Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lalalalala... I Can't Hear You!

Wednesday, 1:45 P.M:
Sensible Sherry: "So, that's that. If this spring's financial fiascos weren't a wake-up call, this week's fiscal emergencies surely were. The broken rider lawnmower (irrepairable), the car air conditioning (estimated fix of $600-$1,200) and the house's central air (replacement totaling $2,500)? You need to make some significant changes in your life."

Stupid Sherry:
"Yes, yes, you're right. I will change my lifestyle right now. I will start by playing the lottery every day and by switching to Natural Light beer."

Sensible Sherry (glaring):
"What I mean is truly tightening your pursestrings. No more eating out, no more vacations and no more spending a fourth of your weekly grocery bill on adult beverages."

Stupid Sherry:
"Wow. You are a tough taskmaster."

Sensible Sherry:
"I am. And from now on, you shall be my bitch."

2:15 P.M.
Sensible Sherry: "Um, excuse me? Is that you, clicking around on"

Stupid Sherry (glancing around):
"Who, me?"

Sensible Sherry
: "It's like I don't even know you."

Stupid Sherry:
"I know, but remember back in early April, when I found that unbelievable deal for taking the Megabus to New York City? A round-trip ticket from Toledo for $4.50? Four dollars and fifty cents! I booked it right then, just in case I could make it work."

Sensible Sherry:
"It won't work. Walk away from the computer."

Stupid Sherry:
"But I managed to change my reservation! Instead of spending three nights in Manhattan, I'll only spend one! Look at the money I've saved already!"

Sensible Sherry:
"So, you will sit on a bus for twelve hours, stay in New York for a single night and then turn around and spend another twelve hours on a bus?"

Stupid Sherry:
"Yes! What an adventure it will be!"

Sensible Sherry (sighing):
"That's what the Donner Party said."

2:38 P.M.
Sensible Sherry: "Tell me you didn't."

Stupid Sherry:
"Can you believe my good luck? A hotel room for only $100, on Manhattan's lower east side!"

Sensible Sherry:
"Did you notice the fine print, about the 'shared bathroom'?"

Stupid Sherry:
"I won't shower. And I'll cross my legs."

Sensible Sherry:
"What about bed bugs?"

Stupid Sherry:
"Bed bugs? The hotel amenities didn't list those."

Sensible Sherry:
"Right. And what will you do in New York, with no money?"

Stupid Sherry:
"I will engage in several hours of fun and free things! I'll visit the public library and walk through Central Park. I will pass by homeless people and feel really good about myself."

Sensible Sherry:
"Mm-hmm. How will you eat?"

Stupid Sherry:
"I'm planning to pack a bag of peanuts and six PB and J sandwiches in my duffle bag. And I'll drink from public water fountains."

Sensible Sherry
(closing eyes and shaking head): "You are so full of shit."

Stupid Sherry:
"OK. I will pack a bottle of cheap vodka and eat $2 hot dogs from street vendors. And I will ask for extra mustard packets and make an entire meal out of them."

Sensible Sherry:
"You need professional help. Although you can't afford that either."

Stupid Sherry:
"Come on! How could anyone let a practically free trip to New York go unused? That's like telling Ed McMahon to go away when he shows up at your door."

Sensible Sherry (checking
"Ed McMahon died in 2009. If he happens to show up at your door, promise me you'll tell him to go away."

Stupid Sherry:
"OK. But I am definitely going to New York."

Sensible Sherry (rolling her eyes):
"Fine. Spend three days of your life with twenty-five hours squeezed into a bus seat and another eight hours sleeping in a frightfully cheap hotel."

Stupid Sherry:
"Yes. Yes, I will. Sounds delightful. Jeez, you're such a worrier. I mean, with a great plan like this, what could possibly go wrong?"

To be continued...

So how are you spending your summer vacation? What would you do in New York City on a dime? Do you listen to the angel or the devil on your shoulders?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lambchop, We Hardly Knew Ye

Am taking a cue here from a character in my current novel-in-progress, who contemplates how her obituary might read. Feel free to add your own comments and memories. Special bonus: As of tonight, I'm still here to read the Guestbook!

Sherry Stanfa-Stanley passed away peacefully last night, an ancient bitch who lived far longer than she deserved.

She was born in Toledo, Ohio, a city immortalized by John Denver and a mayor who proposed relocating deaf people to the airport.

Her parents already used up their favorite girls' names. So they entrusted their youngest daughter's lifelong personal identity to her two- and three-year-old sisters. They named her after puppeteer Shari Lewis. She forever regretted not being dubbed "Lambchop."

In her youth, Sherry possessed a great sense of adventure. Tragically, this quality managed to escape the Girl Scouts of America, the St. Patrick's seventh grade basketball team and Junior Achievement, all which booted her before she made her sure-to-be landmark contributions.

An alumna of Toledo's E.L. Bowsher High School, she anticipated the day a statue--presumably entitled The Truant Student--would be erected in her honor. Instead, the school board voted to raze the building.

Redeeming herself at The University of Toledo, she somehow graduated with honors. She later took pride in the fact that she was never technically fired from a job.

Sherry excelled at editing, due to her love of pointing out other people's mistakes. She also wrote several books, masterpieces which would have topped the New York Times Bestsellers List and won the Pulitzer, if only she'd received an effin' publishing contract.

She was indulged by a few and whispered about behind her back by the rest. Those who knew Sherry well said she never met a margarita she didn't like.

She is survived by family members who wish to remain anonymous, as well as 213 dogs and cats.

In lieu of flowers, Sherry requested memorial contributions be made to Hoarders Anonymous or the International Movement to Ban Bad Speling.

Services will be held at her own bedside on Monday at 2 p.m., since Sherry despised getting out of bed, and nothing pissed her off more than being nudged from a dead sleep before noon.

Son #1 tells me I have a sick sense of humor and this post is bad karma. So, what are the odds I'll be hit by a bus tomorrow? Any details or memories you care to add? How do you envision your own obituary?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bruno: A Bear of a Man, Reprise

Seem to be thinking quite a bit about my grandparents these days. With Father's Day approaching, I wanted to once again share a story about my grandfather.

His name was Bruno, German for "brown bear." A fitting name for a man tough as a grizzly, soft as a child's teddy.

Emigrating to the United States at age 12, Bruno found himself plunged into a new world and a different culture. Without knowing a single word of his new country's language, he managed to achieve all A's in school--except in his English class. He spoke of this years later, in now perfect English, with pride at his accomplishment and a twinge of disappointment at that one failure.

But education was a luxury for many families, especially immigrants, in the 1920s. He left school after the eighth grade, his carpenter father insisting boys his age must learn a trade. Bright and good with his hands, Bruno trained to be a machinist. A humble occupation, it didn't bring great wealth but ensured a decent enough living, and of that he remained proud. Decency--in a person's character and their work ethic--mattered much to Bruno.

If he'd been born wealthier and a half-century later, his calling would have been an engineer or a computer scientist. At a holiday gathering when he was about eighty, he quizzed my computer salesman brother-in-law.

"How are things at your shop?" (Every workplace was a "shop," whether the person worked in a factory, an office or out of their home.) He leaned forward, listening, as my brother-in-law fumbled through an explanation of the computer network sales business. Bruno nodded, his bushy gray eyebrows knitted together and his ever-alert blue eyes particularly intense.

"But now explain this to me," he said, in his legendary line of questioning of everything in life. "How exactly does a computer work?"

No one could satisfy his insatiable curiosity.

It was even more impossible to deter the man's determination.

A heart attack, when he was only in his forties, fortified his will to live. Damned if he'd let a bad heart get the best of him. That heart attack was Bruno's first and his last. He survived another forty years.

While he was in his sixties, the company for whom he worked more than thirty years folded. He lost not only his job but his entire pension. Self-pity or despair were never an option. Bruno simply persevered and found another job.

Years later, a horrific car crash left him with injuries that included several broken ribs and a pulverized face. (His jaw would be wired shut, rendering him unable to speak and on a liquid diet for weeks.) The day after the accident, he ignored the hospital staff's heeding and plodded down the hallway to the ICU to be by the side of my grandmother, who suffered a broken neck.

Bruno didn't believe in giving up on giving his all. That's what I remember most about my grandfather. Plus his exuberant bear hugs. And his misty-eyed, frequently repeated words, "I'm so proud of you kids."

I wish I would have, just once, said I was proud of him, too.

Bruno outlived his wife of sixty-two years, who never fully bounced back from that accident. He also outlived my father, whom he never called his son-in-law but always his son.

My dad died from cancer, at age 53, only four months after the car crash. (Ironically, while already scheduled for chemotherapy, he was the only one uninjured out of the vehicle's six passengers.) My father-in-law died just two years later--also at age 53--when my two sons were just babies.

Although he was their great-grandfather, Bruno is the only grandpa either of my now grown boys remember.

Bruno lived to a more-than-decent age of 89. He'd be 100 next month. He's been gone for more than ten years, yet I see his warmth and his fortitude alive still in my mother. I'd like to believe that I possess just a bit of both of those qualities, too. And when I look at my two sons, I'm certain I see fragments of their great-grandfather.

Yes, he was a Great Grandfather.

Happy Father's Day, Grandpa.

Any characteristics you wish a parent or grandparent passed down? What would you say to your grandparents now, if you had the chance? Can you please explain to us all how computers actually work?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Will You Take a Quarter for This Blog Post?

With temperatures in the nineties, accompanied by a heat advisory warning by the National Weather Service, I spent the last few days as any practical and precautious person would: doubled-over and wheezing while producing gallons of sweat within my unairconditioned garage.

Oh sure, there are some folks who probably sought a safe and comfortable refuge from the hazardous heat. They retreated to their home's central air or cooled off in a neighborhood swimming pool. Pfft. I decided nothing could delight me more than spending Every Freaking Day of my one-week summer vacation inside my attached two-car sauna.

Nobody knows how to have a better time than I do. So, for the hottest week of the summer, I scheduled a garage sale. And because I enjoy a seriously good challenge, I did nothing to prepare for it until just days before the event.

For those of you who have held a garage sale, you know that if there's anything even more fun-filled than actually hosting the sale, it's the cleaning, organizing and tagging that comes first. For the average person, this results in a somewhat tiring project. For people like me, who have not touched most of their household belongings for nearly twenty years, it is as wearisome as the Republican Party's search for a decent 2012 presidential candidate.

Some people scrap-book; others play tennis. I like to consider "collecting loads of shit" a bit of a hobby.

Astute readers might recall my kitchen cupboard purging escapade of this past February. Although I had high hopes for offers from TV game show producers, I've been forced, sadly, to move on with my life.

Specifically, I moved on to cleaning my basement. And I'm fairly certain that this time, the producers of Hoarders will not let me down.

I have never understood the adage "Less Is More." Is having $50 to your name truly better than having a million? Is a third-grade education more beneficial than a college degree? Hell no. So why own three kitchen spatulas when you can own twelve? Why pay for food and veterinary bills for one pet when you can have the satisfaction of paying for six? Why drink two margaritas when you can drink... (Wait, is there actually some limit?)

My recent basement purging was not unlike my kitchen cabinet cleansing--except instead of discovering twenty-three beer koozies, I discovered an endless bounty of toy action figures. At best guess, approximately 503 of them lay dropped and discarded across the basement floor.

Among these was every Happy Meal toy made between 1990 and 2000. I'd like to believe this is a sign of a loving and doting mother. In reality, it's the sign of a woman who apparently didn't prepare a homecooked meal for ten years.

I'm told that some of these items are collectibles, garnering big bucks on eBay. I'd like to believe choosing not to do so is the sign of a busy professional person with no spare time. In reality, it's a sign I'm lazy.

On the rare occasion that I've cleaned out closets, cabinets and toy bins, I simply hauled everything off to the Goodwill. This time, I decided I could use the money. (Still paying off bills from my Month of Financial Hell.)

Today was my garage sale premiere. I made a total of $63. At this rate, I should make about $150 over the course of the three-day event. Not a paltry sum. Until you consider the countless hours I spent sorting, washing, organizing and pricing. Given the time invested, I figure I'll net roughly 25 cents an hour.

This garage sale gig is way less lucrative than selling my body on the streets. A middle-age, overweight, unenthusiastic body at that.

I'm thinking of looking for an evening job instead, fit in somewhere between the day job and my extracurricular writing. Maybe McDonald's? After all, Mickey D positions are plentiful and the hours are flexible. In a fully airconditioned environment.

If I'm lucky they also offer an employee discount on Happy Meals. Because by Sunday, after I've finished sweating and wheezing, I expect to develop an ache for some cheap plastic action figures. Damn, those tiny toys are cute. I hear they do well on eBay.

And I'll bet not a single customer will ask, "Are you willing to take a quarter for this cheeseburger?"

Are you a hoarder or a purger? What are you willing to do, legally or illegally, to make a few extra bucks? Any big interest in a twenty-year-old food processor or some plastic Pocahontas toys?

Note to my fellow (and far more talented) bloggers: Between my recent writers workshop and the garage sale hell that followed, I am way behind in my blog reading. I promise to stop by your way this week...)