Monday, October 3, 2022

The Blind Leading the Blinds


I was going to bed last night, and when I looked down at my leg, there on my inner thigh was a giant bruise. A big splotch of various purple hues up and down my inner thigh. I have no idea how I got that other than as a gift from the DNA I inherited from my mom. She also used to bruise at just the thought of brushing past a hard object. My only clue to the big bruise were the new blinds I put up on the front windows of our home. I could have injured myself there. 

For six years I have left the raggedy shades on those windows that the previous owners had put up. Probably thirty years ago. Every time I priced new shades a shiver went down my spine. That's an awful lot of money to spend on window shades, I would tell myself. So I never pulled the trigger on ordering them. Not until most of them had tangled cords, bent folds, and were pretty much just twisted junk. For two days I labored, taking down the old and putting up the new blinds that replaced them. Once again, the product came from China. I don't purposely order products from China, it's just the way it is. As a way to screw with us imperialistic Americans, the Chinese like to include cryptic instructions printed in the tiniest font available. Thank goodness for YouTube, the how to do it for old folks. Almost everything I do these days includes a review of how to do it on YouTube. Seriously, I don't know how we lived before the age of videos. Oh, wait. Now I remember. Clear instructions in a large enough font, written by somebody with a firm grip on the English language, and usually the product was made within five hundred miles of my house.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Autumn in Chicago


Cars covered in fall leaves (Look closely. they're honey locust leaves)

The honey locust trees are the last to get their leaves in the spring, and the first to drop them in autumn. Tiny little yellow leaves everywhere. Open the door to your car and you'll find them stuck in every crevice and on the floor. Yes, it is the season they call 'fall' because that's what happens. Leaves fall, temperatures fall, and old people start looking forward to falling in a couple of months. Winter ice is brutal. Autumn is the season when I remember that I don't live in Florida anymore. Not that I dread winter, it's just that fifty degrees in September is so much colder than fifty degrees in February. If we get a warm spell in January or February and the temperature jumps up near fifty degrees, you'll see Chicagoans running around in tee shirts and shorts. Sometimes they'll even break out the flip flops. Not me. Unless it's over sixty degrees I stick to the long pants and layers of shirts and sweaters.

In the fall of the first year we moved back to Chicago from Florida, on the first day the weather turned nasty and dropped to under fifty degrees, I got ready to walk the dogs. I put on a sweat shirt, the big fluffy coat Mark had bought me, a hat and gloves, and braved the cold along with Chandler. He also didn't like being cold. He was a Florida dog all the way. We hurried down the street to the corner where a family of Chicago firemen lived. As we turned up Thorndale the firemen were all out there, drinking beers in tee shirts and shorts. I'll never forget the distain in the voice from one of the older guys in the group. "Geez, look at this guy. He's all bundled up already. Damn, it's only October fer krissakes."

The firemen don't live in that house anymore. A family from Vietnam bought it. You know, Vietnam. Where it's hotter than hell most of the year. I've seen them outside in the middle of winter, also in tee shirts.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The Ugly Americans


Over the years Mark and I traveled quite often. Probably thirty or forty trips around North America, and Europe. On most of those trips, at some point, I would swear that I would never travel with him again. My need to rest after a couple of hours of sightseeing conflicted with Mark's belief that when you go away, you must spend every single hour walking, riding, visiting museums, and going out in the evening to party. I don't think he ever grasped the fact that I was ten years older than he was. One trip that Mark liked to bring up in company often, was our visit to Prague. He usually got on the subject when the idea of finding your way around a strange city came up. Mark got lost in every single city we visited and I liked to tell those stories. So Mark got great pleasure in telling how Alan made a mistake finding our way to the night life in Prague.

We had got on the correct tram, but if you know me, you know that I always think I know where I'm going. As the tram snaked through the city I kept on assuring Mark that I knew exactly when we should get off. I had looked at the map and saw that we had to exit the big red tram just before it crossed the river. About two blocks before the river the tram stopped and most of the people got off. Mark suggested that maybe we should too. "No, not this stop. We get off at the river." I told him. As we approached the river bridge, I stood up and told Mark that our stop was coming up. I was a bit surprised when the train just kept going past the corner and across the river. We should have got off with all those other people. I pressed the call button over and over. The driver ignored me. Finally on the far side of the river, the tram stopped and the doors opened. Mark got off, and as I stepped off he began berating me. I tried to make an excuse, but Mark did not hear me because he was yelling. The few people around looked at us like we were nuts, all cursing and yelling in a foreign language. Oh, I didn't mention, at that time not very many Czechs spoke English. It was very rare to run into one who understood us. Anyway, we started on foot back across the bridge, Mark yelling, me yelling, and then it started raining. You'd think he was melting, the way Mark whined. At that point I swore I would never travel with him again. We did finally make it back across to the entertainment area we had been trying to get to. Not before fending off numerous prostitutes, but we got there. We had a couple of drinks in a bar where nobody spoke English, and then took a taxi back to our bed and breakfast. The next morning I got up all rested and ready for our tour of the castle where I got explosive diarrhea. But that's another story.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

No Air Bags, No Seat Belts, No Radio


I learned something this week. My brother, Dave, bought a memorial brick in Mark's name at the Gilmore Auto Museum in Hickory Corner's, Michigan. I do want to go and see that brick. It means a lot to me. This weekend will be Model A days at the museum and I won't be going. That's because I was not sure of how a trip that long in a ninety three year old car would turn out. Like I said, I learned something. Instead of joining the Model A club in four hundred mile round trip, I and my brother Gary, took a much shorter trip into Indiana on Monday. Sort of a test run to see if I should join the club caravan next year. First of all, it rained. It rained all day Monday. It rained on Tuesday with early fog thrown in. Did I mention that my windshield wiper doesn't work? I learned that a product called Rain-x works pretty good letting rain sheet off your windows. I also learned that on the second day of rain, most of that Rain-x has washed off. I had wanted to take a lot of photos of our little trip, but it was raining. Lots of rain. Weatherman had said twenty percent chance of rain. We had one hundred percent of rain all day Monday, and the entire drive back to Chicago until we hit the city limits. All day Monday people were texting me that the weather back home was pretty nice. Sun and perfect temperatures. Not in Indiana. On Indiana route 35, northbound, I learned that the Indiana State Police will not stop to help when a 1929 Ford has a flat tire right in front of them. We had a flat tire. The car directly behind me when the tire went flat was an Indiana State Police car. It did not stop. So we pulled off into the soft mud on the side of the road and changed our tire in the rain.

Like I said, I learned things. I learned that even when the weather in Chicago is gorgeous, Indiana weather, only a few miles away, can be crap. I learned that it was very wise to bring my brother Gary along. He was an awesome navigator, with his little GPS app on his phone. Only got us lost twice. I also learned that such a long drive in a very old car is hard on my seventy two year old body. My back ached, my knee hurt (clutch), and I got very tired. So I won't be going to the Gilmore Museum with the other Model A's next September. More likely I'll be in my 2014 Ford Fusion with air conditioning, radio, seat belts, windshield wipers, automatic transmission, and very, very comfortable seats.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

I Went to a Concert and I Didn't Bring My Phone


I think they're called woohoo girls. The ones you see at a concert wearing tight clothes, a floppy hat or cowboy hat, who sometimes sit on their boyfriend's shoulders and if they can't do that, dance on the seat right in front of you. I don't like them. Sunday we had a version of that person. I was at the Diana Ross concert. We had pretty good seats with nobody in front of us for the first hour and a half while the opening acts were playing. Then Diana came out in all her splendor. Everybody jumped to their feet and sang and danced along to the music. About four songs in, when things calmed down, everybody sat back down. That's when the woohoo girl came bouncing into the row of seats right in front of us. She looked me right in the eyes as she wiggled and bounced, in a kind of screw you moment. She and her woohoo girlfriend didn't sit from there on. While everybody else sat, they stood and danced in front of us. When everybody stood to cheer and also dance, they stayed dancing in front of us. Yes, I danced. Which is very similar to the Trump dance. Feet planted firmly while kind of punching at the air right in front of me. Unless I had my hands in my pockets, then it was Trumpian without the air punching. Anyway jiggling and dancing isn't all the woohoo girls did. They and their pudgy man friend took video of the concert with their phones. In fact out of the three thousand, eight hundred people in that pavilion, Three thousand, seven hundred and eighty nine of them were taking video. Holding their phones up and staring intently at the little screens in front of them. The eleven who did not take video were all elderly, infirm people who couldn't stand up, and me. I don't like to bring my phone to concerts. I like to be there and actually see the act in person. You know it's true, none of those folks will ever look at those videos again past the next day. Just hundreds of terabytes of data wasting away in the cloud. Oh, and the dumb asses blocking our view of the stage? My friend Doug put down his smart phone just long enough to tap one of them on the shoulder and ask them to move over.

Monday, August 29, 2022



Lila at nineteen

That's a photo of my mom at the age of nineteen, probably taken by my father who was not yet eighteen years old. When that photo was taken Mom and Dad had known each other for two years. I look at that picture and wonder, what did Mom see in her future? I know that Al Putz was part of that vision. It's written on the back of one of the first photos she had of him. It says something like, "I want him." She got him. They were married exactly two years after this photo was taken.

Did Mom know that she would be taken out of her city neighborhood and dropped into a tiny rural town, twenty miles southwest of Back of the Yards? It doesn't seem so far today, but back then there were no interstates. Also, the city ended around eighty seventh street. From there on it was corn fields and farms. I remember being nineteen, with a long and unknown future in front of me. At that age you have no idea. I'm sure my mom did not think she would be mother to eleven. Was she expecting to live another eighty years when that photo was taken? She probably didn't even think about such a thing. Yet Mom did live almost to one hundred years. Fifty seven of them with my dad, who passed in March of 2000.

I sure hope Mom was happy with how it all turned out. I think she was happy. Seriously, how could she not be happy? She had me for a son.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Alan Gets Beat Up By Ninety Three Year Old, Henry.


My arm is bruised, my ribs and knees hurt, but I eventually won. In my garage is a ninety three year old Ford that is... or was one hundred percent stock as it came from the factory. Over the weekend I changed one thing. I removed the generator and replaced it with an alternator. The reason was that I want to add some extra tail lights. Henry Ford built these cars with only one small, dim light in the rear. Also, my headlights will work better. Anyway, on Saturday I watched the video on how to install my new alternator. It looked so easy. The guy removed the old generator and slapped the alternator in the car in only eight minutes. So easy... so easy. That's the giveaway right there. If it looks easy, It will not be. Removing the generator was easy, but the old Ford just didn't want that new fangled part in him. First of all, the bolt was too long and rubbed against the fan belt. That's how I got my arm all bruised up, banging it against the radiator shell. Which is another point. I kept going back to the video to see what I was doing wrong and about the third time through it I noticed that the guy was installing the alternator on a stripped down Model A. No radiator shell, no fenders, no hood. He had great access to do the job. They probably also made sure everything fit before they even turned on the camera. At one point I was instructed to insert two washers between the engine block and the alternator bracket. Out of the four washers I had on hand, I lost three. I saw them slip out of my greasy fingers and disappear into thin air. When the cursing got too loud and I worried that the neighbors would complain, I gave up. I would continue the fight on Sunday. Early Sunday I went to Home Depot to find a shorter bolt and buy more washers. In the screws, bolts, and nuts aisle Home Depot had rows of flat drawers. On the outside is a description of what is in them. All orderly, and color coded. Then when you open the drawer that says what you need is inside, you find a jumbled mess of nothing that you need. Torn open bags of bolts, washers, and nuts, all the wrong size.

Long story too long now to make short, I got the alternator installed. It actually works and I now will feel a bit safer driving my old Ford at night. Hopefully nothing else will need attention for a week or so. I need to heal.