on the radio when a Swede knocked out Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight crown.  I didn’t grow up ‘stupid’, nor did I become a tough guy.  The Stooges taught me how great laughter is and I learned nothing from boxing, except the cigar commercials caught my attention.  I would be tempted.  It was the 50’s and tobacco was still king. What did I know…

Annette Funicello, the prettiest Mouseketeer, surely saw me in the crowd at her K-Mart autograph appearance.  I had a crush on her, every boy did, I’m sure she winked at me.  But she never answered my fan letter.  Maybe it got lost.  It was the 50s, I felt heartbreak for the first time.

Big malls didn’t exist in the 50s. Neither did video games, but we had imaginations, enthusiasm and bicycles to take us places; museums, play fields, or downtown for stuff. Several of us went together for moral support when it came time to buy our first jockstraps for school sports.  It was the 50s, we were all kids, navigating our way…

The 50s was an exciting time for new fads, new music and new dangers.  Hula hoops became an instant craze and Elvis became an instant hit.  Parents worried about rock ‘n roll and morals while the government worried about a dictator named Castro. I worried about pimples.

mother-1951            dad-1957

Sitting on our front porch in the 50s, I would calculate my age by the year 2000.  Wow, that seemed old, I thought.  But that was a long road to travel and would take forever to get there.  With certainty, it came and went. I was so young when it did. At least, looking back now, it seemed I was.

The 50s were relatively calm and peaceful. The 60s were just around the corner. What possibly could change…

…but then, what do I know?

“That’s Why They Made Arms…”, A Father’s Lesson

1951 Dad at Ptown

“Pardon me”, I mumbled, while stretching and reaching in front of a shopper more involved with a cell phone call than picking a yam and moving outta the damn way… (excuse my tone, but, yes, I was becoming impatient in a grocery store).

“It’s okay”, she replied curtly, “besides, that’s why they made arms.”

Regardless if it was sarcasm, naïveté, or simple courtesy, her reply completely disarmed me, no pun intended.

I had no retort except to sigh and smile, which was not a bad thing. If we all could be coy enough to react to interruptions and interferences with a bit of sugar-coated sarcasm, there would be fewer angry people.

My ‘old man’ (I never called him that, but it seemed to fit well here) was a hard worker in every sense, fishing being no exception. He would rouse us early from our warm bags and onto the water before sunrise and before the fish started feeding. We worked hard for the catch and ridiculed, even scorned, the late arriving boats, the ‘9 to 5ers’.

A late Spring morning found us fishing for striped bass in a small bay somewhere on the Cape Cod coast (fishermen never reveal exact locations). With anchor down and the morning fog burning off, we were surrounded by schools of stripers and enjoying water thumping hits every cast. The late arrival from a shoreline dock noticed us and slowly motored his skiff closer and closer, casting deeper and deeper into ‘our waters’, hoping to be part of the action, himself, but failing miserably.

You could see it coming, my dad’s tolerance level fading fast, beginning with icy glares over our bow and across the water at this intruder who was oblivious to the angler’s rule, ‘you don’t fish in another man’s water’.

I was impressed with his effort to maintain control and decorum, but not surprised when he dropped his rod, cupped his hands in a funnel around his mouth and delivered a bellowing invitation, dripping with sarcasm…

 “Why don’t you come closer?”

The gulls watched from a buoy, the water went glassy, the fish quit working. We were surrounded by silence, waiting.  And then, it came…

“Thanks, but I think it’s the lure!”

It was a classic mocking response,  deliberate and subtle.  My father was at a loss for words … but not action.

The ‘old salt’ grabbed the wheel with one hand, gunned the motor, spun the boat to roil the water and headed to shore. With the other hand, he reached upward and back toward the interloper, and with nary a glance, delivered the anglers’universal one finger response.*

I realized then, years before my grocery store episode…

That’s why they made arms!

Steve B
srbottch.com

dedicated to ‘the old man’ who has filled my life with stories and lessons

*the writer does not approve this behavior, then or now…

A Hat Story…🎩 

“I collect hats. That’s what you do when you’re bald.”
James Taylor, Singer/Songwriter

I’m not a hat collector, but I am bald, on the top. Heat escapes through that unguarded space like smoke up a chimney.  Hence, I need a hat.

I find hats difficult to buy; so many styles, so many shapes.  A hat literally changes the way you look, for better or worse, often hiding the irregular shapes that a hairless head reveals. It’s important to find the ‘perfect’ hat.

Trying on hats in front of a big department store mirror is awkward, too. I use the dressing room for privacy where I can channel my ‘inner hat looks’ and zone in on the perfect one that fits those ‘looks’ as well as my head. I’m thinking something iconic, like this guy…

brando

I’ve worn a variety of hats over the years: team hats with logos, winter hats with side flaps. fishing hats, those grubby hats that smelled and got tossed around and stored with gear until the next outing. One smell of that fishing hat helped you recall the story of the ‘one that got away’.

hats-3

The Army gave me a ‘Smokey Bear’ hat. Actually, the Army doesn’t ‘give’ anything, I earned it. An odd shape, the Drill Sergeant hat was good for standing close to a trainee and pecking him on the forehead with the hard brim to make a point. I know, harassment,right?

hats-4

When I was six or seven, my parents dressed me for a brother-sister picture. Of all things, they found a soft hat my size that made me look like a little old man escorting a young and much taller lady to the local Moose Club for a night of  jitterbugging. Surely, it embarrassed my sister to pose next to me. I wore it just the one time.

Now, I am an old man and need a hat with a bit more style than my lifeless, faded Red Sox hat. It’s a classic but it’s ready to become a fishing hat.

red-sox-hat

Style, comfort and warmth, the three criteria for a new hat. I found one on a recent solo shopping expedition. It’s the Gatsby or ‘newsboy’ style. My wife is not a fan, says it makes me look old. I think she means ‘old-er’. I like it. It keeps the heat in and that’s good enough for me.

What do you think?

hats-1

Yes, hats can add style to your image, a little pizzazz to your ‘get up and go’. But thinking about the different hats I’ve worn, this one is probably the one I treasure most…

hats-2

Steve

Srbottch.Com

The Bar Chronicles, #8 (Rev 1): ‘The Interruption’*

Bar Night 2

“To our good health and friendship!” 

 We clinked the frothy pints of our favorite brews, IPAs and Guinness, and began another evening of general conversation, fellowship and beer, a couple of rounds if we’re lucky.

Our last experience was good enough to make another run to Caverly’s Irish Pub in the Southwedge neighborhood of Rochester, NY for a post-mortem discussion of our uniquely American system of electing a President, the ‘electoral college’.

But first, as usual, our pithy conversation commenced with a mixed bag of topics: living with brown bears (a Russian family actually domiciles a bear in its home); turkeys (yes, they can fly); and, cars (the environmentalist among us is getting a Chevy Volt…I want a ride).

Then, a bit surprisingly, came the interruption…

“Pardon me, fellas, ever see one of these?”

The stranger at the adjacent table leaned into our space and held out a round metal object. “I carry this in my pocket for good luck. Bet you don’t know what it is.” The sly grin and cocked eyebrow bespoke the confidence that he had us stumped. I was stumped.

(“I’ll take Local History for a thousand, Alex”)   

“It’s an old Rochester bus token, haven’t seen one for years.” countered the most senior of our senior trio this evening.

Slam dunk! Just like that, the intruder slid back in his seat, shoulders slumped, confidence gone, challenge repelled.

“A bus token, huh! He didn’t know I’ve been around since Roosevelt.”  Without hesitation, we raised our glasses, nodded our approval and silently toasted this ‘small victory’ with a drawdown of our ales. Victories of any size are worth toasting when you’re a Senior.  How quickly emotions can shift from one side to the next, or table, as was the case.

The mere mention of a President’s name segued us into an election discussion, not about the winner and loser but the electoral college. Do we like it? Does it serve its purpose? Does it validate the winner?

Interestingly, three of us couldn’t agree. One thoughtfully defended it as a method of assuring all parts of the country have leverage in the race. Another just felt that the popular vote should determine a winner. The third declined an opinion but did opine that we need civilian leaders who make smart decisions. We can all agree on that.

Someone kicked on the jukebox and an Irish ballad filled the small barroom, it was a good time to leave.   We headed out the door in lockstep to the rhythm of the music, egos in tact.

We’re Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives but tonight we put alliances aside and just enjoyed our friendship, a perfect antidote to a long, arduous and grueling political campaign. And we were only the spectators….

srbottch.com

*writer’s prerogative : I made a few revisions including a title name.  I think it improves the story.