In Love With Spuds

      Love is kind of a strong word.

Let’s just say that I’m affectionate for potatoes. Like the “Bubba-Gump” of potatoes: “boiled potatoes, baked potatoes, fried potatoes, potato salad, American fries, raw fries, even instant potatoes in a pinch.” French fries of course, of all kinds and styles are a much needed compliment to any burger or fish fry.

Then there are potato chips, the salty greasy kind, never baked.

Our collective love affair goes way back. Potatoes have always been a staple in the mid-western diet, sent over from the South American Andes region via European explorers. As the story goes, feudal communities had to disguise the tubers as they were once thought to be poisonous. Thus, mashed potatoes were born.

The Irish of course, came here because they ran out.

“Scalloped potatoes.”

The fresh cut asparagus simply looks on forlorn, while the medium grilled rib-eye is just a flash in the pan. Regardless of variety the potato, remains the apple of my eye.

There’s nothing like a baked in the skin russet to make me salivate like Pavlov’s dogs. Scoop out the pulp and spread some butter inside with a little salt and pepper. What a treat. Why, you could sell those in restaurants…..

Unfortunately, the target of my affection no longer likes me. Calories that used to just metabolize away, don’t anymore. A little pat of butter with bacon, cheese or sour cream goes right to my belt. The leather screams.

I had another affair with tobacco many years ago and ended that one without a hitch but the potato refuses to see the writing on the wall. This could be a messy breakup.

My sources tell me that one medium tuber of the nightshade family contains; 110 calories, 26 grams of carbohydrates and almost zero fat. Vitamins, minerals, fiber and pantothenic acid (whatever that is) are found in abundance, in a potato.

Sailors of old used to carry them on expeditions around the world to ward off scurvy with their reliable source of vitamin C.

Me-I just need to ward off a few pounds.

Most dieticians will tell you that it’s not the potato itself that poses the problem but all the extras: the bacon, cheese, sour cream, gravy, gravy and gravy.

I have since joined a support group. It’s called the “Potato Lover’s Club.” It’s working great. They offer a new recipe every week. I just dined on “mashed with a hint of garlic and oven browned on a cedar plank,” potatoes.

Did you know that the potato is naturally gluten free? That opens the door to a whole new array of uses. Potato pizza, tacos. Potato lasagna!

I suppose I could fall for a carrot, celery, or even fruit. Mashed carrots and gravy? Celery skins? A navel orange stuffed with bacon bits and cheese?

I know. I’ll exercise. Go for a walk. Get a gym membership. No reason to end the relationship at all.

My wife doesn’t mind. We have an open kind of marriage that way. Why, she’ll even eat a salad right in front of me.




What to do with my Powerball Winnings


Hey, I won! I  won! I won the power ball jackpot!


Oh, but did I really?

Now I have to find an attorney, an accountant and a financial advisor that I can trust.



Financial planners say to wait at least six months to claim winnings so as to have a specific plan in place for handling that kind of money-over a billion dollars. I need to keep a low profile and stay anonymous.

How on earth can I be expected to wait? I haven’t slept in four days as it is.

Two questions will have to be answered first. Whether to take the 1.5 billion (dollars) in a lump sum or settle for an annuity paid out over the next twenty nine years.

The lump sum amounts to about $900 million minus state and federal taxes leaving us-yeah I’ll tell my wife about it-with about $435,214,127.32, give or take.

Then we would have to invest that at least in a bond market to get a little more than the .5% the banks are paying in interest,  providing us with an income of $25 million a year minus more taxes.

The annuity on the other hand would give us an annual income of some 40 million (dollars) which again rewards us with a perpetual tax liability.

This assumes that we can actually trust the government to hang on to our money for twenty-nine years.

Not living in Illinois is a plus.

Then there are the relatives. OMG there must be about fifty-six blood relatives and, I expect to hear from about seven hundred very distant cousins.

Some, the most deserving, those with whom I grew up, shared life experiences with, stood up at their weddings, god parents to their babies.

Hmm, nah!

Our close friend who has played the Australian Lottery for over twenty years, always professed to share with us if he ever won.

Forget it!

I doubt now that I will ever see that five thousand I loaned to cousin Fred for his daughter’s kidney operation.

So now we need to set up a trust fund to handle the requests and listen to sob stories from all those freeloaders looking for yet another kidney, pancreas, heart or some other body part that they just can’t live without.

Business ventures with others, especially relatives-definitely out.

Of course, we would have to move.

No way are the neighbors ever going to believe that our lives have not changed and that the snow blower they borrowed was really not a generous gift.

I can hear them now, “Yeah but they don’t really  need the money.”

Our children, their children and the successive generations of offspring will be thinking they never have to work a day in their lives. My progeny I’m afraid,  will eventually evolve into nothing more than glasses wearing slugs.

Giving them nothing will build character.

Giving to the poor is another option, but they’ll just spend it on things, like food.

Maybe we’ll  just blow it all on booze and cruises.

Let’s see, if we had  four hundred million (dollars) to spend that would mean we could take about 40,000 all inclusive trips to the Mediterranean. Six or seven trips a year would mean that we might spend it all in, 5000 years. Umbrella drinks are extra.

Then again, we could just give it all to the government, you know, help reduce the national debt. You would think that $400 million would make a big dent in what we owe and they, the government, would be eternally grateful.

Not quite. With a $10 Billion (dollars) a day spending habit our “Greatest Jackpot in History” would last those in Washington just about three hours. I doubt they would even notice.

I think we should just give it all away. All of it. I can’t speak for my wife of course. Maybe we should split it 50-50 and I’ll give my half away. She can do what she wants with the rest.

That’s it. I’ll give all of mine away. Set up a web site or an 800 number for anyone to call who wants a piece of the pie.

As of the last drawing, my share of the winnings before taxes came to… $2. Now maybe I can get some sleep.

‘Today’s Take’, Green Bay Press Gazette.





Did you ever have the urge to touch the handle of a shopping cart that someone just spent five minutes sanitizing?




I was starving, nursing a hangover and trying to get into Angelo’s before the  lunch crowd when I, and a  hundred or so others were ordered away from the barricades being erected across the sidewalk.

I heard a cop say something about a jumper.

Someone mumbled, “let him jump. I’m late already.”

I looked up, along with one or two others craning their necks to see a lone figure on the roof of my office building, six floors up. Even from the street there was no mistaking the tall lanky figure of an old Army buddy, Fred Warner.

The rest kept walking.

After Iraq we tried to keep in touch. You know, Christmas cards and every now and then, a phone call.

Come to think of it, I hadn’t heard from him for several years.

I knew that building like the back of my hand. Worked there for ten years. Same stuff, different day. Working my fingers to the bone just to stay in the middle.

After the top floor there is a short half-flight of stairs to a penthouse store room and then the roof. It’s always locked.

I stumbled out into the noon day sun and looked around but couldn’t find him. “Hey, you up here?” “Yeah I’m here,” came the muffled answer from across the roof. “It’s about time you showed. I was just  going to do it -but thought I’d like to see you first.”

On the other side of the parapet I found my friend sitting on the narrow ledge, like he was fishing off the pier back home. “What’s up man?” “I’m trying to get something to eat and you’re up here acting stupid.”

“What’s it look like? I’m done, I’m tired man. Need to move on.”

“You’re the one who’s got it made. Wife, home, good job. You been here for how many, ten years? Me, I got nothing. After the war, Kate left me. Even the VA left me hanging. Said I was no longer a candidate for PTSD protocol. What bullshit.”

“I was good, though wasn’t I? Could pick off a towel head from a klick away and light up a smoke before he hit the dirt. Seventy-five confirmed. Quit counting after the second tour. I can still see their faces in the scope.”

” It hurts, man.”

“Two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star. Not much good to me now.”

“But you, you always came out on top. Stayed out of the sandbox, got an education. Living the dream, just like we always thought we would. Why couldn’t I have just been more like you?”

What he said was true- except  for the whole dream part. That died years ago, along with the promotion and my marriage.

The education I got though. Learned that loyalty and being good no longer counted. It’s just a matter of who you know and who you owe.

All I have left now is the booze and an old friend on a ledge.

“Move over.”

How Dry I AM

How Dry I Am

What’s so tough about drying clothes?

In days past they were simply hung on a rope outside until they dried, or froze solid in the Wisconsin winter.

Then they were brought inside to be ironed, folded and put into dressers or closets only to be dirtied, stained and abused before starting the cycle all over again.

As you might have guessed, our clothes dryer recently died.

It really began this death spiral some months ago by exhibiting loud intermittent squealing sounds from somewhere deep inside. Then, one day as the wash was piling up, it simply gave up the ghost and quit completely.

Being the fugal (cheap) guy that I am, I stalled, ignored and otherwise procrastinated until it was too late and then had to scramble to replace the deceased appliance.

We also needed a new washing machine as the old one-although it still combined soap and water with clothing and mixed them up-only worked on one of the load cycles and I had to set that with a pair of pliers because the plastic control knob was broken.

Then there was the time I tried to reach something that fell inside the cabinet and had to pry it open with a screwdriver, resulting in the top not quite fitting right. So then I inserted said screwdriver in the space nearest the hinge and pushed down on the front to correct the problem.

The repair guy only shook his head, mumbling something about “somebody didn’t know what they were doing here.”

Again being frugal (insert “cheap”) I went to the local “Honest Bob’s Used Appliance Emporium” to purchase the set. It must be said that Bob’s had provided us, relatives and others with perfectly reliable machines in the past and there was no reason to think this time would be any different.

Bob doesn’t deliver any more-something about a bad back-so I enlisted the help of a buddy to remove and install the appliances in the basement of our home.

So, two old fat guys and a pickup went into the appliance delivery business for one whole day.

Two trips up the stairs with the old ones and then two more trips down with the new, used appliances.

After two weeks the timer on the dryer quit working. Not a big thing unless someone forgets to turn it off before our clothing reaches ignition temperature.

Bob has agreed to replace the timer when he can get a new one. That was three weeks ago.

My wife now says something about clothes coming out wrinkled or some such thing.

Now I will admit that she does look nice all dressed up in unwrinkled clothes that haven’t permanently shrunk from exposure to 400 degrees F. for three hours.

My wardrobe on the other hand, consists of a style somewhere between stained and slept-in.

There can’t really be much involved in mechanically drying clothes. It’s just a matter of blowing hot air across wet stuff until the moisture is gone.

I could probably rig something up with a torch, a fan, and some duct tape.

Or not.

So now I am dutifully searching for a new (unused) fully automatic electric clothes dryer with a “wrinkle resistant” cycle and an intact washing machine-also unused.

In the mean time, Bob is still waiting for parts and my buddy doesn’t answer the phone.



Speaking of Bugs



All Things Creepy

Of all God’s creatures that slither, crawl or fly one has to wonder about the reason for earwigs.

Most other revolting critters can be justified as having a distinct purpose in the environmental scheme of things-but earwigs?

Mosquitoes for example, although annoying and carriers of disease around the world actually provide a food source for more advanced life like bats, which occupy their own place on the list of creepy.

Worms, grubs, and even leeches although ugly and slimy looking score considerably higher on my “good” list due to their position in the food chain and potential as fishing bait.

But why earwigs?

It seems they were a gift from our European ancestors, no doubt hitching a ride with the thousands of immigrants who arrived in the early 20th Century.

Their name comes from the belief that they burrowed into your brain through the ear canal while you slept and in the process, caused various degrees of madness. Not true of course but it could explain the state of European politics.

I’m usually pretty good natured about well, nature-even earwigs. They have the whole world in which to roam while I reign supreme inside the walls of 1400 square feet with a finished basement, close to schools and shopping. In other words-my home.

Other than providing a character for Disney movies and Eddie Murphy I see no reason whatsoever for these nasty, ugly, invasive creatures to exist.

They don’t knock or call ahead. They just crawl in-everywhere.

Nothing can be more surprising or disgusting than finding one of these little buggers appear suddenly at breakfast or to open a cabinet door and find one hiding inside.

Experts  claim that they don’t bite but they do have those pinchers or scientifically speaking, “pincers,” and they do “pince” if you happen to be in their space which it seems, is everywhere.

They usually show up during the months of July and August like relatives at the cottage, moving in from the crowded mulch beds that we spent all that time and money to create around the house and gardens.

They hide in rolls of bath tissue, paper towels and under rugs.

When you least expect it one will be found  “hanging out” on the shower curtain. Yeah, my wife hates ‘em too.

I’ve crushed ’em, flushed ’em, and sent them to bug heaven in the garbage disposal but their relentless pursuit of my contentment rages on.

While I dislike the use of chemical controls, that method of deterrent is still on the table-literally. Maybe I could encapsulate a half acre and fumigate the whole thing.

I have however, learned that earwigs have several natural predators that might be helpful. Birds, toads, lizards, assassin bugs, centipedes and spiders all find the disgusting little creatures to be quite the delicacy.

Maybe I’ll invite them in.


Father’s Day

Father’s Day 2014
Of all the animal kingdom, with few exceptions, only the human species requires that the male stick around and take an active role throughout the life of the offspring.
It begins at birth when you hold that squirming, cone headed bundle of joy and realize that it recognizes you, the father. Everyone else, Mom, the nursing staff and all others who have been there know that the grimace you see as recognition is just gas but you continue on in the belief that you have become special in this little something’s life.
Your participation is limited during the first months, to feigning empathy during 2 AM breast feedings and trying without success to stay awake. You understand that the infant’s only interest at this stage of life is food, warmth and regular pooping and your involvement consists mainly of helping to clean up after each.
As a sidebar: These biological needs re-gain significance from time to time during the offspring’s life, particularly in that of a male. They become a priority during the teenage years and then again after college when hopefully he is living somewhere else.
You start to take the little one with you in your travels; to Fleet Farm, meetings or on a roofing job. Like a trophy or prize catch you matter-of-factly have him or her around just to show off, being careful not to go too far from home in case the child starts to smell or spits up in the truck.
It’s those times that involve dirt and sweat along with the possibility of injury or damage that your role begins to gain prominence in the child’s life. Soccer Moms notwithstanding, it’s the soccer, T-ball, Pop Warner, hook baiting, camping and learning to drive dads that take center stage. If anything, anything at all results in some liability, that’s all on you.
Tools, your favorite fishing pole, your recliner; all become fair game to these offspring who seem intent on destroying everything you hold dear. You cringe and soon understand that they are only six and trying to be you. Your perspective changes constantly.
It’s about this time in their lives that pride (yours) begins to swell as even the manliest left tackle in the audience sheds a joyful tear watching his child score an actual two-pointer in a game or play ‘Fur Elise’ with both hands on a baby grand piano.
Patience becomes not only a virtue but necessary for survival as you teach the young to drive a car. You hear your mouth calmly saying, “Always look first to the left, then to the right and back again to the left before pulling out into traffic,” while your brain is screaming, “Look out! Watch that car! You’re going to get us both killed! Pay attention!”
Then you beam just a little as they return from their road test and walk away with a probationary driver’s license having successfully reached another milestone. Ten minutes after being scared to death of driving, they now want to use your car by themselves-and of course, need some money for gas.
If you have done your job well or even just survived, there are soon to be more moments that make it all worthwhile. Those mostly involve walking; to the podium to accept their diploma whether high school, college or grad school, or walking down the aisle with a daughter on her wedding day. There’s a reason why dads get to do this. It allows you more tears.
Then one day while your son sits holding a bundle of wrinkled joy and exclaims to you, his dad, “see that, he recognizes me.” You just smile.
Happy Father’s Day.

‘Today’s Take’, Green Bay Press Gazette 6-24-2014