Saturday, June 24, 2023

Warden, for my last meal this Democrat would like…

This was today’s Early Bird dinner in the teepee.  A hamburger with Boar’s Head Creamy Horseradish Cheese, dill pickle slices & ketchup, Utz Hawaiian Chips and sliced cucumbers in a homemade dill dressing. 

I also made lemonade and very soon I’ll be having warm apple pie and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream for dessert.

I’m no great cook, and most would say this isn’t cooking anyway—but right now this is my favorite meal.  I’m like Wimpy in those old Popeye cartoons when it comes to hamburgers.  I can’t get enough of them. 

(Psst--my second favorite burger comes with swiss cheese, sauteed green peppers & mushrooms and lots of A1 Steak Sauce.  Third favorite is no cheese, a buttered bun, Heinz yellow mustard and a big slice of white onion.  Now that’s Hamburger Heaven!)

It got me to thinking, if I lost control and killed someone, and wound up on Death Row and the warden was asking what I’d like for my last meal, it’d be hamburgers without question.  I know, why am I thinking about wardens & death rows? 

Because earlier today I was downstairs in my building’s lobby, patiently waiting for a pricey delivery from, while having to listen to Rover Joe sing the praises of Donald Trump to a couple of glum looking senior ladies.  And me.  It was torture.

Rover Joe, a grizzled senior in his mid eighties, has only talked to me one time.  We were alone downstairs a couple years ago, he was eyeing me up & down.  He finally said “When I was your age I was hopping trains, out there living.”  I replied “But I’m 60.”

Anyway, as he was sitting here blaming the Democrats for all of Trump’s “fake problems” I imagined holding a throw pillow over his nose & mouth.  I know that sounds a bit drastic, but I just heard this same stuff a couple weeks ago from my brother Steve and I swore never again. 

We were at our niece Sophia’s graduation party, and Steve (who was sitting across me) was laughing about the Liberals latest attempt to take down Trump, and how the Donald was smarter then all of them.  Steve could hardly wait until Trump was in the White House again.

I calmly replied it was beyond my mental scope how anyone in their right mind could or even want to defend such a corrupt narcissist so intent on destroying our democracy. 

If it hadn’t been our niece’s graduation party, and that had been someone other than my brother, and my 87 year old Aunt Dena wasn’t sitting beside me… I can’t help thinking we’d be better off with one less Trumper.  It’s not like they can be deprogrammed.

Oh well, I hope Rover Joe’s around long enough to see Donald go to the big house—and I don’t mean the white one.  I hope I live long enough to see it too!

Sliced cucumbers (and onions) in a creamy dill dressing

Blend 3/4 cup Duke’s Mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Dried Dill Weed.

(Don’t use sour cream, it will turn watery overnight—and yogurt is for sissies.  Use Duke’s Mayo, it’s tasty and will stay creamy for a week.)

Pour over 2 sliced cucumbers (or one torpedo like this one) in an airtight container and chill for at least one hour.  Sliced onions are a plus. 

Well, I’m going to wrap this nonsense up, get some dessert and see how much I can watch of Avatar: The Way of Water before I doze off.  (The movie is over 3 hours long!)

Apple pie from Lincoln Bakery… now that’s worth staying out of jail for.  


Tuesday, June 20, 2023

In search of good air, the things (and people) we take for granted

For the first time in 3 months, I am feeling comfortable in my apartment again—more than comfortable, some relief too.  It smells…cleaner, fresher.  It’s getting there.

It isn’t because of the device pictured here, but I do like this contraption I got a week ago.  It’s a helper.   

This is a PuroAir HEPA 14 (Hospital grade) Air Purifier.  Click on the name to see it on Amazon.  Last week, my friend Erin asked if I was still dealing with the bad smell in my apartment coming from my air ducts. 

I said it wasn’t as pungent as it was in March when I first reported it to Steiner, my landlord.  But there was still an odor of sour, wet or burnt dirt in the air that annoyed the heck out of me.

She said “Have you thought of getting an air purifier?”   Nope—it never occurred to me.  So after our chat, I got online and looked at several models before deciding on this one.  I like it very much, it’s whisper quiet but effective.  It’s also great at collecting dust & pollen (I get a lot of both).  It’s 16” tall, 10” wide & deep, and has a small light-bar on top that goes from orange to green as the air becomes clean. 

The day Erin suggested I get one, I found and ordered this model for $151.00.  The NEXT DAY, Canadian wildfires were reported on the nightly news and the price for this same unit increased to $239.99 on Amazon. 

They’ve since gone down to $190, but that’s still 40.00 more than what I paid--talk about timing!

When the smell first started in March, I went and stayed at my sister’s for a week and hoped my landlord would find the issue and correct it.  I talked to them daily on the phone, they said they were running an “ionizer” in my apartment (which they did) and cleaning the air ducts (which they didn’t, that was a lie).

When I returned a week later, it had a VERY, VERY strong smell of “dusty hotel room” from the ionizer.  But I could see right away that the livingroom, dining & bedroom wall grates had never been taken off the walls.  They still had layers of paint on them.

After 2 weeks, the effects of the ionizing machine had worn off and that same smell was wafting from my air vents again.  I spent $85.00 on various duct cleaning sprays which masked the smell for a couple hours at best.

When I reported I was still having this issue to Nicole (the building’s off-site manager) she responded she was sorry but there was nothing more they could do.  If I’d like, I could move to another apartment the next time a one-bedroom unit was available in the building.

I was shocked.  First of all, they didn’t DO anything.  Second, I didn’t want to move.  Even if I could have any apartment in the building, there were only a couple besides mine I really liked (because of their location/flooring/kitchen/color palette). 

I’d also be forfeiting my current lease of $840 I’ve got locked in for the next two years.  One bedroom units in my building currently rent for $900.

Since the smell was worse from the bedroom’s air duct, I set about removing the grate from the wall.  I used a box cutter to cut around the grate and it took 2 hours to unsecure eight 60 year old bolts.

It’s a long but narrow tin duct.  I was unable to get my hand in there, when it hit me—my Swiffer mop!  I went thru 4 Swiffer pads, wiping out a lot of ancient dirt & even gravel.

I sent photos of what I’d done to Nicole, hoping she would take me more seriously now.  She told me she’d send a maintenance man to check it out.

Bob (who no one likes, me included) stopped in for exactly 10 seconds, scratched his head and said the air seemed fine to him.  The next morning, Nicole told me she understood what I was going through as she once lived in an apartment and experienced ‘phantom smells’ of smoke in her building.  I responded that MY ‘phantom smells’ were only in my apartment, not the hallway or lobby or anywhere else. 

She didn’t bother responding, of course.  I swear to God, if I could sue her I would.

At least the bedroom was better now, the odor from the vent was still noticeable but fainter.  I experimented with home & car air fresheners, and if I ever smell Fabreze again, I’m probably going to jump off the roof.   This went on a few more weeks, and then my friend Erin suggested an air purifier, and it DID help but didn’t address what was causing the smell.  And I sure wasn’t looking forward to taking down more grates.

So last Tuesday I began poking around in my bathroom’s drop ceiling.  And that’s when I discovered the ceiling panel directly above my toilet, when raised, had a strange ‘muddy’ smell high up inside.

I put on some rubbermaid dish gloves, and standing tippy-toe on the toilet, arm reached as high up as possible, began feeling around up there. 

Sure enough, I felt a squishy, wet mass.  I grabbed a handful and slowly lowered my arm, praying it wasn’t something dead (or raw sewage from the apartment above mine).

It was a handful of mud, plain & simple.  I reached up again and grabbed another handful, I did this 3-4 more times.

I’m wondering, where did it come from?  And I was reminded that the tenant’s bath tub above mine used to leak into my bathroom ceiling a couple years ago. 

And the day the smell in my apartment started—Saturday March 18—was the SAME day the tenant above me moved out of his apartment.  For all I know, he was dumping dirt from his houseplants into his tub’s drain, and the dirt wound up in my ac unit’s drip-pan which is only supposed to collect condensation.

So, for the last week I’ve been opening that bathroom ceiling panel, reaching up above my head with Clorox wipes to swab out as much muck as possible.  It’s difficult as I can’t see what I’m doing, and the pan doesn’t have a smooth surface—it’s lined with sharp ridges, like a cheese grater.  I go thru several wipes until my arm aches and my wrist gives out, then repeat the process the following day.

But after the second day, I realized the smell from my ducts was lessening.  After the fourth day, I detected virtually no smell at all.  I still rubbed at that dirty drip pan another couple days before deciding I was done.

My ac has a faint musty smell when it runs (and I admit it, I’m hypersensitive to ANY smells in here now).  But that sure as heck beats the oily, wet mud smell I’ve been living with.  I also admit the angry side of me wants to go over Nicole’s head, contact Steiner directly and tell them how unhelpful she’s been.

But I don’t want to win any wars or make any enemies.  I intend to live here a long time.  I’m just relieved I was able to fix this on my own. 

My Puro purrs in agreement.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Three special ladies in my life right now

Lately I’ve gotten to know (or re-know) a few terrific women whom I consider good friends.  I just thought I’d write something small here about each of them.

This is my dear friend and former coworker Kimberly.  We met in the late 80’s, when I started my IT career at the Allegheny County Department of Aging. 

Kim was a social worker, but we were only a year apart in age and quickly became friends.  (I had a crush on her at the start but she was married—and pregnant with the first of 3 boys!) 

I wound up leaving Aging in 1997, and for years we only stayed in touch via Christmas cards, but Kim always included a couple photos and a nice letter. 

This past December, Kimba learned she had cancer and we became close again.  (During her treatments I told her she was Kimba for Kimba the White Lion, a cartoon we watched in the 1960s.)  She underwent major surgery & chemotherapy, and just recently been declared cancer free. 

A couple weeks ago, her mother & sister took Kim to Las Vegas (pictured above) just for the adventure of it.  

I don’t pray often, but these past few months I sure have prayed for Kim. 

This is my dear friend and former classmate Diana (on the left).  She’s standing in my sister Shawn’s house and that’s Shawn on the right.

This photo isn’t recent, it’s 10 or so years old.  But I only have 2 pics of Diana.

We went to junior & senior high school together, and never spoke a word to one another.  But as the years went by, Diana reached out to various classmates (myself included) and eventually our emails evolved into some very long phone chats.  Now I don’t know how I went so long without talking to her!

Twice widowed, Diana lives in another state now but keeps herself busy with lots of volunteer & church projects.  She’s a conspiracist, and thinks there are nefarious plots behind everything from government to big pharma to doctors & the nightly news; but she’s so smart & good-hearted, you can’t help but want to listen to her.

She’s a good egg though, and I enjoy the honesty we have.  When I say “Diana, I’m rolling my eyes right now” she just laughs!

This is my ornery friend and neighbor Pearl.  She’s 10 years older than me, and a frequent visitor to the Senior Center I’ve recently joined.  When a group of us went on a tour of the Heinz History Center a couple weeks ago, Pearl & I hung out together.

Pearl loves to laugh and likes to tease just to get a reaction.  The day I signed up at the Senior Center and was introduced to everyone, Pearl said “I don’t believe it!  I tried to get Doug to join a year ago and he said no!”  When someone asked why I declined, she said “Because he peeked in and said we weren’t pretty enough!”

I took this photo of Pearl in front of a Conestoga wagon recently, she said “Do you even know what this is?”  I said “Of course I do!  Does it bring back any memories for you?”

We both laughed, no harm done.  A couple days ago after a hot dog cookout at the center, they began setting up tables for bingo and I said that was my cue to go. 

Pearl asked if I’d stay and chat, and we wound up trading stories for two hours.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Well I never… 50 things I’ve never done (and probably never will)

When you have a personal blog, you take very little for granted—you’re always on the lookout for inspiration for your next post.  Well, that’s how I roll and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve posted something here and thought “That’s it, no more, I’ve nothing left to write about.” 

And then something or someone will come along, and I’m back on here anxious to share it with whoever will listen.

Recently I was listening to some older people talking and one woman was saying “Well I never…” over & over.  I believe she was expressing shock at the other person’s story, but I thought I’d use it here in another context.  Here are 50 things that I’ve yet to do in this lifetime, and perhaps never will.

Well I’ve never:

  1. Walked on burning coals (and I don’t know anyone else who has either)
  2. Been arrested or gotten a speeding or even a parking ticket (though I’m sure I deserved a couple)
  3. Bought coffee from Starbucks (but I love their Ciabatta sandwiches with carved turkey & pesto)
  4. Gone skydiving
  5. Been to a professional ballgame
  6. Had a Shamrock Shake from McDonalds 
  7. Tried escargot, caviar, or steak tartare 
  8. Met a deaf person
  9. Owned or worn contact lenses (and I’ve worn glasses since I was 13)
  10. Watched Law & Order, Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, MASH, Married with Children, Two and a Half Men, Dallas, NCIS… not a single minute of any of ‘em
  11. Parallel parked—well, after my driver’s test I mean 
  12. Worn braces
  13. Been married (but I did live with Fay, my girlfriend at the time for 6 months in 1986)
  14. Drank a Martini, Whiskey Sour, Manhattan or Cosmopolitan
  15. Been further west in the United States than Ohio
  16. Seen or heard a ghost
  17. Gave someone a ‘high five’
  18. Owned or used an Apple device 
  19. Found a four leaf clover
  20. Learned to tie a bow-tie
  21. Changed a tire
  22. Played poker
  23. Been to a Star Trek convention
  24. Dated an African-American woman 
  25. Held or shot a firearm 
  26. Been robbed (knock on wood)
  27. Worn suspenders
  28. Been hypnotized (though a couple people have tried)
  29. Asked anyone for their autograph
  30. Been to a costume party
  31. Listened to an audio book after the first page (they put me right to sleep)
  32. Been to a strip club
  33. Flown in a helicopter
  34. Paid for a massage
  35. Gotten a shoe shine
  36. Had my tonsils, appendix or gall bladder removed
  37. Smoked pot
  38. Eaten at a Red Lobster
  39. Missed an episode of Saturday Night Live since it began airing in 1975
  40. Worn cuff-links
  41. Eaten sardines or pizza with anchovies
  42. Poached an egg (it doesn’t look difficult, but it does look unappetizing)
  43. Given someone the finger (to their face or their back)
  44. Slept in a king-sized, brass or waterbed
  45. Been in a fistfight
  46. Owned my own home
  47. Gone scuba diving
  48. Watched Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia or Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  49. Bounced a check
  50. Seen a UFO (but I haven’t given up hope just yet)  Smile