Monday, September 28, 2020

I’m about to make the 5th most important decision in my entire life

I’ve done my share of boneheaded things in my life, but I’ve made 5 smart decisions too:

  1. After dropping out of college in 1981, I went back to school in 1987.
  2. In 1995 I began saving 50% of my salary for the next 20 years.
  3. When I bought a new car in 2002 I paid cash and kept it for 16 years.
  4. I quit smoking cigarettes in 2008.
  5. In 60 seconds I’m casting my (mail-in) vote for Joe Biden for President in 2021.

I don’t think I’m being melodramatic here either.  My God, these last 4 years have been one nightmare after another and that’s not even including the pandemic!

This is the truth:  I love Joe Biden, but if Donald Trump was running against a bucket of paint, you can be sure who (or what) I’d be voting for.  That paint is nowhere near as toxic and it’s TWICE AS USEFUL

Fortunately, we have Biden-Harris on the ballot, not Sherwin Williams.  And here’s the mailbox in front of my apartment building where I just cast my vote. 

The woman who lives across the street from me was hanging this giant BIDEN sign on her second floor apartment Friday.  She saw me (and a couple residents in my building) watching and asked us how it looked from the street.  I said terrific, I only wish it was in NEON.  Good luck Joe!!

Friday, September 25, 2020

Practically perfect pizza, but this isn’t it (just keep reading)

The other night my sister Shawn emailed to congratulate me on my 400th blog post, and I thanked her but said I should’ve hit the 400 mark a long time ago. 

In fact, I told her I’d just deleted a blog I posted the night before, titled “One’s for Breakfast, one’s for Dinner, this Pizza Omelet is a Winner”.

(I sauteed red peppers, mushrooms & onions, added a handful of baby spinach leaves, and 2 beaten eggs and some milk. 

Once the omelet began to turn solid, I dropped in 6 “plops” of pizza sauce and sprinkled some shredded mozzarella cheese on top.)

My sister (who is honest to a fault—to a FAULT) said it looked strangely appetizing but gross at the same time.  

Well… it was okay in a droopy, eggy way, but nothing to shake a stick at.  And I have to admit, it certainly wasn’t pizza.  That’s why I deleted this blog after posting it.

I WANT PIZZA!  But that’s easier said than done with my jaw dysfunction; pizza crust is pretty much impossible. 

I’ve tried regular crust, thin & crispy, pan pizza, french bread pizza.  All of them are simply too dense for my jaw muscles.

And then I was sitting here an hour ago, wondering what to make for lunch.  I was pretty sure I wanted either a turkey lunchmeat wrap or a scrambled egg wrap (using a 10” flour tortilla, I go thru a pack of those a week) when it hit me—“Can you make a pizza with a flour tortilla?”

YES YOU CAN!  (Am I the last person on Earth who thought to try this??)

I placed a 10” flour tortilla on a foil-lined pizza pan and rubbed a little olive oil on top.  Sprinkled on some garlic powder, then spread on some pizza sauce, shredded cheese, mushrooms, onions, pepperoni.   Baked at 350F for 10 minutes.

THIS “PIZZA CRUST” IS PERFECT.  Crispy at the edges, EASY TO CHEW (but holds up under the toppings) and about as thin a pizza crust one can get.  I’m sorry for all the drama here, but I’ve been craving pizza for 2 years and I’m having ZERO trouble with this.  This tortilla pizza is the REAL DEAL.

Okay—back to eatin’!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

My 400th post! I feel like I should say some special words… but what?

I am suddenly at a loss for words.  I’m reminded of a Saturday night in November 2006, I was rambling on about family, the office & my love life—rather, the lack of one—to a couple of online friends who seemed to be enjoying it, when one (Ross) suggested I start a personal blog.  What in the world could someone like me possibly write about?

And now here I am on my 400th post and feeling that same way again. 

I remember when I did get started, I was going to try and leave news & politics out of things.  I didn’t want to look back in 10 years and see 50 posts of growls at Dick Cheney… Dick who?  Exactly!

I toyed with the idea of writing a humor blog, maybe I could become the next Garrison Keillor or Erma Bombeck.  Boo on that, I just wanted to be Doug Morris.

And now here I am, 14 years and 400 posts later, and to be honest I’m surprised it’s not a lot more.  Over the years there’s probably been fifty posts I started and didn’t finish, and some I DID finish but deleted before I talked myself into posting them.  Still, 400 is nothing to sneeze at. 

Gesundheit.  Sarcastic smile

So what do I write this 400th post about?  I was going to try & keep things lighthearted, then a friend sent me a recent NPR article where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against President Trump’s lawsuit to remove our states ballot dropoff boxes.  Oh and they’re also extending the deadline for mail-in ballots to be counted as the President of the United States and his Postmaster Crony DeJoy have CRIPPLED THE US MAIL.

Y’know, Trump and his merry band of traitors have done more damage to this country than Julius & Ethel Rosenberg—and those two got the electric chair!  (I would say we’re a more civilized people now, but one afternoon of Trump’s tweets will prove me wrong everytime.) 

Where was I?  Oh that’s right, 400th post!

That number has a special meaning to me, you know.  Waaaay back in the summer of 1970, when my family moved to the country, Dad announced that the three oldest—my brother Duke, me & our sister Shawn would begin getting weekly allowances.  (Duke would get $1.50, I’d get $1.00, Shawn 75 cents.)  

It was almost too good to be true, but Dad meant what he said and in June 1970 I began my comic book collecting in earnest.   The very first issue in said collection was Detective Comics No.400, hot off the newsstand.  It had a Neal Adams cover and was the most gorgeous thing I’d ever seen.

50 years and a thousand Batman comics later, and Detective #400 is STILL one of the best Batman covers ever printed

I’ve always found it curious that comics were priced at 10 cents throughout the 1930s, 40s, 50s… after 25 years, they jumped a total of 2 cents in the 1960s.  In all that time!

When I began collecting in 1970, they were 15 cents.  By 1985 they were 5 times that and I knew it was time to give ‘em up. 

(What people spend on them today… insane.  Let’s just say they’re no longer bought or even marketed towards kids.)

Oh shoot, I’m sorry.  How did I get on this subject?   400, 400…

Well, earlier this week I met with my therapist for the 400th time since my little painkiller incident on July 4.  (Alright, it hasn’t been 400 visits but it’s up there.)  Dr.G asked if I’ve been continuing my “social outreach” efforts, and I said yes and told him about the 4 residents here I’ve assisted in registering for the general election. 

(So far, 2 of them have gotten their cards!)

Dr. G said that was great, and I said oh wait—I haven’t told you about Betty, the 70 year old Trump supporter who delights in questioning my manhood everytime she sees me.  I told him I was thisclose to setting her apartment door on fire.  He said “For her barbs regarding your masculinity?”   I said “Yes of course—but she is a Trumper, so that will make it right.”

Dr. G chuckled and said “Well Doug I think it’s wonderful how politics has gotten you so engaged with people and current events.”  Excuse me, did the man not just hear me say I wanted to set someone’s door on fire?

(I’m just kidding, you know!)

When I casually asked which way he was leaning in the upcoming election, he only laughed and shook his head.  Fine Doc, it’s your business; but if I find out you’re one of them, I’ll have to introduce you to my friend Danielle.  She doesn’t like Trumpers either, and is a LOT more outspoken than myself!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

This Asian style chicken just got a little more special

Can I share something little but special?  Earlier today I went to the market to get some chicken, was at the checkout and said “Hey I was here on Monday, bought a bunch of stuff and a large bottle of soy sauce like this one.  But when I got home the bottle wasn’t in my bag.  Can you ask if someone found and turned it in?”

The store manager was nearby and said “We don’t have a lost & found for food items, but I won’t charge you for another one.”  He told the checker to bag this bottle without scanning it.

I said “Wait, you don’t have to do that.  I don’t have any proof I bought one.”

He said “Sir, I see you in here every week.  We’re happy to make it right.”

I never expected Kuhn’s to hand over another bottle solely on my say-so.  When I got home and saw some of my neighbors outside on the front stoop, I told them what happened—Liz vowed she wouldn’t shop anywhere else again, and Joel asserted Kuhn’s had higher prices then Guy Iggle (Giant Eagle) but was here 50 years for a reason.  Everyone nodded their heads in agreeement. 

Kuhn’s, you made me feel important today.  Thank you!

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to make some Asian chicken for awhile, but haven’t as my recipe calls for chicken breast which is too dense and chewy for my jaw.  So I thought I’d try it with boneless chicken thighs instead, and wow—I like it even better than before.

Doug’s Asian Style Chicken

1.  In a measuring cup add 1/3 cup hot water, 2 tablespoons ketchup, 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1/3 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp minced garlic, a couple good shakes of crushed red pepper flakes, a good shake of black pepper.  

Whisk it all together and set aside.

2.  Chop up and brown 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts –OR- 3 boneless chicken thighs in oil (I used canola) for 7-10 minutes. 

3.  Pour in the sauce, cover & simmer on low heat an additional 15 minutes.

4.  Mix together 2 tablespoons corn starch with 2 tablespoons water.  Remove lid, pour in cornstarch mixture, stir for 3-4 minutes until sauce thickens and reduces.

(Ignore that smaller pot, that’s just my rice.)

5.  Spoon chicken atop a plate of hot rice, sprinkle sesame seeds or chopped green onions on top.  Can you tell I love green onions?

I think the next time I make this, I’m going to add some water chestnuts & carrot strips sometime after I stir in the sauce.  Anyway, this turned out just right!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Hey Joe, look what’s coming!

Hey Vice President Joe Biden—oh and you too, Senator Kamala Harris—look at the update I just got on my mail-in ballot status!  

It should be here any day now…. Nerd smile

I know that politics & religion are considered touchy subjects on social media, and I CERTAINLY don’t want to stir up some hornet’s wasp on my dorky personal blog tucked away in the middle of nowhere, so I’ll refrain from saying who I’m planning to vote for.

But I have no problem sharing who I WON’T be voting for!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Doing some catch-up and a couple other random items

Do you remember the Brady Bunch episode where Marcia got hit in the face with a football, moped around with a swollen nose for a week, then awoke one morning to discover her face had miraculously healed overnight?  

That’s sort of what happened to me yesterday; I awoke Saturday morning, looked over at my bedside clock, realized I was seeing it quite clearly—jumped up and ran into my bathroom to see my face—my pinkeye was gone.  As mysteriously as it arrived, it vanished.

Later on after cleaning up and turning on my laptop, I was greeted with an email from my friend Erin that included a close-up of her face:  “Doug, I have conjunctivitis!”  

Ah, the medical term for pinkeye.  Oh my goodness… hang in there Erin!

Around noon, my sister Shawn, niece Sophia & brother-in-law Jim drove up to the city to help me assemble my new exploding dining table.  (Well, I’d prefer it remain a dining table but after it’s predecessor blew up…) 

My new table is da bomb

Several people have asked why I bought the exact same table again, and this is how I see it:  in the movie The World According to Garp, Robin Williams & his wife are looking at a house for sale, only to see a plane crash into it.  Robin says “We’ll take it” and when his wife protests, he says “Honey, what are the odds a plane will fly into this house again??”  

See what I mean?  One dining table randomly blowing up in my apartment is uncommon, but two?  My logic is flawless.

Anyway, a big THANK YOU to my family for coming up here.  While Jim & I got started, my sister & niece walked up the street to Lincoln Bakery and bought us lemon cookies and individual tiramisus.  They were very tasty (and very expensive).

Shortly after they left and I went downstairs to get my mail, I ran into a couple of my favorite residents, Helen & Mary Bean who let me know they’re still waiting for their registration cards.  (I helped them register online to vote last Friday.)  They asked if I’ve seen Betty, no I haven’t.  (Betty is already registered to vote, but wanted my help securing a mail-in ballot for her fuhrer Donald Trump.)  

I have come to a decision though; I wouldn’t help Jesus Christ vote for Trump, let alone a 115 lb. hermit crab named Betty.  She never should’ve gloated who she was voting for—when I helped these other ladies, I didn’t ask and they didn’t offer.   Sorry Betty.  No way.

And finally, just wanted 3 of my favorite West Coast bloggers—Perry in California, Ronni in Oregon & DJan in Washington to know they are very much in my thoughts this weekend.  As these wildfires rage on and we see the plumes of smoke from outer space… my God.  Stay safe, guys.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Yesterday I woke up with pinkeye, today my dining table exploded. What’s next??

I feel like someone is trying to tell me something and I’m not hearing them.


I awoke yesterday morning with my left eye swollen shut.  What happened while I was sleeping??  And why does this bad stuff keep happening? 

I know this hasn’t been an easy summer for many, but how many people can say they lost 65 pounds from lockjaw and wound up in a psych-ward for 5 days to boot?  And I’ll tell you something else that I wasn’t going to share on my blog—while in the hospital, I was infected with Covid-19 and wound up bedridden for 10 days. 

I didn’t write about it because all I’ve been doing for the last 2 years is sharing blocked intestine woes, kidney stones & TMJ, TMJ, TMJ.  I figured getting infected with Covid was Fate’s last jab at me before moving on to the next poor sucker.   (It was pretty rough too, I wound up wearing adult diapers for several days and dealt with breathing issues and chronic fatigue syndrome for 5-6 weeks.)

But I began getting better, and a couple weeks ago, things began looking up…

AND THEN I GET THE PINKEYE.  I can’t even see what I’m typing here!

And then today while I’m trying to pry my left eye open wide enough to read an email from my sister, who wanted to let me know she was feeling a little guilty this morning for not being more appreciative of how good her life is, my dining table exploded.

WHY DID MY TABLE BLOW UP??  I was sitting roughly 5-6 feet away on my couch when it happened.  It sounded like a small bomb had detonated, and I was pelted in the face & arms with pellets of tempered glass. 

For several moments, I couldn’t figure out what happened; did my ceiling cave in?  Did someone shoot one of my windows out?  It honestly took a minute or two to realize the windows were fine but my table was pulverized.

I later learned (courtesy of Google & my friend Danielle) that this “spontaneous implosion” of tempered glass tabletops is not common, but it does happen enough.

Well, at least Wayfair (where I bought my table 3-4 years ago) still has it in stock!  Let’s hope the second one’s a keeper.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Taking Chance: The story of a fallen hero, revisited

movie poster 'Taking Chance'

NOTE:  I originally shared this in Nov 2009, but given the recent allegations of President Trump’s disparaging remarks towards our fallen troops, I thought this movie deserved another watch yesterday.

I'm going to admit a couple things upfront:

I'm proud to be an American (like the song goes) but I don't own a big American flag, look only for products made in America, or sing along to Tim McGraw.  And when it comes to war, I'm not in favor of American troops in places like Iraq or Afghanistan, but I'm not necessarily against it either. 

What I DO know, regardless of where our forces are stationed, they deserve our unconditional support.  Tonight I got a good reminder of that with the film "Taking Chance".   I've seen a lot of movies, and I honestly cannot remember watching one that put a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes for the entire duration of the film.  

The movie is based on the true story of a Marine, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, who has worked stateside behind a desk for most of his military career.  One morning in 2004 while glancing at the latest casualty list of soldiers from Iraq, one stands out; not the soldiers name (PFC Chance Phelps), but his hometown, where Strobl also grew up. 

Strobl volunteers to accompany Phelps remains back to his family for burial.

Chance Phelps

Never seen in the film, the real hero here:  PFC Chance Phelps, who died in battle in Iraq 

While Col. Strobl receives instructions on being a military escort, we witness Chance Phelps body being prepared for delivery to the family's funeral home.  Specialists gingerly wash the deceased, and carefully clean his personal possessions.  (His wristwatch, dog-tags, a wooden cross necklace.) 

A full dress uniform is custom sewn complete with all medals and polished brass (even though, because of his injuries, it will be a closed casket).   Colonel Strobl is told that during the trip, from car to train to various planes across the country, he will stand at attention and salute the young soldiers remains at every entrance and exit point.

Saluting the soldiers remains

Kevin Bacon said that filming these scenes brought tears to both his eyes and the film crew


Along his cross-country trip (from Philadelphia to Wyoming), Strobl is taken aback by the respect shown to him, both civilian & from other branches of the military.  At one airport as he salutes the plane unloading, he turns to see the entire airport crew standing behind him, hands on their hearts.  On another flight, the pilot asks the passengers to remain seated after landing as there is precious cargo to be unloaded; a soldier killed in the line of duty.  Strobl seems the only one surprised.  The other passengers watch quietly as Chance Phelps container is wheeled off and saluted on the tarmac.

Michael Strobl

The real Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, who's report of the events surrounding his escort service inspired so many,  and eventually this movie

This is only part of the story, of course.  Along the way we learn more of Strobl and his modest yet fierce dedication to not just PFC Chance Phelps remains, but his grieving family as well.   (There is only one emotional scene by Kevin Bacon, who somehow manages to maintain a low profile while remaining the central character in the movie.)  

There is no great adventure here, no drama.  It is the voyage of one young hero's remains from the battlefield to his final resting place on a lonely Wyoming plain.

The movie isn't pro-military or even pro-America; just a poignant reminder on the goodness of dignity, humility & the showing of respect.  Chance Phelps father (in an interview after the film) talked proudly of the visits, calls & letters his family still receives from other Marines in Chance's battalion, and says "These men fight for their country, but they die for their friends."                          Music by Greg Laswell - "Comes and Goes (in Waves)"

Friday, September 4, 2020

Take my antagonizer, please (really… what would you do?)

In the classic Star Trek episode ‘Mirror Mirror’, Captain Kirk and his officers are on a planet, beaming up to their ship when their transporter beam is caught in an ion storm.  Their atoms are pulled into a parallel universe where they materialize on another Enterprise.

How do they know they aren’t where they’re supposed to be?  Well, for starters they’re greeted by a pretty sinister looking Mr. Spock, who’s sporting a goatee and instructing the transporter chief to hand over his personal agonizer.  “No Mister Spock—it wasn’t my fault!  Aargh!!”

(On this parallel Enterprise, the crew are forced to carry their own torture devices—yikes.)  Anyway, this “agonizer” episode has been coming to mind a lot lately, namely whenever I encounter Betty, a resident in my apartment building.  She’s MY personal agonizer—well, more like antagonizer—and right now I’m wondering what to do about her.  Help her or kill her.

Okay, I made a promise to myself (and to people who read my blog) a year ago that I wouldn’t talk maliciously of my neighbors… I just can’t believe how much one of them is getting to me and NOT IN A GOOD WAY.

This all began a couple years ago.  While the younger residents in my building keep to themselves, the older ones want to know you, especially if you’re of the retired type.  I was befriended by one--Betty (a widow, 70 years old) who somehow got it into her head I was a widower like her, Catholic, and a conservative. 

It took me awhile to learn this though, and once I set the record straight I was none of those things (and only went to Assumption Catholic Church on Fridays for their fried fish), everything changed.  She couldn’t seem to talk to me without sounding snarky.  This is just in the last week:

MARYLOU:  Doug is it true that management painted an accent wall in your apartment and it didn’t cost you anything?

ME:  Yep, you just have to choose one of their 3 colors:  Honey Mustard, Green Apple or Summer Suede.

BETTY:  Whoa, funny how you remember those fancy names!  Most men just call paint by their color!

Here’s another:

OPAL:  Doug, would you like a pumpkin scented candle?  My daughter got me a real pretty one but it’s making my cat crazy.

ME:  Haha—um, no thanks Opal.  I’m not into scented candles… guess it’s a man thing. (wink)

BETTY:  You have to guess when it comes to man things?  That doesn’t surprise me!

I just shake my head, roll my eyes.   Oh Betty… how I want to throttle you.

Anyway, earlier this week several of us were sitting outside on our building’s stoop getting a little sun & talking about the latest Trump lunacy, when one (Mary Lou) said she wished she could vote in this election, but she wasn’t registered (her husband used to say it was how they tagged you for jury duty).  Another admitted she never registered either, and my friend Mary Bean said she meant to, but it was too late now.  

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I said I was called for jury duty a few years ago, and it was an exciting experience.  (I wrote about it here.)  I added that it wasn’t too late to register, they could do it from home (online) but it takes a couple weeks to get your registration card, so they’d have to do it soon.

I asked “Do you ladies have a computer?”   All three smiled and said no.  Wow.  I said I could help, and both Marys thanked me and said okay. 

Sure enough, word got back to Betty who confronted me downstairs this morning and asked who elected me mayor of the building.  I smiled but didn’t say anything.  She said “Does that offer of yours extend to everybody?  Because I want a mail in ballot.”  I said I guessed so, and she said “Good then you can help me.  But if I were you, I wouldn’t ask who I’m voting for.”