This Is What I Think


     I hear this said from time to time. I think that’s a bit of a stretch and also a bit unfair. I know. We can be, but I’ll get to that later.

     First of all, I don’t think there’s a man out there who honestly thinks he’s perfect. It’s common knowledge to both genders we’re flawed, but most of us really are trying. We’re out there every day updating our technology skills, figuring finances, dealing with planned obsolescence, adjusting to the progression of old age, fighting crabgrass, and desperately trying not to look ridiculous to our loved ones.

     So, how are we like dogs? Well, one way is we often think of food as a reward for good behavior. This occurred to me when I was watching a dog being trained. Whenever the dog did it right, he got a treat. I thought, you know, I’m like that. And our excuses for a treat can get pretty flimsy, such as:

  • A cup of coffee to wake me up. A pecan roll to make it worthwhile.
  • A takeout slice of pizza from Casey’s because I’m not dirtying any dishes this way.
  • A KFC 3-piece meal because I worked outside all morning, and I need proper sustenance and energy replacement.
  • An order of French fries from Runza with gravy drizzled over the top because the gravy was left over from last night’s dinner, and I wouldn’t want it to go to waste.
  • A trip to Taco John’s just to prove I’m a man who believes in ethnic diversity.
  • An extra piece of pie because pies can spoil if not eaten immediately, right?
  • A DQ strawberry sundae because it’s Sunday.
  • A Snickers bar because I haven’t had one yet this week

     When we do one of the above surreptitiously, and we get caught, we can sense the disappointment in our significant other. Like a dog with its tail between its legs, we slink out of the room in shame.

     We are also like dogs in more positive ways. We are loyal, lovable, funny, enthusiastic, willing to please, and if we had tails, they would wag furiously each time you come into the room. And because of all that, I think we deserve a treat.


     It’s hard, after spending a majority of your life in health care, to quit cold turkey. I’ve decided to combine my passions (drugs, recycling, culinary arts, and healthy lifestyles) into products. So, I’ve come up with the following items to develop and ultimately market:

  • Fiddle-D-Faddle with C – a popcorn snack where each serving contains supplemental amounts of vitamins C & D.
  • A no-dribble drip blend of coffee where medication for urinary frequency is incorporated into the coffee grounds.
  • Meat products that contain specific amounts of corticosteroids (good steroids, not hormone-based products) which will be listed on the front of the package. Feeling pain and inflammation? Simply fry up one of our burgers, and you’ll feel better in no time.
  • I’m working on a snack where recycled Styrofoam and sawdust is used as the base. Actually, I’ve been told there’s already a product out there with a similar taste. They’re called rice cakes.
  • Ben & Jerry & Bob’s Healthy Ice Cream – I plan to pitch my idea to the Vermont ice cream maker of a product I’m developing that has zero calories, zero fat, and zero sugar. Unfortunately, my prototypes thus far have had zero taste.

     I am so excited about this. I plan on turning our garage into a lab where I can do proper research on my ideas. Dorothy is a bit more skeptical about this than I am, which surprises me. You’d think she’d be anxious to get the commercial ice cream maker out of the living room.


     Being retired has given me some time to do some soul searching – “Am I perfect? No. But am I striving to be a better person? Also no.” – From the HIPPO account


     We are so fortunate in south-central Nebraska to have wonderful parks that are so accessible. In Kearney many of the parks, as well as other attractions, are connected by the 13.3-mile Hike and Bike Trail. And recently they have made it possible to kayak along this trail.

     But my favorite, Harmon Park, lies slightly off the trail. It is a well-established park, and it’s a great place to experience beauty and solitude. The landscaping is second to none, and it has several features I enjoy seeing on a regular basis.

     I love to see the towering cottonwood on the north side of the sunken garden. It has a mature majesty to it, and despite all of the weather assaults it has endured. It’s a survivor giving us all hope.

     And I love the moving water and small falls that run through the park. It lends to the relaxing ambiance of the park.

   A popular feature for photographers is the lighthouse. Many wedding parties have assembled on its steps for a picture to record a memory. While a lighthouse may seem a bit out of place, it should be noted that, since its construction, there has never even been one ship that has run aground.


     “You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.” ― Kurt Vonnegut


   This was the title of the magazine article. Oh good, I thought. Perhaps some needed information on that delicate balance of pectin, fruit, and acid. It wasn’t about that at all. It could also have been about traffic jams, log jams, or when a gun jams – but it was any of these either. It was about paper jams. A group of engineers had met to solve the problem of a particularly troublesome one called a “flower arrangement.” I was disappointed, and I put the magazine aside. But it gladdened my heart to know that there actually are people working on such things.

The jam thing is still with me though, and now I’m hungry. Most of the culinary choices at our house seem to have more to do with whim than plan, and now my desire is to enjoy the sweet taste of jam. The flavor currently parked in my ‘fridge is cranberry/jalapeno. It tastes great on peanut butter toast.


     We seem to find ourselves in the throes of winter. One good thing – at least the mosquitoes no longer seem to be a problem.


“People aren’t either wicked or noble. They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.”


     A question to ask when hanging pictures: If adjacent pictures began talking to one another, what would they have to say?


    “It lies in all of us, sleeping… waiting… and though unwanted… unbidden… it will stir… open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us… guides us… passion rules us all, and we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred… and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion maybe we’d know some kind of peace… but we would be hollow… Empty rooms shuttered and dank. Without passion we’d be truly dead.” — Joss Whedon


     If our house were on fire, and my beloved, Dorothy, and I were standing safely on our driveway watching it burn, and I determined I could return into the house to rescue just one thing, I think it would be my wooden flat-edged spatula. It’s my favorite kitchen instrument. I use it to pull through risotto to de-husk the rice, releasing its starch to give it a creamy texture. When deglazing a skillet, I use it to release the browned and caramelized bits on the bottom, so this goodness is suspended in my pan sauce. It has many other uses as well. Nothing lasts forever, so I have tried without success to find a backup. Other wooden spatulas don’t have the same feel, and I don’t remember where I originally purchased this one. If you are shopping and you see a 12” wooden spatula with a black rubberized grip (see picture), buy two for me, and I will gratefully reimburse you for your purchase, your time, and your effort.


     I’m a four seasons kind of guy. First of all, I love the transition seasons with their dynamic changes, and summer with its lush foliage, farmer’s markets, fresh herbs & vegetables, and those marvelous August tomatoes. I have had to learn to embrace winter. It forces me indoors, but it also forces an introspection I don’t have the rest of the year. I think different thoughts, and I read much more. Winters can be harsh, but I get my warmth by being… surrounded by wonderful friends, entertaining, and dancing. I get comfort from foods I don’t normally eat in summer, such as soups, stews, gravies, and that marvelous mac & cheese. My alcoholic preferences also change to darker wines, old fashions, and Manhattans. I am just a different me, and I think I would miss all that if I lived in a climate where every day the outdoor temperature was 74 degrees.surrounded by wonderful friends, entertaining, and dancing. I get comfort from foods I don’t normally eat in summer such as soups, stews, gravies, and that marvelous mac & cheese. My alcoholic preferences also change to darker wines, old fashions, and Manhattans. I am just a different me, and I think I would miss all that if I lived in a climate where every day the outdoor temperature was 74 degrees.


     “HE Gets To Control the Thermostat” by Petti Greevance.


     I’m loving retirement. For example, I’ve finished watching the whole 86 episodes of the Sopranos in just three weeks. Towards the end of the third week, my wife, Dorothy, said to me, “You know, this retirement thing – I think you need to rethink it.”

     She’s right. I am very aware of how this binge has affected me.  My pasta and cigar consumptions are up. I’ve developed a bit of a Jersey accent, and I’ve started shopping for a Cadillac Escalade.

     And each morning, much to Dorothy’s chagrin, I walk down to the end of our driveway in my robe to get the paper. I actually think I look pretty good parading in my robe. Just ask our neighbors… bada bing, bada boom!


I’ve recently discovered espresso. Well, I didn’t actually discover espresso – it’s been around forever. This was more of a personal discovery, and it’s become one of my daily constitutionals. When I wake up from my early afternoon nap (which oftentimes runs into my late afternoon nap), rather than having my wife, Dorothy, administer a low voltage jolt from a defibrillator, I make myself an espresso. It just jump-starts the rest of my day. If the concept is new to you, perhaps the advice below might be helpful.

How to drink espresso like an Italian (a composite from several sources).

  1. Understand what an espresso is. Do some research. Be a snob. Coffee is common. Espresso is not.
  2. If not at home, order it at the coffee bar. And you should drink your espresso while standing. 4. If you are an aficionado, cleanse your palate with sparkling water.
  3. Smell the espresso for full effect. This is also for a bit of theater if someone is watching.
  4. Never drink an espresso that doesn’t have crema (brown foam) on top.
  5. Drink it quickly in one or two gulps, otherwise the crema will have dissolved and some of the taste will be gone.
  6. Evaluate the finish. Feel the rush.
  7. Take a second to enjoy the tradition surrounding it. Pay homage.

If making at home, I recommend Starbucks pod-style Verismo V Brewer (costs about $150). It makes a great tasting espresso (complete with crema) and it does it quickly. No muss. No fuss.

Why do people say “expresso” when it’s spelled “espresso?” I checked several pronunciation guides, and their recommendations all say it should be ess-press-oh. I think the proper pronunciation sounds much more dignified, while expresso sounds like you might be talking about an Italian train instead of strong black coffee.


Secret recipes. Undisclosed ingredients. Mystery cooking techniques. To those people who won’t share, I have one word for you – PSHAW! Enough with the hush-hush and keeping things under wraps. I believe, if you have a chance to elevate someone’s life with a culinary disclosure, never pass up the chance.


The Basement Flooding

In lieu of putting our condo up on stilts, I do the following:

  • I check all downspouts every week.
  • I periodically test the sump pump in the basement pit. The whir of the motor is music to my ears.
  • I have the wet vac critically placed in the ready position.
  • Instead of buying a water heater, I am going to try to obtain one on a 3-year lease and then replace it when the lease expires.
  • I am storing a 60-month supply of extra adsorbent double rolls of paper towels and toilet paper (out of the plastic) in the hope that, should water get into the basement, it will be wicked up before any damage occurs.
  • I have set aside several cases of beer in case of an emergency. This should cover us if we need to call our friends to immediately carry things out of the basement before our stuff can get ruined.


     If a tornado is bearing down on you, and you are on your way to the basement, stop by the refrigerator long enough to cram some wieners into your pockets. This way, if they send in search dogs, you will be the first to be found.


   “If guns don’t kill people, people kill people – does that mean toasters don’t toast toast, toast toast toast?” By the time I got this read, I had almost rear-ended the car in front of me.


“People say nothing is impossible but I’m retired and I do nothing every day.” – A.A. Milne 


   According to a recent article in Men’s Journal, “the key to a long, healthy life is not exercise or diet.  It’s strong social connections.  The problem: Research shows that MEN SUCK AT FRIENDSHIP.  Loneliness accelerates age-related declines in cognition and motor function, and that HAVING THREE TO FIVE CLOSE FRIENDS MAKES AS MUCH AS A 10-YEAR DIFFERENCE in overall life expectancy.”

     This is good news to me. Finally, there is a longevity factor I can do something about without exercising, dieting, abstaining from alcohol, giving up cigars, or blaming my parents for my less-than-perfect genes. 

     As a result of this research, I decided it might be a good idea to start collecting “close friends.”  I figured, if five close friends can get me an extra 10 years, then twenty close friends could get me as much as an extra 40.

     If you are reading this, then this is your notification that you have been selected to be one of my close friends.  What does that get you?  Well, first of all, status.  All of my close friends are smart, successful, interesting, socially and politically aware, and reasonably good looking. 

     I will always be there for you, 24/7. And, when the two of us are together at a party, I will introduce you to others in the following manner, “This is my close friend, _________ (your name).” 

     So, you’re in.  There are no forms to fill out, references to secure, or initiation rites to endure.  You can think of yourself as being a member of a very select club; however, close friendships do have their limits.  Because I’m old, I won’t help you move – and I don’t lend money.


     I also hate to use a map (too confusing and I can never get them folded right again) or my Garmin (the voice I find really annoying). I always think either my pure logic, dumb luck, or divine intervention will prevail to get me to my destination.

     And I’m evidently not alone. According to Dave Barry, “It’s a well-documented fact that guys will not ask for directions. This is a biological thing. This is why it takes several million sperm cells… to locate a female egg, despite the fact that the egg is, relative to them, the size of Wisconsin.” 


     Al Capp’s Li’l Abner (a character in a comic strip that ran from 1934-1977) was employed as a mattress tester. According to the McHenry County Blog, “human mattress testers have been replaced with an anthropomorphic dummy nicknamed Anthro Al,” and so Li’l Abner is now evidently unemployed.

     Then there’s the movie, The Big Lebowski. There are two Lebowskis: “Jeff (The Dude) and Jeff (the millionaire). The millionaire Jeff Lebowski, who truly hates The Dude and everything he stands for, asks him, ‘Are you employed, sir?’ Confused, The Dude replies, ‘Employed?’ So, the other Lebowski elaborates: ‘You don’t go out looking for a job dressed like that? On a weekday?’ Confused even more, The Dude asks, ‘Is this a…what day is this?’”

     So, here we have two individuals who are unemployed. And I’ve recently joined their ranks, so now there’s three of us who aren’t concerned at all about finding work. And who probably couldn’t tell you what day of the week it is without stopping to really think about it.

     Through my whole life I’ve wondered what it would be like to live life without meaningful work – to get up in the morning with nothing to do. It reminds me of a quote by A.A. Milne: “People say nothing is impossible but I’m retired and I do nothing every day.” and much to my surprise, I’m enjoying every minute of it. And really, it’s not that I do nothing, but it’s great to have choices.


I’m reading a book by Jim Holt entitled, “When Einstein Walked with Gödel,” that talks about this. His conclusions are based on the “Copernican principle” coupled with some simple math. It can actually give a 95% confidence level for the longevity of something.

     So, using these tools what does he think will survive a million years from now? Two things: numbers and laughter. Numbers don’t surprise me, but laughter does. That doesn’t mean it won’t change, but it will be interesting to see A MILLION YEARS FROM NOW IF PEOPLE ARE STILL WATCHING EPISODES OF SEINFELD. 


     That it’s a waiting game. I wait all year for that first taste of the perfect homegrown tomato. And when it happens, it’s sheer ecstasy.

     But I always get impatient. In June I see those perfect-looking red tomatoes in the grocery stores and on the farmers’ market stands. I have to remind myself, THESE ARE THE IMPOSTERS. I am looking at hydroponic tomatoes (grown in sand, gravel or liquid) or hothouse tomatoes (from temperature-controlled buildings for rearing plants out of season), and they just don’t measure up. They don’t even come close.

     There’s a certain JE NE SAIS QUOI about a tomato grown outdoors in real Nebraska soil and kissed by a Nebraska sun. The vintners call these conditions terroir (the complete natural environment of soil, topography, and climate).

     The product of such is a tomato with flesh that is firm and fresh. And it’s absolutely bursting with flavor. ONE BITE OF A NEBRASKA TOMATO IN AUGUST WILL ABSOLUTELY DROP YOU TO YOUR KNEES.


  • Walk clockwise instead of counterclockwise when you’re getting your steps in at the mall.
  • Fashion trends be damned. Wear what’s clean.
  • Always make your entrance notable. Also know when to leave and know when to run.
  • Set the dinner table with all of the flatware pieces on the right (where they belong).
  • Go ahead. Tuck that napkin under your chin. It sure beats a stained shirt.
  • Buy the car you should have bought when you were having your mid-life crisis.
  • Pretend you’re John Travolta in Staying Alive when you’re mowing the lawn.
  • Do a little dance. Make a little love. Get to your chiropractor. . . . A.S.A.P.
  • Enter an iron man competition where you actually have to do some ironing.
  • Say to your waiter, “You call this a senior citizen’s menu?”
  • And rather than running with the bulls, graze with the heifers.       


   I grew up in a household where the parental focus was to have us learn the value of hard work. My parents were convinced idleness was the Devil’s workshop, and we were taught that actions speak louder than words, so it wasn’t just talk.
As kids knew we had to roll up our sleeves and put our noses to the grindstone or our parents would have to put their foot down after banging their heads against the wall because of the frustration caused by our lackadaisical attitudes. Many hands make light work we were told, so we all had to pitch in in order to maintain the lifestyle to which we had become accustomed in our feeble attempts at keeping up with the Joneses.
Well, welcome to Cliché’ville, Nebraska, my hometown. We thought clichés, we talked clichés, and we lived clichés…but enough of this. To continue on would be to beat a dead horse, because the point has been made.
And I know clichés are trite. Whenever I have Dorothy edit my work, she’ll say, “This is okay, but drop the clichés. Always avoid them. Avoid them like the plague.” To which I respond, “I can’t not use cliché’s.” They were a very large part of my formative years. I know they’re a dime a dozen, but they give me great pleasure and I’m nothing without them.
Well, as we all know, old habits are hard to break. I will probably continue to use cliché’s, because sometimes a cliché just says it all. They are usually short, recognizable, and to the point; and quite frankly, and contrary to what the erudite believe, I personally think clichés are the greatest thing since sliced bread.


     The other day I came across the term, shotgun wedding. I always wondered if it was in some way connected with our 2nd amendment rights.

     I did some Google searches where I coupled “2nd amendment rights” with each of the following words: shotgun wedding, forced marriage, unplanned pregnancy, knocked up, preggers, love child, and out-of-wedlock birth. I even searched moral imperative, and nothing useful came up.

     With our gun culture such as it is, I just can’t believe that shotgun weddings never happen. It would solve several problems. It would avoid embarrassment of an unintended pregnancy, and also satisfy the father’s desire to force his future son-in-law to do the honorable thing.

     Sure, it’s illegal. It forces an event to happen that wasn’t progressing naturally, but sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. 


     “One of my mantras is ‘Love the imperfections.’ Love the vulnerability of the fact that you’re both aging now. You’re getting older, and there’s something wonderful about that. It’s important that people don’t give up on themselves or on a relationship. For me, marriage was a way of saying, ‘I am 100 percent committed to you.’ Marriage means ‘I’m in and we’re gonna make this work.’ The thought of breaking your spouse’s heart has to be so abhorrent to you that it stops you from doing anything that would possibly make that happen.” – by Paul Feig


     I’ve always dreamed of writing the great American novel. Actually, that’s not quite true; it’s only been recently. Here’s a list of my ideas using the great novels as my inspiration:

  • The Last of the Mojitos – the consequences of tariffs placed on rum.
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Merengue
  • O Pie and Ears – recipes for cooking sweet corn in a flaky crust.
  • Fifty Shades of Lamps – a stunning coffee table edition for your living room.
  • East of Edna – stories about my mother.
  • A Connecticut Yankee in Fenway Park
  • Uncle Tom’s Carbine – his family’s attempt to pry it from his cold, dead hands.
  • Long Day’s Journey into High School Track Meets.
  • The Left Stuff – find out what the liberals’ hoard.
  • Jim Continues to Get Lucky – a sequel to Lucky Jim.
  • Robinson Grew So – a successful treatment of erectile dysfunction.
  • Good Behavior and Parole – a follow-up to Crime and Punishment.
  • Working in the Cuckoo’s Nest – Nurse Ratchet finally gets to weigh in.
  • Portnoy’s Grievance – you don’t have to be a nurse to nurse a grievance.
  • Pride and Predicates – the tortured searches of proud finite verbs looking for suitable subjects.

And now I think it’s time for me to get to work. Got that great American article to write.


     I’m in the process of writing about the humor of the baby boomer generation, and I’m going to call it “Boomer Humor.” I’m afraid some people might confuse this with the fight song, “Boomer Sooner,” that is until they hear the lyrics:

Boomer, Sooner, Boomer, Sooner

Boomer, Sooner, Boomer, Sooner

Boomer, Sooner, Boomer, Sooner

Boomer, Sooner, OK U!

     Boomer Sooner is basically a catchphrase repeated seven times, with the eighth phrase being “OK U!” and sung to Yale University’s “Boola Boola.” Tacked on to the end is a musical ditty that can only sound good if played by the University of Oklahoma Marching Band.

     Not a lot of creativity demonstrated in Boomer Sooner, but I’ve never thought of the state of Oklahoma as a font of creativity anyway. When I do think of Oklahoma (which isn’t often), I think of tornadoes, red dirt, and a populace who, throughout history, couldn’t wait to move the hell out of there.

     I also don’t think of Oklahoma as one of the birthplaces of humor. And, if an Oklahoman would say to you, “Well, what’s funny about Nebraska?” simply say, “Johnny Carson. He was one of us.”


     It was in late August, and I was watching a pre-season matchup between two pro football teams when Dorothy asked the question, “Are we (meaning me) going to be watching as much football as we did last year?

     Well, I’m smart enough to know that this was a rhetorical question. She didn’t want a yes or no answer. She was making a point; nevertheless, it still needed a response. I said, “You know. I’ve been thinking about that.”

     First of all, I agree with George Will’s quote, “Football combines the two worst things about America – violence punctuated by committee meetings.” I want to go on record as saying I’m personally against both.

     As far as football contributing anything to the social good, I’m at a bit of a loss. College football seems to have very little to do with college and a whole lot to do with football. And the pros are divided into two camps: those that have unbelievable God-given physical talents and the knuckle-draggers. I think all of them are basically pampered and overpaid. Football players are also over-sensationalized by the media, and as far as making this a better world, I think that’s a bit of a stretch.

     But back to cutting down, I knew I couldn’t go cold turkey, and that I’d have to try at best to curb my watching. But on Sunday I HAVE to get my fix of the Fox crew (Terry, Howie, Michael, Jimmy, and what’s-his-name). Then, in the afternoons I like to fall asleep in front of the TV and wake up with the game on. That, and the smell of chili wafting up from the kitchen, well, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

     I did find it easy to give up the insignificant games, but the decades-old rivalries I still found appealing. I also am very aware I have to have the despicable Dallas Cowboys to hate. If I deleted them from my life, I shudder to think who else in their place would have to suffer my vitriol.  Rather than go on, I’ll just simply say it’s been a struggle.

     A couple of days ago Dorothy asked me how it was going. I responded that curbing my football watching was tough sledding (something they would probably say in Green Bay), and then she asked, “Why DO you watch so much football?” I knew there was no getting around this one. I could have given some shallow reasons and excuses, but instead I said that I’d like to quote George Mallory when asked why he thought it was so important to climb Mt. Everest. And he replied, “Because it’s there.”


     It seems putting state slogans on license plates isn’t as popular as it used to be. It wasn’t that long-ago New York had on its plate “The Empire State,” Arizona had “The Grand Canyon State,” and New Hampshire had “Live Free Or Die” which was my personal favorite.

     Calvin Trillin once wrote an article on this where he said “some residents of Wisconsin didn’t feel they were truly captured by the motto “America’s Dairyland” – and someone suggested “Eat Cheese or Die.”

     Mr. Trillin was also working on a motto for Arkansas which was “Not As Bad As You Might Think” but thought it seemed a little verbose. Oklahoma, trying not to be boastful, had the motto, “Oklahoma’s OK.” He suggested Midwesterners have a regional motto “No Big Deal.” Actually, I think Oklahoma should use this because I’ve been to Oklahoma and saying it’s OK is a bit of a stretch. I think they should change it to “No Big Deal” because, believe me it’s no big deal.

     His suggestion for Nebraska was “A Long Way Across.” Well, who can argue with that; however, if we want to capture the true essence of the state, I think we can do better. So, I came up with the following slogan suggestions:

“Home of The Runza”

“It’ll Take At Least Three Years”

“Merge to Single Lane”

“You Can’t Gamble Here”

And “Warren Buffett Calls It Home”

     I think any of these are better than “Nebraska The Good Life.” And whose opinion is this anyway?