Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Visitor

I went to visit Mom yesterday. Mom always tells me how much she misses Dad, how she never thought she would outlive him. Well she did. Her family seems to live much longer than my dad's side of the family. As a nice gesture, on my way in the front door, I gave Mom a reenactment of my dad as I remember him. It was not planned, but it worked out. As I was walking in, the screen door snapped back and caught me on my heel. It hurt like hell and I broke out in a string of profanities that would have done my dad proud. Nobody could curse like Dad, but I am trying. I'm not sure if Mom enjoyed the Big Al impression, she didn't say, but I hope it brought back some memories.

We got to talking during lunch and Mom told me that a nice older gentleman had come over to visit the other day. Let me explain a couple of things. Mom lives in 'The Pines', a neighborhood that was built for older people like my mom and dad. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Mom has outlived many of her neighbors so it is sweet that one of the survivors stopped by to visit her.
"He came over, so I invited him in. He stayed much longer than I expected."
"So do you know this guy?" I asked.
"Not really. But we talked for quite awhile."
"You invited a stranger into your house?"
"He's not a total stranger. I know that I've seen him before, around The Pines I think. His name is Mr. Vandenberg."
"Vandenberg? Mom, you know a Mr. Vandenberg" I assured her.
"I don't think so, but I have seen him before."
Quite possibly she has seen him before. The Vandenberg's own the funeral parlor in Tinley Park.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Taxing Problem

Back in April Mark had me do his taxes for him. I don't know why, I'm not a CPA and I used to regularly flunk math when I was a kid. My math skills improved when I actually worked in places where I had to make change and when I went to school to learn that computer stuff. But really, I would not trust me to do anybody's tax return. I don't even do my own taxes. Never the less, I did Mark's taxes. It all seemed pretty simple. Fill in the blanks with the information provided on all the forms. No problem. The form for showing that Mark had health insurance was a bit confusing, but I put what he had in the appropriate lines. I then had him sign the bottom of the page, I sealed it in the envelope, and sent it off to the IRS. Last week the IRS sent everything back to him. They say that they need a little more information and included some more forms to be filled out. Again, Mark turned it all over to me. I believe that somebody said, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, is a sign of insanity. Mark is close to that edge. Yesterday I looked the forms over, read the instructions, and got a giant headache. It is very complicated.. at least to me it is. I have no idea why Mark thinks that I can do something that he finds too confusing to do himself. One thing the IRS does throughout the instructions is use acronyms and initialisms. Does anybody know what the hell SLCSP and APTC mean? Those abbreviations are used throughout the instructions. I have gone back through them over and over, and I cannot find what they mean. The fact that the instructions are in 8 point font size does not help either. Anyway, I took two Excedrin this morning and I will try again. What I probably will do is just scrawl across the form that Mark lived in Florida, then he moved, then he lived in Chicago, and things changed. I'm sure the IRS will understand all that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Congratulations, it's an Armstrong Red Maple

One of the only things I miss about Florida are my live oak trees. Out in front of the house I had two live oaks, the largest of the two I grew from a tiny stick. After twenty three years they had grown large and supported a nice necklace of Spanish Moss. The larger of the two trees also had a nice staghorn fern attached to it, along with a orchid that bloomed every year. When I bought this house in Chicago, I thought about those trees. Our new home had nothing. Not one tree, not one bush, nothing but sod. It looked so plain. So one year ago I called up the City of Chicago and ordered a tree for the parkway in front of the house. That is city property, so they will come out and plant a tree at no cost to you. They came yesterday. Exactly one year after I made the call, a city truck showed up with a sort of bulldozer like contraption and dug a hole in my front yard. Moments after they started digging the hole another truck showed up with a bunch of trees on it. It only took about thirty minutes for them to dig the hole and stick my new Red Maple tree in that hole. My only problem with it, is that all the bark was stripped off of one side of the tree. I pointed that little flaw out to one of the workmen and he said, "Es bueno, no problemo." I looked around at the other workers. They nodded, "Si, no problemo." Good thing I picked up a little Espanol down in Florida. Anyway, we'll see. I'm going to tend that little tree as if it were my child. I am going to shower it, literally, every day with love and water. I'm going to keep the little girl next door away from it because she climbs all the trees in the neighborhood. (I still think she's the one who tore down my flag pole by swinging from it.) We'll see if that stripped bark is really bueno or not. There is one thing about the planting of the tree that I noticed. Even though all the city workers were obviously Mexican immigrants, they followed the tradition of every city work crew that has ever been. It took five of them to plant one tree. One to drive the bulldozer like contraption, one to stand there and point to the spot where the hole was to be dug, one to drive the truck with the trees, another to tamp down the dirt around the tree, and one more guy who stood there and told me "Es bueno, no problemo."

Monday, June 26, 2017

Collateral Damage

Mark is skinny, I am plump. Mark eats all day long, whatever he wants, and he is still skinny. In fact, Mark is so skinny that his doctor has told him to gain weight. My doctor doesn't have to tell me to lose weight, he just sticks me on the scale and that tells me all I need to know. So now that Mark has been told to gain some serious weight, he is working very hard towards that goal. He has me make him a chocolate malt every evening. I love chocolate malts. He has me make him waffles and pancakes for breakfast. I love waffles and pancakes. Almost every afternoon he has me walk over to Wolfie's hotdog stand and get him a big, fat filled sandwich. I love Wolfie's. Mark has gained one pound, which he promptly lost walking from the car to the supermarket the other day. I have gained five pounds.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Green Monster

I am not a farmer. I am not even a good gardener. I'm a guy who likes a good movie or story of any kind, a cocktail, and driving fast. Don't worry, not all at the same time. I do like a well tended garden. I just don't want to do all that work. So when Mark insisted that we put in a vegetable garden, I was like "Okay. What, a row of corn and a couple of tomato plants?" No, Mark ran out and bought all kinds of plants. Cucumbers, peppers, beans, peas, various herbs, and a couple of things that I'm not sure of. The problem arose with where Mark wanted this garden. First of all, it was all sod. Sod is a bitch to dig up and turn into arable soil. What happened is that I dug up half of that area before I quit. Too damn hard. Now I had half the garden Mark had wanted, with twice the amount of plants that could have fit if I had dug up the whole thing. No problem, I stuffed all those little plants into one quarter of the area that they actually needed. One month ago they all fit in real nice, all lined up like a real gardener had been there. However, since then it has rained, the temperature has gotten warmer, and our little plants have grown up. The peas are choking the corn, the beans have interwoven with the morning glories that I forgot grew along the fence, and the tomato plants are fighting for room, pushing out the pepper plants. As for those cucumbers, they need a hell of a lot more room than I gave them. I figure that within a couple of weeks the cucumbers will have taken over the whole thing. Seriously, they are growing so fast that if you stand there for any amount of time you will have to unwind them from your leg. So I don't know if we will have much of a crop this summer, and it does not matter. You see Mark seems to forget all about the things growing out in the yard. Last year I was giving away tomatoes to all the neighbors, while Mark kept bringing home tomatoes from the supermarket.