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    The last time I posted this was in 2015. It’s a newly edited version.

    Years ago, when I worked at the Weiner King in Flemington, New Jersey, my boss, Jack Little, laid me off during summer months, usually some time in June. Former employees, high school grads, now in college, would return to their old jobs. It was a wonderful opportunity for them to work with their friends and a great opportunity for me to paint houses and businesses, and to soak up the sun and fresh air. I made a decent living doing it, I was quite good, and it was therapeutic, so it was a win/win for everyone. Come September, I’d be back slinging burgers and dogs.

    One particular summer, I was painting the Weiner King at Turntable Junction, a touristy area in town with Colonial-style storefronts. Some of the people who worked there dressed in 1770s attire. Not at the Weiner King. We wore aprons. Anyway, behind the restaurant and down the embankment were railroad tracks. An old steam locomotive with antique cars would take people on scenic rides through parts of Hunterdon County. Called the Black River & Western RR, it still runs today, and the old Weiner King is now a Mexican restaurant.

    Along that embankment were countless nests of ground hornets. I remember setting empty syrup bottles out the back door and they would fill up with the darn things, but it never seemed to put a dent in their population. They pestered customers but we just couldn’t get rid of them.

    Generally, the hornets — we called them bees — were pretty friendly unless provoked. I got used to bees and hornets from all of the outdoor work I did, and they didn’t bother me at all. Except for this one particular afternoon when I was painting an area above the dining room. I was on the patio roof.

    At some point, I decided to break for lunch. Despite having the restaurant beneath me, I had packed my own meal that day. Probably a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I unwrapped it and started to eat. Of course, the smell of food always attracted these little hornets and I’d gently wave my hand. Peacefully, of course. Eventually, they’d get the message and fly away.

    But not this one pesky guy. He just kept buzzing around me and my food. No matter how much I tried, there he was. Finally, he took the message and off he went. Or so I thought. I distinctly remember that fateful moment; the kind of moment filled with so much pain, you know you’ll never, ever forget.

    I took a nice, big bite out of the sandwich and was chewing away. Chewing and chewing and breathing through my nose. Mmmm… tasting and enjoying my lunch when, JUST LIKE THAT, Mr. Bee decided to buzz the right side of my face. A wing lightly brushed against my cheek, and…

    I sucked him right up my right nostril. Deep into the sinus cavity. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. I knew what was about to happen. You know, when bees get angry. I gripped myself, and then, THE STING!


    Oh, the pain. Such excrutiating pain deep inside my sinuses. They swelled shut almost immediately and tears flooded down my face like a gushing waterfall. This wasn’t funny at all! But it was. I jumped up and tried to walk it off, pacing violently back and forth on the 6-pitch roof. That was all I could do. No ice or anything would help.

    You know, it’s a good thing that, as a child growing up, I got over bee stings in no time. Wasps, too. I had a great immune system and never caught poison ivy. Without this innate protection, I would have been in serious trouble.

    I would say it took about 15 minutes and, then, the pain was gone. My nose opened up and I was able to go back to painting, as if, nothing happened.

    As I continued to paint, the bees came around again and never seemed to wonder what became of their buddy. I don’t know what happened to him, either, because he never came out. Not that I’m aware of, anyway. All I know is that, after that day, I developed an urge to eat honey and pollinate flowers.

    Until the fire ants came along….





    All of the time spent working at the Weiner King helped me grow as a person, and I credit Jack Little for much of the good instilled in me. Not all, mind you, but a lot, because they were my formative years. I’m certain thousands of young people who passed through those doors would say the same thing.


    You can’t run a restaurant business without maintaining a loyal base of customers, and the Weiner King was no exception. For over a decade, it was the center of my ever growing universe, and I got to meet a lot of interesting people. This is a short story about one of them. I don’t remember his name, but I’m sure I knew it back in those days. Jack made it a point to say hello to as many people as he could. Subsequently, we all did. Most of our regulars appreciated being acknowledged; some more than others.

    This particular guy was an engineer of some kind, so he was a little bit different, but not in a bad way. I think his brain was floating around in a loftier place than mine. Quirky? I wouldn’t quite describe him as that. Intelligent? Yes, very, and he was friendly. Anyway, he usually came in every week and, sometimes, more than once.

    Generally, Jack and I worked the grills; one day burgers and the next day, hot dogs. Sometimes, we’d change things up and head to the front to greet customers and take their orders. It was great to interact with as many people as we could, and it was a nice break from cooking.

    During the lunch rush, we usually had two cash registers running and the lines were sometimes quite long. Waiting in my line was the engineer. Eventually, he made it to the register. He had a mustache and long beard that I’d have to describe as a cross between Hemingway and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame. Dark, but with a good touch of gray.

    I took his ‘to go’ order and, while counting out change, made small talk. Yes, I’d have to describe it as rather personal, but it did have to do with food. Kind of. In a roundabout sort of way.

    “You had scrambled eggs for breakfast, didn’t you?”

    “Yeah. How do you know?”

    I pointed to my imaginary beard and nodded. (I didn’t even have a mustache back then.) Suddenly, his whole demeanor changed. Clearly, he was agitated and mumbled a few choice words under that hair.

    “I’m really sorry,” I said, because I could clearly see I upset him.

    “NO! NO! NO! It’s not you. I’ve been at work since 8 o’clock this morning and not one single coworker said anything.” It’s like having spinach or poppy seeds in your teeth and you expect someone to tell you.

    Since he had no problem with me, I decided to make light of it. “Can I have it? I didn’t eat breakfast this morning.”

    That caused him to laugh. Oh well… all in a day’s work. After the transaction, he disappeared into the crowd, waiting for his number to be called. When he came back to grab his lunch order, we acknowledged each other. The tasty-looking egg morsel was gone. Darn. Anyway, he remained a loyal customer, but never told me how he handled it at work. And I never asked.

    Of all embarrassing moments in life, I sure am glad I never had to tell a customer “your barn door is open.” Then, I’d have to tell him “you’d better close it before the pony gets out.”






    For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of the ”Empress of Soul” and I think her powerful rendition of the National Anthem at the recent Super Bowl (LIII) stole the entire show — before the game ever began. Gladys Knight, to me, is a national treasure and seeing her Sunday evening reminded me of an interesting experience I had years ago.

    This is a Weiner King story. Kind of. Sort of. But not really. Jack opened one at an old Burger Chef in Warminster, PA, in the mid-70s or so. I worked with him to set the place up and hire employees. When it opened, I managed it until it was franchised. I’m pretty sure I lived in Sergeantsville, NJ, in those days and was still heavily into my MGB-GT phase. A few years earlier, I had purchased a beautiful red 1971 and totaled it some time later. Fortunately, I was able to keep it at a local body shop, where my father had a front-end alignment business. Eventually, I found a dull-colored, silver-gray, 1969 model that had a tired engine in dire need of a wiring harness. Hey, the price was right and I worked on my own cars back then. With MGs, you had to. In due time, everything came together. I took the perfect engine out of the wreck and put it in the ‘69. I found a harness at a garage that came out of a 1970 model. Unfortunately, those silly British changed their wiring schematic diagram color codes every single year and it took Stew Bacheler and me three days to get the alternator connected correctly. It sat in his garage in Three Bridges until we got it right. Meanwhile, before I did anything at all, that car was my daily driver and, of course, some of the gauges didn’t work. Because of that, I never knew how much gas was in the tank, so I topped it off quite often. Well, most of the time.

    One fateful morning, I cruised over the Delaware River, probably across the Washington Crossing Bridge, which would have been one of my alternate routes, but I’m not sure why. Stockton or Lambertville would have been more convenient, especially the 202 bridge, except it was toll. About a half mile, maybe less, into Bucks County, PA, the car decided to spit, sputter, and roll to a stop directly in front of a mansion-like house. Oh, great, I thought, whoever lives there is going to take one look at my car and tell me to get help somewhere else.

    I remember parking as close to the edge of the road as possible. Trees lined the front yard. There were mounds of snow on the ground from a storm long gone, left in the chilled shadows of those trees. Pockets of dirty snow were scattered everywhere I drove, but I don’t remember it being bitterly cold.

    I walked up the long driveway and knocked on the huge door, not knowing what to expect, other than a person with money. The door swung open and there stood a tall man, whisking eggs in a big bowl.

    “Can I help you with something,” he asked, with a slight look of apprehension.

    “Yes, my car ran out of gas.” I pointed to the car, which was almost unnoticeable between the snow and trees. “Could I please use your phone? I’ll pay you.”

    It took a few seconds. “Ahhh, yes! An MGB-GT.” That broke the ice, so to speak. “I’ve owned one or two. Come on in…” MG owners were part of a club. I followed him to the kitchen. What a beautiful house! “I’m making a vegetable omelet. Would you like some? There’s plenty.”

    I declined. “Thank you, but you eat.” It was nice enough of him to invite me into his home and I certainly didn’t intend to interrupt him. While he prepped, cooked, and ate his breakfast, we made small talk. He asked me about the car. He asked me about my job. I told him about Flemington and Warminster. I asked him if he had ever heard of the Weiner King. I asked him about his job.

    When he finished eating, we got down to business. We went outside and he opened the garage door. There sat a beautiful Jaguar sedan. He put a 5 gallon metal gas can in the trunk, pulled out the car and told me to hop in.

    “There’s a station across the river. I’ll give you a ride there and you can walk back. Just put the can in front of the garage when you’re finished.” I knew he had things to do and I needed to get to work. Halfway across the bridge, he said, “Look, it’s too cold out. I’ll give you a ride back.”

    I filled the can and carefully placed it in the trunk. We got back to his place and off he went. I couldn’t thank him enough. When I finished pouring the gas in the tank, I placed the can in front of the garage door and headed on down the road.

    I never forgot that day, nor the gracious man who helped me, and from that day forward, I developed a stronger appreciation for Gladys Knight and her music. Despite never seeing her in concert, it was on that particular morning that I got to know one of her Pips.




    FLUOROURACIL, Topical Cream USP 5%

    That’s the generic form of Carac, which, in my case, is used to treat basal cell cancers and precancerous cells on my body. I use it on my head.

    I saw my dermatologist this morning. I’ve got quite a few things going on up there that warranted nitrogen freezes or the fluorouracil lotion. We opted for the lotion. I think it’s because my head would have hurt too much from all of those freezes, which feel an awful lot like second degree burns. A new prescription was sent to the pharmacy because the old one expired.

    As I was getting ready to leave, I told him I’m growing a veritable basal garden on top of my head. He and his nurse got a big kick out of it. Oh, my silly humor.

    Just remember to watch your sun exposure or you’ll end up like me. The last time I had my head cut open, the surgeon sternly told me, as he stapled it shut, that cancer is cancer and it’s something to never take lightly. While I might kid around with my doctor, I take it very seriously and that’s why I see him every six months and will for the rest of my life.


    Jack Little and Watergate

    The young man on the left in this newspaper clipping is my old boss at the Weiner King, Jack Little. I cannot stress enough that Jack was the best boss in the world, with an incredible work ethic, and I’m positive I’m not alone in that regard.

    Jack got his degree in economics (if my memory serves me correctly) at Wooster College in Ohio, so he was a natural when it came to running a business that only handled cash. His years at the restaurant are legendary.

    Back in the 1970s, I was Jack’s right hand man and many people who were customers remember me from those early days in Flemington, NJ. To me, the Weiner King was the center of the universe, but I recognized that so much more was going on around me, especially in the news.

    In June of 1972, burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel complex in Washington, D.C. For the next two years, that break-in and the Vietnam War were what dominated the television screen. President Nixon and many of his closest advisers obstructed justice, especially Nixon, when he chose to pay off the burglars to keep them quiet. He almost got away with it; almost, that is, until his White House council, John Dean, testified in front of Congress. Right in the thick of the cover-up, he chose to tell the truth, and the rest is history. Nixon resigned in August of 1974.

    What’s Watergate (or better yet, John Dean) have to do with my old boss, Jack? While everyone knew about Watergate, including him, he didn’t get to pay much attention to it because he worked sixteen hours a day, almost every day. He had a small B&W television in the back room that was primarily for sports — the Mets and the Jets — and every so often, we’d put Walter Cronkite on.

    My second nature was, and remains, to saturate my mind with current events. That included Watergate. One afternoon, I asked Jack if he had seen any of the John Dean testimony that was taking place in June of 1973. It spelled doom for the president.

    “No, but my roommate at college was a guy named John Dean.”

    That statement, all of a sudden, piqued my interest and I went on a mission to find out if there was a connection between Watergate and Wooster. Wooster and Watergate.

    But how was I supposed to find out? In those days, we were many years away from the Internet, let alone Google. I had to look the old-fashioned way… by going to Higgins News Agency on Main Street in downtown Flemington. A friendly place, the family had no problem with people browsing through newspapers and magazines. A neighborhood hub, there was no other store like it. I don’t remember how many titles I searched through — Time magazine, the New York Times, the Courier News, the Easton Express — the list could go on and on. One day, I found it.

    The Watergate John Dean was Jack’s college roommate.

    I couldn’t wait to tell him the exciting news. “Jack! That’s the same guy!” I brought proof to show him. “Is this him?”

    He paused to look. “Well, I’ll be darned. Yup, that’s him.” And he went back to work. (Later on, we did talk about it.)

    I guess I could have simply shown him a picture instead of doing all that work, but I needed to do research, just to prove it. Of course, I never doubted Jack from the beginning, but it’s part of my makeup. It’s part of my work ethic… the one Jack Little taught me.

    Blacking Out? Or Seeing Red?

    I stopped drinking alcohol a long time ago. As a matter of fact, I quit smoking eleven years ago this month, and alcohol, soon after. Mine was due to health reasons or I’d still have an occasional beer and shot of tequila. With lemon, not lime. No salt.

    It was never a problem getting hold of a bottle of rot gut, like Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill or Ripple, when I wasn’t quite of legal age. When I was old enough, I graduated to better quality stuff.

    One thing I never, ever did… I never blacked out. Oh, I might have fallen asleep a few times, but there’s a big difference. Right now, if any of my old friends were to insist they saw me blacked out, I’d get pretty upset, and I’d fire back.

    How dare you say that about me when you were so drunk you didn’t even know what you were doing. I mean, get real. Who do you think I was drinking with? Sober witnesses?

    When I sat in the courtroom, there were scumbags out to destroy my reputation. There’s always people like that. What do you call them?

    “Knechel was snoring in the courtroom again. The deputies had to throw his drunk ass out.”

    “People complained about his smell. He reeked of alcohol.”

    You know, there were a few idiots who believed what was written about me because those trolls said ‘they were there in the courtroom.’ But maybe they weren’t. It certainly wasn’t the truth.

    Until I hardened myself, it hurt. I learned that there were always going to be people who believe only what they want, and I had to put up a wall and ignore them and their incessant badgering. I focused on my writing, and if you disagreed with it, that’s what was worth discussing!



    Chefs Not Included

    I don’t understand what’s going on in the marketing world of restaurants. Times have really, really changed. I mean, back in the days when I was in that field - Weiner King in Flemington, NJ, to be precise, we bought our vegetables from Williams Brothers Produce in town. You know, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and the like. You ordered a hot dog with onions or a burger with tomatoes, we slapped it on the bun, and not one single customer ever asked us where any of it came from. Of course, New Jersey was known to grow the best tomatoes in the Solanum lycopersicum universe, and I recall New York City delis bragging that they served “Fresh Jersey Tomatoes,” plucked from directly across the Hudson River. My guess is that those NYC restaurants were the first to come close to using the newfangled term: Locally Sourced.

    “Locally Sourced” seems to be in vogue these days, as if it somehow makes the food we eat better, but that’s not necessarily true. Yes, one could readily surmise that the more local it is, the fresher it is, but it doesn’t make it tastier. One of the problems is that produce is seasonal. During winter months, the sign in that NY deli offering fresh Jersey tomatoes would have to be tucked away because they don’t grow that time of year. Not there. Florida has good tomatoes, but they don’t hold a candle to New Jersey’s. It’s the rich soil that makes the difference. Regardless, off-season produce would have to come from other parts of the country or }])SHUDDER([{ the world, jetted in daily. Or the restaurant would have to stop serving salads; salads as they should be according to Panera. Unless they grow hydroponic produce, but I’m not going to go there. You’d think they have gardens out back.

    New Jersey is not known as the onion capital of the northeast. Granted, it’s not called the Garden State for no reason, but I vividly remember the days when Jack Little, my boss, practically filled the back room with bag-after-bag of Vidalia onions, one of the best in the world. Vidalia is exclusive to the state of Georgia. Jack hoarded them because they were (and still are) the gold standard, and they have a long shelf life. Meats, on the other hand, are altogether different. I question them. What difference does it make where it comes from when the locally sourced steak you’re eating is aged beef anyway? Some states aren’t cattle producers. Should that mean that restaurants in those states shouldn’t serve what’s not “Locally Gathered,” another term du jour?

    I don’t know, nor do I care. I have no problem with fare coming from local sources or from far away, like Kobi beef. I’m more inclined to support all farmers, preferably American, not just ones down the street. Like everyone else, I want it to be fresh and tasty, but I’m not going to give one place a higher standing because it’s locally sourced, which is, to me, superfluous fluff – the marketing phase we’re going through right now. You want to know what else is superfluous fluff?

    Do you remember the days when Subway referred to their employees as Sandwich Artists? I got the biggest kick out of it because I was a genuine artist; the kind that made a living at it. Real art. Artists create art, and a sandwich is simply something you eat, not art. (Cake decorators are artists.) Today, restaurants claim that they serve you HANDCRAFTED SANDWICHES and meals. What the hay? Are robots now making sandwiches? No, and anyone can slice a locally gathered tomato. Anyone can chop a locally gathered onion. For as long as I can remember, I could slap mustard on bread. What’s so handcrafted about that? It’s just a simple sandwich! Calling this type of worker an artist is demeaning to me. It’s used to make it seem as if your sandwich was gently created from scratch in a backroom somewhere, fresh bread just brought out of the oven, where food artisans fastidiously design your meal while listening to New Age music. It’s pure Zen. Have you ever been in a restaurant kitchen in the middle of a huge lunch rush? The only thing that’s artistic about it is their use of colorful language.

    Anyway, what’s next? Just like everything else, we are equal, right? That means we are all artists. There’s no difference between Van Gogh and the Reuben you were just served. It means that the person working on my car… Well, let me just say this and you decide whether it’s ridiculous or not:

    “I went to a locally sourced mechanic, where he handcrafted new front brakes on my artisanal automobile. My mechanic is a repair artist!”

    Does it sound… Well, it is ridiculous, and that’s precisely my point. It’s food for thought written by a genuine lexicon artist.


    The man who struck out...

    This is a story about Charles Franklin Glazner

    Way back when, over thirty years ago, I made the rounds when it came to watering holes. I had an old friend, Wayne Trout, who said on many occasions, “If you stay inside your triangle, you’ll never get in trouble.” What he meant by that was simple. Your home and two bars made up the triangle. If you ventured outside of it, your risk of getting pulled over increased. While I quit drinking years ago, I did my best to follow Wayne’s rule.

    One of the establishments in my triangle was the Tap Room at Dubsdread Golf Course, a city owned 18-hole facility located in College Park, a very nice suburb of Orlando. The Tap Room was always a friendly place to drink and I had the occasion to eat a delicious lunch there a few weeks ago. It brought back many memories of when it was one of my old haunts; my old drinking friends, and one person in particular… Charlie Glazner, who passed away in 1989 at the grand old age of 95.

    For years, two framed pictures hung on a wall above the bar. They were pictures of Charlie from many years past, in uniform, and they were no longer there. No one knew what I was talking about when I asked employees, including the owner, Steve Gunter, truly a really nice and helpful guy. No wonder the restaurant is such a huge success.

    Charlie was a grand old fellow and we had many wonderful conversations over the years. One time, he lamented about how disappointed he was; that his mind was still so sharp, but his body was wearing out. (I do recall driving on Interstate 4 through downtown Orlando one afternoon when a car came whizzing by. It was him, and I was speeding. He must have been 90 at the time. And doing 90.)

    Charlie had been a professional golfer. That was his second career. The city of Orlando gave him a lifetime membership to Dubsdread. I don’t know if he got the key to the city, but he could play golf any time he wanted. Free. And if you had a 9:00 o’clock tee time, you’d have to wait if he wanted to play. Without a doubt, he still had that swing.

    Those two pictures on the wall were from the 1920s, when he was a right-handed pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies. He last pitched on September 24, 1924. Charlie had 266 career strikeouts, and there’s one more important fact that intrigued me.

    In all of my 65 years, I’ve met some interesting sports figures, including Arnold Raymond Cream, otherwise known as Jersey Joe Walcott when he was the NJ state boxing commissioner. A consummate gentleman, he beat Joe Louis in a title fight. I used to pal around with Davey Johnson back in the day, and even tried on his 1986 World Series ring. Nick Buoniconti, part of the Miami Dolphins perfect season, was as down to earth as they get. I could name more, like golfers and NBA players, but why gloat? This is about one man, a living legend when I knew him.

    In the 1920s, Charlie was known as Whitey Glazner. One day, I walked up to him and asked, “Charlie? In all my years of knowing you, I never shook your hand. Can we do that?”

    “Why, Dave? We’ve known each other for many years. Why do you want to shake my hand?”

    “Because I want to shake the hand that struck out Babe Ruth.”

    All these years later, his handshake still means a lot to me.



    Traumatic fact du jour

    Those beautiful ruby slippers Dorothy wore in the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz? I hate to burst the Good Witch’s bubble, but those slippers weren’t made of rubies at all.

    I doubt many of you have read L. Frank Baum’s book. Had you, you’d know that the slippers were made of silver. They were made of rubies in the movie to take advantage of the wonderful marvels of the new technology of the time, Technicolor.



    Get rid of the name Oscar*

    I never cared about award shows and this weekend welcomes the grandperson** of them all, the Oscars. Whoopee! People are people and we all sit on the Jane the same way (is it fair to only call it the masculine John? If yes, then I’m calling it what it is: blatant discrimination against people named John.)

    So, why do these shows exist? After all, if the country truly is trending toward equality and democratic socialism/communism, why are there ceremonies handing out manly looking statues with a masculine name?

    Equality means that Jennifer Lawrence is no different from the person who was the Employee of the Month, now serving your salad, right? You can enjoy a salad as much as a movie. Which one is more satisfying? Which one costs more? Why does a “star” make more money than a fast food server when equality also means sharing the wealth? No more Employee of the Month, either. Everyone is the same.

    If there is no longer a difference between genders, especially in California, where the award show is always held, why are there separate Best Actor and Best Actress categories? What is the gender-fluid word for an actor/actress?

    A performer?

    Why not a Best Performer award, no matter what the gender du jour?

    Get rid of biased award shows or make them gender-neutral.


    *My parody

    **Notice I didn’t say granddaddy.



    When I was a boy, I’d sometimes watch my father stand at the bathroom sink doing one of his daily rituals. He’d shave. Back then, he used a natural bristle brush with a wooden handle, shaving soap, and a straight edge razor. To me, with only peach fuzz to claim, shaving was a rite of passage I couldn’t wait for. Only then would I be a real man. Even girls go through some kind of… hmmm… it’s not the same thing, but we all go through periods of pubescence.

    One day, probably when I was around nine-years-old, he let me stand on a stool in front of the bathroom mirror, lather up, and slide his razor across my cheeks to “shave.” Without a blade, of course. For a fleeting moment, I felt older.

    When I was thirteen, maybe fourteen, a lone hair sprouted out of my chin. I woke up one morning and there it was, my very own facial hair. For real. Suddenly, I felt a little bit closer to manhood. I was maturing. It was about a quarter of an inch long and I wasn’t about to lop it off. It was my machismo mark; the leap to future strength and optimum virility. It was there for the world to see! So I let it grow. And grow. All of my relatives saw it and said something. Yes, I was glad they noticed. It grew some more.

    “You must be proud of that lonely hair,” my grandfather once remarked. Darn right I was!

    Fortunately for me, it grew during the summer recess months, so not many of my classmates saw it.


    One morning, I got up, looked in the mirror and the darned thing was at least three inches long with a light curl or two. What was I trying to do? The more I looked at it, the more ridiculous it appeared. The more ridiculous I felt inside.

    “This is stupid looking,” I thought, so I got my father’s old razor out of the medicine cabinet and chopped it off. Gone!

    That morning, I became mature enough to realize how dumb I looked. Just who was I trying to impress besides myself? I knew then that I had made the transition from boyhood to – well, I wasn’t really sure yet because… I was still waiting for my voice to change!



    Back in the 1990s, I dated a woman whose father owned a house right on the ocean, just south of St. Augustine. We used to spend weekends there when we could. Her young daughter would usually invite one of her classmates to come with us and it was always a fun time. We’d leave on Friday after work, grab some grub, and settle in to watch movies rented from Blockbuster. The next day, we’d cross the Bridge of Lions into the oldest city in the country, where we never ran out of things to see and do.

    One particular Saturday, we decided to go to the Lightner Museum. Generally speaking, children don’t want to do that. They want to go to the Castillo de San Marcos National Park, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park, or Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Things like that. Nope, not this time. This time we’re going to the museum. Kids need their culture, too, you know.

    There’s not much I remember about our trip to the museum that day except for when we were just about ready to leave. That’s when we stopped at the gift shop. While moseying around, her daughter called me over to the postcard rack; you know, the kind that spins around. Of course, being the adult and all, I tried to ignore her while acknowledging her at the same time.

    “Dave! Dave!” she insisted, “Come here. You need to see this!”

    I hesitated, but finally relented.

    “OK,” I responded. “What are you trying to show me?”

    “A postcard. You’ve got to see it!” Slowly, I shuffled my way over to her. “Look!”

    She thrust the postcard into my hand. Hmmm… I studied and studied it and saw nothing unusual.

    “Look closely. Look at the girl in the back seat. You’ll see it.”

    Suddenly, it hit me and I couldn’t believe what I saw.

    “WOW” I exclaimed. “This is quite a find.”

    Speaking of finds, I was going through my closet last week, looking for suits and jackets to get rid of. I went through the pockets, not knowing if there was anything in them or not. Then, I found this…

    A genuine St. Augustine promotional postcard! It’s so long ago, I don’t remember buying it, but there it was, back in my hands, some 25 years later.


    The Times They Are a-Changin'...

    I have a Sam’s Club membership. There’s a store in Fern Park, not far from where I live, that is closing. I’m saddened by it because I’ve been shopping there for years. It was a great place to buy bulk items like toilet paper, paper towels, cat litter, and salt for the water softener. Of course, their $4.98 rotisserie chickens are legendary, and it was nice to be able to sample food – and buy it! I also liked the prices of some of the OTC meds, vitamins, and supplements. Oh, yes, I’m going to miss it.

    Yesterday, the store was open to get rid of existing stock. Many of the shelves were bare, but I managed to spend $93 with a 25% discount. On Wednesday, it goes to 50%, if anything is left. At some point, it goes to 75%, but I don’t remember which day.

    I spoke to a manager while there, despite it being rather harried. From initial news reports, 63 stores were going to close, including my store. “Were going to close” is the key phrase here, because that’s not really what happened. The Fern Park location abruptly locked its doors on Thursday and some news outlets reported that employees went to work as usual, only to find locked doors. They had no idea what was going on.

    While it’s true that they went to work not knowing anything, the manager, who came from another location to help out, said that, one-by-one, they were ushered inside where they were told what was going on in a meeting. Everyone else – those on different shifts and working different schedules – were called on the phone.

    He said that there are 174 associates working that store and they were given employment options. They could go to the three other Sam’s Club stores to work, or move to area Walmarts. No one, he said, would lose their jobs if they choose to transfer.

    Some of the soon-to-be shuttered stores will turn into distribution centers to accommodate online sales and shipping. He said that the Fern Park location will just vacate. It’s a huge building. 

    The problem with my store came down to saturation. While sales and volume are keys to success, corporate determined that membership had reached its peak. It had no room to grow, and membership is what drives the stores. The store had stagnated, like 62 others around the country.

    Oh well, there’s another one nine or ten miles away. I will give it a try and determine whether it’s worth the annual $45 price tag.

    As usual, when leaving the store, there’s a person at the exit who checks out your purchase against the receipt. I’ve known this woman for a long time and felt sad for her. I asked her whether she was going to transfer. She said she’s been with the company for thirty years. No, she said. It’s as if she’s being forced out. Blame it on Amazon, I told her. Yes, The Times They Are a-Changin’…


    The Daily Kos



    It’s been two-and-a-half years since I lost my close friend, Doris Willman. June 25, 2015. Not one single day goes by that I don’t think about her. She wrote the following story many years ago and, just before she left, we talked about republishing it that holiday season. It is an honor and privilege to bring you her story once again. I don’t know when it was written, but please enjoy it. She was a very special lady and I’m so proud to have known her…



    By Doris Willman

    [Here is a story I wrote when I was a member of an Amateur Writer’s Club…got 2nd prize, probably because I had all the judges in tears. lol] The Fur Topped Boots


    Christmas was only two weeks away. As I sat by the window watching the snowflakes make their lazy descent to the ground, I was suddenly drawn into my past - to a girl of seven who was waiting for the arrival of Saint Nick. The memories came flooding back. I became that little girl again…

    The snow was falling and I was thinking I could make a snowman if enough snow stayed on the ground. Snowball fights were lots of fun too, but my older brother always chucked his too hard. When I started crying, Mom would make us stop.

    My dog, Patsy, was much more fun than Charlie, chasing and trying to catch the snowballs. When I went sledding, she would chase the sled and try to pull me off. If she succeeded, I would hug her and rub snow on her face.

    I found Mom sitting at the kitchen table looking at the Eaton’s catalogue and writing things on a piece of paper. There was a worried look on her face, almost sad at times, as Christmas drew nearer. I heard her telling Dad that there just wasn’t enough money to go around. I had printed my name beside the fur-topped boots on page 32 and wondered if Mom would notice. She would be even sadder if she knew how much I really wanted those boots.

    Patsy and I went outside to play in the fluffy white snow. I lay down to make an angel. Patsy tried to lick my face so I gave her a big push and she rolled over. She could make a dog angel.

    When Dad came home from work, we went to the hen pen and I gathered eggs while Dad gave them clean water and wheat. I wondered which hen would be our Christmas dinner, and decided it would likely be an old one who didn’t lay eggs any more. As usual, Mom would say, “How can I cook this tough old thing?”, but it was always delicious with stuffing and cranberry jelly.

    On Christmas Eve, I helped Mom put the pretty balls on the tree and decorate the house with red and green crepe paper chains. Some big parcels had arrived in the mail and I knew that they were filled with presents from my auntie Grace. I didn’t dare snoop in them because Mom would get mad at me.

    Dad said, “Santa’s coming down the chimney tonight. You better get busy and write a letter to him.”

    Well I sort of knew who Santa was, but in case I was wrong, I thought I’d better write that letter. The light from the kerosene lamp was poor but I pulled my paper close and wrote: “Dear Santa, bring me anything you want and bring something for my brother and mom and dad. Mom will leave you gingerbread and a cup of water. Love, Sarah” Then I put my letter inside of Dad’s big wool sock and set it by the tree.

    That night, lying on the soft feather tick, I said a prayer to Santa. I didn’t figure God would mind. I asked Santa to try and bring me the black boots with the soft fur, which were on page 32 of the big catalogue, because I hated having cold feet. When I fell asleep, I dreamed of walking in the boots on top of big snow drifts.

    On Christmas morning, Charlie and I raced to get our socks from under the tree. Reaching in, I pulled out a big red apple, a large orange and some nuts, but I loved the barley toys and ribbon candy best of all.

    Next came the present opening. Dad found socks in his, while Mom had some nice smelling powder and a pretty handkerchief. Auntie Grace had given me some tinker toys and a pair of mittens. Charlie was happy when he opened up the plasticene.

    I emptied the tinker toys out of the can and started to put them together.

    Suddenly, Mom said, “Sarah, look. There’s a present still under the tree. You are the smallest, can you crawl under and get it?”

    The present was wrapped in pretty red tissue paper with a big Santa Claus seal stuck to the front.

    “Hey, Mom, it has Sarah printed on it!” I exclaimed.

    “Well, open it up!”

    I tore off the paper and opened the box. Inside were the fur-topped black boots. I took them out and rubbed the fur all over my face. They were as soft as I knew they would be.

    I was so excited, I gave Mom a big hug and kiss, although I didn’t understand why she had tears in her eyes. I kissed Dad and Patsy, and I even kissed Charlie.

    Suddenly, the oven timer sounded and brought me back to the present, but I will always remember that Christmas and the feel of the soft fur atop those little black boots.




    I’m always out looking for a girlfriend and every time I think I’ve found the right one, they get to know me and… and… and…

    Well, it never seems to work out. Maybe, just maybe… my new one will love me for who I am – a soft, cuddly, sensitive, caring, honest and funny, all around good guy. “Funny” being the key word. I can only hope.

    This morning, we were on the phone talking and I was telling her about doing my laundry and how I fold my shirts a certain way before hanging them up in the bedroom closet. You know, the usual routine. She mentioned a few things and one thing led to another.

    I think it’s fair to say that everyone has some sort of quirky behavior, right? Peculiarities and the like, and I’m not talking about the bedroom variety. I mean in everyday life. Growing up, for instance, she knew women who starched and ironed their husbands’ t-shirts and handkerchiefs. Handkerchiefs, for crying out loud! I remember those days. My father always carried one and I thought it was a hideous practice to pull it out of the back pocket of their pants, blow their nose into it, and stuff it back into their pocket for God knows how long. Days and days. Enough of that.

    I mentioned something – and I don’t think I’m alone – that I like to do. I only wear dark cotton socks. No matter what. No whites for me! Nothing wrong with that, I suspect. But I like to iron them. I own a sock iron, bought and paid for on Amazon Prime. It’s the best thing I ever invested my money in. Not only do I iron my socks, I collect them. Most of them are folded on special sock hangars in my closet, bought and paid for on Amazon Prime. They’re easy to iron except for the pleated ones.

    Yes, I own scores and scores of pleated socks. Boy, are they difficult to iron.

    She told me she had to go and hung up. Now, she’s not answering her phone. Do you think she’ll call back?




    A lot can be said about the Kate Steinle death and the outcome of the trial of the man who killed her, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the Mexican citizen deported from the United States five times. Clearly, the man was guilty and the jury got it wrong, right? Actually, the answer is never that simple.

    When it comes to presumptions, there are two courts involved. One is the court of public opinion and the other is the kind that takes place inside the confines of a courtroom. The latter is the only one that matters. Having been a part of two major murder trials – Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman – I clearly understand both types of trials and the only court that matters.

    First, I want to make it clear that Zarate’s illegal status was not a factor in the death. If anything, blame the city and state for their sanctuary policies, if so inclined, but not the court or jury. Blame the way the federal government and ICE work. Argue all you want. I see things pragmatically. 

    His prior felony convictions weren’t relevant, either, because none were acts of violence. (If I had three robbery convictions and accidentally killed a pedestrian with my vehicle while drunk, would those convictions matter?) Also, consider Casey Anthony’s prior record. She had NONE until way after little Caylee went missing. The jury was aware of his convictions, though, but was prevented from bringing up any politics related to immigration and gun control during the proceedings.

    In the case of Ms. Anthony, the public was solidly behind a murder conviction from Day 1, yet she was found not guilty by a jury of her peers. With George Zimmerman, the public was split into many factions – whites against blacks, African-Americans against whites (just to be politically correct,) liberals against conservatives, and gun rights that centered around the interpretation of the Second Amendment. Zimmerman was also found not guilty and all that mattered was what went on in the respective courtrooms. Between both trials, I’m certain that I wrote several million words. I tried to explain courtroom drama, decorum, motions, rebuttals, and the interpretation of case law into layman’s terms that made things less complicated to grasp. Everything I wrote was open to discussion (of which there was plenty) and, to many people, justice was not served in either case because the juries came back with those verdicts. What about the Zarate trial? Did the jury get it right or wrong?

    The first thing you might be inclined to think is that it was a stereotypical California jury, filled with “gentle people with flowers in their hair,” especially “for those who come to San Fransisco,” only it couldn’t be further from the truth. Juries are never predictable. Nothing in a trial ever is except the charge(s) filed against the Defendant that are laid out for everyone to read.

    For a moment, let’s go back to the capital murder charge against Casey, which meant she faced the death penalty. While the State argued its case, many legal experts questioned how and why the bar was set so high when so many particulars weren’t established. There was no absolute date of death, for instance, no cause of death, which was mostly based on circumstantial evidence, and no solid motive. Casey was, by all accounts, a loving, doting mother until, BAM! She popped a cork and Caylee was dead. Even the police admitted it. Without going into the details further, I fervently believe a lesser charge would have rendered a guilty verdict of some kind; second-degree murder, manslaughter or, marginally, an aggravated child abuse conviction. The bar is set way high when it’s a death penalty qualified jury.

    And so it was in the Garcia Zarate trial; the Prosecution aimed for the sky. While not a death penalty case, he was charged with first-degree murder. The jury was given the option of convicting him of that, second-degree murder, or involuntary manslaughter. Jurors said no to all three.

    Zarate claimed he found the gun in a bag under a park bench at Pier 14. Grainy video showed several people hovering tightly together before he entered the scene and sat down. He claimed he picked the gun up from under the bench and it accidentally fired three times before tossing it into the bay, where it was recovered by a diver the next day. Whether his account was true or not, it established reasonable doubt. Apparently, the gun had a hair trigger, too, in single-action mode. Was it set in single-action mode at the time of the shooting? Who knows.

    The bullet that struck Steinle skipped off the conrete floor of the pier before striking her in the back, penetrating her aorta. That showed it was not murder of any kind and why the Prosecution focused on it is beyond me. Could the jury have returned with a guilty of involuntary manslaughter verdict? That’s a good question.

    In the California penal code, manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. Involuntary manslaughter means “in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony; or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection.”

    What I don’t understand is that Zarate was a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. That made it a felony the moment he picked the gun up. That meant it produced a death in an unlawful, without due caution and circumspection, manner. Except for one minor detail the defense was able to cast doubt upon. The gun was wrapped in a cloth. Did this second-grade level person even know he had a gun? Well, the jury did convict him of possessing a firearm by a felon. Go figure. It means he did know he had a gun. Therefore, it should have been an involuntary manslaughter conviction. Except that, sometimes, when prosecutors aim so high a jury focuses on murder charges, they pay less attention to a lesser that lies beneath. Good criminal defense attorneys know how to take advantage of that.



    Ever since the dreaded type 2 diabetes diagnosis in 2005, I’ve strived to be careful about the food I eat. Hmmm… not always, because I’ve been known to cheat, but my diet is much better than it used to be – less sugar, less fat, and zero artificial sweeteners.

    One of my long-time favorite treats has been Nabisco Nutter Butter Creme Patties. Those are the wafer ones with a sweet and smooth peanut butter filling. I think I like them more than KitKat bars. Well, just don’t put both of them in front of me and say “Choose one.”

    Sadly, I can no longer enjoy those Nutter Butter treats the way nature never really intended it to be. I mean, before I was diabetic, I could easily sit down and eat the entire package. Not really, but it’s been over twelve years since I could pig out on them. Please don’t feel bad for me because…

    Here’s what I do instead. I take an ice cream cake cone – not an ice cream cake – just the empty cone, and spread natural peanut butter down into it and around the inside with a knife. Not too much. Then, I make another one as I bite into it. It’s almost as satisfying as a Nutter Butter, but it’s tons less sugar and no hydrogenated oils. There’s my tasty dessert.

    Now, I just need to figure out a way to make my own KitKat bars.




    When I worked for an ad agency, way back when, I’d meander up the street to Beefy King the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday was one of their busiest days and I would go to help out any way I could. Interestingly, one of the most popular sandwiches on that particular day was sliced turkey breast. For the life of us, the owner, Roland Smith, and I couldn’t figure out why turkey would be such a big hit the day after. And after eating so much, you’d think people would be full of it. Or you’d think they’d have lots of leftovers to munch on. Why go to a restaurant for more?

    Round-and-round in our heads, Roland and I went back and forth over this perplexing ponderance, trying to understand why people would want turkey. I know we went a couple of years wondering.

    Finally, it dawned on us! We figured those L-tryptophan zombies had to work on Thursday. You know, convenience store employees. The wait staff at restaurants that served dinners on turkey day. Theater people. They were shortchanged and didn’t get to eat it. They were just fulfilling their subconcious cravings. Maybe some people ate ham or lasagna instead, yet still missed the traditional meal. They needed their turkey fix. You think?

    Later, I’m headed to Wawa to ask about their seasonal gobbler sub. I’ll bet the turkey farm that it’s a big seller today.





    (I wrote this in 2005 and amended it in 2006. I made minor changes today, but it’s still the same thing.)

    Mr. Robert Higerd was my 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher back in the 60s at East Amwell Township School in Ringoes, NJ. He was good. He was in the National Guard at one time because his favorite saying was, “At ease, disease - there’s a fungus among us.” I think it was an old military phrase.

    At least once a week, we’d sit in his classroom watching old post-WWII black & white films on the noisy projector. Most of them were from the forties and fifties and the sound was always warped and gurgled. It was a lucky day when we got to see one of those newfangled color ones. A lot of them were old government films - you know, the duck and cover variety. The newer ones were usually about some South American country, but we were in the midst of a cold war with Russia then. Civic duties and patriotism were etched into our minds. It was a time when we were proudly taught how great it was to be an American. Communism was evil and Red China did not exist. Nope, it was grayed out on all of the school maps. We knew it existed, but it just wasn’t there and I always questioned which countries had better propaganda, theirs or ours.

    Gee, I miss those days.

    Today, we live in a throwaway world and history changes as rapidly as we replace cell phones. In those days, history books were meant to last a decade. There was no such thing as politically correct and they weren’t rewritten with each change of administrations. When we got new ones, we knew they were going to be handed down for quite a few years to come and to keep them in good shape was part of our daily marching orders.

    One day, Mr. Higerd caught me doing something to one of his prized books in my personal possession and protection.

    “DAVE!!! Did I just see you writing in that book?” Defacing books or anything that’s school property was capital punishment. It was a mandatory trip to the principal’s office and it meant big time trouble. Parents usually got involved. No, this was never a good thing.

    “No, Sir. I was not writing in the book.”

    “I saw you writing in the book.”

    “No, Sir. I was not writing in this book! I was drawing.” Each day, I added a new addition to the following page and I’d been doing it for weeks. No one ever saw me commit this horrendous crime. Why did it have to be him, an ex-military guy, of all people? He was like a drill sergeant in those days, but much nicer.

    He ordered me up to the front of the class with alleged evidence in hand and abruptly snatched the now closed book away. “Knechel! Sit back down now!”

    Walking back to my seat, he rifled through the pages and saw what I had done. Somewhere in that thick book, I drew my character, a hardy stick figure standing motionless. I repeated the same thing for a few more pages, and as time and pages went on, I gradually lifted his legs up and down, moving him slowly and casually forward. At one point he stopped, turned to look at the noise coming from behind him, and with arms flailing, he darted as quickly as he could toward the other end of the page.

    Down came a rumbling boulder, heavily bouncing and rolling toward him. He tried desperately to race away, but the giant rock was coming after him at a higher rate of speed. Finally, it scrunched my poor little guy like a pancake and he was dead. Squoosh. Of course, the boulder kept rolling until it ran off the edge of the paper. The End.

    As he flipped through those pages, watching my cartoon in action, Mr. Higerd started to chuckle. “You know, Dave, this is great.”

    He opened the book for the class to see. “If you can’t see it from back there, come on up and gather around. This is how cartoons were originally drawn. They still are. Action figures that change with each drawing…” and on he went for a while, fanning the pages as he outwardly panned the class, in full education mode.

    On the inside front cover of all school books, there was either a stamp or label pasted in that all students had to sign, date and state their grade at the beginning of the school year. At the end of the year, everyone turned their books in for next year’s use. Like I said, they were new that year. Good old Mr. Higerd told me he was going to follow that book for as long as it remained in circulation and show it to every one of his classes - to explain the history of cartoons. I was honored. Of course, this was long before computers and software, Windows and Macs.

    In the end, he didn’t reprimand me for vandalizing school property, although he readily could have. There was no trip to the principal’s office. Instead, he complimented my handiwork. One of the things I remember most about Robert Higerd is how he brought a lot of life to what he taught. After he saw my talent and appreciated what I had done, I became one of his favorite students. I was, that is, until I ruined one of those newfangled color films about Argentina, but that’s a history lesson for another day.


    Who Was David Kyle?

    There was a science fiction category on Jeopardy! on Friday night. It made me think about my uncle, David Kyle, who was renowned in that field. I did well in the category and knew he’d be proud. That made me think about how much fun we would have if we could sit side-by-side each night, competing against each other while watching the show. (When I was young, we played a lot of chess. He’d almost always win, but I’d surprise him every so often.)

    I miss my Uncle Dave. He was exceptionally intelligent, funny, and a consummate gentleman. He was a veteran of the Air Force; a Lt. Colonel.

    February 14, 2016 - David Kyle’s 97th birthday