Monday, July 17, 2023

Trading Cards I'd Like to See


Carolyn J. Rose



Forget trading cards touted by a former president. Forget game cards and those featuring baseball heroes. Forget cards promoting movies and T.V. shows.  

Here are a few I’d pay or trade for.

Phone numbers to bypass automated systems. If you’ve ever wasted hours trying to break out of an endless loop, been shuttled to the wrong department, cut off while explaining your problem, or transferred so fast you get whiplash, these are a must. Bypass numbers allow access to actual humans with listening skills, no mandated scripts, and expertise to resolve your issue.


Plumbers, electricians, HVAC repair personnel, and others willing to work evenings and holidays. Even if you never find yourself in desperate need of someone to fix a leak or get your furnace running again, a friend or relative will. The trading value of these cards never diminishes and spikes in cold and hot weather.


Used car lots where you’ll actually get a fair deal. In addition to photos and directions, these cards include translations of used-car-speak terms such as “low mileage” and “pre-loved.” Cards also advise what not to say when shopping. A subset includes photos of salespeople who don’t withhold added charges until your pen touches the contract signature line.


Stylists who should never cut your hair. If you’ve ever paid way too much for a haircut that made you look like a pair of eagles decided your head was prime nest-building territory, you’ll want these cards.   


Door-to-door scam artists. You know the ones, the guys who claim they’re with a crew working nearby and have tools and extra time to give you a great deal. Cards also include teams selling magazines you’ve never heard of, folks who claim they install solar panels overnight, and those collecting for refugees in a country that isn’t on any map.


Teen body language. A face-to-face conversation with a teenager may involve more physical expressions than verbal. These cards, with full-color photographs, interpret twitches, eye rolls, shrugs, and more. They also offer translations of some of the latest teen-speak words and phrases.


Bad bosses. Cards would depict the nitpicker, the clock watcher, the insecure and paranoid, the endless-meeting manager, the guy who disappears in a crisis, and the supervisor who expects you to sacrifice weekends and cancel vacations. Cards would also offer tips on how to spot bad bosses during the interview process.


Clothing outlets with true sizes and realistic fashions. These outlets cater to those who aren’t actors or models. Their sizes actually conform to your measurements instead of being too large or too small, and their styles are for those who want jeans with more fabric than holes.


I don’t get it cards. If you’ve ever puzzled over a cartoon, or wondered about a reference on a TV show that set off the laugh track, these cards are for you. Not only would they explain a drawing or an actor’s comment, they would also explain why you might find it amusing or relevant.


As a bonus, cards would be laminated. This would extend their life and allow them to be used for household projects such as leveling tables or loiding locked doors.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Sleep Comfort Adventure



My beautiful, talented, supernaturally perceptive lady-liege and I went mattress shopping this morning over in Jantzen Beach, the big-box store capital of the universe. We spent a considerable amount of time in Bed World and Mattress Mart. Or was it Mattress World and Bed Mart? I disremember.      


Carolyn was adamant that we needed new mattresses. She told one of the salesmen that I kamikaze onto mine from a great altitude, splashing down on it and creating a thunderous sound that can be heard by our neighbors a block away. This, she claims has caused my mattress to sag considerably. This may well be. The fact that I hadn’t noticed and sleep just fine on it doesn’t seem to be a part of the equation. I credit her for not using the word “oaf” at any point in her narrative.

Like everything else, mattress shopping has gotten very high tech. At one place (either World or Mart, I disremember) they have you lie down on a mattress hooked to a space-age looking device. It creates a cartoonish green mock-up of your body, which shows the salesman what you need in the way of firmness, lumbar support, leg room and muscle adjustment. It’s possible it also indicates nutritional deficiencies and need for personal counseling. Again, I disremember. ( Disrememberization, by the way is a handy device for avoiding marital disputes, ignoring medical advice and chore avoidance.)

I’m convinced the mattress technology also provides the salesperson the talking points to sell the customer up into the $3000 super-deluxe hyper-double-frammis, air-cooled, internet-ready dual-exhaust model from the basic $200 “flat place to sleep” model he or she came into the store to buy.

 Next, Carolyn insisted we lie down on a number of mattresses to see how comfortable they are. Very honestly, I couldn’t tell one from another. Keep in mind that if I went out drinking during my college days, my roommates would ferry me home and stand me up in the corner. 8-16 hours later I would awaken, fully refreshed.

She had exchanges with the sales guy using terms like “too soft,” “the memory foam feels like I’m sinking in quicksand” and “firm but with a nice bouquet and a hint of elderberries.” My feedback was pretty much limited to “oof” and “pretty nice flat place to lie down.” (On this one, my wife and I exchanged marital eye-rolls. Mine was far superior, making a ka-ching sound on the upper end.)

In the end, we bought two twin mattresses. They weren’t as expensive as I thought they might be and delivery, setup and disposal of the old mattresses was included in the price. (I’m not sure how challenging set-up will be, amounting to setting the mattress on the wooden bed frame).

It was explained to us that they donate the old mattresses to charity, which I think is a worthwhile thing. Carolyn wonders where they’ll find a recipient for mine, muttering something about she hoped some poor schlep doesn’t mind crashing on a U-shaped mattress. Hey, not everyone requires a flat place to sleep.

Ultimately, I think the mattress shopping excursion was a positive experience. I learned some important science involving lumbar support and reclining body imaging. Shopping together made our long-lasting marriage even more fulfilling. And the series of eye-roll exchanges strengthened the muscles of our foreheads and upper cheeks. 

I was so inspired by the process, I’m exploring the concept of opening my own big-box sleep comfort outlet. The sign out front will read “FLAT PLACE TO SLEEP MART.” (or possibly “FLAT PLACE TO SLEEP WORLD.”)



Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Thank God it's over!!!


I recently underwent the second most unpleasant procedure known to mankind. The first, of course, having your nose eaten off your face by a family of voracious weasels. But at least with the weasels you don’t have to drink the vile slurry they give you to clean out your nether regions prior to a…


I could actually feel a group shudder as you read that word.

First of all, let me say that the staff at the Oregon Clinic Endoscopy Center (east) could not have been nicer or more helpful and compassionate than they were. They made the experience slightly less gruesome. That being said . . .


As anyone who has undergone one or more of these procedures knows, the prep is far worse than the actual event. After all, they give you some great drugs and you snooze while they’re reaming.

But three days without solid food, (when lime jello becomes a highlight of your lunch hour) and swilling a full gallon of what had to have started its life as tailings from a toxic mining operation, seems much longer than what the clock is telling you.

 My older brother Ray, when I told him what I was facing commented; “You know, I’ve gone 96 years without having anyone put a camera up my keester. I think I’ll hold out a bit longer.” You know, if you’ve lived that long, you’ve probably done something right.

 Alright, alright, I know I’m being a bit of a gloomy Gus here. Colonoscopies are useful medical tools for discovering and treating a whole family of ailments. Unpleasant but necessary. But only once every 5 years, thank God. I won’t know until the biopsy results come in, but hopefully I’ve got nothing happening up there.

 There were a couple of upsides to the whole process. Dr. Ken Flora was upbeat and thoroughly professional. As were the various and sundry nurses. After I woke up, one them, I think maybe Staci, was telling me all the things I shouldn’t do right away because of the anesthesia. “Don’t operate any heavy machinery” she told me. Check. I’d have to put my afternoon manipulating a front-end loader on hold. “Don’t drink any alcoholic beverages.” Okay, happy hour is postponed till Wednesday. She continued with a serious look on her face. “And don’t make any significant life altering decisions.” I thought about it. “So, I should postpone starting my late-in-life career as a nude pole dancer?” I asked. This made her grin. Which made the whole pre, during and post procedure worth it.

        Bottom line. Don’t postpone getting your colon checked out. It’s not really that bad and could save your life. Plus, you’ll get some dandy photos of a part of your body you’d never see otherwise. I’m thinking about getting some wallet-sized prints made. Then, the next time I’m asked to show ID somewhere, I’ll just whip one of them out.

 On the way home we found ourselves in gridlock on I-205 out of Portland. In what had to be a masterstroke of cosmic irony we were stuck behind a panel truck bearing the logo of MR. ROOTER. Wait! I thought. You mean they’ll come right to your home? Is there a clown-festooned Mc-oscopy outlet with a drive-up? You just stick your fandango out the passenger's side window and they take care of it right there. I can almost hear the attendant/nurse’s voice now:

 “You want fries with that?”





Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Lilacs and Memories


Carolyn J. Rose


I seldom pass a lilac bush in bloom without thinking of Walt Whitman’s poem of mourning for Abraham Lincoln, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.”

But, as is the way of my busy brain, before I become mired in Whitman’s long lament, the memory leads on to another and another. Images overlap and blend together.


Lilac bushes abounded in the hollows of the Catskill Mountains where I grew up. Many of them marked houses long gone, flattened by snow and rot, wind, and gravity. Those bushes, once nurtured in sunlit dooryards, had grown spindly in their attempts to reach sunlight blocked by pine and oak and hemlock. Others were moss-covered, gnarled and bent from struggles to survive another winter.


But there were also younger bushes, carefully tended, fertilized and pruned. Many were planted with an eye toward shadings of color. White. Lilac. Deep purple.


I recall a long lilac hedge along the road the bus traveled in the tedious journey to school. In winter its bare branches did little to shield the home behind it from wind and snow and the interest of those driving past. Spring brought forth leaves, elongated green hearts that made my teenage heart long for love—or what I imagined was love at that hormone-driven age. When the lilacs bloomed, rain-drenched blossoms bending branches toward the ground, it signified the school year was coming to a close. The flowering gave notice that another page of my life was turning, that plans needed to be made, enlarged, or amended.


I remember walking dirt roads, catching the scent on a warming breeze, and following it to a flowering bush. Because the blooms turned brown far too soon and didn’t linger into summer they were precious to me. More precious than the varieties of roses my father’s mother managed to grow in the thin and stony soil of a yard shaded by an enormous maple.


My mother’s mother had a bottle of lilac perfume and, in the dim light of a winter day, I would sometimes loosen the stopper and sniff. It was sweet, but the scent was nothing like that of the blooms of spring. It was, in fact, more like a faint memory, poorly preserved.


Friday, March 24, 2023

A Chicken in Every Pot



Carolyn J. Rose

I wasn’t around when Herbert Hoover’s campaign called for “a chicken for every pot.” I can’t remember when I heard the slogan in a history class, a slogan that had been changed to “a chicken in every pot.” What I do recall is the moment I realized there are some pots that should never, in my firm opinion,contain a chicken.


When I joined Volunteers in Service to America in 1970, I was sent to Little Rock, Arkansas. It was July, with a steamy humid heat like nothing I’d never experienced growing up in the Catskills or going to college in Tucson. It was a heat that barely loosened its grip after sundown, a heat that shot up again with only a slight grace period after dawn.


VISTA’s monthly allotment was a sum of less than $200 a month after taxes and I seem to recall it was referred to as a stipend rather than pay. Buying an air conditioner or paying for the power to run it was out of the question. Fans did little to help, simply slapping soggy air. Perspiration didn’t evaporate. Sweat stuck around.


Cold water provided a little from-the-inside-out relief. Cold beer helped more. And one particular brand of beer (a brand I won’t name) was on sale that summer. A quart was around a quarter. But those quarts were cheap because they weren’t chilled. Our refrigerators were small and, by today’s standards, didn’t get the job done quickly.


So, the four or five of us who regularly met to cobble together an evening meal developed a strategy. No matter how many bottles of beer we bought, we left at least one—and ideally two—in the refrigerator. Those, like sourdough starter, slaked our thirst at the next gathering. Of the warm bottles purchased for that gathering, two went into the tiny freezer compartment to chill. The rest were stashed in the coldest part of the refrigerator. If they weren’t chilled to perfection—or even close—by the time we opened them, it seldom seemed to matter. It was the first beer that absolutely had to be cold.


Whole chickens were also extremely cheap that summer, so we had chicken at every group meal. No one even dreamed of turning on the oven, especially not in the second-floor apartment of two male volunteers. Chicken was chopped up and grilled on a tiny Hibachi. When they discovered they were out of charcoal, it was fried. Housekeeping was never my strong suit and it really wasn’t the strong suit of those two guys. When the frying pan accumulated so much caked-on grease we couldn’t stand to look at it, and when no guests stepped up to do the scrubbing, the chicken went into a pot of water and was boiled, made into soup, or shredded for sandwiches. When that pot developed a crusty ring, the guys dug out a second pot. The second pot soon reached the point where the word “disgusting” didn’t begin to describe it. The first pot and the frying pan still languished, unscrubbed, on the counter.


Remaining hopeful for a burst of hygiene, I set out for their apartment a few days later carrying several bottles of beer. As I climbed the stairs, I smelled chicken, onion, and another aroma. It was familiar. I knew I smelled it often. But I couldn’t place it.


I opened the door, set my beer offering on the kitchen table, and turned to the stove. There, bubbling away, was a pot. A dented metal coffeepot. A coffeepot without the basket for ground coffee or the perk tube. A coffeepot with a chicken crammed inside.


Well, most of the chicken was crammed in. The legs, pale and pimpled, stuck out.


I gagged. My appetite disappeared. Leaving the beer behind, I fled.


To this day, whenever I see chicken, in any form, I get a sharp mental picture of that chicken and that pot. After more than 50 years, I no longer gag. I chuckle. Then I insert the word “almost” into the campaign slogan.



Thursday, March 2, 2023

Spiritual Guidance Satellite Systems


On the way to the gym the other morning we spotted a sign outside a church that read: BEGIN YOUR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY HERE !!!

Wow, I thought. A spiritual journey. I’ve never been on one. But, before I would attempt one, I had a lot of questions. 

For example, if I went into the church, would they really send me on a certifiable spiritual journey? Or was it just a ploy to add a baritone voice to their hymn singing and a few additional bills to their collection plate? And what would happen if I broke down midway through my journey? Would my AAA membership cover a tow truck coming out to recharge my spiritual battery or replace a punctured Tao after I ran over a chunk of jagged incredulity? And how should I pack for such a trip? How many changes of underwear would be sensible?

Most importantly, how would I know, as the journey progressed, that I hadn’t strayed away from the most efficient route to enlightenment? What I really needed was something similar to a GPS. Something that would give me step by step directions like the soothing (yet condescending) female voice on my Garmin. Yes, I needed an SPS. A Spiritual Positioning Satellite device. A Karmin if you will.

First, I would need to enter my current location. I doubted it would ask for a physical address. More likely the place I was beginning from spiritually. Agnosticism-I would tap out on the virtual keyboard provided.  

 “Hello, this is your spirit guide, Astral. Are you sure you meant to say agnosticism?” The silky, yet pious female voice would ask. “Perhaps you meant to say Adventistism.”     

“No, I’m starting at agnosticism.”

  “Okay, fine,” Astral says, an undercurrent of scorn in her voice. “Where would you like to go?”

Hmmm. Where would a spiritual journey end up? Heaven? Nirvana? Paradise? The Kona Coast?

“I’m not sure, actually. Can I do a look-up? Where might the road lead? Destinations of a Spiritual Journey?”

“Searching now,” she purrs, A lit bar crawls across the bottom of the screen as the computer taps into its knowledge base.

 “Here are several possibilities,” Astral says, all business now. “Number one-Enlightenmentland.”

“Is that like a spiritual amusement park?”

“Yes, it is.” She answers. “Truth-a-whirl is a local favorite.”

“I'm not good on high-speed rides. Wouldn't do to hurl on my spiritual journey. What else?”

“Sanctify City,” She continues the list. “Exultationville, Paradigmia, Holier--than-thou-burg.”

“Geez, I can’t decide. Surprise me.”

“I do not have a setting for surprise me.”

“Oh, alright then I’ll pick . . . Paradigmia. Maybe there’s something there I can believe in.”

“Acquiring satellites now,” Astral sniffs. “Mapping out route from your current location, Agnosticism . . . (digital snort) to destination Paradigmia.” It’s clear from her tone she’s mildly disdainful of my choice.

I wait while the SPS finishes its calculation. A map pops up with the route marked out. My position is shown by an icon in the shape of a perplexed looking emoji.

“Beginning your spiritual journey. Back out of the driveway of your agnostic comfort zone condo. Expand your consciousness and go to the stop sign. Make an immediate right turn on Illumination Avenue.”

“Alrighty then. So far, so good.”

“Continue for three-quarters of a mile. move into the far righteous lane. Turn piously at the traffic light and take Hallelujah Avenue. Stay in the righteous lane until you come to the 7-11.”

There are convenience stores along the way on your spiritual journey? Hey, you never know when you might want a Big Gulp to slake your spiritual thirst.

 “Proceed to the green light of undying faith. If you take another righteous turn, you’ll arrive at the parking lot of your destination in 500 feet.”

“Thank you Astral,”

There you have it. My spiritual journey complete. I wondered what would have happened if I’d ignored one of Astral’s instructions. What if I’d turned left on Hallelujah Avenue? Where would it have taken me? If I’d decided to mess with Astral, like I did with the semi-snotty voice on my Garmin, would it have recalculated? Insisted I go around the block and get back on spiritual track? What if I’d turned left and dead-ended on woo-woo circle and stopped to burn some incense and chant some gibberish or the lyrics from a Bob Dylan song? (Essentially the same thing). If I strayed from the correct path, would the cosmic police write me a citation for trespassing on someone else’s spiritual journey?  Would Astral out of disgust and spite, roll me right into eternal damnation or the universal headquarters for false Gods?

The naughty nine-year-old boy in me wanted to find out. Another part of me, the part that maintained a shred of sanity, said leave well enough alone. 

“Astral,” I told the SGS. “Could you stand by, please? In case I need to take another spiritual journey.”


Monday, February 13, 2023

A Woman of Many Words

 Carolyn J. Rose




Recently Mike asked me the meaning of “lugubrious.”

 Thanks to my favorite high school English teacher, Miss Smith, I didn’t hesitate before saying “mournful.”

 The next day he wondered about the meaning of “avuncular.”

 Piece of cake.

 “An uncle,” I replied, “or someone like an uncle.”

 I could almost see the words on those tiny flash cards we made by slicing up index cards. Five words a day. The word written on one side of the cardlet and the definition on the other. Quizes every Friday. Spell the word. Define the word. Use the word in a sentence. Rinse and repeat.

 We used rubber bands to hold the cardlets together but, after a few weeks, the stacks got too large for one band. I broke my cardlets up into two stacks—words I was sure of and words I was sure I’d never learn.

 During passing times on Fridays it was a snap to tell which students had Miss Smith—to this day I can’t think of her as Miriam—and who had a teacher who didn’t place as much emphasis on the Latin roots of words and what they all meant. Miss Smith’s students were flipping through their stacks of cardlets as they walked, lips moving as they recited, foreheads creased in worried frowns.

 She was a demanding drill sergeant of a teacher. At the same time, she was also loved and admired. I didn’t want to disappoint her.

 Only occasionally did I get a perfect score on the weekly quizzes or the larger tests. Something always tripped me up. Usually the spelling. An I before an E. An E tacked onto the end of a word or taking the place of an A.

 But, like song lyrics from the same period (the early 60s) the meanings of many of those words have stuck with me. Granted, I don’t often get called upon to act as a walking, talking dictionary. But when I do, an image of Miss Smith forms in my mind. She’s wearing a white blouse, a dark straight skirt with a muted pattern, and black heels. She gives me a nod of approval. I toss back a nod of thanks.