Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter from the teepee (and my sister Shawn’s kitchen)

I admit I’m not a big fan of Easter ever since most of us lost the preceding Friday as a paid day off (what’s a holiday if you don’t get any time off, anyway?) and truth be told, the older I get the more wary I am of stuff like Cadbury eggs and ham & Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea.  But when my sister Shawn sent me this photo of my lovely niece Sophia in her new Easter dress, I couldn’t resist sharing it here.   Okay, I just now noticed those shoes.  My gosh!

I hope you  & yours enjoy your Easter Sunday in your own special way.  


Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Elephant in the Room—the big, black elephant in the room


Being a small apartment dweller, there are times I regret not owning a house.  Now would be one of those times.  I think people who live in houses take their space for granted, and even people in smaller houses who complain of needing more space still have a cellar or attic or garage that can hold those old suitcases or record collections or whatever else they’re not ready to part with but don’t want to live with anymore.  And dammit I don’t have that luxury.

I suppose there’s a plus side to not being able to accumulate stuff—less junk to have to deal with, and it helps to budget your spending (even when you don’t think you need to budget).  Would I like to have one of those countertop convection ovens or bread makers I saw at Macy’s?  Yes!  Do I have the counter or cupboard space for them?  Nope, not a square inch.

I’m dealing with this space issue as I speak; back in the late ‘90s, shortly after I moved in here, I bought one of these big-ass “bookshelf stereos” from Crutchfield.  Oh I could’ve bought something much less expensive locally, but I was in my mid-30s and had gone without a decent system most of my life & felt I deserved it.

Feed me!  (The thing has always looked hungry to me)  Anyway, it has a double cassette deck, an 8-disc CD changer & includes two remotes (one is even still in the plastic)

I took excellent care of it, it looks & sounds as new now as it did then.  But I haven’t owned any cassettes in years, and I became a lot more comfortable playing CDs in my car.  And my music collection became a lot easier to listen to on my laptop or the little MP3 player that holds 8000 songs & fits in my shirt pocket.

It’s still pretty to LOOK at, but two springs ago I bought some new bookcases for my apartment & I’m getting anxious to put them up.  (They’re still unassembled & stacked beside my bed.)  They’re much taller then the one this (long silent) stereo sits on but the shelves aren’t as deep.  Once I get them up, there won’t be any room in here for this humungous knick-knack.

This past summer, my sister said “Just put the thing in your laundry room, someone will snap it right up.”  Oh I KNOW they will--a couple years ago, I lugged my old tv cabinet out into the hallway (it weighed 100 lbs) and made a sign to hang in the lobby: 


I took the sign downstairs, hung it in the lobby, came back upstairs—and five minutes later the hallway was empty!  That 100 lb. box was GONE.  So if this elephant of mine didn’t have such a loud roar, I’d be fine with Shawn’s suggestion; but I’ve since learned that the walls here aren’t as soundproof as I believed (my gay neighbors have let me know this, the boys are real Beyonce fans) and the last thing I need is that Russian chick who moved into the unit next door getting her hands on my noisemaker.  I’ll throw it in the dumpster first!

I suppose I could put it on Craigslist… can I specify it’s not available to anyone who lives within earshot?  Oh forget that, I don’t want the next Craigslist Killer knowing where I live. 

I wish I could go back in time & ask my younger self what he did with that first stereo of his; he’d probably take the current one off my hands too.

Christmas 1975

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My niece Sophia, Mrs. G’s cat and a city of watercolors


When I was 7 or 8 years old, around my niece Sophia’s age, and our family still lived in town, a tragedy occurred down the street from our house.  I was outside playing in the backyard when my mom called me inside.  She was just hanging up the phone, and had been crying.

She said “I just got some bad news… a little girl who lives down the street was run over by a truck.”  I stood there, unsure of what to say, wondering if it was Jackie or Heidi, two girls I went to school with who lived on our block. 

Before I could ask who, Mom said “It was one of the Conklin girls, Robin.”  I said she wasn’t in my class.  Mom just looked at me.  She said  “A little girl was just run over and that’s all you have to say?”  I said “maybe it’ll be in the paper tomorrow…”   Mom slapped me across the face.  If she was looking for tears, she got them.  (In my mom’s defense, this was the first & last time I was ever struck like that.  Poor Robin survived the accident, but was left paralyzed.)

I’m reminded of this sad incident because of some tragic news my sister Shawn received this weekend.  My niece’s second grade teacher, Mrs. Garofalo, died in her home on Friday after falling down some stairs.  She was 62 & nearing retirement, married with 3 children.  I know my niece was fond of her teacher (most second graders are) and my sister was afraid how to break the news to her.  I told Shawn that I was sure Sophia would handle it well enough.  Later, Shawn wrote that Sophia was fine, but sad because Mrs. G was supposed to bring her cat to school Monday and now they won’t get to see it.  Shawn says this threw her at first, and it worried her some, Sophia’s lack of grief.  And I was reminded of that incident many years ago with Mom & myself. 

I’m no professional, but I just don’t think kids have it in them at Sophia’s age to relate fully to these sad events, let alone know how to express what they’re feeling in a manner we adults think we should be seeing.  Their primary concern at this age is the immediate world around them, their family, their home, their pets.  Personally I’m relieved Sophia seems to be taking it in stride, of course the news is still so new.  All I know for sure is that Sophia’s one smart & caring person, and when it comes to hearts there’s none bigger than hers.

On a happier note, I sure am proud of this budding artist.  Her artwork was recently selected to be shown in an art exhibit showcasing interpretations of Pittsburgh (only 6 pieces were selected from 3 classrooms). 

(I’m particularly fond of this watercolor, my place of work is shown prominently here, complete with the UPMC logo.  I should show this to my boss’s boss or something…)

I hope her week ahead is a happy one, and the world stays as bright & colorful as she sees it here for a long time to come.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

“Look everyone, no cavities!” The pros & cons of going to the Dentist

I love my dentist.  I love his practice too, the Doc has a terrific staff and you’re always made to feel like family.  Recently I got some work done (nothing major, just a ‘filling touch up’) & got there a little earlier than usual.  Little did I know that I’d be leaving that office with more than a shiny tooth.

While waiting to be seen, I was thumbing thru some of the magazines out front and was surprised at what I was reading: a medical journal said that daily aspirin users were at a higher risk than average of developing macular degeneration.  What?!  It said that recent studies showed that people who took daily doses of aspirin in an effort to avoid strokes or heart attacks were doubling their risk of losing their eyesight in old age.   I’ve been taking 2 baby aspirins a day since 2004!  Now what?  Do I stop with all the pill-poppin??



I threw down the magazine & picked up a Reader’s Digest.  I begin flipping pages and saw this:   “Salt, Healthy?  Why it may no longer be Public Enemy No.1”.  (Click on the title to read the article.)  It said that initial studies of salt was based on flimsy evidence from 40 years ago that’s never been successfully duplicated.  It went on to say that recent studies showed people on low sodium diets died sooner to boot!  Now what?  I thought I ate too much of the stuff, but do I stop with all the salt-shakin’??



I began feeling a little panicky but thankfully BJ said the doctor was ready for me & I didn’t read any more worrisome stuff.

So I head back (this is BJ, who manages the office and is the niicest person you could meet) and I’m greeted by Doctor Antonucci.

  • DOC:  Doug!  Hey, last night I watched ‘The Graduate’, guess what my favorite part was!
  • ME:   “Plastic.”
  • DOC:  Oh you!  BJ, bring me that really big syringe!  So Doug, how much is the rent on your apartment?
  • DOUG:  $555.00 plus all utilities, why do we need a big needle?

The doc went on to ask me if I remembered a few years back when he said he was going to convert the floor above his practice into two high-end apartments.  I sure did, and he excitedly told me he’d done just that, and they’d be ready for occupancy this spring—and he’d like to have me as a tenant.

  • ME:    How much are you planning on asking for these cribs?
  • DOC:  Now you KNOW they’re all new, right?  Hardwood flooring, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops.  Oh BJ, bring me those wood samples!
  • ME:    Nice!  So how much?
  • DOC:  $850.00 and did I mention it has an eat-in kitchen?   
  • ME:    Ulp!  That’s 300 more then what I’m paying now Dr.A…
  • DOC:  Oh come on, 300 dollars isn’t going to break the bank Doug!
  • ME:    That’s 3600.00 more a year!  Doc you’re rich--trust me, that’s a lot of money!
  • DOC:  Douglas, just because I own a restored Victorian mansion in Point Breeze and another apartment building in Ben Avon & this office doesn’t make me RICH! 

(BJ showed up then, holding a slab of dark cherry wood in one hand & one big-ass needle in the other.) 

After the doc got his hand in my mouth, he said “Doug wouldn’t you like a brand new kitchen?”  I said “Ah av tees itchen nah”  & he said “You say you have a 90’s kitchen now?  Oh Doug, tsk tsk…”   Haha!  Doc I WISH I had a ‘90s kitchen—I said ‘70’s!  After we were done, he handed me my glasses & said “you should go home, write down all the pros and cons of moving upstairs and get back to me okay?” 



I honestly think it’s too high an increase in rent, regardless of whether I could afford it or not.  I’ve always prided myself on living below my means & with visions of retirement plums dancing in my head… I think I may just hold out and see if he drops the price down a bit.  Stay tuned.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Ode to a tea kettle (okay, not really an ode... just a fond farewell)

I’ll never forget when I first saw you.  It was November 1996 & I was on my lunch hour, browsing the kitchen gadgets at Kaufmann’s, looking for a small coffeemaker for my grandma for Christmas.

It was love at first sight.  I’d recently moved into a new apartment, and was on the lookout for “Southwestern” items (which was popular at the time but this was still before the internet & ready access to everything).  Anyway, your terracotta color was just right & I loved your style!  I thanked the Kitchen-Aid gods for this match made in heaven & snapped you right up.

You didn’t do much but sit there and look good.  (I had just recently become a coffee drinker, that Mr. Coffee I also bought for my grandma?  My dad told me to return it, Grandma had to cut back on the caffeine.  I kept the darn thing instead and got hooked on cofffee.)  But you still came in handy for the occasional cup of hot tea or cocoa and when you whistled I always came running! 

I loved you to pieces—as it turns out, quite literally.  Sad smile 

One night in 2002, my girlfriend at the time wanted a cup of soup.  We were watching tv when we heard a loud hissing noise coming from my kitchen—aw no!  It turned out you had a rusted hole on the bottom.  My local hardware store got me some heat-resistant touch-up enamel, but it was too late, your insides were rusted too.

(I learned a valuable lesson, don’t leave water sitting for days on end in a teakettle; it will pretty much eat thru anything metal.)

But gosh, you were like an old friend and I couldn’t bear to throw you out.  So there you sat on the back burner, year after year.  I got used to heating my water in the microwave instead, which is just fine I suppose… still, you’ve been out of commission a long time now.  Over ten years.  I have to let you go.

Mister Funky Burnt-Orange stainless steel teakettle, you’ve got a lot to live up to.

Mister Funky Orange