Tuesday, December 28, 2021

As 2022 approaches, Happy New Year from… wait, I haven’t decided yet

This past Thursday, returning home from a dental exam and teeth cleaning (of my remaining teeth that is) I looked thru my shuffle of mail, and saw I’d gotten a letter from Pennsylvania Agency of Human Services.

It said pending verification of my social security number, my application for public assistance—a monthly check, SNAP voucher (food stamps) and Medicaid was approved. 

It included my caseworker’s contact information.  Great, but--

I NEVER APPLIED FOR ANY PUBLIC ASSISTANCE!  I called the number on the decision letter and someone named Ashley answered. 

I told her they had the wrong Douglas Morris, this must be for one of the other Doug Morrises in our city because I know for a fact they’re all losers. 

How do I know this?  Because over the years, I’ve gotten calls & threats from bill collectors for a $400 bar tab, bad checks written for a bicycle & auto tires, and one Doug Morris had the audacity to open and close a flower shop, owing money to a couple dozen customers & creditors.  Oh and one was arrested for DUI, I got his court summons.  Need I go on??

Ashley said she was very sorry, and the only reason this was sent to me (she thinks) was because HER Douglas E Morris was moving into an apartment and mine was listed as being one.  Huh?  Anyway, she told me it wouldn’t happen again and I said I know it wouldn’t, because the first thing I’m going to do in 2022 is change my name.  First last & middle, the whole shebang!

After I cooled down, I thought about this off & on over the holiday weekend.  And then yesterday (my laundry day), in between loads of wash, I ran into my neighbor Janice in the hall, asked if she had a nice Christmas, then told her about the new Doug in town, and how I decided to change my name.

I added that after much thought, I decided I liked Douglas enough to make that my new last name.  Now I just needed a new first.

She said “How about Mike?  Mike Douglas!”   I said “You mean like the actor married to Catherine Zeta Jones, or the 1970s talk show host?  I also have an Uncle Mike, my dad’s brother.”

She said “Ok, Steve Douglas.  No, Rob Douglas!”   I said “Believe it or not, I’ve got a brother named Steve and not one but TWO brothers-in-law named Robert.  Where are you getting these names?  Oh I know, My Three Sons!  Janice, c’mon!” 

Janice laughed and said “When I was born, my mother named me after a girl she grew up with who died.  I always said if I had a choice, I’d be Angela.”

I said “My mom wanted to name me after her dad who died when she was only 5, but my dad talked her out of it.  His name was A-R-R-O-L.”   Janice said “How do you pronounce that?”  I said “Like a stroke victim attempting to say Earl.  Well, I’ve always been partial to Paul.  I feel like a Paul.”

Janice said “Hey!  I like the sound of Paul Douglas!”  I said “So did 26 other parents in Pennsylvania, I already looked.”

So, after wishing each other a Happy New Year, I came back into my apartment and began washing dishes.  I thought, I want something short, but it had to be uncommon too.  As I was rinsing off a bent fork, it reminded me of Uri Geller, that 70’s psychic who claimed he could bend silverware with his mind.  A voice in my head said “Uri… not Uri… Ari.  Ari Douglas.”

That’s it!  I ran over to my computer, did a search for Ari Douglas in Pittsburgh.  None.  In Pennsylvania?  NONE.  In the US?  Okay there is one. Hmm… it appears he was run over by a NYPD scooter during the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011.  Oh man, a loser.  But wait!  Ari Douglas sued, and 7 years later won 145K! 

He looks like a winner to me!  Okay, to be continued… in the meantime, Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

And the Christmas card winner is…it looks like a tie

A couple hours ago, my mailman buzzed me from the lobby and I hurried down there, thinking it was a package of some sort.  Nope, it was this Christmas card with a good third of it missing, in a “We Care” sleeve from the Post Office.  Jim (my mailman) said “Doug... I’m real sorry.”  

I like Jim, he’s a decent guy.  He’s my age and has plans to retire next summer.  I thanked him, told him it was okay but still winced a little when I saw the handwriting on the envelope.  That’s from my Aunt Dena, she always includes a letter inside.  Yep, half of her words were shorn off!

Thirty plus years ago, I started this custom of bringing 1-2 Christmas cards from home into the office and displaying them on my desk.  It was always AFTER the holiday, and they were usually from my mom & Grandma Morris, who both took the time to include nice messages inside.  In the beginning, a few curious coworkers would ask why I did it, and I’d say “Oh, they’re this year’s winners of my Christmas card contest.”  

I don’t know why this became a thing, but the ladies in my office saw it as a competition, and every year I wound up displaying 10-12 cards on my desk until Martin Luther King Jr Day, or until my boss would come to me for something and say “Dougie… c’mon!”

Anyway… I’m a 60 year old man now, never married or had a family of my own, so the cards I get every year are what put me in the holiday spirit.  Three in particular stood out to me this year (besides that shredded card from Aunt Dena).   A card from Bobi E., a lovely Canadian who wanted to let me know she enjoyed my blog and included a cool smashed penny taped to the inside.  Thanks Bobi, that’s going to be my good luck charm this year! 

The second was from my (ultra conservative) dentist Dr. Shannon, dressed up as a Disney princess.  Ugh, her politics drive me batty—but she has to be one of the kindest, dearest people on this planet.  If anyone turned me to the Dark Side (you know, the GOP) it’d be her.

Third was from my former coworker Kimberly Hall, who I haven’t worked with since 1997, or seen since 2001.  Only one month apart in age, we became close friends from the first day we met.  I loved her then and still do, and what she wrote to me in this year’s card made me cry!  My God, what’s wrong with me?   I’m a basket case!

Seasons Greetings Everyone

 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Dragon Food & Democrats: Where the Friday takes you

This past Friday was my sixth anniversary of leaving the corporate world behind to pursue early retirement.  To celebrate said event, my good friend (and former coworker) Danielle got together with me for dinner. 

It was great seeing her, the last time I saw Dani in person was in August 2019 when I met her & her husband Josh at Lincoln Brewery.  That was before the pandemic, which makes it seem even longer ago than it was.

Anyway, we got General Tso & crab rangoons from Dragon-Town up the street from my apartment, and Danielle brought along some very fresh cupcakes from the bakery. 

We ate in my apartment, and since my small dining table is being used by my ceramic Christmas tree, and I’ve yet to assemble that coffee table under my bed, I asked if she wouldn’t mind sitting on the floor and eating off a blanket like a couple of hippies.  Can you believe what I put my guests through?

She presented me with this (very heavy) 5 starred coin, and said it was in recognition of my many years of hard work at UPMC Healthplan.  I said “Wow, for real?  They’re giving this to me after all these years?”  She said “Of course not, no one remembers you!  All of us got one of these recently, and I’m giving mine to you.”  I felt like the Cowardly Lion getting that hand-me-down medal of courage from the wizard’s bag in Wizard of Oz.  Oh well, I always liked getting company branded stuff—I still have a pair of dark blue coffee mugs we got when UPMC Healthplan hit 25,000 members umpteen years ago.  I use them to this day.

While we ate we talked about estate planning and who we should leave our stuff to, the various streaming platforms on tv (we agreed that Netflix has too much junk and Hulu is our favorite) and Michelle Obama.  We still love her, wished she had run for President in 2020 but her motto “When they go low we go high” needs tossed out with the baby’s bath water.

I’m sorry Michelle, but it hasn’t gotten us anywhere.  We think Dems should go lower instead, and hey—we should have a couple crazy low-lifes like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene in Congress too, they pull no punches!

To be honest, as our chatting turned more animated (and more political) I felt the “old me” emerging again, someone I’ve been trying to keep buried in a shallow grave.  It seems the more bloggers  I’ve gotten to know online, the more I worry about stepping on toes.  A few weeks ago an old friend—well, not old but I’ve known this person since we were 9 years old—told me 1) they were Republican 2) they read my blog 3) I caused them discomfort over the anti-GOP stuff I’ve written here.

We haven’t talked much since, mainly because it left me tongue-tied.  The last thing I want to do is offend my friend, but it’s not like I’ve written anything I feel the need to apologize for either.  I’m a Liberal, dammit!  In fact, I have one liberal friend who keeps asking if I’ve gone over to the dark side yet because I never write anything here anymore.  I know he’s kidding, at least I hope he is.

Anyway, I’m just sitting here babbling.  I always get down in the dumps this time of year to the point it’s become a holiday tradition, and right now I’m not feeling motivated to do much of anything, let alone come up with an entertaining blog.  But I need to post something, I’m tired of looking at that photo of the two coats. 

Well, I think I’m going to close this up and make myself a cup of coffee, or maybe a cup of hot cocoa.  At least with my pair of vintage work mugs, I can have both.

 

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

A tale of two coats (or… torn between two coats, don’t know what to do)

Last week when I wrote about my ill-fated trip to the doctor (and learning I was 60+ lbs overweight) I included—then later went back and deleted—a piece about my winter coat.  I was getting dressed that morning, had my radio on and when they said it was 25F and not expected to get much warmer, I knew it was time to get out my dark brown winter coat. 

When I put it on, I was dismayed to find it really tight around my midsection; I could barely zip it up.  (I’d soon discover when I got on the bus headed downtown I couldn’t sit down without unzipping it first.) 

I bought the thing on clearance from JCPenney a dozen years ago, had been meaning to replace it for awhile anyway.  It was fine for most winter days, but never quite warm enough in January or February, when temps dipped into the teens or below zero.  Why I kept putting off buying a new coat every year is beyond me.

When I got home, I spent a couple hours online looking at LL Bean, JCPenney, Columbia (ouch they’re pricey!) and a couple others.  I finally found what I was looking for on Amazon.com, a Dockers MicroTwill Long Parka.  It came in 3 colors—black, olive, navy, priced at $89.99.  Most of the reviews were glowing, though some warned to be careful, as sizes ran “a bit small”.

I knew I wanted the olive, but do I order an XL, or XXL?  Wouldn’t the latter be much too big?  The XL Olive had 3 left in stock with the message “Only 3 left, order soon”, the XXL had 4.

I thought I’d sleep on it.  The next morning I decided I’d order the XL, if it was too snug, I’d return it for the XXL.  But when I went online to place my order, both sizes now said Only 1 left in stock.  I was out of time.  I put both in my shopping cart & pressed ‘Buy’.  They weren’t kidding about their inventory, the olive XL & XXL now showed “Out of Stock” for both sizes.

Have you ever ordered something from a catalog or the internet, only to discover it wasn’t as nice as what was pictured?  THIS WAS THE OPPOSITE OF THAT.  The Docker coats that arrived looked twice as nice than what was pictured (or expected).  Dark olive, very soft, “lofty”.  Made for very cold weather.  At the same time, they weren’t heavy.  Big zippers and metal buttons, quilted lining, pockets inside & out, water resistant—I’m in real love here.

HERE’S MY DILEMMA.  After trying on both, the XL is too small.  Unlike my old brown coat (also an XL) which is snug but zippable, this one can’t be zipped together at all.  Other customers said sizes ran small… but would it fit if I was 60 pounds lighter?  

The XXL (on the right in that photo above) is very roomy.  But will it become too big if I lose 60 pounds? 

Amazon is giving me a couple weeks to return one of the coats.  I have no choice but to keep the XXL, I need a warm winter coat that fits NOW.  But do I keep the smaller XL too?  What if I send it back, then lose the weight by next winter, want a smaller size and it’s no longer available? 

Questions questions… any advice?  Nerd smile

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

I think therefore I am… a fat man. A very, very fat man.

This isn’t what I intended to write about.  I was planning on writing that I haven’t been up to blogging as of late, and was going to take a break from things on here for awhile.

And then yesterday morning I had an appointment with my doctor to re-evaluate my hypertension meds.   

After a disastrous weigh-in (where I asked to be weighed again without any clothes), I met with my doctor who said she was aware of the “catch-22” with these drugs.  They promote weight gain, but she can’t reduce the dosages until I lose weight.

She said for a man my age & body type, my ideal weight was in the 205-210 range.  I asked if she was sure, told her that 6 years ago when I hit 260 pounds, made a big deal of it, posted a weekly online weight chart on my blog.  After one year of diet & exercise, I lost 50 lbs.  When I showed my sister, she thought I still had a ways to go.

My doctor said “My expertise is in nutrition & diet.  And 210 would be a healthy number for you to get to & maintain.”   As of this writing, I weigh 277.6 lbs.   

So I figure if I post another online weight chart, with a weekly weigh-in and public shaming—it might help motivate me.  So, beginning this Friday, I’ll be updating the chart below.  Wish me luck.

GOAL 210.0 CHART

Date Weight Gain/Loss Feeling Total
Nov 30 2021 277.60      
Dec 03 277.20 -0.40   -0.40
Dec 10 274.80 -2.40   -2.80
Dec 17 272.80 -2.00   -4.80
Dec 24 271.80 -1.00   -5.80
Dec 31 270.00 -1.80   -7.60
Jan 07 2022 271.20
+1.20   -6.40
Jan 14 271.00 -0.20   -6.60
Jan 21 264.60 -6.40   -13.00
Jan 28 263.40 -1.20   -14.20
Feb 4 264.20 +0.80   -13.40
Feb 11 265.60 +1.40   -12.00
Feb 18 263.40 -2.20   -14.20
Feb 25 264.20 +0.80   -13.40
Mar 04 263.0 -1.20   -14.60
Mar 11 264.0 +1.00   -13.60
Mar 18 262.0 -2.00   -15.60
Mar 25 262.0 0   -15.60
Apr 01 260.0 -2.00   -17.60
Apr 08 258.20 -1.80   -19.40
Apr 15 257.00 -1.20   -20.60
Apr 22 257.60 +0.60   -20.00
Apr 29 257.60 0   -20.00
May 6 257.60 0   -20.00
May 13 256.40 -1.20   -21.20
May 20 256.40 0   -21.20
May 27 256.40 0  Crying face -21.20
June 3 256.40 0   -21.20
June 10 256.40 0 Annoyed -21.20
June 17 251.20 -5.20   -26.40
June 24 253.0 +1.80   -24.60
July 1 254.80 +1.80   -22.80
July 8 255.60 +0.80   -22.00
July 15 253.20 -2.40   -24.40
July 22 252.20 -1.00   -25.40
July 29 252.20 0   -25.40
Aug 5 253.40 +1.20   -24.20
Aug 12 253.40 0   -24.20
Aug 19 253.00 -0.40   -24.60
Aug 26 254.20 +1.20   -23.40
sept 2 252.60 -1.60   -25.00
Sept 16 249.00 -3.60   -28.60
Sept 23 249.00 0   -28.60
Sept 30 248.20 -0.80   -29.40
Oct 7 249.00 +0.80   -28.60
Oct 14 250.60 +1.60   -27.00
Oct 21 250.60 0   -27.00
Oct 28 249.80 -0.80   -27.80
Nov 4 248.00 -1.80   -29.60
Nov 11 247.00 -1.00   -30.60
Nov 18 246.00 -1.00   -31.60
Dec 2 247.60 +1.60   -30.00
Dec 9 246.60 -1.00   -31.00
Dec 16 246.00 -0.60   -31.60
Dec 23 246.80 +0.80   -30.80
Dec 30 248.80 +2.00   -28.80
Jan 06 2023 245.00 -3.80 colonoscopy -32.60
Jan 13 247.20 +2.20   -30.40
Jan 20 248.20 +1.00   -29.40
Jan 27 247.20 -1.00   -30.40
Feb 3 248.00 +0.80   -29.60
Mar 10 246.40 -1.60   -31.20
Mar 17 242.20 -4.40   -35.40
Apr 7 242.80 +0.60   -34.80
Apr 14 243.40 +0.60   -34.20
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Meatloaves and man parks: one’s an easy fix, the other I’m not so sure about

This past Saturday when I awoke and saw the gloomy weather outside, I thought it’d be a great day for a meatloaf.  As I was rummaging thru my “pots n’ pans” cupboard looking for my glass baking dish, I stumbled across an old bread loaf pan I used to bake meatloaf in, but haven’t used in years. 

I gave it a good scrubbing (I bet I haven’t used this loaf pan in 15 years) then pressed my meatloaf mix in, put it in the oven and this photo is what came out an hour later.  It looked and smelled terrific.

(If you’re curious, my regular meatloaf recipe is here.)

However, after cutting the first slice and taking a couple bites, I remembered why I stopped baking meatloaves in it.  1.25 lbs of 80% ground chuck contains a lot of fat and there’s no place for all that grease to go; a couple of greasy bites was too much for me.  I had a sudden flashback to Paula Deen laying white bread slices in the bottom of her own loaf pan before baking a meatloaf, tossing out the grease soaked slabs later.  Well, I didn’t have any bread slices anyway.

I sliced the rest up and stuck it in the fridge, figured I’d try to salvage it later in the week.  I then got dressed and walked up the street to the drugstore, to pick up a couple prescriptions.  When the pharmacist told me it’d be a half-hour, I said I’d be back.  I headed up the block to the hardware store to see what was going on, maybe get a Christmas wreath for my door if they had them in. 

As I approached the store, I couldn’t believe what I saw on display in their glass window.  An assortment of holiday gift ideas, and front & center was this 2-piece meatloaf pan.

(The top pan is perforated with a one inch reservoir below.)  I felt like Ralphie in that movie A Christmas Story, the first time he sees his Red Ryder BB gun in that department store window.  Where have you been all my life!  I went into Joe’s Hardware, asked where those 2 piece meatloaf pans were and the price ($10.99) and couldn’t believe my good fortune.  If only all problems were this fixable.

As fortunate as I am, having my health for the most part, a roof over my head and financial security, I’ve been feeling pretty down for awhile.  The simple truth is, I have nobody I’m close to.  It’s been that way for awhile, but I had an assortment of medical problems these last 5 years that kept me from dwelling too much on such things.

There are people I know online, a couple former coworkers and classmates, other bloggers like myself; but that’s pretty much it.  Since replacing my landline with a smartphone 5 months ago, I’ve spoken on it exactly 5 times—twice to my old friend & coworker Susie, twice to my doctor’s office, once to my friend Erin.  I just don’t have anybody to really talk to or hang out with, or do things with.  

I’m not sharing this looking for sympathy or advice, I’m usually okay with things the way they are.  Sometimes it just catches up with me.  On my way home from the drugstore, I passed the Greenstone Methodist Church with a sign outside offering Thanksgiving dinner “Free to the Public” on November 25.  All they ask is that you call by November 21 and make a reservation. 

It may be free, but I’d happily make a donation.  I think I’m going to call and ask.

Later Saturday night, I was watching Saturday Night Live on NBC and was surprised to see this skit below; a dog park for men, for women to take their lonely guys to.  It was too funny and I wish there was one of these nearby! 

 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Saturday Night and The Secret Life of a Misfit

Saturday night around 10:30, I’m sitting on my sofa watching the final half hour of Dune on HBO Max and my eyelids are feeling a bit heavy, and I’m wondering if it’s worth staying up to watch the 11:00 news. 

My smartphone makes a soft chiming sound then and jerks me fully awake.  I’ve only heard this ring-tone a couple times before, when someone was buzzing me from downstairs.  I grab my phone, and see a text from Amazon.com. 

An Amazon delivery person has left a package on your front stoop.

Gee it seems kind of late to be getting packages, but who am I to complain?  Given the current state of the US Mail system, I should consider myself lucky.  I head downstairs, collect my parcel.  It’s dead quiet in the lobby, no one else is around.  I get back on the elevator, press 4 and as the doors shut and the elevator rises, I hear a loud, weird honking sound.

The elevator stops with a jolt and the doors bang open.  That honking sound is easily twice as loud now, and I’m only on the second floor.  That’s the building’s fire alarm.  When it goes off, the elevator will automatically stop on the nearest floor.  It will remain there until the alarm is turned off.

I step off, look in both directions and hurry over to the stairwell door.  As I begin climbing the metal stairs to the fourth floor, I hear a clanging noise above me.  A young couple from the fifth floor are coming down those steps fast.  They’re dressed in workout attire and look like they just got off their Peloton bikes.  The guy says “You’re headed the wrong way pardner”

I’d like to tell him to get bent, but I just say I’m going back up to get my jacket.

When I open the stairwell door to the 4th floor, I can hear a murmur of voices up the hall and around the corner, where the elevator is.  Should I tell them it’s not coming?  I then hear Jerry (our floor’s long-time resident, he’s lived here 31 years) tell them they have to take the stairs and I make a dash for my apartment door before they come around the corner.  Whew, made it!

Once I get inside, I toss my Amazon box in the chair and lock my door, then proceed to turn out all the lights.  This isn’t my first rodeo!  Soon a fireman or police officer will go door to door, seeing if there’s light or moving shadows underneath the doors and telling people they have to exit the building.  I don’t intend to be one of those people.

I hear sirens, grab my camera and head over to my living room’s picture window.  The first firetruck, ambulance  & police cruiser arrive.  I turn off my flash and take a picture. 

(I should’ve waited, there will soon be a dozen fire & police vehicles out there.)

Minutes later, I hear the THUNK of the stairwell door opening, and a couple of men’s voices in the hall.  I put my ear to the wall behind my sofa—yep, my next door neighbor Lonnie’s TV is on, and he’s on the phone with either his mom or his sister, complaining about the incessant honking inside our building, and the sirens outside.  I jump about 2 feet in the air when a heavy, loud thud lands against my door.  A man says “FIRE ALARM, EVERYONE EVACUATE.”  

One potato, two potato, three potato… I am right on the other side, holding my breath!  I then hear 3 loud knocks on Lonnie’s door.  They know someone’s in there. A man shouts for him to open his door, then tells him in person to go downstairs.  I hear Lonnie mutter okay.

Heh heh!  Very softly I sing “I am the Phantom of the Opera….”

When I heard Lonnie on the phone complaining this happens all the time, I thought he was exaggerating but on second thought… I’ve been here 4 1/2 years, and this is the fourth fire alarm.  I lived in my last apartment building 23 years and fire alarms went off only twice (and for good reason) but that property only had 24 apartments.  This high-rise has 88. 

At least the ones here have been false alarms, for the most part.  Still, the last time this happened I stood outside along with 40 or 50 others at midnight for a good 90 minutes.  It had been cold & drizzling, and I just wasn’t up for the chilly temps, grumblings & small talk from umpteen strangers again. 

I looked out my big front window again, saw dozens of tenants below and more trucks.  I thought if this place lights up I’m going to climb out that window, stand on the ledge and yell “MADE IT, MA!  TOP OF THE WORLD!”  right before everything blows up.  You know, like James Cagney in White Heat. 

Think I’ll take my BP medication and lay down for a couple minutes.

Okay, it’s Sunday morning and all looks right with the world.  I laid down on my bed last night and passed out, apparently everything went back to normal around midnight. 

(I later learned a young woman’s trash had begun to smoke in the third floor’s trash room, she’d thrown away incense or something.  These hippies!)

It occurred to me this morning as I began typing this, I never opened my Amazon box from last night—here’s what I bought, a couple birthday gifts for myself.  One of those microwave egg cookers that David & Gigi Hawaii endorsed on her blog, and a Star Trek coffee table book celebrating the original series 55th anniversary.

I promised myself no more print books after the ‘Great Purge of 2016’ (when I moved and gave away 95% of my books) but this is Star Trek!  For your coffee table!

Now I just have to build the coffee table from IKEA I’ve had under my bed for 4 years.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

October 31, 1991: It was thirty years ago today…

It was thirty years ago today—October 31, 1991—that I celebrated my 30th birthday.  My mom and 3 sisters Shawn, Donda-Lin & Courtney drove to Pittsburgh to visit me at my first apartment in the city, and Mom brought cafe curtains for my kitchen window and a chocolate fudge cake with a jack o’lantern hiding in its center. 

We went to dinner at Damons, a prime rib restaurant at the nearby Waterworks Mall and it was just a great day.  Towards the end of their visit, while we were enjoying Mom’s cake, my sister Shawn asked if I had any plans on getting married soon, because if I wanted a kid of my own I wasn’t getting any younger.  Mom told her to stop pushing and I laughed and said Shawn made a good point. 

But I already had what I pretty much wanted.  After dropping out of college in 1981 and floundering thru most of the Eighties, I returned to school in ‘87, graduated in ‘89 and began my career (in IT, as a software developer) on January 2, 1990.  I finally had my own place, a job I loved, and some money in the bank. 

The Nineties would turn out to be my favorite decade.  (Heck, with 3 Star Trek series on TV, and shows like X-Files, Seinfeld & Frasier it was even my favorite decade for TV!)

Anyway, here I am thirty years later, sitting in my robe, in disbelief that today I am a 60 year old man.  I have some blogging friends who are several years older, who say 60 is still whippersnapper territory.  All I know is I’m retired, have a head of mostly white hair and 3 prescriptions I take daily for high blood pressure & urine flow that remind me I’m not a kid anymore, either.

Geez, am I even considered middle aged?  According to Britannica.com, “middle age is the years in adulthood between 40 & 60.”  Well between you & me, in my head I still think like a 15 year old.  Well, a 15 year old from 1976. 

Here’s some awesome birthday cards I got this week, and one (from my friend Susie) even had a $10 bill inside.  What the—!  When’s the last time you got a birthday card with real dough inside? 

Thanks so much Erin, Susie, Pam, Courtney, Shawn, Donda-Lin and Canadian Chuck & Robin.  And Happy Halloween to anyone else out there reading my 60 year old drivel!

 

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Day 6 of my “No Sofa” therapy: bah, I’m still in a slump

Here’s my favorite spot in my apartment, this area on my couch beside the lamp.  When I sit down here, I have my laptop computer under my left hand and my phone, tv remote or cup of coffee in my right. 

With the tv seven feet dead ahead, this is the ideal spot for my base of operations.

I’ve never been fond of the expression “couch potato”, but it certainly fits me very well, I’m afraid.  (I’m just being honest here, and I very much hope no one gets the bright idea of schooling me on the dangers of being one, because I’m fully aware, thank you.)

Well, I haven’t been a couch potato for the last 6 days anyway.  Since I started those heavy-duty hypertension meds the first week of September (that my doctor is inisisting I stick with for at least 3 months as they seem to be the only ones really working), and developing severe edema in my left leg and foot as a result, I began to notice that prolonged couch-sitting really seems to make the leg worse; even when my club-foot is propped up on a pouf. 

On the other hand, my leg & foot are at their best when I climb out of bed in the morning.  They’re still swollen, but only half as much.  It’s only after I sit down on my couch, get on my laptop for an hour or so to answer emails or read blogs, watch tv for a couple hours, doze off…  by lunchtime the leg & foot are fully swollen again.

Here’s how things look at 7am, right after getting out of bed.  The left (bottom) leg & foot are stiff as heck, but the swelling is reduced by half until noon

So several days ago, I thought “What if I could stay off my couch for a week or so and see if it will keep that swelling down longer?” 

And for the last week, that’s just what I’ve been doing.

I decided to make that my only rule.  What I mean is, if I want to lie on my bed and eat bon-bons, or stand on my head in front of my tv or park my posterior on the toilet seat lid for the afternoon, whatever it takes to STAY AWAY FROM THE COUCH FOR 10 DAYS. 

As of this writing, it’s been six days and I think it’s helping reduce the swelling some… I dunno.

I can’t say it’s helping my backside, it’s been pretty achy from spending my nights sitting bowlegged on the floor in front of my tv.

My stomach muscles are sore too,  I’m typing this while laying on my belly on the living room floor and let’s just say the term “roly poly” comes to mind.  Remember those round bottomed toys “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”?  That’s me on my stomach.

(I tried typing at my dining table, but I have to reach up to the keyboard and it hurts my wrists.)  Anyway, hanging out on the floor sure was easier when we were kids!

I’m sorry, I know this was a goofy-ass read.  I’m just not in the mood to write or do much of anything else for that matter.  In a couple hours I have appointments for my covid booster, haircut & flu shot, all in that order. 

At least it will get me off of the floor and out of the apartment.

My brother Steve & sister Shawn on the couch, with me on the floor holding our family cat Mimi, my sister Donda & brother Duke in front of the tv set, circa 1972

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

ApacheDug goes Hawaiian—well, with pizza I mean

Did you know Hawaiian pizza is a Canadian invention?  It was created by a Greek immigrant in southern Ontario in 1962.  (He was curious what pineapple would taste like on a pizza crust.)  Hold it, says Germany!  We’ve been enjoying ham, pineapple & cheese on toast and calling it Toast Hawaii since 1955.  Australia doesn’t care who came up with it, in 1999 it was their most popular pizza on the menu.

I’ve only eaten Hawaiian Pizza once, at my 17 year old niece Sophia’s 4th birthday party.  I remember liking it, so why have I waited this long to try it again?

I decided I’d make one myself, googled Hawaiian pizza, and came up with 50 versions of the recipe.  I read the ingredients of half of them, then came up with my own game plan.

1.  Preheat the oven to 400F, line a 9 x 13 baking pan with aluminum foil.  I rubbed the foil down with 2 tablespoons olive oil, this will give the crust a nice sizzle.

  

2.  Break open a can of Pillsbury Pizza Crust, shape it out to fit the pan.  Yikes, this dough was ice cold!  After I finished, I covered the pan with a dishtowel and let it warm to room temperature for 20 minutes. This also allowed the dough to rise some.

  

3.  I spread 1/2 cup pizza sauce blended with 1/4 cup barbecue sauce.  That doesn’t sound copacetic, but turned out to be very tasty.  I think this would also make a perfect sauce for barbecue chicken pizza.

  

4.  Sprinkled on 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, and 3 slices of precooked breakfast ham (aka canadian bacon), chopped.
  
5.  Next I added half a red pepper, and 3 pineapple rings, both chopped.
6.  Finally, I fried and crumbled 2 strips of bacon, and sprinkled on top with a small handful of shredded cheddar cheese.  I’ll bake this in the oven at 400F for 20 minutes.
    
   
 7.  The pizza is ready.  Boi does this smell good!
 
 
  
       
I enjoyed the first slice at my kitchen window, watching the rustle of fall leaves outside; I had my second slice in front of the tv, while watching the 1940 classic “Doctor Cyclops”.  This sweet n’ savory combo turned out much better than I expected.  Yep, life is good!

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

70+ years ago, a look back at the (original) Morris kids

I’ve always loved this old photograph of my dad and his brothers & sisters.  In the upper left is Dad, in front of him is my (shirtless) Uncle Mike.  In the top center is my Aunt Dena, followed by my Aunt Terry & their youngest brother, Uncle Shane.

But who is the elderly woman in the center of things?   Many of my relatives say she was their grandmother, my great grandmother Carrie Morris.  Carrie died in March 1948, at the age of 73.  This woman looks older than that, but I suppose “back then” older people looked older than they do today.  

This photo, taken in 1948, must’ve been shortly before her passing.

I wondered about their (maternal) Grandmother Temple, but when I began digging through old records, Blanche Temple died in 1932 at the age of 43.  I knew my Grandma Morris’ dad Justus Temple passed in 1970, but I had no idea or had completely forgotten Grandma Morris’ mom had died at such an early age. 

It always surprises me how quickly many of us forget or simply don’t know where we came from.

Grandpap & Grandma Morris celebrating a Happy New Year, 1950

For instance, I didn’t know (or didn’t remember) my Grandma Morris also came from a family of 3 brothers & 3 sisters;  Dorothy May (Grandma), Elmer, Benjamin, Betty, Robert & Terry.  I remember great-uncle Bob, and I got birthday cards for years from great-aunt Terry.  A vague memory of Betty & no recollection of Elmer & Benjamin Temple.

My grandpap’s family had 5 kids and I saw his brother (great-Uncle Kenneth) at Morris gatherings for years, and their older sister Ruth who passed in 1986.  But that’s it. 

Y’know, for losing her own mom at such an early age, Grandma Morris was not only a terrific grandmother, but a much-loved Mom as well.  I mean it, my dad & his siblings were fiercely devoted to her for as long as I can remember. 

I was pretty close to her myself and wrote a blog about her here. It’s been 25 years since she left us, I still think about her every day.  Saturday is her birthday, she’d be 107.

In 2016 when I moved back home for 6 months, I ran into my Aunt Dena at the local Giant Eagle and we talked for a good hour.  All I could think was why don’t we do this more often.  My Aunt Dena (the oldest of the Morris kids and the only one who attended college, was an English teacher at Waynesburg High School for 40 years) told me a great story from those early years.

She said the first year she came home from college (for Christmas break), she was feeling a little more ‘worldly’ and in no hurry to return to the family farm.  Grandpap had just brought in their Christmas tree, and Grandma yelled for Aunt Dena to come down & join them in decorating it.  Aunt Dena declined, saying she wasn’t interested.

She said the next thing she heard was a STOMP STOMP STOMP on the stairs, Grandma coming into her room, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her off her bed and down the steps while Dena scrambled & kicked all the way.  She shouted “Let me go!” and Grandma yelled back “You can be fancy all you want out there, but in this house you’re still part of this family!”

Oh that makes me laugh everytime I picture it—I’ll always be thankful I’m a part of this family too. 

Love them all & missing Grandma, Dad & Uncle Shane, who were taken too soon.  I’m not a person of faith, but I sure do enjoy the notion of them being back together again.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Here’s the story of a lovely lady… oh wait, it’s just my friend Danielle

Recently my friend Danielle surprised me with this early birthday present, a pair of 8 x 10 lithographs of… the Brady House!   (I’m definitely going to frame one of these beauties, I think the bottom one.)   This isn’t something I’m especially proud of, but I suppose I was a big fan of the Brady Bunch in it’s heyday and awhile after, and still keep up with the latest doin’s of the cast. 

(Did you know Susan Olsen, who played the youngest girl Cindy, is a godawful Trumper?  Oh the humanity!)

Several generations of kids grew up with this show of course, but I’m one of the original fans who watched it Friday nights at 8pm from 1969 to 1974.  I’ve probably mentioned it here once or 10 times before, but I can still remember the night of it’s premiere, my mom turning to Dad and saying “Who do they think is going to watch this sh-t?” 

(She should’ve known better than to ask; her and Dad had 5 kids, with a sixth on the way.  3 boys and 3 girls, just like the Bradys!  I’m the middle boy in my family, but I’m the same age as Mike Lookinland, who played the youngest boy Bobby.)

In fact, this is how Danielle & I became friends.  In 2011, when she transferred to my work-group in our company, she was being led around and introduced.  When she was brought over to my desk, the person doing the introductions said “You’ll like Doug, he’s a Brady Bunch fan too.”   (How did they know that, and how did they know that about her?) 

I said “Well, there’s a lot of people out there who claim they’re fans, but know next-to-nothing about the show.   You’re probably one of them, and I’ll be proving that in the weeks ahead with a series of quizzes you’ll be given.”  

She said “Bring ‘em on!”   I did, and she surprised me greatly; she knew as much as me and I’m the BRADY MASTER.

Last year when HGTV reconstructed the interior of the actual home used to film exterior shots for the show, they had a comprehensive online ‘walking tour’. 

I studied every room and was surprised to discover only ONE clock in the entire house, on Alice’s nightstand. 

When I relayed my findings to Danielle, I got a lecture in return on how Alice was mistreated by the family.  See, this is what mental fans do!

Of course, as time went by we learned we had more in common than an old tv show.  We had a very similar upbringing (we grew up in parallel small towns in Pennsylvania that turned red for Trump) and we share a death wish for most Republicans on Capitol Hill.  Okay, all Republicans.  We’re both hams, and we each have a sibling named Shawn! 

Anyway, even with our 15 year age difference I knew right away we were going to be good friends. 

Oh and for the record, I love her husband Josh too.  Nerd smile

 

Thanks again, Danielle

Friday, October 1, 2021

Oh, how the mighty have fallen: c’mon TV Guide, enough with the shakedowns

Hey, remember TV GUIDE?  If you were born in the 20th century, sure you do.  Still, growing up in the 1960s and 70s, it was NOT a regular thing in our house. 

1) The Sunday paper already had ‘TV Week’ in between the shuffle of store coupons and PARADE Magazine.

2) My family had a town crier (ahem, me) who somehow knew what was airing on every channel, every night of the week.  “Hear ye, hear ye!  Tonight on ABC is Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, followed by Three’s Company & Taxi!  On CBS is Paper Chase and the CBS Tuesday Night Movie!  On NBC…”

Still, it managed to find it’s way into our house on occasion, especially if there was someone notable on the cover like Frank Sinatra or Elvis.  And when we went to Grandma’s house, I’d always skim thru her copy.  It was just a part of everyone’s life, like Kleenex.

When I moved out of my parents house in 1979, I bought TV Guide weekly without fail.  (I didn’t have a lot of money, but in 1979 the cover price was only 30 cents.)  When I got my first real place, I began subscribing to it. 

Did you know (unlike most magazines) TV Guide did not offer a discount for subscribing?  Not until the 2000s anyway, when it’s popularity began to wane and the cover price reached a couple dollars.  I can still remember when I finally let my subscription lapse, when they went from digest-size to “regular magazine” size. That was in October 2005.

The final ‘digest-sized’ copy of TV Guide, for the week of October 9-16, 2005

Along with ten million others, I realized I no longer needed it.  Cable & dish services supplied a schedule of shows on your tv screen.  (Smart tvs now do that too.)

For 15 years or so, TV Guide was just a memory.  

And then last year, a Youtuber I follow (FredFlix) posted a brief video of things he missed from his youth.  TV shows like Space 1999, drive-in movies, 15 cent comic books, TV Guide.

We got to talking about TV Guide in earnest, and one of his followers commented “I’m going out to buy one today!”  and I said I was going to do one better and sign up for a subscription.  

I went on Google and found a link from TV Guide to subscribe for one year for $15.00.

When I got my first copy a few weeks later, I was a little surprised, a little disappointed.  It no longer had local listings with local channels.  Just a double-page grid showing what was playing on the major networks and cable channels from 7:00pm to 10:30pm.   What?  No daytime or late night listings?

Also, it no longer came out weekly.  More like twice a month.

It still included the classic TV Guide crossword puzzle & the Cheers n’ Jeers column, but I could tell who this magazine’s intended demographic was.  The cover stories were always about NCIS or Law & Order, and the advertisements were for things like walk-in bathtubs, Jitterbug flip-phones and “Genuine Swiss” cuckoo clocks.

To be honest, I got bored with it fast.  It became a coaster for my coffee cup and remote.  I always intended to read it but the next thing y’know, 2 weeks had passed and here’s the next issue.  

Pretty much a waste of my fifteen dollars, but I enjoyed the nostalgia of seeing it in my house again, at least.  Still, I had no intention of renewing my subscription so when I got a “TIME TO RENEW YOUR TV GUIDE” notice in the mail, I tossed it in the trash.

Then a couple weeks ago I got one labeled ‘2ND NOTICE’.   Gosh, they sure want that $15.00 of mine!  I opened it up out of curiosity, and frankly couldn’t believe what I saw inside:

 

They didn’t want $15.00—THEY WANTED 4 PAYMENTS OF $13.99—FOR ONE YEAR.  It says you’re getting a 56% discount, but who the hell is going to shell out $55.96 for a one year subscription to this magazine?

Anyway… I took the photo above to share on my blog, then changed my mind, gathered up their silly papers, threw them away and hoped no one else was coerced into paying that much money for this quaint mag. 

And then yesterday, this arrived.  Oh TV GUIDE… give it up!

 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Coffee and Sympathy, the September 2021 Edition

I am close to starting a regular obituary column on my blog. 

A week ago today, I learned my (former) boss’ wife Cindy passed away.  I don’t know if she had a lingering illness, but her death sounded sudden.  She was only 58 years old.  Her husband Len was my IT manager from 2000 to 2015 and was a very private fellow, but I managed to meet Cindy a couple times at holiday gatherings.  She was attractive, pleasant, a nice person.

I can’t imagine how Len is feeling right now.  Their daughter Mollie is supposed to be married in October, making it seem more unfair.  Anyway, Cindy’s obituary is here.

Three days later (this past Monday) I received an email from my dear friend Suzie Zapko.  It said “Doug, I can’t reach you.  Please call me.”  I felt my chest tighten. 

Suzie & I have been very good friends for 30+ years, talk (almost) weekly on the phone and in all that time she has only emailed me twice.  (The first is from 12/31/99, this was the second one.)  

I called her and apologized for forgetting to let her know I got rid of my landline (home phone) after giving up cable tv a month ago.  Suzie said “Doug, David is dead.”   David was Suzie’s husband of 49 years, he was 69 years old.  A few weeks ago, a mass was detected in his bladder.  They learned it was malignant, and David wound up having his entire bladder removed, only to develop sepsis.  He died a little over a week ago.

Suzie said she didn’t have it in her to go thru with a funeral.  Neither of them were religious or had many friends, and aside from their daughter Kim they have no family.  His body went directly to the crematorium (a block up the street from my apartment) and she’d just been notified his ashes were ready. 

I wasn’t planning on sharing either of those deaths here, these are people I may have known for years, but only indirectly.  And then on Wednesday there was a fuss going on downstairs, with an ambulance parked in front of my apartment building.  Several people were downstairs watching, and I went down and asked a woman what was going on.  She said there’d been a death on the second floor, the paramedics were unable to get their stretcher on the elevator, and were assembling a makeshift carrier.

When I asked if she knew who died, she said a tall older man named Winston, who apparently had been dead several days.  His sister (who lives in England) had been unable to reach him and called the police here.  Did I know him?

I sure did, I even wrote a blog about him once here.  (He was British and always wore a silk scarf around his neck.)  And it just occurred to me that I hadn’t seen him downstairs for several weeks.  I’ll miss him, I hope his death was a quiet one.

I pray I don’t learn of anymore deaths anytime soon, but I know those wishes will fall on deaf ears.  The older I get, the more common a thing this becomes.

 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Bachelor Man Sunday dinner: It turns out 2018 was a very good year for pork chops

Do you have a hang-up about not wasting or tossing out food?  I do, and Saturday night when I was straightening out my freezer I came across a couple of pork chops wrapped in foil that was speckled with little holes (is there such a thing as freezer moths?) and written in a smear of blue, CHOPS 3/7/18.

Earlier I’d come across a bag of brussel sprouts that were shrunk to the look & size of black-eyed peas; I had no problem tossing those out, but meat?  I had to see if these were still edible!

Overnight Pork Chop Marinade

  • 1 TBL Soy Sauce
  • 1 TBL Worchester Sauce
  • 2 TBL Vegetable (Canola) Oil
  • 1 TSP Lemon Juice
  • 2 TBL Brown sugar
  • 2 TBL Ketchup

I figured as long as they need to defrost overnight in the refrigerator, why not let them thaw in a tasty marinade?  I peeled off that speckled foil, rinsed them in cold water, then poured the marinade on top and covered the dish with plastic wrap.

(By the way, I am a huge fan of that Heinz ‘Simply Ketchup’.  It turns out it’s their 1950’s ketchup recipe, using a little more vinegar and cane sugar, versus today’s recipe made with TWO corn syrups.  It’s a bit more tangy and just right.)

After spending overnight in the fridge, I preheated the oven to 375F and transferred the 2 chops to a 9 x 9 pyrex bakiing dish.  I poured HALF of the sauce over the top.  Baked 25 minutes, turned the chops over and poured in remaining sauce, then baked another 20 minutes.   (Don’t bake them any longer, that sauce begins to smoke!)

Half the sauce, ready to go into the oven

Finally, I guess you can see in the picture my box of instant potatoes and canned green beans.  I never claimed to be a Julia Child or Gigi Hawaii!

But here’s a couple good hacks; for the mashed potatoes (where I make 2 servings), the box says to use 2/3 cup water & 1/3 cup milk.

Use 2/3 cup milk and 1/3 cup water instead; I also stir in 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.  They’ll taste more homemade.

For the canned green beans, don’t just heat them up; drain the water and saute them in a teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 chunk of one slice of bacon for 5 minutes.  It makes all the difference.  By the way, that sauce is PERFECT over the mashed potatoes!