Thursday, August 27, 2009

Youthful Offender

I ratted out my 2 year old grandson to the fuzz.

Here is what happened:
Kathie and I, along with our son, Kris, his wife, Jen, and their son, Owen, were in Portsmouth, NH last weekend for a wedding. Kathie and I were assigned the task of babysitting Owen while his parents attended the rehearsal dinner.

Owen is a good natured, happy little guy who is also highly inquisitive. To describe him as “active” is like describing a tornado as a “bit of a blow.”

Gramsy and Pop were barely settled into the kids’ beautiful room at the Portsmouth Hilton and Owen had already turned the microwave oven on often enough to foul up TV reception in a 12 block area, turned the air conditioning off and the heat on, and placed a 911 call.

It was the last activity that caused the problem. I was letting him play with the phone because, worst case scenario, he would probably get someone at the front desk. “Maybe you shouldn’t let him do that,” Kathie said. This sentence, I should point out, was enough to exonerate her from all of the subsequent consequences, as in “I told your father not to let him do that.”

As soon as Owen put the phone down, it rang. It was the front desk asking if everything was okay, because someone had placed a call to 911. Without batting an eye, I sold the little guy down the river. It would have been easy enough for me to take the rap by saying I thought I was having a spell, but feel better now, thank you; or I was trying to order a pizza but misdialed because I am legally blind. But, nooooooo. “My two year old grandson did it”, I sniveled. “I was watching him like a hawk, but being old and infirm, could not wrestle the phone from his vice-like grip in time.”

I could hear the contempt in the clerk’s voice as he said: “I’m glad things are alright, but you will be getting a visit from the police as a matter of procedure.”

I started to hyperventilate. I am not one of those people who take comfort in the presence of police. Having grown up in the city, I regard an approaching officer as trouble on the way. Not that I am a career criminal, but most previous encounters have ended with a citation.

Sure enough, ten minutes later there was a knock at the door. It was the fuzz. A handsome young officer who’s stony expression could not hide his pissed-offedness at being sent up five stories to run down an errant 911 call.

I had made up my mind to be a man about it this time and do the right thing: blame my wife.

“Is everything okay here?” the officer inquired. Owen approached and was eyeing him as if trying to decide whether to make a grab for his gun or some other do-dad dangling from his belt.

“He did it, officer,” I said pointing at the pint-size perp.

“How old is he?,” the cop asked. Now, it had not occurred to me that he might actually bust Owen. Then I recalled that they haul away nursery school children for pointing at their classmates and making bang-bang sounds; and prosecute kindergarteners for kissing each other, so why not lock-up a two year old for making a bogus 911 call?

“He isn’t two yet, and he is not potty trained,” I replied. I pointed this out because I was sure this must be the base line for youthful incarceration, since the powers that be do not want to deal with the public outrage that running up huge diaper bills might entail. I could picture John McCain waving a Huggie from the floor of the Senate inveighing against government “waste.”

The officer looked disappointed, but tipped his hat, wished us a pleasant evening and left.

“We better not tell Kris and Jen about this,” Kathie said. I disagreed because I didn’t want them blind-sided when his nursery school application is rejected due to prior criminal activity.

They were actually amused. “He loves to play with the phone,” my daughter-in-law said. “We were afraid something like this would happen and glad it happened on your watch and not ours,” she continued. “ Here’s what we do to prevent this,” she said as she disconnected the phone.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


There are too many damn squirrels.

It seems to me that their numbers have grown exponentially in recent years, to the point that we are being over-run by the damn things.

I take a long walk each day along a rural road and trail. It seems like I encounter a squirrel every 25 feet. I saw on Nat Geo recently that ants (a future rant subject) account for the greatest percentage of bio-mass on the planet (and those are just the ones in my kitchen). Apparently, squirrels have taken this as a challenge.

They certainly are taking over my place. A year ago I purchased for 300 bucks a largeRubber Maid storage locker to keep recycling and bird feed. The seed was in a sealed plastic garbage barrel within the locker. The gray demons chewed their way through the locker in two places and the garbage container to get to the seed.

I know it was squirrels because I saw their stupid bucky teeth marks in the plastic and I encountered one up-close-and-personal when I opened the locker one day. I lifted the lid and looked in; staring back at me, bird seed all over his furry little face, was one of the cursed rodents.
His expression was like that of the squirrel on the tire commercial that is about to be run over by a car. I swear every hair on his body stood up and he let out a scream before hurdling from the bottom of the locker to the ground in one leap.

They are amazing athletes, I will grant them that. They have confounded my every effort to keep them out of my bird feeders. They can thwart any “anti-squirrel” devise ever invented. I even had to take the shudders off the side of the house where we have our feeders because the squirrels would climb them and launch themselves from there to the feeders some six feet away.

They have turned my 100 year old horse chestnut tree into a condo. They go in one hole and emerge from another twenty feet away on the other side of the tree. I am sure they have it on Craig’s list as “conveniently located to well-stocked bird feeders.”

Get a dog or cat, you might suggest. I have had both and neither was willing to take on the job. Our cat, a voracious hunter, had very distinct ideas about how large an animal she was willing to take on to satisfy her blood lust. Squirrels, she deemed, were outside her size range. I tried to explain to her that, factoring out their fluffy tails, squirrels were not much larger than the chipmunks and baby rabbits she slaughtered in profusion much to the distress of my children. I pointed out that, unlike alligators, squirrels don’t use their tails to batter their foes into submission. Try talking sense to a cat sometime and see where that gets you.

My two Irish terriers, however, were only too happy to chase squirrels. Two problems: they couldn’t catch them, and they preferred to chase them on other people’s property.
My male, an affable but not bright fellow, never figured out where the critters went when they would suddenly disappear just as he closed in. The whole up-a-tree idea was beyond his conceptual reach.

They were also like Arab chieftains in that they felt an obligation to be hospitable to enemies within their own tent. The dogs would happily wage war all over town while our squirrels lay on pillows eating dates.

Some people actually encourage the beasts by feeding them corn in the winter. Some even get excited by sighting an unfamiliar species. I saw a group with binoculars getting all ga-ga because they had spotted red squirrels in Califon. These are the same people who got excited 30 years ago by the appearance of Canadian geese and now employ dogs to run them off their property.

There is hope though. Squirrels really suck at crossing the road; this is why the roadways are littered with their rotting carcasses. They dash out into the street, and just as they seem to have made it to the other side, will run back right under the wheels of the car. This, it was explained to me, is because squirrels have home trees, and will bolt to them in times of danger even if it takes them to their doom.

I am sure that is on my chestnut tree’s listing as well: “On a quiet cul-de-sac, its the perfect home tree for you and your children.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Last Saturday Kathie and I took a ride out to Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA.

We go every year and it is usually a good time. This year, not so much.

There are stages set up all over the downtown area and in an adjacent park.
Bethlehem basks in it German Moravian heritage, so these stages are called “platz” as in America Platz and Polka Platz.

The city also capitalizes on its name with a big Christmas festival, the highlight of which is a huge nativity scene set up in the cellar of a church. This, with some degree of faux naiveté I suspect, they call a “putz.” There are signs all over town pointing bemused tourists in the direction of the putz. If these are not among the most stolen signs in the US, I would be greatly surprised. Every Jewish guy on the east coast must have one displayed in his man cave.

Anyway at the fest, there are bands and groups representing every sort of music imaginable playing at the platz throughout the day and into the night. All the street concerts are free. Quality, however, is spotty. We have made some discoveries over the years including our first exposure to zydeco and a terrific 50’s rock band from central Europe called “Red Elvis.” One of my favorites is a guy who dresses up as the Phantom of the Opera and plays baroque tunes on a gigantic truck load of bells called a carillon.

This year our timing was off and only one of the bands we heard was good. This was a group that pounded out mambo tunes at deafening volume. They were excellent though and the crowd was fun. We didn’t mambo because I wasn't drinking and Kathie was wearing flip-flops.

Among the low lights was a Jamaican group that pounded the bejesus out of what seemed like a dozen drums. If I wanted to get psyched up to raid and plunder another village this would do the trick, but on a hot afternoon in eastern PA it was just painful. It was fun though to watch over weight white people trying to dance to it.

Another loser was “Witches in Bikinis.” When I saw them on the program, I had to check them out although I expected it was like “Bare Naked Ladies”, three grubby fat guys in shorts and tee shirts. When we got to the platz, it was so crowded we couldn’t get in. Even from a distance, however, I could tell that, as advertised, the group consisted of at least four or five nubile young women attired in bikinis and witches hats and masks. I would have elbowed my way to the front for a closer inspection, but a look on Kathie’s face that combined both scorn and pity prevented me from doing so. (Why don’t I ever have my binoculars when I need them?)

Their music, however, seemed to consist of discordant wailing and screaming. It reminded me of what my neighbor blares through his speaker system on Halloween to set the mood for trick or treaters.

We decided to eat dinner at the fest and wandered among the many food vendors set up in the park. Kathie went with a pulled pork sandwich which she reported was good. I, perhaps inspired by the Mambo Kings, opted for arroz con pollo.

The vendor ladled a big scoop of the stuff onto a paper plate and handed it me. “I see the arroz, but where the hell is the pollo?” I said staring at a pathetic shred of chicken that looked like a half eaten Mac Nugget clinging to the edge of my plate. “It’s mixed in,” the vendor replied. It wasn’t. I tried spearing a few pieces of Kathie’s pork that fell from her sandwich, but she growled and I backed off.

As we wandered about, I began to take a hard look at my fellow Musikfesters. If ever there was any doubt that Americans are the worst dressed, most over weight people on the planet this group settled the issue. Fat, tattooed slobs in every imaginable get up, all of whom made the “Witches in Bikinis” look like they were dressed for the prom.

And most of them weren’t young. Kathie pointed out a 70 something woman in a wheel chair with a gaudy tattoo emblazoned across her amply displayed cleavage. “That should put and end to the tattoo craze,” she remarked.

We spotted an obese young woman with an entire garden of flowers and birds etched on her calves. “That looks like about four acres of scenic wonder to me,” I said. “Maybe she has the grand canyon tattooed on her ass.” “You’re getting cranky,” Kathie said. “It’s time to go.”

We got in the car, popped some Frank Sinatra in the CD player, and headed for home.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

No Moose for You

Elisabeth called on her cell phone to say she was parked on the side of the road looking at a moose.

She didn’t actually say “na,na,na,na,na” but it was in the tone of her voice: I saw a moose and you didn’t.

We have been going to Maine every summer with few exceptions for over twenty years. We favor the mid-coastal area for it’s beauty, relaxed ambience and because we have friends there. We were visiting them when the call came in from Elisabeth, who was driving up from Boston to join us, that she had accomplished what has eluded me for twenty years: she had seen a moose.

It is not from want of trying that the over-sized ungulate has eluded me. Every year I drive around at dusk seeking out marshy areas that they favor. I go on early morning moose stake-outs. Many years ago, I found a marshy, sandy area behind a newish subdivision that was chock-a-block with moose tracks. As often as I could, I would stake myself out behind a dune or bush and await the beast whose huge kaddidle hoppers had made the tracks. It never came to pass. Once, I met a woman back there who was berry picking. I asked if she had ever seen a moose. “Often,” she replied, “Take my word; you don’t want to run into one up close. It’s scary.” Indeed, but probably no more scary than running into an over-weight old guy in a bucket hat and shorts lurking behind a blueberry bush.

I would like to see a moose, not engage with it. A friend of mine came close to having this type of encounter. While on a fishing trip at a lake Canada, he had waded a short distance off shore. Suddenly, he was engulfed in a stomach turning odor which he described as a potpourri of every bad smell imaginable: backed-up septic, rotting flesh, extreme halitosis. He turned to see a bull moose giving him the old stink eye from shore. Fortunately it wandered off.

While we were in Maine, Kris, my son, was attending a bachelor party at Moosehead Lake. As the name implies, this is in the heart of moose country. He emailed a host of moosian snaps showing the big lugs dining, bathing, and basking in the sun. “Dad,” he wrote, “if you want to see a moose you have to come here.” I am sure in the world in which he lives moose in northern Maine are as common as squirrels. However, I live in a mooseless parallel universe, so I am sure I would schlep all the way up there and find, well, squirrels.

Granted, coastal Maine is not where they are most common in the state. They are common enough, however. Some years ago one leaped through the plate glass window of a laundromat in Rockland in broad daylight causing several people to re-soil their freshly washed undies.

The moose has become a monkey on my back. Friends and family who have moosed don’t hesitate to share their good fortune with me. I wouldn’t call it out-and-out gloating, but it is borderline. We have a niece and her family who live in southern Maine. Their children, like everyone else in the family, are aware of my condition moosewise. They have sent me pictures of moose they have taken in their backyard, stuffed toy moose, refrigerator magnets, etc. They even sent me a book about a boy who despite obsessive searching has never seen a moose. Lo and behold, he gives it up. As soon as he stops looking, he sees one.

I tried it, but not looking produced the same result as looking and looking is a lot more fun.

I’ll keep searching because someday my moose will come.