13 August 2017

How Much is that Ring in the Window?

I was a wee lad when the scary television series “Dark Shadows” made its debut 51 years ago. I loved the creaky, creepy quality of the show and the cheesy acting.

In 1967, the character of Barnabas Collins was introduced. He wore a really cool ring. I was so fascinated by the ring that I got something similar for my mother (see photograph) for xmas that year at a local five and dime. As you can see, it doesn’t look anything like the proper ring, but I gave it to her and told her it was like the TV ring. Sadly, she never wore it. My mother never even pretended to like the presents I gave her, but she did keep it and now (fifty years later) I have it back.

08 August 2017

My (Short) Life in Retail

In the mid-1970s, I got my first job out of high school. I was working at The Broadway department store on the east side of Chris-Town Mall, Phoenix. (The Broadway occupied the space originally built for the Korricks department store.) I loved working retail and I loved Chris-Town Mall so it was a short trip to loving my new job.

I was a floating clerk. Each shift, I would work in a different department depending on where staff was needed to fill in for illnesses, vacations, whatever. That was really fun. I worked in Men’s Clothing, Linens for a couple weeks (vacation, I think) and ended up in Stationery.

Stationery was a fun department. It was me and a very old (and very nice) woman named Dorothy who was smitten with the young Patrick Duffy on the new television program “Dallas.” Seriously, that’s all she talked about: J.R. and Sue Ellen, Bobby and Pam, Miss Ellie and Southfork. It grew annoying after a short while, but I eventually began watching it and became hooked just as she had.

One day, some workmen came out and set up a bizarre display for a bizarre new gadget called “Pong.” It was a small television in a box and a control console on a little shelf. I was trained on how to play so I could demonstrate it to customers. It was fairly popular with the crowds, but not more than any other gadget of the time.

My favorite memory was selling a man a card for his wife on xmas eve. That’s not so unusual, but his next comment to me was: I have to buy a present for my wife. Do you have any suggestions? I felt pity for the poor woman who married an idiot, a man who could not even think ahead far enough to buy his wife a gift on one of the other 363 shopping days. I suggested he might find a nice pair of earrings at the Jewelry Department next store.

[I stayed with The Broadway about a year, then went to work at Valley National Bank (another enterprise that no longer exists) before moving to San Francisco. Chris-Town began to lose its luster in the mid-1980s but has been experiencing something of a comeback lately. The space once occupied by the fashionable Korricks and The Broadway is now yet another tacky Walmart.]

29 June 2017

Food, Glorious Food

My spouse, Matt, got a little irritated at me the other day because, as he says, I obsess about food -- not in a general sense; rather, what I’m going to have for my next lunch or dinner.

I don’t think I’m obsessive, but perhaps I am. When I was a child, I had a lot of food allergies, so I always had to be aware of what I was eating (a lot of my food at the school cafeteria went to waste because of allergies). I lost most of those food allergies thanks to puberty, so I was able to eat hale and hearty like sailor.

Fast forward a few decades and I had to start paying attention to food again because of low blood sugar issues, and then enduring five years of that “whatever it was” causing trouble after I ate that turned out to be my heart defect. Heart surgery and the required heart medications (for the rest of my life, thank you) necessitate concern over not eating certain foods that conflict.

Of course, a hop, skip and jump later I find out I have cancer -- which necessitates (as you would imagine) even more concerns about foods that conflict with medicines, sodium that will damage my kidneys -- and, the worse one of all: foods that no longer taste good to me because of my chemo. Sigh. 

Rather than lamenting foods I can’t eat like I used to (I miss pizza and all-you-can-eat fish fries most of all) I've placed on a golden pedestal those foods I love and can eat (in moderation, of course) including chicken, fish, beef, potatoes, rice, salads, ice cream, beans, nuts and fruit. I throw in the occasional treat of chips, cookies, cheese or chocolate. (Before you ask, I’ve never been a huge fan of vegetables, and a lot them are forbidden to me now anyway because of medicinal conflicts.)

Maybe I'm obsessive. I’m just grateful that there are a lot of tasty foods I can still eat and enjoy.

21 May 2017

Of Dads and Circuses

Apparently, today is the last day for the venerable Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It’s doing its final performance tonight. I’m kinda sad and not sad that it’s ending. I always liked the circus when I was a kid (although I’ve always hated clowns) and have some good memories about circuses. I’ve never been a fan of mistreating animals, though.

Yesterday was the 13th anniversary of the death of my father so I want to share a circus memory involving him.

Almost 23 years ago (this coming July) I fell while trimming a tree and severely broke the end of the long bone of my right arm at the wrist. It was early in the morning of my father’s birthday and involved a trip to the emergency department, an elastic bandage (they didn’t cast it ‘cause I was going to need extensive surgery) and a few ibuprofen. Here’s the kicker: we had made these big plans to take my father to a fancy dinner and then downtown to see the circus that very night. He loved the circus and all he wanted for his birthday was tickets to the circus.

We went to dinner and went to the circus. About an hour into it, the ibuprofen wore off and I was in such pain. I didn’t even think to bring more. No one had any in their pockets or purses and I was dying. I finally had to excuse myself, leave the circus, miss the second half and suffer in the car in great pain. My father offered to leave to take me home and I told him I would be okeh. No way was I going to be responsible for him missing the circus!

That’s it. That’s the story. My dad had a fantastic time and then I had to have surgery. If you’re interested, you can read an old blog entry I did about that whole other part of the story here.

18 May 2017


Three years ago this month I wrote the following in frustrated response to another one of those young snot-nosed brats who went around killing people ‘cause he couldn’t get laid. I never published it; but rediscovered it today when perusing some of my old writing. Sadly, it’s even more relevant now than three years ago with even more people of privilege thinking their privileges are problems. 

You're twenty-two and still a virgin and you think that's a problem. You drive a BMW and have wealthy parents but can't get a date and you think that's a problem. You have been given everything in life you ever wanted, you've been coddled and pampered and spoiled yet you think you have a problem.

So, you think you'll solve your "problems" with knives and guns. You think you're a big man by shooting people you don't know, and running over people you never met. You think "exacting revenge" will make people appreciate you. Well, you're wrong. You're nothing but a petty little coward who, rather than taking his bat and ball and going home, ruins the lives of so many others with bullets and knives. As if that will help.

Life owes you nothing; if you want a better life, make your life better. Success will not be handed to you; you have to work for it. Money will not be handed to you; you have to earn it. Friends and lovers will not be there just because you want them; you have to work to be someone who others desire to have in their lives.

Instead of looking at others to change, change yourself. Make yourself someone who others want to be around. Make yourself someone who achieves success through hard work. Make yourself someone worthy of taking up the space your body occupies.

Because, when you compare your life to the lives of others who have far less, you will soon realize that these "problems" of yours are not problems at all: they are privileges you have but do not appreciate, they are opportunities to make the world better that you are squandering, they are little lights of hope and courage that you are not sharing with others. They are, in the end, the good in you that you're refusing to make visible.